Monday, May 30, 2016

Pain and a discovery

 This morning I wrote to my doctor that I was in incredible pain with my ankle. Of course I don’t expect to hear until tomorrow. But I could barely hobble around here with my walker and called Jordan for help. Then I discovered something—I can ride my walker around the house, taking all stress off my ankle. I have to ride it backwards, because that’s how it knows to steer but I know this house well enough that’s no problem—except for an occasional bump here and there. I think it feels better already simply because I haven’t stressed it all day. But I’m still leery about getting up and sitting down. Am at my desk in the walker now—why change chairs when I don’t have to?  A little uncomfortable but not bad.

Jordan came and fixed me lunch—cottage cheese and wine—and came back tonight with friends in tow to scramble me a couple of eggs. She and Jacob will come back to spend the night—I have all kinds of guilt about this, but she brushes it off, says Christian is glad to sleep late in the morning undisturbed.

And that, folks, was my day—trying not to have to stand up, being cautious when I did, checking emails and Facebook and finally scratching the surface of the blog book I want to do. Actually a good day. I have two books left to read for the Sarton competition, and the deadline is fast upon us, so that’s my project for tonight. I’m reading a novel with a background deep in the Roman Catholic tradition and yet one that is full of humor. Not far into it, but I’m enjoying it.

As always. Facebook astounds me, with people leaping to unsupported conclusions. I don’t know how many people have criticized President Obama for apologizing to Japan for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The only problem is it was very clear he offered sympathy for their suffering but no apology.  But these are the same people who will damn him no matter what he does.

And then there’s that awful tragedy of the lowland gorilla and the child who slipped into his enclosure. I won’t even begin to take sides, because so many others have. But they don’t seem to realize every story has multiple components. Many have condemned the parents’ for not watching their child; others have damned the zoo for weak protection. And everyone is so convinced that their interpretation of the event is correct—yet I think I’ve only read two reports from people who were on-site witnesses. The whole thing was a catastrophe, and blame lies in many directions. I really resent the posts that personify the gorilla, having him say, “I don’t know why they killed me. I was taking better care of that child than his own mother.”

Memorial Day has come and gone for another year. I learned something this year—Memorial Day honors those who died in service of their country; Veterans Day honors all who have served. Let us never forget to honor both days. We have a great country, and no, Donald Trump we don’t need you to bring us back to greatness—we’re there, albeit with many issues and problems that one hopes a new Congress with address without the discord of the past eight years.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A slothful day

 
Sloth is a wonderful word, because it sounds like what it means. Sloths are not really slow and lazy animals, but they seem that way at first. Today I have been slothful. Here’s what I have not done: showered, washed my hair, made my bed, put on my left shoe, emptied the dishwasher, folded the laundry, cooked. Here’s what I have done: brushed my teeth, managed to cobble together lunch (Jordan made it yesterday) and supper (peanut butter toast), fed the dog, finished proofreading a manuscript, and made a major decision that can always be changed. In balance, it’s not a bad day of accomplishment. Oh yeah, I slept late and napped.

My foot and ankle hurt—there’s no other way to say it, so I am avoiding being on my feet. Will check with the doctor Tuesday to make sure this is normal, but I feel that I’m going backward not forward. Walking around robs me of any energy I might have had. Sitting at my desk, I feel great and am full of ambition. When I stand up, all that energy and ambition disappear. It’s frustrating because normally I could accomplish all that I didn’t do in about half an hour.

Something to look forward to: barring unexpected complications at the last minute, we should have our building permit Tuesday and construction can begin almost immediately. That will give me company around the house—workmen—and involvement, and maybe it will take my mind off my pity party.

Fort Worth surged to the front in sports this weekend—TCU won their baseball game, and Jordan Spieth took the Dean & DeLuca tournament (go ahead—call it the Colonial; it’s okay). Other than that, it’s been a long, quiet weekend. As school gets out this week, I’m glad for the construction project because I won’t be home alone so much. And maybe, with others on the property, I won’t be as slothful.

 Well, duh. Here I am moaning and groaning about how badly my foot hurts when I just realized I forgot to take my 3:00 p.m. pain pill. Tomorrow will be a better day, pain pills and all.

 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Stormy weather

 
Where is Lena Horne when we need her? Supposedly we had stormy weather last night, though I didn’t hear it. I do know we had rain, and now we are due a few days of respite before the next round of storms hits. It was one year ago today that the Central Texas town of Wimberley flooded so badly, sweeping homes and people away. Today, southern Texas is getting it again with record amounts of rain in the Houston area and flooding in Austin. My oldest son in Tomball reported that some of the school children had to spend the night at the school---they couldn’t get home, and their parents couldn’t get to them.

Colin reported it was so bad he came home mid-day yesterday and had to find this road and that to avoid water—you know the world is ending when Colin comes home early from work. Their lake is as high as he’s ever seen it, but I want pictures—he assures me the house is well away from it, but they’ve only lived there two years. How does he know how high it can get? It is probably flooding the stables next door, which means the water is badly polluted. He  will tell you I’m doing what I do best—worrying about my children.

