Sunday, January 31, 2016

Of children, dogs and fear

Having spent all of yesterday outside playing with grandchildren and an aging but still agile chocolate lab, Sophie is strangely quiet today and not interested in her food. But she reminds me of the things I fear these days. I guess I have always had fears. Lord knows, anxiety has been a constant companion. But these days I fear two things and both have to do with the extreme cruelty some people can show to the most helpless among us—children and animals.

Sex traffickers: I’m going to become a helicopter grandmom, just as my grands are at the age to be developing independence. I read a truly frightening account of an incident at one of our malls where, from the report, I truly believe that mom saved her children from traffickers stalking them. An older man, a woman, and a young Hispanic man sat near their table in the food court and kept staring at the children. The mom’s intuition kicked in and escalated when the threesome left when she and her sister and the children did. They called for security to escort them out but no security personnel were available; finally she went to her car alone, planning to pick the others up at the loading zone. In the parking lot she saw the three people in a van, with the sliding door open. When she drove away, they sped off. I’d call that a narrow escape.

Jordan has told me of other incidents at other malls, even one in which kidnappers were apparently after an infant but the mom managed to escape with the baby. Apparently human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes, driven by Mexican cartels and national gangs. Main targets are teenage girls in their early teens—oh good, that fits two of my grands. But I worry about the younger ones and the boys too. I cannot bear the thought of them yanked from their safe and comfortable homes and subjected to things I don’t even want to think about.

Dog fighters: I’m active on Facebook posting pictures of lost and found dogs, but I hear too many stories about bait dogs. I used to think Sophiedoodle was safe because she’s only 30 lbs. but now I now that dog fight people will use small dogs and even cats as bait. That cruelty is beyond my comprehension. Facebook recovery stories only intensify my fear (maybe I should get off FB?). Now I hesitate to post pictures of found animals because men in dog fighting often send their innocent-looking girlfriends to claim animals. I do post lost dogs but I shudder when I hear of one stolen—who took it? Did it really just escape to explore? I understand dog fighters send people out to snatch dogs out of back yards; they leave the gate open so the owner will think the dog escaped.

My Sophie spends her days inside, which she prefers. When I let her out I watch her like a hawk. I have two locked gates. Unfortunately, she loves all people, and if she gets a chance to escape she runs like the wind. She doesn’t know my fear; all she knows is love.

Call me paranoid but these things truly frighten me. What is wrong with some people?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

One attic, twenty years

People say, often in extreme circumstances, that their whole life flashed before them. Today, my life paraded slowly by me, nostalgic bit by bit. The kids cleaned out the attic--to the right is the clean, empty attic. It's a remarkable change. Getting boxes and things out of the attic turned out to be the least of it, though everything was so dusty the kids put scarves over their faces. But it was the sorting that was most difficult.

The attic work crew standing in front of
the trash pile
My role was to sit and sort, which may have been the most tiring. How do you decide what to keep, what to donate? Some of it was easy—Jamie for instance put aside a whole collection of T-shirts, sizes 2-6 or so, one of which said “Kiss me, I’m Greek” and another, “Alter’s Cherub.” He was sentimental about almost everything he found. Colin, the accountant in the family, sorted out records carefully and, I think took some home to be shredded. Melanie it seems is fascinated by genealogy, particularly since we both share Scottish heritage, and she sorted out two bins of papers, etc. that gave hints of my family background. She left with those plus two family Bibles for their genealogy—she will bring them back after sifting out the information.

They found everything from my baby doll—which we plan to send to a doll hospital—to my MacBain plaid kilt, which probably fit me when I was eighteen. I think we were all surprised by what an emotional and nostalgic day it turned out to be. In the process of sorting, we relived my childhood and theirs—it made Jamie sad for times gone by but it gave me the sense of a life richly lived. Colin is less likely to talk about his feelings, but I said to him tonight that today reassured me they had a wonderful childhood (left unsaid were the words in spite of adoption and divorce), and he replied, “Oh, yeah, we’ve had a terrific life.” I also realized as they sorted file folder after file folder, that I have research and written an awful lot in my life. Deciding what to do with the multitude of magazines I had articles in was one problem.

It’s been a day of accomplishment—they all kept looking at each other and saying, “I can’t believe we got it all done.” But also a day of looking back with gratitude, especially to my parents and the life they created for us, the memories they left us with. And most of all a day of realizing how close we all really are, how much we love each other. I am a rich woman.
Tomorrow I'll start reclaiming my house.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Remembering my father

 My father’s been gone since 1977, but I never fail to mark his birthday which is today. I hesitate to tell you how old he would be but will say he was born at the tail end of the 19th Century and fought, for Canada, in WWI. Obviously I was a late in life baby. Dad was a dignified, disciplined man with a firm sense of right and wrong and a deep love for his family, though I don’t remember that he often played with us. He loved to tell the story of taking me sledding in the park in front of our Chicago house when I was probably three or so. Another man happened along and said, “I guess I’ll go get my granddaughter too.” Dad was crushed. In my teen years I worked for Dad—he was director of a hospital and president of an osteopathic college, though the former took most of his time. I eventually became his executive secretary before I went off to graduate school. What I learned from him has stood me in good stead through the years, and I could still be the best executive secretary you ever saw.
Dad’s avocation was his garden. On weekends he’d be out on his hands and knees, working in his garden as shabby as any homeless man. His appearance never bothered him, even when neighbors, friends or students came by. In retirement he had a lavish garden in the foothills of North Carolina. And he adored his grandchildren, laughing at their antics, taking them walking in the snow, showing them flowers. He always said Megan brushed her teeth with such enthusiasm she was going to brush them right out of her head. Jordan was six months old his last summer—none of us knew then about the aortic aneurysm that would kill him. He would sit on the porch in North Carolina and watch her on her blanket on the floor for hours—he seemed to think she was created for his amusement.
He would be proud of my children today though there are some aspects of their lives that would worry him, and he’d probably sneak me off in a corner to tell me what they should do, as though they were still children. I try to talk to my grandchildren about him to keep his memory alive. He was a proud member of the MacBean clan (actually we spelled it MacBain) and I feel that Highland heritage strongly. My two oldest children took me to Scotland a few years ago, and we visited the MacBain Memorial Park, high above Lochness. Nope, no sighting of Nessie. But my house has many Scottish things, and my oldest son is the keeper of the tradition. Grandfather would be proud of that. My youngest son is a devotee of good Scotch, and his grandfather would approve that too.
Dad was also a newshound and devoted Democrat—we dared not talk during the news. I often think of what his reaction would be to today’s politics, but I know he would applaud President Obama. His heroes were FDR and Winston Churchill. To me, that speaks to the character of the man.
I was always in a bit of awe of him, I admired him, I laughed at his foibles—once when he thought it was time for guests to go home, he began to run the vacuum. But above all I loved him, and I miss him. I often wish he was here so I could consult him. I remember when he died thinking “There goes the last man who will take care of me.” (I was supposedly happily married at the time.) I will say my brother has stepped into that role nicely, not that I necessarily need a man to take care of me.

