Thursday, April 30, 2015

Not so good

Me: I'm going to cook dinner now.
Jacob: Thank God!
Me: Don't take the Lord's name in vain.
Jacob: I wasn't. I was literally thanking him because I'm starving. That's what  you say, "Thank you God." What is wrong with you people?
Poor boy! Surrounded by people who don't understand him...or maybe he doesn't understand them!
Some days are good, some not so good. Today was a not-so-good day. I had a doctor's appointment this morning--the doctor's office is on the sixth floor, and I have a real phobia about self-service elevators. So Betty goes with me--poor patient Betty. I also don't like the parking garage for reasons I can't quite pin down, but I held on to Betty all the way from the car to the elevator. With my new, improved walking, I should have let go and done it on my own--and now I'm mad at myself. Didn't do any better leaving the building either.
The appointment was at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in the department of manipulative medicine--nothing to be nervous about and I wasn't: as evidence, I offer blood pressure of 122/74--can't get much better than that. The resident who saw me before the doctor came in said, "I think you're doing much better than you think you are." I did carry that around with me until Betty said, "He was using positive psychology" on you, and I deflated.
We had a good lunch at Lucille's where they're having shrimp festival. I'm allergic to shrimp but Betty loves them, so I thought that was a good way to repay her for taking me to the doctor. What did she order? Shrimp soup--looked sort of like gumbo but had lots of green peppers in it (another thing I can't/won't eat--and I'm not a fussy eater). All those wonderful shrimp dishes and she orders soup! I had lobster bites (not allergic to lobster or crab--go figure) and enjoyed them.
Then, almost too quickly, it was Jacob time, and we got into our usual argument--he argues, I listen--about who gets to use the computer. Sorry, kid, it's my computer, my work, my life. No! I let him use it for Think Through Math while I fixed his snack and did a couple other things, and then after he calmed down we had a strict but calm "Come to Jesus" talk about the computer. (What did I just say about not taking the name of the Lord in vain?) Scrambled eggs and bacon for supper made us both happy.
But tomorrow I have to make up for my reluctance to take risks today. It will be a busy day--grocery, lunch and dinner plans. No Jacob as he's going home with his other grandparents--the "good" ones who will take him to his baseball games.
I guess this balance/self confidence business is two steps forward, one step backward--so today was one step backward and tomorrow will be two steps forward.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Being busy

No profound thoughts tonight, though the news and picture coming out of Baltimore continue to interest--like the line of black men who stationed themselves in front of the police to protect them or the young boy who offered bottles of water to the police in riot gear. And that wonderful mom who beat her boy until he went home--she wanted him safe, but she has mixed thoughts (at best) about what she did. The number of people who rioted is such a small proportion of Baltimore's citizens.
Meanwhile I've been productive and am loving it--sent my Chicago manuscript off to an editor yesterday. it's long--100,000 words--and it's a historical, not a mystery. It's a book I've worked on at least ten years, and Chicago history is a subject dear to my heart. Chicago had its own glittery gilded age in the late nineteenth century, and this is about on prominent society woman during that time--Cissy Palmer, the first to combine the idea of wealth with social obligation. It culminates with the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Yes, I'm a little bit excited about this one.
Also arranged to send another of my 1990s historicals about women of the West for ebook conversion--this Jessie: A Novel of the Life of Jessie Benton Fremont. Don't know who she was? You'll have to read it!
And I drafted a newsletter, talked with my web designer about a logo, and have just generally been busy building my so-called career. It's been fun, but somehow this is the longest week--I'm quite sure today should have been Friday and it's only Wednesday.
And now, at eight o'clock at night, I'm sleepy. Need that second burst of energy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

More thoughts on Baltimore

Everyone and their brother has had an opinion today--and expressed it--about the Baltimore riots last night. I've read a lot and pondered a lot, and I have a few random thoughts. One is that there were some incredibly brave black men who stood up to the rioters--I saw a man, arms spread, in front of a row of riot-gear policeman, as if protecting the police and daring the rioters to come closer; another man took up a stand, apparently with a baseball bat, to keep looters out of a 7-11. And there's an incredible video of a mother, literally beating her teenage son and herding him home, away from the trouble. These folks remind us that they are good and brave people, even in the midst of the worst circumstances.
Another reminder many of us need: those rioters weren't angry over the death of one man, brutal and cruel as it was. They were expressing years of pent-up anger, of living in poverty, in a decaying neighborhood, where it was rare for a young man to finish high school alive and without a police record. Particularly the young black men in that section of Baltimore (and others like it across the country) are the subject of police brutality. The police expect them to be bad, so they live up to that expectation, and then they are brutalized. It is a world without hope--and that's the key word. They have no reason to hope. Things will not get better for them.
Some say the riot gear police that turned out for the funeral of Freddie Gray sparked the riots--there again, it's a statement of an antagonistic relationship. Could the police, suitably armed but not in riot gear, have turned out to show respect for Freddie Gray. We'll never know the answer to that question.
It's easy for me and many of you to sit here in our safe, middle-class homes and say, "Why do they burn their own neighborhoods?" I am led to believe, from what I read today, that it's that very lack of hope, that sense of helplessness, of being caught in a system they cannot understand let alone fight.
I don't know how this country can manage a massive swing in its attitude, from antagonism to helpfulness, comradeship, joining together to make things better. Pending national legislation is not leading in that direction, and sometimes all of us are left with despair.
But I think we must cling to the hope that we can make the world better, that each of us can do our part. And maybe it will begin in Baltimore. I pray for the people of that city...and for all of us.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Out of the mouths of babes--policemen are our friends

When my children were quite young, there was a local TV program called "Hobab Means Helper" and a friend of mine hosted it. So one Saturday, all four of my children were her guests. At one point, following the helper theme, she asked them what they did to help their mother. Oh, you wouldn't have believed those little angels--they made their beds, picked up their dirty clothes, carried their dishes to the sink, etc. All with halos shining brightly. Until, that is, it was four-year-old Jordan's turn. She looked at them in amazement and said, "The maid does all those things." (Disclaimer: I was then married to a doctor and had a far different lifestyle than I do now.)
Then came a discussion of policemen, and I forget what the others said, but Jordan's answer will live on forever: "Policemen are our friends, and if you don't have a Cadillac or a Mercedes, they will help  you get one."
That line rings in my head these days because I am so appalled at the instances of police brutality we're seeing daily on our televisions--if it's not Ferguson, it's New York or Tulsa or, now, Baltimore. I truly believe that most law enforcement officers are good people, trying to help others, enforcing the law when necessary but not taking pleasure in beating the less fortunate. But it's happening too often, and the victims of this brutality are (without an exception I can think of) black. Don't even begin to talk to me about profiling.
Not too long ago I read an article by a black mother who talked about her fear every time her son went out, her cautions to him to be polite, respectful, etc. When a policeman shot a man in the back (see, there've been so many incidents I can't remember where this one was), I wished the man hadn't bolted when he got out of his car. He was wrong. Apparently he had something fairly minor against him--traffic violations or failure to pay child support. But is there no other way than to shoot him in the back and kill him?
I know that crime is high in black communities, and I can understand police frustration. I know they feel their lives are on the line every time they go on duty. But to break a man's back? It sickens me. Or to shoot a man because you mistook your gun for your taser. There's probably too much overuse of tasers anyway, but that's not a subject I'm qualified to speak on.
I do feel capable of asking if law enforcement attracts people with hidden anger that they are waiting to take out. What's outrageous and scary is that this is not a localized problem--it's happening in cities far and wide. So I don't know what the solution is. Except police forces have to work together, to screen candidates, to train them better, to train them to reach out to their communities and avoid the obvious antagonism that existed (and still does) in Ferguson and other communities. God help us, if we become a nation terrorized by those who are supposed to keep us safe.
I'm like Jordan--every policeman I've ever met, including those who came when I mistakenly set off my health alarm, have been unfailingly kind, helpful and friendly. No, they didn't offer me a Cadillac or a Mercedes. But then, I'm not a black male.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A day far from the madding crowd

