Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween and a delightfully soggy day

An angel and a wolf
Photos by Katherine Smith

Halloween in my neighborhood is amazing. I live in an inner city neighborhood in Fort Worth, Texas, and we get over a thousand trick-or-treaters. The streets are jammed with cars and pedestrians. Special ambulance crews bring disabled children to trick or treat, and I’ve heard that some churches bus students here.

My neighbors, Jay and Susan, have established a tradition of Halloween on their porch. They buy bags and bags of candy, invite a few neighbors, and serve delicious stew—this year ladled over colcannon, an Irish dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage. It was wonderful.

Kids—and adults—start coming about six o’clock, and usually we wrap it up about eight. I came home by 8:30 tonight, and I can still hear and see cars, so I’m sitting in my dark house with only the computer light on. In all the throngs of children, I rarely recognize any. Tonight I knew one boy, grandson of friends who were on the porch with us. Ours is a neighborhood focused on children, and I don’t know where and how the kids I know spend the evening—but the kids who come are from other neighborhoods.

The children are the wonderful thing about the evening—their expressions range from pure joy to cautious, but uniformly they are polite, take what is given them without grabbing for more, and say thank you. Parents are equally polite and grateful. Susan’s father and I are the senior citizens, so we are absolved from sitting on the step and giving out candy but everyone else takes a turn.

Otherwise, the day was pleasant—I began moving into the bathroom, moved everything out of the small bathroom and realized too late there is not yet a mirror in the new one for putting on makeup. Still it was good to get a start on the process. My brother and sister-in-law came about 1:30 so he could give me an osteopathic soft tissue treatment. He sure knows how to find the spots in spasm and release them—it hurts while he does it, but I am much better afterward. And I walk more confidently. Coming to treat me involves taking most of his day because he lives an hour and a half away—yes, I’m grateful beyond words. After they left, I had a bit of wine and a good long nap. Perfect way to spend a soggy day, although the rain was long gone in time for trick-or-treaters tonight.

Tomorrow is All Saints Day, the time we remember loved ones who have passed on. If you study the Mexican tradition of El Dia de los Muertos, you realize ours is a corrupted and watered down version of a rich tradition meant to honor the dead.

Friday, October 30, 2015

A treasury (?) of trivia

Where did October go? I can’t believe tomorrow is Halloween and the time changes and we are about to be plunged into winter. Seems I was just dreading summer. As I write thunder is rolling around in the sky, and the TV tells me we are due another round of storms. I woke this morning to a great crash of thunder and the immediate question, “How do I get Jacob to school?” When he was up and coherent (takes a while) I said I’d call his parents and ask one of them to bring his poncho.

“I don’t need it.”

“It’s pouring down rain.”

Scornfully, “Who wears a poncho to school?”

I guess only nerds who don’t want to get wet. A neighbor grabbed him from the porch on her way with her boys—and commodious umbrellas—and he apparently survived nicely. Though he blames me for the fact that he can’t get wifi on his iPad at my house. It does little good to point out that my computer and iPad get it just fine. He’s sure it’s all my fault.

Sophie went to the salon today—well, the salon came to her. But she looks adorable with her new “do.” (See above.) I will say that the young woman who drove that mobile grooming station hitched to I don’t know what was talented—she backed it up perfectly into my skinny 1920s driveway. I know grown men who can’t drive up that driveway, and lots of friends can’t drive down. I bless one who said since it made it so much easier for me, she made a point of learning.

At one point, I had the substitute cleaning lady (sent by the woman who usually cleans), the groomer in the driveway, and a crew from the tile company who came to install a small shelf in the new bathroom. I only wanted them all to go away so I could take a shower—finally got a shower at three-thirty.

Lesson learned: I have to eat something in the morning. This morning my honey-sweetened green tea was so good and took the edge off any hunger. I thought I wasn’t hungry, wasn’t shaky, would eat an early lunch. By the time I fixed my lunch—cottage cheese and veggies—I was so shaky the lady who was cleaning heard the dishes clattering, came and insisted on carrying my plate to my desk. With a bit of food in me, I was much better. It’s a lesson I keep learning over and over again.

Worried a bit about my Austin family with storms and flooding, though my daughter assures me they’re all safe. Boys were under tornado alert all day at school, and the pictures coming out of Central Texas are pretty horrifying. Our rain hasn’t been anything like that!

It’s been a clear-my-desk kind of week, and I have it almost cleared. Today I read—finished one novel, started Susan Elia McNeal’s Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante. Nothing like rainy-day reading, but I know I’ll want a project soon. Ideas flickering around in the back of my mind.

Halloween is not my favorite holiday, though I remember enjoying it as a kid. Today, I was a bit annoyed by the cast from TODAY in their silly costumes. Jacob had a costume parade and went as—Jacob. No costume. But for all of you who celebrate, happy days. I hope it doesn’t rain on your parade.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Remodeling by committee

I am blessed to be surrounded by so many people who care about me. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am. But they are also full of advice. Lewis Bundock, the half of my contractor team that I usually deal with, declares that we are redoing the bathroom by committee, and it’s probably true. Everyone has a suggestion, even a criticism. Tonight the bathroom is essentially done, except for the glass around the shower and the glass for the long vanity mirror and the one in the original medicine chest—both of which will be beveled, now that beveled glass is cheaper to reproduce. Meantime I can begin to move things back into my bathroom, which will be a great joy—and I can use the commode instead of wending my way through the whole house at three in the morning.

But tonight, some members of the unofficial committee were critical—of the work and of me. (I hasten to add that Jordan was not here.) The paint on the drawer fronts needs another coat, and the patch spots need more covering. My response is that if it passes Lewis’ inspection, which it did, it’s good enough for me. No, they responded, he’s the contractor—you’re the customer. So I went in and looked again—wood grain shows a bit in the drawers, but they are new wood. I found on little blurp on the molding around the medicine cabinet, but it doesn’t bother me at all.  I guess the criticism bothers me more. Lewis and his brother, Jim, have taken extraordinary care of me and my house for about twenty-two years, and I’m not going to get critical now. Most people think they do outstanding work—even the city inspector told me that. And I remember a detail-oriented friend from out of town looking at a new wood floor they’d supervised and saying, “Now that’s quality work.”

I find the same thing with my bum hip and leg—most people have a suggestion, another cure, something I should be doing and am not. I figure once I put myself in the hands of a physician, I should trust him or her (in this case, both). Not blindly. I realize that we must each be our own health advocate these days, and I try to ask intelligent questions rather than blindly accepting a doctor’s advice. But once I’m convinced that a therapy is right for me, I don’t want a chorus of other ideas.