Wow! I started out to write about a day split between work and family and ended up with a paean to my father. He’s worth it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jordan's on a mission

Jordan is a woman on a mission these days, and as a result we have a new happy hour routine—it’s called work and sort. She works…and I sit and say yea or nay. She’s gone through most of my drawers and closets, kitchen cupboards, and everything but the fridge. The result is five bags for Goodwill or Berry Good Buys, plus a dining room table laden with dishes for her siblings to take or decide against. She’s gone around the house and put stickies on the art work, either with someone’s name or “Stay.”

It’s an interesting process. I don’t think most families even think about this until a loved one is gone. I am glad to be part of it, getting to keep some things that matter to me, being brave about things I can live without—she told me today she was proud of me. For me, it’s a chance to share a lot of family history with her—like my mom’s silver grape-leaf pattern covered dish. I remember yet the time she put it too close to a flame on the stove and melted one of the grape leaf clusters. And my grandmother’s wedding ring—tiny and the rosiest gold you’ve ever seen.

We are putting some things of Mom’s away for my brother, who will come some time soon to collect them. But tomorrow, all my kids arrive—they’ll go to the stock show and rodeo tomorrow, but Saturday will be a work day. Jordan intends to send them up to the attic to sort and clean. I remain grateful that they don’t allow me to climb that pull-down staircase any more.

It’s hard to tell at this point what will fit in my new cottage (we haven’t even gotten the architect’s final plans yet though they’re promised for this weekend) and what Jordan and Christian will want to keep in the house and what will fit with their furniture. We’ll end up putting some of both in storage.

Jordan said tonight she feels good about this process. She ought to because she’s already worked her tail off getting us as far as we are. I feel good about it too—perhaps a little impatient. But it’s an exciting time to live through. And I am so grateful to Jordan for all her work—where does she get the boundless energy after a day at the office?—and to all my children for their enthusiasm and support for this project.

What a lucky woman I am!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My personal political dilemma

I feel the Bern. If we could live in the world Bernie Sanders envisions, I would be a happy camper. Not that I’m rich enough to qualify as one of his targets, but I would gladly give up some of my material comforts to help those less fortunate. I think the wealth of the 1% is obscene, and greed has overtaken this land. I support almost every position he takes. But Bernie Sanders is an idealist, not a political realist. I doubt he could get one-quarter of his program approved in one term—and then only if he had a progressive Congress, which I pray for but know we can't count on. And I’ve heard him say almost nothing about international relationships, which is a big part of governing this country. Let’s just say I’m a big Bernie Sanders fan.

But, ah ,Hillary. I think she’s been followed by scandal ever since Bill was elected, much of it trumped up. There was health care reform, for which she was rudely shot down; Whitewater, which never came to much; the Monica Lewinsky affair in which she behaved as any hoodwinked wife would and then recovered gracefully—the state of the Clinton marriage is not part of our equation in deciding whether to vote for her or not. More recently, there’s the Benghazi disaster, which has been done to death and yet people don’t seem to understand the blame lies not with the Secretary of State, who had been pleading for extra funds to protect our embassy staffs, but with the Republican Congress who refused to grant their funds. And now she’s under a barrage of attacks from the right, saying the FBI has evidence to arrest her for treason or espionage or something. The right will do anything to defeat her, including false accusations and building up Bernie because they know they can defeat him and they can't defeat Hillary. One symptom of this: I’ve begun to see the most unflattering photos of her on Facebook.

I don’t think Hillary is as guilty as all the above accusations would make her appear, evil and corrupt, but neither do I think she’s lily-white and pure. She’s a practiced politician, with an effective knowledge of the recent past and a practical ability to play the system. I may be a liberal, progressive idealist, but I am also practical, and I believe Hillary is the one with the experience and background to get things done in DC (and she’ll have her husband for advice—no small asset; he may have lapsed in moral judgment but he’s a terrific politician dealing with domestic and international affairs). For Texans, no—I’m not suggesting a Ma and Pa Ferguson kind of government. I think Hillary is her own person, who speaks out and doesn’t kowtow (which may be what has involved her in scandals).

In the long run, I believe I will vote for Hillary (as if it makes any difference in pure red Texas) because I think she is the one who can move us ahead and has the guts and will to do it.

I may be an unabashed liberal and yellow-dog Democrat, but that relieves me from worrying about the clown car, except to say that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz scare the living bejesus out of me. The rest, except maybe Kasich, are undistinguished and probably all scary.

And oh, yeah, I think Michael O’Malley would make a terrific vice-president and probably a pretty good president.

Just one woman’s opinion. When I started t write this, I was torn between Bernie and Hillary. As I wrote it, as you can see, I worked it out in my mind. And now, Texans, please vote for Lon Burnam for Railroad Commissioner—the job has little to do with railroads and lots to do with energy sources in the state. It’s important, and Lon has lots so say about turning around what has been a pretty shaky and sometimes corrupt public office.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Voices, Bells, and Alarms

Yesterday afternoon when I was napping, dozing really, I heard voices that sounded so close I thought someone was in the house. Decided it was probably people talking in the neighbor’s driveway, which is right outside my bedroom window. Pretty soon the phone rang—it was the medical alarm service calling to see if I was all right. I must have rolled over on the alert wristband I wear. And the voices? Probably the alarm system, but it’s two rooms away, and I take my hearing aids out to sleep. Must move that alarm central box to my bedroom.

All day yesterday, the house alarm control panel told me the back door was open. I checked it frequently, and it was closed and locked. Last night when I turned on the alarm, it was showing a green light indicating all was well. At 3:00 a.m. the screaming alarm woke Sophie and me—I turned it off, but it told me the back door was open. I checked again, came back to reset the alarm, and the phone rang. The system had called Jordan and Christian—I assured him everything was all right, and he put her on the phone. Apparently she was already half dressed and headed for my house. We all went back to bed…and the darn thing went off again at 4:15. I called the company today, they did a reset, and I’ve been watching it all day. So far it seems fine.

Meantime, this morning I heard much more pleasant voices—often a cacophony of them. I spoke to the Biscuits and Books Book Club at the home of a friend. Lively, fun ladies who really are interested in books. We discussed everything from the peacocks in my latest book (Murder at Peacock Mansion) to whether or not I listen to my characters when I write.
Me, between Joan Hallford and Marietta Slater, both
Volunteer Field Editors for Taste of Home Magazine
and members of the Biscuits and Books Book Club-
we did have biscuits and books both today--well, sort of.
Don't know about the expression on my face--
I look like a bulldog about to snarl
The hostess prepared elegant food—cinnamon rolls, sausage bites, salsa with chips, grapes and little square of toffee. Then she was surprised no one wanted to go out to lunch! I came home and napped after my rude awakenings in the night.

