Sunday, November 30, 2014

Families

I've spent today thinking a lot about families. I came home yesterday late morning after three glorious days with my four children, the wonderful spouses they had the good sense to marry, and my seven unbelievably marvelous grandchildren. Okay a bit of hyperbole, but they are really great...and they so love when we are all together. We have three little boys who are for a brief while the same age each year, and they have a delightful time together--out the door after breakfast and we don't see them again till lunch. The three girls alternate between the boys and their own deal, and the oldest boy is perfectly happy to go his own way and play the guitar. I get great hugs from all of them, and one whispered in my ear, "I love you so much!" What else can I ask for?
I came home with the rosy glow of that experience still about me--though tired, I must admit. Had a really long, deep nap and then Sat. night hosted ten for dinner to welcome a visit from Elizabeth. She was my work-study student in the early '90s, and we've remained friends over the years, through transformations in our lives, though greater in hers than mine. In Sept. 2012 she moved into my guest apartment and stayed a year before moving to PA to be with her love, Brian. In that year, she wove herself into the hearts of some of my closest friends, so they came for dinner, and neighbor Jay (yes, the good-looking one) made a pot of stew. All I had to do was set out bowls, etc.
It struck me last night that the people here--neighbors, a former neighbor, and Jordan and her family--were family of a different sort. The family I'd chosen--and who had chosen me--and we have a bond, a closeness that is akin to that I have with my immediate family. I am so fortunate to have these people in my life--like my own family, they take care of me, like my parties, are comfortable in my house, make my life bright.
I'm not a proponent of the theory that blood ties are what bind. My four children are adopted--no blood relations there--but I don't know of a family that is closer or children that are more caring and kind about their mom, proud of what I do, loving me for who I am, even when--as I did on Thanksgiving--I spill turkey blood all over myself and the floor. I think we choose those we feel are like family--and they choose us. So I'm not only lucky with my immediately family, I am fortunate with my little clutch of neighbors. And I have known the people here last night (except Jordan and Elizabeth) for less than ten years.
I guess the only way to go happily through life is to reach out to new people and make them part of your life. I'm back again to that verse I quote so often: Make new friends, but keep the old/ The new are silver, the old are gold.
Written with a thankful heart.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hymns of thanksgiving

 
All day these words ran through my mind, "Come ye thankful people, come/Raise the song of harvest home/All is safely gathered in/Ere the winter storms begin." This hymn of thanksgiving was particularly appropriate today, as is the other one I kept hearing in my mind: "We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing/He chastens and hastens, his will to make known." Last Sunday in church I started off singing that one heartily, but the second line threw me--the hymnal has changed the words. I wanted the words imprinted in my mind since childhood. Maybe that's why it's been so much on my mind.
I have much to be thankful for tonight. My entire family is with me--eight other adults and seven children. We make a formidable, noisy crew, and it takes a lot of food to keep us going. Here's the snack table. We had enough food to feed two homeless families--and I wish we had.
Son-in-law Brandon complains that the civilized time to eat Thanksgiving dinner is 2:00 p.m., but his in-laws never eat until five-thirty. I thought for a bit today he might get his wish--everyone wanted to be through for the TCU game at 6:30. But, alas, it was 5:45 before we all gathered at the table.
We assign dishes to everyone, with the result that the kitchen is a beehive of activity and periodically the order goes out for everyone not directly involved in cooking to clear the area. My girls are all good cooks, but they are each squeamish about turkeys--so it falls tome to take out the innards, throw away the bloody bags, etc. As we often do, we roasted one turkey--with herb butter, which made delicious gravy--and fried one. The boys love to fry turkey but I mostly prefer roast. It was all delicious--I am responsible for gravy, and Megan said it was exceptionally good this year. They like gravy from pan drippings but in recent years I augment it with gravy from Central Market. But mostly the girls do the cooking and I help where I can--a reverse from years ago.
After dinner we sat around a fire in a pit outdoors, and the two guitarists among us--Brandon and his son Sawyer serenaded us with everything from Willie Nelson to Christmas songs. Granddaughter Eden said it's her favorite time of the year--because it means it's now the Christmas season. She's delighted that her older sister now has an after-school job because she thinks it means she'll have more money to buy Eden Christmas presents.
There's a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that I can never commit to memory but it has to do with asking the Lord to be with those who weep and worry and those who wait. I know that I am so blessed that I can't even begin to talk about but I wish the impossible--peace, happiness, food, shelter for everyone. It's potent request in these times.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Love of Mystery Comes Full Circle

Please welcome my Wednesday guest, award-winning author Paty Jager. I was delighted to learn recently that Paty and I share a love of the American West and a history of writing about that land.
Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon.  On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
All her work has western or Native American elements along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.
 
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My writing has come full circle. My first attempts at writing a novel started with two mysteries. I couldn’t find a writing group at the time to help me hone my skills. The one agent I sent the first manuscript to took advantage of my newbie status. I didn’t realize this until I’d switched to writing romance and joined Romance Writers of America.

I spent years with RWA learning the craft of writing, the business of writing, and how to navigate the publishing world. I finally found a publisher for my historical western romance books in 2006. I wrote ten novels, some historical some contemporary, with them before deciding to jump on the self-publishing wagon.

Since I started self-publishing, I’ve been slowly going back to the genre I’ve read since middle school. First with my Isabella Mumphrey Adventure Series. A cross between a female Indiana Jones and MacGyver. Those books have mystery and adventure with some steamy romance. ;)

Now, I have the first book of a new mystery series up for pre-order. The Shandra Higheagle Mysteries have my signature either cowboy or Native American elements. In this case it’s Native American. Shandra Higheagle is a potter who sells her wares in galleries as art. She lives on Huckleberry Mountain in Idaho and uses the clay from her mountain to make her wares. Right before the first book opens, Shandra loses her paternal grandmother, a Nez Perce shaman. When Shandra finds a gallery owner murdered and sees her good friend fleeing the scene, she takes it upon herself to prove her friend’s innocence. Her grandmother comes to her in her dreams, giving her clues.

Double Duplicity Blurb:

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she’d witnessed fleeing the scene is just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth.

Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her. Together they discover the gallery owner wasn’t the respectable woman she’d seemed. Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

Pre-order Links:





About Paty Jager:

 

You can learn more about Paty at her blog; Writing into the Sunset  her website; http://www.patyjager.net or on Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/#!/paty.jager , Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1005334.Paty_Jager  and twitter;  @patyjag.

