Thursday, June 30, 2016

The tedium of days

Sometimes the tedium of days makes me want to cower in bed, which I know is not the answer. But even though I have work to do, books to read, the routine of my days gets to me. Brush teeth, wash hair, eat breakfast, and work at my desk—some days, not feeling pushed, I spend way too much of the morning on Facebook. The ultimate in escapism. Today was one of those days.

Because I’m compulsive, I beat myself up a lot about not being productive. I wrote 1000 words on a new manuscript earlier in the week—and quit, because it just didn’t seem to come alive on the page. I have some ideas about how to fix that first thousand words—and I can’t move on until I do that. But I find myself reading a book or doing anything to distract. I have an older titles of mine to proofread so I can get it back up on Amazon. Do I do it? Nope. I diddle and fiddle. It really bothers me.

Friends came tonight to bring me supper, and we had a good long, jolly visit. Then Jacob arrived and announced he was hungry, so Teddy took him to the Old Neighborhood Grill to get a cheese quesadilla. Jacob sat and chatted like an adult—so proud of him.

Jordan is coming back tonight to make salads for our salad buffet tomorrow night, but it’s 8:30---her car is in the driveway but I don’t know where she went. Think I saw Christian’s car too so perhaps they’ve gone somewhere. Getting close to my bedtime, so I may not be much good at making salads—or directing her.

Kind of a downer post tonight, and I’m sorry. But I am so worried about my doctor appointment Tuesday, afraid my ankle is not healing. Trying to teach myself, “What will be will be.” Somehow when I tried to type the original que sera, sera, it came out in Greek letters. Is that an omen?

Tomorrow is a new day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


 Can you believe June is already gone? They say times flies when you’re having fun, but I sure didn’t know that I was having that much fun this month. Nonetheless, it’s gone. When we’re not paying attention, living in the moment, time does fly.

You hear a lot about mindfulness these days. Basically it’s the process of focusing on the present moment and experiencing it fully. A monk said that if you’re washing dishes and looking ahead to your cup of tea, you are missing the experience of washing the dishes. So when you get the tea, you’re thinking about your next chore and not fully experience drinking the tea. Makes sense to me, because my mind is always three steps ahead of where I am.

I’ve known forever that I live life too fast, so that it passes me by without me experiencing the best of it. I need to slow down and savor the moment. You can accomplish that through meditation.

My brother asked me if I ever meditated, because he believes I can envision my ankle healing. Truth is I pray but I don’t meditate, and I see the two as similar. So today I’ve been working on envisioning my ankle healing and talking to the Lord about it—seems the best of both worlds do me.

Jacob is back from the ranch, full of tales of the copperhead they saw—his cousin jumped on his back—and a visit to a neighboring ranch where they have an owl that the foreman has trained to follow him. He found it as a baby in a puddle, nursed it to health. Jacob said the ranch kids were really kind to him, but they shot and gutted a rabbit for the owl to eat. And Jacob was turned off by that. I told him we’d send him to the ranch more often so that he could toughen up. But he was so tired today, and has a baseball game until ten tonight.

My Tomball kids are mostly “hanging out” this summer, and I hope to take Jacob down there for a week—he needs to “hang out” and be a kid.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

National news--and local news

It strikes me that when you’re housebound, as I am, the news takes on new importance in your life. So today I realized that in the hubbub over the SCOTUS decision about Texas abortion clinics, not much attention was paid to another ruling out of the same court. SCOTUS ruled that someone convicted of domestic abuse loses their license to carry firearms—forever. Guess who argued vehemently against that decision—Justice Clarence Thomas. I do hope, as predicted, that he resigns shortly. Meanwhile, the decision is a significant one, not to be overshadowed by the abortion clinic decision.

The storm of last night made local news bigtime. I was so wrong when I said no wind—in other parts of the city trees are down everywhere. And some parts of the city had four inches in two hours—streets were flooded up to car windows, and cars were abandoned in deep water. I saw a van standing in water—if I read the signage correctly it belonged to the man who cleans my Oriental rugs. I knew it was an impressive storm but I just didn’t know how impressive.

And we have news right here at home. Jacob went to my brother’s ranch today to spend the day with cousin Emory, who is a year younger—the two of them get along great, and he protects her and leads her into adventures she would not do by herself. They were both so antsy this morning, ready to go, that it was almost funny. Jacob didn’t have many steps on his Fitbit, and I told him he should run around the block. He said, with exaggerated patience, “Juju, I’m going to spend the whole day at the ranch.” He needed that unstructured kid time.

Later he called his mom to say, “I’m calling you because I almost died today.” The two of them had seen a copperhead. I have no idea how close a call this was, but I know my brother gave them a long talk about snakes. They had a large harmless black snake in the garage the other day—I think even that would panic me.

And we had news at home. Jacob announced that my cottage is not anywhere near square and the French doors are not fitting correctly. Jordan confirmed that they were having trouble with the doors, but she took this picture from the inside—that room is going to be so bright and sunny. No, the wall doesn't really curve--this was taken on a panoramic setting.

With Jacob gone, Christian and Jordan teamed to fix supper—pork tenderloin with a super sauce of beef broth, sour cream, mustard and lemon, salad, corn on the cob, and a dab of mashed potatoes (we didn’t have that many potatoes). Really good—a keeper recipe. You brown the tenderloins, then slices them and brown the slices, and then make the sauce.  

So now it’s nearly nine, and I’m tired. ‘Night, everyone.                                                      

Monday, June 27, 2016

Events of note

 Seems every day when you turn on the computer or open the newspaper there’s something major happening—floods and fire, Brexit, and now today the SCOTUS ruling about abortion clinics, striking down the law that closed most clinics throughout Texas and left many women without any preventive care. Yeah for our team! This ruling will have long-reaching implications for other states too, but for now it’s directed at Texas…and we need it. Three years ago Wendy Davis filibustered the law, known as HB2, and managed to delay the vote until the closing bell rang. But the Republicans immediately called a new session and passed HB2.