I think what I’m saying is that I’m a reasonably intelligent person, and I can chart my own course through life. I am so grateful to have so many around me who love and care for me, but I want a little room to lead my life as I see fit. I’ve muddled through for a lot of years—I’ll probably make it a few more.

And know, dear committee members, that I love each and every one of you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Guilty Pleasure of Reading

Since I was talking about the guilt of happiness last night, it seems only fitting to move on to the guilt of reading. Reading is a lifelong passion of mine that started when I was a young child and my mom read Chicken Little and the Wind in the Willows. In grade school. I remember summers when I rode my bike to the local branch of the Chicago Public Library, took out a stack of books, brought them home and spent the day reading them, and went back the next day. It was probably a mile from my house, and those days are gone forever: if my nine-year-old grandson wanted to ride a mile by himself, I’d be horrified and strictly forbid it. I do remember that my reading habit didn’t make me popular with neighborhood kids.

I guess it was when I became an adult with responsibilities that the pleasure of reading became attached with a tinge of guilt. There were other things I should be doing, and reading was (and is) such pure pleasure. I found myself saving my book until the last thing at night, a habit that persists—taking an hour out of the day to read seems a bit slothful to me, although I did do it yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Taking advantage of the short period when we have deck weather.

Author Susan Wittig Albert reminds me that as authors reading is research and education for us. No reason to feel we’re neglecting more important things—we’re doing what’s important to our careers. I do know over the last years, since I’ve been writing mysteries, I have developed a much more acute sense of what I think works in others’ mysteries and what doesn’t. I’m no arbiter of taste, and what suits me may not suit the next person but I’ve learned to spot plot discrepancies, out-and-out blunders, awkward wording, the things that would mar a mystery of any subgenre. And by seeing those things in the works of others, I have I hope been able to strengthen my own manuscripts.

So one of my current goals is to read more—during the day, at night, whenever I feel like it. Even, as I will tonight, leave unfinished business on my computer of desk to read. What am I reading? A Wee Murder in My Shop by Fran Stewart. Who can resist a 14th-century Scottish ghost?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Guilt of Happiness

Today was one of October’s “bright blue days”—remember that poem from grade school days? Perfect temperature, beautiful sunshine, a perfect day. I played “hookey” from work and sat on the deck in the late afternoon, reading a book. Jacob said he‘d join me because he was doing his reading. He didn’t last long, however—bugs made him say the thought he go back inside.

I sat there, read a bit, contemplated the world a bit. So pleasant. And Jacob was perfect all afternoon—did his homework, visited with Chandry, wrestled my garbage carts (one very heavy) down to the street, and then brought in and opened three cartons of books from Amazon. The print copies of my mysteries are going away due to the publisher closing down, and I wanted to have some on hand. Now to find a place to stash them.

Jacob and I had dinner at the Old Neighborhood Grill—neighbors’ night—and had a fine time. I’m always proud to take him there because he behaves so well, carries on conversations with the adults, and generally eats his dinner—which he doesn’t always do at my house.

But sitting on the deck, I thought about the fact that many of us feel guilty if we’re too happy. I said something the other day about sandbagging ourselves, and I think it’s true. I don’t know if it’s our Puritan heritage or not—our country is so diverse these days that surely not all of us bear the burden of the Puritan world view. Though I suspect there’s more than a touch of Calvinism lingering in my Scottish bones. But why when I feel perfectly wonderful do I feel the need to curb that feeling? To somehow shoot myself in the foot. Is it that I know there’s so much suffering in the world that it’s wrong for me to be happy? Is it that I’ve absorbed that Puritan consciousness that we are all sinners? I was horrified one day one day when Jacob brought home a Bible verse to memorize that said we were all sinners and had let God down—heavy thoughts to put on a nine-year-old—or someone my age.

I don’t believe in an angry God. I believing in a loving one who wants his children to be happy and follow his commandments. Where does this guilt come from? Darned if I know, but I’m going to do my best to defeat it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Reflections on a presidential campaign that started way too early

Friend and best-selling author Susan Wittig Albert reminded me today that she kept a year-long blog and published it as An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days. It was, she said, an election year. (Watch for her forthcoming fictional biography, Loving Eleanor, due in February, about the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, her assistant and confidante.)

Well, as I said earlier, I’m trying to do sort of “a year in the life of” with my blogs, though I don’t know what I’ll do when I’m done. But Susan jogged my awareness that already this is an election year—and since my year-long blog marathon runs from July to July, we’ll be full into it by the time I finish. So herewith some thoughts on the candidates, with the caveat that I am an avowed and outspoken progressive.

So let’s start with the conservatives. What is often called the clown car has two who don’t really seem to want to be president. Jeb Bush has said he’d rather do “really cool things” than be vilified and expected to do that to others. (Glad I don’t have to be anywhere near that Bush family meeting to be held in Houston, maybe this week.) Marco Rubio says he’s tired of his job as senator with all the gridlock and restrictions, and as a consequence he rarely shows up to vote. And he wants to be president? He doesn’t even know gridlock yet.

Then there’s Donald Trump, who said he was polite to the first protestors, more firm with the second. Some of the third were physically attacked by his supporters, and I heard him say today that any future encounters would get more violent. Also he’s on record as hating brown people. What has our country become that we would even look twice at a man like that?

Fortunately, or not, Dr. Ben Carson has pulled ahead of him in the polls, supposedly because of his calm, soft-spoken manner. I watched him on TV last night and was impressed by that gentleness. But he has shown a remarkable lack of understanding of history and international politics. I have no doubt he was a good surgeon and is a well-motivated, kind man. But he shouldn’t be president.

So now we get to the Democratic candidates—Hillary and Bernie dominate the field, though I think Martin O’Malley makes a lot of sense and has a good record. He simply doesn’t have the visibility—he’s young, and he may gain it another election year. Meanwhile, just my personal opinion, I love a lot of Bernie Sanders’ ideas but I think he’s volatile and doesn’t have the control or background to run a country. Yes, I have some grave doubts about Hillary, but I like when she called herself a pragmatic progressive. I think she has a good visions for America and the political background and knowledge to run things efficiently.

As a friend of mine says, “It’s early days yet.” We shall see. A year from now my thoughts may seem so irrelevant. Anybody want to comment?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Eating Green Noodles on a Sunday night

Doesn’t that sound like a poem title? It’s not quite that picturesque. My temporary tenant is a vegetarian, so I was going to make a family favorite—green (spinach) noodles with lemon butter, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, scallions, and a bit of pesto. She came home from church with an excruciating backache, went to bed, and hasn’t been heard from since. So I ate green noodles, alone, at my desk, and found them quite satisfying. Besides, I have lots left for lunch, dinner, whatever tomorrow.