 

 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson still on my mind

I've been a Facebook hack today. My tendency toward OCD leads me to get everything done way ahead of time that I can, so now I'm preparing for Thanksgiving with all my children and grandchildren--all 16 of us--but I've got everything done ahead of time I can. I can't focus on writing that novel I've put away temporarily, and I've got the chili book all ready except for three images--and they're promised either for tomorrow or Saturday. I even have shopping lists done for next week in preparation for the arrival of my kids for a second family gathering.
So what's a girl to do with that extra time, besides read--which I've done--and troll Facebook, where of course I've read more about Ferguson that I ever needed to. I recognize there's something fascinating about violence, even for those of us who abhor it, and I've watched the fires burning looting, running, shouting, on the news with a sort of fixed attitude I can't explain. It's immeasurably sad to see people burning their own people's homes, cars and businesses. It struck me today that in the 1920s at the Greenwood riot in Tulsa it was whites burning black homes; today it is blacks burning their own community. It speaks of a deep frustration that goes way beyond the killing of Michael Brown. He has become a symbol and a martyr for a cause--and not an unjustified one.
I have friends on both sides of this particular fence--those in law enforcement who praise the decision and talk of the police right to defend, of Michael Brown's offenses (being huge is one of them), of the fact that he had just robbed a store and beaten the owner. My liberal friends talk of racial injustice, an unarmed kid against a trained officer with a gun, a white against a black.
The truth is we'll never know the truth. It's kind of like JFK's assassination--all those pages and pages of documentation, and I don't think we'll ever know what really happened. But it points to a crying need in our country--a need for racial justice, for police officers who don't stereotype and don't shoot first, a need for minority communities thate responsibility for their actions--and their neighborhoods.
I've also read today several poignant pieces by black parents who write about their fear for their children, for sending them out into a biased world. With four children, I already know the fear of letting them go as teenagers--I cannot imagine adding in the racial factor.
America has lost its way on several fronts, and I pray God we are strong enough to put ourselves on the straight and narrow path again. But for now, I have no answers about Ferguson nor about how to fix America. But fixing it needs.
 

Monday, November 24, 2014

National tragedy

Everyone has their say on the Ferguson decision tonight, so I hesitate to add much except to say that I see the whole sad affair as a national tragedy for America. The tentacles of this will reach so far in so many directions. When you are distant from the facts, didn't see what went down, and aren't privy to the Grand Jury deliberations, it's foolish to voice opinions. But I still have some.
Yes, I think Darren Wilson probably feared for his life--but he was the one with a gun and with police training and, supposedly, discipline. He blew it. On the other hand, Michael Brown tempted fate--unarmed, he shouldn't have threatened the officer (do we know that he did? Stories conflict).  But the story goes far beyond those two men--one trained and armed, one young, maybe impetuous, and unarmed.
I've heard many black mothers say how they worry every time their sons leave the house. They are targets--for gangs, for police, for all kinds of violence. I worry enough when my innocent Anglo and well protected grandchildren leave the house. Can you imagine that kind of fear? Living in a society that forces that fear on you? Clearly, as President Obama said, we in America have a lot of work to do. He of all people knows that racism is not dead.
I'm sure to the African-American community of Ferguson--and perhaps around the country--this decision supports what they already believe: black lives don't matter. Our society tells them that every day--in wages in social situations, living conditions, etc. And it's not just African-Americans; it's the poor of America. While the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Bernie Sanders says revolution is coming, and I saw a post on Facebook that predicted that a storm is coming. I pray that Ferguson is not the spark that ignites it, but I also remember riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King, jr., and the beating of Rodney King. I fear for America.
To counter that thought, the black population needs to work to improve their situation themselves, shed the deliberately "in your face" resentment, do worthwhile work, get off welfare--each of us can make our life better if we try, and the color of our skin doesn't limit that. We have countless examples.
Darren Wilson, new bride and all, is a doomed man. He will live with this episode--probably nowhere near St. Louis--the rest of his life. It will follow him, tarnish his reputation, limit his future options.
There is no justice, and once again I pray for America, land that I love. Can you tell I'm still trying to figure out how to interpret this?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The geese are getting fat...

I know, I know--it's not even Thanksgiving yet, and here I am with my house all decorated for Christmas and most of my Christmas presents wrapped. It is, as I may have explained before, that most of my family will be here the weekend of December 6th. I have this feeling of rushing to get everything relevant done by then, and afterward lying back in leisure. Probably a false dream.
The wreath above was done by a neighbor--sorry, no, she doesn't sell them, and I won't give out her name. She offered to show me how to do it, if I bought the materials. I pled, not untruthfully, that I had no idea what materials to buy and I am all thumbs with craft projects. She said she'd do it, if I paid for materials. She and I both think this wreath is the prettiest one she's done. And I know she was underpaid for her time in shopping and constructing. But I love having it on my front door. She has my undying gratitude.
Previously, for over forty years, I had a red plastic bow, which every year I washed and then tried to fluff and straighten out. Over that I hung a green wreath. I am overjoyed now with the beauty of this wreath--keep glancing at the door to make sure it's still there.
Inside my house is decorated too--mantel, buffet, dining room table. When the kids arrive, it will be very Christmas-like, and I will feel very festive. I already do.
I went to church this morning because I love the Thanksgiving hymns. I got mixed up in what we were singing when, and the one I love--"Come ye thankful children, come" turned out to be a bell choir arrangement which left me all ready to sing it when I realized the congregation was bursting into "For the beauty of the earth." I'm not big on bell choir arrangements--can't follow the tune. And I had a hard time hearing parts of the service, but I was still glad I went. I do indeed have a heart full of gratitude for the beauty of the earth and for God's blessings on me.
Not a very festive dinner today--but hero sandwiches out of pita bread layers and lots of fillings--salami, ham, cheese spread (I used sharp cheese with port wine), mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, salad dressing, cream cheese. Really good, though a bit awkward to eat. I made these years ago when I was feeding the multitudes on Sunday nights, and now I wonder how many of the things I made. Four servings (six pitas) took a while, though I don't remember that the pitas before were as large or as fragile. The recipe actually says, "Buy deli potato salad," so I bought Aunt Pearl's from
Central Market. Wonder who Aunt Pearl was? I like her potato salad.
Jordan comes home tomorrow--in fact, she's probably on her way to the Milan airport as we speak. She'll have a long day--six-hour layover at JFK-and won't be home until late Monday night, no doubt exhausted. Tuesday I know first on her agenda will be to get Jacob from his grandparents. I'll be lucky if I get a glimpse of her even Tuesday but I'll be glad to have her back home.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lazy, rainy days