Tonight I have taken my two favorite dates—ages nine and ten—to the Grill for supper. They were thrilled that they got to sit at a table by themselves because the neighbors table was full, and they behaved well. Jacob is settling down for the night, and I’m looking forward to joining him soon. Must be up early tomorrow to get him off to school and me to PT.

Monday, January 25, 2016

My work space

A group called WeWork asked me to post on my blog about my work space and their idea. It’s an innovative thing for writers and other self-employed professionals: group office space at reasonable rates. They offer solitude or companionship, whichever you want, and serve as a member network to help writers connect to others. Depending on what you want, they offer healthcare, travel, gym memberships, web hosting, and accounting services—oh boy, do I need the latter. For the meantime, though, I’m happy in my at-home workspace.

One day my oldest daughter called and said she had remodeled my house. I wanted to say, “Thank you very much but I like it the way it is.” Instead I listened. My office then was in a dark bedroom--windows but no view of the street or people. It was like a little cave. Megan suggested making that room a guest room and moving my office to the awkward little bedroom off the front room, adding French doors.

After extensive construction (which also ended up re-routing the ac/heat ducts, replacing the attic stairway, thoroughly checking out my furnace, and extensive painting), it was done. We moved my long white desk in there, and lined one wall with a free-standing bookcase. A second bookcase fell apart in the move. The room is airy and sunny with windows to the front of the house and the driveway—with the dog’s help I can keep tabs on who goes up and down the driveway.

I love the atmosphere of my office. The books make it cozy and also inspire me to keep at my work. I can look out into the living room and, on cold days, enjoy warmth from the fireplace. Sometimes my daughter entertains at my house instead of hers, and I can visit, enjoy the company, and then retreat to my private place. When my dog was a pup, I kept her in the office with me, doors closed, so I could train her. Now it’s her space, and she curls up in the now-filthy overstuffed chair.

I spend hours every day at my desk, the TV often on but softly, sort of for company. If I’m home alone, I eat my meals at the desk. Late at night, you’ll find me reading or prowling Facebook. But during the day it’s all work. I start the day with email, Facebook, and the morning paper. And then I get down to work on whatever my current project is.

I am fortunate that I live alone and enjoy solitude and the uninterrupted time for work, but many others don’t enjoy the advantages I do. Check out and see if there’s a location near you. I am always impressed by entrepreneurship and give these folks a vote for success.

I am now faced with change and a decision—I will be moving to the cottage behind my house, and my youngest daughter and family will move into my house. She wants me to keep my office where it is, but I think I’d feel more at home in the cottage if I had my work space there. I could take my desk, my bookcase, and my TV. And of course the dog. What more does an old lady need? Then again, maybe WeWork is the answer for me.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Downsizing...while cooking spaghetti pie


Folks, I’m afraid you’re going to get worn out with the subject of downsizing, but this is what it looks like, and it ain’t pretty. Jordan worked like a demon this evening in my kitchen. The result is all this laid out on the dining table for her siblings to look at when they’re here next weekend. Each one has a corner of the table and then there is a spot for things they just might want. I have visions of them saying, “No, thanks,” and we’re left with all this stuff. I also want to say to them please don’t be offended if you see something you gave me. Christian said tonight, “You sure have a lot of sets of china.” Too true. Jamie has already gotten the Imari he wanted; I have always known what Megan wanted—the Suzy Cooper, and I am hoping Colin, as keeper of the MacBain tradition, will want the plaid china. If they don’t take it all, I may invite the neighbors in.

I made spaghetti pie tonight, from a recipe I found I know not where. It was really good, but we would make some changes in it another time. Here’s how I would do it:


8 oz. spaghetti, cooked, cooking water reserved

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 lb. ground meat (use turkey if you want—I used beef)

1 c. tomato paste, divided

Herbs as desired

3 large eggs

1 cup grated Parmesan

8 oz. Mozzrella

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste.

Cook pasta, drain, rinse, and set aside

Sauté onions until transparent. Add ground meat and brown until no pink shows. Add ¾ c. tomato paste, ½ c. pasta water, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir, adding more pasta water if needed. Sauce should be consistency of a thick Bolognese sauce. Add, to taste, a bit of thyme, Italian seasonings, oregano—whatever suits your fancy.

Separately, mix eggs, cooked pasta, parmesan, 1 cup mozzarella, and ¼ c. tomato paste.

Grease 9” pie pan. Spread half meat mixture. Top with spaghetti mix, tamping it down as much as possible to make a level top. Add remaining meat mixture. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges with sharp knife.

Jacob loved the pasta part and shoved the meat aside; Christian wanted more meat; Jordan and I decided the original recipe call for too much pasta—12 oz. But we all declared it a keeper recipe. I was particularly proud of cooking this tonight because I haven’t been cooking much—back issues—and did this tonight with only one time out.

I cooked; Jordan cleaned and sorted, and we tripped over eachother. So now I have a newly organized kitchen and a full belly. She warned me not to even ask where all my dish towels had gone.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cold rain, physical therapy, and sauerkraut

Cold rainy morning, the kind that makes you want to cuddle in bed. But I was out to make an 8:30 physical therapy appointment. Years ago when I first went to a counselor, I thought I discovered something wonderful and new—someone to talk to about what was troubling me. This was in the midst of a divorce. Now I’ve discovered something else wonderful and new (to me)—physical therapy. I’ve never wanted to go to a gym or spa or even yoga class, but I find I’m comfortable at this facility. If you’re in FW, consider Curnyn’s on Bryan Irvin and ask for Nate Ried. I originally enrolled in a program to help the “elderly” (surely that’s not me) develop balance and stability and prevent falls.

I’m not sure of the chronology here but over the summer I had a couple of crises—swollen foot, falls, etc. After a series of specialists I was sent back to PT where I wanted to be all the time. This week, I’ve had definitive proof of the value. I called them, said I couldn’t come because I’d fallen on my knee and it was too sore to do the exercises I usually do, and they said to come in so they could look at the knee. After two sessions, it is remarkably better—not perfect, but on its way. I am so grateful. When Nate learned I blogged every night, he asked if I wrote about the mean physical therapist. I told him no. But my funniest story is that I have a hard time walking across empty space, even though he walks beside me and assures me he won’t let me fall. Still, I reach out to him for security, and he says, “Don’t touch me!”

Went from there to the grocery and the two about did my back in. Then tonight I made BLTs for Jacob and me, and then half an hour later Jordan came along and I made another. I am one tired puppy.

A longtime friend wrote me tonight that she was making my mom’s kraut and sausage dish. I had completely forgotten about it, but you sauté kraut, onion, brown sugar, caraway seeds in butter, add white wine or beer, and let it simmer. Meanwhile sauté your choice of sausage in butter or grill—I’d probably use bratwurst but she suggested everything from knockwurst to hot dogs. I’ll make it as soon as I find kraut eaters to serve it to.

