Thursday, October 31, 2013

The joy of children

Once again I spent Halloween on my neighbors' front porch--I don't like to be home alone giving out candy. Besides, they traditionally make a wonderful stew for supper. I contributed a pumpkin dessert dip that was pretty darn good if I do say so. So we sipped wine, ate well, and watched Jay give out treats to a constant stream of children and not a few adults.
Ours is one of those neighborhoods known for its generosity, so families comes from all over the city to trick or treat. It's a pleasure to watch most of them--the parents are watchful, prompting for that thank you and cautioning, 'Only one piece." The children are polite a few with a quick quip. My recognition of a Minecrafter figure impressed Jay--he had no idea what the kid was supposed to be. We were all impressed with the amount of parental work that had gone into the costumes, like the Minecrafter or the child who was an X-Box or something with a big box over his head topped with sparkling lights and a clear panel for his face. Best line of the evening came from an adult dressed as a banana. When Jay complimented him, he asked, "Did you find me appealing?" Sent us into giggles. Maybe the best adult costume was the woman who wore a sign around her neck--clearly an enlargement of the Heinz Mustard label--and a homemade headdress that looked like the squirt end of a mustard bottle.
The little children are amazing--some so determined they walk right up, others so shy they hang back. Many infants in mom's arms--clearly they wouldn't, or shouldn't, get any of those treats. One tiny tyke kept wandering off into the garden and had to be physically returned to the walk. A middle school girl, asked what she was dressed as, replied, "A nerd."
By 8:15 we were out of candy. Jay figured he and Susan and given out $200 worth of candy (I contributed about $25 to that total). Susan's dad and I, being the old folks, sat back and let the two of them do the work. But it was fun. At nine, the streets are still crowded, and Sophie is barking her head off about all those intruders. She's sure we're under attack. I haven't turned the porch light on yet, but do have some inside lights on. Poor Sophie--I meant to crate her and put her outside a bit before I was going to go, but then Susan came to see where I was and I left Sophie out--indeed, forgot her. She survived nicely, though I do worry about pets on Halloween. I've never heard of any malicious mischief in this neighborhood.
It was a nice relief to a tense day. My cell phone barely rings, and if I were to call you, you could barely hear me. It's either repair or upgrade, and since I'm eligible I decided to upgrade. Spent at least two and a half hours on the Web and then the phone with AT&T. Their web site kept giving me incomprehensible messages--200 MB version wasn't available. So what? I was requesting 300 MB! Three techs tried to get me through it, then transferred me to the phone where I learned, belatedly, that Apple has not released that many iPhone 5s to AT&T and the local store could only provide me with 64 GB--I don't need that much and don't need to pay $200 more for it. Finally ordered it through Apple, which was less complicated but still a lengthy process. I can pick it up tomorrow, but apparently tomorrow is a launch day for an iPad upgrade and the store will be a madhouse. Hate this kind of frustration.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My World is Changing

For years, the Texas Book Festival, traditionally held in late October, was a highlight of my professional year. Melinda and I developed a tradition--we left about ten Friday for Austin, stopped someplace interesting for lunch, picked up her good friend (and now mine) KK in Austin, and went to Z Tejas for happy hour. Then we set up the booth--she swears I never did, but I know I did. Sometimes my Megan joined us for a drink; other times she just picked me up. I divided the weekend, spending one long day being professional at the festival--manning our booth, visiting with friends, greeting authors, all those things I thought were my responsibility as director of TCU Press. The other day, usually Sunday, I spent with Megan, Brandon, and my two Austin grandsons. On Monday, Melinda and I had breakfast with our beloved designer, Barbara Whitehead, and then headed home.
For several years, we had lunch at a Christian commune near Elm Mott, Texas. The food was marvelous, and we enjoyed the gift shop and a couple of times toured the various workshops--weaving, woodworking, pottery, etc. But then a scandal about the place and child abuse erupted, and we never went back. Last year, we lunched at a lovely bistro in Waco (no, that's not an oxymoron). This year, Melinda, who wrote a book on Texas wineries, wanted to stop at the Rising Star Winery in Salado. Enjoyed wine and a cheese and fruit platter, but we were hungry by the time we got to Z Tejas and split a spinach/mushroom quesadilla.
Megan and I meant to go to the festival Saturday but I made lunch plans with old friends, and she was expecting a crowd for supper and to watch the TCU/UT game. One of the friends I had lunch with had spent the morning at festival presentations and was looking forward to going back for the afternoon. But the programs--panels and readings, etc.--never drew me much. I liked mingling with the crowds, talking this book and that to potential buyers, visiting with colleagues.
Megan and I went to the festival Sunday. She was offended because she saw a huge display of books for $5 and under and decided it was too commercial. I walked through several tents, saw nothing of interest and not the one booth I was looking for. Finally we ran into friends and figured out where TCU Press and the A&M Consortium were. Went there--but few of the people I wanted to see were there. And during all my wanderings, I saw no familiar faces, nobody I could hug and say "Gosh, haven't seen you in a while. How are you? What are you writing." It just wasn't the same world. After forty-five minutes, I told Megan I was done, and as we walked away I said, "I don't need to come back next year." Oh, I'll ride to Austin with Melinda and visit my family, but I don't need the festival.
Maybe it's that all my friends, like me, are aging, and they don't feel the festival is as important. Maybe it's that younger people are manning the booths and filling the role I used to fill. But it was no longer my world.
It's okay. I'm happy in my world of mysteries--and family and friends.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

An Almost Perfect Day

Not too long ago, I was a guest on a blog where one of the questions asked me to describe my perfect day. I did, and today was almost that perfect day. It was cloudy but no rain, warm but not oppressive--the kind of day that makes me content to stay in. And that's what I did--fiddled with email, Facebook, etc., and then did my yoga. Completed a questionnaire for yet another guest blog, and began reading a book for review. Had an early lunch--half a BLT that was delicious. My mom taught me to be generous with mayonnaise and to pepper the tomato--no salt because the bacon is salty. It was so good I wished I'd made a whole sandwich, but I'm trying to watch my caloric intake.
An early and nice nap, and then I picked up Jacob. The only homework he had was to practice his spelling--not his best day but I hold out hope that tomorrow will be better.
This evening, I had supper with neighbors at the Old Neighborhood Grill. I always look forward to Tuesday night because the neighbors gather and it's meatloaf night. I meant to eat half the meatloaf and bring the other half home for a sandwich, but I ate the whole thing and bought a separate plain slice to bring home. Two sandwiches!
My day was marred by the hospitalization of my oldest son. He went in for a diagnostic procedure this morning and ended up with complications of that and his chronic disease that will probably keep him in the hospital for three days. He is not a happy camper, but he finally knows to take care of his health and follow doctor's orders--I think it took the first forty years of his life for him to learn that. Naturally I'm worried, and so are his siblings, but I'm assured he's in good hands--Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston--and his wife sounds upbeat, saying he's getting the best of care. This afternoon Jordan and I had worry hour instead of happy hour but we had some wine and kind of mulled things over. She said she wished we could go to Houston, an idea my brother nixed saying, "What would you do?" My reply, "Worry there instead of here." He said, "You got it, and you'd be more work for Lisa." So I'm at home worrying.
Otherwise though it was my perfect day--at home working and doing my yoga, early lunch, nap, afternoon with Jacob, and dinner out with friends. Who could ask for a better life?