Today the Texas Attorney General, under indictment on several charges, bemoaned that the state lost its opportunity to protect women’s health. My foot! The state lost its chance to enforce a strict, old-fashioned moral code on women. Don’t know if they’ll ever understand that women want to control their own bodies, rather than have them controlled by men in suits who are not physicians.

I think it’s notable that our governor and lieutenant governor, usually quick to jump on such a bandwagon, have not said a thing publicly. But I seem to remember that Gov. Abbot is interested in Texit

Texit, the movement to have Texas withdraw and become independent, has gained momentum since Brexit. Do you suppose these people have really thought it through, what it would be like without Federal government support? It’s even bigger folly than HB2.  I love Texas, but should that come to pass I’d have to leave. I am quite certain, however, that the idea doesn’t have legs.

Lovely summer storm tonight. Lots of rain and thunder, very little lightning and wind, so it wasn’t dangerous—just a good storm. The thunder upsets Sophie and she cowered under my desk. Now the storm has passed and the earth is that crazy fresh green that comes after a storm. Almost a surreal light.

Actually wrote two pages on a new novel tonight—yippee for me! I have no idea if those pages will survive, but they’re a start. I said earlier in the day if I wrote two lines, I’d be happy. I’m excited about the idea behind this one—it’s a Kelly O’Connell Mystery—but I’m not ready to disclose it yet. Have to get farther into it and see if it’s really going to work.

French doors went into the cottage in place of one door today. Jay was watching from his office window and said they were gorgeous, and the amount of light they let into the cottage was wonderful. He came about 4:30 to wheel me out on the deck, and I agree—they look wonderful. Can’t wait to get out there and see the whole thing for myself. Maybe pictures tomorrow. I did discover the deck has become a dumping ground in my absence. I will have to deal with that.

So there you have my day, full of concerns and good news. Things to brighten a shunt-in’s day.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Gotta Love the Scots

I’m can’t testify to either of these items, though I did see a picture of the flag, but they’re just too good not to share. Apparently when Donald Trump deplaned in Scotland, he was greeted by a mariachi band pushing a wheelbarrow full of bricks. And someone planted a Mexican flag just outside the border of his golf course. Word is he’d been trying, without success, to evict the land owner whose property adjoins the course. I know from family stories that Scots do not easily part with their land.

When Houston MacBain was the MacBain of MacBain (Chief of the Clan) he tried to buy the property that had held the homestead before the Clearances. (I am a registered member of the MacBain/McBean Clan.) The owner reluctantly parted with a small portion of what MacBain wanted—and he had to do with that. So I’m sure Trump has had a hard time wresting property from his neighbor.

I think that means the Scots did not welcome Mr. Trump.

That was my amusement for the day. It was a lazy Sunday, but one in which I got a fair amount of work done—roughed out a newsletter (want to be on the list? Email me at j.alter@tculedu), finished a novel I’m reading, made notes for a novel I want to write, read Facebook and email, and had a good nap—I didn’t sleep well last night.

Tonight neighbors Jay and Susan shared their Sunday night supper with me—tuna salad, chicken salad, potato chips, cherry tomatoes, and good wheat bread. It’s what they eat every Sunday night, and it’s my kind of meal. We had a jolly time, laughing and talking, until I mentioned a political topic—Jay and I immediately clashed as we always do. He takes it in better humor than I do—I want to demand, “How can you be so wrong?” He said, “You and I are going to have an interesting fall.”

I’m really enjoying reading again and am off to start a new book.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Floods, Fire, and a Wheelchair

            Brexit aside, the headlines this morning were pretty dismal. When I look at images of the West Virginia floods or the California wildfires, I feel blessed and safe and sometimes I wonder why I’m immune to all these disasters. Is it where I live? Surely it’s not because of good deeds. My heart and my prayers go out to people who’ve lost their homes and loved ones in either disaster.

God or whoever’s in charge, has a way of putting things in perspective. My walker seems pretty comfortable and safe today when I view those catastrophes. I may be temporarily housebound, but I have a dry, safe house to stay in, plenty of food, and a comfortable bed to sleep in. What more can I ask for? Just glanced at the TV in time to see a picture of a wonderful rare steak and potato salad—maybe, if I were greedy, I’d ask for that. Seriously, I often think about this—my cup runneth over while so many in the world suffer so horribly. Thanking God seems a pale thing in comparison.

My guest blog about writing my way out of depression was posted on One Woman’s Day (Story Circle Network) this week, and many folks seemed to miss the point that I had written my way out. I got lots of sympathy and advice about my depression, so I want to assure everyone it’s gone, vanished, kaput. Days like today, with its disastrous news, make me realize again that my depression, caused by this blasted ankle, is a paltry thing in the overall scheme of the world.

Meanwhile, we’re at it again—downsizing. Last week, it was books spread on every table of the house and piled high. A friend came by last night and exclaimed, “It looks so neat in here.” The books I can live without—and believe me it was a large number because I was heartless—went to Recycled Books in Denton. So today, it was dishes. Jordan emptied the buffet and spread the dishes out on the dining table; then she started on miscellaneous coffee mugs, saying no person needs thirty-five. Pushy, isn’t she? I reluctantly parted with some favorites, held on to others. She washed the cupboards and put dishes away neatly. I told her she’d be too tired for the party she’s hosting this afternoon. But it was good to have company and fun to dig through treasures I hadn’t seen in a while. She was frustrated when I’d say, “Well, that belonged to one of my grandmothers but I’m not sure which one.” We are sentimentalists and are keeping all family pieces.

Tonight Subie Green brought supper, and I was joined by her and her husband and neighbors Susan and Jay. Great casserole, wonderful watermelon/strawberry/blackberry/basil salad, and raucous good times.