Going to sleep in just a bit tomorrow. What a delicious thought. Sweet dreams, y’all.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Downsizing to get my lifetime of accumulations into a three-room cottage is going to be a challenge. I have family pieces of furniture, silver, etc. that I don’t think will fit in my new quarters but I don’t want to part with them. I will of course offer them to the children, and there are some things I want to hang on to for now but someday I hope one of my children will want then. Like the wonderful oak chiming clock on the mantel that my mom went to school by as a child.

For years I thought I wasn’t going to think about this downsizing problem. I’d just let my children deal with it after I’m gone. But now that we’re into it, I’m glad to be able to be part of it, to voice my opinion. Tonight Jordan pulled silver pieces, badly tarnished I admit, out of a buffet I seldom open except to get the ice bucket. There were two silver tea services, and I was chagrined that I couldn’t tell her which belonged to who. I think the more ornate one was my paternal grandmother’s, and the more sleek, modern one belonged to my mom. I am more casual in entertaining and almost never use silver, which I realized with a pang when Jordan pulled silver serving dishes out and said, “What are these for?” One covered dish—Mom’s or something she inherited from Dad’s mother—is of the ornate grape pattern, but on the serving dish there is a place where the silver melted. I remember when I was a child and Mom set the dish too close to a flame and melted a bit of the pattern. Makes it more precious now.

Jordan also packed up Christmas today. I had it all in a pile on the dining table, but she wanted to pack it in a way that would make sense to her next Christmas. No more of my grocery sacks. She brought plastic bins with lids. As always, she got it all packed and discovered Christmas items she’d left out. She also organized all the wrapping material, which I generally just stuffed into black plastic bags. How did I get such an organized daughter?

Next on her agenda is what she refers to as my ten drawers of T-shirts. A slight exaggeration but I do have more than I use. And a small cabinet full of athletic knee-high sock which no one in the family would ever wear. I’m hoping we can give away a lot of this and avoid a garage sale.

All the kids will be here the weekend of the 29th, and I’m hoping they’ll take a lot home with them.

This is an ongoing process, and you’ll probably hear a lot more about it. Meantime, can you think of a better ticket that Donald Trump and Sarah Palin? Oh good gravy. I stumbled into the kitchen this morning, turned on the TV, and heard this horrible shrieking, grating female voice. Sarah, of course.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My proud peacock

Ah, the memory is the first to go with senility. I can’t remember if I wrote about my peacock Christmas or not before, but in honor of my newest mystery, Murder at Peacock Mansion, my kids gave me a peacock Christmas. Jordan got marvelous black pants with peacock patterns on the legs and waist—they are at the tailor’s now—and Colin and Lisa go a metal yard sculpture of a peacock.

On Christmas morning, I looked down at the odd metal thing with lots of petals or something and wondered what it could be. Next to it sat a three-pronged metal thing with a sharp point sticking straight up. In some alarm, I said to Lisa, “One of the kids could impale themselves on that.” She laughed and called to Colin, “Your mom wants to know what this is. She’s afraid it will hurt her.” Turned out one of the peacock’s legs had broken off in transit and turned into a lethal weapon.

I brought it home and asked Lewis Bundock, the contractor who keeps everything, big and small, running in my household, if he could weld it. He could and brought it back yesterday, so now my proud peacock stands magnificent and colorful. He needs a name, though I haven’t come up with that yet. Eventually he will stand on the patio by my cottage, but I will have to enlist Greg’s help to make him stable and not subject to every wind that blows. Meantime I’m not sure where to put him, and he resides in my dining room. Sophie has shown no interest.

One of the problems with announcing you’re going to remodel, I’ve found, is that everyone expects it to move rapidly. If you’ve ever remodeled anything, you know that doesn’t happen. Tonight at neighbors’ night at the Grill people asked how it was proceeding, and the best I could say was slowly. We’re still waiting on full architect’s plans to submit to the city for a building permit. Meantime I’m worrying about the problem of new roofs for both the house and the cottage—like a niggly naggling something in the back of my brain. Please don’t ask—I’ll announce when work begins. Meantime, Lewis Bundock is proceeding with plans for blocking off the door between my bedroom and the guest room, which will become, respectively, Jordan and Christian’s bedroom and Jacob’s. I’m letting Christian deal with that.

A learning lesson for Jacob tonight: he went to a friend’s house, said they did all their homework, and was back by six. His Tuesday night chore is to empty the recycling bin and take the garbage carts down to the street. I asked at six if he didn’t want to get it done. “In a minute.” Finally he did take the two recycling containers and empty them into the cart. But he announced he would take the carts down when we came home from dinner. And no, he didn’t need a jacket—it wasn’t that cold.

When we came out from dinner, amazing how cold it had gotten. He was shivering and freezing and said he had to warm up before taking the carts down. That meant watch one video. Then he said he was just going to run and get it done—and he did, for which I’m grateful. With my ongoing back problems and new sore knee, I wasn’t up to it. So I thanked him profusely but I couldn’t resist saying I hoped he learned a lesson about doing things the first time he’s asked. He was sort of committal in his answer. I keep hoping.

Monday, January 18, 2016

This, that, and the Democratic Debate

I have so enjoyed the three-day weekend. Stayed home all three days, slept late (Sophie has developed the habit of jumping on the bed and getting in my face when she thinks I’ve slept long enough), did a bit of cooking, and got lots of desk work done. The trouble with that is the more you do, the more there is to do. Writing is an uncertain life—one day you may think your desk is relatively clear, and the next you’re inundated with a thousand small projects. That’s where I am now—inundated.

I think I’m becoming a piscatarian—one who eats fish but not other flesh. Saturday I had salmon for dinner; Sunday for lunch I defrosted a tuna pasty; for dinner I had marinated tuna; today I made salmon salad for lunch because Jordan was coming on her lunch hour, and tonight I finished the marinated tuna. Tomorrow I’ll finish the salmon salad for lunch, but then by time for dinner at the Grill, I’ll be ready for beef or turkey.

Tonight good friends were coming for happy hour. I started a fire, put out three wine glasses, even put on lipstick…and then went to my computer to find they had to cancel because he’s had health issues. Disappointing but I have enough on my desk to keep me busy—and a book I’m really enjoying.

If you read this blog much you know I am a dedicated progressive, liberal, Democrat—whatever term you want to use, whether or not it’s a pejorative to you. I watched the debate last night, and frankly I was disappointed. I had hoped the Democrats would continue a collegial discussion of issues that concern us all. But instead Hillary Clinton went on the attack against Bernie Sanders.  They weren’t as ugly and angry as the Republicans (frankly I don’t watch those debates because of the anger level and the lack of concern for the common good). Occasionally both Clinton and Sanders managed smiles and chuckles, but there was an acrimonious tone to the debate that dismayed me. Poor O’Malley was left sort of off-stage, but I do like him, think he's a voice of common sense. I guess conventional wisdom is that he’s in this for a vice-presidential spot—and that would please me.