Monday, October 28, 2013

A stripper pole, white anchovies and bowling

My two Austin grandsons, with their younger cousin
Grandpa  "D" is to the right
Trying to show the size and style of this party bus that amazed me
 
That title of this blog pretty much sums up the great weekend I just had in Austin. Went down Friday--my annual trip that used to be for the Texas Book Festival but now is to see my oldest daughter, Megan, and her family--two of my grandsons, one of whom turned seven the day before I got there.
I knew Megan's husband's mother had rented a van, but I was unprepared for a party bus, complete with stripper pole, disco system, black leather banquette seats, black window shades (we pushed them up) and more drink holders than I every imagined. She said when she called they told her about the stripper pole and disco system, and she in turn told them we'd have kids and was that alright? They said sure because they have kids birthday parties in these vans. A riotous time! The bus took us to pick up Meg's brother-n-law and his family and then to Vespaio, probably my favorite restaurant in Austin. I had foods I love--white anchovies, lamb carpaccio, and a marrow bone. Then it was off to a bowling alley, where I was very much spectator. Finally on the way home, Megan, Brandon and their oldest son (nine) were dancing in the aisles and singing loudly to country/western music. An evening like I never expected.
When I had lunch the next day with longtime friends and described the bus, the guy said, at mention of the stripper pole, that something must have been lacking in his education. Nonetheless we had a great visit, and I was so grateful.
Saturday night, that disastrous game for TCU, found Megan and me the only Frog fans in a sea of orange shirts, but there wasn't much for us to cheer about except a huge pot of Brandon's chili. I gave up and went to bed before the game re-started at eleven, and Megan watched the recorded version the next morning. We both knew how it would work out.
Sunday, we went to the book festival, but I'll save that for another post, and spent most of the day "hanging out." I read and napped, and we had chili for dinner.
This morning Melinda, my colleague from TCU Press who traditionally drives on this annual weekend, and I met our favorite designer and good friend, Barbara Whitehead, for breakfast and then hit the road for home. I am glad to be back home, with Sophie, who seemed very glad to see me, but it was a wonderful weekend that made me appreciate all over again the strong bond I have with my oldest daughter. So blessed.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Classroom teaching and me--or not me

I've long known that I'm not a riveting classroom teacher. Put me in a workshop, be it general writing, memoir, fiction, whatever, and I do a good job, engaging students, sparking discussion, etc. . But straight teaching from a desk in the front of the room is a whole 'nother thing. Tonight I think I capped my classroom career with a colossal failure. I was teaching a four-session non-credit class on Why Cowboys are Our Heroes--or Are They? Essentially, what part did the work of late nineteenth-century and early-twentieth artists and writers play in creating the myth of the American West as opposed to the reality.
The class barely made--five people--and I harbored a secret hope it wouldn't make. First class I had five participants; second class--a docent-guided tour of the Remington and Russell works at the Amon Carter Museum--had three participants, though the other two claimed they went to the museum independently. Which means they missed the lecture that was the big point of the class.
The third class I had three people, although one man did email and say he'd be out of town. The other man just never showed up. But the three ladies seemed to have a good time. We discussed The Virginian, that novel that set the standard for novels, movies and TV shows to come.
Tonight I had one participant--the youngest person in the class, recently moved from Ohio to Texas. When I asked, she said emphatically she wasn't from Ohio but she had a generally eastern background. The two of us talked casually about Emerson Hough's Heart's Desire, which I would call part fantasy, part satire (although it was early--1903--to be satirizing literature about the West). We went through my notes, designed for an hour and a half class, in less than 30 minutes.
When I was so bold as to ask if the class had been of any value, she said yes. She'd read two books she never would have, and she intended to read a third--Angle of Repose--that I had mentioned. She also said she wouldn't have understood about the role of artists and writers, so maybe I got somewhere with one student. But I have the sinking feeling I bored the others.
My career in the classroom is over, kaput, finished...but with regret, because I think it would be fun to teach a short non-credit course on the late, great Elmer Kelton. Still, I'm breathing a big sigh of relief tonight.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Facebook--more than social media

The term social media implies to me light gossip, catching up with the latest star news or maybe recipes or fashion trends. Occasionally you see posts on Facebook about how much one's FB friends have meant to them, but many people scorn the site and claim they are too busy doing important things to be bothered with trivia.
For me, I've decided that Facebook is not trivia. I first enrolled as a way to keep up with my grown children, though I soon found that one child's penchant for telling what time he went to the gym, what time he left, what he ate for lunch got a bit tiresome. I love him dearly and want to keep up with his life, but really? He doesn't do that any more.
Then I rationalized my Facebook participation as promotion for my books...and, yes, I think it works well for that. But I also think it does much more for me. I'd been thinking this for a while, but it was driven home to me this week by the kind expressions of concern when I posted that my oldest son was hospitalized (thanks folks, he got out at 10:30 last night and went to work today--talk about a hard head!). People on Facebook have come to mean a lot to me, and many of them are people I knew casually in other connections, but now I have a different bond with them.
There's the woman who was my colleague in publishing--we had a casual, passing acquaintance and met occasionally at meetings. Who knew she shared my love of dogs and, more recently, my passion for grandchildren? And there's another woman from my publishing days, younger with a young family, with whom I had only a joking telephone relationship. Now she has her own business and spends much of her time raising three apparently adorable, well-behaved children. I've seen a whole new side of her, and we have a different relationship.
And there's the Tea Party advocate I exchange messages with. Funny story: a friend from a previous existence told me I ought to friend this guy, gave me a couple of clues to appearance, and I did. Then the friend wrote and said, "I think you friended the wrong guy." He was right--this guy is at the far opposite political and religious spectrum from me. Somehow I felt obliged to show him that he had swallowed a bunch of baloney hook, line and sinker--and he wrote back to say he was amazed at how far apart our beliefs were but wasn't it nice we could exchange opinions in a free country. Now, really, who couldn't count somebody like that as a friend. Sometimes his friends get kind of contentious, but he remains sweet and civil...and so sincere in what he honestly believes. I count him as a friend--and I gained a new FB friend from his list, someone who also can't abide his views.
Sometimes FB is where I first learn major news--Wendy Davis' announcement she would run for governor, the end of the government shutdown, Joel Burns announcement tonight that he would not seek office as a state senator but stay in his city council position. Yes, you have to take a lot of Facebook with a grain of salt--or a big dose of research, but I find it informative, rewarding, and fun. No, I don't want to advertise, play games, or any of that. But I appreciate the fellowship. And like others, I spend way too much time on the site.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Irrationality of Panic

