Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pooches on the patio

Left to right: Jay with Santiago, the retired guide dog;; Christian with their two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Phil, with Porter the brand new guide dog; center, Jacob with my Sophie
With eight people and five dogs, it was definitely pooches on the patio night at my house as we celebrated neighbor Jay's birthday. The dogs love their evenings in the back yard with everyone on the deck except Jacob who plays with them, throws the ball, climbs on the dog house and then retires to the kitchen to love Santiago. Santiago is nine and just retired as Phil's guide dog. If you think about it, most of our dogs spend their days pretty much sleeping; working dogs spend their days working, and they tire out. Santiago likes nothing more than to sleep on the cold stone floor, and Jacob loves to oblige by getting down there with that gentle giant.
Porter, the new guide dog, is two years old, fresh out of training, and has been in his new home about four days. He visited last night and ran and played with Sophie--she'd been waiting for someone with more energy than Santiago. Sometimes she'd bark at him because he wouldn't play with her, so Porter is just right. They run, chase balls and have a wonderful time, with Sophie all the time making her growling noises.
The two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are another story--quiet dogs, not interested in running and playing, thank you. They'd much prefer to sit on a lap. Without that alternative, they sit right close to the people's feet. Sophie finds them a little boring too, and I think they find her a bit intimidating. She is twice their size and has much more energy than they do.
Jay even picked the menu for his birthday dinner--a casserole of rice with cream of mushroom and celery soups, dry onion soup, and chicken. I almost blew it because I thought, "Oh, a chicken casserole, bake for an hour at most." Luckily about four I looked at the recipe and found it was to bake for two hours. It was really good, chicken most and tender and the rice delicious. I don't like to use prepared foods much but this was worth it. We had green peas, which Jay loves and most of my family won't eat, and salad. Jordan was already to bake a cake but Jay wanted store-bought brownies, the kind with thin frosting. Jacob of course had to help him blow out the candles. All in all, it was a delightful evening with much hilarity. And I think the presence of five dogs made it even better.
The irony was that the birthday boy, who loves dogs, didn't bring his two. We haven't yet tried to socialize them with "the pack" and may not ever.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Reading the news

I admit it--I'm a news junkie. When I was young, our entire household fell into a hushed silence when the evening news came on. Who was it in those days? Huntley and Brinkley? At any rate, no one spoke, and certainly not to my father who listened to every word intently. I guess we absorb those things.
Today I read our daily newspaper, which grows slimmer by the day. Thanks for all the suggestions that I take The New York Times but that's not the news I want--I want Texas and Fort Worth. I watch the TODAY show, though often with one eye. But still I try to pay attention particularly to the news portions that open most segments. On weekends I enjoy sleeping late but then am distressed that I slept through the major news of the day.
Facebook is often the first place I hear of things--like yesterday's collapse of a bridge on I-35 at Salado. I know FB isn't always reliable--Love that quote from Lincoln (tongue in cheek) about not believing everything you read on FB, but they do seem to have major news quickly.
Today, as usual unless it's a really slow day, there's much to ponder. I am relieved for Amanda Knox, finally cleared of all charges in the 2007 death of her roommate. I read a comment who said the roommate has been all but forgotten in this tragedy, and I agree--I grieve for her parents. But I never thought Amanda Knox was guilty, and she's been through a horrific ordeal. I wonder how much of a normal life she can lead now, but I hope she will go forward. And a bit of me hopes she won't succumb to the many book deals that must being pitched her way.
The story of the German Airbus that went down in the Alps will haunt us all--how could a man willingly take all those people, many of them youngsters, to death with him. It's one thing, a very sad thing, to take your own life, but to take so many others with you? The news media is playing the story for all its worth without really adding new material. A tragic indicator of our times.
I'm enough of a Midwesterner (Illinois) to be horrified by Indiana's new law essentially sanctioning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, race, religion, whatever--don't like someone? You don't have to serve them. What a hateful world we're living in.
Which reminds me of the woman legislator (I forget what state) who talked against a proposed anti-abortion bill by revealing that she had been raped, impregnated, and had an abortion. And her male colleagues laughed. Once again, I wonder what this country has come to.
Some of the news is so far out that, tragic as it is, it makes you laugh--the Arizona legislator who thinks church attendance should be mandatory. One wonders if she has any familiarity with the Constitution. And somewhere there's a legislator who thinks gays and lesbians should be summarily shot in the head. Appalling doesn't begin to cover the enormity of that kind of thinking.
I'm going to start watch for good-times news in the media--will report back. If there is any.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Waiting for thunderstorms...and going through recipes

We've had wonderful warm sunny days--in the high seventies and low eighties--the last couple of days. A little bit of heaven. Everything seems to have come out at once--redbuds all over town, that beautiful light green of new leaves on trees, the white blooms of pear trees. Even the air smells fresh. But tonight they say we're due thunderstorms with possible high winds and hail. If God would reach down and promise us no tornadoes I'd delight in that forecast. I love waking in the night to thunder and lightning but the possibility of a tornado lurks in my mind. Before it grew dark, I didn't sense that ominous quiet nor see that gun-metal gray in the sky to the west. Who knows? My car is in the garage, my dog is inside, I've done what I can.
Meantime, having written my requisite thousand words for the day, I spent a bit of time going through recipes, looking for something to cook Sunday night. I love the concept of Sunday dinner, always have, but my audience has dwindled (when my kids were at home it wasn't unusual to have 16-20--I don't think I'm p for that now), and sometimes I'm afraid my guests will tire of dinner at Judy's. Still I'm thinking ahead. Some of my possibles for this weekend:
Grilled chicken pan bagnat--those wonderful French pressed sandwiches, originally tuna but this one calls for chicken (I might do tuna sometimes if Christian isn't here)
chicken chilaquiles casserole--think I've made it before and it was good
King Ranch chicken--always a favorite, though I think I've learned that it has no relation to the King Ranch
Greek baked pasta with ground lamb--I have a hard time resisting anything with lamb
chicken enchiladas with tomatillo-cilantro sauce--really good, but ho, hum, I've made it a lot
Sunday chicken with two soups, white wine, rice and onion soup powder
Foil pack chicken--think I've about discarded that
If only my children come, I'll cook Dead Man's Bones--ribs cooked with garlic, apricot preserves and soy sauce--so good
I'm leaning toward the pan bagnat, which is a lot of work but can be done a day ahead. Which would you choose?