Wow! I doubt any of us realize how the world tugs us in this direction and that until we spend a day at home working--which is what I did today. Yes, I skipped church, but I talked to the Lord about it and I'm sure he understood. My only human contact today came when I look out the front window on the way from kitchen to office and saw a strange figure in my front bushes. Turned out to be Susan from next door in ball cap and long-sleeved denim shirt. I threw open the door to yell, "Who is that in my bushes?" Foolish move--Sophie darted out the door. Only she just went next door to say hello to their dogs, Rio and Pearl, and Susan soon corralled her and brought her home. Jay leaned against my porch railing, taking it all in and not at all perturbed. I scolded Sophie, put her in the house, and talked trees and bushes with them for a few minutes.
Started the day as always by going to get the newspaper, reading email and Facebook. I meant to get right to the chili manuscript I was proofing first thing but, as too often happens, Facebook distracted me. I watched clips from President Obama's comments to the White House Correspondents Dinner last night and finally succumbed and watched the whole twenty-two minutes. Whether you love him, like him, are indifferent or intensely dislike him (notice I avoided the word hate--we teach my grandchildren not to use it, and I think it's a good rule for adults), you have to admit he has a great sense of comedic pacing--and he doesn't mind in the least skewering his opponents.
My accomplishments for the day--finished adding many references, etc., to the chili manuscript plus notes to the editor and sent it off; sent off a guest blog; drafted a newsletter. Oh, running the dishwasher and doing a load of laundry--now, dishwasher is not emptied, laundry is not folded. There's always tomorrow.
Rewarded myself with sautéed scallops (I can never get the nice sear on them without turning them tough--these were just right but not brown), a fresh ear of corn, and pea mash--something I've recently discovered to my great joy.
At nine-thirty I'm sitting here with the TV on mute (some awfully bloody program from Biblical times appears to be on), hoping to look up at the right minute to catch the weather radar reports. Tremendous storms to the west and southwest of us. As is often true, anticipation may be worse than reality--but one storm has rotation in it, and we've had some doozies lately. I'm really glad Jacob is home in his own bed--or probably bedded down in his parents closet.
A satisfying day. Hope yours was too, and the world didn't tug you in too many directions.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Gourmet-or gourmand

I'm not sure there's a huge difference between the two words but an editor once worked for me who insisted that gourmand had overtones of gluttony. I looked it up and found it was simply one who enjoyed good food. So tonight I would call myself a gourmand. I had diner at Paco & John's with good friends Carol and Lon.
Paco & John's has been around a while, in a converted gas station. I had lunch there once, and since it was essentially Mexican/South American, everything had too many peppers in it for me. But I began to hear that on weekends they served two menus--same foods, but either French or Mexican versions. I wanted to go for some time. Then we heard that they were closing, and tonight would be the last night--tentative plans to re-open at another location might be announced later. So off we went.
I started with a smoked salmon appetizer, something dear to my heart. Lon and Carol split the mahi-mahi Mexican style, and Lon and I split the mussels French style with a wonderful cream and garlic sauce. So good, especially with bread to dip in the sauce. It was one of those cases where I shouldn't have split, because I could have eaten the whole thing--and so could he. And then dessert--chocolate mousse, while Carol ordered key lime pie and Lon got more than a few bites. Fun evening--since Lon is a former state representative and still much a public figure, there was much talk of politics, education, and the like. Enjoyed the evening thoroughly, although poor Carol, sitting between us, said she had to translate all evening. It was noisy enough in the restaurant that even though I turned my hearing aids to restaurant setting, I couldn't hear everything; neither could Lon though he hasn't yet admitted he has a hearing problem. Good friends, good food, and a great evening.
Earlier this afternoon I suffered from a great case of inertia. I took a late nap, woke about 4:45, and just didn't want to move. You know the feeling? So comfortable, sort of dozing but definitely awake, nice thoughts going through your mind. I think I could have stayed there all evening except I knew I had household chores to do and anticipated dinner plans.
Tomorrow although Sunday is a work day. Got to finish proofing the chili book galleys.
Happy Saturday everyone.

Friday, April 24, 2015


Jacob in his parents' closet
He is generally afraid of storms but there
must be something about being home
The world around me has that lovely, almost preternatural dark quiet about it that comes after a ferocious storm. The trees are leafy, very green, and very still. The schoolyard across the street boasts small lakes. As the sun sets, there's a pink glow to the sky. Lovely time of lovely day--though it is a bit chilly. We had planned a leisurely dinner of BBQ on the deck--didn't quite work out that way. Jordan was a) tired, and b) anxious to get home before the storm. So we gobbled our BBQ at 5:30 (virtually kicking Jay out the door), and by 6:10 she had cleaned the kitchen and they were gone. They barely made it home before it hit--they were more in the direct path than I was--and reported time spent in the closet.
Here, the sky got that ominous color (no, not the green or a tornado--kind of a dark gray-blue), and then came the wind and rain. I think I heard winds of 70 mph--I stood in the front door and watched wind blowing the rain until it danced down the street, fierce gusts propelling little rivulets. I love the power of a good storm--fascinates me. As I may have mentioned, my brother tells me our mother taught us to love storms--so glad she did that instead of frightening us with them. Again, I was lucky--no power outage, no tree damage, just the pure excitement of watching the storm roll through. It was the first time I thought Sophie was a little nervous, for she stayed at my heels. I soothed her with sweet talk, and she went to sleep by my desk.
Just before the storm I had sent all four children and their spouses copies of the proposed cover of my chili book, due out this fall. I loved it and sat back waiting for them to respond. Instead I got a bunch of emails that essentially said, "Why aren't you in a closet?" Big disappointment. When the editor says it's okay, I'll share the cover here.
Meantime, it's a wet, wonderful world, and I am grateful. The contractor who keeps my house together was here this morning and is not so grateful. Asked how he was, he said, "Fine, except for the rain." I launched into the usual, "Oh, but we need the rain. We're grateful for it." "Not when you have the roof off a house," he replied.
Funny, we each see the world from our own perspective.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How's your energy level, Grandma?

This is a post for my colleagues--those beleaguered grandparents across the nation. Yesterday afternoon, eight-year-old Jacob and his classmates finished two days of the SPAAR tests. Jordan left work early to get them at school and bring five little boys here for treats. You could almost reach out and touch the energy in that room as they ate, drank bottled water, joked, screamed, laughed. Jacob got so excited he choked on who knows what. Jordan took it all in stride, laughing with them, joking, encouraging them to remember manners. There were all good boys--I've known them for four years now or most of them, and they're generally polite and well behaved. But they were on an energy high.
I stood in the doorway and watched them, admiring my daughter's patience. Okay, I raised four children, all close in age--been there, done that. But now, I don't know I have the energy or patience for it. Jordan loaded them all into her car and took them to Central Market where there's a wonderful playground, and the moms can sit and order wine. She reported they had a blast. I took a nap after they left, before I went out to dinner.
The night before I took Jacob to a happy hour. The group that regularly dines at the Old Neighborhood Grill had been invited to one couple's new condo for wine before dinner. It just so happens that Jacob really really likes the guy with the new condo, so he was excited about going, cancelled baseball for himself, and brought his favorite new shirt to wear. He was charming during the happy hour and afterward at the Grill--talkative but not too much, fairly informed on what he was talking about--school testing, etc. Quiet, well-behaved, the perfect gentleman.
I on the other hand was out of sorts--long story--but when we got home, all of Jacob's pent-up energy burst loose. He sang, he shouted, he danced, all while he was supposed to be doing a bit of homework and getting ready for bed early. His joy was not a good combination with my irritability--I didn't have the energy for patience. But we got it together, and he went to bed at nine. Earlier than I can ever get him down. Then at 9:20 he was back--the neighbors' party was keeping him awake. So he danced around, doing silly imitations of the people at the party. By then, he made me laugh. Finally both the party and the child quieted down, and when I went to bed he was sound asleep.
This afternoon I mentioned to Jordan that I was tired--I had been to physical therapy, which tires not only your muscles but your brain and emotions as it challenges you to ever more difficult tasks. That was close to an hour and a half. Then I did a huge grocery shopping--we had apparently run out of every cleaning product we use--and I hauled it all in and unpacked it. And you know what my daughter said when I mentioned I was tired? "We have to work on getting your energy level up."
So, come on grandparents, speak up! How's your energy with grandkids under ten? Not what it was forty years ago when you were raising their parents? I'm sort of proud at my energy level at my age, and I took offense. I think I'm doing pretty darn good. How about you?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Recipes & remedies