I inadvertently invited my old friend, anxiety, back this morning. Slept better than in a long time last night (and later in the morning), got up feeling great, walking without hesitation, no pain, etc. Got as ready for the day as I ever do when staying home and sat at my computer. As time went by, I could feel myself getting more anxious. Don’t know if it’s because I thought about how happy I am at home and how, yes, I fear a bit going into the world alone—like the grocery store. Or maybe it was simply because I hadn’t eaten. About ten, I took action and fixed two poached eggs on cheese and toast plus took my medications—slowly made a difference. But I had two reactions and one is not pretty—sometimes we deliberately sandbag ourselves; feeling great, I was—oh, I don’t know—perhaps thinking that wasn’t right and I invited anxiety back. But two I knew how to deal with it.

The rest of the day was fine—I got a lot done, felt frustrated on projects that stymied me, cleared off my desk including going through three cooking magazines, and now I’m getting ready to read. Two human visitors—Chandry and a friend came in briefly she went to bed. But Sophie and I have been content and visited.

Speaking of Sophie, I have a guest blog up today at Writers and Other Animals about dogs and their intuition. I often wonder how Sophie knows some of the things she does, and I used that intuition in the plot of Murder at Peacock Mansion, due out in early November. Stop by and see if you agree:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pea mash, rain, and optimism

I had a topic for this blog—really I did. But it’s disappeared, perhaps into the fog of a lovely long nap on a rainy day. As the picture shows, my Fort Worth family is surviving in the rain at Waco and of course is cheered by Baylor’s victory. Even though the rain has let up, I will be glad when they’re safely back in Fort Worth tomorrow.

Chandry, my temporary tenant, and I went to Central Market about eleven, assuring ourselves no one else would be there on a rainy day. Wrong! Half the world was shopping. But it cheered me to go—I think subconsciously I’ve been an invalid for a couple of months, and I didn’t feel that way today. Felt capable and independent.

A long nap this afternoon found me still lying in bed sort of daydreaming at 6:30—okay I didn’t go to sleep until 4:00. Love those late afternoon naps on a rainy day. Got up and fixed supper—experimenting with pea mash with watercress—not a success. I’ve done better with pea mash in smaller batches. It’s simply frozen petite peas, butter, salt and pepper—I love it. But tonight mashing the peas took forever, I think because I had too many. I had seen a recipe for adding watercress (which I adore) but decided to invent my own. The recipe called for cooking peas and watercress and then blending, but I thought that would end up mush, so I cooked and chopped the watercress and then kept mashing…and mashing…and mashing the peas with a potato masher. I couldn’t tell that the watercress added a thing, and the peas were never satisfactorily mashed. Next time, the blender. Meantime the leftover, uncooked cress will make a great salad with cherry tomatoes, blue cheese and lemon juice—one of my favorites.

To accompany my failed mashed peas, I had Totino’s tuna straight out of the jar. It comes in several flavors, but I like that marinated in olive oil and oregano. So good. Sometimes I mix it with cottage cheese but tonight I ate it plain.

Sorry to hear that Sera, a local restaurant, is closing as of tonight. Not four blocks from my house, it was a convenient dinner stop with small plates and a nice wine selection. Sort of originally built on the idea of tapas, but it strayed from that concept. Betty and I went there for our weekly dinner often, and I will miss it. Called John, the owner, tonight to say so and wish him well. He’s got a good idea, but it needs to be refined.

The rain is moving on, and I am becoming more and more a believer in barometric pressure. This morning I was in a horribly pessimistic mood, maybe because I didn’t sleep well but mostly, I think, because of atmospheric conditions. I admit the trip to Central Market cheered me, but tonight I find myself happy, upbeat and optimistic. I think it’s because the rain is moving out. Not that I don’t realize how much we need it and what a blessing it is. But I do think weather conditions affect us. I knew a psychiatrist’s wife once who said when a storm was coming, her husband’s phone rang off the wall. May be a long winter if El Niño predictions come true. Meantime, curses on climate change non-believers. Why do they think we have just had the strongest hurricane ever? Glad to hear that damage in Mexico wasn’t nearly what was expected.

Sweet dreams, everyone.

Friday, October 23, 2015

From drought to floods—overnight

I was mesmerized this morning, watching the eleven o’clock news report—pictures of flooded streets, reports of closed highways. It rained much of yesterday afternoon but overnight a gentle rain turned into downpours which continued all day. Newscasters advised people not to drive unless they had to and particularly not to head south out of the Metroplex.

Just as Jacob headed for school, a horrendous clap of thunder hit right over my house. Impressive thunder continued off and on throughout the morning. Sophie usually is not bothered by storms, but this morning she needed frequent reassurance that she was safe. She spent much of the morning at my feet in the “safe spot” under my desk. It made me think of my Aussie, Scooby, who was terrified of storms and hid there often, raking my legs with his nails in his fright. I wondered if it rains and thunders on the Rainbow Bridge—probably not.

So where was my Fort Worth family headed during all this? Waco. Straight into the worst of it. They were going for the Baylor homecoming, and I knew it was useless to try to dissuade them. I didn’t even try. Just said a prayer for them, fed them lunch, and sent them on their way. This afternoon, after a late nap, I woke up to a message that they had arrived safely, and pictures on Facebook testified that they were enjoying the activities.

It all sounds like a miserable experience to me, but I am neither a Baylor fan nor a football fan. I am mildly interested in TCU football, but I wouldn’t go to a game in the rain. It’s supposed to rain all day tomorrow too. Thank you, monster storm Patricia. We wanted rain, but not like this. I worry about the people in Mexico, many of whom are ill prepared to deal with the worst hurricane in history…and the people in Puerto Vallarta, who thought they were going on a carefree vacation.

Meantime I spent the day playing the recluse—mostly at my desk. Sent off a guest blog, made great progress on formatting Desperate for Death for publication, sending in an insurance request. Periodically it pours and then all is quiet. Kind of spooky.

I’ve enjoyed allowing myself time to read mysteries this week. Just finished A Dish Best Served Cold: An Italian Kitchen Mystery, by Rosie Genova. Recommend it highly. Looking forward to starting a new book tonight—quite a selection on my iPad and choosing will be hard.