Which of the two forerunners am I going to vote for? I’m still not decided. Friends in politics tell me Sanders can’t win a national election, but didn’t they say that about Obama? And doesn’t his campaign echo Obama’s 2008 campaign? I know Hillary has the experience and the knowledge to do the job, but sometimes a bit of mistrust creeps into my mind. And an occasional photographer manages to catch her with a cold, unpleasant look on her face.

I don’t know, but if Trump wins (which I sincerely doubt but am afraid to say out loud), I’ll begin to make plans to move. Now he’s taking credit for the release of the Iranian hostages, claiming they were freed because Iran is afraid of him. So much for President Obama and diplomatic negotiations. As a good friend would say, “Give me a break!”

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Death and taxes, and a lot of other things

No, no death. I just always thought death and taxes went together--maybe because both are inevitable.

It’s amazing what you can get done when your knee hurts when you sit down, stand up, or walk. I spent most of the day at my desk—okay, there was that nap—but I got a lot done. Yesterday I tried five or six times to post Murder at the Tremont House, #2 of the Blue Plate Café Mysteries, to Kindle. Finally gave up last night, and posted it successfully this morning. This means all three Blue Plates are available again as e-books. Check it out at Please don’t be surprised at opportunities to buy it for over $1,000 in paperback. I’m never sure why Amazon puts those extravagant prices on out-of-print books. But Murder at the Tremont House is no longer available in print, except used copies. If you want to pay a thousand dollars for one, God bless you—but rest assured I get no royalties from those used sales.

People keep asking me what I’m writing. I’m tempted to say, “Nothing.” But my answer is that I’m “managing my career.” It’s true—I pushed myself for several years to write two or three books a year. Now I’m concentrating on marketing, making available titles that disappeared when my publisher went out of business. I’m blogging more and arranging blogs tours for Desperate for Death, which debuted this month as an e-book. I have two guest blogs to write by the 25th—wrote one tonight and was totally dissatisfied with it. Will start over tomorrow.

And I’m planning ahead for the debut of a totally different novel, The Gilded Cage: A Novel of Chicago. It will launch in print and ebook in April, I’ll do a blog tour (yes, I’m working with a tour company that knows historical markets whereas I know mystery sites), and fretting every day about how to spread the word about this novel. I consider it my “big” novel. It’s Chicago history from 1847 through the Columbian Exposition, the Gilded Age which much like our own saw a great division between wealthy and poor. Central to the story are the Potter Palmers (he of Palmer House hotel fame). While Potter built a fortune and became a leader in Chicago politics and society, his wife worked to turn philanthropy into good deeds. Pardon me, but I think it’s a good story, and I’m excited about it. More to come later.

I also started on taxes tonight, answering the basic questions on the organizer and putting my bank statements into order so I can go through them easily. A yearly chore that I dread, but once I get started, I know I’ll move ahead on it.

I’ve been watching the Democratic debate with one eye and listening with one ear. They haven’t sunk to the level or anger at the Republican debates but I am sad that they are attacking and accusing each other-Clinton and Sanders, while O’Malley remains the voice of calm. I liked it better when there was a sense of collegiality.

Okay, enough work for the day. I just got Julie Hyzy’s Foreign Eclairs, and I’m going to read. Sweet dreams, everyone.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Food, bruises, and religious freedom day

Did you know this is Religious Freedom Day? So declared each January 16 by presidential proclamation. It honors the late-18th-century proclamation of Virginia Freedom of Religion Day, but was enacted into law by the U. S. Congress in 1992 as an annual recognition of our tradition of worshipping, each of us as we please, and respecting how others prefer to worship. It’s a day of recognition worth taking to heart in these conflicted times of hate and prejudice.

My day started off well, a day laziness. I love waking in the night and realizing how much longer I have to sleep. But when I woke to go to the bathroom at seven this morning and crawled back into bed, Jacob demanded, “Juju, are you aware that it’s morning?” I assured him I was, and he asked, “Then why are you just coming to bed for the first time?” I told him I’d been in the bed all night long—and I stayed there until an anxious dog got me up about eight.

I’ve had a roll of food successes with Jacob, but it came to a crashing halt this morning. When his dad came to take him to a golf lesson, he told me Jacob said it was impossible to eat his breakfast because I put the fork in the middle of the waffles and it got all sticky. His father asked why he didn’t just get up, go to the sink, and rinse it. Later Jacob would explain that it was because I was always rushing him. He’s not the sweetest child in the mornings.

Tonight, however, I scored a food victory. Jordan was returning from Costa Rica, a business trip, and since Christian was to go to a party, she’d come here for supper. I bought salmon which she loves and he won’t touch. We ended up with Christian, who really didn’t want to go to the party alone, and Jacob but Christian brought their dinners.

What I didn’t tell Jordan was that I was cooking the salmon in anchovy-garlic butter—I figured she’d beg me to leave out the anchovies. Christian watched and said how good it looked—he wanted to try a bit, but “What’s the brown flakes in the butter?” I replied I’d reveal all after dinner. They both loved it, and he wants me to cook it again. You pan sear the salmon, skin side down, in the butter mix, then sprinkle capers on the pan and put it in the oven at 400 for eight minutes. The capers get crispy and good, and the anchovies are barely discernible but add a certain piquancy. I can’t believe Christian ate salmon and anchovies and lived to tell the tale.

My lazy day was marked by work at the computer, though I still have trouble posting books to Kindle. But I had a long nap and a nice cuddle with Sophie. The blot on the whole day was that I caught my toe on a rug and went down on all fours, badly bruising my right knee which now hurts like fire. I knew I’d have to explain my awkward, slow gait to Jordan so when she asked how my back was, I said I’d bruised my knee. “On what?” she asked, and I had to say, “The floor.” It’s one of those two seconds I’d like to recall and I’m sure I’ll be limping around here for a couple of days. Moral of the story: don’t shuffle-be sure to life your feet off the floor.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tired, so tired—and bizarre news items

Ever since the holidays I’ve found my days eaten up with errands and doctors’ appointments, grocery store trips and household chores like laundry and kitchen things. I look around my house and see all the things that need to be done. Physical therapy twice a week also takes a chunk out of my week. And sorting papers for the tax return looms as a big chunk of time. The result of all this is that by Friday night I’m exhausted and ready to sleep all weekend, which of course I won’t do. At seven in the morning, I’ll be wide awake.

Every night I swear I’ll go to bed by ten—I have yet to make it before about 11:15. I seem to get a second wind in the evening, get lost in whatever I’m doing, and keep thinking that any minute I’ll go to bed. It won’t happen, especially tonight when I have Jacob who likes to stay up late on weekend.

His mom comes home from a travel agent “fam” trip to Costa Rica tomorrow night. His dad is going to a party, although reluctantly because he has to go alone. So I’ve promised to fix Jordan salmon—which Christian won’t eat. I’m loving getting back in the kitchen more, even if it does make my back scream at me.