 
Sunrise in Venice
 
Fort Worth has been getting a slow, soft rainy drizzle most of the day. I did an outrageous thing for me and slept until eight. Two results: I was sluggish and sleepy all morning and was an hour behind myself. A trip to the grocery store with six heavy bags to lug in and unpack wore me out. Revived by a most pleasant lunch with Subie and Phil at The Tavern--lots of laughter, a bit of gossip, all the good stuff of friendship. Then home for a bit at the computer and a nice cozy nap.
I go through spells of not cooking for myself--I bought tuna salad from Central Market instead of making it myself, for heaven's sake!--so tonight I made tuna cakes, using a new recipe. To me it had everything but the kitchen sink--not the things I usually put in tuna or salmon cakes. Stuffing mix (okay, I did that reluctantly because I don't like prepared food and I certainly didn't want the check-out person to think I was going to use that for me turkey--ah, foolish pride), grated carrots, sweet pickle relish, mayo, water (I guess for the stuffing mix). A little voice in the back of my mind that I should have listened to kept saying, "But it doesn't have an egg!" I had cut the recipe in half, so one egg would have held it together. As a result of the missing egg, the croquettes or cakes or whatever you want to call them fell apart in the pan. Taste was okay but not great--with all that extra stuff it made more cakes than I usually get out of one can of tuna, but I bet they'll be fine in sandwiches with mayo.
The rain grew steadier and heavier, and I settled down tonight at the computer to cross-check images for the chili book--frustrating work. Had to make sure the captions, the list of illustrations, and the numbers on the photos all agreed. Plus there are those photos I haven't gotten yet. I think I made progress, but I'm never sure.
I'm still vicariously traveling through Italy with Jordan. Today she was in Verona--I didn't even know she was going there, but I think it may be the one city that seemed the most charming to me. I am amazed at all the cities with canals and water everywhere. She also sent a video of Lake Como today--I've heard to much about how gorgeous it is, and indeed it was. But at the risk of sounding plebian, it reminded me of Coeur d'Alene. Jordan has one more day--Milan tomorrow--and then she heads home. Christian, Jacob and I will be so glad to have her home again, but she has had a wonderful experience in what looks like another world and she's radiant in most of the pictures. I am absolutely delighted that she's had this experience.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Those golden old friends

Make new friends, but keep the old
Those are silver, these are gold.
 
 
I was fortunate enough tonight to have supper with a friend of forty-plus years--our oldest children are both forty-five, and we were friends when they are barely above toddlers, maybe before. In fact, I think I first met her before we had children. One of my favorite stories that Linda remembers is that my second child, as a very young girl, would rush to Linda's make-up table whenever we went to their house because apparently I was deficient in the area of make-up. Probably still am.
We've seem each other through death, divorce, children's weddings, as well as all the joys that pop up on life's journey. We've shared a lot, laughed a lot--and tried together to write memoirs. Both of us have great stories to tell, and Linda is a talented writer. I keep encouraging her to write down daily occurrences--in a class I taught she dealt gracefully with the death of her brother, her memories of her father, her childhood, and other closely held secrets. She was open and frank about her feelings on life, and I always found her writing a breath of fresh air.
When I was teaching the memoir class, Linda always came for supper beforehand, and I've learned to love to cook for her, learned her tastes. Well, there was the one disastrous night when I planned egg salad and smoked salmon sandwiches (do you know what a wonderful combination that is?) and she said she really didn't eat egg dishes. She remembers being forced to eat eggs at breakfast.
But I do remember, too, that she's not a big meat eater but she loves pasta and anchovies--so tonight we had a pasta dish with anchovies, oregano, garlic (heavy on the garlic) and egg yolks. Sort of an aveglemono. (Hmm, wonder if my daughter, traveling in Italy right now, has tried that?) In this dish the egg softened the anchovy and made a wonderful silky sauce. You couldn't really taste the anchovy--instead you got a great, earthy flavor. When we both went back for small second portions, the anchovy was more prominent. Salad and bread, and that's all it takes for a good meal.
Yes, we talked about life's weighty problems--she, like me, was most impressed with the President's talk last night and so sad that the butchering began immediately after. We talked about her mom, who has Alzheimer's and who has always been a favorite of mine, and her step-dad who has really suddenly become a good caregiver. Because she's a kind, caring person, she's making sure that the stepfather is included in her Thanksgiving plans. We laughed at Jacob who was here when she first came--in fact, she came early just so she could see him. When he was about three, he walked her across the street to the school and said, confidently, "This is where I'm going to school." He was right.
It's wonderful to have a friend who almost knows what you're going to say before you say it, and whose thoughts, concerns, joys and sorrows are shared. Thanks Linda, for a  pleasant evening and for a lot of good years of sharing over a long journey.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nice end to a day of woes

TCU Press has published Deep in the Art of Texas, edited by Michael Duty with an essay by Ron Tyler, and gorgeous reproductions of Texas art, primarily from between 1850 and 1950. Tonight I attended a reception at the Amon Carter--brief remarks by Duty and Tyler and a welcome from co-sponsor of the project, Mary Volcansek representing the Center of Texas Studies at TCU. In his comments, Duty said this is in no way a definitive volume but one that draws back the curtain just a bit to demonstrate that Texas has produced high-quality art. I remember years ago when I was doing research at the Carter for my dissertation. I mentioned that research to an English faculty member, and he joked, "You mean they have art there?" It wasn't funny. This book does much to document the art of Texas and is a project any academic press in Texas would be proud to add to its list. In fact, it made me wish for just a flash of a minute that I was still there--I wanted to be part of such an exciting production. And, the food and wine were excellent tonight. We came out of the Carter to a glorious evening, brisk but nice temperatures and a fresh breeze.
It almost compensated for a bad day. I somehow bruised the side of my foot--noticed last night that it was sore and it was worse this morning. Put on my good, sturdy walking shoes, and it's better tonight. The computer ate two of the images for the chili book--I cannot find them anywhere and will have to go back through that voluminous file to reconstruct the acquisitions process. And neither Jacob nor I were happy with each other, though tonight he went off with Phil Green for hamburgers at Tommy's while I was at the reception--and came back quite pleased with his evening. He adores Phil and his seeing-eye dog Santiago.
The things that went wrong today will work themselves out, and I know that. So I'll concentrate on the pleasant evening. Tomorrow I get a haircut first thing in the morning and that always makes for a bright day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My first writing experience


Please welcome my Wednesday guest, Richard Brawer. Richard writes mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels. When not writing, he spends his time exploring local history. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife.

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 Before retiring I commuted an hour and twenty minutes to New York City by train. To fill the time I read a newspaper in the morning and books on the ride home.

 One day I read a horrendous news story about a father whose child was born with a brain impairment, and he refused to take him home from the hospital. The nurses were outraged, and their disgust was quoted in the story. Nothing was mentioned about the mother. That’s when my imagination took over and I asked myself, “What happened to the child? Where was the mother?”

 With mysteries being my favorite genre, I took those thoughts and began making notes. The notes turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. Thus my first novel, The Nurse Wore Black, was born.