Y’all stay safe and dry. Don’t go out if you don’t have to.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

God bless a rainy day

If you live in an old house, a part of your ear is always alert for the sound of running water—when no water should be running. A while ago I was at my desk, wondering what that sound I heard was. Rain! It’s been so long that it took a while for it to register on my ear and my brain. Rain, glorious rain. It actually began to rain gently while I was at the deli with a friend for lunch, and it rained off and on all afternoon, most of it gentle, the kind that loosens the soil and soaks in so that if we get a heavy downpour it won’t just run off. Tonight I hear distant rumblings of thunder. I love a good storm as long as there are no tornadoes.

It looks as though moisture systems from the west and south could collide over our area, which might lead to spectacular weather. Supposed to rain all weekend, with totals up to eight inches. Not bad at all, although there will be flooding, especially at low water crossings, viaducts, and some intersections. I personally plan to spend most of the weekend at my desk, reading and working (note that I’m not sure of the order of those two).

Jordan, Christian, and Jacob are headed for Waco tomorrow for the Baylor homecoming weekend, which also promises to be wet and soggy. I admire my daughter’s attitude: “If it rains, we have ponchos and we’ll make it fun.” I can think of few things I’d like to do less than sit in the rain at a football game.

Jacob was a hoot this afternoon. Came home and headed for his tetherball. Came running into the house saying it was gone. So I asked where he put it last night and he told me, said it’s not there, insisted I come look. I got as far as the deck, while he was in the driveway—and got a sheepish look on his face. It was where he’d left it.

I called him in to do have a snack and do his homework. He wanted ice cream. Me: No, definitely not. Too much sugar. Jacob: Okay, then I want waffles. Me: No, too much sugar—the waffle argument went on for a bit, with me holding firm, until he burst out with, “Why do you care about my health?” The absurdity of what he’d said hit us both at the same time, and we got the giggles. One good thing about that kid is that he can laugh at himself. He had sparkling grape juice and popcorn. And then he said, “Juju, the painter heard every word of our argument.” Oh, the lessons I could have given at that moment.

By golly, next thing he was outside with the tetherball again. I ordered him in to do his homework and was rewarded with the familiar complaint, “Why do you have to yell at me?” Me: because you don’t listen to me. Jacob, who had gone to look at the bathroom progress: well, you don’t have to yell so loud. It echoes in here and hurts my ears. I wanted to ask how his ears survive when four or five boys are playing with the tetherball. All in all, I decided he gave me the best laugh I’ve had in days.

And he spelled all the words right, though I circled the word “argue.” He asked if he spelled it wrong, and I said no, I just thought it was an appropriate word. He said, “Meanie,” but he was smiling.

Tonight? A glass of wine, a book, listening to the rain, and early to bed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Stand-Alone Book or a Series

Please welcome my Wednesday guest, Nancy G. West. When Nancy was seven, she and her mother wrote simple poetry to each other on special occasions. In high school, the Library Journal Pegasus published one of her poems. At eighteen, she learned journalists were underpaid and English majors sold lingerie, so she studied general business at the University of Texas (Austin and Houston) and earned a BBA.
            A few years later, married, with two daughters, she realized she had to study English literature and write. She wrote articles, poetry, and the biography of artist Jose Vives-Atsara. She founded Book Publishers of Texas, planned their conventions, and edited their trade journal for seven years. Her poem, "Time to Lie," was featured by
“Theme and Variations” for broadcast on NPR.
            Then Aggie Mundeen captured her attention. Anyone who has tried to start over,
get in shape, stumbled into trouble, or loved the wrong man will appreciate Aggie Mundeen.

Please welcome Nancy West.


            Some books are meant to stand alone. Others are meant to be part of a series. In my suspense novel, Nine Days to Evil, twenty-three-year-old Meredith Laughlin enters graduate school despite objections from her physician/husband. Smart but naïve, Meredith watches her life unravel and discovers her perfect existence is not all it seems. A stalker trails her. Her pregnant friend is attacked. Evil closes in, threatening her life. To fight back, she uses knowledge from her classes in abnormal psychology and Shakespeare's Othello. Meredith's story is distinctive: stand-a-lone suspense with an academic tie-in.

            In Meredith's classes, however, Aggie Mundeen pops up: "Professor Sammis called roll, looking pleased when Meredith answered. He paused with particular interest at the paradox of Agatha Mundeen: intense, intelligent eyes peered from a haphazardly made-up face. Meredith thought Aggie’s figure and carriage suggested a tailored, conservative outfit. What Aggie wore was a shapeless nylon warm-up."

At thirty-eight, Aggie, has overcome a difficult background and risen to vice-president at a Chicago bank. She’s single and eager to start a new life. She's been around long enough not to take herself or others so seriously, has a wry viewpoint, an irrepressible sense of humor, and fears only one thing: descending into middle-age decrepitude. She writes the "Stay Young With Aggie" column and searches for remedies to keep readers (and herself) young. Her background, world view, fearlessness, dangerous curiosity and obsessive quest for youth make her the perfect protagonist to sustain a series.

In fact, Aggie informed me she would not let me finish Meredith's story unless I promised to write a book about her—or maybe a series. Aggie usually gets her way.

In Fit to Be Dead, Aggie moves to Texas and has to shape up at the health club before anybody discovers she writes "Stay Young with Aggie." Rusty at flirting and klutzy with machines, she angers most of the male club members, then stumbles into murder. (Lefty Award Finalist for Best Humorous Mystery.)

In Dang Near Dead, named a "Must Read" by Southern Writers Magazine, Aggie convinces Meredith and attractive Detective Sam (a friend who preceded her to Texas), to join her at a dude ranch vacation in the Texas Hill Country. Besides wranglers, dudes, poison ivy and murder, what could go wrong?

In Smart, But Dead, released November 17, the Human Genome Projects is in full swing. Aggie hears scientists are finding genes linked to aging. She enrolls in class taught by a genetics expert and persuades Meredith to go. But the professor dislikes Aggie, and she stumbles into a campus corpse. Aggie assures San Antonio Detective Sam she'll stay out of his investigation. His frustration with her pesky intrusions creates a dicey relationship. But Aggie’s curiosity prevails, she probes for the killer, becomes the prime murder suspect and is on target to become next campus

Aggie needs a series to tell all her stories and time to file the rough edges of her contentious relationship with Sam. They become closer with each book, but in Smart, But Dead, she may have interfered beyond Sam's capacity to forgive.

Meredith's story became the prequel to Aggie Mundeen's series. Meredith has had time to witness Aggie's shenanigans, to reflect and to grow wiser. When Meredith is ready to tell me her next story, she'll let me know. Meanwhile, Aggie is the star.

Smart. Bit Dead/

Smart. Aggie Mundeen is smart.

But. But she’s also a little clumsy, irrepressible, and irresistible.