Monday, March 23, 2015

The words that come out of our mouths

The other night I was talking yoga with a friend of Jordan's, and said I did my yoga routine alone in the sunroom. My neighbor walked up and said, "Why don't you go to class?" I retorted, "You know I don't like to go out!" The minute I said it, the words echoed in my head. They weren't exactly what I meant--I don't like to do yoga with a lot of other people, and I don't want to deliberately take the chunk out of my day that it takes to come and go.
But did I really mean it? I love people, I feed on company, and too much time alone makes me a tad depressed. But as a friend said to me, "You don't go out. You bring people to you." I've long been aware of a tendency toward reclusiveness that lurks in me, even though I love to go to small parties, restaurants with friends, etc. Increasingly I don't like to go out alone.
Almost forty years ago I was housebound by agoraphobia--sometimes defined as a fear of open spaces but best defined by me as a fear of fear. Phobics gradually draw the circle more tightly around them--the limits of where they'll go get closer and closer until one day you just don't go. If you don't understand panic, you'll have to trust me on this one--I  understand it too well. I spent years pushing back that circle, enlarging it.
But recently I've felt it closing in a bit, and especially during the two weeks I had whatever I had. I stayed home--and pretty much liked it. So when I heard those words--at a party significantly in my own comfortable "safe" house--I knew it was time to start pushing back again. Jacob got caught in my push and we went to church yesterday (once you're out of the habit of going, skipping church gets easier and easier). He tried mightily to talk me into leaving before the sermon, but I insisted and he went grumpily off to the children's sermon. I was glad I stayed because the sermon was good and the music glorious.
Today I had errands to run but found myself contemplating putting them off. That's when I got high behind, dressed and set off to Goodwill, liquor store, grocery and cosmetics store. A bit conscious of myself as I did those things (am I anxious or not?) but I did them. And each small step is a victory. This week, I will make it a point to get out of the house every day.
I'll get my balance back, and my circle will grow. Many people have problems so much worse. How can I complain?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Shirt-tail relatives

As a child I had many shirt-tail relatives--people who were connected not by blood but by love and shared experiences and mutual affection. Today, as an adult, I am still blessed with several such relationships. People have told me they don't understand or have never heard the term, but to me it makes perfect sense.
Jacob is also blessed with several such relationships--many of his parents friends adore him but a few stand out as special. One is Elizabeth, who has been my friend for well over twenty years and who lived in my garage apartment for a year. Jacob's first question every day coming home from school that year was, "Can I go see Elizabeth?"
A year and a half ago she moved to Pennsylvania to be with the man she loves, and we all grieved. But last night Elizabeth was back for a visit, and we had a party. I fixed dinner for neighbors she'd been close to, and Jordan and Christian came by on their way to a fancy party. We had a joyful dinner, but for Jacob the best part was when everyone else went home, and he and Elizabeth had a lively conversation--I was strictly an outsider. But they chattered and giggled and had a wonderful time. At one time they tried to Facetime Brian, Elizabeth's love, but I don't think they were successful. When Jacob left the room briefly, she said, "I wish I could just put him in my pocket and take him home with me." And as he drifted off to sleep last night Jacob said, "Tonight was really fun."
Elizabeth came into my life twenty-some years ago when as a non-traditional student she applied for
a work-study job in my office at TCU Press. It wasn't instantaneous bonding but almost that quick. Over the years I've watched her transform herself from an overweight, maybe a but insecure person into a svelte yoga instructor, highly skilled and certified, and a confident person who enjoys life. If beyond my own children, I have a success story, she's it, and I couldn't be more proud of who and what she has become.
Oh, dinner! Elizabeth is gluten- and dairy-free--not a diet I fully understand or am sure I agree with but it works for her, and I am glad to follow her rules. Except it makes menu planning difficult. I was more into it when she lived here. But last night I served corned beef and cabbage (my belated tribute to St. Patrick's Day) only with a twist--it was a cold salad--cubed corned beef, blanched haricort vert, cubed potatoes (I cheated and put a bit of salad dressing on them), and sliced raw cabbage, all with a mustard vinaigrette. To our amazement, Jacob loved it and asked for seconds. I wish I'd learn to take pictures of food before I serve it, because it really made a pretty platter.
This morning the sermon was on joy, and I'm not sure I agree that happiness is transitory and joy is permanent, because for me--and I think for Jacob and Elizabeth--last night was one of those moments of joy, a memory to treasure, in the midst of lives of happiness.
Photos by Jay Mitiguy.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Random thoughts on a rainy day

We are being blessed in North Texas with another rainy day--and more tomorrow. While it may be a downer to a lot of moods, it is a much-needed gift. I worry a lot about California which has one year's water supply left--and Nestle Inc. is still bottling and selling their spring water. Get it together, people! That's so wrong. Anyway I spent as much of today as I could inside alternately reading and watching it rain and thinking random thoughts.
Reading the newspaper, I realized it's brackets time again--and I dimly figured out that had to do with betting on "March Madness"--since I know little to nothing about basketball or brackets that all goes over my head. But I guess I'm in for a month of such things dominating the headlines.
One thing about rainy days--and that bad cold which still lingers just a bit--is that I discovered the blessings of tea--or re-discovered. When green tea became "the" thing to drink, I scoffed. But you know how when you're not feeling well, coffee tastes awful? That's where I was. So I began to drink green tea sweetened with honey--I've never put anything sweet in tea or coffee but somehow this seemed right. And I sat savoring my honey-sweet tea this morning and thinking how good it is.
Texas is about to okay open-carry on state university campuses--a move opposed not only by me but by such knowledgeable people as the chancellor of the University of Texas (who had a shooting scare on his campus a year or so ago...and if you're old enough to remember Charles Whitman, enough said). But all this loud protestation about second amendment rights leaves me puzzled: I don't think any of those people really read the amendment or else they adjust it to fit their circumstances. The Second Amendment calls for a "well regulated militia" which is a far cry from open-carry. It's fine to say the militia concept is outdated, but then, with our armed forces and law enforcement, so is the need for individual firearms. Where are our constitutional scholars? Where, for that matter, is the Supreme Court?
On a lighter matter, Jacob brought home geometry homework today--I should have found it in Tuesday's homework, since it was due today. But because nobody discovered it until last night, the teacher gave him until Monday. I worked as well as I could on the first page with him; the second page had us both stymied. It showed a trapezoid and asked what shapes you could put in it without overlapping? Shoot, I was doing well to remember what a polygon is--or was. Jacob said, "It's okay, Juju. It's been a long time since you went to school." Damn straight, and I didn't understand that stuff then.
I read of a school district lately that is outlawing homework on the grounds that kids should be kids. Jordan tells me the reason I don't remember doing homework with my kids is not that I was a bad mother (be still, my heart) but that they didn't have any. They did it all in school. I'm checking to see if the school that's outlawing it is someplace we could all move. Praise the Lord!
Happy rainy weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My TBR and other reading