All my adult life, I've had a panic or anxiety disorder--one of those conditions that's hidden so you look perfectly normal  and many people think, "Just get over it." I don't have many panic attacks any more and when I do, they're minimal. But today I had a doozy. I suppose there's a lot going on in my life to make me build anxiety--my oldest son in the hospital, my youngest son in China, my youngest daughter heading for Mexico tomorrow. But I think the real cause was my ophthalmology appointment.
Don't get me wrong. The doctor, an old friend, is as kind as can be, but there's something about eye exams that really bothers me. Maybe it's the feeling if I can't read every line that I'm a kid failing a test in school. Maybe it's those old glass prisms they used to use to look into your eye. Maybe it's the dilation, but honest, I'd rather go to the dentist and the gynecologist in the same morning.
Today's appointment was generally a breeze, and I got a sort of clean bill of health--my eyes are holding steady, with one slight development that isn't a problem and may never be. I could stand a new sunglass prescription but I don't really need it. Pleasant people, less than two hours--as I say, a breeze.
So why did I lose my ability to walk on the way back to my car? I had parked at head-in parking at the far end of the building--easier for me than walking across from the far side of the empty parking lot. But when I left I started down the sidewalk and could barely walk, even though I had a cane. I held on the bushes, and when there were none, I stepped into the garden bed to hold on to the wall, my heart pounding and my breath growing short. By the time I was past the point of no return I was cursing myself for not just asking someone to walk me out, and I truly didn't know how I would make it around the corner to my car. Anyone watching must have...well, I don't know what they would have thought.
God looks after those who can't help themselves. A tech came along asking, "Can I help you?" Well, of course I said yes, and once I took her arm, I was fine or almost so. She didn't believe it. "Is someone waiting for you?" I said no, my car was around the corner. She looked really dubious about letting me drive. When we got there, she said, "There's a step down." "Yes, ma'am, I can do it."
"Are you sure you're okay? There's a trash bin back there." I assured her I would not hit the trash bin. Her next question almost sent me into gales of hysterical laughter: "Do you know how to get back to the freeway?" The freeway was the last place I wanted to go--I don't drive on them. I assured her I wanted to go the other way, and I'm pretty sure she watched me drive away. In retrospect I can laugh at it, but at the time there was nothing funny about it, and that lady, bless her, was a guardian angel.
The rest of the day? I walked around just fine, thank you--took garbage carts to the street, crossed the street to get Jacob, went to dinner with Jacob. It was like this morning never happened, but I know it did.
Someday I'm going to write an article or something on panic disorder because so few people understand it or even believe it exists. I know better, and I know the percentage of people who suffer from one form or another is high. Most just don't talk about it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Once a mother


Once, years ago, I was having lunch in a cafeteria with a man I cared a lot about when I looked at his plate--chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes with gravy. "You don't have anything green on your plate," I said accusingly. He sighed. "Once a mother, always a mother." I've laughed over that line a lot in the years since.
Today I wasn't laughing so much. A son is never too old for a mother to worry. My oldest son's wife alerted the family early this morning that he had an "episode" with his Crohn's and was at the hospital. Turns out he passed out twice in their bathroom, maybe hitting his head both times. He doesn't remember. So reports have trickled in all day, and texts have been flying amongst the family, but long story short--we don't know much. Both a neurologist and a gastroenterologist have seen him, scans are ordered, and we know he is to spend the night. He of course swears he's going home tomorrow. We're still waiting for some definitive word. We know the basics--he has Crohn's and it had bothered him the last few days, he lost blood, he fell. But we don't know a treatment plan and so on.
Colin loves to complain I gave him Crohn's because when he was but a week or so old I, knowing little to nothing about babies, gave him undiluted formula with the result that our lovely pediatrician, a friend, came by the house to take us to the hospital where it was found he was fine and I was the culprit. Truth is, of course, that these days research seems to indicate Crohn's is hereditary, but Colin, like all my children, is adopted and we have no parental health record beyond the time of his birth. And what good would it do to know that one of his biological parents had it? We'd still have to deal with it today. I keep thinking it's one of those diseases they're close to finding a cure for, but I fear the truth is that auto-immune disease continue to baffle the medical world.
I am as worried about his wife and children as I am him. I can only imagine what Lisa felt waking up to find him passed out on the bathroom floor, though now I laugh at her first reaction. She thought an intruder was in the house, so she grabbed a baseball bat and her phone. She's tough, and she would have gotten that intruder! Then she realized there was no one in the house and set about calling 911 and caring for Colin. Their youngest, six-year-old Kegan, saw his father on the floor in blood, which is bound to have traumatized him. This afternoon, Kegan and eight-year-old Morgan were at their father's bedside, reading to him. Lisa said she figured it was good for them to see him acting normal, even if he was in a hospital bed.
This is perhaps the third serious episode he's had since his diagnosis some 15 ears ago, but I suspect he just doesn't feel good a lot of the time. I know this is not a life-threatening episode, but I guess I, like all of us, live in fear of the next one for this son who is such a good guy (okay, Jamie, you're a good guy too), such a good husband and father, works out, faithful at church, good at his job as a controller. Colin is the one I turn to for financial advice, input on care of my disabled cousin, and, when he's under my roof, handyman repairs. He is a rock for me, and selfishly I don't want to worry about him. But more than that, I am so glad he has such a happy family life, happier than I've ever seen him, that I don't want to see him hurting. It's like he's a little child again, and I can soothe him by walking round and round with him in my arms as I did when he had an earache. That's really what I want to do.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chilly in Texas

