Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Concrete lessons

My new living space has lots of windows and light. Most of the windows are covered with paper until the blinds come in, but the French doors across from my desk and the window to the right are bare. As a result, I’m like a fish in a gold bowl—except there’s usually no one out there to see. Today there was a whole crew of concrete people—preparing to pour the patio, taking up the old sidewalk and getting ready to pour a new one. I was treated to a fascinating study in people’s behavior and a construction process.

These men work hard. They were here when I got up at 8:30—okay, I overslept—and some were still working at 5:30 tonight. They work with picks and sledgehammers, slamming them into the ground, picking up huge chunks of concrete and pitching them into some kind of motorized wagon that disposes of them. I saw them standing around frequently and figured they had to take breaks from that hard labor. They churn up the dirt, then rake it and pounds it flat, painstaking work. By the end of the day they had made an absolute mess of my back yard, which was already a mess. But the forms were in place, and I could see where the patio and curving walkway will be.

I had intended to ask neighbor Greg to mow the grass in back today, but he came back to the cottage before I could do that and said there was so little grass anyway he meant to go after it with the weed eater. The worker mens (a grandchild’s phrase) even tore up my large, flourishing turk’s cap but Greg says you can’t kill them, so I guess it will bloom again.

Today’s work was not as noisy as I’d dreaded but they apparently cut through concrete because occasionally the air was thick with a white powder—that can’t be healthy. It was that way when the physical therapist came, and I knew he intended for me to walk down the ramp. I balked, because I didn’t want to go out in that thick dust.

 We walked in the house. I asked if he was comfortable with me using the walker when home alone, and he said he was. “Are you?” he asked. I figured I have to be, because if I don’t start walking more, I’ll never walk again. And the surgeon recommended a lot more walking. So watch my dust! (Bad pun)

On a completely unrelated note, my Scottish heart beat faster tonight. I found on Facebook a lovely rendition of “Loch Lomand.” I can remember singing it with my dad on one of our piano nights. We had a book of folk songs-I have it still—and would sing the Scottish ones with special fervor. Dad loved “Loch Lomand.” His signature song on the piano was “Red Wing.” I can still sing the chorus to that one. What a fine memory to have.

This is my fourth night in the cottage, and I am still happy as a clam. Tonight my dining pal Betty brought spaghetti from Chadra—so delicious. I am one lucky lady.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Pictures…and I promise the last cottage blog

     I'm sure regular readers are tired of my move to the cottage, so this is the last of my reports, and is mostly a visual one.
      When I walked into the newly furnished cottage Sat. night, it was pristine and spare. Clean surfaces, a desk without much on it. Today it looks a lot different—it looks lived in. My desk is messy, though I’ve worked all day to make sense out of the mess. The rest of the cottage looks lived in. As neighbor Jay said last night, “It looks like you’ve lived here forever.”

Bookcase in living area
my desk, messier than usual
This was to be my hideaway, my solitary retreat. I have yet to spend a night alone. I mentioned the three grandchildren the first night. Jacob spent the night last night and seems set to do so again tonight. It’s all good.
Living area

the bar
zoning forbids two kitchens on one property
so we're calling this the bar
I cannot have a stove but I can have
anything that plugs in--hot plate, electric skillet,
toaster oven, Keurig. It'll do.

bar storage area

Pretty high cotton, don't you think?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Living in the cottage

My work crew

I have the most cozy, comfortable new home you can imagine, small yet with the feeling of space. The movers came about 12:30 yesterday, and it took them less than two hours.  Then my family went to work, forbidding me to come out here. When they allowed me, about six, I walked into a fully decorated space—furniture right where I had envisioned it, bookcase full of books, pictures hung---that part was really neat because pictures in new spaces looked like new art. Some people said they’d never seen this or that piece before, and I had to tell them where they’d hung in the house. I'm disappointed because I looked forward to showing them off.
     I would show you pictures but my computer is not cooperating, and I'm frustrated. Maybe tomorrow, if the gods are aligned.
     Almost as soon as I was in the new space, people began to arrive. Actually, my brother and sister-in-law were already here, sitting in my new living area. We had a full house for a while, laughing, talking exclaiming about how wonderful everything looked.
My brother and sister-in-law, waiting for the party
in the living area

For my first night in the cottage I had a guard troop—an eleven-year-old, ten-year-old, and nine-year old. I went to sleep to the blessed sound of children’s chatter and woke to it this morning. In the middle of the night, I woke to silence.

Today Jordan and Christian spent the day coping—or trying to—with the mess inside the house, much of it stuff I’d left behind. People kept bringing me boxes from the kitchen—cookware, glasses, canned goods, etc. I sent a few items back, and my sons put the others in place. Decisions: like, I don’t need a full set of china—so most of it went to a high shelf I can’t reach and four plates, etc. down where I can reach them. Jamiie organized the kitchen while Colin shimmed the bookcase which tilted forward alarmingly, put up hooks in my closet, and such.