I'm delving into a new book tonight--The Erotica Book Club for Nice Ladies. Beyond that marvelous title, I can't say much--I'm only forty pages in. But I thought it might be fun to mention a few titles I've recently enjoyed...and some on my TBR (to be read) list.
In light of the fuss about Harper Lee's forthcoming sequel (is that the right term?) for To Kill A Mockingbird, I read The Mockingbird Next Door, Marja Mills' account of the eighteen months she spent living next door to Nelle Harper Lee and her sister, Alice. It's a charming book, well written, with nice and surprising insight into the lady we thought was a reclusive author. Not so in her hometown. There was a bit of celebrity name-dropping about it, but I enjoyed it. I also liked Sheila Connolly's An Early Wake, about Maura Donovan's continuing immersion in an Irish small town and the pub she inherited--this time Irish music provides the thread that bind the murder mystery together. In The Book Stops Here, Brooklyn Wainwright, bookbinder and appraiser, appears on a TV show where people bring old books for her to appraise. When some turn out to be unbelievably valuable, trouble ensues. Kate Carlisle is the author. Poisoned Prose, by Ellery Adams, brings one of my favorite characters back on stage, Olivia Limoges with her dog (whose name I can't remember but who is a great character). This time Olivia invites storytellers to meet with the Bay Writers--only one of them is dramatically murdered. You'll see that my taste runs to mysteries.
But on my TBR: Leslie Budewitz's Assault and Pepper, first in a new series about a spice shop in Seattle. I've enjoyed Budewitz's previous books (Crime Rib, etc.) and look forward to this one. Julie Hyzy is one of my favorite authors and I'm looking forward to the newest in her series about Grace Wheaton. In this one Grace's estranged sister shows up at Marshfield Manor, where Grace is curator, and all manner of trouble follows.
I have a strong love of all things Scottish so Juliette Blackhurst's Keeper of the Castle is on my list. Juliette specializes in renovation of buildings but gets drawn into her boyfriend's project of renovating  a building shipped from Scotland. I think there's a ghost involved. And then there's A Wee Murder in My Shop, in which an American tourist buy a Scottish shawl only to find it comes accompanied by a spirit from the past. Once home in Vermont, she runs into murder--and asked the spirit for help.
One I'd like to read but am not sure about is Not My Father's Son, a memoir about a brutal boyhood under a harsh Scottish father. Then again, we can't think of Scots as always happily playing the bagpipes--a touch of realism should be good.
Happy Reading everyone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

On perfect people

The Perfect Coed got a strong review the other day on Lelia Taylor's Creatures 'n Crooks. The reviewer had good things to say about plentiful suspects, twists, turns, and red herrings, threats and tension-filled scenes, and a satisfying ending with just the right amount of explanation. Such comments always thrill an author's heart.
But one thing puzzled this reviewer: "why Susan is so prickly...especially with her loved ones and her supporters." She wrote, "I found her reluctance to accept help or even to discuss measures to preserve her own life distracting at times."
It's not a new criticism for Susan. The reader/friend/teacher who has read almost everything I've written for nearly forty years didn't "warm to Susan," which led another early reader to say, "Of course he didn't. He's a guy!"
I had carefully constructed a blurb that warned readers of Susan's prickliness:
"Susan Hogan is smart, pretty—and prickly. There is no other word for it. She is prickly with Jake Phillips and her Aunt Jenny, the two people who love her most in the world. And she is prickly and impatient with some of her academic colleagues and the petty jealousies in the English department at Oak Grove University. When a coed’s body is found in her car and she is suspected of murder, Susan gets even more defensive.
"But when someone begins to stalk and threaten her—trying to run her down, killing the plants on her deck, causing a moped wreck that breaks her ankle—prickly mixes with fear. Susan decides she has to find the killer to save her reputation—and her life. What she suspects she’s found on a quiet campus in Texas is so bizarre Jake doesn’t believe her. Until she’s almost killed.
"The death of one coed unravels a tale of greed, lust, and obsession."
Apparently that didn't satisfy all question. I have tried to explain that characters mostly spring into our minds full blown--they are who they are, without much direction from an author. If I had any control over Susan, though, I would have left her prickly, mostly because it fits the story. And another friend wrote to say, "Nobody's perfect. We all like characters with flaws." Isn't that the theory behind Shakespearean tragedy? Not that I would ever dare reach for that comparison. As the author of cozies, I think sometimes our cozy heroines are too good, too naïve, too forgiving. Susan stands out. That and those "tension-filled" scenes are the reason I call this a traditional mystery instead of a cozy. But even in cozies, most readers like strong female characters who will take matters into their own hands--not women who are ordered around by the men in their lives.
But what about you? Do you like prickly or strong heroines? How about love-struck ones? I'd really like to hear some opinions.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The never-ending birthday celebration...and a glimpse of what makes Fort Worth so special