It’s been a good day.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Do not worry about me

 Just in case any of you were inclined to worry about me wasting away out of loneliness in this enforced period of staying at home, let me reassure you. I had an impromptu party today about lunchtime. Jordan and I were waiting for the PT guy from Home Health, but he was late. Jordan finally brought me tuna, cottage cheese, and wine. Kenneth, the PT, appeared when I was almost through. He was huge, kind, considerate, and reasonable—and he was down on the floor demonstrating some leg exercises I can do when my brother and sister-in-law walked in, bringing a knee scooter. They had timed their visit so that Kenneth could show me how to get on and off the scooter—it will take practice. So there we all were, plus Socorro, who cleans for me and was trying to deal with a balky toilet—she kept explaining she tried to turn the water off and it wouldn’t turn. Finally, as she left, she said, “I’m leaving. There are too many people here.” Kenneth and Jordan left, and it was down to John, Cindy, and me—when the Home Health supervising nurse appeared.

She was here to take my blood pressure and vital signs. I explained that Kenneth had just done that. No matter—she was going to do it again. Good in a way since the top line of my blood pressure went down 13 points.

Home Health is a wonderful service provided to eligible patients through Medicare. But they are—excuse me--in your face all the time. There is the aide who bathes me (sponge bath since I can’t step in the shower), occupational therapist, physical therapist, supervising nurse, and an LVN I haven’t met yet. The two therapists aren’t coming back for two months or until I can put weight on my bad foot, so that gives me a respite. I’m afraid I thought I was just going to lollygag and let it heal—but I’m beginning to see that recovery will require work from me. And effort—my brother constantly harps on non-weight-bearing, but I am being as good as I can.

Meantime the world scene continues to be of interest. I read that after Brexit Brits were frantically researching the EU—they didn’t know what they voted against, and some are having second thoughts. Had to laugh—Trump arrived in Scotland and congratulation the Scots on having rejected the EU—all well and good but they voted to stay in.

I’m not much on European economic situations, though I know Italy is always in trouble. And many are saying that Brexit bodes well for Trump but an article I read tonight says no. Britain had gone on a severe economy program, and Brits have been living with austerity. The article suggested it won’t happen here because President Obama restored the economy to a stable footing. Food for thought.

Tomorrow will bring another crisis, I’m sure, but so far we seem to have weathered them all. It’s an exciting spectator sport.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Keeping the country in turmoil

My two wine girls
The news out of D.C. had my head spinning all day. Last night and again today, I was among the many who said I’ve never been more proud to be a Democrat. The Democratic sit-in to push for votes on gun control was an amazing landmark in our nation’s history, akin to the Civil Rights movement and, fittingly, led by John Lewis, a hero of that movement. I was sorry to hear that they’d abandoned it today but I haven’t read enough to know why or the implications of that. But I applaud the men and women who took part in this historic event.

Paul Ryan needs to go. Obviously at a loss as to what to do, he took the easy way out and shut down the House two days before they should have gone on vacation. Poor guys—and ladies—they work so hard when they’re there—NOT. I think he’s over his head and a coward who won’t confront and deal with issues.

Meanwhile, SCOTUS delivered a deadlock decision on immigration reform, which is the same as a rejection. It has the same effect because it shuts down reform programs. I heard President Obama carefully explaining what would continue and what wouldn’t. He sounded a hopeful note: immigration reform will come, sooner or later.

This delay reflects back on a Republican-controlled Senate, and primarily on Mitch McConnell who refuses to allow a vote on the president’s Supreme Court nominee. They are not doing their duty as stated in the Constitution. If we had had the ninth justice, there would have been a decision, up or down. Nobody can ask for more.

The whole thing—the House and the Supreme Court—shows just how deep in trouble our country is. From my partisan point of view, I also see it as cementing the downfall of the Republican Party. Donald Trump couldn’t do it better. We should all rejoice, except for the uncertainty of what will happen next.

With all this on national news, I have found it comforting to be in my routine. Today someone from Recycled Books in Denton came to look through the remaining books we’ve pulled out—I kept relatively few from my large collection. He paid me nicely for some and took the others away to donate, which is fine with me. There were way too many for any of us to cart to the public library used book store. And tonight my house looks so much neater.

I owe a huge debt to Carol Roark who got all the book buyers in here and stood by to answer questions, pack books, do whatever was needed.

Jordan is here to spend the night, and we’ve been sociable—Chandry and Subie came for happy hour. I am always grateful for company to brighten my day, and this has been a good day. Except for our Federal government. I expect the President feels let down to night, though he never shows it publicly. Still, I think he looks tired these days, and it’s good that his term is coming to an end.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A fella's 10th birthday is a big deal

Jacob turned ten on Monday, appropriately feted with a kids party at Main Event on Saturday and a huge dinner party at Joe T.’s on his actual birthday. I could not go to Joe T.’s—we thought about it, decided it would be too much trouble to get me in and out, and I’d get too tired sitting in the heat for a couple of hours—makes me sound like a wimp, doesn’t it, but there were extenuating circumstances. After Joe T.’s a small group came back here and Jacob got his big present—an RC car.

There’s a whole RC world out there I didn’t know about, and cars are apparently a big deal. Marc, stepfather to Jacob’s good friend Hayes, is an RC hobbyist and will be giving Jacob lessons etc. He and Hayes painted a second shell for Jacob’s car in Baylor colors—Jacob’s favorite. My grandson was thrilled. RC technicalities, etc., were the talk of the evening; Amber, Hayes’ mother, said she can’t even park her car in the garage because the RC cars are on her spot.

It’s apparently an expensive hobby. Lewis, contractor for our renovation, told me his brother had RC planes and thousands of dollars invested. One day one of the planes just kept going, in spite of Jim’s frantic signals to it to come back.  Nobody ever saw it again, and Jim got out of that hobby soon after. I fear Jacob is on the road to an expensive hobby, with Marc and Hayes as co-conspirators.

Other news from the home front: Sophie got a haircut today, and I didn’t realize it was a new person. I told Jordan to tell her just the usual but this new lady didn’t know what the usual was. Result: too close on the head and face, so now she looks like a sad cocker spaniel instead of a perky bordoodle. So hard to get groomers to do the right cut on these dogs. But the saving grace is that it will grow out in a month.