I have fancy stuff too—efficiency HVAC unit that I can’t remember how it works but I know it takes as much energy as a light bulb and keeps the cottage at a really comfortable temperature. And then there’s the bidet, which everyone, particularly the kids, have discovered with delight. Thanks to my brother, who said some time ago, “I am determined you will have a bidet, and I am determined you will like it.” He was right.

It will take time to settle in and fit everything in, but it will shake down. The basic work is done. Neighbor Jay came in for happy hour tonight and said it looked like I’d been here forever. Great compliment.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Before pictures

Tomorrow is moving day, and there’s not much else on my mind, so I thought I’d share some empty-room pictures before we clutter them with furniture.

My closet with Elfa arrangement system

hall, looking from bedroom to living room
bathroom is on the left

Living area, will combine office and sitting area

This will be view from my desk
Patio will be outside French doors
Someday I'll have landscaping

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Moving is getting exciting

A friend once took me through the house she was thinking of buying. It was a wreck, with fast food containers thrown in a corner, an awkward arrangement of rooms, you name it. The next time she took me through it, after she’d bought it and remodeled it, it was an absolutely charming cottage with Saltillo tiles, built-in bookcases, French doors, and a functional kitchen. Of course, it was spotless-trash long since gone.

I don’t have that vision, that ability to look at a space and see what it could be. I’ve been arranging the cottage in my mind for weeks but I won’t know what works and what doesn’t until I actually see furniture in it. Jordan, bless her, measured all the furniture and then took me out there to measure the space. I took in everything she said—mostly that my bed is really too big for the space—but I couldn’t envision it. I’ll have to wait till Saturday, which is moving day.

Black Tie Movers are coming at one o’clock. Google them, and you’ll see two rows of young men in white shirts and black ties. Great marketing ploy. I had envisioned sitting in the cottage and regally directing them to put this here and that there. No such luck. I am to nap, while Jordan directs them, and I am not allowed out there until happy hour. I guess in a way it’s a relief—I’ll be surprised by the (semi-) finished product, and we’ll move on from there to see what fits and what doesn’t. I will have one thing that is a great luxury for me—a California-style closet. The closet is spacious, and the built-ins went in today-a marvel of convenience.  I can’t wait to get things in there.

Meantime there’s a lot of work to be done. Profound thanks to Sue Lyon Boggs and Teddy Springfield, who have fed us several meals and helped pack. The other day Teddy packed boxes and boxes of books—and brought the boxes—and today they both arrived with boxes, wrapping paper for pictures, and tape. When they got through, my dressers were empty and my office and bedroom walls bare. Great friends.

And to others who have brought meals. Last night three of my close friends brought supper—a super spinach dip, chicken tetrazzini, and brownies with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. We had a jolly dinner party in the midst of chaos.

I am, as I’m always aware, so blessed by family and friends. And looking forward to having my family, or most of them, here this weekend. Moving is traumatic, now way around that, but we’re making this as smooth as possible.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Downsizing: to keep or discard?

At Sunday night supper, a friend and I had a friendly but heated discussion. I was explaining to Sue, my good friend, that I had two marble-topped pieces of furniture that matched my bed but probably wouldn’t fit in the cottage. Her instant reply was, “Get rid of them.” I said no, they were family pieces, very old, with both sentiment and value attached to them.

“So are you going to pay storage fees on them for forty years?”

“Probably,” Jordan said. They have rented two storage units for the leftovers from their house already.

Sue was completely exasperated.

The world, I’ve discovered during this move and downsizing, is made up of sentimentalists and hard-hearted realists. I am obviously a sentimentalist. I have many antiques--not Louis 14th spindly things but good solid pieces from late 19th and early 20th century America. My mother’s secretary—when my brother and I look at it, we see Mom sitting there paying bills.
My bed—mahogany, with a six-foot headboard and four-foot footboard. I remember crawling into it as a toddler when I had a nightmare. The two marble-topped pieces mentioned above match the bed.

Jordan and Christian are keeping the sideboard that I remember from my Canadian grandmother’s house—built in 1846—and my dining table, which is not a family piece but beautiful nonetheless.

My point is that so many of these pieces hold memories that I could not just get rid of them. This weekend I will offer a couple of things again to my children, and I’ve discussed the marble-topped with my brother. If some of those pieces go to storage, maybe on down the line some grandchildren will want them. My niece was delighted to get a set of her grandmother’s china and said, ‘I’m just grateful to have anything of hers.” So maybe we’re a family of sentimentalists. I like to think that.
And here is a corner of my bedroom during the move--not much sentimental about this.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Oh, my! Life is getting complicated


After--kind of sad but it will hold books again
last night I made the bold and rash statement that I now could wrap my mind around this move. Tonight I’m wondering whatever I was thinking. I spent part of the morning watching a friend work—those are the kinds of friends to have, and I am blessed. Teddy Springfield, who is nicely tall, wrapped up emptying my office bookshelves and getting rid of the junk on the credenza (fancy word for what it actually is). Then he went for more boxes and boxed the books in another bookcase in the back room—mostly either those I’ve written or by good friends. I was delighted that Teddy found a Bob Flynn book he wanted to take home and read. And, bless him, he said he’ll come back another day.