Today is Jordan's actual fortieth birthday, and we celebrated as we always do at a restaurant we both like. We went downtown over my protests about parking difficulties, long walk, etc. Jordan is so much smarter than I am. We parked at free valet parking a block from our destination, Del Frisco's Grille, and within minutes were settled on the patio which overlooks Sundance Square.
The specials of the day sounded heavenly but too rich and heavy. Jordan ordered salmon, and I split a deviled egg appetizer with her and then had a Caesar salad. The oh-so-nice waiter sent leftovers home with me, with extra dressing and anchovies.
Of course, celebrating, we had wine, and Jordan took a picture of the wine glasses against a backdrop of Sunday Square. it is the most marvelous space--I'm probably really late to the party praising this development in the center of our downtown. But it's a bright and sunny oasis (with umbrellas for some shade), fountains, trees, brick paving. The contrast of old and new, both in the materials used in the square and the design of the buildings around it, is amazing and so sophisticated. Today we heard bagpipes playing in honor of St. Pat's Day but couldn't spot them. It's a wonderful, sunny day with the temperature just right for sitting outside in the shade. Neither of us could have been happier.
Jordan wanted dessert--which I balked at until it came. The waiter said the chef had made a special cheesecake with whipped cream topping and curls of white chocolate, set in a raspberry sauce. Turned out that dessert was complimentary to the birthday girl. Here it is, after we had both eaten as much as we could. It barely looks touched. Wonderful and good, but so rich and filling. Jacob and I can nibble on it tonight; then we'll send it home for Christian. Jacob will stay here tonight, and we'll have our usual Tuesday night dinner at the Grill. His parents are going on a romantic date to celebrate her birthday.
Two best parts of the day to me: lunch with my ever-charming, considerate, loving, gracious daughter on her fortieth--I still can't believe that, but she's optimistically looking forward to her forties, and I believe they'll be great.
The other great reminder for me was what a fascinating city we live in. Planners have worked hard to move Fort Worth into the twenty-first century, while preserving our historical heritage. The result is an eclectic, diverse city with something for everyone. I learned again that it's not that hard to go downtown, park and walk to any restaurant in the city. I learned that my city's core is accessible to all who want to share in the  fun and excitement.
One thing I notics: There were obviously many businessmen in the crowd that crossed the patio or milled around it or stopped to eat at one of several restaurants. But there were few suits and ties. We've come of age as one of Texas' casual, informal cities...but don't dismiss us lightly. We're powerful competition for any city our size.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Some days just don't go like they should

With Jamie, my younger son
Note the macramé which made him say I'm still a hippie at heart
Today was supposed to be one where routine just flowed, things went smoothly along. Showering in the morning, yoga, writing--ah yes, the idyllic life of a writer. It didn't work out as I intended at all. I really didn't feel well. Can't tell if the cold I thought I had banished came back (that's part of it) or if I perhaps over-served myself with wine last night in my zeal for visiting with Megan and family (I confess I'm pretty sure that's part of it). Saturday night I stepped off a curb that was deeper than I thought (good thing I was holding on to Jamie) and I truly think I jarred the whole left side of my body. Today I'm limping again and feel like I need to hold on to things to even get around the house.
Subie interrupted my yoga (which wasn't going well) and we had a nice visit in the morning; when she left, I went back to the yoga mat, coughed so hard I gagged and gave up on yoga.
Good things did happen: the dog groomer came much earlier than I expected and was through by one o'clock; I wrote my thousand words for the day; just settled down for a nap when the plumber called and was one his way to replace the dripping kitchen faucet--the new one is high and rounded with a soap dispense and one of those nozzle attachments you can pull down--carefully. Jordan arrived to get Jacob from school and stayed for a visit. I did a load of laundry (still not folded) and ran and emptied the dishwasher. Subie came back bringing pasta for supper. Now that I look at it, it wasn't a bad day. I just didn't feel good. Maybe it was the chicken salad I ate last night in a restaurant? A friend once warned me that she never ordered chicken salad because somewhere, sometime, someone had to bone that chicken by hand.
Sophie is a new dog--about half the dog she was before. She looks so skinny and little. The groomer got all the mats without shaving her (my big request) and now you can see her pretty eyes. I'm relieved, because she was really shaggy. Spring better come because she now has her spring haircut.
Tomorrow is Jordan's actual birthday, and we're all set to celebrate at lunch. I would like to be through feeling about half myself. I'm rarely sick, and when I don't feel well I always look for something to blame it on. Compulsive about much of life, I can't even relax enough to accept that I don't feel well. I am grateful that the extreme tired feeling of wanting to crawl back in bed at every chance is gone. But my conscience always tell me if I'd just straighten up and fly right, I'd be okay. Please, Lord, I'd like to feel better tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The birthday coninues

Jordan has a lifelong habit of drawing birthday celebrations out into a week or longer...and she's doing it in spades with here fortieth. This morning, we had family breakfast--I made an overnight casserole of cubed French bread, spinach, bacon, eggs and milk...and served it about eleven, along with a platter of fresh fruit that Melanie cut up. She always does such wonderful fresh fruit plates at her house that I pressed her into service. A hit all around.
But the highlight of the morning was the presentation to Jordan of her birthday present from her siblings--a bicycle. Her next-up brother, a  tri-athlete and therefore bike expert, was delighted to be the designated buyer. And she was thrilled because this is what she wanted. Most but not all of the family posed for a picture with the new bike. I'm prejudiced, but I think they're a really good looking bunch. Oh, and the bike too.
After breakfast, Jordan and her family were off so she could take Jacob to some kind of a kid rapper concert--don't ask, because I don't understand it. Jamie, bless him, finished the assembly of my new sectional, hooking all the parts together and cleaning up the mess left with parts we weren't sure what to do with. With capable help from two nephews, Sawyer and Ford, it still took him about two hours.  Then he set up the old small TV from the back room in my bathroom...and lo and behold, I have regular HD TV service in the bathroom. I really enjoy watching the TODAY show while I put makeup on, so this was a real bonus--something that I didn't know could be done, but he did easily.
All the young people went to a nearby park to play and then on errands--I grabbed the chance for a nap, and something wonderful happened when I woke up--I realized for the first time in a week that I felt good. Such a relief. I'd been worrying all week that I was just malingering, in spite of advice to let myself be as I felt. When I woke up today, I knew the difference.
Megan and family were starving, so without waiting for Jordan we went for dinner at Tommy's Grill. Just as we finished, Jordan called and said they were ready to meet us for dinner. So we arranged to meet but at a restaurant that had a 45-minute wait. As we drove in the parking lot, they were leaving, so we all went back to Tommy's; they ate; we drank more. A hilarious time was had by all.
Sophie felt really left out most of the weekend. The Frisco Alters brought Mozby, a wonderful, gentle chocolate lab, and Bailey, a tiny spoiled nervous Maltese/Yorkie mix. Sophie is fascinated by Bailey but too energetic and spoiled, so she spent most of her time outside with Mozby--a place she definitely does not feel is where she belongs. Tonight when everyone else was gone, she got appropriate loving from her Aunt Megan. Love always wins out.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Birthday milestones--fortunately not mine

