Sunday, July 31, 2011

Taco night

Ever since she was maybe five or six, my youngest daughter has requested taco night for her birthday. Now she extends it to any occasion when she wants to get people together, so tonight was taco night at her house, with five adults and two children. Needless to say, I was the eldest, but how nice that these young people, now in their late 30s, want me around.
Jordan puts out appetziers. I brought southwestrn tuna, which she wasn't sure her friends would eat--and sure enough Christian and one guest didn't eat it. But that was my dinner, and Jordan and her first-ever boyfriend David helped me eat it. I reminded her that she and David had eaten a lot of it on my front porch one night--long after they were boyfriend and girlfriend. They are now best buddies.
Jordan put out salsa, taco meat, tortillas and taco shells, sour cream, guacamole, refritos, jalopenos, cheese, and pico de gallo. We drank wine and chatted and had a really good time. I brought gingersnaps for the kids, but Jordan had M&M cookies, which they much preferred. The adults loved the gingersnaps--given to me by a friend.
The southwestern tuna recipe was given to me long ago by a friend now gone from my life--some friends are transitory. For several years, I lost the recipe (finally found it in the back of my recipe drawer) and tried to reconstruct it from memory, putting in such things as capers. Today when I made it I had a major tragedy: I have--or I should say I had--one can of that outstanding salmon from Pisces Cannery that I ws hoarding--probably can't get any more until next spring. But when I grabbed two cans of Pisces tuna to make the salad for tonight, I mistakenly opened the salmon. So I had salmon for lunch and probably will have it for supper tomorrow.
But here's the southwestern tuna recipe:
2 7 oz. cans tuna
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. chopped red onion
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. canned green chilies--I just dumped a 4 oz. can in
1 Tbsp. grated lime peel
1 tsp. lime juice--I probably used more
1/8 tsp. ground cumin--guess what? I think I left that out by mistake
1/8 tsp. chili powder
Mix it all together. This time I tried an experiment and used a hand mixer on it--made for a much smoother texture. With just three of us eating it, there still wasn't much left, but it makes about two cups and the suggestion is to serve it with tortilla chips. I would also suggest crackers. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What are you worrying about?

A bright note amidst worries: Jordan and Jacob playing with  a rapidly-growing Sophie.
Two big things worry me these days. One is the continuing drought and heat wave. Today was predicted to be "only" 99 (I haven't checked, but it usually goes higher) but by next Wed. it is to be 107. Sometimes I wish we didn't have forecasts--I'm sure it's helpful to many people to be able to plan ahead, but I simply find it depressing.I feel trapped by this monster heat, and I bless my a/c which has so far chugged steadily along. My bill was high, like everyone else's, but I notice the system doesn't run all the time so I guess it's not straining. But lawns, gardens, and more important, pastures and stock tanks and lakes are drying up. People are losing their livelihoods to the weather, so it's much bigger than my personal dread of a day of 107 degrees. And there's simply no end in sight, nothing for us to look forward to and hope for. No, it's not 1980 all over again, but it's headed that way.
The other big thing that worries me is the inability of politicians to raise the debt ceiling. It seems to me, on both sides, all posturing and bluster, but, hey, folks, we're getting down to a deadline here. I read today that President Reagan raised the debt ceiling lots of times (I don't recall how many) and George W. Bush raised it 18 times. Where was all the fuss? And why pass a bill that dictates we'd have to revisit the issue--and go through all this agony again?--in six months. My partisanship comes out here: that seems a clear ploy to defeat Obama. I think throughout Obama has shown himself to be thoughtful, intelligent, and willing to compromise--he's given in more than I would have but I see the significance of the impending disaster. I'm even, reluctantly and slowly, coming to respect John Boehner. I think he really wants a solution, and he's embarrassed that he can't control the new far-right members of his delegation. To my mind, they--okay, let's call a spade a spade, the Tea Partiers--don't understand enough about how Washington works (compromise) nor do they understand the international consequences if the US defaults.
For me personally I understand all too well. I am not one of those who depend totally on social security, and I worry about those people. I worry about the elderly who won't get care, and the children will go hungry. Me? I 'll lose about a third of my income and have to curtail my lifestyle a great deal--no more lunches out, no more entertaining and cooking for guests. I'll become a hermit because that's all I can afford without decimating my savings. I realize many people will suffer a far worse fate, and I promise not to whine. But come one, guys--can't we fix this one? Between now and Tuesday?
The difference between these two worries is significant: we can't do a darn thing about the weather, except pray, do rain dances, and, if we're inclined, study weather charts though they're awfully depressing. It's a problem in God's hand. But the debt debate is in men's hands (generic men, thank you--I sitll believe in the generic pronoun) and rational men, who we've elected to lead our country, sure ought to be able to solve it.  I guess I should pray about that one too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Falling into a routine

After two-and-a-half weeks with the new pup, my days have fallen into a routine--not a good routine, mind you, just a routine. In the morning I feed the cat, take the pup out until she pees, then lock her in the bathroom while I take Scooby out and feed him, Then back to the bathroom to brush my teeth, gather my towel, hairbrush and comb and the pup and proceed to the kitchen, where I feed her, wash dishes left from the night before--usually a wine glass and a water glass-and wash my hair. Towel my wet hair and comb it back to dry. The trick here is to get the pup back outside to poop without disturbing the older dog--some days it works, some days it doesn't.
Then on to the office, where Sophie, full of energy, runs amuck, chewing on everything but her numerous toys, and I spend a lot of time refocusing her attention. Aftr an hour or so, she runs out of steam and naps. My clue to hop up, make the bed, water the plants, etc. When she wakes, it's time to take her out again, and then depending on my day return to the office or put her in her crate so I can run errands.
Lunch and dinner provide similar juggling acts--take care of cat, older dog, and pup without letting them cross paths because they don't do well together. I'm hoping that will change when Sophie is older and not quite so full of energy--but, omigosh, does she have energy. I bless the days that Jacob and Jordan come and let her run wild in the backyard.
Am I writing? Well, not much. But I have finally, with lots of help from a friend, ordered bookmarks, and by myself I designed a flyer for the signings that will also do as an "If you're oiut of town, here's how to order" flyer. I'm keeping up with emails, writing blogs, including a few guest blogs, and generally trying to be professional about life. I've 2,000 words on a new novel, and every morning I think I'll get back to it, but it's like the weather forecasts: they keep telling us that in three or four days the temperature will go down into the upper 90s, but when the time comes, it never does. And now Hurricane Don is not only going to miss us, it's not much of a hurricane anymore.
I know my days will change and grow easier as Sophie grows older but right now I just keep reminding myself what it was like to have a new baby in the house. Except new babies didn't chew everything in sight (including my hands and feet) with sharp little teeth. Tonight, she destroyed the handle of a wicker basket, which I quickly took away because those little slivers could get in her lungs.
Sophie is truly an amazing, loving little creature--but she's not a placid dog. I said I wanted a dog with spirit, and oh boy, did I get her!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Let sleeping dogs lie