Recipes & Remedies                   

Please welcome my Wednesday guest, Connie Spittler. Her writing is found in twenty anthologies next to the words of The Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, Desmond Tutu and Barbara Kingsolver. She’s written two award-winning nature books, a previous novel, a creative nonfiction book, and The Wise Women Video Series, archived in Harvard University’s Library on the History of Women in America. A graduate of Creighton University, she lives with her husband in Omaha, NE, next to a secret pond visited by mink, fox, a Great Blue Heron and other lurking wildlife.  


Like colorful, connective threads, the power of recipes and remedies tie a family together. As a grade schooler, I remember picking radishes from our garden and thickly slicing them for a bread and butter sandwich. The most important part of the recipe was sitting on the back steps savoring the buttery crunch experience as the sun went down. This recipe, including back steps and sundown was passed on to my own kids.

I’ve heard of family members who go to great lengths to keep their food traditions alive, like the Mexican/American women who crossed the border with sprigs of moistly-wrapped herbs tucked in their bras. Plucked from relatives’ back yards, the bits of green were rooted and planted in their U. S. garden plots. My apologies to the USDA and rules prohibiting such smuggling. The sentiment that appeals to me is the importance of keeping heirloom ingredients intact for family recipes and remedies.

In The Erotica Book Club for Nice Ladies, my cozy mystery, the recipes and remedies belong
to Aggie, one of the club members. She’s an old gypsy turned herb and vegetable farmer who stirs up boiled parsnips with rosemary butter, oxtail stew, nut pudding, and a headache-curing tea of ginger, honey, lemon and cayenne. Her mixtures come from her own family recipe book, handed down from European ancestors. The scent of dill, the bitterness of yarrow, garnishes of dandelion greens and chive blossoms flavor the pages as she cures and cooks for book club members. Perhaps her most unusual recipe is for an aphrodisiac tea, an elixir composed of five herbs, one of which is imaginary. I didn’t want to be responsible for any bizarre reader reactions, in case an exact recipe was included and worked.

Aggie is one of three (it’s a small town) book club members. There’s middle-aged Lily, the fired and lonely librarian; and Piper, the young beauty shop owner, who’s fearful after finding a lump in her breast. Since they’re nice ladies, their erotica selections begin with Emily Dickinson’s Wild Nights! Wild Nights! But meetings are often cut short because of crime and a murder or two as the women become entangled in a search for a stolen ancient book of herbal cures.  

Called “a fantastical romantic mystery of friendship, science, sex and literature” by Sallly Deskins, editor of Les Femmes Folles, the release date for The Erotica Book Club for Nice Ladies is May 1, 2015. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon, print or eBook.

Susan Wittig Albert, author of Bittersweet, the newest China Bale mystery, described the book as “an intriguing, herb-seasoned page-turner” while Margaret Lukas, author of Farthest House found elements reminiscent of Alice Walker’s magic realism.

For more book info: 


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Outhouses and other inconveniences

The other night when it stormed, I blogged about our family cabin in the Indiana Dunes and how I loved to watch storms roll down the lake and how I treasure the memory of summer times at that cabin. The outhouse was a memory I don't treasure so much. The cabin fronted, high on a dune, to the lake, but out the back windows was woods--lovely, Midwestern woods with lots of undergrowth and tall trees--dark and beautiful during the day but scary at night.
The outhouse was maybe a quarter of a block down the path into the woods--it seemed like a mile. I hated having to go down there in the middle of the night. You never knew what would jump out of the woods at you or what you'd step on or if there was a spider on the seat. Flashlights, always kept at the ready, were minimal help. I was well grown before I stopped making my mom go with me.
Last night I had sort of the same experience. The only working toilet was the one in the guest house. I wakened at three or so and knew I needed to go to the bathroom. Lay there fighting it and considering my alternatives until four. Then in a burst of--I don't know what--I jumped out of bed, grabbed a flashlight and cane, the key to the apartment and my cell phone (I was a Girl Scout--Be Prepared) and went out there as fast as I dared. Came in and slept soundly, congratulating myself on my bravery. I'm not a particularly brave person--in fact, I'd say I scare easily. My balance is bad and gets worse after dark, so this was an especially courageous move for me--or not. Necessity is necessity.
Today the toilets are fixed--well, they were, until Jacob demonstrated accidentally that the tank in the small half bath off my office didn't fill and he couldn't make it flush. Another day with the plumber tomorrow.
I'm in a patch of self-doubt, anxiety, whatever--and one thing I know is I should keep congratulating myself on the things I do instead of dwelling on what goes wrong. The other day I had a difficult time driving to physical therapy, although once I got there I was fine. I have overcome my driving woes--or thought I had. So when I headed home, I considered longer routes but "safer" ones. Then I told myself if I did that once, I'd never go the direct route again, and I can't let anxiety rule my life. I drove fairly calmly, but oh my, was I glad to be home. The dark of the night trip to the apartment falls into that same category. I know my stride is better and my muscles stronger--so why hasn't my self confidence kept pace?
Tonight I went with friends for happy hour at some other friends' new condominium, and I was so awkward about going up the tiny steps or the grassy slope that I made Jacob hold my hand and he complained I was holding too tight. Really miserable. But I enjoyed the camaraderie, and once I was back on familiar territory--the restaurant where we dine every Tuesday--I was just fine.
Another thing I'm trying to tell myself is not to worry about going to physical therapy Thursday. Don't bring that anxiety up here and let it build. Tomorrow? I wait for the plumber, go to the grocery, fetch three little boys from school, and have dinner with Betty. Oh, and there's that next-to-final proof of a manuscript to read. I don't have time for anxiety.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mexican night at the Alters