I’ll be glad to have Jordan home for lots of reasons, among them the fact that she wants to pack up my Christmas decorations herself—she’s tired of my grocery sacks and has brought plastic bins—one is already full of all the greens I took down. I doubt the rest will fit in the second bin, but I’m ready to have Christmas off my dining table. I think it’s all the first baby steps toward our consolidation or merging households—as we sort, things inevitably get messy. And I, who used to swoop through the house, picking up empty coffee cups and other detritus that bothered me, don’t have the energy for that. I note things that need to be done and think, “Tomorrow.” Really welcome the three-day weekend coming up.

Lest this sound like whining, I’ll admit that bizarre news items have convinced me we live in an age of loons. There’s a legislator in Tennessee who want to inspect the privates of every child before they use a restroom to make sure they go into the correct one for their gender. Apparently he’s concerned about transgender transgressions. How many transgender school children do you know? And I’m quite sure that’s against the law. We spend hours teaching children and grandchildren about inappropriate touching, and then this nut job comes along. I’ve noticed that Republicans seem particularly concerned with our privates and what we do with them.

And now, in Texas, it’s legal to open-carry a weapon into a mental institution. How safe does that sound to you? We can’t do background checks but we can give mental patients a chance to snatch someone’s gun and open fire. Our Fort Worth Southwestern Exposition and Stock Show now also allows open carry with “certain restrictions,” though I never did see what those restrictions are. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, and one of the friends I had lunch with said sometimes she likes to go to the stock show but not this year. She has made a promise to herself not to enter any business that says “We welcome open carry” and to leave immediately if she finds herself in a business that allows it, signage or not. I so agree with her. It’s not that guns scare me—the people who parade them that scare me.

The same friend wondered aloud today if people were as crazy 500 years ago and concluded they probably were. We’re just seeing the 21st-century spin on it. I’m not so sure.

Okay, I’m going to bed and wake up in a happier frame of mind. Everyone needs to kvetch once in a while.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fun, food and good friends

If you can get a nine-year-old boy to go back for third helpings, you know you’ve accomplished something. With Jordan out of town, I cooked for Jacob and Christian tonight—mostly it was a Christian-centric meal. I fixed “his” green beans—cook about four slices of bacon in a skillet and set aside to drain and crisp; sauté a few scallions in the bacon grease; drain a large can of regular cut green beans and dump into the skillet. Add cider vinegar to taste. Christian adores them! Then I fixed frozen sweet corn with butter, salt and pepper, and steamed turkey kielbasa. Father and son ate like they hadn’t eaten in a week.  Our sweet and patient vegetarian friend who joined us didn’t fare so well, though she ate the green beans ad picked out the bacon pieces. Still she said she could taste the flavor—though it didn’t seem to bother her (I love flexible vegetarians). I gave her my leftover black beans from dinner at the Tavern last night and she agreed with me—they are absolutely the best black beans ever.

I’ve had a couple of great food days. Yesterday, Melinda (production manager at TCU Press) and I went to Nonna Tata. We always carry our individual small bottles of wine—red for her and white for me—and we both always order the same thing: chicken piccata for her with pasta, and braseola (the beef version of prosciutto) for me-it comes with greens and shaved grana cheese, all dressed in a light lemon vinaigrette plus a good vinegar potato salad.

I guess I was too full from lunch to appreciate dinner but it was the regular night for Betty and me to go to dinner. Linda, my longtime friend (would you believe 40 years) came in from Granbury to join us, and we had a lovely time-not catching up but just talking about the present, telling good stories, and laughing a lot.  My niece and her family happened to be in the restaurant (the Tavern) and came over to our table--I got wonderful hugs from her and from her youngest daughter who doesn’t know me very well. But she studied me for a moment and then threw her arms around my neck. Talk about a special moment.

So if I haven’t gotten much work done the last couple of days, it’s been delightful. And the evening with Betty and Linda reminded me of my friend Barbara. When we got together we always talked about the past, until her husband in frustration would say, “Why can’t you talk about the present?” Indeed, he was right, and last night we did talk about the present—everything from family to politics to current fashions. Our lives are rich and full.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

There’s nothing to say

I haven’t been a good blogger lately. My life seems humdrum, so I have nothing to say. That’s not a complaint—I enjoy a quiet life. But it seems all I’ve done is go to doctors and physical therapy, with an occasional trip to the grocery store thrown in. Not the stuff of riveting blogs. Today I went to physical therapy, and it absolutely wore me out—which I take is a good sign. Tonight I took two giggly, weird nine-year-old boys to dinner at the Old Neighborhood Grill. They elected to sit at the far end of the table, and I think the adults were most glad.

Maybe I’m just in a humdrum mood but I eagerly awaited the State of the Union address, rushed the boys through an earlier dinner than usual, and then found it less than riveting. It just didn’t live up to all the hype that had preceded it. Maybe it was because I only listened with half an ear.

Why do we think there has to be something exciting every day? Something blog worthy? Maybe it’s okay to go along quietly enjoying the days. Life can’t always be lived at the high peak. It’s just that I trapped myself into this blogging every day mode. So if I miss a day, please excuse me.

Tomorrow may be better. I have interesting lunch and dinner dates.

Monday, January 11, 2016

And so another week begins

Have you noticed lately that weekdays seem crammed with activities? I surely have. I wish I could say my weekdays are busy because I’m at my desk working from nine to five. But it ain’t so. Life gets in the way. This morning a dermatology appointment took the entire morning—three hours. When I got home it was time for lunch, a bit of computer catching up, and a brief—really brief—nap before Jacob came home. Then Jacob had a friend over, and my friends Phil and Subie arrived for happy hour, followed by Christian. And before I knew it, it was six-thirty and time for supper. And after supper, I’m tired and not very ambitious.

And the week will go that way with physical therapy appointments, a grocery trip, a breakfast meeting with Book Ladies, and a long lunch with old friends. Not that I would forego any of those activities, but they do eat up my days.

Tomorrow night is our Tuesday night at the Grill, but Subie and Phil and I have agreed to go early—6:30—so we can be home in time to watch the State of the Union address. I am an unabashed fan of President Clinton, although I recognize that he has not fulfilled all his promises to the American people—about Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. But still he has done amazing things with the economy, unemployment, diplomatic relationships, and an endless list.

I find myself now a most interested follower of the campaigns. I abhor most of the clown car and particularly Donald Trump. Who would have ever thought he would get this far and command such a following. Yet it seems the more popular he gets the more hate-filled and heartless his speeches are. I read somewhere today an editorial on why he won’t be elected, and I pray to God it’s true.

But on the Democratic side (admittedly my side) I find the race fascinating. Like many, I embrace Bernie Sanders’ ideals and dreams but privately decided Hilary was the more electable candidate. Now I read today that Bernie has a real chance of taking both New Hampshire and Iowa, which would change the balance dramatically. And if that happens many like me may decide to vote for Bernie which we really wanted to do all along but just didn’t think he could win. Actually, I still don’t know which way I will vote. But I will say in Texas I’ll vote a straight Democratic ticket—we’ve got to rid our state of arrogant politicians who want to rewrite the Constitution.