This is my Jordan, age about three, curls tamed
but the shyest child you've ever meet
If you know her today, you'd never believe she was shy
I remember when my brother turned forty. My mother was chagrined to have a child that old. John and his considerably younger then-wife, came from Colorado to visit us in Texas for the occasion. In what I thought was a great burst of fun, I wrote 40 on every mirror in the house until he finally exclaimed, "*&^%! It's everywhere!" In retrospect, I don't think he found it nearly as funny as I did.
I don't remember my fortieth--it was just pre-divorce and probably not a jolly affair. But we have always made a big deal of changing decades in our family. My seventieth, for instance, was a marvelous affair, memories to last a lifetime.
The youngest of my four turns forty--actually Tuesday but the family celebration--with a hundred of her nearest and dearest--is today. Jordan has milked thirty-nine for everything it's worth and will welcome forty with a  huge bang. Unbelievable. Yesterday, she was a tousled curly-headed toddler; today she is a beautiful poised young woman, wife and mother, and oh-so-outgoing. A friend of mine once said, "Jordan gives you the feeling she's been waiting all day just to see you." 
We had a slam-bang birthday party at Joe T.'s tonight. She has gathered about her a loving crowd of beautiful young people, and a bonus for me--most of them treat me like a second mom. There were her friends, her husband's friends, my neighbors who are  family, friends of mine, parents of her friends, the people she works with--an eclectic mix of people. And it was lots of fun.
The Alter bad luck spring break followed true to form though--my oldest, Colin, and his family drove straight home from Colorado, not even stopping to pick up the clothes they'd left here. Colin and his daughter had a week of the flu, and they didn't need a party--they just needed to get home. And then the Austin contingent went to board a plan to DFW only to find it had been oversold. They found seats for Megan and the boys--but Brandon came on a later flight. And by the time I got to the party my voice was gone. My brother and his family were all sick and absent. I may never welcome spring break again.
Tuesday, St. Patrick's Day, is Jordan's real birthday, and I'm looking forward to a special lunch with her. Meantime I'm adjusting to the fact that all four of my kids are now in their forties--that's middle age, isn't it? I still think I'm middle-aged. Something is amuck here.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Goodbye, Spring Break

A few years ago, my entire family, all sixteen of us, spent Christmas in Breckenridge to ski--well, most of the others ski but not me. It was to be the dream vacation--renowned ski area, huge house that fit all of us comfortably, though some complained about their sleeping arrangements and there was almost mutiny when I pulled seniority and claimed the master bedroom because it was the only one on the same floor as the living area. It was also the largest, with its own bathroom.
But our dream vacation didn't turn out so well. Everyone got sick--my oldest son before we even got there, several of the others almost immediately afterward. Colin claimed it was the sloppy Joe I'd fixed the last night in Fort Worth. I have always claimed it was the fast food chicken restaurant in Amarillo. Finally the other day, Colin admitted he knew I didn't make anybody sick. But you know something's wrong when kids tell you they're too sick to open Christmas presents and just want to go back to bed.
Then my youngest son, Jamie, got altitude sickness; his oxygen levels were so low that someone told me they should really have hospitalized him, but they sent him home with oxygen. Son-in-law Brandon had a less severe case, and at least one of their children was sick.
In the week we were there, I got out of that house once. The car got stuck in the snow. Ice was everywhere, and I was nervous about footing. I think Breckenridge is probably a really cool town, but I never saw it. I spent most of my time working at my computer at the dining table--shoot! I could have stayed home and done that. A lot cheaper.
By the time we stopped for the night in Dumas, Texas, we were on flat ground and back home and all felt fine. I hope that's our last high altitude adventure.
This spring break has been Breckenridge redux. Colin and family went skiing at Wolf Creek with another family: so far the report is that he has a sinus infection, my nine-year-old granddaughter has the flu; in the other family, the dad and oldest daughter got the flu plus the girl got pink eye. Z-packs and Tamiflu abounded.
Meantime, at home, Jordan had a sinus infection, and I've been fighting a cold for three days. It's not really bad--certainly not bad enough for doing more than drinking tea and soup and waiting for it to go away. But annoying. I had great plans for spring break--Jacob would be with his grandparents, and I would have lazy mornings, lunches and dinners with friends, and long naps. I've gotten the long naps but cancelled two lunches and two dinners. The good news is that I got a lot of writing done.
But I'm ready to get back to routine.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

As the page turns

Please welcome my Wednesday guest, award-winning author, Vicki Batman. Vicki has sold many romantic comedy stories to the True magazines, several publishers, and most recently, a romantic comedy mystery to The Wild Rose Press. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and several writing groups. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Cat fancier. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome Hubby.

Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking "What if??"


What if a friend decided to play a silly Q & A game while we were driving home from a fun girl weekend?
What if she asked the question, “Write the opening words of a book using the word window.”

What if your answer was doggie doo-doo?
That was the boat I rowed the weekend I was prompted to write. And after she’d asked the window question, I had nothing and I was embarrassed I had nothing. And I think my friend knew I had nothing for she added, “You can always email something later.”

An out--sorta.
Two days after the trip, I sat at my computer with the TV blaring in the background, thinking “I can do this.”

I did--sorta. I wrote eight chapters. However, I liked what I’d done; so I kept adding, editing, and revising. Finally, I grew brave and asked my friend to read it. She returned the file to me and said, “Keep going.”
Awfully nice of her. LOL.

A few months later and I still hadn’t confessed to a soul what I’d been doing. The secret was pushing inside me, wanting to burst out. So before a high school reunion, I went to dinner with Handsome who’d been traveling a lot. After the meal had been served, I summoned all my nerve and said, “I’ve been writing.”
He sat up in his chair. “What?!!”

“I’m writing a book.” And all the words I’d been holding back streamed forth. I explained what I was writing and for how long and how wonderful...
After I’d paused, he studied me hard. “You’ve...changed.”