I know northerners think we Texans are wimps about the weather. My brother used to call from Colorado when our schools were closed for snow and ask, "What you got, guys? An inch?" But we get more ice than snow. And the thing about fall weather, at least to my mind, is that it changes so fast. We've been used to this high heat and suddenly it's below normal--a couple of nights ago we were dining on the deck, but this morning the temperature was 40. Darn chilly. I had the greenhouse windows in the kitchen open (I have to climb on a stool to open and close them so I tend to just leave them). Tonight I closed them and kicked the heat up to 70--am considering clicking it up another notch. Sophie is curled in her bed, and I'm tempted to throw a blanket over her. Granted, it was a lovely sunny day but never out of the sixties. If I'd been outside running or walking hard, I'd have been comfortable, but I wasn't. I was at my desk--except for a long nap.
Tonight was the kind of night I wanted scrambled eggs and bacon for supper--my comfort food. I had leftover enchilada casserole for lunch and concluded it doesn't "leave over" well. And last night I had lasagna soup--delicious but it's now almost a week old, and I think it's time to get rid of it.
I'm reading Emerson Hough's Heart's Desire, a 1905 novel about the coming of civilization to a small valley in New Mexico. My noncredit class will discuss it Thursday night, so  need to get cracking on finishing it. I think if you read it as satire, it's pretty funny and good; if you read it seriously, it is almost silly. Wish I had Hough in front of me to tell his intention. Better yet, I wish he could visit the class on Thursday. I'm over half way through, so that cheers me. I'm at my desk, with a shawl over my knees for warmth, and hope to come close to finishing the book tonight.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Saying goodbye is hard

My longtime friend Barbara and her daughter, Amy, left to return to Mississippi this morning but not before we gave them one last taste of Fort Worth spirit. Today was the annual Lily B. Clayton Walkathon, a fund-raiser for the school, complete with the Paschal High School Marching Band. It made for a colorful and lively spectacle right outside my front door, and I convinced my guests that they would be captive until after it got under way. So we parked ourselves on the front porch, sent Amy to the curb to take pictures, and watched the fun. Kids walking by and the little girl next door were dancing to the beat of the music, and everyone was smiling and happy. Our focus of course was on getting a picture of Jacob--Amy and I were both looking for his dad's plaid shirt, but this was the first year Jacob walked without a parent (Dad had too much to do at work). The result was pictures in which Jacob is barely recognizable, but here's one of him from behind.
Barbara and I mostly sat on the porch, two old ladies watching the children with great delight, though she did venture down one time--with her dog who was so anxious to be part of the fun--to point out to Amy that she'd just missed Jacob.

They left shortly after the parade headed off for the inner neighborhood and got out in plenty of time before I heard to band signifying the parade's return to the school.
It was hard to say goodbye after such a wonderful visit, but they promise to come back soon--maybe in the spring--and Barbara and I are talking about traveling together. I am so lucky to have such a close bond with a friend from high school. We have so much in common--I have four children, she has five, and we both are blessed with fine children who are a close family unit. As the years have passed, our values and our sense of humor seem to have grown in the same direction. I don't know when I had such a good time as these last few days.
I spent the rest of the day piddling at work things at my desk and napping. Not sure why but I was really sleepy. Jacob had a friend stop and play after school and before I knew it, it was time to take him to his mom's office. I came home, had a second nap, and woke up just in time to talk to Jamie who as at the airport ready to fly to Hong Kong. He knows I don't like him to go that far without my saying "Be careful" and all those other things mothers say, and tonight he said he was a bit offended that I hadn't called. Nice visit with him, while he simultaneously dealt with a Railhead BBQ person in the terminal and found to his dismay they didn't have ribs.
Had a good dinner with Kathie--lobster at Lucille's--and home. And sleepy again.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Central Market and a cooking day

This is my best friend from high school, Barbara Bucknell Ashcraft
If you do the math, that makes us friends for over sixty years
and we still love it.
 
I don't know how much of a hostess I managed to be today, but I took Barbara and her daughter, Amy, to Central Market. I of course had a list, knew where what I wanted was, and was ready to buzz through the store. They wanted to linger over every aisle they went down, and I spent a lot of time either commenting on what they were looking at--those black truffles at $299.99/lb.,-which none of us know what to do with, for instance. They bought special chocolate for a co-worker of Amy's (she's a CCC nurse), one of my favorite chocolate bars for Barbara, and coffee beans because the taste they had was so good--see, marketing techniques really do work. I guess my lack of ability to linger while shopping showed, and they said several times, "Judy's ready to go." But I knew I had a lot to do when I got home.
When we came home, compulsive that I am, I dove right into making the tomatillo sauce for the chicken enchilada casserole I was fixing. Then we had a fine lunch of leftover lasagna soup, leftover bread salad, and pimiento cheese sandwiches. While I cleaned the kitchen and got in a bit of computer time and a quick nap, they went on a long walk around my picturesque neighborhood and then to an antique store--and met a friend of mine, so they had a good chat and Amy bought some small things.
I picked Jacob up at school and we did homework, but he was upset about something that happened and balked at his math. I got him to do part of it, gave him a break, and Amy came in to help him, and he finished it in nothing flat. I suspect he would show me his unhappiness but not share it with her...and he did tell me what bothered him but didn't tell her.
We had a wonderful dinner on the deck--temperature maybe a degree or two cool but really a pleasant evening. I served chicken/tomatillo enchiladas--the kind I love to make because you put the tortillas flat in the pan, and layer chicken, mozzarella, tomatillo sauce--two layers--and top it with cream. None of that frying tortillas and rolling them. Really good if I do say so, though I haven't figured out what the cream adds. With that, we had Jordan's world-famous blue-cheese vinaigrette salad (Barbara and Amy said they make it all the time) and a fruit salad. Best of all, we had a wonderful visit. First time Amy had met Jordan and Christian, and they instantly became fast friends--I guess the sixty-year friendship of mothers passes down. It was a lovely evening, and to cap it off Barbara, Amy and I lit the fireplace and had a last glass of wine while we watched the dogs frolic. It is truly a blessing to feel such a close bond with someone I've known all these years. We're talking about a river cruise together, though we feel we need our daughters to shepherd the old ladies on such a venture. Who knows? We might go by ourselves. At any rate, this too-short visit has been a true blessing and a wonderful brightener in my already bright life. Life is not only good, it's sometimes just plain wonderful.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Showing off Fort Worth