And my woes continue: this morning one of my hearing aids simply refused to connect. I tried several batteries and nada. I can limp by with one but it’s awkward. These days I see the audiologist at TCU—and with school out, she’s on vacation until at least mid-August. Will ask Amy to take it back to the place where I bought it. I thought maybe it was still under warranty but I got them in 2011. Who can believe?

A very social day today. Kathie came for lunch, bringing pea soup (which she knows is my favorite), wonderful turkey, white cheddar, and Granny Smith sandwiches with honey mustard, and small berry cobblers. She stayed for a good long visit, and it brightened my day. Betty, who faithfully comes on Wednesdays, brought lasagna for supper, and we too had a good visit.

An occupational therapist came, put me through a series of easy physical tests and kept saying “Excellent!” I guess I passed because he isn’t coming back for two months. Home health is great, but they are in your face every day. I had to cancel an LVN for tomorrow because the used book salesman is coming. The nurse visits every week, so we have to squeeze her visit in tomorrow or Friday. Jordan worries about my not having social contacts—not true is home health has anything to say about it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

News from the home front

 If you heard a loud whoosh about 2:30 this afternoon, that was me letting out a long sigh of relief. I went to the trauma  reconstructive surgeon who said my ankle was beyond repair. There’s dead bone in there. No surgery. He will take the conservative approach and wait for it to heal which means keeping me off my foot for some time to come. I gather I may end up with a misshapen ankle or a limp or something less than ideal but my dancing days and days of vanity are long over and that doesn’t matter. I am relieved big time.

How did my ankle get in this shape without treatment? Probably the fact that I walked on it for two weeks, then walked on it in a boot for two more. My neuropathy became a big part of the discussion--it prevents me from feeling pain in my feet, and therefore pain doesn’t do its job of warning. Probably why today the foot doesn’t hurt.

We are looking into electric wheelchairs and knee scooters and the like. I suspect I’ll need the wheelchair and my walker occasionally if not always the rest of my life. That’s okay too.

This doctor comes highly recommended, and we—Jordan, my brother, and I—all liked him immensely. He’s calm, slightly funny, gives you a feeling that he’s very capable. Explained things fully and carefully. I go back in two weeks for new x-rays. Meantime the burden is on me to protect the ankle, not put weight on it, etc. At this point I could do further damage.

My brother watched me go from car to steps to wheelchair and was quite critical of the fact that I was weight-bearing even though I barely did a hop on the bad foot. There was no way around that little strip, although we’re working on ramps, etc. Meantime John further put the fear of the Lord in me. Actually I feel God has been good to me tonight—I talked to him this morning and said it was my turn for some good news. He listened.

The alternative is major surgery which I wouldn’t have wanted at any age but I sure don’t want at my age.  Plates and screws won’t do it—plates slip. He said they’d probably put a rod up through my heel. No thanks.

So on to bigger things. I guess I’ve lost my excuse for not getting serious about a new project. I have one loose end to wrap up and then I must begin to think ahead. At least the work that I love is something I can do while staying off my feet.

Jordan is staying tonight because we were fairly convinced I would be facing surgery and be a quivering mass of Jello. So now she says, “What are we going to do the rest of the evening.” She’s cooking bacon and eggs, and it smells delicious. Excuse me while I head for the kitchen, having told you all more than you ever wanted to know about ankles and surgeons.


Monday, June 20, 2016

The Perils of Isolation

A friend came to visit today, bringing a delicious zucchini muffin and some goodies, plus her pleasant company. But she’s soft-spoken, and I kept asking her to repeat or speak up. Finally she whirled on me and said, “Did you know that if you don’t wear your hearing aids,  you run a greater chance of dementia?” I went and put my hearing aids in. I know that if you take them in and out it’s hard for the brain to adjust, but dementia? I chewed on that all afternoon and decided that it’s because –and a if you don’t wear them, you can’t hear and are therefore isolated from what’s going on around you. You have no stimulation—and a brain without stimulations atrophies.

Being housebound as I am for now, I don’t have much stimulation from the outside world, except the newspaper, TV, and Facebook. Sometimes it’s hard for me to blog about much except what goes on in my own life—and that can make for fairly dull reading. “And then I did this….and then I did that.”

But I am fortunate that I have visitors—today there was that morning visit from a friend; the woman who has cut my hair for probably the last 15 years and of whom I’m very fond, made a house call to give me a much-needed haircut. And another friend brought me chicken soup for supper and stayed to visit over a glass of wine. I am beyond grateful for these visits. Now I’m waiting for Jordan, Jacob and Christian to arrive—it’s Jacob’s 10th birthday and they’ve been to Joe T.’s for a festive dinner but stopping here on the way home because I still have the birthday present. I was sad not to be at the dinner, but it would have been hard to get me in and out of the car and restaurant, and if I sat outside for almost three hours I’d have been really weary.

Tomorrow I see the trauma reconstructive orthopedic surgeon, one who specializes in ankles. Jordan, John and Cindy will go with me. To say I’m apprehensive, would be to understate the case. But I will keep you all posted. And would appreciate a word or two of prayer.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lovely weekend--and a rant

Potatoes with dirt clinging to them became wonderful mashed potatoes
Jordan is magic
Plenty of company this weekend, which delights me. Jordan, Christian, and Jacob were here for Friday night supper. Jordan has taken to setting a proper table--another thing that delights me. We had mashed potatoes—from my neighbor’s garden—and chicken sausage with a green salad. Saturday Sue and Teddy brought sandwiches and stayed for lunch and a visit—I so appreciate them. Sat.. night after Jacob’s birthday party at Main Event, Jordan, Christian and SuperDave were here for supper---chicken fingers and potato salad. We sat and talked so late that I didn’t get a blog done. When you’re a prisoner in your own house, you really don’t have that much to say anyway. Tonight Jordan is coming for supper while Christian works on their yard. He’s put so much effort into restoring where the foundation work destroyed. And tomorrow we’re back in the regular week.

Big on my mind is my appointment with the trauma reconstructive surgeon on Tuesday—I fully expect him to say surgery and soon, with screws and plates. Really really dread this but you do what you have to do. And I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair or scooting backwards on a walker. Last night I happened to read a warning label on the walker that says, “Do not move Rollaater while seated,” which of course is exactly what I’ve been doing. I tell myself that’s for the elderly who might fall out of it. I’m actually getting pretty good at maneuvering the thing.