Years ago--twelve or more to be exact--when Jordan was still single and living at home, we used to have Mexican night on the front porch (no deck then). Jordan invited all her friends, and sometimes we ended up with as many as thirty people on the porch. It was strictly BYOB and pot-luck, and we had some amazing dishes. A few of her friends were married, most single, all childless--I remember well the first couple that arrived with a baby. We all thought the idea of any of them being parents was amazing.
Last night we had a mini-version of Mexican night. Seven adults and Jacob, who arrived late having been to a birthday party. Sat on the deck, and appetizers were queso and giant nachos that the girls made. For a main dish I made an enchilada casserole, new to me. It amounts to layering a chicken/tomato/black bean/cream cheese mixture with large tortillas and grated cheese in a pie plate. The recipe makes two "pies" (three tortillas each) but my challenge was that one of our guests is vegetarian and Jacob doesn't much like meat, never has. I cooked frozen corn and substituted it for the chicken in one plate--the vegetarian really liked it, though I never did hear much from Jacob (except for a few things, he's rarely enthusiastic about food though he's always starving). The recipe called for a tub of Philadelphia Santa Fe Blend Cream Cheese cooking crème. I have never seen such a product. I bought chive-flavored cream cheese spread, augmented it with a little plain cream cheese, and about a tablespoon of homemade taco seasoning (I always make my own these days--never sure about preservatives, etc. in the prepackaged kind). Beat it with a mixer until smooth.
It was a lovely evening, though it began to grow chilly just before we came in. To my embarrassment, two of the guests, both newcomers to my home, cleaned the kitchen, leaving me relatively little to do. So I read cooking magazines--a real indulgence on my part--and still didn't go to bed early.
Today was an off day. Woke up out of sorts and kept telling myself dreams don't have any relation to reality, which of course is not true--I firmly believe they come from our deepest thoughts. The rash that appeared on one side of my neck now covered both sides, in spite of my treatment with an OTC steroid cream and Jordan's with lavender drops. I'd dreamt heavily but my sleep was interrupted by a tapping noise that puzzled me. Figured out it came from my antique bed and this morning found the headboard and side rails were about to part company.  The night before we'd had a couple of episodes of the toilets running over, and even though they behaved all right this morning--if used sparingly--I called the plumber. He worked a long time, so long that I snuck off to nap before getting Jacob, and realized dimly that I didn't hear him any more. Too late I discovered the note that said not to use the toilets in the main house tonight; he'd be back in the morning. He could clear the main line, although he did show me some roots he'd pulled out.
So here I am, in a house without toilets--no, I will not go out to the guest house in the dark of the night--with a rash on my neck and a bed that makes noises of its own, even when I lie still.
To add to my woes, the publisher from the press I wrote in Chicago has not responded to my query; the next publisher on my list is not open to queries right now and promises that after you query, if there is a request for the next three chapters there is a subsequent six-month wait before they decide if they want the entire manuscript. I don't have that much time in my career, let alone my life. At that rate, I'll be in my eighties before if and when they publish. Self-publishing looks better and better.
Tomorrow, I'm convinced, will be a better day. I'm having lunch with a good friend who always cheers me. She loves turquoise--jewelry but also the color. I have a new brown and turquoise top, and I'm going to wear is on the theory I'm happier when I think I look good. And she'll be so jealous.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My two minutes of fame

I was flattered some time ago to be asked by interviewer Dan Schneider to be part of a program he planned on the life and work of the late Elmer Kelton, Texas novelist who transformed the western genre. TCU Press was fortunate enough to reprint many of his books, and I had the privilege of working with him on those reprints as well as a nonfiction title and writing a literary biography--which came out before its time because he went on to write many more books. Elmer died in 2009, but his legacy and his literature live on. Literary critic Jon Tuska called his The Time It Never Rained  "one of the dozen or so best novels by an American author in the twentieth century." He raked in honors--Best Western Author, chosen by Western Writers of America, Inc., Spur Awards, Western Heritage Awards, Lifetime Achievements Awards, even from the Texas Institute of Letters, which usually doesn't recognize westerns. He was simply a great writer, one who transformed genre writing into literary achievement. But he was always absolutely humble about the recognition he earned.
He was also a nice guy, cowboy throughout though he would tell you he never made a hand. But he retained that courtly politeness of the cowboy. A gentle man. And a terrific story teller. Those of us who heard him talk often grew to know his stories by heart, but we never tired of hearing them again. I was delighted to consider him a friend and to think that he considered me one.
We taped the show Saturday morning--after my mistakenly thinking it was Friday morning and sitting around waiting for the call that never came. On Skype with me were Steve Kelton, Elmer's son, Joyce Roach, my good friend and a fast friend of Elmer's, and Dan Schneider, the interviewer. Let's say I was a bit nervous--okay more than that. I was afraid of not getting Skype to work, afraid of relying on my memory--but what could I study? There wasn't time to review all of Elmer's work nor even my paltry book on him. So I winged it. But I did get Skype to work.
Joyce did not, so we have an hour and ten minutes of her with her hand on the nose of a horse. But her comments were spot on and revealed a deep knowledge of Elmer's sixty-some books as well as his personality. Afterward, Steve said hers was the most patient horse he'd ever seen--any he'd ever had would have knocked his block off by then. Schneider was well prepared to lead the discussion.
I thought we would only be visible when we were on camera--not so. You can see me scratching, checking something else, eyes wandering. But it was okay. I didn't realize how jowly I've become--my father's daughter. But all in all I was proud to be part of it and hope I held up my end of the discussion well. IF you want to watch it in bits and pieces--it's an hour and ten minutes--you can find it at or Dan Schneider Video Interview #14.
Steve Kelton summed it up best when he said, "It's strange to talk of Dad in the past tense. He's still with us." And through his books, he still is and always will be. Like many others, I think Kelton's work will easily stand the test of time.
There's a postscript to this story. I showed the video to Jacob this morning, and he went wild. "You talked to Dan Schneider? He interviewed you?" He went whooping and hollering about the house, stopping occasionally to give me unprecedented hugs and showers of affection. I had really gone up in his estimation. Turns out there are two Dan Schneiders--the one I talked to and one who writes for Nickelodeon productions. "My" Dan Schneider said the other one is richer and more famous, but he's the smart good-looking one. So there went my two minutes of fame.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Storms and mysteries

Last night's storm paled in the face of the onslaught we got tonight, brief though it was. High winds--did I really hear 60 mph?)--blowing heavy rain, thunder and lightning.  No hail, but a tornado watch, a few sighted quite far from us but nothing close. Jacob is here tonight, and he is terrified of storms, so we had a few tense moments. He was sure we were all--him, me and Sophie--going to die. I assured him not. Finally I went into the office bathroom with him because he felt secure there and better with my company. Sophie, who is not fazed by storms, went because she was curious. Jacob accused me of not caring, and I asked if he'd feel better if I went around wringing my hands, moaning and going into a panic. He said no. As such storms do, this one passed within--oh, fifteen or twenty minutes--though distant thunder and lightning could be heard a long while after. To me, the good news is that no trees went down, though I've heard reports of them down in various areas.
So now I worry a bit about my kids in Frisco, where it was headed, and my kids in Tomball. I saw where severe storms passed south of them but it looked like they got good rain. Their small lake/big pond is up so high it flooded the meditation spot on their property. Next time I'm down there, I'm going to look for the specific meditation spot--to me, just sitting by the water, under the trees, is blessing enough. I didn't know there was a specific place.
Meditation was not on my mind tonight, what with the storm and the fact that my back hurt and I was tired. I meant to get a head start on tomorrow night's dinner but just didn't do it. It took all my oomph to fix bacon and tomato sandwiches for us, clean the kitchen, and slink back to my desk. After the storm, as a reward for good behavior (?) I gave Jacob ice cream.
But I did manage my thousand words, plus a couple of emails, and I feel productive. And tired.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Twas a dark and stormy night