Dead. She might well end up dead if she continues nosing around the university where her questions are not wanted.

Smart, But Dead is the perfect combination of brains and heart. A tight mystery, an irrepressible heroine, and superb writing.” – James W. Ziskin, author of the Ellie Stone Mysteries and Anthony Award-Finalist for No Stone Unturned.


Nancy invites you to visit her at:

Twitter: @NancyG.West_


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Us Old Folks

I went to the TCU Retirees Luncheon today. I usually don’t go to these because they interfere with my nap before I get Jacob, but this time I felt the need to get out of the house and the speaker’s subject was one I’m most interested in. So I tagged along with Jeannie Chaffee, who was handing out name tags and door prize tickets and greeting everyone. Jeannie soon put me to work handing out name tags and asking those without tags to please sign a list and make a paste-on tag. I said afterward I’d much rather go to something like that with a job to do than just hang around.

First time I went to the Texas Book Festival without any official duties, I was like a fish out of water, wondering what I was doing there. One reason I don’t go anymore. Today handing out name tags was perfect—let me see and chat with a lot of people I haven’t seen for a while and was genuinely glad to see. Lunch was chicken—what can I say, except that the mashed potatoes (which I don’t need) were buttery and good.

The day’s topic was the new medical school to be co-sponsored by TCU and University of North Texas Health Sciences Center, which already houses the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, along with a variety of other educational programs, such as a pharmaceutical school. I admit I don’t come to this topic without some prejudice. I grew up with the osteopathic school (TCOM) and have a thoroughly osteopathic background, so I worry about the new M.D. school diminishing that program. Unlike many others, I don’t see the need for two schools training physicians in this city. But the speaker, from TCU, was convincing, and I bit my tongue to keep from asking questions. But when he talked about the difficulties of starting a medical school, I thought, “Been there, done that.” On a shoestring. I did have a brief chat with him afterward, and he was highly complementary of TCOM.

The medical school is a big gamble for TCU, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. In a complicated scenario, this will be a private school. UNTHSC tried for an M.D. program, but they are state-funded, and the state would not sanction the program. Hence this collaboration. Sitting back and watching will be fun.

Lasagna for dinner tonight. Jay made it over the weekend, but it just gets better and better. Did a lot more today with my renewed energy and attitude—laundry, dishwasher, garbage (I had help with that). Tonight I’m paying for it with a sore hip joint. Tomorrow is the nerve conduction test, so maybe they’ll decide on a diagnosis and we can go from there. Meantime I’m going to read a book and be lazy the rest of the evening.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Back from two-and-a-half days with my Austin family and feeling like a semi-new person. I did put work aside (okay, I did a little bit but only because I felt like it), read a lot, slept a lot, and really really ate a lot. Also spent a little time consciously reassessing and probably a lot more subconsciously, but I could feel my sense of joy in life returning.

My Austin family is a delight—Megan, Brandon, and I stayed up after the boys were in bed, drinking wine and talking about this, that, and politics. For the first time in forever, B. and I are not too far apart in our political assessments. Watching Megan is like watching a whirlwind in action—on a weekend when she said they had nothing going on, she attended three soccer games, went to the grocery twice, and served dinner to a total of nine adults and fifteen youngsters—no small feat but my oldest daughter pulled it off with grace.

Friday night we went to a bistro called Vino Vino in the Hyde Park area. Fun, interesting menu though I wimped out and ordered a slider—wish now I’d had the smoked trout salad. Brandon, the boys and I split an order of steak tartare—I think it’s pretty cool that a nine- and an eleven-year-old like steak tartare that well (Meg abstained). For dessert, chocolate mousse with carmelized bananas (only three slices—now that was a problem!), and four spoons.

Saturday and Sunday I didn’t leave the house—read, napped, ate at my own leisure until evening when Megan fixed spectacular meals: Saturday was roasted salmon filets, slow-roasted tomatoes, and cous cous. It’s all one recipe, and my rough idea of it is you roast the tomatoes in olive oil and herbs, drain out the herbs, add fresh, and stir some of that oil into the cous cous, pour the rest over the salmon. Good heavens, it was good. The tomatoes are so soft and flavorful, I swear you could skin them, whirl them in the blender, and have spaghetti sauce.

My nephew’s wife and two-year-old joined us Saturday night because he had taken the three older children on a Scout family outing to stay on the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi. But Sunday he called to say they were all well rested and could we get together that night. So Russ and Beth came with four children, ages nine to two. Brined, grilled pork chops, a great potato salad Russ brought, and roasted Brussel sprouts. I don’t see that branch of the family often enough and it was a real joy to visit with the adults and listen to the screaming children, who mostly stayed outside.

There’s something rejuvenating about large, affectionate families, and I am certainly blessed in that regard. The whole weekend cheered me, and I came back with a few resolves—to take care of the books I have in print and need to repost before I worry about a new manuscript, maybe to find a publisher for my historical novel which languishes unappreciated, and not to beat myself up about not getting everything done every day. We’ll see how long such resolve lasts.

Two of the things that I decided were stressing me were the ongoing remodeling (looking really good) and my bum hip which limits my activity. The first I will just have to live through; for the second, I’m having a test Wed., and then I hope we can stop diagnosing and start fixing. So I’m optimistic. Now about that trip to the grocery that has me intimidated….

It will work out. The Lord moves in mysterious ways his wonders to accomplish.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Taking a break

I don’t have a difficult schedule, but I can keep myself busy all morning at my computer with emails, business details, Facebook (time suck), phone calls and the like. It’s all business, I tell myself, and some days I think I should just quit writing new material and focus on marketing the ten mysteries in print plus a lot of reprints—and selling the now-orphaned historical novel about Chicago in the Golden Age. In the afternoons, I nap, Jacob arrives, we do homework, etc. After supper I try to work but again, I can again easily distract myself with small chores. So I avoid writing. But I have that half-finished novel that I keep going back to sporadically, never much satisfied with the results.

There is also too much else going on in my life—workmen in and out all day. Most of them are a blessing and a joy, including the contractor who checks to make sure I get my morning tea and sometimes carries my lunch for me and the tile men who are the most polite and cheerful people—and are doing a beautiful job.

Then there’s an underlying worry about mobility—my left hip hurts, my legs are unsteady especially in the morning or if I don’t eat breakfast they get shaky about eleven. I am worried about going into grocery stores and such alone, though I had a pleasant dinner out with a friend last night and did beautifully walking on my own. Another doctor’s appointment next week for another test and I guess we’ll see what goes from there. But it’s a constant concern, even if it’s not always on the surface. I have to relearn my self-confidence—I’ve done it before and can do it again—but I think it gets harder as you age.