I do have something to say tonight, in spite of my housebound status. I am out of patience with people who post on Facebook that Obama is a sleeper for Isis, he is a Muslim, and his sole goal is to destroy the USA. His record certainly indicates that he wants destruction—NOT. I feel sorry for these people. They must live with blind hate and prejudice. One even asked of we could do a citizens’ arrest. Good luck with that.

President Obama receives many more accolades that he does accusations. I have seen the idea floated that he will go down in history as one of our great presidents, and I’m all for it. I’m not good at listing accomplishments, but I do know that the country and individuals are in much better shape than when he took office almost eight years ago. And more secure. If he wanted to destroy us, he certainly waited until the eleventh hour. I refer you to this web site:

He is also one of the most sincere, genuine people I’ve had the privilege to observe. Look at the pictures of him with young kids. Does that look like a sleeper for Isis.

My opinion is that he and his family are a class act, a role model for families, and we are blessed to have him for a leader. Give up the hate, those of you who harbor it, and ask what you can do for our country as we move into a new administration.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Of dogs and cats

As pet owners, we seem increasingly interested in crossing breeds. I’m sure the American Kennel Association, staunch guardians of the purebred in dogs, is wringing its collective hands. But crosses between poodles and several other breeds have become common. The AKA not recognize them, but I keep waiting for a doodle association to form. The labradoodle is the original cross-bred, developed for its hypoallergenic qualities. It seems after those first few labradoodles, the cross-breeding craze took off.

When I was last in the dog market, some five years ago, I wanted a Labradoodle, but my doctor/brother pointed out that with my age (70s) and my unsure footing, I had no business getting an 80-100 lb. dog. Of course he was right, and I reluctantly gave up that dream, even though I’ve had big dogs all my life. My Sophie, now five, is a bordoodle, a cross between a border collie and a miniature poodle. I’ve never had a poodle, so I don’t know what characteristics she exhibits but I know she has traits of the border collie. She is loyal to a fault, wildly energetic—sometimes taking it out in just running circles in the backyard. Unlike border collies, she is not averse to human companionship—she is my shadow, staying by me all day, following me from room to room. But like her lineage, she is not particularly a cuddly dog—a couple of minutes, and she’s off to something else, though she will sleep at the foot of my bed. She has her favorite people and goes bananas when some of them come around. Sweet, loveable but also known to growl if you take something out of her mouth. A truly great dog.

Tonight I have come upon cross-bred cats. I’m not a cat person—I had one part Maine Coon that was the sweetest animal alive—but other than that I suffered through the cats of my children’s youth. Tonight, reading a mystery proposal about a missing Savannah, I was intrigued by the statement that Savannahs are illegal in some part of this country because, a cross between a domestic cat and an African wild serval cat, they are considered wild animals. Of course I had to look them up online. A relatively new breed, Savannahs have been recognized by the American Cat Association which has a standard for their appearance, behavior, etc. Wonder what that says about the differences between dog and cat people?

Savannahs must be spotted, sort of cheetah-like, for competition. All other colors are sold as pets. They have long, skinny bodies, with long legs betraying their wild ancestry, and long pointed ears. They are friendly, loyal, and curious—easily learning to open doors and cabinets (watch out, owners!). Some can jump eight feet from a sitting position.

Yes, they sound intriguing, almost making me wish I were a cat person. But I believe if I got a second pet, it would be another doodle dog. Then again, I’m not sure Sophie would welcome an intruder into the territory and extended family she has carved out for herself.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bad news/good news

Flowers from Amye Cole
It is not encouraging when the orthopedic surgeon meets you in the hall and says, “It all fell apart,” meaning my ankle by it. Then, in the examining room, he kept repeating, “It’s a mess. It’s really a mess” and shaking his head. I had suggested to the Lord this morning that it was my turn to get some good news but apparently he didn’t hear me. The bones, which were aligned three weeks ago, have shifted and stress fractures have added to the problem. Not what I wanted to hear.

So next Tuesday I have an appointment with a trauma orthopedic surgeon who specializes in ankles. Apparently I’m looking at surgery with screws and plates—not at all a pleasant prospect, but the surgeon said I’ll never walk again without it. The office manager said it’s a two-to-three-hour surgery but this guy is a wizard.

I view it as bad news but Jordan said she’s encouraged because it’s a pathway to healing, and I will admit I’m not making progress as it is. So I guess the sooner the better. All summer plans are on hold, which is okay. Except for a trip to Tomball, I didn’t have any big summer plans and my writing isn’t at a critical stage—would that I were in the midst of a manuscript I needed to plow ahead on. I realize that she’s right but the prospect of surgery, feeling yucky, and 10-12 weeks recovery doesn’t please me. Then again, I’ve already put in five weeks on this ankle, and it’s not any better. We see the new surgeon Tuesday.

Tonight Jordan fixed me a cheering meal—salad, tortellini with olive oil, and, of course, wine. She set the table for a formal dinner for two, and we had a good time, though my appetite has once again left me.

Kind friends have brought gifts. Here is the doll/bell that Mary Helen Cornelius brought—she said it’s my best friend. I can sit and ring for help. We need to name her, but I’m not sure what. Jordan says in trying to take care of all things—alarm system, home health, all that—she has run into a lot of Judys and Julies. So maybe that’s the name.

And a basket of potatoes from my neighbor, who has a bumper crop and a lush garden. For years I had a series of unsatisfactory neighbors in that house—I hasten to add after Sue and her children left—so Jim’s presence is a real gift. He helped Jordan get me up the steps from the drive to the porch when we came home.


And I am blessed with gifts and friends and neighbors who really care.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Blessing of Friends

Jacob in the wheelchair a friend brought today
News on the health front is encouraging tonight. This morning I had a thorough sponge bath from a private duty care nurse. Do you know how luxurious it is to sit there, hold out your warm, and essentially say, “Here, wish it.” The nurse had recently broken her foot and had a three-month experience in a boot, so she knew where I was and what I was feeling. And I felt so good after my bath.