In North Central Texas, we've had welcome predictions of rain all week--but nothing. Tonight it finally materialized. Predicted for six o'clock, which made Jordan rush home at five to be sure her car was in the garage and she wasn't driving in a storm. Nothing at my house (maybe 20 minutes away) until seven, when there were a few rounds of thunder and some drizzle. And then the heavens opened--not a storm but just a nice heavy rain. We can use it, although we've been blessed with rain quite a bit lately--something like nine inches opposed to a comparable period last year with three inches. Our lakes are filling up. But it will take more to end the drought in West Texas, and I worry about California--though I can't worry too much until they stop letting Nestle (a foreign-owned company) export bottled water under a contract that expired several years ago.
I see by the TV that the threat of severe storms has already moved east of us, and I can hear the rain slowing to a gentle drizzle. It's a wonderful night to be safely at home, tucked in with my Sophie, and about to write what  I hope is the last scene in Murder at the Mansion, the book I seem to have been working on forever. Wonder if I could work in the phrase, "Twas a dark and stormy night"? Naw, too corny.
When I was a kid, we had a summer cabin high on a dune at the very foot of Lake Michigan, and I used to love watching storms roll down the lake, with the water dark and roiling with huge whitecaps and the sky almost equally dark. I never feared storms--somehow my mom convinced me tornadoes didn't hit cities near water, and since we lived in Chicago we were safe. Now, of course, I know that's not true.
But I learned to fear tornadoes in Texas. I remember once when the sky turned green and my ex and I were running errands, with all four children at home with the nanny. At the time, we lived in one of those rare Texas houses with a basement. So I called and asked, "You do know what to do if there's a tornado, don't you?"
"Oh yes, ma'am." Long pause. "What?"
We hurried home.
The closest I ever came to a tornado was one night when restaurant adventurer Betty and I were having dinner at Pappadeaux. The sky turned black and then green, and rain poured down. So though we'd finished our meal, we ordered more wine. Later her husband would say "I can't believe the two of you just sat there and drank wine." What were we supposed to do? Go out in it? It turned out the great tornado of 2000 which leveled parts of Fort Worth and even damaged the downtown area had passed less than a mile from where we sat. I was sort of surprised the restaurant didn't tell us to take shelter under tables or something, but there was no change in pace.
When I got home, the phone was ringing. Jordan was living with me at the time, and she said, "I'm okay." Far cry from tonight when she has already emailed to see if I'm all right and warned me to charge my phone, get out candles, matches and flashlight.
Just while I wrote this, the rain has stopped and the thunder is distant. I wouldn't be sorry if it rained all night--thunder and lightning allowed but no tornadoes, please.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Taking baby steps

Today was my fourth physical therapy session, and by golly I think it's a winner. My regular osteopathic physician referred me to a colleague because I asked about a brace to support my back, particularly when I cook. The brace expert was sort of off hand about the brace--any sacroiliac brace would do--but was much more concerned about my lack of balance and a recent fall (not the first). This time I landed on my left hip and really hurt it. He recommended physical therapy.
I have taken a few classes in my life--yoga, tai chi, and the like--but I really don't like them. I finally had private yoga tutoring at home. A workout was established and that's what I do. So I was resistant to the idea of physical therapy--and besides most programs are for sports injuries, which mine was definitely not.
The doctor's nurse scouted around, found a place not too far from my house, and I checked it out. From the outside, it didn't look inviting--and the lone handicapped spot was clear across an empty parking lot from the door. At that point, I couldn't have done it. So I let my fingers do the walking and found a place that interested me. It pains me to say that I'm in a program to rehabilitate the elderly so they don't fall--could we substitute senior citizens for the word "elderly"?
The people are kind, and though there are other patients there, and I get individual attention, beginning with wonderful, soothing heat on my back and then exercises that don't seem strenuous but are designed to loosen up my sacroiliac (which is apparently stiff as a board) and build strength in my legs. I am usually wiped out when I come from those sessions, and at first I wasn't sure it was helping. The therapist is a really kind young man, he keeps assuring me he won't let me fall, but I was tentative about the walking part, especially where he tried to teach me how to use the cane.
Today I think I finally got it: because I was afraid of falling, I was stiffening up and taking small steps--at one point I said I felt like I was doing the hesitation step and getting married all over again. What he wants me to do is lead with the cane and my weaker leg, take longer steps, knees bent, feet rising off the floor. When I said my goal was to get rid of the cane, he said that would happen but he wanted me to develop a loose, easy stride. And those were the magic words that gave me self confidence. I've been striding around the house all day, bending my knees and lifting my feet. It feels exaggerated, but I'm sure in time I'll modify that. But tonight I'm a really happy camper. Almost can't wait to go back Monday and report all this.
And my anxiety level has plummeted. What a wonderful transformation if happening to me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It''s all Ronald Reagan's fault (nope, not a political post)

Please welcome my Wednesday guest historian Marilynn Larew who has published in such disparate fields as American Colonial and architectural history, Vietnamese military history, and terrorism, and has taught courses in each of them in the University of Maryland System.
Before settling on the Mason-Dixon line in southern Pennsylvania, she lived in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio, South Carolina, Maryland, in Manila, and on Okinawa. It’s no surprise that she likes to travel. When she’s climbing the first hill in Istanbul to Topkapi Palace, strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, or exploring the back streets of Kowloon, she is not just having fun, she’s looking for locations for her next novel. She’s busy now on Lee Carruthers #3, "Hong Kong Central."
When she’s not traveling, she is writing or reading. She writes thrillers and likes to read them. She also likes to read Vietnamese history and Asian history in general, as well as military history. Marilynn lives with her husband in a 200-year-old farmhouse in southern Pennsylvania and belongs to Sisters in Crime, the Guppies, and the Chinese Military History Society.

It’s All Ronald Reagan’s Fault
That may sound extreme, but bear with me. My series heroine, Lee Carruthers, started out as a CIA analyst stationed in Paris. She found and seized the proceeds of gunrunning, drug smuggling, human trafficking, and terrorism funding. Particularly terrorism funding. And that is where Ronald Reagan comes in.
They say you should write what you know, and one of the things I know is terrorism. In 1981, shortly after John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Reagan, my boss at the University of Maryland called me into his office and said he thought a course in the history of terrorism might be interesting. So did I, so I developed one. But it didn’t stay interesting to me for long. American presidential assassinations are essentially quite dull. I found assassinations in other countries much more interesting, so I began adding them to the course as a contrast. Soon I began to discover terrorist assassinations. And then somehow the terrorists took over the course, and I found myself teaching the history of terrorism. It was the heyday of the Red Brigades, and terrorism was a hot topic.
I retired from teaching just as the current group of Islamic terrorists came online, but I retained an interest. After the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center it became impossible to ignore them.
I retired, settled down to writing, and created Lee Carruthers, a woman who works on the international scene in situations taken from the daily news. I wanted her to have some connection with the CIA but not as a field operative, so I made her an analyst and put her in Paris, a city I know reasonably well, rather than in Langley, Virginia, where I would have to write all of the agency’s internal politicking, a topic which would have made my books quite different from what I wanted them to be. But sitting before a computer in Paris was also quite dull, so I gave her a boss who sent her into the field to do things analysts don’t usually do, and then I had to give her skills analysts don’t usually acquire.
When we first meet her in The Spider Catchers, Lee’s been with the agency for about ten years and is getting mortally tired of it. One of my reviewers said she was world-weary but also essentially optimistic, a contradiction in terms of there ever was one.
After fighting her way out of a terrorist camp in Spider, she branches out. In Dead in Dubai, she confronts a violent struggle between two major arms dealers for control of the market. In Hong Kong Central, I’ll take her into the middle of the pro-democracy demonstrations there. There’s another plot in the back of my head that takes place in Istanbul, and I’ll eventually find a way to use the time I spent in Hanoi.
And all because of Ronald Reagan.
Find Marilynn at or contact her at

Thanks, Judy, for inviting me to come by and chat.