So I’ve decided I need a break from routine, a change of environment, and yes, probably even a change of faces (nobody is to take this personally). This weekend I will be with Megan, my older daughter, and her family, while my temporary tenant moves into the house to take care of Sophie and the house.

Yes, I will take my computer, but I will put most thoughts of work aside. I’ve loaded the iPad with books I’ve been meaning to read, and Megan says they have no plans—we’ll just hang around the house. They have salmon from a recent Alaska trip and have promised me some. Son-in-law Brandon has already posted on Facebook a picture of the box wine I drink, with the caption, “Preparations have been made.” I’m going to rest, relax, try not to worry, and enjoy the company of a branch of the family I don’t see nearly often enough.

So don’t look for me on Judy’s Stew. See you Monday night when I report in.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My hectic household

Today was a relatively quiet day at my house. Of course, there were workmen coming and going. I’ve gotten used to them—they are really polite, nice guys—but others tell me how stressful it is to have them in the house. I’m not sure I’m feeling the stress. I know I’m grateful to Lewis Bundock because right now it’s hard for me to carry a plate of lunch while using a cane. He serves me lunch daily (after I fix it) which I think is pretty cool—and really above and beyond for a contractor.

Today, it looks to me like the tile work is almost finished, and they will be ready to grout, so there was much discussion tonight about grout colors. Everyone had a different opinion, and frankly I don’t trust my own judgment. As Christian said, “If you ask twenty people, you get twenty opinions.”

Jordan invited friends for happy hour, and I had a small drink with them and then went to dinner with Betty. We went down the street to Sera, split the cheese board and each had a beet salad—she says next time she’ll ask if the beets are cooked, but I liked it.

When I left, happy hour was still going on; when I came home, happy hour was still going on. In fact, Jordan and Christian just left at 9:15. He stuck his head in my office and said, “It’s always so hectic at your house.” I agreed but said, “It’s nice. I kind of like it.” What’s really nice about it is that I can join in the fun or I can retreat to my office, which I did about an hour ago.

Big new problem: the tetherball Jordan insisted I should order. Once I saw it, I didn’t want it in the small backyard. There’s not enough room, there are wires overhead, bushes for the ball to get caught in, and the plants that Greg has nurtured in the back which would surely get trampled. I didn’t realize you fill the base with water to stabilize it, and then it’s too heavy for anyone to move. The boys played in the driveway tonight, with one standing on the base to stabilize it. One of the moms was good about fixing where the ball was attached and kept coming loose. But I can see a serious discussion ahead about the future of that behemoth.

Happy in my hectic household, which is now calm and peaceful.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Widening the Circle

Almost forty years ago I was housebound with phobic fear—technically called agoraphobia and sometimes defined as fear of fear. Today it’s often called chronic anxiety disorder. No matter the name, it leads to unease, anxiety, depression, and too often panic attacks. The end of the driveway was as far as I would go alone, and I wasn’t really comfortable out in the world with other people. I’m not sure what triggered it—perhaps my father’s death, perhaps a lifelong tendency toward fearfulness. A lot of group therapy helped me past that point, but I know too well it’s a question of pushing back on the circles of fear that enclose you.

So today, after a week and a half at home with various back troubles and a bad scare with my back—which isn’t as bad as I initially believed—I am once again beginning to push back the circles. Today was my first venture out in the world—a full day.

It began with a haircut person. Rosa, who has done my hair for at least fifteen years, promised to come out to the car to meet me. I was fiddling with my phone, trying to find her number, when I looked up and she was standing by the car. So I got a cute haircut (if I do say so), Rosa walked me back to my car, and I headed home.

Then I met an old friend I probably haven’t see in twenty-five years for lunch at Carshon’s. I have a favorite space to park there—easy for me to get into the deli—but I was uncertain of footing once in the restaurant. Enjoyed lunch immensely, my friend walked me to the door, and I was headed home again.

One more outing, for supper with friends Sue and Teddy. This time I was truly spoiled—Teddy picked me up, shepherded me when I was at their house, and brought me home, all the while praising the way I was moving about. That’s the kind of positive enforcement I need to hear. Sue fixed a delicious dinner, her teenage son joined us, and we enjoyed good food and great fellowship.

All in all, it was a big day and a giant push outward on those circles. Jordan said she saw great improvement over a week ago. So I’m feeling optimistic tonight. And tired. But, no, I don’t want to be a recluse.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Is this really October?

Almost midway into October and it was 95 degrees today. Something is out of kilter in the universe—well a lot of things are, but that is another subject. Still, it was a lovely pleasant day.

Jordan and I went to Central Market today since I still haven’t got my legs under me altogether. But, man, give me a grocery cart and watch me go. We each had fairly short lists, but I had promised Christian a steak dinner because he took such good care of me when Jordan was out of town, I needed a new two-burner cartridge for my stove, and my car was dead. So I bought filets for them and lamp chops for me.

We had a lovely evening—happy hour on the front porch while Christian grilled. The grill that all told me a few weeks ago had to be junked worked so efficiently, after Lewis Bundock cleaned it, that Christian got all the meat a bit more well done than he liked. So much for throwing out my grill.

We each had our meat, baked potato and salad—plus Jacob ate a whole head of broccoli (but only one bite of meat—my non-carnivore grandson). We had dinner on the deck and lingered over wine. I did as much as I could before they got here, but then Jordan took over, made the salad, plated the dinners—it was great.

I have to admit I’m tired tonight, but I walked around the house a lot without a cane and felt good about it. I think I’m on the road to getting my self-confidence back.

Jacob spent the evening catching geckos—they are our bug-eating friends and I hate to see them captured, but he came in at one point all excited about a really big gecko. Got a pint jar, poked holes in the lid (my good scissors, I’m afraid) and proudly showed it to me. After he left, I saw another big gecko (well, they don’t come too big) on the back screen and said, “I’m glad you escaped, big fellow.” I know, I raised boys. I should be used to this. But I think my sensibilities toward tiny creatures are different than they were thirty-five years ago.

All in all, a good day, and I am so grateful to my local children for all they do for me, and to my distant children for their concern. And guess what? I have a lamb chop left for supper tomorrow.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pity Party Over

           This morning I woke depressed and scared. The MRI test that I was so sure would show nothing or at least something minor came back with a lot of words like stenosis, degenerative (okay, I’m 77—what wouldn’t be degenerative?), and bulging disk. I was sure my active life as I knew it was over, I was afraid to walk around the house, had to make myself make the bed and fix tea. In fact, when Jordan called I was near tears. All my children called, and Colin gave me sensible advice—take time to process this in your mind. What I knew was that I was in charge of whatever I make of the rest of my life.