My desk is a mess, and I must organize the things on it. Some receipts, but I dealt today with the alarm company and arranged for security in the cottage. Have to talk to Lewis tomorrow about smoke alarms—it’s those little things you don’t think about.

My neighbors came for happy hour and a self-guided tour of the cottage? What’s to need a guide for in three rooms, two of them quite small. They were enthusiastic, as everyone is. I sometimes wonder if they like the space that much or if they’re trying to reassure me that I’ll like it. I’m in a dither about window treatments—and there are seven windows and the French doors. I don’t want to block the light, so traditional blinds are not my first choice. But anything is expensive, complicated by the fact that on this old property no windows are standard size and no two are the same. So whatever I choose will have to be special ordered, and I should have done it a couple of months ago.

Tonight I spent a frustrating hour trying to wade through the Humana Pharmacy website—my prescription list shows medications I never heard of. That’s frustration enough, but half the time the website booted me and then wouldn’t accept my password.

I am going to spend the remaining sliver of the evening reading cooking magazines! That’s my own private rebellion.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Back to school blues

Something about the first day of school makes me nostalgic, as I suppose it does a lot of parents and grandparents. Because I live across from Lily B. Clayton Elementary Schoo, when Jacob was still a toddler, we used to sit and watch the kids go to school or leave in the afternoon. When he was about three, he took good friend Linda by the hand, led her across the street, and said, “This is where I’m going to go to school.” He didn’t live in the district but he got to go there because I was the day care person of record. This year his parents live in my house, and he’s fully legit.

He’s also sad—seems impossible, but this is his last year at Lily B. Next year he goes to middle school. This morning he hunkered by the front door and watched people arriving. Then he was off to school, where his parents took the traditional picture of him standing by the steps. They have taken that picture every year, in the same spot, and charting his growth is really interesting.

Today he went off looking spic and span. Here is what he and his buddies looked like after school when it rained. As his father keeps telling me, “Boys will be boys.”

Ford, an Austin grandson, went off wearing a TCU T-shirt. His mom says he wears something TCU almost every day. They will be up here this weekend so Ford and Jacob can go to “Meet the Frogs.”

Facebook this morning was full of proud parents’ back-to-school pictures—such fun to see, especially the kids who are starting kindergarten. They have such a long haul ahead of them, but I don’t think they see it that way. They see it as a new adventure, and I hope for each and every one it is that.

It’s a new start for me, too, as I prepare to move into my cottage this weekend. It’s a new start on a new year and a new adventure, and it always makes me optimistic

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Getting my game face on

Last night the happy hour folks at my house decided to go to the Mediterranean restaurant down the street. Did I want to go? I’m usually up for any company, any outing, but I heard myself say no. I wanted to stay home, make creamed chicken (that earned a few “Yuck” comments) and work at my desk. In retrospect it was a good/bad decision—they were gone almost three hours and I would have gotten antsy. My creamed chicken had too much wine and not enough milk—didn’t know I knew such a thing as too much wine, did you?

The larger issue, and one that concerns me, is that I’d been home, alone, at my desk, all day. I should have jumped at a chance to go somewhere with friends.

This morning, I woke at seven, perfectly rested—went to the restroom and crawled in bed to doze for an hour and a half. I didn’t need to do that. When I finally got up, my household—Jordan and two ten-year-olds—was in full swing. It dawned on me that the reason I’m lingering in bed these days is that nothing urgent, no projects on my desk, call to me.

As I’ve said before recently, I keep busy. When people ask what I’m writing, I tell them I’m managing my career—and that’s pretty much true. But I used to manage it and write, cook, etc. Cooking is hard, laundry is hard, and so I pretty much let a lot of things slide.

Late August, being the start of the school year, has always seemed like the start of a new year to me, much more than January 1. So my new-year resolution is to get my game face on, get more involved in the house, the move, new projects. I may not get it all done in one day, but I’ll do it. The path I’m on now leads to aging, and I don’t want that.

This week, I’ll start with packing personal belongings for Saturday’s big move. Company tonight brought an innovative supper—cheese, salami, smoked salmon and bread—and then they volunteered to help pack this week. I’ve got good friends.

Watch my dust! (Oops, I think I just mixed my metaphors).


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Blogging and other matters

I haven’t blogged much this week because as I warned earlier I didn’t have that much to say and because brush fires connected to remodeling kept demanding my attention. For instance, we played musical refrigerators—everything inside went either to the apt. refrigerator that Jordan moved into the kitchen or to the new one in the cottage. Jordan and Christian had picked out a huge, fancy fridge, and it was delivered. My granddaughter transferred all the stuff from the small unit to the new one, but I didn’t get things from outside until last night—mayonnaise for example, which is to me a staple of existence.

Another morning, before ten, I greeted the dog groomer, the cleaning lady, an AT&T tech who was keeping an appointment that was cancelled, and the contractors who wanted to talk about window treatments—I am still out to lunch on that but have done some investigating. Pleated shades are expensive, especially since no two windows outside are standard size or even the same size—I need custom made.