Jordan’s news was that tomorrow at 2:15 I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon—something I’ve been waiting for so we can find out what’s next, what’s the treatment, how long is recovery, all those good things. And she found a home health care service that takes my insurance. A lesson I’ve learned: private duty care people are not necessarily highly trained, and their services are not paid for by Medicare; home health care provides professionals, and Medicare pays the bill. I’m particularly pleased about this their services include a physical therapist when the doctor gives his okay. They also clean your house, do your laundry, really whatever you need. Five weeks after my colossal fall, we may be headed in the right direction.

Today was a lovely day and is perhaps the first day I don’t feel like rushing back to my bed. Friends have really rallied to my side—Linda, who I’ve known for over thirty years, brought lunch—delicious tuna salad. She assembled the sandwiches fresh in my kitchen, so they weren’t soggy or anything. And we had a great visit. Tonight, Amye, a friend of Jordan’s that I’m known for a long time, came for happy hour and brought lovely flowers, and Betty, my longtime dining pal, brought homemade cheeseburgers and fruit.
Efficient supper
Saturday friends Sue and Teddy are bringing lunch, and Monday Sue is bringing supper—it’s Jacob’s birthday and everyone will be off to Joe T.’s to celebrate. I’m sad that I can’t go.

I think Jordan is arranging for someone to come visit every day, and I’m most grateful to her. But I’m also most grateful for the friends who care enough to visit and drink wine and chat and distract me. Some come expecting me to be transformed into a little old bent-over lady and are pleasantly surprised. I am who I’ve always been, and my ankle doesn’t hurt more because of the diagnosis  Monday. Yes, my disposition and outlook took a hit, but they’re back to normal, and I’m as happy a camper as I can be in these circumstances.

If I were isolated here in my house, I’d be really miserable. And without Jordan, I don’t think I’d have made it. The Lord is good to me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Flag Day--and a flurry of construction

Wallpaper discovered on a piece of wall in the existing cottage
Sort of charming, don't you think
In these troubled times in our nation, it’s comforting to see the flag waving today on a pole by my driveway. Fort Worth’s Rotary South puts these flags out on holidays—you have to subscribe to the program as lots of people do in my neighborhood. It’s nice to see a street of flags.

That said, a pickup belonging to one of the workers almost took my flag out today. I watched, holding my breath, as it came inches from the flag when the driver was trying to back into the driveway. There were hundreds—okay, maybe ten—trucks here today as workers got busy on the cottage. They’re making great progress, although I know the slow work comes later. But still I’m encouraged.

I’m also jealous. I’m forbidden to go out there—pratfalls and cords wait to trip me, and of course I can’t walk so it’s a moot issue. We talked today about a ramp to get me in and out of house and car for doctor’s appointments, but we cannot legally do it—if they put a ramp at the legal angle by the side steps of my porch, it would end in the middle of my bedroom. We are talking about a “just in case” ramp from the cottage to the back door, but that’s in the future. I’m hoping by the time I can move into the apartment, I can also use a walker.

Meantime, we spent the day waiting for calls about home health care, an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, and a wheelchair. A rental chair is to be delivered tomorrow, but it turns out that friends Subie and Phil have a wheelchair in their attic. So either way, I’ll get one tomorrow. Not sure it will be any easier to get in and out of than the walker, but at least a wheelchair goes forward and is more comfortable. We’ll see how it works.

My big goof of the day: we were waiting to hear from a home health care service. They didn’t call, but in early afternoon my doctor’s office called to ask, “Did you refuse home health care?” I did not, would not, but I got to thinking. I had a call that I thought offered me HVAC service, and I assured them we were remodeling and that was all in place. Suppose how crazy that sounded if, as I suspect, it was a call about home health care. Jordan was most disappointed, but it didn’t matter—the company called back to say they don’t take my insurance. So another thing to worry about.

another day in what I suspect will be a long string of long days. I’m not sure why but I am so sleep early in the evening. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the long days. Anyway, good night al.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Not my best day

Life's okay if you have a lovey to hug
Sophie will be my convalescence pal
We found out today that my foot/ankle/leg is much more serious than we thought. I have some torn ligaments and both bones in the lower leg are fractured, not just the non-weight bearing one. It explains why I still had pain even with the boot, but I am headed toward a wheelchair, an orthopedic surgeon, and a long convalescence. Until it all gets straightened out I am to put absolutely no weight on my right foot—makes everyday living difficult, like going to the potty.

My kids are my angels. Jordan is here tonight to spend the night and is taking the day off tomorrow to deal with details—clarifying things with the doctor like home health care, arranging for the wheelchair, etc. And Megan, the lawyer/daughter, came up with a list of thousands of questions. My oldest son is insisting that I not abandon plans to visit him and his family, with Jacob, in July. I told him I’d see what the surgeon says—and I sincerely hope he doesn’t say surgery.

I meantime am exhausted. Felt better than ever this morning and got a lot done on my desk but the news about my foot sort of took the wind out of my sails, and I am ready to go to bed at nine p.m. I’m sure the exhaustion is emotional. I also realize I have a choice—throw a pity party or gut up and deal with what life brings you. I am a person of faith, so I expect to gut up and deal with it, knowing the Lord as well as my family, has my back. I may lapse every once in a while but that’s my goal.

My goal also is to keep working at my desk. I have many projects that I can see through to completion, books to read, recipes to sort. I hope friends will drop in to visit so I’ll have some company.

Meantime construction continues, but I cannot get out there to see what’s going on—frustrating. Jordan showed me pictures tonight of my French doors—they look lovely. And it’s nice to know there are people on my property even when I’m alone in the house.

I’ve heard such platitudes as “God never gives you more than you can handle” and “God is testing you”—my response to the latter is why would God test me. But other thoughts come to mind, such as if I had to fall and break a bone, I’m so grateful it wasn’t a hip. And who am I to complain about a temporary disability in the face of the tragedy that is Orlando. I have been praying for the victims and their families, and it occurs to me to wonder if they had given loved ones a last hug. What did they leave undone that they would wish they had done? And worst of all—were they estranged from family, friends, lovers, leaving a gap that now can never be bridged? Life is fragile. We hear this advice all the time, but it is so true—hug your loved ones.