Now I had a book, but what do I do with it? Being a complete novice, I did the usual things most new writers do. I sent out query letters to agents and received a stack of rejections. Lamenting my woes to a friend, he told me about a local independent publisher in the town next to mine. Excited, I dropped in cold to their office. Two weeks later they said they wanted to publish my book. Wow!

When I saw the finished product, the “Wow” factor fell into the depression factor. The cover was not well done and leafing through the book I saw a number of typos. The publisher had never discussed the cover with me nor did they give me a proof of the formatted book. At the time I didn’t know enough to ask for them. As far as I knew, I thought the publisher would do the editing as well as create a proper cover. Needless to say, I did not send this book out for reviews nor did I push to sell it. It was an embarrassment.

The moral: Make sure you are pro-active in every phase of your book’s production from editing, to layout and design of the cover.

The Nurse Wore Black has been rewritten and re-titled, Secrets Can Be Deadly, and is now the first story in my trilogy, Murder at the Jersey Shore, featuring detective David Nance. The three-book volume is available on Amazon. See the link below.

Read more about Richard and his books at his website: http://www.silklegacy.com

His latest book is Love’s Sweet Sorrow, a romantic suspense novel. Love and faith are tested when Jason and Ariel are caught in a battle to expose smugglers selling weapons to terrorists.

Blurb for Love’s Sweet Sorrow:

It is said opposites attract. There can’t be two people more opposite than Ariel and Jason. Ariel is a traditional Quaker with an absolute aversion to war. Jason is the lead council for America's largest weapons manufacturer.

Their budding romance is thrown into turmoil when Jason uncovers evidence linking his employer to international arms deals that could devastate America. His determination to stop the treason puts Ariel in the middle of dangerous territory.

As the chases to retrieve the evidence intensify Ariel is forced to kill to save Jason’s life. She withdraws into a battle raging inside her, unable to reconcile who she has been to who she has become. Delving deeply into hers and Jason’s long-held opposing convictions, she questions whether they are truly meant to be together.

“Exciting thriller and love story extraordinaire!” Mortimer

“Excellent writing, impeccable plotting, and nicely developed characters. Shoshana Hathaway

“Your writing is very strong, and you have developed a gripping story.” The Writer’s Edge

“The characters and the plot were both extremely well-crafted.” S. Lynn

Read the full reviews at Richard’s website: http://www.silklegacy.com or the Amazon page for this book.

Love’s Sweet Sorrow is available in a trade paperback and e-book wherever books are sold.

E-book: $2.99

Trade Paperback: $11.99

A couple of the more popular links:


B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1119960392?ean=2940149824779

Also can be ordered from any bookstore by title or ISBN: 978-0-9890632-7-2

Love’s Sweet Sorrow is published by Vinspire Publishing. http://www.vinspirepublishing.com

Links to Murder at the Jersey Shore and his social networks:






 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A relief, a worry, and a puzzle

A relief: I am mightily relieved that the Senate rejected the Keystone Pipeline. I've read a lot about it: the scientists warn against it--one went so far as to say it was a note of doom for the planet; others point to the spills the pipeline has already had in Canada and this country, including a huge one in North Dakota; the President is not the only one to point out that Canada was merely using the US as a path to ship crude (and dirty) oil to China and other parts--there will be no benefit to the US, except 50 permanent jobs (Bernie Sanders said today that is not job growth). I saw a map today--the Tar Sands oil is in the southwest of Canada. The pipeline would snake it's way over to the Midwest and through our "bread basket," across the Southwest to be shipped out. We will not get a drop of oil; our gas prices will not go down, might go up. Someone told me tonight that the same oil is now being shipped on railroad cars, which is more dangerous. I vote we ban that shipment--let Canada ship its own dirty oil without detouring through our country, either by pipeline or rail. I am grateful for senators who want to work to correct climate change and are not affected by greed.
A worry: the brewing trouble in Ferguson MO. Whichever way the grand jury decides there will still be trouble, I fear. I read a Facebook posting recently about how tired Americans are of giving tax breaks to corporations that pay no tax and make huge profits, of paying corrupt politicians, of the general breakdown in our political system, of racism, of the gap between the wealthy and the poor. It ended with the ominous message: a storm is coming. I'm afraid Ferguson, especially an acquittal, might be the spark that ignites that storm (okay, mixed metaphor). But I remember too well how riots spread across the country after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It could happen again, but I pray not. There's no ignoring that there is simmering tension in this country.
A puzzle: for some time it's been assumed that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. Once again, I rely on Facebook--it's a great monitor of public sentiment--and I feel instead of gaining support, she's losing traction. More than one person has touted Elizabeth Warren as a presidential candidate. From my point of view, she'd be great but I'm not sure she has the following--yet. There's been talk of an Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders ticket, which sounds idealistically wonderful to me. But I'm not sure they stand a chance. I dismissed a mention of a Clinton/Warren ticket--this country just isn't ready for two women.
With all these issues--the climate, race riots, jockeying for political position--I think it's one of those times we have to trust in whatever God we believe in. I can't believe rational thinking will win out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Report from Italy

Jordan is thoroughly enjoying her first sojourn in Europe--a "fam" (familiarity) trip to Italy. She landed in Rom sometime early early Sunday morning and has spend two days seeing the sights. This morning she reported that her workout for the day was to power walk the Spanish Steps. Made me a bit dizzy just looking at them.
She's been all the places tourists should go, though I can't name them--Christian can, because he's been there. But obviously she's having a grand time.
Not sure where she got the rose, but this was taken her first day there.
Meanwhile, back home, Jacob continually asks what time it is in Italy, and today when talk turned to Europe, he asked if his mom was going to Europe. We explained that she was already there, because Italy is in Europe. Great discussion followed--is Scotland in Europe? I say no, it's part of the UK; Christian says that's still Europe. Anyone?
This afternoon Jacob and I were preoccupied with geography closer to home. Can you name the state that borders Washington and Oregon on the east? How many states share a border with Mexico? What's the two-letter abbreviation or Alaska? Jacob suggested AA, but I told him that wouldn't work. We sped through spelling, math, reading, and social sciences because he and his dad have a project to work on tonight at home.
Had a pleasant catch-up dinner with a good friend I hadn't seen in a while. We ate at the Grill, where I'll eat again tomorrow night. I've got to stop eating loaded baked potatoes! So good, so not good for you.
I have done something bad to my left hip--I suspect it's the result of a fall in the driveway last Thursday, but my hip suddenly grabs me from time to time and my legs feel like leaden weights. I talked to my favorite doctor, my brother, and we agreed it's muscular and should get better in a day or two. He laughs because his wife and I both consider ourselves good diagnosticians. But I've lost my oomph for all the things I should do tonight, from wrapping to decorating. Going to stay at my desk and go to bed early.
Tomorrow is another day, and it will be better. Maybe even warmer.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The geese are getting fat--and it's not even Thanksgiving yet!