Monday, April 13, 2015

My thoughts on Hillary Clinton

Nancy Reagan endorsed Hillary yesterday, so in the face of that unexpected but important support, I doubt my opinion makes much difference to the newly announced candidate. For months I've been lukewarm about this candidacy, figuring she had too much baggage--including her husband. Don't get me wrong--I thought he was a good president and he has done much good for the world since he left office. But some folk will never forget Monica. And then for Hillary, there's Benghazi which has been investigated to death but the conservatives cling to it like a bulldog with a bone, and those private emails--name me a politician on either side of the aisle who doesn't have private emails. Still, those issues could drag her down.
I resisted the "draft Elizabeth Warren" movement because I think she's much more effective in the Senate, and while I really like Bernie Sanders' ideas, I'm realist enough to know he wouldn't win. My son-in-law said scornfully, "He's a socialist," and when I replied, "I know. That's why I like him," even my daughter (who should be used to my views) scoffed. So I guessed I was a reluctant Hillary supporter.
But yesterday, after her low-key announcement and her emphasis on being the champion of every American, I'm much more enthusiastic. We need someone to fight for the poor, the underserved medically, those who have had dramatic cuts to their benefits and raises to their taxes. In short, we need to restore the distribution of wealth in this country, and if that's to be her focus, God bless her. She has a long record of dedication to us everyday folks, and apparently she's not going to abandon it, even while Republicans clamor about foreign policy and other matters on which they have no platform, no consensus.
It's going to be a long and bitter campaign, and Hillary's opponents are going to lie, deceive, throw everything at her they can. I have faith that she's tough enough to take it, but I also like that her announcement reminded us she is a grandmother. She's a tough woman, with a softer side, and I admire that.
I hope she can keep her head up and take the high road. She would be a blessing to this country, which badly needs blessings.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Fishy Weekend

Smoked salmon, potato salad, and crème fraiche
My friend Linda from Granbury was my houseguest last night--she had an afternoon class at TCU yesterday and a make-up class this afternoon, so she spent the night. I warned her she was in for a fishy weekend--and a cooking weekend for me. Last night we had a smoked salmon/cream cheese/sour cream/anchovy appetizer, followed by pasta in an anchovy sauce--one of those where you make a sauce of olive oil and whatever, dump in the cooked spaghetti and then add egg yolks beaten with water. I love watching that watery mess thicken up to a golden sauce that coats the noodles perfectly. This was particularly good. Jacob dumped his green peas into his pasta (sans sauce) at Linda's suggestion and declared it delicious.
For breakfast Jacob ate two waffles and two scrambled eggs, while Linda and I had cinnamon raisin English muffins. Jacob went home with his dad after church, and Linda and I had Tonino's tuna marinated in olive oil and oregano, on cottage cheese. If you have not discovered Tonino's, and you like tuna, I urge you to look in the canned meat department at Central Market. It comes in small, expensive jars but is so good!
The best thing about the evening was Jacob. When he and I are here alone, we eat in my office and don't talk much. Last night, he ate at the table, didn't ask to be excused early, carried on a great conversation with Linda, and then while I did dishes, they went for a long walk. This morning, first words out of his mouth were, "Where's Linda?" She was in the sunroom reading, so he went back and had a great conversation. When I asked what they wanted for breakfast, he said something about Alexander the Great. I asked what that had to do with breakfast, and he said condescendingly, "We were talking about history." After breakfast, they went for another long walk. Then we went to church, which was particularly inspiring this morning.
Tonight friends Subie and Phil came for supper--more fish. We finished the salmon dip left from last night, and the entrée was a platter of smoked salmon ringing a mound of potato salad (tiny new potatoes), drizzled with crème fraiche seasoned with horseradish, and garnished with liberal sprinklings of chopped dill. Subie pronounced it a very Scandinavian dish--and of course it was: fish, potatoes, and berries (she brought a wonderful fruit dish of raspberries and blueberries). Designed to serve six--we ate every bite. Cocktails on the deck, where it was most pleasant--I hadn't thought about cleaning the table because it was supposed to rain but no rain so far.
So it was a lovely cooking weekend. My back didn't hurt as much as it has, and I enjoyed fixing food--I always do. But maybe the best part was the interaction between Jacob and Linda--he was so grown-up, so gentlemanly, and so polite.
When he was perhaps three, he took Linda on a walk across the street to see Lily B. Clayton Elementary and assured her this was where he was going to school. She asked if he'd talked to his parents about that, but she said he was absolutely sure that was where he would go. And guess what? He's finishing third grade there. I think every child needs a non-family adult who dotes on him--I had that luxury as a child, and Jacob has several, but Linda is special. For her, it fulfills a need to touch and be close to a grandchild--hers live in Cleveland and Philadelphia.
A thoroughly satisfying weekend. No, I didn't write my thousand words today, but I did yesterday.

Friday, April 10, 2015

These are the things that irritate me

You know that wonderful song that Julie Andrews sings in The Sound of Music? "These are a few of the things I love." It irritates me that all I can think after reading the newspaper, such as it is, and watching TV news, is "These are a few of the things that irritate me," a curmudgeonly point of view at best.
One is states passing religious freedom bills actually designed to isolate our LBGT population. Such virulent hate. A Catholic bishop said it was a just reaction because if you baked the cake, you became a participant in the marriage. A Facebook cartoon asked if it logically followed that if a gun store owner sold a gun used in a murder, was he then a participant in the murder? For Lord's sake, people, let others do what they want and tend to your own cabbage patch.
Similarly, the war on the poor disturbs me. Again, it's based on irrational hate. Forbidding welfare recipients to use food stamps to book a cruise makes sense except that it's completely illogical. How many welfare families do you think book cruises? Hey, folks, they're just trying to scrape by. Yes, I read about the welfare recipient who planned to take a $14,000 trip to Vegas--can't remember the story. But forbidding the poor to buy steaks and seafood, to go swimming, to do a lot of things that most of us regard as normal? That's perpetuating the cycle by putting the burden on their children--besides, fish is healthy and not always that expensive. No, you don't have to eat lobster.
Today, on International Autism Day, the governor of Illinois (my once-home state) announced a cutback in funds to deal with autism. Great timing, Governor whatever-your name is!)
Fracking concerns me greatly--I read statistics on the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma before fracking and the number now--absolutely mind-blowing. But I know it's true in North Texas too, and now I read that fracking is increasing radon levels. Wonderful! I firmly believe if you mess with Mother Nature, she'll win in the end.
Guns on campuses--I think this must have been proposed by someone who had no college-age kids. I had four of them, and I'm not sure I'd have all of them today if there had been guns on the TCU campus, at football games and frat parties College kids are great, for the most part young people finding and forming themselves, but they aren't quite in control yet. Give them guns and a little alcohol, and it's like a recipe for a fertilizer bomb.
And then there's Senator Tom Cotton--what can I say? Why hasn't somebody investigated him for ethics--or low IQ--or something?
Other times I see glimmers of hope. A Catholic high school in West Des Moines refused to hire a teacher once they knew he was gay. Students and a significant number of parents protested the discrimination, and the teacher was hired. Sometimes I think the young people of America are going to save us.
On a personal note, I didn't mean to unload so much of my personal angst in last night's blog, but I am amazed and eternally grateful for the support and offers of help. Believe me, it's getting better. With a humble thank you, good night.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Oh my goodness! A week of "those days"

It has been the week that was. I did report that I went to an antique mall on Monday--what I didn't report was that I was a bundle of anxiety the whole time, with extreme symptoms from shaky hands to things we don't need to talk about. Tuesday morning I woke anxious but suddenly mid-morning I felt a sense of calm--I call it a convergence between medication and God's grace. I knew that I had broken the back of this particular anxiety spell--which at more than a week had gone on way too long.
But the Lord wasn't through with me. One of the things my physical therapist recommended was a portable seat heater in the car--plugs in to the charger holder. I needed heat for 15 minutes--takes me 20 to get to my daughter's house, so I turned it on both going and coming Sunday night. And left it plugged in! Realized Monday morning and rushed out to unplug it. Started the car and it was fine--I'm just not smart enough to know that I should have left it running for 30 minutes.
Tuesday, I had a wonderful, laughing happy lunch with Melinda, from my former officemate--we really enjoy our outings! But Tuesday night when I got into the car to go to supper, the battery was dead. Friends picked me up, and I enjoyed supper, planning to worry about the battery the next day.
Wed. Jordan dropped me at Physical Therapy for my first real session--and I'm here to tell you it's tiring. An hour and a quarter that begins with soothing heat and ultrasound and then progresses to endless gentle exercises--gentle but cumulative. I did learn the proper way to use my cane--though it sure feels awkward. The good news is that my back pain is less, and my balance may be a scosh better. I have ten sessions to go, and I think this is going to help.
My insurance roadside service fixed the car promptly--the gentlemen opened the hood of the car, and I called, "Oh, no! It's under the back seat." His gentle reply was something to the effect of "I'm looking at it." He got it started and instructed me to leave it run for 30 minutes--I was working so didn't particularly want to drive around for 30 minutes. I pulled it to one side of the driveway and locked the gate, but it made me nervous. Not sure where I got the idea it was under the back seat--maybe my last VW?
All's well that ends well--nobody stole the car, and this morning it turned over promptly to get me to the grocery. Yes, I was a tad nervous about going to the grocery--like a first outing by myself since a couple of bad anxiety attacks, but I can tell the difference in how I feel. Well-meaning friends (and my child) have suggested that when I freeze trying to walk down the driveway or across the parking lot I just pump my legs up and down. They don't understand freeze means freeze. I simply can't. But today I can. It will take a bit to recover lost territory, but I'm on my way. Praise be! I am so grateful.