I have been a Fort Worth resident since 1965 and much as I love this city and brag about it, I think we all sometimes get complacent , even about our city's beauties. Today I had the wonderful privilege of showing my city to two people from Jackson, Mississippi, my friend Barbara and her daughter, Amy. They made me see Fort Worth through new eyes. To them, the culture, the landscape, everything is so different.
This morning we went to the Amon Carter Museum to view the JFK Texas Hotel exhibit and some of the Remington and Russell works. On the drive there, through the park, by the zoo and the Botanical Garden (we detoured through it), they were impressed by the scenic beauty of our city. At the Carter, they were spellbound by the work of those two artists and fascinated to see the differences in the work of the two. Also pretty interested that the Carter is a privately endowed museum. It's a showplace for our city, and I was proud to show it to them.
We had lunch at Carshon's, which they thoroughly enjoyed. Barbara, who grew up in Chicago like me, wanted chopped liver, said she hadn't had it since high school days. She and her daughter both nibbled at it but weren't as enthusiastic as I was I don't think.
This afternoon I sent them off with clear directions for a trip to the Justin Boot Outlet and a tour of Fairmount, which Barbara says I've shown her before. They both came back with boots but I haven't seen them yet.
Tonight it was the Stockyards, for dinner at the Star CafĂ©. On the way I pointed out the hospital district which interested Amy, a critical care nurse. She remarked on the number of medical facilities both here and in Dallas. They loved The Star--the atmosphere, the food, and owner Betty Boles' company. Afterwards we drove around the Stockyards so they could see Billy Bob's, the coliseum, the Livestock Exchange Building, horse and mule barns, and the old Swift building--which looks like it's been renovated and occupied--all lit up. Then Jacob who went with us wanted to tour downtown, which we did sort of--so many streets blocked off that it's hard but they saw Bass Hall and the lights on the Main Street trees and the magnificent courthouse. Then we wound our way home the back way so I could show them our restaurant row on Magnolia.
A thoroughly satisfying day, and we ended it sitting on the deck with wine reminiscing and trading family news. A bit on the chilly side but pleasant. When I thanked them for helping me to see my city with new eyes, Amy said she was amazed because she's driven by the edge of Fort Worth many times going from Mississippi to New Mexico and always thought it was just a small, dull western city on the edge of Dallas. Now she knows better.. And now of course I can think of lots of other places to take them--that we won't have time for.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Old Friends Are Gold

 
The fresh flowers for my guests,
which I forgot to point out to them.
 
Barbara Bucknell Ashcraft is here tonight, along with her daughter, Amy. I don't mean to imply anything about Barbara's age (she never lets me forget she is two months younger than I am) but she was my best friend in high school. I think that qualifies us as old friends, and we always seem to pick up where we left off--no awkwardness, just old friends rehashing things. Her daughter, Amy, drove her here--I am sure I met Amy when she was a tyke, but I haven't see her in forty-some years, and catching up with her is a delight. She wants to know everything I remember about her Bucknell grandparents, and I was hard put to answer. But since they went out to the apartment, I have thought about it and have some better answers for her, especially about her grandmother. We'll have two days to talk about these things.
They brought their dog with them--Maggie, a Shih-Poo who is about one-third the size of Sophie. Sophie was so ecstatic and excited that she peed in the kitchen--thanks a lot, Soph. For a long time, while we had happy hour, we had a circus. Sophie did all the barking, but the two of them chased each other through the house, their favorite path being up and across the couch--where I was sitting. I had dogs' feet in my rib cage, my chest, my stomach, and my helpful houseguests were laughing hysterically. All of this was made worse by Jacob who was so excited he was screaming and jumping up and down, thereby exciting the dogs even more.
By the time Christian took Jacob home and we settled to dinner, the dogs were a bit quieter but we still had to talk over Sophie's barking. I had fixed lasagna soup--a recipe from Mystery Lovers Kitchen, I think--and a bread salad. Really good.
New adventures await us tomorrow, and I'll try to get pictures, but it is such a joy to have this friend in my house with whom I share so much, so many memories, so many values for today and tomorrow, so much similarity between our families (okay, she has more children and more grandchildren and has me totally beat on great-grandchildren). But we are really sisters under the skin, and I am feeling very blessed tonight.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Race relations--and my personal education

In the venomous hate for President Obama that circulates on Facebook, at protests, etc. innuendoes and outward expressions of racial hatred are too often clear. I can't remember now what comment it was that sent me reeling back in time to examine my own education in race relations. I was raised in a liberal household where no hint of prejudice would have been tolerated, but I also grew up in Kenwood, a South Side Chicago neighborhood that by the '50s was ringed with poorer black neighborhoods. I was afraid. Yes, I'd been coddled by black nannies (one of whom proudly told my mother one morning that I'd eaten four eggs for breakfast!) but I heard at an early age that black men did bad things. This was reinforced by an aunt who lived two doors away and once, looking out the window to see a black man walking peacefully down the street, said to me, "Look how evil he looks!" (This is the same aunt who washed tomatoes with soap and water before peeling them, but I loved her.)
Al Knowlton was the first black man I really knew. He was a painter at the hospital where my father was administrator. Al came on Saturdays and some evenings to do the chores that my did couldn't or didn't want to do (Dad spent his weekends gardening and wasn't a particularly good handyman). Saturdays were a highlight for both of them--Mom would serve them lunch at the kitchen table, and they'd talk about the hospital and Al's days as a waiter on the trains (when trains had uniformed waiters and linen and fine china as well as fine food), and I remember they both enjoyed the visits. Al always called Dad "Dr. Mac."
Two incidents stand out in my mind. One night, when I was maybe eight or thereabouts, I was flitting about the house in my nightgown until my mother told me it wasn't fitting to be in my nightgown around a man who was not family. Period. No mention of race, but I made a subtle connection.
Another time Al surprised me somewhere in the house, and I cried "Oh, Al, I thought you were the bogey man." I got a severe lecture for that: black people, my mom explained, were particularly sensitive to being called the bogey man.
Of course there as the time Mom went to the hospital to pick Al up, having thrown on an old coat. She asked the switchboard operator to call him, and the operator asked, "Should I tell him his wife is waiting?" Even Al got a kick out of that one.
When my dad retired there was the usual hoopla, dinner, etc., and in all the pictures, Al was quite prominent, wearing the only suit I ever saw him in along with a broad grin. Theirs was truly a great friendship...and a lesson for me.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Grandmothering #2

Jacob and Sophie
going to sleep
 
I knew today would be a better day because while Jacob and the dog were still asleep I weighed and found I'd lost three pounds in a week. Paying attention to what I eat really makes a difference for me, and I thought the weight loss was an omen of a good day. And it was indeed a better day, with much less electronics. We ate breakfast at the Grill--Jacob allowed later that maybe two pancakes are too much, and he should stick to one; I also felt over-served--asked for one egg soft scrambled but am quite sure I got two, and I ordered crispy hash browns. Too much for one used to eating cottage cheese for breakfast, and I came near having a sinking spell in the grocery store. But we did our shopping--and Jacob didn't beg for one thing! When I announced we had to stop at the liquor store, he said, "Oh, good, I love licorice." I had to explain the difference, and then he said "That's a yucky store. The last time, there was a barefoot man in there." When we got in, he said, loudly, "Look, there's that barefoot man again." I shushed him.
When I had the groceries unpacked and put away, he dictated his letter to Elizabeth--my goal of course is to get him to write it himself, but I complied again. Then he was off to lunch and a baseball game with his dad, and I worked a bit and napped a lot. Jacob's dad took him to the Old Neighborhood Grill, so that makes three meals in a row he's had there. Tonight we had dinner at home--but I let myself get talked into buying Spaghetti-Os.
This evening we've read--I think his parents settle for letting him read books that are too easy, so I made him read to me from The Boxcar Children and helped him sound out words he didn't know. Then I read some to revive his interest in the story. Now I have his promise that he'll shower in ten minutes. When we three--Jacob, me and the dog--sat together on the bed, I knew someone needed a bath. Sophie gets one Monday, and I'm not about to undertake that at this hour of the night, but I will stick Jacob in the shower. He loves my shower head on a flexible cord.
Big debate: are we going to church tomorrow? Jacob says no, but I pointed out we should go and tell God how grateful we are for all his blessings to us. Jacob answered, "I'll say a prayer tonight and tell him." I asked if he didn't pray every night, and he said, "No. My mom doesn't tell me to." Told him he's old enough not to have to be told. I think we'll go to church tomorrow, and then I'll fix grilled sandwiches of gruyere, carmelized onions, and sliced apples for his mom and me. He gets peanut butter. All in all, a nice weekend so far.
And, I've finished first edits on my novel. Will give it to my beta reader Monday at lunch and settle down to reading the last novel I have to for my class. Life is good.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Grandmothering in full swing