Guess I had. But I liked it. Yet, because of what he’d said and how he’d said it, I carried a little pang in my chest. There was no “that’s great, Beautiful” or anything else. He didn’t want to talk about it. Perhaps, mom-me had evolved and he didn’t know what to do with her yet.
My book turned out to be a romantic comedy mystery, Temporarily Employed. I worked that baby and even outlined Books 2 and 3. Time tick-tocked by and three years later, I hadn’t sold it. By chance, a friend asked me to critique her six submissions for Women’s World—you know, the newspaper at the supermarket checkout. I did. Osmosis must have set in because I cranked out short stories, selling fourteen to the True magazines. Then different e-publishers pubbed my erotic novella and four more short stories. I’ve also indie pubbed several others.

At a plotting retreat, I whined to my chapter mates about not selling Temporarily Employed. They suggested trying again. I did, and The Wild Rose Press wanted it. Euphoria!
My book. It feels good.



Blurb for Temporarily Employed:
New Job. New Love. And Murder. Hattie Cook's dream job is down the toilet and her new SUV violated. Desperate for cash to cover the basic necessities, she takes a temporary job where she uncovers an embezzling scam tied to the death of a former employee--the very one she replaced.

When the police determine there's more to the death of a former Buy Rite employee, Detective Allan Charles Wellborn steps in to lead the investigation. Overly dedicated, always perfect, he puts his job first, even if doing so ultimately hurts the one he loves.

Can the killer be found before Hattie's time is up?







Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Balm BenGay and Other memories

When my brother and I were little, if we caught chest colds--which it seems we often did--Mom would rub our chests with Bengay. She had strong, capable hands, and she rubbed until it burned and we squirmed in protest. Then she'd pin an old sock around the neck to hold in the heat.
I wished for Mom last night about three when I woke with a tight feeling in my chest, a scratchy sore throat, and a cough. I'd noticed I coughed a lot yesterday but I thought I could will my way out of a cold with positive thinking. It didn't work. Today I can't tell if I really feel draggy or I just think I feel draggy because I have a cold.
Our father was, like much of our family, an osteopathic physician. If you were sick, in the evening when he came home, you'd hear him coming upstairs and know he was about to treat you. Brother John says he used to hide under the covers and pretend to be asleep. I remember that I squirmed and wiggled until Dad said, "Be still. People pay me five dollars to do this." Bless his heart, in the 1970s, retired in North Carolina and spending his days in his beloved garden, he still treated a few people. He'd shower and put on a fresh white shirt for each patient. John asked one day what he was charging, and he said five dollars. I guess prices hadn't gone up since the 1940s. Today I'd love to have an osteopathic treatment--wish John and his magic hands weren't so far away.
When my children were young and in school, I was pretty strict about "Get up and go about your business. You'll feel better." Once, when Jamie suffered an unexplained but terrifying series of dizzy spells, he told me, "I can't go to school. I'm dizzy." "Nonsense," I said briskly, pulling him to his feet. When I let go he sank into a puddle in front of me. He stayed home that day. I had a friend who used to say my children had to have a 106 degree fever before I let them stay home. Maybe it was because I had so many colds as a child and spent so many days in bed--I didn't want that for them.
I'm still wary of malingering myself, a sort of constant questioning of how I feel. I've decided to give this cold one day and that's all. Not a day in bed, but one with a good nap. I've cancelled lunch plans mostly because I don't want to infect the friend I was to lunch with; not sure yet about dinner. But tomorrow it's back to normal. My spring break is flitting away and all my plans are going awry.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Women and friendship

I just reviewed a book called Dumped: Women Unfriending Other Women, edited by Nina Gaby, for Story Circle Book Reviews. Read the review here: I've always know that women's relationships, even the closest, were complicated and subject to unexpected interruption. But I thought some friendships just drifted away, either because of distance or changing interests or who knows what. Call me Pollyanna, but I didn't realize the harshness of dumping nor that it happens often. Dumping involves either directly saying to the other woman, "I don't want to be friends with you any more. You aren't cool, you bore me," or something in that vein. Or it may be the sudden silence: phone calls unreturned, emails and texts unanswered. The dumpee is left perplexed, wondering, "What did I do wrong?" And that's the point that really struck me--women who are dumped too often see themselves as inadequate, unworthy of the friendship that was, however briefly, bestowed upon them. As in a lot of life's problems, it takes two to tango--a self-absorbed, ambitious, unthinking woman, perhaps also insecure but more brazen about her defenses, to dump, and an insecure, self-conscious woman with a dump-me sign on her face. It may well be why some women refuse to establish close relationships with other women--and I do know women like that.
The book, a collection of personal essays, is recommended reading for all women--it will make you look at your relationships, analyze your role in the friendship, study whether or not you're nurturing the friendship or simply leeching off it. I think we all play all those roles, though I was cheered by one woman who wrote that she could never dump anyone. The woman she dumped would always take away a part of her.
I have known several women I might have liked to dump--some that wore me down in various ways, whether by negative or critical attitude, neediness, clinginess. But I never could have done it. It's just not in my heart.
Another personal observation: it's dangerous for women to have just one relationship with another woman. Because when that sours,  you're left stranded. I think we're perfectly capable of having meaningful relationships, each a bit different, with a variety of women. Today, on a rainy dull day, I was forcefully reminded of that.
I had lunch plans with a colleague and dear friend from my former office, but I had to change them because I was to be at home awaiting delivery between noon and three of a TV--it came at six. But Melinda was perfectly agreeable to lunch at my house, and I fixed salmon cakes, roasted cabbage slices, and sautéed spinach. We had a perfectly delightful time and a good visit, much of our talk taken up with the world of Texas books, a love we share, but we also talked of family and grandchildren and our futures. I like that we're always looking ahead.
This evening, as I was still waiting for the blasted TV, a longtime friend (35 years?) who once again lives nearby walked over with her dog for a glass of wine. (The dog is a whole other story for another blog.) We talked about dogs and books and cooking and who knows what and were perfectly comfortable.
I am blessed with good friendships, but I work hard to maintain them and rarely give up on a friendship. I think there's an art to that, and some of the people in Dumped haven't perfected it. Yet it's within anyone's grasp.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