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

With every season.....

Please welcome Jennifer Anderson, my Wednesday guest. Ref, chauffer, master chef and booboo kisser. When she’s not wielding her super mom powers, she likes to weave sentences together and offer a little escape to readers. You can usually find her sitting in the dark in front of her computer, falling in love with her characters. Send chocolate!
Today she talks about change—in real life and in fiction.

With Every Season...
The seasons may do it four times a year, but we as humans experience change on a more rapid pace, if not daily. And some handle it better than others. My husband, for example. I love him to pieces and over the twenty-plus years together, I know this little trait about him and try to soften the blow when I know I’m about to change up his routine.
But I feel I’m a happy-go-lucky kind of girl and crave change. Or at least, I thought I did. I blame getting older or maybe just the current age I’m in where I have three kids who are constantly changing.
Ding. Ding.
My oldest daughter is thirteen going on twenty-three, and she’s making plans for high school *gasps*. During her 7th- and 8th- grade years, she’s allowed to shadow a high school girl at one of our local Catholic High Schools, deciding whether or not she wants to attend their school when she graduates *grabs chest*.
When did my baby become a teenager looking at high schools? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was giving her baths in the kitchen sink and reading her bedtime stories? Next, she’ll be driving a car, going on dates, prom, high school graduation and then she’ll want to look at colleges. The nerve!
So while I might think I’m strong and brave when it comes to change, my inner mommy is cowering in a corner, rocking back-and-forth crying in her empty glass of pinot.
Lucky for me, good fiction should tell a different story. A heroine/hero is faced with a change (death, affair, end of the world) in their life and we want to see them push past the difficulty and succeed. In Finding You, a bomb is dropped in Jessica’s lap. How she deals with the news tells us how strong she is and if she’s adaptable.

Finding You

Jessica Crispin sets out to find her mom but discovers more than she planned.
A long-lost grandfather dies, leaving Jessica Crispin a sizable inheritance. The only catch? She has to find her mom, whom she hasn’t seen since she was two, and she only has thirty days to do it.
Enlisting her best friend Violet, Jessica sets out on a road trip determined to solve a mystery fed by deceit and misinformation from people she thought she could trust.
On the way, she meets Jackson, whose kindness and sexy pale blue eyes make her wish he would come along for the ride.
Clues from her mother lead her far from home and to a secret Jessica never imagined. And as the deadline looms, Jessica must make peace with the ghosts of her past and risk dreaming of a future pursuing her secret passion with Jackson by her side.
Find Jennifer at Goodreads:;

Website (

Twitter   @JenniA8677







Monday, April 06, 2015

An Antique Mall and the rivalry of two cities

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas
A dear friend of mine has a booth at an antique mall in Dallas, and two friends and I met her there for lunch and a look at her goods. Antique malls are not my thing--there are so many tables and cabinets loaded with breakables and so close together that with my unsteady balance right now I was sure I'd go crashing into something. I clung to Carol who understood and was kind about it.
The mall has a small tea room, and we had a delicious lunch--stuffed avocadoes. They all chose chicken salad but I stuck with my tuna, and it was good. A terrific Caesar salad--not really a traditional Caesar but one of the best salads I've had in a long time--and fruit on the lunch plate. Lovely meal and good time catching up with good and longtime friends--though we did note that we talked about illness and death a lot. It's the age we are--at least two of us and it's fairly discouraging. But we also caught up with children and grandchildren and daily doings and had some good laughs.
Then we shopped in Kathie's booth, where she assured me she had a chair, and I could point with my cane at things I liked--I had a $15 gift certificate. I came away with a prize--a cane with a Bakelite handle, a rather dignified cane or as Carol called it a formal one. Bakelite is now collectible, so I thought it was grand. I think it's a bit too tall, but it can be cut down.
I don't go to Dallas often and saw some sights and parts I'd never seen before--I think the mall is on Forest Lane, but don't try to go there by my directions. Carol's a back road person and knows Dallas well enough that she wove in and out avoiding I-35's congestion. We ended up in Uptown (I think) and drove by Claiborne Park (I'm also not sure that's the name but it's a scenic area that gives all those apartment dwellers a green space in which to walk, sit and enjoy the sunshine, whatever). It also has a restaurant that Carol said we must try next time. Then we drove on the innovative Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and Carol pointed out the old bridge which has been turned into a park-like area, with a fountain area that drains into a kiddie wading pool below. Impressive to see what Dallas is doing to green up their city.
There's that old rivalry between Dallas and Fort Worth, so I said something to the effect that Dallas was better than I remembered. Carol replied that folks in the two cities will never think the same but there are some really positive things about Dallas. She should know--she worked there for years. I'll still take Fort Worth any day--love my city--but this was an interesting day.
Home in time for Jacob, homework, happy hour and an evening of writing.

Sunday, April 05, 2015


Easter morning, 2:00 a.m. - pouring rain, thunder in the distance; Easter morning, 5:30 a.m., alarm clock goes off, drawing me out of a funky dream about returning to the small Missouri town where I went to graduate school; still pouring rain. Sophie does NOT want to go outside but I insist. Easter morning, 6:40, just as friends come to pick me up for sunrise service, which will obviously not see a sunrise, it stops pouring and downgrades to a sprinkle.
Top picture 2015
bottom 2014
The morning service is inside the chapel, and it still has the small feeling of intimacy, of sharing with a few select others the joyous news of Jesus having risen. But I miss the garden setting and the sense of watching daylight arrive to announce the good news. The music is beautiful--they're singing "Jesus Christ is Risen today" as we arrive--a bit late--and I find my family, with seats saved for all of us. The sermon is inspiring, and the final hymn, "In the Garden," has special meaning for me--it always made my mom cry because she had a brother who died at 20 or 22 or something (long before my birth) and they sang it at his funeral. So the chorus is one I know by heart and love. Communion requires a trip to the altar, and because my balance is so shaky I don't go, but then I am shamed by a woman who arrived in a wheelchair and abandoned it to walk, with difficulty, from pew to pew to partake of the holy feast. Jordan brings me a bit of the bread, so I feel I have taken communion.
Following this joyful yet restrained service, joy reigns as Jacob and Eva, both eight and best of friends, search for eggs at my house. I am nursing my back, and Jordan and Christian do most of the cooking; Marj cuts up fruit. Christian has made a scrumptious potato casserole, and while I planned to scramble the eggs,  he took it on and did a fine job. I had gotten hot cross buns which I adore--Coleman ate one, Jacob had one on his plate though I'm not sure he ate it, and I had a half. They not only bring back Easter memories but they remind me of the Christmas cakes my mom made, I adored, and none of my children will eat.
By ten, dishes are soaking and everyone is gone; by eleven, I've loaded and started the dishwasher, though somewhere along there my persistent chronic back pain settled in one hip and made each step painful. I go to bed with the heating pad, then back up to answer emails, read Facebook and the Sunday paper, and begin this blog which is already too long.
From there, the day was one of sleep, which I guess does knit the raveled sleeve of care. Back to bed, but I rouse myself to make it to Jordan and Christian's by four-thirty, expecting to be just in time for Easter dinner. It was five-thirty before we ate--delicious fajitas (I eat the insides but not the tortilla) and I opt out of dessert. Home, a bit at my computer and back in bed by seven-thirty.
Easter night, almost ten: rouse myself to find a good, devoted dog sleeping by my side. Let her out and give her a treat, make my toilette, and head for bed again. Hip pain which was almost intolerable in the late morning is almost gone. I'm a big advocate of sleep. God works in mysterious ways, just like Mom always told me.
I am so blessed with family and love and church. It's a thankful, worshipful Easter. Hope the same for you each and every one.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Twas the Night before Easter...or the second night of Passover