All my life, I've heard "Never wake a sleeping baby or dog." Jacob doesn't seem to get that principle, no matter how much I explain it to him. Today he began to itch ferociously at day care and since the school were getting ready to go on a field trip, the teachers didn't think it wise for him to go. So I got him about one o'clock. Things were fairly peaceful--his mom brought some Benedryl (if I thought it would make him sleepy, I was sadly mistaken), he played with the puppy and then ran to give the big dog love, and I read a book. About three o'clock I decided to nap and insisted that I was putting Scooby in his bed and Sophie in her crate. I gave strict instructions that he was to stay in the backroom, lie on his bed, and watch TV, except in the case of emergency, by which I meant fire or some other drastic thing. Of course I hoped he'd go to sleep.
I'd doze off and then hear a noise and open my eyes to see Jacob loving on Scooby (Lord knows the poor dog needs a lot of love these days, having to put up with a puppy). Then I'd see him at the crate, and he'd say "Let her out. She's not sleeping." My reply: "She would if you'd go away." Jacob jumped on the bed, put his face by mine, and said, "But I love her so much." Another time, when I had again dozed off, he took a flying leap and landed on me--an abrupt awakening.
I tried to explain that if he woke the dogs and got them worked up, they'd both have to go outside to pee, and it was just too hot. "Uh uh," he said with firm conviction, "they won't." Of course, the puppy was desperate to go out. Jacob said he'd take her, but he was out and back in so fast my head spun. "Did she pee?" "Nope." So I took her back out and the first thing she did was pee.
At one point, Jacob tripped over the pup right in front of me and said to me, "I'm telling on you!" When I asked what I did, he said, 'You tripped me." Yeah, sure, that's what grandmothers are for.
Lord give me strength. I can handle a five-year-old boy, and I can handle a ten-week pup, but I'm not sure about the two together.
Jacob has gone home to a late supper, and there is one exhuasted pup sleeping at my feet. The cat stayed aloof from all this and is hiding I know not where--wise cat! And oh yes, Jacob stopped itching the minute I got him home, although going out in the heat with the pup did make him itch again. Who knows?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

OLd friends are gold

Make new friends, but keep the old
These are silver, but those are gold.

An old friend, Jim Lee (sometimes known as James Ward Lee) took me and Melinda to lunch today for my birthday--a delightful occasion with talk of politics, publishing, and trivia. I've known Jim at least since the early 1980s and maybe before. I remember going to a conference on Texas Literature--he, Tom Pilkingotn, and Don Graham co-edited a collection of essays on Texas literature which was the basis of the conference. I knew Jim Lee by reputation and perhaps by then I had already contributed to his biblioigraphy of Southwestern Literature.
But over the years our professional relationship grew. He was chair of the English department at the University of North Texas, and he used to call me periodically to announce that he'd had a "million-dollar idea"--that usually meant work for me. Some turned out to be two-cent ideas but a few were really good. When he came to Fort Worth, we occasionally had lunch and slowly our professional relaitonship became a personal friendship.
About 12-15 years ago (he'll correct me on this) he moved to Fort Worth. One day he was in my office and eyed the stack of manuscript submissions. "I could help you with that," he said. So he became the acquisitions editor for TCU Press, with a letter of appointment from the provost that clearly stated "with no compensation." We loved having Jim in the office--he was funny, witty, always up. But he drove us wild with his haphazard notebook in which he kept a record of submissions and what he'd done about them. There finally came the day that he announced that it was no longer fun, and he  quit, leaving the acquisitions--and that notebook--to me.
By the time he moved to Fort Worth, Jim was a single man, but he had a harem of women trailing after him. Once the man who was then editor of the press asked, "What is this? The Jim Lee harem?" I told him  yes, and I was proud to be part of it. But Jim soon began to keep company with a woman he met at a party at my house. Several people who knew us both thought we should have paired up, so once at lunch--we went to lunch often in those days--I asked him when he was casting his eye about he didn't look at me. He was purely astonished. "I like you better than most people I know. Why would I want to ruin that?" It was probably one of the nicest compliments I ever got.
Jim and I have collaborated on books--Literary Fort Worth and Elmer Kelton: Memories and Essays most recently--and TCU Press published his collection of essays, Adventures with a Texas Humanist (with a clear nod to Walter Prescott Webb's classic Adventures of a Texas Naturalist). We work well together, though we have also been known to quarrel to the point that one colleague once said, "For God's sake, it's like a bad marriage." I guess that's why Jim and I are good friends.
TCU Press will publish a collection of his short stories in 2013, but he warns that he could be dead by then. Melinda and I told him he couldn't die because he'd have to promote the book. When I said he needed to go on Facebook to promote, he said, "I'd have to commit suicide if I did that." Jim is nothing if not cantakerous--but loveably so.
I don't see much of Jim these days, and I miss him. So lunch today was a fine treat and a fine birthday present. Yep, old friends are gold, and we must keep them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kidz Can Make a Difference

I am so proud of Morgan Alter, my granddaughter who is about to turn seven (she's the one in the green tank and white cap). She came up with the idea and organized, with her mom's help, a Kidz Clean Up day in their Kingwood neighborhood (north of Houston). Morgan decided that kids--and parents--could band together early on a Saturday morning and walk along the streets picking up trash. She posted a large sign, and her mom sent out an email to the neighbors. Last Sunday seventeen volunteers turned out to collect twenty pounds of trash. Morgan was the crew leader--that's her brother, Kegan, standing in front of her. Mom Lisa figured it was good not only for the kids to get a spirit of pitching in and being a part of the neighborhood, but it was good for the entire neighborhood to come together. As she wrote me, "Kids can make a difference." I am proud of the whole family and the difference they've made in their neighborhood.
Sophie had a busy day today--an eleven-year-old boy came to play with her all morning, which was like a vacation for me--I gave the cat an infusion, ran some errands, and got some work done. Then tonight a friend came to bring her a "dental bone" and played with her. She's tapped out at my feet right now. And I'm ready for bed. Such tiring days we have!
Warning: I may break all my self-imposed rules, which are silly anyway, and do a political blog. I am outraged by the Republican refusal to cut taxes and tax shelters on big corporations and wealthy citizens but ther willingness to cut  benefits to the middle class and those with even lower income.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Other people's houses