Jacob is with me for most of the weekend, and so far my efforts to be a creative grandmother have failed for one reason or another. He played with his Legos and then watched a movie his dad got him but we had to quit in the middle and couldn't get the pause button to work--tried resetting the remote, new batteries, nothing. Now, much later, he says, "It just doesn't work on movies. Can't you understand that?" Hmmm--not feeling too bright when a seven-year-old has to explain something to me. So I asked how much more there is of the movie he's watching and he said he didn't know. What happened to those wizardry skills?
We ate dinner at the Old Neighborhood Grill, his choice, but when Jacob asked, "What do you want to talk about?" we both drew blanks. It was a quiet dinner--but no phones, thank you. Came home, and Sue, my Canadian Fort Worth daughter, came for a glass of wine. Jacob was distracted from his boredom and talked a blue streak, so we had a lively time on the deck. Then it turns out most of the movies Christian brought are Blue Tooth and won't play on my TV. Ah me!
Tomorrow will be better. I have promised him breakfast at the Grill; then we'll grocery shop, and he has a baseball game in the afternoon--the Lord willing and the creek don't rise. We still have to write his letter to Elizabeth and he has to read Boxcar Children to me.
I admit I keep sneaking off to do my own work, but I'm trying here.
Went to run the washing machine tonight, and the door won't close tightly enough to let the machine turn on. I'm stymied.
Bright note: I had a lovely visit with my younger son tonight--if I miss him when he calls on his way home, I miss my chance, but tonight we connected and talked about lots of things--but not cabbages and kings.
Must be time to go to bed. No more editing tonight. I don't think my brain is bright enough. I've exhausted it trying to open the mind of a right winter on Facebook. Don't tell me to save my breath--this is really a sweet, nice guy but he's so misguided. I have this compulsion to make him see the truth--like Wendy Davis' main goal in politics is not to kill hundreds, even thousands, of babies willy nilly.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thoughts on re-reading a classic western novel

My class in the American western myth read Owen Wister's The Virginian for tonight's discussion. Published in 1902, it's clearly a romantic 19th-century novel in style and content, and some of the class found it difficult reading. But The Virginian set the mold for countless western novels, movies, and TV shows to come, including a series called The Virginian (in which the villain of the book miraculously becomes one of the good guys). I understand a remake of the movie is underway, and I've seen clips from the 1960s TV show used as an advertisement for something--a bank, I think.
If you haven't read it and  you have any interest in the American West and how we came to make cowboys our heroes, you should read it. The Virginian (we never learn his name) is the archetype of the mythic cowboy--innately smart and culture though unlettered (he's soon reading Shakespeare), clever in a foxy way, always a gentleman, with an inborn sense of right and wrong. Oh, yeah, he's really good-looking--and really young. Twenty-four when the book opens and twenty-eight when it closes. I shudder to think of myself at twenty-four.
Basically, the novel is a love story, the account of The Virginian's courtship of schoolteacher Molly, from New England. A narrator, perhaps an incarnation of Wister himself, tells the story, and we must forgive the lapses in point of view when he recounts things he was obviously not there to witness. Wouldn't get away with that in today's market.
My class's opinions (there aren't many people) varied from the book was difficult to read and Molly was pitiful to Molly was following the 19th-century stereotype of "follow your man," though that took her through a lynching and a shoot-out. No one seemed as disturbed as I was by the idea of vigilante justice that those events suggested, and one woman suggested the old Texas question, "Did he need killing?" The general opinion was that it was appropriate to time and place--readers of the time (1902) and even the first half of the twentieth century would understand and appreciate. In our post-Freidan era, we have a harder time identifying with the characters and the plot.
No one seemed to be much concerned with the basic concept that led me to choose the book: the impact it had on cultural development in this country during the whole twentieth century.
Next time (two weeks from now) we discuss Emerson Hough's Hearts Desire and I'll enlarge the discussion to talk about women in the pre-1900 American West. After that, remind me, please, not to teach again. It's a strain on my nerves.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Lost in Another World

For a couple of days, I've been lost in another world--the Navajo culture, specifically, because I'm reading Anne Hillerman's Spider Woman's Daughter, which picks up her father's characters of Leaphorn and Chee and carries on their stories, with Bernie Manuelito, Chee's wife, as the main character. It's one of those novels that keeps me reading, draws me away from the other things I should be doing.
All my life, I've been blessed by the ability to get lost in a book. Not all books, but that's my criterion for a good novel: I have to move so completely into that world that I am immersed and almost removed from my own daily world. I remember years ago it was the Frances Parkinson Keyes novels that first introduced me to that feeling. I dived into the world of steamboats and post-bellum New Orleans. Steamboat Gothic held me captive for a long time, since it was a longish book for a young girl.
Even before that, I remember in grade school riding to the public library on my bike every summer morning, coming home with four or five books, and spending the day reading on the front porch. The neighborhood kids thought I was nuts but they remained friendly.
Today it is mostly mysteries that drag me into their worlds. I can get lost with Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy or July Hyzy's Grace and Olivia or Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jones. Confession: sometimes I even got so entwined in the world of my own fictional characters that I hate to come to the end of a story. You know that rare and wonderful feeling when you hate to finish a book?
I worry about people who don't read, about how they spend their time. I read listservs by crime writers discussing TV shows and I think, "When do they have the time? Why aren't they reading instead of watching TV?" Most but not all of my children are serious readers--and that's what I'm talking about here, serious reading. Not picking up a magazine and reading an article or two, but spending hours in the world of the book.
It's a blessing. I see one of my grandsons doing it. When his cousins are playing, his nose is buried in a book, and when I gave him two Rick Riordan books for his birthday he was ecstatic. I love it. I'm trying to make a reader out of Jacob, my local grandson, but it's an uphill battle, and I don't want to push so hard I turn him from it. One day recently he began The Boxcar Kids and was enthralled. "I see why you love to read," he told me. But he hasn't brought it over since, and he wants to watch TV or play on my iPad most of the time. I'm hoping things will improve.
Meantime, blessings on all of you who can get lost in the world of a book. Excuse me, I have to go see what Bernie Manuelito is up to.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Texas' best seasons