I did write a lengthy blog last night, hit a button, and it disappeared. Too tired to reconstruct it. You really didn’t miss much--it was trivia. Part of it though was about the second night Jamie and Edie were here--we picked up Betty, my Wed. night dinner companion, and went to Bravo—a contemporary Italian food chain. Had a jolly time, including my recounting sitting in the car while Jamie and Eden loaded the wheelchair into the trunk. Jamie said, far too loudly, “I know. But she’s your grandmother and you’ll just have to put up with it.” Eden blushed furiously and I told her I knew she hadn’t said anything—her father’s idea of a joke. He kept us laughing through dinner. Jamie is forever my prankster.

Today I’m home working, while Jordan and Christian have enlisted friends, a Pod, and a U-Haul to empty their house. For Fort Worth in August, it’s a lovely day—in the 80s and off-and-on gentle showers. However, if you’re moving furniture, the rain is not so lovely.

We expect next weekend to be when we do the bulk of moving my stuff to the cottage. All my kids will be here—great reason for a family get-together. And they all sound anxious to help. The cottage is painted, although it may need a second coat, and according to all reports, looks lovely.

On a non-moving note, I’ve had the Olympics on but muted most of the time. Interesting to see how many of the athletes, men and women, sport large tattoo. Good for them. I am far less enthusiastic about the language on Facebook from Clinton and Obama haters—makes me realize that the level of civility in this country has dropped into a great abyss. I’ve taken to scolding. And when someone directly challenges me, I respond.

Busy this morning explaining to knuckleheads why Trump is in Baton Rouge and President Obama is not. The president went along with the governor’s request to stay away until next week, when more security personnel could be pulled from helping citizens to protect visiting dignitaries. Trump ignored it and went for a 49-second photo op; Obama agreed to abide by the request and will go next week. Probably won’t bring any Play-doh with him either.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Welcome visitors

Me, Jamie and Madison
I guess I’m going to have to revise my life plan—I’ve been getting too tired to blog at night and sleeping late in the morning until there’s precious little work time left. I’m hoping I’ll fall back into my routine once in my cottage—about a week and a half away. Meantime, here’s the blog I didn’t write last night.
Jordan is off on a four-day holiday so Jamie, the younger of my two sons, has come to stay with me, bringing, to my delight, my 13-yeear-old granddaughter. I feared she’d be bored, but she has to finish reading The Hobbit for school, so she has a project. And Jamie can work from the dining table.
Last night we went out to dinner—late and ended up closing the restaurant. Got home at ten but had a wonderful visit over dinner. Lucille’s was having its annual Crabfest and Jamie ordered the whole crab. Took him a while to crack the shell and extract the meat, but oh my it was sweet and good. Much better than the lobster on my lobster roll—I could tell the meat had been frozen and thawed. Eden, a vegetarian for several years now, had the angel hair pasta.
We took pictures of course and I realized I’ve gotten so used to going without makeup that I didn’t even put any on to go out to dinner. 
Wonderful father and daughter
This morning everyone was off to a slow start. A colleague from Texas A&M Press is coming for lunch. I hope she understands messy house syndrome, especially with the merge we’re doing (PS She understood and lectured me for worrying about productivity in the midst of chaos). Jordan has taken all clutter from her house and transferred it to mine so that they can show their house. It worked—they have rented their house. Things are moving pretty fast these days.

It's taken me two days to post one blog. Story of my life lately. My computer got a persistent error message. I tried letting it rest but finally had to ask Jamie for help. Now if you’ll excuse me I think I’ll read the morning paper that I haven’t gotten to yet.

Monday, August 15, 2016

An almost perfect day

I should have written this last night but I guess I was worn out with pure happiness. My day Sunday was almost perfect for me, though it would probably bore others. I slept late and then went to my desk to read emails and linger long over Facebook—something I often feel too rushed to do. I try to avoid political posts but then one will catch my attention and demand that I comment. I know it’s fruitless. I’m not going to convert a single Trump supporter, but their arguments are so rooted in lies and untruths that I sometimes can’t resist. So there went the morning.

After lunch—I can’t even remember what I had—I read Julie Hyzy’s Grace Sees Red. Hyzy is one of my favorite cozy authors, and to feel free to just sit and read was a real treat. I read most of the rest of the day, though Jordan and Jacob were in and out.

Probably if I’d written this last night I’d be more eloquent about why it was such a special day. I remember euphoric thoughts but can’t quite capture them now.

 I’ve discovered—at a physician’s suggestion—a web page that takes a bit of my time. It’s Posit, a program designed to forestall dementia of various kinds. It’s apparently been scientifically approved and consists of brain exercises on the computer. They’re hard, and frankly I don’t feel I did very well. But I keep trying.  Look for it at

Tell me if you feel smarter or worse after you try the sample exercises.