The latest Southern Living arrived a few days ago, an event I always look forward to. I generally thumb right to the recipes--they have some wonderful ideas, and I've cut out and saved lots of recipes in my appalling collection. But this time I looked at some of the houses--a summer cottage that someone enlarged and turned into a permanent home on retirement, an indoor/outdoor dining space added on to an existing structure. I drooled over these picture-perfect settings, barely able evene to imagine myself owning such gorgeous property and living in it.
Then today I went for a tour of the two-bedroom 1920 house, carefuly redone, that a friend of my daughter's has just bought, and I drooled again. A perfectly landscaped backyard with an outdoor bar and no grass--rocks and flagstone. Built in sub-zero refrigerator, built-in gas stove, lovely granite counters, a butler's pantry, and even a fireplace at eye level in the master bedroom (if you were lying in the bed). Final touch, for me, was lovely roofed porch. While I was happy for the new owner, I felt a pang of envy and wondered if I would have fallen in love with the house and bought it--which is what she said happ ned to her. But I came home to my comfortable red brick, with its welcoming porch, and was glad to be here.
Truth is that I'd like to live near water and I don't--not for water sports but to sit and stare at it. And another part of me would love to live in Santa Fe. But I live in Texas, which right now is damned hot, but I love it. My house is comfortable--folks usually rave about it when they come in, though to me it's time for a thorough redo that I can't afford. But it has a good kitchen--not counting the fact that I can't have a gas stove. It has plenty of space for kids and grandkids, and it has a grand front porch on which I entertain--though not this summer with our never-ending heat wave.
I don't really want to move by a big body of water, even in the cool North though that's tempting, and I don't really want to live in Santa Fe. My children and grandchildren are in Texas, and in Fort Worth I have a great network of friends. I used to think about moving to Santa Fe, but I knew deep down I'd be lonely and bored. In Texas I have connections I've built over forty-five years. You don't walk away from such a life easily--or at least I don't. I don't have that much adventure in my soul.
Maybe other people's houses always look better to us, and we should--brace for a cliche--learn to bloom where we're planted.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What a lovely birthday

Sophie and Jacob enjoying my birthday party.
Many thanks to my Facebook friends and others who've sent me birthday greetings today. I feel like Cinderella, and I've had a lovely day. The morning got off with a predictable scramble--feed each animal but keep them separate, catch up on emails, etc. and then to the grocery.
But then came the nice treat of lunch with Jordan and her friend/colleague Susan--many thanks to Susan for hosting and to both of them for a lovely arrangement of flowers. We went to one of my favorite places, and I had the club sandwich I always crave. Then home for a bit of work, and a bit of frustrating computer work, and a nice nap. Then up, too quickly, to prepare for dinner tonight. Jordan and Jacob arrived about 4:15, and we were at it, with Jordan saying, "Go get dressed, Mom." We had 12 adults and two kids--Jacob's friend Eva was absolutely terrified of the puppy--for supper. Lots of appetizers--an artichoke heart dip, hummus, onion soup/sour cream (that old standby), and my pickled radishes which a few people tried and raved about but they generally weren't eaten. Jay, my handsome neighbor, barbecued brats and turkey burgers, and I provided potato salad and baked beans. A hearty meal and a good time enjoyed by all.
The guest list was mixed--some of Jordan's friends, who are also my friends, and I'm flattered that these young people care enough about me to come to my party, bring me cards and wine, and spend much of the evening hanging out.. I'm really blessed. Then there was the older  crowd--friends of mine, though some not even as much as ten years older than Jordan's friends. Jay and Susan--with Jay as the chef for the evening, Mark and Melinda (she's from my office and a good friend), and Elizabeth, though without Weldon who was in California. It was really a jolly evening.
Sophie was the hit of the party--everyone took turns carrying her, playing with her, and loving on her, and she never seemed to tire though now she's lying peacefully at my feet.
Jordan did a yeoman's job tonight--putting dishes out, cleaning up the kitchen, taking Sophie out periodically. She is such a help, and I am so grateful--I hope she reads this and knows how much I appreciate all she does for me. And how happy she made my birthday.
OK, I don't mind getting older, though I resist Jacob's comments that when I die he'll take care of Sophie. He makes it sound like it will be next year. I am so blessed with family and friends and work I love to do and all the things that keep me  young--including right now Sophie who may keep me from exercising but does keep me on my toes.
So, again, thanks to all of you who joined in to make this a special day.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tell me again why I wanted a puppy

I remember when I had newborn babies--I was tired all the time. Well, a nine-week-old puppy is like a newborn baby, only I'm forty years older and, yes, I'm tired all the time. Waking up is hard.
First of all, you simply can't train a puppy this young. For certain things,  you can train yourself--like taking her outside every hour. But there are complications there: I cannot take her in the front yard until she's four months old and has had her final parvo shots. Parvo is rampant this year, maybe because of heat and drought, so I'm doing all the protective things--spraying my shoes after going to a pet store, etc. A friend came to pick me  up for lunch one day and before I invited him in I asked, "Have you been to a public park? A dog park?" He looked at me solemnly and said, "Never in my life."
I can take her out in the back yard because my dog is innoculated and it's been long enough since I had the stray lab back there. That works really well--she poops and pees, as long as Scooby isn't out there. If he is, she gets so interested in him she forgets what she went out there for. And I can't take her at night--I'd lose a black puppy in the dark space on the side of my house. One night I tried a leash. I really went prepared for this--leash, flashlight, squeaky toy to which she will come. But she's so little, she just pulled her head out of her collar. There went that experiment.
I have heard of something called Puplight--a collar that has a bright light on the front, slanted so that it doesn't bother either pup or owner but still throws a good bit of light. I think I'll get one--but it's too soon.
Sophie was supposedly trained to a litter box filled with feline pine. She acts like she never saw it, never heard of it, hasn't a clue what to do with it. I did put those puppy pads down today, and I've had just a bit of luck with those. That may get better. Meantime I'm pulling up rugs in the places where she stays most.
A puppy playpen was recommended, so I bought one--not cheap. She barked and yelped and hated it for four and a half days and then discovered how to climb out. I did figure out a neat way to keep her in the kitchen today, using sections of the playpen, but only if I'm in there cooking. And she will stay happily in the bathroom while I shower, put on make-up, etc. But she definitely does not want to be out of human company.
I hate to crate her all the time--and she's too young really to understand that a crate is her nest. She does wet in it occasionally. But that's where I leave her when I go out--and her yelps follow me down the driveway.
Meantime Scooby, my Aussie, is scared of her and almost refuses to come in the house, even in this heat; the cat hates her. One thing Sophie has learned--she ducks when she sees the cat.
Jordan and Jacob have come many afternoons to play with both dogs, and they are a godsend. But I spend much of my time juggling animals, feeding, cleaning up messes, etc. On a good note, I've lost two pounds. Another good note: Jacob seems to have bonded with Scooby. I expected him to be friends with the pup, but she's too frenetic for him.
I know Sophie will turn into a good dog--she understands "NO" and "STAY" already and she's affectionate and loves human company, but there's a lot of training ahead of us. I think I'll feel better when she's four months, I can begin real training, and I can take her in the front yard.
Meantime, understand why I'm tired?
I'm happy to add a PS: Sophie had a visitor tonight--a ten-year-old girl who played with her all evening while my class met. They both had a good time, and tonight I have one tired placid pup. The girl's mom took a cute picture of Sami holding Sophie, but Sophie is so black all she looks like is a bundle of black--no darting eyes, cute face, etc.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cat in a closet