I see all those cautions about not putting up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving, and this year I can only laugh apologetically. I have felt so rushed, ever since I found out that most but not all of my family will be here the weekend of Dec. 6. We may do Alter Alternative Christmas--at the least I'll send their presents home with them. So I've been in a frenzy of baking, wrapping and decorating--far earlier than I normally would have, though I'm pretty compulsive about getting things done ahead of time.
One morning last week I wrapped a lot of presents, and Friday night I baked a Bundt cake to freeze. Saturday I went to the grocery, came home and made two pans of Toll House bars--it wore me out. The batter is stiff and hard to work with and though I softened the butter, blending four sticks of butter into three cups of sugar (brown and white) with a hand mixer is a challenge at best--I had dough bits all over the kitchen. I told Jordan next time she orders those she'll have to do the mixing. After I got them made and baked--with one pan not done in the middle, no matter that I left it almost twice as long and the edges were getting crisp--I was exhausted.
I spent the rest of yesterday being lazy. Cool, grey day, comfortably warm house, good book to read--Maya Corrigan's By Cook or By Crook, which I thoroughly enjoyed--and a long nap. It ended up a self-indulgent day and did wonders for my soul.
But of course I woke at four in the morning with thoughts of all I had to do. So today I almost finished decorating the house, separated out things that didn't need to be done by Dec. 6 (principally gifts wrapped) and made cookie dough, though I just didn't have the oomph to roll out the cookies--the dough is in the fridge for tomorrow. I realized I needed to pay attention to the writing end of my life. So I sorted through chili pictures and worked on the neighborhood newsletter. Once again ready for a nap, though Sophie decided to bark frantically at the rats in the attic during my nap--not restful.
Jordan is in Italy on a business trip (poor girl) so Christian and Jacob came for supper. I made hamburger Stroganoff, which wasn't as good as it sounded, and a good salad plus broccoli for Jacob because he loves it and won't eat salad. Christian worked on the greens and lights for over the door, and we sat and visited by the fire. Pleasant evening.
I've about given up on the novel I'm working on until I get this Christmas thing--and all those fat geese--in hand. But tonight I will go back and correct one scene. Where was my brain when I had a man, two days post-op from being shot in the belly, demand chicken fried steak? Rethink that one!
Have a good week everyone.
 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My whine for the day

I have a good friend who is visually challenged--okay, he's almost virtually blind. He has a service dog, a white cane, and a lovely wife who looks out for him every minute. We all look out for him, telling him when there's a table or chair in his path, guiding him to a chair, pointing out where his food is, handing him his drink. Oh, every once in a while there's a blind joke--like the time someone asked him if a certain person had curly hair and he dead-panned, "I have no idea."
I am hearing impaired, and I get lots of jokes and teasing. "You got your ears in?" "Can you hear me?" Some people speak so clearly and distinctly on the phone, they're a joy to talk to; others talk too rapidly or softly, and I find myself asking them to slow down, speak up, always apologizing that I'm "a tad hard of hearing." Tad hardly describes it. Music in church never sounds the same--my friend who cannot see also wears hearing aids, though he doesn't seem to have as much trouble as I do, but he agrees music never again will sound the same. If I'm in a room with ten friends all talking at once or in a noisy restaurant, forget it! I may get snatches of the conversation but not enough to tune in. Sometimes, people make an effort to speak clearly and distinctly...and I still don't get it. Part of hearing loss is a sort of loss of comprehension (I've read this so it's not just my senile brain)--you hear the words but they don't make sense. And then when they do suddenly make sense, you're embarrassed. I have come up with some really odd interpretations--like the other daughter said she wanted something, and I said, "You want caviar?"
Don't get me wrong. I'd a lot rather lose my hearing than my sight, and I admire my friend up one side and down the other for the way he lives his life--traveling, partying, enjoying himself. Until a couple of years ago, he worked; he still reads and works on the computer, though I not sure with what kind of enhancements.
But sometimes I wish loss of hearing wasn't treated as the joke of old age. It's a real problem for me, folks. No, I don't think it changes my life much--but it embarrasses and frustrates me.
Okay, whine over. As you were.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy Hour

Jordan leaves for ten days in Italy--an overwhelming itinerary--at 5 a.m. tomorrow, so tonight we had a happy hour at my house. Just neighbors, the people who routinely come for happy hour. It was noisy and happy and full of advice from travelers, though Jordan herself is a seasoned traveler. When I travel with her, I simply do whatever she tells me and say, "Yes, ma'am." She'll be going to Rome, Venice, Milan, the Amalfi Coast, Lake Como--I know I've left something out. This is a work trip, what the travel industry calls a "fam trip" to familiarize travel agents with destinations they can recommend to their clients. She's had many wonderful trips on the wings of "fam trips" but this is her first European jaunt...and the longest time she'll be away from her husband and son. So there were many toasts and good wishes.
Two dogs slept peacefully through most of the festivities. Well, Santiago slept--he's old and tired and can't be bothered, though he is the sweetest, most loving dog and, being a seeing-eye dog, is perfectly trained. Sophie on the other hand was delighted to have so many people she adores around and flitted from one to the other, though she focused on Margaret who sometimes takes her for a walk. Sometimes she fusses at Santiago because she wants him to play with her, but Jordan caught them in a quiet moment together. Lovely to have two quiet dogs.
I've been working hard--devoting some time to Christmas since my family will be here Dec. 6 for Alter Alternative Christmas. But I'm also writing a thousand words a day, and proud of that accomplishment. Plus I'm trying to promote my new books.
To that end I'm offering two coffee cups to people who tell me the first complete sentence on p. 62 of The Perfect Coed. Winners will be chosen at random by a blind drawing by my grandson. Please include your email and snail mail address when you email me at j.alter@tcu.edu to enter. This offer will be repeated on Facebook and Twitter. Entries close November 24.
Now I have to go bake a Bundt cake to freeze and then write my thousand words. No wonder I'm tired at night.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps

Today I'm worrying about the homeless--seems I always have something to worry about. But America has long nourished a Horatio Alger kind of mentality--Go West, young man, and make your fortune. Anyone can succeed in America--just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with it. You'll be rich in no time.
Well, you know what, folks? It isn't true anymore. There are too many in our society who cannot do that because they're veterans with PTSD, or they're mentally incompetent, or they're drug addicts (don't condemn until you've walked a mile in their moccasins). As a result, America has a tremendous problem with the homeless population. And we're not dealing with it well.
I'm appalled at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where a 90+ year-old man was arrested for feeding the homeless. Some suggested if he hadn't done it in a park, it would have been all right, but from reports I've read, place wasn't the issue. It is against the law in Fort Lauderdale to feed the homeless.
Now I know this is a nation of diversity but many of our politicians spout a line of Christian values--okay, folks, what's one big thing Jesus was known for? Fishes and loaves. And what does the statue say at Ellis Island--"Bring me your hungry, your tired, your poor."
In a small town in California, Weatherford, it's now against the law for the homeless to camp anywhere, even on private property with permission. And they've locked all the public restrooms. I don't care what religion you are, compassion is compassion--and that isn't it.
Our homeless need our help, not laws to ostracize them. What would these local governments do? Have us create one huge colony, perhaps in the still-vast plains of the West or Midwest and herd all the homeless there to die of starvation and thirst?
That is not what America is about, not the values our country was founded on. The homeless need our help, whether it be care facilities, mental health treatment, whatever. Many groups, foundations, etc. do serve that population--Presbyterian Night Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Union Gospel Mission, Catholic Charities and many others--and that's just in my home town. But all these agencies can't begin to meet the overwhelming need.
I have a friend who has worked with the homeless and gotten to know some of them. She sees them as individuals with hopes and fears and dreams, not as part of a forgotten population. America, while arguing about the Keystone pipe line and tax breaks for the rich, needs to come to real grips with the problems of poverty and homelessness in our very own America. Do I know the answer? Of course not. But wiser heads than mine can figure it out. What I know is something needs to be done about it, and not yesterday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why 1993?

Please welcome Sally Carpenter, my Wednesday guest. A native Hoosier now living in Moorpark, California, she has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award and “Star Collector” was produced in New York City. Carpenter also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do (don't mess with Sally!).
She’s worked as an actress, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures. She’s now employed at a community newspaper.
The initial Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol book, The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper, was a 2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel. Cozy Cat Press has published The Sinister Sitcom Caper and The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper. In addition, Sally has two short stories in anthologies: “Dark Nights at the Deluxe Drive-in” in Last Exit to Murder and "Faster Than a Speeding Bullet" in Plan B: Omnibus.
Sally Carpenter blogs at http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. Contact her at Facebook or scwriter@earthlink.net.
 
****
 
Why set a cozy series in 1993?
In 1993 Bill Clinton began his two terms as president and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” launched its seven-year run. Canada had its first female prime minister and the U.S. Air Force was ordered to let women fly war planes. The eastern states were zonked with record snowfall and Texas was hit with the Waco standoff.
And 1993 is the setting of my Sandy Fairfax, Teen Idol cozy series. But why 1993? Why not present day?
Sandy starred in a TV series, “Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth,” that ran from 1975 to 1979. He was nineteen years old when the series premiered and twenty-three when it ended (his character continued on in a cartoon series that ran from 1979 to 1980). His career tanked at that point.
In my series, Sandy is older and making a comeback. Teen idols from the 1960s/70s followed a predictable life path: huge success in early twenties, about ten fallow years and then an upswing in their thirties when nostalgia kicked in for the adults and younger generations discovered them.
Placing the books in 2014 would make Sandy fifty-nine years old. At fifty-nine Sandy would be too old to restart an entertainment career; in his thirties he would still be “cute” enough. At age fifty-nine he would have moved on to another profession.
I needed a character young enough to do physical stunts and be in good physical health. Many seniors are still spry at age fifty-nine but not as much as they were in younger years.
Sandy has children and I want to keep them young. I want him to fight with his ex and for Sandy to still be an influence on his kids. If Sandy were fifty-nine, his older child would be thirty-three!
So I made Sandy thirty-eight years old, a good age for a midlife crises, which placed him in 1993.
This year works for me for other reasons. Technology was not so overwhelming as today. I didn’t want characters with cell phones glued to their ears or their eyes staring at a tablet all day. My amateur sleuth finds out things through legwork and interviews, not by looking up info on the Internet. Frankly, I don’t understand much of modern technology—I barely figured out Facebook and emails—so with 1993 I can write about things I understand.
The 1970s was a good decade for teen idols. Every idol starred on a TV show as promotion; MTV music videos didn’t exist. Only three networks existed; the broadcast world was not as fragmented as today’s 200-plus channels. Radio stations were likewise limited in format, so Sandy’s music hit a bigger audience. Even people who didn’t watch his show knew who he was.
Teen idol music of that day was more na├»ve and wholesome. Idols didn’t twerk onstage or wear revealing outfits. Their stage shows were simple and focused on the performer, a stark contrast to modern pyrotechnic, heavily engineered music spectaculars.
Of course teen idols were often naughty boys offstage, but their handlers kept their escapades out of the news. If Sandy had thrown eggs at a neighbor’s house, his manager would have kept it hushed up (not that Sandy would do such a thing. He drank, but he was never vicious).
Writing about 1993 has some challenges. I have to rely on my memory and the Internet to get things right. I’m constantly researching to see if certain products had been invented and how Los Angeles, Sandy’s home, looked at that time. But overall it’s a fun time for me to write about and hopefully, for the readers to read about.
Caribbean cruises were as popular in 1993 as they are now. Sandy and his sister, who is blind, perform a series of concerts aboard the SS Zodiac bound for Nassau. But when a dead body turns up in Sandy’s backstage dressing room, it’s full steam ahead for the amateur sleuth as he meets a colorful cast of suspects, tries to avoid an old flame, and attempts to seduce his lovely choreographer. But will Sandy to live long enough to unmask the killer at the ship’s Halloween costume gala?

 


 

  


 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The land of the free

Today we honor service men and women of the past, the present and the future--those who help preserve our country. Sometimes I wonder though what those service people think about a country that asks them to put their life on the line but votes against increasing their benefits, even though many of them are dirt poor after discharge. A country that ignores many of their health needs. A country that pays lip service but little more.
This morning in a blanket email about honoring our veterans, Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott wrote "America is the brightest beacon of freedom the world has ever known." Empty words. America once was the world's leading nation, a bright beacon of freedom indeed. I don't know when the decline began--it surely wasn't with President Obama or even George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. The roots of our problems go way back, and I will let historians debate that issue.
But today we are beset with so many social problems--the poor and indigent, those without health care, the homeless, low education standards (read any college freshmen papers lately?), low veterans' benefits, environmental concerns that should knock us out of our complacency, and, yes, racism. I'm sure my list left out important things. Oops, of course, a messed-up immigration policy that does not reward hard work and dedication to our country but aims to cause heartbreak to families by separating them.
Look at statistics from other "civilized" countries and even some third world countries. Even our infant mortality rate is higher than it should be. Germany provides free college education for all. Canada's socialized medicine--shhh! don't even whisper it--seems to be working just fine. I know Canadians who would like to move here but won't, can't leave their insurance. We come close to leading the world in the number of executions, when most civilized countries have abolished capital punishment. Choose your cause--there are so many problems in America that most of us don't know where to begin. I admire those people who pick one cause and dedicate themselves to it.
Too many of us think as a lone individual we can't make a difference, just like believing our vote doesn't count. We can and we must.
America can't keep running on glorious sounding empty words.