The only flaws in m almost perfect day were that Jordan came home with pink eye, and the doctor’s office confirmed conjunctivitis today. And my old trick—I kocked a glass of wine over right onto my keyboard. This keyboard is new, maybe a month old, because the old one stopped working. It was less than two years old so was covered under Staples warranty. But I wasn’t sure how they’d feel about another exchange to soon.

I grabbed the keyboard out of the wine puddling on the desk, wiped it off as best I could and shook the water out of it. Then talking to the Lord fast and furiously, I went to get towels Long story short, I tried the keyboard with bated breath—and it worked. The Lord was looking out for me on my almost perfect day.

Today wasn’t bad either. Life is good.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Alter household trivia

I cannot fathom where August has gone, but I am much aware that summer is winding down. One sign: Jacob came home from camp today. Tired but ecstatically happy. He wants to keep going back until he can be a counselor—which I figure is at least eight years away.

I have seven grandchildren, and I love and adore them all equally, but Jacob is the one who has practically grown up in my house, with three adults focused on him Of course we felt a hole in our lives when he was at camp. Jordan looked positively radiant when she brought him home this afternoon—she and Christian had gone to get him and witness the end of camp ceremonies, which meant an early start—she got up at 5:45—and a long day. But she was so glad to have him home and so glad to show him his room, which she had worked long and hard on. It was once my guest room; then we put his bunk beds in, but it was still the room where she dumped everything that she wasn’t ready to deal with from the two houses. The room was her project this week.

Jacob loved his room, complete with golf clubs, hoverboard and all his goodies, and vowed he’s going to keep it that way. I don’t know about that, but I’m glad to have him home.

I’ve wondered about how Sophie would adjust to the change in our living circumstances. She’s five years old now, and over those years I’ve gone back and forth on whether she needed a companion dog or not. I’d about decided she was so ensconced in her position as queen bee that introducing a new dog would not go well. Color me wrong. When the Burton’s two dogs came to live with us, she accepted them as long as they recognized her superior position. They, being passive Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, acquiesced to that, and Sophie loves leading the pack to go potty, eat, whatever. She still sleeps on my bed most of the night, but morning finds her barking at Jordan to go out.

She also wants to make sure the Cavaliers don’t get more attention than she does, so she barges her way in to laps, beds, whatever. I wonder if she’ll be lonely when we move to the cottage, which looks like it’s about two weeks away.
You have to look hard to distinguish three dogs, but Sophie is in the forefront of course,
as befits her station in life

So exciting to anticipate the move. I’ve made a list of heavy pieces that movers need to take. One small step forward.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Nothing to Say

Today was a delightfully ordinary day-no obligations took me out of the house, no home health care people interrupted my day. And I got a lot done at my desk. But such long, good days, don’t make fodder for a blog post. And I have too many such days. I had no inspiration, unless I would blot about the outrageousness of The Donald, but that’s getting old. Or the ongoing blind hatred for Hillary—but that too is getting old and tiresome.

In truth, I have no deep thoughts, no meaningful insights to blog about, so for a while I’m not going to try to blog every night. Just when I have something to say-and even as I write this I realize I could blog about the Book Ladies, so maybe I’ll do that tomorrow. But please don’t expect wisdom every night—that well has plumb run dry. (Watch, now I’ll have a flood of ideas, which is all good.)

If you have questions, ideas, etc. for my blog, please let me know at Meantime, sweet dreams.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Overcoming a disability

I don’t think of myself as having a disability, except for things like a handicapped parking permit. I can’t drive these days, but I carry the permit for whoever is chauffeuring me.

I am handicapped in that it’s hard for me to reach things on high shelves, etc. But I view all that as temporary, and it has gotten better with permission to put weight on my broken leg. I resisted this, but the physical therapist said weight bearing builds layers on bones. Remember that walking is prescribed for osteoporosis patients.

With the PT’s reminder in mind, I was a bit taken aback when the orthopedic surgeon said yesterday that he saw no change. I though it wasn’t working. But he went on to say that we had to challenge the new bone to see if it would hold up—so, to me, that meant no change was a good thing. Yes, I heard the implied last of that—hold up to my great weight.

I haven’t weighed myself in a long while, because I can’t stand with both feet and not holding on to anything, but I suspect I’ve lost weight. Friends tell me my face looks thinner, and I know I’ve been eating lightly—lots of tuna fish and cottage cheese, yogurt and applesauce.

I asked the surgeon if I could walk up three steps (from the driveway to the front porch—much easier than the ramp that is like riding a roller coaster, something I never liked). He gave his blessing, so yesterday, with Jordan’s help , I walked from the car to the steps—maybe six feet—and up the steps. The surgeon’s ditty to help me remember was, Good foot goes to heaven, bad foot goes to hell.” It means going up you put your good foot up first; going down, you put the bad foot down first. I haven’t tried going down yet so am a bit puzzled how that will turn out.

But yesterday all went well. I did fine on the steps, and Jordan wheeled me across the porch. The door sill at the front door stymied her however, and she finally announced I would have to walk. There were no grab bars, nothing for me to hold on to, except Jordan who was behind me. It made me very nervous, and I swear I came close to falling a couple of times. Got to work on that technique.