Last week I was convinced my 19-year-old cat, Wywy, was trying to die. He ate little on Wednesday; Thursday he disappeared and ate nothing, though I put food, water, even milk out. Thursday night I was convinced I would wake up in the morning and find him dead somewhere. I woke up early worrying about it--and there he was sitting in the doorway to my bedroom. But he still wouldn't eat. I discovered his hiding place--a closet where I store extra blankets on the floor. He's burrowed himself a nest. I emailed Jamie, whose cat he once was, and we decided to make him comfortable and assure him he was loved. By Saturday noon I was sure he was on his last legs--he has major health problems--and I geared myself up for the inevitable call to the vet Monday morning. Saturday afternoon, for no reason, he came out of hiding and began to eat voraciiously. He went back to sleeping on my bed, even walking on me when he thought it was time to eat; if I got up in the night, so did he, asking for food. He began to sleep on my bed in the daytime. I'm not sure if this was a fit of pique over the puppy, his way of protesting, or if he perhaps used up one of his nine lives. He did this once before, after he was flea dipped which he considered a huge insult. Today he's still himself, though not eating quite as much. But he sleeps on my bed and greets visitors, so I guess for a while all is well.
Meantime, Sophie the puppy has discovered how to climb out of her playpen. The only place I can confine her is her crate and I hate to do that too much. But this morning when I cooked, this afternoon when I napped, and tonight when I needed some Scooby time, she was crated. She had a high old time when two friends came for dinner and spent much of the evening playing with her, but she's always ready for more. I may grow old before this is over, but we really had a better day today. Our best times are when I work in my office, and she can play or lie at my feet. When she's sure of company, she settles down and lies quietly--so lovely. I hope it's a forerunner of times to come.
Scooby has made no progress in getting used to her and seems to look grayer, but maybe that's the contrast to a black puppy. Or maybe he needs another summer haircut.
More from the animal kingdom later.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


A friend is devastated because her son is moving to Portland, Oregon, and taking his eight-year-old son with him, her only grandchild I think. I have seven grandchildren, but only one is local, and I see a lot of him. If his parents moved halfway across the country, I know I'd be devastated too. Her plight got me to thinking about the differences between children and grandchildren.
I remember babysitting Jacob one night when he was seven or eight months old. He had a dream and woke screaming. I sat in the rocker, crooning to him and holding him close. He cuddled up close to me and after a moment fell asleep. I sat there holding that sleeping baby on my chest for an hour, realizing this was an opportunity I didn't get much anymore.
When you have children,  you are the focus of their world in a way that grandparents can never be. If they're upset, scared, in pain--they want Mommy. I loved those years. I remember watching one of my children run a block with his arms spread to get the hug I offered from my knees. More than once, I've listened to Jacob scream, "I want Mommy!" A couple of times I've called her and we've talked strategy a bit. We don't want to have her or Daddy come get him and set a precedent. Sometimes ice cream makes it all better, and once a Lunchable saved the day--or night. He dried his tears and said, "Juju, you are the best!" I thought, "Yeah, 'cause I'm feeding you faux food." But grandparents have to realize we can never be in the same place as Mommy or Daddy.
Being a grandparent has problems too--the old saying is that they go home and someone else worries about them. That's not always true--we worry as much as parents, we deal with tantrums and tears and laughter and jumping on beds. We track their height and weight and wonder if they're walking, talking early enough, doing everything on schedule. We wring our hands over whether or not they're eating properly--and feel we can't speak. Half the time my daughter tells me I let him get away with too much and the other half she says, "I'm not going to worry about that." Fortunately we're good friends, and I can voice my opinion.
But we're different. If we do it right, we're fun in a way Mom and Dad aren't. We aren't as harried and hassled as parents who work full time and raise children. Yes, we let them get away with things--watch a little extra TV, stay up a little later at night. We take them places Mom doesn't have time for, they know we'll pick them up at day care or school if need be. At my house, Jacob can play with dogs and a cat that he doesen't have at home--at five he's just learning to be comfortable with the dogs and is proud of himself. He can watch TV while he eats his dinner--I know, I never let my children do that.  Grandparents really are for spoiling children and loving children unconditionally.
I wish my six other grandchildren lived close enough that I could see them several times a week. Each is so special in his or her own way, and I'm so proud of them. But not seeing them as often makes the relationship different, especially with little ones.
Jacob was here for lunch today, waiting for his other grandparents to pick him up for a cousin's birthday party. My Aussie was loving on him, and he said indignantly, "I'm going to a birthday party. I can't go all slobbered!"

Friday, July 15, 2011

A good mystery, Civil War reenactments, and the puppy wars

After several mini-crises this morning--a water leak somewhere in the house (plumber coming tomorrow), a hurried trip to the grocery, and so on, I decided to take a break today, not that I've gotten much done this week. But I spent much of the afternoon reading Julie Hyzy's newest mystery, Grace Interrupted. Grace is a young woman who has taken over as director of a historic house that is a tourist site and includes hotel accommodations. I thoroughly enjoyed the first in the series, Grace Undeer Pressure, and am enjoying this one. The plot revolves around Civil War reenactors who have rented a remote portion of the mansion grounds, and that fascinates me. Over a  year ago, I edited Monte Aker's book, The Accidental Historian, which has a lot about reenactments--from the Civil War to the Alamo. Monte tells it all with wry pokes of humor at himself (which sometimes made me laugh aloud) but I finished that project with a much better understanding of reenactors--and why they do what they do. So that knowledge is increasing my enjoyment of this mystery.
The puppy wars continue. Sophie has learned to climb out of her playpen, so today we had a contest of the wills. I vowed every time she climbed out, I'd put her back in and scold her. I can't figure a way to puppy-proof the thing, although a friend sent some suggestions, but I decided training was the best approach--she's this super-smart dog, right? Cooking dinner tonight, I must have pulled her down off the edge of that playpen a dozen times--and of course each time I had to wash my hands. They're going to dry out and become prunes. I will say she no longer whines and yips but that's because she thinks she can get out. I figure when I'm working in the kitchen and can talk to her, she should be content--she doesn't see it that way. She and I spend most of the day in my office, where she plays with her toys, tries to chew on magazines, books and wires--my friend Sally recommends Tabasco on the wires, which I think is a super idea. Sometimes Sophie wears herself out and sleeps at my feet--then I can get stuff done. We are making a little progress on housebreaking--mostly because I am now trained about when to take her out--or pretty much so. Jacob plays with her in the afternoon, which she loves. I do too!
Yep, I'm still tired.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A long day but a wonderful dinner