So tonight I’m in a much better frame of mind. I won’t claim to have done much today—folded some laundry, emptied the dishwasher, fixed a sandwich for lunch and reheated the bbq my neighbors brought for supper (so good!). Did some work at my desk, found I didn’t have to cling to the furniture to walk from room to room. In short, it’s going to be okay, though I will heed Colin’s advice—don’t try big things when I’m home alone—and neighbor Jay’s words, “baby steps.” Will I ever cook big Sunday night dinners again? I hope so.

One of Colin’s pieces of wisdom (he really is a rock) is that we should start to think now of the future, so if, God forbid, something happens we don’t make decisions in haste. How did I raise such a smart kid? And how did I raise four such caring kids? I said I’d be lost without them, and Colin said, “We all would be lost without each other.” He reminded me that I’ve been a role model for them all these years, and now, that I seem to be turning a corner into old age, I continue to do that, to show them how to do it gracefully..

I won’t pretend I got a lot of work done today—lots of emails, read a really positive review of my forthcoming Murder at Peacock Mansion, began to register on new sites, and read a book for review, took a nap. It was neither the long day nor the bad day that I anticipated.

And now to read a bit and go to bed early to see what tomorrow brings. Nice to know that I can move myself out of depression and into optimism.

Friday, October 09, 2015

A puzzlement

Warning: a political blog coming. Stop now if you don’t want to hear about my puzzlement. As most of my readers know, I write as a liberal—my sons-in-law would probably tell you from the far far left.

I’m not sure how I feel about Hillary Clinton. I think she smart, intelligent, well versed in political doings and protocol; and I think she would do an efficient, capable job as president. But a little something holds me back—perhaps it’s my enthusiasm about the ideas of Bernie Sanders, though I harbor a lingering doubt that he could effectively put them into practice as president and he might be over his head internationally. Let’s say I like Bernie’s philosophy better but I have more faith in Hillary—wow! Just now worked that out in my mind.

But I think Hillary is getting a really raw deal from the Republicans. Now that Kevin McCarthy has openly blurted that the Benghazi investigations are nothing more than an attempt to stop Hillary’s campaign momentum, what more do people need to know? How many Benghazi committee investigations have there been (I’ve lost count—but I know they all came up empty and at great cost to that budget Republicans keep worrying about when convenient). There were more embassy attacks and more Americans killed on George W. Bush’s watch than Obama’s, but no one raised an eyebrow. With McCarthy’s verbal blunder, I hope we can put Benghazi to rest—as someone said, the ongoing fruitless investigations are an insult to the memory of four courageous Americans killed there.

And, oh yes, those emails. I’m not as clear on what’s involved, but I have read, repeatedly, that Bush and Cheney deleted thousands of emails that they had sent and exchanged on the server of the Republican National Committee. Since I am among those who think those two men did irreparable harm to this country, harm that may not be undone for generations, I am at a loss as to why that record is not being investigated. Instead we are bombarded almost daily with headlines blaring that more emails have been discovered, etc., in spite of the fact that to date investigation reveals that while using a private server may have been an act of poor judgment, it was not at the time against the law. I blame the media in part for continuing to stir the pot.

It seems clear to me that Republicans are out to scuttle Hillary’s campaign any way they can, morality, ethics, even legality be damned. I realize that politics is, unfortunately, a dirty business and probably nobody’s hands are lily white, but I think the conservatives are sinking lower than I thought possible. That’s not the kind of country I thought I lived in nor is it the kind I want to live in.

This might be my personal endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.



Thursday, October 08, 2015

Reubens, friendship, and getting out of the house

 Do you love a Reuben sandwich as much as I do? I make a Reuben dip that son-in-law Christian loves—and yet if you confronted him with sauerkraut (God forbid!) or even a Reuben sandwich, he’d probably turn away. Tonight a friend of forty years came in from Granbury and brought a Reuben casserole because she was worried about my mobility. She apparently often wakes at three in the morning, goes to her computer, and reads my blog first thing. When she read about my “adventure on the floor,” she was horrified and wanted to bring dinner. Betty, my dining out companion and now Linda’s good friend, joined us, and we ate on the deck. A lovely evening. Linda was in Philadelphia when the Pope was and out of three tries got one fairly close up look at him. So we talked about how awe-inspiring he was and is. At the time he was here I truly felt a spirit of good fellowship spreading across the nation, but I fear it has already begun to dissipate. He is so awesome with his love of humanity that I wish we could all carry that feeling in our hearts…and I can’t help but contrast it to American politics today and shake my head in dismay,

My big adventure of the day was to get out of the house and go retrieve my car from Volkswagen where they replaced the battery. I had it jumped last week, and Christian started it a couple of days when I couldn’t, but we let it go one day and it was dead when he went to drive it to Sears. So I took what probably is the more expensive route but the more efficient—I had it towed to Autobahn VW where my car has always been serviced. If we had tried to coordinate having it jumped with having someone available to take to for a new battery, I might have been without a car for a week or more. And until today I didn’t feel capable of doing it. As is, I have towing insurance and a VW discount, so it wasn’t all that bad. And they checked the car. When I called they said it was up in the air now, and I wanted to ask why it was up in the air to have the battery replaced. But I think they check everything with their sophisticated computer system. Since my car was in twice (at some cost) over the summer, I would have been dismayed—and cynical—if they reported problems. But they said all it needed was a new battery. Okay, the car is eleven years old, and I’ve never put a battery in it. Guess it was time.

So tomorrow, the grocery store…and after that, maybe the world. I’m on a roll.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Party Central

From three p.m. until eight-thirty tonight, my house was party central. At the peak, I think I counted seven schoolchildren and five moms, plus me. Three boys came home from school, moms began to arrive after four with other children in tow, and soon it was happy hour on the front porch while the boys played football on the lawn. I live on a busy street and don’t like for them, even in numbers, to be out there without an adult. It was all fun, and I enjoyed it, though the boys get to screaming and the moms get to talking, and I can’t always hear what’s going on.

But it was a perfect afternoon, just the right temperature, with a slight breeze. I sat there, told myself my work could wait, and I would enjoy the blessings of having friends and children around me.

I began to feel, however, that I’d had enough wine and not enough dinner, so I came in and worked in the kitchen a bit, which soon did in my back. So I worked at my computer, went back outside and offered to defrost hot dogs for everyone.