But being able to put weight on my “bad” foot has made life so much easier. I stood at the sink tonight and hand-washed a few dishes that wouldn’t fit in the dishwasher. I can also stand—carefully—in front of a cupboard to reach a spice on a higher shelf. Life is good. Handicapped? Who, me?

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Why is fire so mesmerizing?

Photo courtesy Jaimie Branum Smith
Huge fire last night down the street that dead ends into my house, which meant I had a good view from the front door. I heard sirens, looked out and saw all the emergency vehicles. I told Jordan something was going on, thinking she’d look out the front door. When I heard the house alarm ding, I knew she hadn’t just looked—she’d gone out on the porch. And then my darling daughter became an ambulance chaser. She rushed back to report it was a big fire and she was going with neighbors Susan and Jay. Gave up finishing my evening toilette and went to the front door. Beyond all the emergency vehicles, I could see one window of one of the duplexes that are on the cul de sac down there. The window was alive with orange flames and though I watched for a while the flames didn’t abate. I expected the fire fighters to get a handle on it more quickly.

I don’t know anybody who lives down there, and the duplexes look comfortable but not high end housing. My thoughts were that I hope the residents and their pets, if any, got out and that some family had probably lost everything. As it turned out it was apparently two families.

Jordan came back with a report and smelling like she’d been around a campfire. Said it was terrifically hot there, but it was a neighbors’ gathering. Because fire is mesmerizing. I don’t doubt that my neighbors worried for the occupants, who apparently weren’t at home, but I doubt that was why they were there.

Jordan said they stood in the school parking lot, near the cul de sac, and fireman in full gear, face masks on, stood near them, waiting to see if there was an explosion which may explain the delay in putting the fire out. It looked to me, half an hour later, like it was still burning. I think they feared am explosion because flames were shooting high above the treetops.

Man has had fire for a million years, but we in this country don’t routinely set, maintain, and use fire during our childhood. One social scientist suggests that accounts for our fascination with it. In societies where fire is routinely used, children learn to master it and after that are disinterested. We have never achieved that mastery. We haven’t “learned” fire.

But I think there’s another element involved and that is power. We are fascinated and awed by the power of large fire, though we may be soothed by a small campfire. It’s a spectacle, and we know as individuals we can’t control it. I know I personally am horrified by fire and yet drawn to watch it. If I hadn’t been on a walker, I’d have joined the neighbors down the block. I feel the same fascination with a strong storm on water—I’ll admit I’ve never seen an ocean storm but I grew up on Lake Michigan and it can get ferocious. Once again I was terrified but fascinated.

This morning, after breakfast at the Old Neighborhood Grill, a friend and I drove by the fire site. Not much to see, mostly because there were only two windows which clearly indicated a burned-out building. Bu the walls and garage doors, etc. were only soot and smoke damaged. Kind of anticlimactic. There was some kind of crew there, and a dumpster already full, but I saw no sign of residents picking their way through their belongings. Still it made me sad for whoever called that home.

Monday, August 08, 2016

A generational difference? Or, how compulsive are you?

Sunday afternoon, and we’re expecting Jordan’s in-laws for dinner at 5:30. She and Christian have picked out a recipe for taco lasagna that they’ll cook. First she said she’d be here in the morning, then she said she didn’t know. Figuring it was her deal, I took my usual Sunday nap. Woke at four to find the house still needed “picking up,” the kitchen was a mess, and there was no sign of supper. Jordan was watching TV.

A couple of things you should know about this scenario: I am compulsive. If I’m entertaining for supper, the dish is mostly if not completely ready to cook, the house and kitchen straightened, and the table set by noon. The other thing is that Jordan is in many ways the child who is most like me—cautious, always busy, wants things done when she wants them, always efficient. I couldn’t believe this, so I tried to be as tactful as possible when I really wanted to ask, “Why on God’s green earth are you just sitting there?”

Her explanation: she took the dogs out, got overheated, and needed to sit. She’d do it in a bit, and it would all get done. It was her dinner, they were her guests, and I couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t scold. So I scooted around the house straightening what I could—remember I am confined to scooting on a walker. In the long run, I left some straightening for her that I couldn’t do but set the table, rinsed the corn (we roasted it in the husk in the oven), and cobbled together a fruit salad.

And she was right—by 5:30 it was all ready, corn and casserole in the oven. Christian had stayed at their house (it’s for rent) to show his folks how he had staged it (he did an amazing job—all I could say was it was too bad it didn’t look that way when they lived there).

Christian and the senior Burtons arrived about six, and we had dinner shortly after. The casserole looked and smelled wonderful—I didn’t eat it because of ongoing stomach issues but our guests raved about it and had extra helpings, with the result that only two of five ears of corn were eaten. Jordan made a cake for dessert, and we had a jolly evening.

I will give her this: it’s always eventually done on time. We just have different approaches, and if we’re to blend our households I’ll have to back off and not worry so much. In my own cottage, I can pre-prepare to my heart’s delight—and my nerves relief.