All my days have been long this week, since the arrival of Sophie.  She's now contentedly chewing on my shoes. I know it's a horrible precedent, but I'm letting her because they're so stretched out and awful I can't keep them on my feet, and I have new replacements. But if she goes after the new shoes, we'll have a discussion. I seem to spend my days saying "No" to electrical cords, throws and rugs with fringes, etc. Nothing daunts her.
However, Scooby continues to be afraid, and I continue to put them together in the evening, even if only for an hour. I pet and love Scooby the whole time he's in the office with her. I've had to move my wicker chair out of the office every time I bring Sophie in here because she chews on it--which could be fatal. But the worst is that she jumped out of her playpen three times today. Breeder suggests some kind of netting, which I think is a good idea. This weekend, we'll change the wicker chair for the overstuffed one in my bedroom--the plaid throw can go on the overstuffed chair without dragging on the floor and tempting Li'l Bit, as I sometims call her. She is so full of life and happy she's just irresistible.
The cat is another big problem--I think his body is shutting down. He ate very little yesterday and peed less, ate nothing today. Tonight when I came home from dinner I took care of the older animals first--put Scooby in the office with treats, picked up Wywy to get his food out of the fridge. He peed all over the kitchen floor and me (while I was holding him), then yowled when I put him on his counter for food and seemed to stagger a moment. I'm afraid the inevitable is coming. Jordan had a cat that got so weak and bad that Christian finally persuaded her they would have to put it to sleep the next day--the cat died in her sleep that night. I wish such an end for Wywy--I hate to make that decision, but I don't want him to suffer.
Bright note in my day: Betty, Jeannie and I celebrated our June/July birthdays with dinner at Taverna, an Italian restaurant I'd not been to before. We had a wonderful, seasoned flatbread for an appetizer, then each had starters--they both had shrimp (I swear they do that because they know I can't eat it) and I had carpaccio, which I can never resist. This came with paper thin slices of pecorino and a salad of greens with a creamy dressing and lots of capers. Wonderful. I had a flourless chocolate cake with a molten chocolate center set on zabaglione (there wasn't much of it) and raspberry sauce--just four little dots on the plate, but it was all good. Now I'm full and happy. Scooby having endured an hour in the office with Sophie is happily in his bed, and Wywy has slunk off somewhere. I'll have to go look for him and love on him.
Is it any wonder that when I took a nap today I really, really didn't want to get up?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Magic of a Mentor

The Sisters in Crime listserv has a program called Mentor Monday. Once a month an expert in a related field takes questions about their area of expertise. This Monday it was Kris Neri, author and owner of an independent bookstore. She answered questions about owning and operating an indie bookseller in these turbulent book times. It was interesting and informative, but it's a one-day thing and none of us develop a relationship with the mentor.
On the other hand, there are mentors who enter our life for varying periods of time. I am lucky enough to have had a mentor all my professional life. I met Fred when I was in graduate school, forty years ago. He was a young faculty member, and I was his first doctoral candidate. We've kept up the teacher/student relationship, though Fred would tell you today that it's more a friendship of colleagues. Over the years I've called him with innumerable questions, especially when I was writing historical fiction: "If you were going to pay a sympathy call in 1904 in East Texas, what would you take?" The answer was dried fruit pies. "If you were a bored kid in East Texas, what would you do? Chunk rocks in the stock tank. His knowledge of the trivia of the nineteenth century astounds me--and what he doesn't know, he researches. Once he gave me a thorough lesson in the workings of a derringer for a story I'd been assigned to write. For years he was a valued member of the TCU Press editorial board, and I relied on him to be first reader of all young-adult novels submitted to us.
The relationship did sort of a flip a few years ago when he wrote a book called  Boys Books, Boys Dreams, and the Mystique of Flight, about boys aviation books of the early twentieth century. He submitted it to other presses, and I finally asked why he didn't bring it to TCU. He said he didn't think we'd consider it. Long story short, we published it and the next book , From Bird Women to Skygirls. I became his publisher.
But as I started to write mysteries, he took up the mentoring role. At TCU he taught the genre fiction classes, including mystery, and he's widely read in the field. He reads my manuscripts at various stages and discusses plot strategies with me. He is generous with his praise but never hesitant to suggest other developments, other ways to do things, parts that don't work, and problems he finds.  Today I particularly wanted to pick his brain about the plot of the third mystery I'm planning--I know what's going to happen but I was stumped on motivation. He made excellent suggestions at lunch, then emailed me later with yet another one that is spot on. So now, if I find time between animals, grandson, and other things, I can write that first paragraph. Nowadays, we each make suggestions to the other.
Fred and his wife have been to my house on a few occasions, and I've had dinner at theirs, but ours is not really a social relationship. It's collegial--and I'm grateful for that. Every writer should be so lucky.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 2 in the Animal Kingdom

The lion is not exactly lying down with the lamb, though at this point it's hard to figure out which is what. Scooby, my 55 lb. Aussie, is afraid of Sophie, the--what? 5 lb? --pup. She barks at him in that way that dogs have of indicating they want to play, and he panics and comes to me for comfort. Last night, they both lay at my feet while I worked, but tonight was not nearly so peaceful, and I finally put Scooby in his bed, where he is much happier. I suspect Sophie is feeling a bit more secure and agressive.
Wywy the cat also hates Sophie. He hisses and strikes his paws at her--fortuntely he has no front claws. She is unfazed by this and considers him curiously.
But Sophie clearly hates her playpen. I put her in it first thing in the morning with her litter box, for which she has no use at all. She whines and screams and jumps, dumping over food and water. Once in my office, she's pretty quiet--usually. Tonight she had company to show off for, and she was into everything.
This afternoon Jordan woke her (and me) from naps, and she immediately took Sophie outside, where the pup peed and Jordan praised her. I guess I'll try that tomorrow morning. She has peed on the rug in my office twice today--fortunately not a kilim--and pooped on the old rug in her playpen, with the litter box right there. Not a great record. Now she's tapped out under my desk.
First full day. We'll all get better at this.
I'm going to bed very early tonight.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The naming of puppies