I love having my house party central, and I love having people around me, but it poses the perpetual dilemma: when do you draw the line and say, “I’m a writer. I have work to do.” Now, at nine o’clock, with details taken care of, kitchen cleaned courtesy Jordan, I’m out of steam and so am missing my thousand words a night for the second night in a row. It’s the age-old question for writers and others—how do I have a full, balanced life and still have time for my writing (or art, or music, or whatever). I wish I knew the answer, because I don’t want to give up any of the wonderful parts of my life.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Sitting in my Ivory Tower

Just in case you think writing is about sitting in an ivory tower and spinning words, I’d like to disabuse you of that notion (is disabuse a word?). Yesterday when I thought I had the whole day ahead of me, I did final corrections on Murder at Peacock Mansion, but I can’t submit to Amazon yet because as soon as they approve they publish—and I’ve publicized a November 11 launch date. Timing is all—and difficult.

Then the publisher of my mysteries has announced she is closing her press. I am forever grateful to Kim Jacobs and Turquoise Morning Press for getting me launched in the mystery field. She is so generous that she is returning files and cover art—the latter is a big deal, because I love the covers she did and I think there’s marketing value in continuity. Besides, it’s expensive to get new cover designs.

But there are eight books, with rights reverted to me—what to do about them? After considerable thought and advice from two writers groups I belong to, I have decided to release them as e-books only spaced two months apart. I’m hoping this will give me a marketing advantage. I’ll start with Murder at the Blue Plate Café, because the third book in that series, Murder at Peacock Mansion, launches November 11.

I’m one of 88 contributors to a cookbook titled We’d Rather Be Writing—quick and easy recipes and cooking hints. So I’ve been trying to do my part to promote it. You can pre-order for Christmas gifts at  although that’s digital only. If you’re like me, you prefer cookbooks in print, and that will also be available—just not for pre-order.

And then my own food book, Texas is Chili Country, is due from Texas Tech Press October 15. Yikes! That’s this month! Next week. Pre-order at I’ve been mentioning it but haven’t done much promotion, so I wrote tonight to ask what they want me to do. I’d love to have a chili cookoff in Fort Worth to promote it. The book is a mix of anecdotal history and recipes. It’s almost chili weather folks and time to think about what version you want to cook—although there’s a lot in the book about purists, who insist no beans, no vegetables, etc. There are separate sections on beans and beer, because what goes better with chili than beans and beer.

So that’s why I didn’t write a thousand words tonight on my untitled work in progress. It’s not like I was shilly-shallying. Writing is a business, besides the fun times of letting words spew out onto the paper. I’m tired.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Adventures in the Night and the blessings of friends

Lots of excitement—some good, some bad—at the Alter house this weekend. Jacob spent the night in the guest apartment with our new guest and her dog and enjoyed it thoroughly.  Here he and Lulu are watching TV.

Tonight I had a pot of soup almost ready for supper but neither the energy nor physical ability to finish it. So good friend Subie stepped in, added the needed basil, cream and Parmesan, and we had lasagna soup and French bread for supper, with lemon basil cake sent by a neighbor. A feast in a household where I did nothing today—didn’t even wash my hair or make my bed.

Last night I got down on the floor to give Sophie tummy rubs—our nightly ritual. Only I couldn’t get up. My left leg simply wouldn’t support me. I tried to pull myself up for an hour and a quarter—by which time I had exhausted every muscle in my body. Called Christian and got his voicemail. Finally broke down and, with gratitude, pushed my emergency button. They called to say help was on the way. So I crawled from the bedroom to unlock the front door so they wouldn’t break it down (Christian reminded me there is a key hidden outside and I should have told them where it was). It was a difficult crawl, and I stopped and collapsed on the floor a couple of times.

When that crowd of people arrived—parameds, firemen, three police cars—I was a mass of jelly. Couldn’t stand. When he heard my story, one fireman said, “She’s gonna be so sore tomorrow”—and oh my goodness, was he right! Another one said I should have called them much sooner—but I kept thinking the next time I’d make it up—never did. I have high praise for those first responders—they were courteous, kind, gentle, and reassuring. Took me to the bathroom and then tucked me in for the night. Somewhere along the way Christian and Jacob arrived and spent the night, which I found so sweet and most reassuring. By three or four in the morning I could hobble around the house—didn’t sleep much though.

One thing this proved to me, even if I couldn’t get up, was that I had the strength to try those countless times to pull myself up and then to crawl through the house. Not bad for a woman my age.

Today I moved ever so slowly and cautiously, from wall to furniture to whatever I could hold on to. Took a three-hour nap. And that’s why Subie fixed the dinner. So many thanks to her and to Christian and Subie for doing dishes. Tonight I think my muscles are loosening up, though I’m not ready to talk far, especially without something to hold on to.

Jordan, meanwhile, is in DC on business, hobnobbing with friends of mine who are there for three months, and eating lobster pasta.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

A nine-year-old caretaker

This morning I had errands to run, but increasingly since my hip/back problem developed, I’ve been reluctant to venture out of the house. I think I’m paralyzed by the fear of falling again. So today I had Jacob as backup…and he was as good as gold.

First we walked down the driveway from the front porch—I haven’t done that since I feel in the driveway last March. I’ve developed an alternative way of going to the car—out the back door and through the dog gate. Jacob held my hand the few steps until we got to the fence where I felt safe—he did say, “You’re holding on awful tight.” Then when I was walking on my own, he said, “You’re walking awfully fast.” I told him fast was better than slow.

First stop: the gas station, where I had no problem though I told Jacob to undo his seat belt. That’s an old superstition of mine, but I have heard of static electricity causing flame to follow the hose to the car. Jacob’s father scoffs at me, but I hold to it.

Then to Origins, where I buy facial products. Jacob was clearly out of his element but he dutifully held my hand though we didn’t have to walk far. I was surprised at how shaky my legs were.

Then to Central Market, where he brought a basket to me, and with that to hold on to, I was fine, though my cane kept slipping out of the end of the basket and threatened to trip bystanders. Jacob thought that was all fun. Otherwise, he kept asking how many more things were on my list. Actually I had a short list, and we were through in record time—with a record low price for me at that store.

Then home, where he glued on his iPad until time to go with Chandry, our apartment guest, to play with her big dogs at a kennel in Weatherford. I worked and slept—until Jacob rudely woke me up at 5:30. Next time he won’t wake up on a school morning, I’m going to be equally rude! Dinner of buttered noodles (I put capers on mine) and broccoli—Jacob ate prodigious amounts.

And then Chandry and a friend ate dinner on the deck, so we went out to visit. And In between all that, I was trying to make a pot of lasagna soup. No wonder my back hurts tonight, and I am more weary than I remember being in a long time.