I told Jacob I need extra hugs today and he obliged—a bit reluctantly.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Orlando--as if enough hasn't already been said

A few years ago a relative came to town to visit with one request: she wanted to go to a gay bar. So two or three of my girls took her—and I can’t remember if they took some guys with them or not. Was I worried? Yes, I was. Not about someone hitting on them-they’re big girls and can handle that. But about violence breaking out at the bar—the fisticuffs kind of violence. I never thought of the horror we saw in Orlando last night. But this was a small bar, not a sprawling nightclub.

So much has been said, so much of it spot on, that I am hesitant to add anything. But two points stick out in my mind: one was expressed on Facebook earlier today when someone posted that she hated to see this referred to as the record mass shooting, for fear that someone with hate or anger would think, “I can do better than that. I’ll show them.”

The other thought on my mind is sort of a “Here we go again.” After each of these mass shootings, Americans are outraged and vow to do something to prevent such atrocities. But time goes on and headlines fade, and nothing changes. I’m not sure what it will take to wake Americans to the fact that their chance to change things comes this November—Vote Out the NRA. So many have said today that there is no reason for assault weapons to be in the hands of anyone but the military, and I truly believe that’s where we must start.

In Texas, my two senators are wildly conservative and opposed to any gun legislation, so I feel stymied. But I will find a way to make my voice heard. I have seven grandchildren in school, from high school to elementary, and yes I worry about each of them every day. Nobody thought about gun violence when my kids were in school—it just didn’t exist. But we have had 988 mass shootings since Newton—and what has been accomplished to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally incompetent and others who shouldn’t have them? Not much.

I could argue until I was blue in the face about the weaknesses of the Second Amendment for today’s world, but I won’t even go there. Getting AR-15s and other assault weapons out of the hands of citizens seems more important.

Ask a family member left behind by the Orlando shootings.

No, this wasn’t a terrorist attack; it was not Muslim inspired. The shooter was a deranged man who hated LGBT folks. But why are we letting people like that have such easy access to assault weapons?

Jesus weeps tonight—and many of us join him.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ankle Report

 If you’re interested, I think my ankle, foot, leg or whatever is gradually getting better. The foot is still swollen but not near as much and not as red. I can briefly put weight on it now without the excruciating pain of a week ago. Still can’t walk on it except maybe two steps holding on to something, so I scoot around the house on the seat of my walker, using my feet to propel. It’s awkward because the walker is designed to go the other direction, but I am getting pretty good at going through the house backward.

It’s not entirely foolproof. The chair can move a bit, and one night as I aimed for it getting out of bed, it moved and I was left hanging between bed and walker. Couldn’t pull myself up so I decided the only thing to do was go down and sit on the floor. If I had to call for help, so be it. Lo and behold, a major accomplishment—I got myself back up, even using my sore foot. I’ve learned to use the basket for all kinds of things—except drinks. Not only have I spilled two glasses of wine, but one morning I put my tea in the basket and it must have splashed, because I yelped and thought something had stung me. It was the hot tea.

We’ve developed a nice routine.  I’m home alone with Sophie during the day, though weekdays Lewis Bundock, the contractor, is in and out, and he lets Sophie out for me (today she didn’t go out until 5:00 p.m.). About 4:30 Jordan and Jacob arrive, and soon after I have anywhere from one or two other people to a houseful. Tonight there were three children and eight adults, including Jordan and me. These visits tire me out so that I usually sleep well.

No word on the MRI yet but when people ask how much longer I have to have the boot I say I suppose until I can walk on it. I’m afraid of getting addicted to the walker because I’ve noticed a lot of other small problems don’t worry me—my tremor isn’t as bad, I don’t fear falling (except off the walker).

I’ve both let a lot of housekeeping go and relied far too heavily on Jordan to do other chores. She’s arranged for a private duty care person to come and stand by while I shower twice a week. I admit it’s a great comfort to have someone there, handing me towels, etc.

I sleep a lot, but today I got high behind—sorted my entire appetizer folder of recipes (believe me it was thick) and read 190 pages of a book I’m reading for a competition. So it was a profitable day. Hope tomorrow turns out as well. 

I think I’ve been through depression and cabin fever and come out on the other side. Most of the time, I’m relatively content with my days—but I will be glad to be mobile again. Meantime, life is good.

Friday, June 10, 2016

My thoughts about Brock Turner

 When two people are caught in the sad situation of Brock Turner and his rape victim, we can’t help but moan, groan, and worry about their futures. The victim statement of the woman Turned raped at Stanford has been widely distributed, praised by Vice-President Joe Biden, and gone viral on the net. It’s a powerful statement which, I think, comes from a position of strength. I wonder if this woman won’t go on to become a lifelong advocate for rape victims. We know nothing about her life and circumstances but somehow I feel she’ll make the best of this.

But what about Turner who has been vilified on the net and whose picture confronts us every time he goes on Facebook? We know a little more about him, and it’s not all good. His father’s statement is the clue we need.

I’m a fiction author, so I see things in scenes and true or not I can imagine scenes between that macho father and his son. The son looks from the photos to be much more timid that the dad, and I can imagine the dad urging his boy to buckle up, act like a man, get some action. Perhaps that was even a motivation between the rape—Brock proving himself to his father.

The next scene I see is the father castigating Brock after the event. The boy has ruined everything but most principally his life. He’s banned from swimming competitively in the US, when he apparently had Olympic hopes; he has to register as a sex offender. His life is essentially ruined by 20 minutes of “action.” The question in my mind is what will he do after he serves that ridiculously short jail term designed to keep him from being impacted by the trauma. (Did anyone worry about the impact on the victim?)