Isn’t politics and particularly presidential year elections fun? I don’t know—because I think I take it too seriously to call it fun.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

A day of starts

 Do you ever start things and not finish them? I was raised to think that was a sign of laziness at best or of moral weakness at worst. Once you started a task, you finished it. But today I decided maybe it’s a bit of wisdom. I started several things: first I started the dreaded task of d-Christmasing the house. According to Jordan’s directions, I put miscellaneous little things (felt Santas, small gift-wrapped packages, etc.) into a large baggie; in another I collected all the little red apples that we spread throughout greenery; pine cones (I have an enormous supply, some gilded one year when I was feeling crafty) went into a paper sack; I put two folk creches in a baggie but am baffled how to fit the arch that stands for the barn into the baggie—I’d show a picture, but it’s already wrapped up. It came from a village in South American where women have tremendously improved the economy by making and selling these; one year I gave lots of them as gifts. The other crèche is also, I believe, from South America, a large hinged shell (not quite a coconut but like that) which reveals carved figures of the Nativity when you open it. Tomorrow I will collect all the artificial greens and put them in a bin that Jordan has provided. She wants everything in order for next year when she’s mistress of the castle, and I agree her method is better than my haphazard one which has relied on grocery sacks for years—often recycling the same sacks.
Then I started assembling information for my 2015 taxes. I was driven to this by the need to make room for 2016 receipts, etc. I didn’t do much but I gathered all the paid bills and the two folders I’d labeled “business” and “general” taxes and dumped them—yes—into a grocery sack. I purposely didn’t take my reusable bags to the store Friday because I knew I’d need brown paper sacks.

Something I did finish today: the book I was reading—Guilty as Cinnamon, by Leslie Budewitz. And I’ll start another one tonight—had the distinct pleasure of finding a Julie Hyzy White House chef book on my iPad that I hadn’t read. But that’s another start. I won’t finish it tonight.

Starting is good. The question is whether or not you finish whatever it is.

Friday, January 08, 2016

The Remodeling/Merger Woes Begin

It’s Friday night, and I’m tired. It’s been a week of doctor appointments, a haircut for me and one for Sophie, people in the house every evening or out for dinner. I appreciate the busy social life, but it leaves little time or energy for writing. Not one day to stay at home all day at my desk. I have developed a standard answer when people ask if I’m writing or what I’m writing. My answer: “I’m managing my career.” For that is truly what I’m doing in the odd moments at my desk—arranging blog tours, working to post older titles that disappeared from Amazon, figuring out marketing plans for old and new books.

This week, in addition to all the busyness, we’ve made baby steps toward our project of merging households and remodeling. Jordan and Christian want some structural changes inside the house—a door closed off and made into a wall, a louvered door replaced with a solid door. And they couldn’t understand why it was taking so long. Today Lewis, my contractor about whom you’ll hear a lot more, was finally able to corral his painter and bring him over to look at the two rooms that will have to be repainted. No report yet.

What I feared would happen did: I became the middleman, the kids demanding answers from me about why this took so long, when would such and such be done. Today I got Christian to talk to Lewis and I think it was a mutually satisfying talk—Christian says they agreed the next step is up to the architect. So we need to light a firecracker under him.

Meantime, my most organized daughter, is leaving town on business for a week but has left me a list of chores: first is to dismantle Christmas, though I must leave it for her to pack in her own efficient way. When she comes back, we’ll pack up Christmas and then load the dining table with dishes, etc., that my children may want. They’ll all be here January 29 for the rodeo. I have given sets of china to Jamie and Megan, but there are others that I think the other kids want. As always I face the dilemma that many are family pieces. I may not have room for them in my new quarters, but I don’t want to see them leave the family. That is going to be an even bigger problem with furniture, though Jordan and Christian want my wonderful oak dining table with a gazillion leaves and the 1846 sideboard that has been in my family for generations. They’ll also keep the round oak table I bought for $3 at a farm sale in Missouri. Today you’d pay a fortune for that. I’m mentally trying to figure out which antiques and family pieces I can move to the apartment—my wonderful mahogany bed, with its six-foot headboard and four-foot footboard for sure, and my large square oak coffee table—once a kitchen table but we cut it down. Probably another $3 purchase when I lived in rural Missouri. Such decisions are sure to be wrenching.

I don’t foresee a lot of writing in the coming year. I will be busy managing my career and managing the merger and arranging my new space. Wish me luck, please.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

An Epiphany family tradition

Jacob, having just successfully burned his branch
Photo by Subie Green, with Phil green in the background
It’s almost eerie to me the number of people I see on Facebook and in emails who are eager to bid 2015 goodbye and anxious to welcome 2016, with the belief that it will be a whole new year, a whole new chance at health and happiness. I count myself among those, for 2015, as I’ve said before, was not a particularly happy year for me. So I join the ranks, but it makes me wonder just what so bad was going on in 2015.

Tonight is Epiphany, marking the arrival of the Wise Men with gifts for the baby Jesus. We have a strange family custom which doesn't seem to share much with the Bibical story. When I was a child, we had a neighbor who was an adopted aunt to me. She would invite us to their house on Twelfth Night to burn a branch of evergreen. Auntie E. was always elegantly dressed, usually in a hostess gown, and served luscious treats, though now I can’t remember what they were. I just remember it as a formal occasion, and one I treasured. The tradition she fostered was that each of us threw a small piece of greens on to the fire and made a secret wish for the new year. Of course, you couldn’t tell anyone what your wish was.

I’ve carried that tradition over to my family. My kids looked forward to it as children, and now I carry it on with Jordan and her family and a couple of neighbors. Tonight we did it as happy hour with snacks. I can’t remember from year to year what order we do it in, but tonight it was oldest to youngest. So I threw the first small branch in—it didn’t light but Jordan pushed it in until it blazed, so I guess my wish will come true. There were six of us, and each followed by age—with great cheers when a branch blazed immediately. The last of course was Jacob, who enjoys this immensely. When I look at the photo of him above, I think what a rich tradition he is growing up with--not just Epiphany but almost ass aspects of his life.

Me, with Phil's seeing eye dogs, one retired--gentle giants
Sophie, meanwhile, was a pill, peed on the floor right in front of me
I think it was called "Notice me"
Photo by Subie Green
I guess whether or not you believe in this small ceremony—I have no idea of its origins or even if they go beyond my aunt—but maybe wishes do come true. Anyway, I hope for all who look toward 2016 as a better year, that that wish indeed does come true.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

President Obama and Gun Control

I was proud today to say that I have consistently supported President Obama throughout the seven years of his presidency. His speech on gun control justified that support. We saw a man who cares deeply about the outrageous gun deaths in this country, especially those of the children at Sandy Hook—no, I don’t think even calloused politicians can cry on demand, and yet he wiped away tears as he spoke of that massacre. He presented sensible plans—small steps—toward controlling guns in this country without taking them away from responsible citizens, and, no, it’s not the slippery slope. In spite of what so many have shrilled, he is not coming for everyone’s guns. But it is appalling that we are the only advanced nation with a gun death record so high. You are much more likely to be killed by your neighbor than an ISIS terrorist.