Spring and fall are undeniably the best seasons to be in Texas. In spring, we have the riotous color of wildflowers and trees putting forth those first pale green leaves and shoots, but in fall we have brilliantly blue, clear skies, gardens that begin to flourish again, and gorgeous fall flowers. I noticed tonight that my miniature crape myrtle has lots of blooms. After a cold snap that made it too chilly to sit outdoors, we are enjoying perfect weather. Tonight, Jordan and I had a glass of wine on the deck and then when Christian arrived we all went to Joe T.'s just because, as Christian said, it was Taco Tuesday. Perfect weather, no mosquitoes, but some pesky flies. We laughed and joked and lingered over dinner.
I think every once in a while it does the soul good to have a "just because" day, and I had one today. Breakfast with my longtime friends of the Book Ladies, lunch with another longtime friend. In between I did bits and odds and ends but spent time browsing Facebook and being lazy. While I helped Jacob with his homework, I had one eye on the book I'm reading, not because I have to for this reason or that but simply because I want to. It's Anne Hillerman's Spider Woman's Daughter, which picks up the characters of her father's famous Leaphorn and Chee books. .
Maybe I'll get back to serious work tomorrow--I have a first draft to edit, always a painful process, a book to read for the class I'm teaching, a blog interview questionnaire to fill out, and various other things on my desk--an insurance claim to file, calls to make welcoming visitors to my church. But today I had a "just because" day. Just because I could. Who know, I may do that again tomorrow.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Finding a new restaurant

I always joke that I travel on my stomach. Finding new restaurants in strange cities is one of my life's great delights. Tonight I didn't have to go far. Friends took me to dinner at Celaborelle, a Phoenician buffet not a mile from my house. I have to add that it is in a neighborhood where I wouldn't normally think of going. But it was a fascinating experience.
The restaurant is in an old house that reminds you that Hemphill Avenue was once a street of grand homes. This one seems to have been maintained intact, with dark woodwork, hardwood floors, a tiled fireplace angled into what was probably the parlor. The front door sits at an angle, so that the whole house avoids that square as a box appearance. A tantalizing staircase leading to the second floor had me curious, but I'm told if the restaurant is crowded at lunch diners can eat upstairs (they currently aren't serving lunch). Apparently there used to be a lunch buffet but a web site says that's suspended until they get more staff. Celaborelle changes from time to time, and occasionally closes for long periods so the owners can visit Lebanon.
Dinner is casual at best. You order from a huge whiteboard that is crowded with so many items I couldn't take them all in. I chose lamb shish kebabs because the lamb was recommended and because I'd gone there craving lamb. One of our party ordered beef kabobs, and the third the vegetarian meal which turn out to be such an enormous banquet that we could only laugh. The wait lady kept bringing dish after dish--lentil soup, hummus, spicy mushrooms, spinach pie. For an appetizer we had some of the best tabouli I've ever eaten and baba ganoush (eggplant dip)--huge servings of both.
Dinner is not a hurried affair here since everything is cooked from scratch when you order it; it comes out of the kitchen in bits and pieces. By the time my lamb arrived I was already full of the appetizers and bits of Steve's vegetarian meal--a taste of soup, a piece of the spinach pie (absolutely delicious). My lamb kebobs were piled on a huge serving of rice scattered with grilled vegetables, but the kebabs themselves were pure lamb in a marvelous marinade--two skewers loaded with eight good-sized chunks of lamb each. I brought home enough to feed me for a week.
We lingered over dinner for over two hours and enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks much to Della and Steve for giving me a whole new dining experience--and the great pleasure of their company. What a delightful evening.

Friday, October 04, 2013

The heartless grandmother

Given his druthers, Jacob would spend an entire day with Mincrafters on theiPad, the iPhone, and barring that, watching TV. It's not usually a problem because when he's here after school we're busy with homework and then he's off to baseball practice or a game. I figure between school and baseball and walking his dogs, he gets plenty of exercise and time away from electronics.
But he was recently grounded from electronics for several days, and he became the bright, talkative, loveable child I am used to. We went to dinner and had a great conversation, we laughed and joked, and he read a book in my office and declared now he knew why I love to read.
Today being Friday, he had no homework, so he was here from three to five-thirty (turned out to be six) without anything to do. He immediately picked up the iPad and disappeared, though I warned him he would not spend the whole afternoon with it.
At four I said it was time to put it away, and we had a bit of a scene. My words about wanting him to use his creativity instead of being a sponge fell on deaf ears--at seven, he may not have understood what I was saying. I suggested several things he could do but he shook his head at each and declared everything "in this house is boring." He came close to uttering one of the words he's forbidden to say, close enough that I got the gist and said if I heard that again he'd go to time out. I left him, taking the iPad with me, and told him to decide what he wanted to do. In a bit he came into my office.
End result: we had a delightful two hours. He dictated a letter to Elizabeth (my goal is to get him to write it himself) which caused lots of jokes and laughter and mock indignation on my part, and then he said if I'd do it with him, he'd do a puzzle. He absolutely delighted in doing a fairly simple one that we'd done before, but he had a wonderful time and crowed every time he put a piece in place. By then, it was five-thirty so we went to watch the news together. He was most interested in the woman who tried to storm the White House and wanted to know why the police shot her and why she did that. I tried to explain about mental illness and government security, but when the news cut away to another subject, he said, "I wanted to hear the whole story."
Long story short, we did things together--yes, I had work on my desk, but I chose to spend the time with him. I know grandmothers who won't discipline because they want to be loved. I don't feel that way, and I hope someday he'll remember me as the grandmother who tried to teach and appreciate and help his creativity. I read in Ann Landers about a grandmother who never called her grandchild on his lying. Ann Landers asked if she wanted to be remembered as the grandmother with whom the child could get away with anything. I don't want to be the grandmother who didn't care what he did and let him play electronic games all day.
Highpoint of a day which was quite pleasant--I wrote a lot, went to the dermatologist (one of my favorite people), and served Betty lunch on the deck--tuna salad and a fruit salad that really was pretty if I do say so.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