Brock Turner has essentially two choices: he can sink into despair and depression, fall back on his family, perhaps become alcohol or drug-addicted, and essentially fritter his life away on the excuse that he ruined it in one short episode.. Or he can pull himself up by the bootstraps, start small, and make the most of whatever he can salvage from his life. People have overcome even more horrendous circumstances, with grit, determination, and perseverance.

Somehow I hope Brock Turner does that. No matter how despicable what he did is—and it certainly is—I suspect he’s a nice kid caught in the web of circumstances that is college life and alcohol. Perhaps he too can become an advocate for rape victims and an active crusader against the plague of rapes that has come upon our culture…and our world.

I’m pulling for both these people. I think we as a village can do more than condemn—we can reach out in support and help them put their lives back together.

Call me Pollyanna?

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Me and food

My desk is a mess, as this photo testifies. That huge stack of papers is from my appalling collection of recipes—and that’s only vegetables and appetizers with a much reduced folder of desserts that I’m almost through sorting—and I rarely fix dessert.

I’ve been sorting these, kind of my punishment for being such an avid recipe collector over too many years. I am trying to be hard-hearted, and the number I’ve thrown away is astounding. But I come across old favorites that I may not have fixed in several years but can’t bear to throw away—something from my mom or a favorite aunt, a recipe a child laboriously wrote out, a dish I associate with a good memory. And back in the folder it goes.

When I did this with my mom’s recipe collection—easily as appalling as mine—I began carefully, examining each recipe. I ended throwing out whole notebooks without looking at them.

Jordan got me started on this to put files in my new super filing cabinet (which is not nearly big enough. It’s all part of the big merge in which I go to the cottage, and the Burtons move into the house. Since they’re now seriously working on the cottage, it’s all taken on a new urgency.

It will be a huge lifestyle change for me, part of which is that I’ll rarely be cooking big meals and entertaining as has been my delight for years. And that is part of the larger picture of aging. It’s all making me nostalgic. I realize how integrally food has been a part of my life since childhood.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited about the move and looking forward to a cozy cottage for Sophie and me. I expect my friends to come for happy hour in my cottage, and if I want to cook a big meal, I’ll come into the main house. But still, as I throw away each recipe, it’s like saying goodbye to the past. It’s time to move on and treasure the memories of a rich and wonderful past. And I’m now throwing away my apron—just about 9/10 of my recipes!

Want one I decided was a keeper?


Colin’s queso 

1 lb. hamburger

1 lb. sausage

1 lb. Velveeta

1 can mushroom soup

1 jar Pace picante sauce

Brown hamburger and sausage, breaking up the chunks of meat until it is all crumbly. Drain and put in the crockpot. Add Velveeta, cut in chunks, and melt. Add mushroom soup and picante sauce (really works best if you use Pace).
Serve hot with chips, or for a light meal put chips in individual bowls and spoon queso over.



Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Construction starts--big doings at my house

 It’s been months—early February, I think—since we applied for a building permit to remodel the garage apartment. Since then, people continually ask when we’re beginning construction. Today I can officially say construction has begun! Once again I wanted a celebration, but it wasn’t. When I woke up this morning, Jordan told me there were already workmen out back. And soon there was a swarm of them—carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and I don’t know who else.

Jordan inspected before she went to work and said they’d already made a mess. Tonight, she said, “Just don’t go out there.” The electrician had dug a trench across the yard to bury wires. She is really enjoying this process and has become sort of an assistant contractor. She informed me tonight that she and Lewis are on the same page—but they both consult with me, so all is well.

Jacob would like to be an assistant contractor—he went out to inspect when he got home from golf camp and came back to announce, “They’re all crazy out there.”

I doubt I can post pictures every day, but here are some demolition and exterior pictures.


Cottage as seen from my deck

Driveway first day, with trash

Jordan and Lewis celebrating
The other highlight of my day—maybe that’s the wrong word—was an MRI on my foot. I didn’t anticipate any unpleasantness, since I was sure this would be foot-first rather than a head-in procedure, and it was. But it wasn’t long before my foot began to ache, my butt hurt, and I was cold, even with the light blanket provided. The technician would come on my earphones and tell me how long the next series of sounds would last—seemed interminable, but I wasn’t about to cry “Uncle” once I was halfway into the procedure.

I’m truly hoping that this is the first step to recovery. I thought the foot was better today, but when I had to walk several feet from car to walker and then into the MRI room because the metal walker can’t go near the magnetic beast, I decided it may not be better. It sure hurts. My mind goes wild imagining the next course of action—orthopedic specialist? Who knows? Not surgery I hope. But I guess my best course is to continue trying to be patient. Glad to report that after a sleepless night, my disposition and spirits have improved.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Always a new experience

 Today’s new experience: a private duty care person came to help me in the shower—never thought I’d be showering in front of a stranger, but when Jordan ordered me into the shower a couple of days ago, I was afraid to go. This lady was lovely, but I actually think Jordan is stronger and better able to protect me. At any rate, I did it, mostly on my own, though it was tremendously comforting to have someone with me. She handed me towels, helped me spread lotion, all that good stuff. And it took up the better part of an hour in the morning.

Melinda, TCU Press production manager and my dear friend, came for lunch, full of stories about the two TCU maintenance people who had a long-running feud. Their supervisor got tired of it, after a year and a half, and put them in his pickup truck, took them to a public park, and told them to either fight it out or quit. It made the newspapers because one of the guys  called police, and apparently all three lost their jobs. Good gossip, foolish supervisor—TCU has a mediation process in place.

Melinda and I miscommunicated—she thought we were going to lunch, and I thought she was bringing it. So she went to our favorite restaurant to pick it up. We had heard Nonna Tata was closing, but the word is they are not. They lease the facility to someone else in the wee hours of the morning for breakfast service, and that led to the rumor.

Napped and woke up feeling so sorry for myself, but I got up, did some stuff around the house, and lay down again to elevate my foot. Jordan arrived much earlier than I expected. My day brightened immediately. She got me engaged in cleaning and sorting everything from recipes in my appalling collection to clothes in my closet. Nice distraction.

Ended the evening sitting on the deck with my neighbor and Jordan.