I got some ugly emails already: “Obama is a fraud,” “the only thing he’s compassionate about is the money he gets from the NRA.” The latter amused me—shoe on the wrong foot. Members of the Republican party get NRA funds, not the president. I did hear here and there today that longtime members are dropping out of the NRA. Frankly, from my point of view, I wish we’d follow Australia’s example—after one horrific mass shooting, they outlawed all guns. Haven’t had another mass shooting since, and that was in the ‘90s. I know however some people want to hunt, some farmers in Texas and probably elsewhere need guns to protect their crops and animals against wild hogs. There is however no reason for citizens to have military style weapons. Some people want to protect their families—I’m okay with that as long as they are responsible gun owners, but I don’t know how you separate the wheat from the chaff. How many children have you heard of who picked up a loaded gun carelessly left lying about and shot either themselves or a sibling?

A mass hysteria has swept this country. People are obsessed with their right to bear arms, and in the process they distort the 2nd Amendment and the intent of the Founders who wrote it. What’s worse is that this hysteria has extended to a kind of “us vs. them” attitude, where people see the government as the big enemy. The Oregon self-styled militia is an extreme example of this kind of thinking.

Do you want to live in a hostile, armed society? I don’t. I keep hearing the President wondering aloud how this became such a partisan issue? Do I know what to do about it? Not a clue, although I thought the speech today was a good start. Do I sometimes want to abandon ship and move to Scotland? You bet!

Monday, January 04, 2016

The Old West ain't dead yet

As a student of the literature of the American West and a Texan, I’ve been watching events at the national sanctuary in Oregon with interest—can come to absolutely no conclusion. Lots of people on Facebook seem to think the protestors should be shot immediately—for treason or some other heinous crime. That seems a bit extreme. Yes, they’ve broken Federal law by occupying the land. Open carry is legal in Oregon so they can’t be punished for being armed. If, as I read tonight, the takeover is to protest the increased jail sentences of a father and son for setting fires to rid property of parasitic growth and prevent fires on their land, it’s a quixotic and futile gesture. Not sure if those fires were on private or Federal land.

I can sort of see the ranchers’ point of view—Federal lands are hemming them in, and small ranches have little chance. But that was true in the late 19th century—read Elmer Kelton’s The Day the Cowboys Quit. It may be because I’m a progressive liberal, but I always thought government ownership of large portions of the American West was a good thing because it protected land from development. That theory came crashing down this past year when Congress voted to sell land sacred to the Native Americans to a foreign investor. I definitely think that’s wrong, but I don’t like much this Congress has done…or left undone. And the land in Oregon now occupied by protestors is part of a parcel granted the Paiute by Teddy Roosevelt, which further complicates matters.

This is apparently a matter for the FBI, which is strangely silent in spite of calls for immediate action, preferably gunfire (what is wrong with this country with its mania for guns?). I think whatever Federal authorities are in charge are playing it smart. Today one of the Bundy brothers said they don’t want it to come to bloodshed, but I’m not sure. A corner of my mind thinks they want confrontation—some are even willing to die as martyrs. A direct assault would play into their hands. Others would undoubtedly join the protest or stage separate protests—in this world today, we don’t need another civil war.

But that’s sort of the way I feel when people argue that President Obama is weak because he hasn’t sent us back to war in the Middle East. He has a far more decisive program there than critics give him credit for, but he’s not going to send our young men and women into another Iraq or Afghanistan.

I haven’t decided who I’m voting for in the presidential election, but I like the idea of a woman. Less combative, less testosterone. Lord, give us peace.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Creeping Disease of Inertia

Inertia crept up on me this weekend. After a week that seemed busy and crowded with people, I so looked forward to two days at home alone, getting work done. Saturday I finished reading emails and Facebook, read the newspaper such as it is, and then wondered what to do—all my work projects seemed on hold depending on someone else’s time schedule. So I read a mystery most of the day, napped, and made myself from-scratch noodles (not mac) and cheese—really good if I do say so. But by Saturday night, I felt inertia had crept up and taken charge, and I planned to stay home Sunday too.

The old me would have gone to church this morning and with my kids to the Boar’s Head Festival at our church tonight. The new me didn’t have the spunk to do either. Once again, I read emails, Facebook, and the newspaper—which is a little meatier on Sundays. And then there I was. What would I do? I pulled myself out of my funk and began to proof one of my older mysteries that my former publisher had taken down. By two o’clock, I had finished Murder at the Tremont House and will post it next week.

Then the files for the print copy of Desperate for Death came by email from the formatter, and I—finally!—got it submitted and am now trying to submit files to Kindle. It keeps telling me important information is missing and please check the items marked in red. Only I can’t find them. I think it may be pricing information but so far I see no place to include that. I’ll keep trying like an obsessed woman. But every time I start over again, I have to re-key all the book information—very frustrating.

Having literally wasted 2015 moaning about my hip and leg pain, 2016 is the year I’m going to get serious again about my writing, so today was a good start. But just a start. I still have six mysteries to go, if I can find my way through the Kindle system. Still, it cheered me greatly to have done what I did today. I vanquished inertia, and now I look forward to a busy week filled with appointments that will get me out of the house and away from inertia.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

We live in a disposable world

For years, I lived under the happy assumption that once you bought an appliance, you had it and could move on. I was dismayed when my dishwasher quit—maybe eight years ago—and the tech who installed the new one told me the old machine was probably 35 years old. Longer than I’ve lived in this house. That “new” dishwasher had to be replaced last fall.

Now my 22-year-old refrigerator appears to be on its last legs. Jacob told me yesterday that he tried to get ice and none would come out—and then it exploded ice all over. When I went into the kitchen, I detected the odor of an electrical overheating if not outright fire. Felt the panel over the ice maker, and it was hot. Apparently ice was jammed into the dispenser, so I cleaned it all out—twice. The panel cooled, and I’ve felt of it several times since. It remains fine and no ice has accumulated though I admit I’m a bit scared to try the in-the-door dispenser.

Jordan and Christian went refrigerator shopping today. Since they will be moving into my house they want a say in the fridge, which is only fair, and Christian said he will pay for it. But that’s a ways away, and I’m not ready to shell out $2,000 for a new fridge. Okay, the old one also leaks—but it makes ice and keeps food cold. I haven’t asked what they found because, like me, they’re busy watching TCU lose the bowl game to Oregon.

Years ago I was astounded by the advent of permanent press and fitted sheets. I had plenty of sheets, and they weren’t ragged. Why would I buy new sheets?

It seems we live in a world of replaceable commodities. I hate to sound like an old fuddy duddy, but back in the day manufacturers made things to last. Alas, now they make them—even cars—to wear out so we’ll have to buy new. By the by, my VW Bug is eleven years old, and I’m praying.