DIY and the dripping faucet

Couldn't catch the drip in the photo
We live in a world of acronyms, probably due to texting, but I am always slow to figure them out. A colleague would write LOL to me for months before I knew what she was saying. The latest I figured out is DIY, and then I realized it didn't apply to me at all! I never have been much interested in DIY projects--turning everyday items into cute little things they were never meant to be, all the amazing things you can do with empty thread spools or a batch of corks (I save them but don't know why) or even toilet paper rolls (Sophie eats them, given a chance). A few of my grandchildren have sad examples of my forays back into the art of knitting; a very few pots in my kitchen cabinet are remnants of my pottery days (broke one recently and I really was sad about it); thank goodness, my macramé attempts have all vanished. Thee days my creativity is limited to writing and cooking. Those two keep me plenty busy.
But I used to think it was my responsibility to DIY with some household repairs. I think at one point I could even take a u-joint apart and unclog it--now I use poisons that I resent or a baking soda recipe that I found online. Wonder where I put those directions? And since my children have forbidden me to climb, I wait for a tall person to come along and change some light bulbs. Lately I've been waiting for Christian to empty my recycle bin--if it gets heavy, I'm unsure of my balance crossing the porch. I have to ask myself carefully if this reliance on others is a symptom of aging or laziness--either way, I don't come out smelling like a rose. Almost in defiance, I emptied the recycle myself this morning.
This train of thought was prompted today by the fact that my kitchen sink faucet won't quit dripping. The sound is like water torture,  and I have nightmares about my water bill. But I was sure I could fix it. Sailed into the hardware yesterday to ask for a washer, only to be told they came in all sizes and I should bring the whole unit at the end of the faucet with me. Last night in a fit of determination, I unscrewed it, cleaned out some gunk, put it back together again, and was amazed at how forcefully the water flowed--I'd forgotten the little filter. So I did it all again. Screwed it on as tightly as I could. Still drips. Now I don't know if I did it wrong or just didn't get it back together tightly enough--or I really do need a new washer. Good thing Christian is coming for supper.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Do Not Pass Go; Go Directly to Jail

My first novel was for young adults, After Pa Was Shot, published in 1978 and set in a small East Texas town in the early years of the twentieth century. A teacher friend read it and said, "My superintendent would never allow this in our library if he read it." Me? Pollyanna? It seems it contained the word "kike." The years around the turn of the century were years of immigration, and European immigrants who didn't go to Ellis Island often ended up in Galveston, from where they made their way north to the towns of East Texas. Many were Jewish peddlers and their families. The word passed the classic historical test: appropriate to time and place.
Censorship in education is not new, but it's taken a strange twist these days--jail time. A substitute teacher in Ohio has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for showing an "inappropriate" movie to five classes. Granted it was inappropriate, and it was a bad call to show it without viewing it and then to continue showing it after she knew the content. But jail? Another state is about to pass a law where teachers can go to jail for assigning inappropriate books. The trouble with all this is who decides appropriate vs. inappropriate? Are we imposing someone's personal morality code on our students, narrowing their options for reading? That will cut out classics that they should read. I believe, for instance, that  To Kill a Mockingbird has been on the banned list several times, along with Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, The Color Purple, Beloved, The Lord of the Flies, and 1984. Would you send a teacher to jail for assigning those works? Some right-wingers, guardians of our morality, well might.
Education is in the midst of a controversy right now--should students be taught to the test or should they be encouraged to explore, investigate, question, develop critical thinking skills. Teaching to the test involves memorization, not creativity. Censorship also stifles creativity. The Nazis had a strict censorship program--they wanted people to obey and blindly believe, not to question and think critically. If we are to raise a generation of national and world leaders, we need to teach our students to think critically, to question what they read. If they read something inappropriate, the teacher should discuss it and listen to their questions.
I always remember the sound advice given to parents worried about the moment a child asks a question about s-e-x. Answer the question fully and completely, but don't go any farther. Don't load them down with more information than they asked for. Seems to me the same explanation holds for teaching materials.
But send a teacher to jail? That's going to discourage a lot of college students from entering that profession--a loss to the whole system.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Haiku, snow, and words

I have an internet friend who I admire greatly for many things, among them the fact that she writes beautiful haiku, seemingly with ease. Today was a day meant for haiku, but I don't have the words for that lovely brevity. Last night, when I looked out the back at the deck, in the light I could see big snowflakes drifting gracefully down. If I looked out the front to the distance, an empty street stretched before me and the air was almost fog-like it was so thick with snow. It apparently kept on until about three in the morning--I wouldn't know. But this morning everything was covered with rounded mounds of snow--no tracks, no footprints, no tire marks. The world was white and still and wonderful. Then about noon, the dripping began. Tonight the streets and sidewalks are clear, the driveway almost so. More functional but not nearly as pretty. Tomorrow it will all go away.
It was another day home alone--Jacob's dad took him sledding and kept him all day. Tonight they've gone to the airport to get Jordan, just back from a five-day work trip (so she says) in sunny southern Mexico. Sophie has been good company. I managed to spend way too much time on Facebook but I also wrote my thousand words (okay, honesty, I still have 300 to go) and read some on the book I'm  to review. Evening is my productive time, and I'm getting ready to get back to work.
On Facebook today, Republican lawmakers have been busy. Ted Cruz hasn't given up his dream of denying health care to the poor--is that some kind of Darwinian survival of the fittest test? A lawmaker in Arkansas (I think) gave his two adopted children away--to a man who had raped one of them. That makes the adoptive mom in me scream in pain for those very young girls. Another Midwestern lawmaker says President Obama is about to make it illegal to prosecute African Americans for any crime, and then there's always the NRA which claims that banning ammunition for AR-15s (I may have the caliber wrong) is the first insidious step toward total gun control. If those are the president's goals, he better hurry along--he only has less than two  years. Paranoia continues to astound me.
And then there's the Facebook offer: I could have a set of Golden Girls prayer candles of my very own--be still my heart. I can hear Betty White's laughter all the way to Texas.
Back to the world tomorrow--I hope.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The Joy (?) of Facebook

Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech brought out the best and the worst of people in Facebook--both conservatives and liberals, and the reaction emphasized something that's been bothering me of late: the unbelievable crudeness of language on Facebook. At the risk of sounding like an the old fuddy-duddy some of my grandkids think I am, I have to say I'm appalled. Of course as a liberal, I'd like to say the conservatives are much worse, but unfortunately it's not true. This language comes from extremists on both sides.
Don't get me wrong. I love Facebook; I'm almost an addict. I've made many new friends there, I've gotten to know acquaintances better, and I've promoted my books, made helpful professional contacts. Sometimes it's the first way I hear of breaking national news since I don't keep the TV on when I'm working, and many times I find intelligent discussion of current economic and political conditions which enlarge my understanding.
But the use of epithets--from comparison to anatomical parts to threats of impeachment and hanging and banning from the country--strike me in terribly poor taste.
I'm afraid--and this isn't a new argument--that it reflects a decline in manners and civility in this day. We all know that were there was once collegiality and cooperation in Congress, now there is open hostility--and followers reflect that hostility in terms that should humiliate the speaker and not the subject. President Obama is of course the primary target--I once had a Facebook friend who referred to the president as the Kenyan until I insisted his mother was American and Anglo; thereafter he called him  the half-Kenyon. And that's the least of the insults. I think it's the anatomical words that bother me most--asshole being one of the milder. And of course liberal use of the F-bomb, which, sorry, I still don't believe belongs in polite society. The boys may say what they like out behind the barn.
Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell come in for their share of abusive language--and not being at all a fan of either one, I find it tempting to use slurs. But I also know that logical argument, well researched, is the best offense. Not blind accusations that sound wonderful and have more leaks than a fishing net.
Politics has probably always been full of slurs and slam--the Lincoln/Douglas debates come to mind--but frequently I long for the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when gentlemen were gentlemen and women were ladies. And people had respect for the president, elected to lead our country, and for other elected officials.
So here's a question to ponder: Have politicians perhaps brought some of this on themselves, by their behavior?
PS Sorry there was no blog last night. I actually felt creative and knew where I wanted to go next with my novel. Couldn't let go of the thread.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Emerging from hibernation

My house in the snow
I feel like I've been housebound for ten days when it's actually only been three full days. Last week in spite of ice and snow, I got out to dinner twice, the grocery store once. The three days I was home I had company twice--once for wine and once for dinner. So I wasn't really as pitiful as I felt.
Still today when I could freely walk down the driveway, I felt like I was coming out of  a long winter's sleep.
When I'm home alone too much, my anxiety builds up and I get too introspective--like, "Hmmm--how do I feel now?" Even last night, after my company left, I was a bundle of nerves, possibly due to the incident with Sophie, partly because I was determined to get out today. My lunch date cancelled, so I went grocery shopping--we're supposed to have sleet again Thursday and possibly be still frozen on Friday. So I stocked up on essentials--wine, cottage cheese, bread, and the like. In spite of nervousness about emerging into the world, I felt like a normal shopper in the store, talked to people, etc.
For the first time since last Thursday, Jacob was here and we did homework all. darn. afternoon. That boy can find more distractions--he has to go to the bathroom, he has to call his father, he has to love on Sophie. It was wearing on my nerves but good to have him back in the house. He was studying Africa, and I know nothing about the geography nor all those small countries, except I could usually help him with pronunciation. He explained to me several times why I was wrong about Addis Adaba--but then he used that answer. "I'm not arguing," he said. It's now an old joke between us.
Update on Sophie's temper tantrum. Vet says that is just what it was--misplaced aggression. She was really mad at the other dog but couldn't get at him, so Jacob and I were both handy and got the snarls and snaps. Punishment is not the answer. Ignoring her by going into another room is recommended, which we did. Jacob and I were both wrong to reach for her collar, and I was wrong to smack her in instinctive anger, something I'm not sure I've ever done to a dog. He said to watch her eyes: if they're dilated, she's upset. And of course if her ears are back. He recommended just walking away until she "settles." When she does, give her a command, like "sit." And reward her if she does it. Soon, he promises, the command will replace the need to walk away and will be her signal to settle. We'll see. Who knows? We may never have another incident (fingers crossed). But it struck me that might be a good technique to try on Jacob too.
A bonus of a day still much at home alone: I wrote about 1200 words. I read about someone who writes in whatever fifteen minutes she finds handy. I would normally think, "Oh, I only have fifteen minutes. I can't get into it." You know what? I can, did several times today.
Somehow the result of all this is that I'm really tired tonight. G'night all.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

A snarl and a snap

My sweet, loveable Sophie, who everyone adores, snarled and snapped at me tonight. It's the second time in recent weeks she's done that, but I dismissed the first time because I think I woke her out of a sound sleep by reaching for her collar. And the incident passed quickly--she seemed unaware and came for her nightly tummy rubs. Tonight it was willful disobedience.
Friend Phil was trying out the new sectional in the sunroom, sitting quietly petting his seeing-eye dog. Sophie adores the dog, Santiago, but she also thinks she should be first in line for any affection in this house. She hopped up on the sofa. I'm trying to teach her that the new sofa is off limits. When I catch her on the sofa in the living room and say, "Sophie, get down," she looks guilty and hops off. Didn't work tonight.
Jacob got her off once, but she hopped back up. He reached for her collar again, and she snarled badly enough to scare him away. So I marched over and reached for her collar--only to be greeted with a snarl and a snap. I did rap her smartly on her nose and say, "No!"--which earned me stinging knuckles because they came in contact with her bared teeth.
Christian said, "If she were my dog, I'd punish her," and I agreed but I didn't know how to punish her. I sure wasn't going to reach for her again. We all decided to go into the living room and ignore her.
Obviously, she knew she'd done wrong. She followed me everywhere I went all evening--if I was having wine in the living room, she was at my feet, staring at me with soulful eyes. If I was in the kitchen, so was she--watching me nervously. When we had dinner, she sat right by my chair. Eventually we made friends, but I don't know if the lesson will stick with her. It will stick with me--I've learned not to reach for her collar and to always make sure she knows it's me and is awake.
But I need some way to deal with this if it happens again.
Jacob helpfully said, "Lock her in her crate for the rest of the party." (A quick dinner for four is a party to him.) I explained she wouldn't connect the two. She's very subject to bribery, but there ought to be a better way to make her understand that is unacceptable behavior. I'll appreciate any advice from dog-training friends. I don't exactly want to risk my fingers again.
Sophie will be four in May, and I certainly hope this isn't a sign she's going to be a crotchety old lady.
The good news is that the world is thawing--not going to be in the twenties again for three nights, but then watch out. Rain and freezing temperatures. I'm going out tomorrow if I do no more than drive around the block. And if we can tolerate this stuff one more week, we should be headed into the sixties. Come, spring....