The night before Easter at my house is sort of like Christmas Eve. Shhh, don't tell Jacob but the Easter Bunny visited just after he left following supper. The house is decorated, and now the problem is to make sure Sophie doesn't think the eggs are for her. The table is set for breakfast, and Christian brought a potato casserole--so rich with sour cream and butter and cheese that I will only allow myself one bite. Everything is laid out and ready, and Jordan left me with great warnings to go to bed early because we're going to sunrise service at 6:45.
She and I were enjoying an after-dinner glass of wine when I startled and said I thought I saw a bolt of lightning. And then we both heard it--thunder. She was out the door and headed home in a flash. I wish our much-needed rain would come Monday instead of Sunday, but I guess we have to believe the Lord knows what he's doing. Sunrise service will be inside, which is a disappointment because I love to see the daylight come while we worship. But the rain will be so significant as part of spring's new start.
Texas has two good seasons--spring and fall, and spring is by far my personal favorite. I love the light green of new leaves, the brightness of my redbud tree, the flowering trees all over town. When my children were young we went to North Carolina for the spring bloom, where redbud and dogwood abound. Redbud does well here, but only a few hardy dogwoods survive to bloom.
Greg, my gardening neighbor, and I are full of plans for my yard, including ferns which I have always loved, oak leaf hydrangeas, which he assures me will disguise the hurricane fence in the back, and coral honeysuckle to brighten the fence between my dog yard and driveway. I don't garden--used to but was never one who felt renewed by mucking in the dirt. These days my back won't let me garden--or sweep or mop floors or any of those things I don't want to do.
I've been fighting back pain and balance issues recently, and I decided tonight I might better quit fighting and go with the flow. Part of it has to do with faith in the physical therapy program, but I think part of it also has to do with my spiritual faith. Perhaps fighting--which means tightening up--actually increases the problems. It may not sound like a big deal, but I walked down to get the newspaper in the middle of the sidewalk today. Then Jordan and I went for a short (very short) walk.
So like trees budding out, I'm going to loosen up, go with the time of renewal, and let the good Lord help me heal.
And so, my friends, I wish you all Happy Easter, Blessed Passover, or if it suits you joy in the new start that springtime brings. Peace.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Flat Stanley and other tales

If you have children or grandchildren, you probably know about Flat Stanley of the book by that name (I keep wanting to call him Flat Freddy--rolls off the tongue so much more easily). Stanley woke up flat one day and has been sent all over by devoted schoolchildren, who each made their on version. Jacob sent his to Houston and New York relatives who obligingly toured him around and photographed him with all the sights. The New York cousins sent flat versions of two of their children--Ayla and William--so Jordan felt we should show these flat relatives Fort Worth. And one place we had to go was Angelo's BBQ because in his rare visits to Fort Worth from NYC Uncle Mark has eaten tons of Angelo's barbecue. He writes about it, longs for it--in fact, he might come back to FW sometime for the barbecue rather than to see us.
So the other night we took William and Ayla to Angelo's. I haven't been there in years, since a competitor opened up closer to home. But I remember the days when Angelo's had sawdust on the floor--fire department made them stop that. Nothing much had changed except that you no longer pick up your cole slaw and potato salad while waiting in line. The stuffed bear still greets you at the door. Jordan took a picture of William and Ayla with the bear and then the above one of me. (She had looked at me before we went to supper and said, "Colorful. Is that your dinner shirt?" I assured it was and protested, "We're only going to Angelo's.")
Last night's dining adventure was the Kona Grill, which I understand is a chain but new to Fort Worth. In a Hawaiian restaurant, I ordered meatloaf--okay it was called Big Island meatloaf. Good last night, much better cold at lunch today. Betty had a shrimp dish with what looked like glass noodles and declared it delicious. She loves shrimp and delights in eating it in front of me because I'm allergic. But as we went in, she said to me, "I suddenly feel ancient." I think it's a great singles bar, maybe not so cool for two old ladies having dinner.
And tonight's dinner was a bust. A friend who loves pasta came for what I assumed was just a casual weeknight dinner. Turns out today is her birthday, which she doesn't like to celebrate. My pasta dish was, to me, unsuccessful--sauce of butter, garlic, anchovies and fresh tomatoes cooked down. I couldn't taste the garlic or anchovies but sure could taste the fresh parsley--somehow my Italian parsley survived the past winter. Further, the dish was hard to serve and harder to eat, and I got it all over my shirt. One recipe that went into the recycle bin. And I'd so been looking forward to trying it. Oh well, we all have our kitchen mistakes.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

A pain of a day

Actually it wasn't that bad at all. I've been dealing with moderate to severe back pain for a long time. It particularly bothers me when I cook--and I love to cook and feed people. For some time now I've done what I could in about twenty minutes, then retreated to sit down. After a ten minute break, I go back to the kitchen. Such a routine makes you rethink your cooking, believe me. But my back also hurts when I unload the bottom rack of the dishwasher or make a bed or any number of other household chores. Not a way to grow old gracefully.
So I went to my favorite osteopathic physician (next to my brother, that is) and he recommended a doctor who knows about braces. That doctor seemed much less interested in my pain than in the fact that I sat down, ungracefully, in the driveway a week or so ago. And truth be told I'd been nervous about my walking since and my left hip still hurts. He did tell me to order a brace, which I did--it came embarrassingly far from meeting around my middle, so I ordered a larger size, which arrived today and will do the trick I think. Note to self: wear an apron over the belt when cooking--bacon splatters not needed.
But this new doctor recommended physical therapy, something I never thought I needed between osteopathic treatments and yoga. But I found a clinic that has a program for helping the elderly prevent falls (oh! so hard to classify yourself that way!), so today was my first appointment. Let's just say I went with fear and trembling in my soul. I was afraid I would be fearful of walking from the car to the door--no problem. Handicapped places are literally right next to the front door. Then I was so nervous my handwriting was illegible. I brought the form home to fill out.
I was there almost an hour and a half. The first visit is of course taken up with intake information, but the PT gave me a pictorial rundown of what's going on with my back--long story short, it's stiff. But my legs are strong, I'm in good health, and I don't have vertigo--all good signs for restoring balance and confidence, the PT said.
I'm a convert. The heat treatment was incredibly relaxing and soothing, and so was the soft tissue rubbing. I left with exercises to do--I intend to be faithful about them--and a recommendation for heat 15 minutes a day. Tonight I think my back feels a tad better, and I walked from the parking lot to the garage without grabbing my friend's arm. Pretty much I was okay--certainly better than I have been.
Betty and I went to the Kona Grill tonight--I knew she wanted to go because the Hawaiian menu had lots of shrimp, and indeed she ordered a shrimp and glass noodle dish which she said was delicious. Strange to have meatloaf in a Hawaiian restaurant but that's what I had--with steamed broccoli and mushrooms. It was good, but I stopped eating in time to bring some home for  lunch.