It may not be as difficult as the naming of cats, but naming puppies presents problems. I named my new Bordoodle Sheba, because I'd once had a farm collie (sort of, to me, a mutt Border Collie) named Sheba, short for Bathsheba Finkelstein (that is another long story not for here). But this pup looks nothing like my Sheba of forty-five years ago. Nor does she looke like a Sheba of any kind. Lots of names were put on the family table today--I discarded Roxie, although Mel, Maddie and Jamie voted for it, because I once knew a wonderful woman named Roxie who died tragically. Chloe and Zoe were considered, but I have a friend named Chloe. I discovered in the pup's papers that  though the breeder just called her Pink, her kennel name was Matilda Pink. Matilda might be shortened to Maddie (my granddaughter) but Tillie or Tillie Mae offered possibilities. Edie held out for Sophie, and that's beginning to sound good to me. In fact, I've been trying it out tonight.
I'm deep in the throes of introducing a new pup into an established household structure. When I got home this afternoon, all three animals needed attention at once--Scooby to come in out of the heat, Wywy to be fed, and Sophie to explore the house. Scooby lifted his leg on the pup (fortunately poor aim) as if to say, "Just want to be sure you understand whose house this is," and Wywy had one of his hissing fits--good thing he has no claws. I just now picked the puppy up which immediately made Wywy demand food. The pup escaped her playpen, but I have since connected the loose corners the right way and think all is well. She is happy as a lark with people around, but she whines like a Banshee if left alone in her crate or playpen. Last night, with the crate on my bed, she slept all night with one break to eat, potty, etc. And she let us all nap for an hour this afternoon--that's a habit for Scooby, Wywy, and me. We'll see what happens tonight, but I think for the first half day we've settled into a fairly good routine. Right now both dogs are lying at my feet, peaceful as can be. I'm trying to share the love.
A confession: I'm exhausted.
Many thanks to Jordan for making the trip to Frisco, to Jamie and Mel for being so hospitable to a new puppy in their two-dog, one-cat household and for treating us to delicious meals, to my granddaughters for absolutely loving Sophie and carrying her around, and to Jacob for wanting so badly to be part of holding her, training her, caring for her. It will be hard for him to learn, a bit at a time, that she is my dog, I will share, but he must accept what he can and can't do. I have a great family.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Reading (or re-reading?) To Kill a Mockingbird

Several months ago I was asked to be part of a panel discussing To Kill a Mockingbird in August. Smart program planners always ask months in advance, because it's so easy to say yes to something six months away whereas if it were next week, it would be easier to say, "No, can't do that." In the interest of getting my name out as an author, I agreed, all the while thinking "Darn, I'll have to re-read it. It's been way too long." For the past week I've been re-reading that classic book and been totally immersed in it, finding it hard to tear myself away to do the things I really need to be doing.
The panel moderator sent out a list of questions to spark the discussion, and one was when did you first encounter TKAM? In reading, I decided I may never have read the book, though that seems impossible--surely I read it in college or graduate English classes. But I can see the movie clearly in my mind--especially the scene where Atticus shoots the rabid dog--and I'm beginning to wonder if that's the only way I know it. I think this book is so deeply engrained in many of us that we honestly can't remember our first encounter.
Everyone wonders why Harper Lee never wrote another book. I can't speak for her, but I know this book needs no sequel. It ends where it should end, comes full circle, and any attempt to carry it beyond that point would fall flat. Perhaps Lee, with her deep roots in and knowledge of southern culture could have written another totally different book, but she chose not to.
TKAM offers an in-depth writing lesson for authors who want to take time to explore it's structure. The voice of Scout is dead on as narrator--the story could not have been told from any other point of view. Scout combines an unusually acute perception of the world around her--for an eight-year-old--with the naivete of her age, which sometimes leads to the novel's most ironic moments. The society in which the action takes place is fully developed, without didactic description, through Scout's view of things--we see the truth about the black community and the way they're treated, about the poor whites, about the townspeople set in their ways and counting their ancestors.
Atticus troubles me only because he's so wise, so calm, so perfect--but he too has his weak moment, his fall from grace if you will, at the end of the book when he realizes humanity triumphs over law. (No spoilers here). The other characters live in our minds because Scout makes us see them as individuals, often eccentric.
This is not a novel about justice--rather it's a novel about the injustice inherent in our legal system. The tragedy is peculiar to the South in the 1930s and yet it is with us today--dare I cite the Casey Anthony case? While that case is tawdry at this point, TKAM is rich with humanity--its great moments, its small moments, and, yes, a good dose or humor--not slapstick, always the ironic comment or turn of events.
Harper Lee's novel will make you laugh, wring your hands, and despair for humanity, but it will in the end enrich you. I've always thought a novel could be called significant if when you finished it you were in a slightly different place emotionally or intellectually than when you began it. TKAM fits that criteria. And if you're a writer, this novel will teach you about subtlety and economy of words and the soft but sure approach to telling a story.
Maybe Harper Lee knows best. She might feel, to this day, that she could never equal this accomplishment. I for one bow to her judgment and wishes. Did you know she has decreed that no edition of the book will ever have an introduction? Good--scholars won't be picking it apart and dissecting it as scientists do a moth or butterfly.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The wonderful world of adoption