I still don’t know if it’s a generational difference or not. I can’t believe she’s calmer than I am, since she’s compulsive about many things.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

My take on the Olympics

I am not a sports fan. Not football, not basketball, and maybe only a little bit baseball. I have sat through kids’ soccer games until I wanted to scream, and a few baseball games—no football for my grandsons, thank goodness.

Naturally it follows that the Olympics don’t mean much to me, except that regular TV programming is disrupted. This morning Meet the Press was on during what should have been local news, and at the usual Meet the Press time we were back in Rio. Out of habit more than anything else, I kept the TV on but muted.

Swimming competition didn’t mean much to me—you can barely see bodies slicing through the water. If it was diving, I’d be more interested; nor was I intrigues by volleyball. But the bike race got me. I’d look up to see a lone biker on a twisting narrow road, and I was never sure if he was the leader or not—but often there was a motorcycle escort. And the biker would take whichever lane he wanted (are there no women in this race?), probably according to the way the road banked. I gather they had the road blocked. The scenery was gorgeous, but I began to wonder about the temperature in Rio.

Other times there would be a pack of riders, so close together that I wondered how they avoided crashing into each other. And frequently there would be cars close on their heels. I was fascinated yet nervous watching them. But I saw no wrecks.

I heard about the terrible wreck when a French pole vaulter broke his leg on landing, but a clip of him in the hospital tonight showed him cheerful and looking proud of his cast. Less deserving of our sympathy is the Russian Paralympics team which was banned today for doping.

What? Two more weeks to go? I’ll raise more interest when the gymnastics come on. But we’re all proud of the young shooter who brought home America’s first Gold Medal. And, even non-sports fans like me, are proud of the entire American delegation, and particularly Michael Phelps.

Meanwhile on the home front, we’re still celebrating Christian’s birthday—three days and counting so far. Tonight his parents came for a birthday dinner. Jordan experimented with a recipe for taco lasagna—I didn’t try it because I’m avoiding spicy food but it smelled divine. At my urging she roasted corn in the oven—something else I was hesitant to eat. But it works well—you pull the husks back and use them as a handle to eat the corn. Fruit salad, and that was the meal. Plus, of course, cake for the birthday boy. A pleasant evening.

So now another week begins. I hope for each of you it’s not too busy, with lots of time to relax, stay out of the gosh-awful heat, and enjoy the waning days of summer.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Excuses, keyboards, and other mis-steps

Two nights ago I wrote a fairly long blog The gist of it was that I didn’t have anything to say—amazing how you can draw that message out. I got close to what I thought would be the end and must have hit the wrong key—whoosh! It all went away. It was late, I was tired, and I just didn’t have it to re-invent the wheel. One night is not a serious lapse I told myself.

Yesterday my computer was working fine when I went to take a nap. When I came back the keyboard was all kerflooey. It typed things I never intended and didn’t type what I wanted it too. I tried writing a blog on the keyboard of the laptop, but it didn’t go well. I don’t know if my fingers are too big or the keyboard is too slow—but it was a bust and I gave it up.

So here I am tonight, with a new keyboard and not much else to tell. Jordan and Christian went to exchange my keyboard (I had only purchased it in April, and it has a two-year warranty). It’s amazing the difference a keyboard makes in my life. I guess it’s because I practically live at my computer. At any rate, I am once again a happy camper, proofing the fourth Kelly O’Connell mystery (Danger Comes Home) to get it on Amazon—and I can blog again.

I’ve been having stomach issues for a while, due to, I suspect, the change in lifestyle that is headed my way and contributed to by my troubles with my ankle. This weekend I decided to put myself on the BRAT died. Mothers and grandmothers of young children will remember that stands for bananas, rice, apples, and toast. Started it this morning, and by tonight I was starving. Jordan fixed me noodles with butter (not exactly on the diet but bland) and applesauce, but you know what I really want? A cheeseburger with tomato and pickle and mayo. I will, however, be stoic and see this through. Do you really think a bit of chocolate would hurt?

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Life in a wheelchair

I don’t complain much about being housebound—it’s kept me out of the heat, and I have so many visitors I’m not lonely at all. Today was like Grand Central Station---the physical therapist and the LVN who bathes me both arrived at the same time. I expected sparks to fly because the LVN said, “He’s coming on my time.” They both agreed, however, that it was fortuitous. The therapist, Dan, showed me how I could get in the shower, now that I’m able to put a little weight on my right foot, but he cautioned I need to have someone help me. For a moment there, the therapist and I were in the shower together (I was still dressed)—we seemed to be doing a dance in a small space. But long story short, I got a full shower. Praise be! First time I’ve been in the shower in five weeks. The thing about Home Health Care through Medicare is that you don’t dare tell them it’s inconvenient for them to come or you’re busy—they’ll decide you don’t need them and take you off their list.

They left, and my dear friend Kathie arrived with lunch. Kathie is perhaps the most organized person I know, and when she brings lunch, she brings everything—paper plates, napkins, plastic flatware. And then the lunch-tuna salad, fruit salad, veggies to nibble on, two kinds of muffins (we had a half each—blueberry and goat cheese/berry). Couldn’t decide which was best.