Monday, November 10, 2014

As the world turns


A week ago tomorrow, those of us who vote progressive were in despair, foreseeing the end of civilization, the end of life as we know it, possibly the end of the environment. A week later this old world seems to spin on in its inevitable cycle. Yes, there have been blusters and threats--Obama better cooperate or else, 100,000 taken off Medicare rolls, etc. The conservatives aren't even in power yet, but they're acting like it, even taking claim for economic gains of the past two years. I'm not sure how much of their bluster could be accomplished--Obama has veto power, and the conservatives don't have enough Senate votes to over-ride a veto; didn't we all pay into Medicare? I know they can't take social security, though it's on the list, because it's independent of government money and actually the government is in debt to social security. So I suspect we can look forward to continued gridlock, only this time Harry Reid won't be the bad guy--McConnell will. And Boehner will continue to be the cry-baby who can't keep his party in line. My point is, life goes on, and the world keeps spinning.
And life seems very normal today. Jacob was out of school, so we spent the day unpacking Christmas decorations--I know, it's early, but don't question please--and learning the states of the Midwest, their locations, abbreviations, and capitals (harder than you think). Nice lunch with Melinda where she and Jacob totally left me out of the conversation because she can talk football with him, and I can't. I wish he'd apply the intelligence he does to football players and statistics to the states of the Midwest.
Tonight Sue, my adopted Canadian daughter, came for a glass of wine, and we had a happy catch-up time. And then I got to work. I'm back on my thousand words a day kick--don't know how long it will last but it's only been five days, so I can't gloat yet. Still, it's a good feeling.
So yes, this old world will keep turning. We may not like it, but it's not the end of life.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

A busy but happy camper

An awesome weekend--nothing big, nothing outstanding, just pleasantly awesome. Saturday morning I rushed to the grocery fairly early, and Jordan met me there to pick up Jacob. She who has shopped with me since she was a child and knows that I have always shopped at Westcliff since the '80s(besides Central Market) went to Kroger and wondered where I was. Got that straightened out, and Jacob was off to a football game. Saturday night they went to the TCU game which was a biggie--Kansas State (#7) against TCU (#6). TCU's victory had a large margin, and they are now #5. I'm not a big football fan but when you live in the area and have such close ties to the university it's hard not to get excited.
While they were cheering, I was having an early, quiet dinner with a good friend at a local tapas restaurant--ham croquettes (well, however you say it in Spanish--jambon? jamon?) and a roasted cauliflower/leek salad with a red sauce. I fear it had red peppers in it but the taste was mild and I liked it. Good wine, a great and long overdue visit, and a lovely evening.
I was really a busy beaver this weekend--got sausage balls and a cheese ball in the freezer for the holidays, did my yoga, wrote 3,000 words,, and got in two long naps (why am I so sleepy tonight?). And tonight Christian got all my Christmas stuff--bags and bags--down out of the attic, so I have major chores: wrapping and decorating. Have to squeeze it all in between all the other things I do before December 6 when all but one of my kids will be here for the weekend. Since this year is not an Alter Christmas--they all go to their in-laws--that's a perfect time to deliver gifts.
Back to the present: tonight Jordan, Christian and Jacob came for supper, and Subie and Phil came for happy hour. I felt bad not to invite them for dinner but I served leftovers and wasn't sure there was enough. This was a clean out the fridge/freezer meal--leftover chili/cheese appetizer and last week's pot roast became this week's stew.
I defrosted the pot roast with its potatoes and carrots (love those mushy carrots in gravy). Made a roux and then stirred in canned beef broth to make gravy for the pot roast. That, plus the gravy it had cooked in, make a great stew. But I was right. There wasn't enough for company.
Sophie was so excited to have everybody here tonight that she raced back and forth in the house, and I feared she'd trip Phil. She loves his seeing-eye dog, Santiago, but Santiago is old and not interested in playing with her. Still, she thought it was lovely to have all those she loves around her.
Tomorrow is a school holiday. Jacob and I will co-exist except that he has to be able to identify the upper Midwestern states, give their abbreviations and capitals. So far, he's got a long way to go. I think we'll unpack the Christmas stuff and sort it. Goodbye to my dining table for a while.
In cleaning out my freezer, I found a new kind of ambrosia--amaretto-dusted pecans. Heavenly. I think they came from Central Market. Left them out for Jordan to try, and she promptly put them with the things she was to take home. I stopped that!
Going to sleep, full, happy and content tonight. Life is good.

Friday, November 07, 2014

A Jacob evening

Jacob spends a lot of time at my house, and pretty much we're good. He's easy, especially on weekdays when he's necessarily occupied with homework. But sometimes I forget how contradictory and--well, yes, irritating--eight-year-olds can be. Today being Friday, he had no homework so he went home with another boy to play. I was delighted because he's spending the night and I thought all day and all night with the old lady might be too much. His mother called: he had unpacked his iPad and left it on the counter at home. That's a big deal because if I want to work in the evening, that keeps him occupied without kids' TV blaring at me (he prefers to camp in my office). We would have to go pick it up from her at the country club near my house.
So I picked him up at five and told him all this. When we got home, he insisted on throwing his backpack out the window and then climbing out. No sooner done than he said we had to go back because he left his gloves (baseball gloves, crucial even though his season is over--couldn't wait till Monday). So back we went--not a big deal, less than a mile. Once back in my driveway he panicked because he couldn't find his backpack. I reminded him. So he asked for the second time why I wasn't putting the car in the garage. I explained again we would have to go get the iPad.
Once inside, he wanted his TV programs and I wanted the news, so he established himself in the kitchen, drank the red Gatorade he'd collected on our second trip to the friend's house and insisted on a bowl of Fruit Loops (I hate feeding him junk). Pretty soon he came to tell me he'd thrown up. I told him to clean it up but he insisted I come look. It was really minimal spit-up, but he said, "It's red. I'm thinking it's blood." I explained about the red drink and the Fruit Loops, and I made him clean it up while he muttered, "This is so gross."
His parents delivered the iPad, so I quickly went and put my car up while it was still dusk. I hate walking down my driveway in total darkness, even with motion detector lights spaced along the way. Then I cooked supper--scrambled eggs, bacon, and broccoli (which he loves). His first words: "I'm not eating that" and he pointed to the eggs. "It's eggs," I said. "Oh, okay, I'm eating it." He ate every bite on his plate and asked for more, which I didn't have--broccoli was all gone, and I would have had to start over with bacon and eggs. I offered part of the broccoli on my plate--and he came and snatched a piece of bacon with the explanation, "I like bacon." "So do I," I protested. He won that round.
So now he's at his iPad and I'm at my computer. He was of course still hungry and has had ice cream and a peanut butter/honey sandwich. I think all is well with the world. I told him I saw a sign last night that said, "I love you, but you sure can irritate me." I considered buying it but the friend with me asked if Jacob would understand. I said, "Oh yeah." Tonight he said, "Yeah. I understand." But his eyes were laughing.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The holidays are upon us