A young couple I'm fairly close to (that translates to we're related by marriage and see each other at a lot of family gatherings and I like them a lot) has been fostering two little pre-school sisters of mixed race for 20 months. Today, the court finalized their adoption papers, and they are a family for sure. My daughter sent me a wonderful picture of all of them--including grandparents and the judge--taken after the ceremony. It made my day, and I've been going around with a  happy smile. As long as the children were under the jurisdiction of the Child Protective Service,  no one could take their picture, so it was moving to see them all together in a picture. Those are lucky parents--for over a year and a half they could have lost the children--and those are lucky little girls. They came from a background of abuse and neglect--the night, late, that they arrived at their new home they were dirty and hungry. Now they're happy, secure, well-fed and, yeah, a bit spoiled but only enough to be endearing. They are learning the limits of good behavior, something they never would have learned in their original environment.
I have been to court four times to finalize adoptions, and each time it was a thrilling moment. The same judge presided at three of the four proceedings--the legendary Honorable Scott Moore, who was known as the best child advocate in the county. But I had never had to contend with biological parents who wanted their children back, CPS, or any of the difficulties this young couple has faced. Still I identify with them.
I remember once at my house the mother said fiercely, "These are my kids now." I know just how she felt, and I'm not sure people outside the adoption experience understand the feeling. Mine are not my adopted children--they are my children, born of and in my heart if not of my flesh and blood. Oh, yes, sometimes the subject of adoption comes up in conversation, but they treat it casually and so do I. We are one of the closest families I know, and I love it. I don't quite know how to put it in words, but over the years I have heard remarks from others that you don't really have a child until you give birth or nurse or whatever. It's not true. For some reason, as a single parent, I have been lucky beyond belief--I have four kids who have grown to be substantial citizens and loving parents, while remaining loving children. A lot of biological families can't say that. I've heard people say they wouldn't adopt because you never know what you'd get--true of biological children too, though I've kept my tongue in my head. And others say no, they wouldn't feel the same about a child that didn't have their blood. I keep quiet then too and pity the speaker.
Do I want my children to find their biological parents? Honest answer, no. They are my children, they carry my values and training and shaping, if not my genes. I can't say it enough. They are mine! And none of them, now in their 30s and 40s, show any interest anyway.
When you adopt and are open about it, you find it's a small world--people say, "Oh, I'm adopted," or "My children are adopted" or whatever. There's a whole world of happy adoptive families out there, and I'm glad to welcome this couple into that circle. And so glad their uncertainty has come to an end. I don't feel at liberty to publish the picture of the new family, but here's a picture of my happy family. The young man next to me is my oldest son; the pretty blonde on the other side is the next in line; then there's Jamie, with the dark hair, at the far right of the picture; and my youngest daughter is kneeling in the front with her husband and son. Good-looking, aren't they?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Goodbye, Casey Anthony

The Casey Anthony trial is over and done with, and we can all move on with our lives. I have mixed emotions about it but will trust in the judgment of twelve of Anthony's peers. As one of my friends pointed out on Facebook, almost 1800 children in this country are killed or go missing every year. Why did the media fixate on this one case? Maybe because of the month delay in reporting the child missing? Maybe because of the mother's lifestyle? What does it matter? It's taken up way too much of our time and attention.
On the Sisters in Crime listserv and on a couple of blogs, a handwriting expert, Sheila Connally, has come forward with her analysis of the writing of the Anthony family members and of Casey's boyfriend who figured in the case--though I gathered they'd broken up before Caylee disappeared. Connally concludes that the Anthonys are a family of liars--Casey has lots of secrets, shows the signs of someone who has been abused and wants to separate herself from her family; her father shows the signs of a control freak and a liar; the mother is the good girl who will do anything to protect her family--and apparently has. Only the son/brother, Lee, comes off sympathetically in this exercise--he feels he's not been part of the family unit (maybe he should be grateful) and feels alienated from them but is otherwise a pretty normal guy. The ex-boyfriend is a nice guy caught in a bad place.
Who knows how credible handwriting analysis is--some came forward to contradict these interpretations right away but a part of me surely believes there's something really wrong in this family picture. Nonetheless, it's not for us to say, and soon another sensational story will, thank goodness, replace it in the news.
In the meantime, RIP Caylee Anthony. I hope they stop putting those pictures of you on TV, because they break my heart every time I see them. And Casey Anthony? Goodbye comes from a contraction of God be with you--and I hope she will recognize that. She'll need all the help she can get as she goes forward, if she does.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Fourth of July

My celebration of the 4th was going to be to take Jacob to the neighborhood parade. When he woke up, all sweet because he was still sleepy, he said, "I've never seen a parade." I explained this would be a small one. We picked out his clothes, I fixed his breakfast, and he announced: I've been to a parade. I don't got to go again." He adamantly did not want to go. Turned out he was fearful there would be fireworks, which I assured him there wouldn't. He still didn't want to go, so I put on my "house" clothes again and went out to water plants on the porch--where I saw all kinds of neighbors walking toward the parade, including my next-door neighbors that Jacob considers his special friends. When I reported this, he said, "I want to go." So we got dressed, with him shouting, "Hurry up, Juju!" And we went to the parade, which truly was a bit of a disappointment--except Jacob was enthralled by the kid who had a miniature motor-powered car. It was mostly neighbors walking, some with decorated wagons or other children's vehicles, then a police car,and  the cars. Jacob wasn't much taken by my suggestion that next year we could decorate my VW bug convertible and drive in the parade.
Earlier that morning I'd noticed that my black bag of clippings was gone from the front  yard--I planned to work some more on cone flowers tonight. Then I saw that the cone flowers had all been cut back. I "accused" Jay and Susan next door but they denied it. At the parade, Jacob and I parked ourselves by Greg and Jaimie's house, Greg being the one who keeps my garden lovely. Turns out they had come up at 6:30 in the morning and done it because Jaimie said to Greg, "We've got to do something about Judy's flowers." Greg has a new pacemaker and is not supposed to do ANTYHING! But he said Jaimie brought him up and she bagged while he cut. Such wonderful neighbors. He says he feels great and hates his house arrest.
Jacob left at noon to go to a nearby lake with his parents and then watch the fireworks at the country club. That two-faced child told his dad he wasn't afraid of fireworks and he hadn't said that at all. I'd misunderstood him. Yeah, sure.
It seems I'm in deep disgrace tonight. I wrote Colin to ask how their day was and he pointedly wrote back to say it was fine and so was their eleventh anniversary yesterday--plus he still carries a grudge because I didn't call on his birthday, though honest I didn't forget it--I called the next morning. Birthdays I always remember but I'm not so good at anniversaries. But, yes, they married eleven years ago on Grand Cayman and we all had a blast at the wedding. If I forgot that one, then I also forgot Jamie and Mel's fourteenth which was June 27 or 29--see, I'm not even sure what date. Contrary to Colin's conviction, it does not mean that I love my sons less--it just means that I am forgetful about anniversaries. But I hereby publicly apologize and wish all parties many more years of happiness.
Something else I forgot: one of the members of my memoir class asked me to look at the first eighty pages of her memoir--weeks ago. It dawned on me today I hadn't done it, so that was how I spent the day. Tonight back to work on my own stuff, until it's time to take a glass of wine to the porch and listen to the fireworks. Jacob said he just wanted to hear them, not see them, and I agree. Sitting directly under them always makes me think I'm going to have a heart attack!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Good small things about a holiday weekend