After Kathie left, I busied myself making the filling for salmon pasties. Then Rosa, my hair stylist arrived. Rosa is such a good soul she volunteered to come to the house to cut my hair. I thoroughly enjoy her company—we talk about both kids and politics—and she said she needed to come talk to me with the current political situation.

With my new haircut I took a brief nap. Then up because a friend of Jordan’s came for a glass of wine. Then Betty arrived for supper, and together we put the pasties together and baked them. Not the best I’ve ever made but okay for my first foray back into cooking. A good visit.

I thought she was the last visitor, but Jordan and Christian wandered in. Jordan told me that Christian is excellent at cutting up a cantaloupe, and I had one I’d let sit on the counter and ripen. He cut it up and pronounced it the best ever—not too ripe, not underdone. I like them sweet and soft, and he says this one is.

Whoosh! I’m tired. I loved all the company, but I will enjoy a calm day tomorrow. I’m surely not lonely.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

A satisfying day

Jamie and Maddie, his oldest daughter who will be 18 before we know it
That maybe is the best thing you can say about a day—it was satisfying. No wild excitement, no bitter disappointment, just middle of the road, steady and even. Satisfying.

Jamie came from Frisco to take me to my family physician’s office this morning. Since he rarely is in Fort Worth, he doesn’t make the blog much, so I’m pasting a picture at the top. James been making an effort to come once a week and take his turn at chauffeuring, baby sitting, whatever I need. Before I’d go long stretches of time without seeing him, so this is one way my broken leg functions to my advantage.

After my doctor’s appointment we went to lunch at the Flying Fish. Jamie likes to eat out but unlike me, he doesn’t like sandwich shops. I was on the verge of ordering grilled trout when he said, “Mom, you always liked oysters.” It doesn’t take much to deter me from healthy eating. I thought oysters on the half shell might not sit well, so I had fried. And cole slaw. And fries which I usually ignore but I craved the blandness of them. Jamie had fried catfish and gumbo, and we lingered over lunch.

I thought however we would never get dinner. Jamie wanted to go out; I did not, given the major effort of getting me down the ramp and into a car. He decided he wanted food from The Mexican Inn; I did not. So he would go get it, and I would eat leftover salads out of the fridge. But Jamie can procrastinate…and he found a hundred distractions before he went to get his dinner. By that time Jordan was home and went with him, though she didn’t want Mexican either.

I had a lovely dinner because two of my four children were at the table with me. Love them so much! Tonight there were serious family talks over dinner—often it’s frivolity. Jamie did get his tricks in pulling me up the ramp—pretending to lose it and letting me slide back down and similar tricks.

No, it wasn’t a day of accomplishment or brilliant insights or any such things. But it was satisfying. I wish the same for each of you.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Summer camp—what are your memories?

August 1, 2016

Did you go to summer camp as a child? I was so much a bookworm and so disinclined toward sports that I didn’t do much of that kind of thing. I have only a vague memory of one experience at a camp. I believe it was a scout camp, and my memories are of woods, sandy soil, bunks in a cabin, and really wishing I was at home.

Jacob suffers from no such inhibitions. He left yesterday for this third year at Sky Ranch in East Texas. This year, for the first time, he’s staying two weeks. And his buddy Colin Russell went with him—Colin has not been to Sky Ranch before and they will be bunkmates. I suggested to Jacob that he could show Colin the ropes. Jacob looked at me and said, “What ropes?”

Apparently Jacob did not sleep well Saturday night—excitement, though I doubt his claim of being awake until five and waking again at six-thirty is accurate. Nonetheless, he was excited and, as he said, a bit nervous. I assured him that was normal. I think he’ll have a wonderful time.

His excitement got me to thinking about the things in life I’ve missed by not being adventuresome, preferring a book over an amusement park. I have never, for instance, ridden a roller coaster nor do I intend to. I have never burned to travel, see distant places, have wild and exotic adventures. Several years ago a church leader called to say they had one seat left on an African trip and it had my name on it. I thought he didn’t know me very well. It’s an adventure to think about traveling to Chicago, let alone Africa.

Some of my kids love to camp. My idea of camping is a nice, comfortable motel with a hot shower, a cocktail lounge, and a comfortable chair for reading. I love the outdoors but on my terms—sitting by the lake at Colin’s house or the distant memory of sitting on a dune and watching the sun go down over Lake Michigan, smelling the lake, feeling the warm sand beneath me.

I’m not complaining that God didn’t give me the adventuresome gene. I lived my life the way I wanted to, avoiding situations that would make me uncomfortable, like roller coasters and camping. But I’m grateful that my kids and grandkids are more ready to fly out in the world—they ski, some scuba dive, they swim (something I’m now reluctant to do), they fly all over the country and abroad without a thought. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to reach out and grab all of life’s experiences—but it’s a chance I don’t want to take.

I hope Jacob has a marvelous time, and Colin sees the ropes.