November 6, and the holiday rush has begun. I feel it--shopping, wrapping, cooking to do. I have lists of lists and hope to start loading the freezer this weekend. And I have too long a list of people for whom I need creative gifts.
Tonight our local Ace Hardware had a "Girls Night Out"--wine (the young man wasn't exaggerating when he asked if we'd like a "little bit"), and minimal refreshments. Plus I think everything was discounted. One of the food stands was a demonstration area for some kitchen tools--including a really neat ceramic knife. Cut through tomato quickly and easily. Lifetime warranty. I was tempted, but in my kitchen it would get nicked and dinged, and it's fragile The store has developed quite a nice gift corner--everything from jewelry to toys--and I did pick up some gifts. Trouble is I got gifts for the four daughters in the family. And I already had their gifts. Got to work on the boys, big and little. Lines were long and slow, but it was a fun event and I saw a lot of women I know, many of whom I haven't seen in a while. So much standing though--my back was ready to sit when we got back into the car.
From there we went to Central Market for a "walkabout." There was an admission price with this one, and you got tickets for wine and seafood. The rest of the food was free--and sumptuous. There were sixteen food and drink stands and a map of them, along with a wine glass and a holiday entertaining guide that really urged you to use their products. It was crowded but not as hectic as the hardware, and we walked instead of having to stand in long lines. Saved me a trip to the market tomorrow--I needed few things and bought some I didn't need. Thanks to Mary Dulle for sharing an enjoyable evening--and driving the Boxter top down.
Now to tackle that pile of unwrapped present on the guest bed. Sunday I hope Jordan and Christian will come bring Christmas down from the attic. Busy time of the year. And just when I'm fired up about a writing project. But yes, I do plan ahead--a bit of OCD perhaps? So does Jordan. Megan says she missed that gene.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Putting on a good face

I have spent much of today being determinedly cheerful. You see, my horoscope told me it was a good day to be cheerful and outgoing, and I might make important new contacts if I did that. Easier said than done on a rainy, dismal day when I didn't see anyone else until I got Jacob at three. And, of course, the Republican "rout" to overcome. Yes, I've read all the Facebook messages I got about why liberals lost--from President Obama to gerrymandering to the Democrats ongoing tendency not to support their own and, of course, voter apathy. What encourages me is that blame-seeking is done mostly in the sense of figuring out how things can be done differently in 2016. I am much encouraged by the many candidates who have said, "We're not through. We're not giving up the fight."
I have also been struck with the thought, expressed by several, that the conservatives wanted to control the government. Okay, now they've got it. Let's see what they do with it. I still have a sense of dread, and I did read and share a really scary forecast of what the future holds. But I'm determined to be optimistic.
I remember a friend who was distraught at the possible election of George W. Bush but finally decided that we had all dreaded Dwight Eisenhower's term of office and nothing bad happened. "How bad can it be?" he asked rhetorically. We all saw how that worked out--two unnecessary wars, tax cuts to the wealthy, and a monumental debt left to the country. So I'm a little afraid to say "How bad can it be?" But I remain hopeful that the country will survive and struggle onward to regain its once-great status in the world.
Betty and I went to Lili's tonight for supper--split crab cakes on wasabi mac and cheese. Really good. The cakes seemed to be all crab with no filler, crusty with sesame seeds and I don't know what else. And I guess it cheered us. When I asked how she felt about last night, she floored me by asking, "What was last night?" But then she said she knew it was coming all along. I guess I did too but I remained hopeful.
My good news is that a writing pal said, "The more you write, the more the ideas come," and it struck me that's why I have no ideas. So I wrote a thousand words on a new novel today. Yay for me! 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

There's no joy in Mudville tonight

This is a strictly partisan post, so ignore if you want. But I am distraught, heartsick, and befuddled by today's elections. I truly thought the Democrats had a chance--most Democratic candidates had enthusiastic crowds and their own enthusiasm on their side, not to mention concrete proposals for the future. I heard that Allison Grimes drew crowds of hundreds, while Mitch McConnell had trouble getting a hundred to a rally. What went wrong?
I love two definitions of a conservative: someone who plants his feet firmly and proceeds to march backward, and someone who is firm in his convictions, no matter how wrong they are. Democrats on the other hand aren't called progressives for no reason--they're represent progress, forward movement, and--what scares many people--change. It seems so clear to me that there's no alternative to the way the country should have voted (I know, not all polls are in yet but the trend is clear) that I am befuddled.
Do we have an electorate that doesn't want progress? That longs for the "good old days" even though those days will never come again? An electorate that doesn't care about the environment, the economy, a raise in the minimum wage so that all families can make a living? Have they not read about the success of Costco, which pays employees handsomely, vs. Walmart, which pays so poorly that employees are on welfare? Do they not read the statistics about the growth of economy in states that increase the minimum wage opposed to those who don't?
Do they not care about women's rights? Education? Children's health care? The poor?
In a darker mood, I sometimes wonder how much of these election results have to do with the overwhelming and vitriolic condemnation of our president--and that too baffles me. Jobs are up, the stock market is up, the debt is down--looking at what President Obama inherited, he's worked wonders. So when I wonder why the hatred, I am led reluctantly down the path toward racism.
At dinner tonight I sat next to a retired journalist who said he's covered politics for fifty years and never seen the vitriolic hate that is spewed on President Obama--not just as a politician but as a person. And even worse, the hate that is spewed on his wife.
I am afraid for my country, afraid it is becoming a nation consumed by greed and hate and elitism. If the election indeed goes the way it looks, we are now in the hands of the Koch brothers. Two years ago I'd never heard of them.
Another thing is picking away at the back of my brain. I am the last one to believe conspiracy theories, but it's hard to understand that Democrats roused so much enthusiasm in the campaign and then came out so badly in the election. I can't help wonder about voting regulations, bribery, whatever. My daughter-in-law moved in the early summer and filed all the proper places to change her driver's license, voting status, etc. She was denied the right to vote today and told she would have to go back to her previous district--many miles away. A friend of hers said the same thing happened to two other voters she knew. The excuse given? DPS dropped the ball.
The next two years will be a hard test for President Obama, but I have confidence in him. To all the Democratic candidates who campaigned and lost--thanks for fighting the good fight.