When I had a houseful of teenagers, weekends, especially holiday weekends, were wonderful, crowded with my children and their friends coming and going. I routinely cooked Sunday dinner for at least ten and usually more. I loved the hectic atmosphere. But now that I live alone, weekends tend to be long, and I confess that I dreaded this holiday a bit. Then again, I'm a different person these days (I think)--more relaxed and able to go with the flow. I can spend a morning getting my household going, taking care of my animals and plants, reading email, exercising, showering--suddenly it's almost lunch time, and that's some of what happened this weekend. Another good thing was Jacob--he spent Friday night and is spending Sunday night with me. So here are a few things that I think made it a good weekend:
--Jacob and I spent Friday night in companionable silence. He was on his bed in the playroom, watching TV, worn out as he often is at the end of a school day; he likes me to be in the room but not bother him, so I usually find something I can do away from the computer. This night I sorted recipes, which for me is fun. We had a pleasant evening together.
--I spent a lot of time researching anchovies and anchovy recipes for my food blog, Potluck with Judy, and was pleased with the results--it could have been twice as long. But I'm not sure if anyone read it. Although I'm supposed to post it on Sunday nights, I got mixed up because I wrote it last night and went ahead and posted it. It's a funny thing about blogs--those you think will get lots of comments don't, and the most offhand comment on Facebook can draw twenty comments or more. I love anchovies, but if you're leery of them, check out this blog post.
--Saturday morning Jacob and I went to Central Market. I didn't have a long shopping list and didn't need meat, which often means waiting a long time. He had a delightful time riding on the end of the cart and putting his toys in the rack there--have you ever tried to steer a cart with an almost-fifty lb. boy child on the other end? Hard to do. (Yes, he's in the higher weight percentile and the doctor has begun to talk to his parents about his snacks.) We came home and had lunch--he ate almost a whole can of Spaghetti-Os, a half ear of corn, and a chocolate waffle. Maybe the latter was dessert?
--Saturday night and again Sunday morning I forgot about dietary cautions and indulged myself. Sat. night I put chocolate/mint sauce on one of the small ice cream cups I keep for Jacob and the other grandchildren (I never put chocolate sauce on them for anyone else); this morning I scrambled not one but two eggs with smoked salmon.
--Saturday night I went out on the porch with a glass of wine and a book, but the dead cone flowers caught my eye. Greg, who keeps my garden in order, is out on medical leave for three weeks, but these flowers really look ugly. They need to be cut back and the heads scattered where they are to seed for next year. I don't usually try it because my footing on the lawn is uncertain--no, let's say my confidence in my footing is uncertain. But last night I took clippers, a lightweight bench (can't bend over and cut flowers for more than two seconds and this one bunch took 45 minutes) and a walking stick and attacked one whole bed of cone flowers. A double-size bed to go but I'll do it bit by bit in the cool (?) of the evening.
--A wonderful irony: yesterday the mail brought a royalty check from Amazon for $25.26 and an electric bill for $251.76. Something out of whack with my income and outgo, but it made me laugh.
--Tonight Jacob and I labored over his letter to our friend Weldon, who does something with comic books and online stuff and asked for a letter from Jacob about Kung Fu Panda. Jacob dictated to me, but his letter was basically asking Weldon to buy him some toys and then "Have a good day, Weldon" which he repeated five times--I think he's listened to his parents too long. He also got the giggles trying to tell me how grumpy he was. Yeah, sure.
--I'm re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout's voice is right on, and it reminds me all over again how important voice is in fiction. I've always said that Elmer Kelton's voice carries his fiction, and now I've found another voice perfectly on pitch. I'm reading this because I'm to be on a panel on the book in August and thought it might be a pain--but the reading makes it all worthwhile.
Jacob and I will probably go to the neighborhood parade tomorrow and then before lunch he'll go off with his folks. But I'm sure tomorrow will bring it's own small blessings.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Red Wing

A friend, Bob Reed, sent me his as-yet unpublished novel yesterday, hoping I'll blurb it--which I will after I've read it. But the title, "The Red-Winged Blackbird" sent my thoughts tumbling back to my dad.
 He was Canadian and had a bit of that British reserve about him--as well as what I considered a kind of droll accent when I got older. He was an osteopathic physician, president of an osteopathic college, and a hosital administrator, a man totally wrapped up in his work. His avocation was gardening, and we had the best backyard--and sideyard--for blocks. That's where Dad spent his weekends, looking like a homeless bum in dirty clothes. But he always dressed for dinner in a fresh white shirt--poor Mom. He was not one of those fathers who aimed to be my best buddy. He hugged and kissed, of course, and bragged about me to others. I have heard stories, even from him, about him taking me sledding when I was little--we lived on a park with a small hill, just right for toddler sledding. But I can't remember that he ever played with me. He was concerned about table manners and behavior and all those things. I know he loved me a lot and was proud of me, especially as I grew older, but he wasn't a pal as my boys are to their children. I should add that I went to work in his office when I was fourteen, and if I've had success as a press director, its because of the organizatonal habits he taught me then. I was given no leeway because I was the boss' daughter--I had to be better than everyone else, work harder, but I loved it.
The thing Dad and I did together was sing at the piano--never mind that neither of us could carry a tune. We were enthusiastic and hearty. Dad played out of several books--the Methodist hymnal, the American Heritage book of Favorite Songs, and a book that had everything from "Carry me back to my old Kentucky Home" to "Scotland's Burning, Scotland's Burning." We sang "Nearer my God to thee" and "Clementine" and--I particularly remember this, "Loch Lomond": Oh, ye take the high road, and I'll take the low,/ and I'll be in Scotland afore ye/But me and my true love/will never ever meet again/ on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond." My love of all things Scottish, of course, comes from my dad, who was fiercely proud of his MacBain Scottish heritage all his life.
Dad didn't play by ear, but there was one song he played from memory, "Red Wing." I never saw music or words for it. But Bob's title made me think of that song, so I looked it up on the Web today: it was copyrighted in 1907, is about Red Wing's love for Hiawatha, and has been sung by a variety of performers. The lyrics I remember are

Oh, the moon shines tonight on pretty Red Wing
the breeze is sighing,
the night bird's crying.
For afar 'neath his star
Her brave is sleeping
While Red Wing's weeping her heart away.

I'm not sure where a Canuck learned that song about American Indian lore, but he played it with gusto. Every once in a while, it comes to my mind and then the tune is stuck in my head for a while. But I like that. It brings back one of the best memories of Dad, who has been gone since 1979.
Bob Reed's title comes from a totally different song, "The Red-Winged Blackbird," written by Billy Edd Wheeler and sung by Joan Collins in the '60s. I'm a big Joan Collins' fan so I'm sure I'd like it. I looked it up on the web too and found lots of offers to make it the ring-tone on your cell phone. What is the world coming to?
Personally I'd like to have the Red Wing melody on my cell phone--it would be a nice reminder of good times.