An interesting reception with a focus on Texas History

Tonight I went to a large reception honoring longtime friend Ron Tyler, former Executive Director of the Texas State Historical Association and Director of the Amon Carter Museum. Held at a local country club, it was a posh affair with a band, elegant hors d'oevres, and 250 people. I was glad to be there to honor Ron and his wife, Paula, but I don't much enjoy such affairs. I no longer have a need to schmooze with people, reminding them of the good work the press is doing, hoping for a contribution from one or two, congratulating authors, and, always, prowling for manuscripts. How quickly they forget--a couple of authors were there I'd worked with or at least corresponded with, but we didn't speak. I saw no need to introduce myself and was shy about it, which I wouldn't have been when I had a "position" and a reason to be there. Two of my close friends were there, but you can't really visit in a crowd like that, and I, with my challenged hearing, can't hear what the person next to me is saying, let alone the person across the table.
There was a 45-minute program, with too many acknowledgments and introductions, a witty and brief speech from the honoree, and a forceful talk about the importance of Texas history.
The speaker traced our history in terms of battles and heroics--until he got to the cattle drives and the oil industry. It struck me rather like the time I toured Edinburgh, the center of Scotland's intellectual history, one day and Stirling Castle, the site of so much of Scotland's bloody history, the next. I'd seen two sides of Scotland. Tonight I saw one side of Texas' history, though the speaker did praise Texas women at the end. His choices were strange to me: Jane Long, "the mother of Texas," Pamela Mann, who demanded her oxen back from Houston and got them at gunpoint, and another woman who drove 2500 head of cattle up the trail. For contemporary women, he cited Kay Bailey Hutchinson (who was in the room), while I would surely have added Ann Richards and Wendy Davis as examples of the fighting spirit of Texas. Much of it was material I'd studied and written about, and when he mentioned the cowboy, I wanted to stand up and shout that I am teaching a course in the myth of the cowboy right now. But I don't think he believes there's any myth to it. Still, he was a good speaker, and I enjoyed it.
Now I'm glad to be home, Sophie inside, and I'm back at my desk.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Those blah days

I’ve had a couple of blah days this week, and, compulsive that I am, I feel obliged to search out the cause. Was it that extra glass (or two) of wine I had being sociable Sunday night? Sophie’s cough that had her sounding like a barking seal? Adjusting to a new routine without Elizabeth in the apartment? (Monday I found myself waiting for her to come in for “rat watch” wine about 9:30.) Or maybe it was stress over my work-in-progress? I’ve been pushing myself to write a minimum of a thousand words a day but I had only a vague idea of how the novel should end (I’m at 53,000 words, and my novels tend to be about 65,000 so I’m closing in on it). Maybe I’ve had too much of my own company.

Several things contributed to make this a better day: Sophie is not coughing nearly as much nor is it that deep, frightening sound, and, to my relief, she’s not spitting up as she coughs, though she’s left little marks throughout the house. Carpet cleaning coming up.

I slept soundly, which I didn’t do the night before, and had weird dreams as I always do, but they weren’t unpleasant. In fact in one, I was visiting with old friends, one of whom is now gone so it’s an opportunity that will never come my way again; in another dream, my father was prominent. I woke feeling rested but stiff and sore.

For two days I’ve told myself I felt too blah to do my yoga—of course, that’s when I really should do it. This morning, I made myself do it early in the day—because my back felt like someone had nailed a rigid board between my shoulder blades. Yoga got some movement into that tight section of my upper back and improved my overall outlook. It’s a lesson I’ll probably learn over and over again, but when you least feel like doing yoga is when you should do it.

And, finally, I had an aha! moment in the wee hours and knew exactly how that mystery is going to end—down to most of the details. I’ve written over a single-spaced page of notes on it, and I suddenly don’t feel the pressure I did, the worry about the novel. Warning: it will be different from preceding Kelly O’Connell works. A little more violent, sort of a cross between a cozy and a suspense novel is my take, but I’ll wait and see what beta readers say.

I topped off the day with an early supper with Betty at Sera, a new wine and tapas bar. A space we used to love has been redone, lightened up, and spruced up. And tapas always draw me. I had a white anchovy salad with greens, tomatoes, manchego—delicious, but it wasn’t enough. So I ordered the Spanish omelet—potatoes, eggs, and onion. The seasoning was just right, but the thick cake-like patty was too filling—Betty ate part of it. She had ordered a wonderful-looking oyster chowder with saffron. We’ll go back there.

Came home and wrote more. The world is gradually moving back into its proper place.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Neighbors Night Out

Tonight was National Neighbors Night Out,, an effort to get neighbors together to strengthen the community. Susan Halbower, my neighbor, joined me, at my urging, on the front porch, and I issued a welcome on the neighborhood email to one and all to come by, drink of choice in hand, and visit with us. The police department gave us an amazing array of hand-outs--Susan is still giggling about police department chapstick, saying she'll tell a mugger, "Don't come near me. I have police department  chapstick on." There were hand sanitizers, fans that fold like the sun shields we (should) put in our windshields, small leather balls, emery boards, wristlets that say to call not text 911 in an emergency--a veritable treasure trove. We had hummus and chips ready, and Susan munched on an Oriental mix of crackers.
But it was sort of a bust. One couple we both knew came by with their two-week-old baby, a beautiful little girl. They brought a bottle of wine and their own glasses and settled down for a visit--but they didn't bring a diaper bag and had to make an emergency exit. Still, it was good to see them, and I didn't even know they had a baby, so that was fun. Our other visitor was a neighbor from three blocks away who said he was scouting out the neighborhood, on his bike, at the direction of his wife. They'd probably be back. And friends Greg and Jaimie said they'd walk up. But those things didn't happen. So Susan and I had a good visit. We had said 6-8, but about 7:30 she said she guessed she'd go home, and I didn't want to stay there alone, so I locked up. Never did see the promised police car come by to chat with us.
Neighborhood Night Out is a good concept, and maybe it worked better for other people. I'll probably still keep trying because I like living in this neighborhood and want to know my neighbors.
I have new neighbors on the east side of me, the house from which I've gotten several friends. A couple with two young children moved in a truckload of furniture last night but apparently did not spend the night. Tonight, the wife drove in with the two children, and we introduced ourselves and invited them over, but they were not staying tonight either. I'm looking forward to knowing them--the children are beautiful.
And life in Berkeley goes on--that is the neighborhood in Fort Worth, not the city. Today I proofed the printer version of the neighborhood newsletter and okayed it with a couple of adjustments. It would be easy to say I don't know how I ended up editor, but that wouldn't be true. I know exactly, and the former editor is at this moment kicking up her heels in New York, on her way to Europe, while I'm proofing ads with too heavy a screen. Such is my life of retirement.
Wrote 2200 words yesterday and 1200 today. I think I'll read a book tonight.