I wonder when Texans will learn the lesson about not driving into standing water. We hear it preached every spring—and every spring people are lost because they thought they could drive through that puddle. There have been several lives lost in the flooded part of the state, and several high-water rescues. Colin and his family were going out around noon to have lunch and do errands, and I heard myself repeat it: Don’t drive into standing water. It didn’t earn me the exasperated sigh it should have—he is one well-rooted person with a lot of common sense, and I know he would never put his wife and kids in danger.

Meantime in soggy Fort Worth I spent the day inside at my computer, where I am perhaps happiest. I sit here working and think I can do anything. But when I got up to fix some lunch and put wet rags in the dryer, I had only energy enough for the lunch. Jordan came and made me a wonderful pasta salad for my supper—spinach noodles, mushrooms, hearts of palm, lots of butter and lemon. She knew I am getting tired of tuna (is there a title there? A song title: “Tired of Tuna” Maybe we could apply it to Tuna, Texas).

Although they didn’t go today, the Burtons have been busy with the Dean & DeLuca Golf Tournament (which we all call the Colonial); tomorrow they will  take Jacob, whose pretty much a fan of almost any sport. The other night I called him to my office, and he stood across the room, that bored stance and expression that says, “What do you want now?” I told him Baylor had fired Art Briles and Ken Starr, and he perked to attention, all nonchalance gone. Then he called his dad, and I didn’t hear much of the conversation except this line, “Yes, Dad, I know what rape is.” Oh my, what a world we live in.

 

 

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Perils of . . . Judy

My ugly boot on my ugly foot
Jordan insists she's going to paint my toenails but
that reminds me of perfuming a pig
Rough night last night at my house. I shared my bed with a scared dog and a scared grandson. The gods were bowling and great rolls of thunder came at us, with lightning that sounded close by (Jacob was convinced) and heavy rain. When the storms really hit, he looked out the window a long time and then went to call his mom. Then he turned the closet light on, and when I told him to turn it off, he said, “I’m not going to.” Obedient child. The closet is his go-to place in storms. The final indignity was that he shined his flashlight directly in my face. None of us slept well.

All night I kept thinking that if I could get this child off to school, I’d go back to a bed that I would have all to myself. I didn’t care if I slept all morning. Got myself settled, and the phone began to ring. Three calls from my doctor’s office telling me it was urgent I go to the orthopedist today because I have a displaced fracture of the little finger on the right hand. There went my lovely day in bed, so I got up and did some work at my desk.

My friend Carol brought lunch from the deli, and we set out for what proved to be slightly over two hours at the doctor’s office. More x-rays, more waiting—I admit my anxiety level was high, really high.  The doctor was a nice guy, said my finger is healing well, and he was tempted to just let it be. Ultimately he decided on a splint for three weeks, but it is removable so I can type with some ease.

We decided the best explanation for this fracture is that I must have flung my hand out in the night and hit the high headboard on my antique bed just right. If Jacob had been there, I’d have blamed him, but alas, he was not. This type of fracture is called a boxer’s fracture because it is what would have resulted if I’d hit someone with a closed fist.

Came home exhausted, finally crawled into bed about five, Jacob appeared at six to do evening chores, and I went back to bed until 7:30. Now I need to catch up with myself. The doctor said one nice thing that boosted my ego—he said I was tough if I had a fracture for almost two weeks without knowing it. I told him I’d walked on the one in my ankle longer than that, and I thought I was clumsy not tough. (My mother would have said, “Why do you always run yourself down?”)  Truth is I’d been feeling despondent about getting old and breaking bones, and his words cheered me a lot. Watch out, world! Here comes one tough old lady.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

How does your garden grow?


A botanist friend and I were corresponding about gardens, and we agreed that we both like free-form gardens, with plants allowed to grow into the shapes they want—within reason, of course. But we weren’t in favor of the sculpted, manicured look so favored today by much of suburbia. What you like in a garden tells much about what you like in life, just as do the foods you eat, the books you read, the things you choose to surround yourself with.

At one time in British history, garden were carefully delineated, neatly plotted and formed. Beyond their borders, nature could grow wild, but the garden kept the wilderness at bay and gave man a sense of control, creating order in an unruly universe. Sometimes during this period, carefully manicured bushes and trees came into popularity. The topiary tree and other shapes. While I wouldn’t have one in my garden, I have seen recently beautifully sculpted topiaries of animals.

The Victorian era saw gardens as an extension of the house, to be lavishly decorated as evidence of taste. Not only were geegaws, from gazebos to benches, desired, flower displays were lavish and colorful to fit the exterior of Queen Anne homes with their gingerbread trim. Today most of us would call these gardens fussy and overdone.

In the early nineteenth century, the Craftsman style became popular as a protest against mass production and the standardization of parts. When houses all began to look alike, designers used natural materials—wood, stone—to distinguish their houses and give them individuality. Similarly, gardens around Craftsmen homes were allowed to grow free rather than sculpted and carefully trimmed into an organized pattern. The typical Craftsman home’s garden has the feel and appeal of an English garden.

Today in the United States garden take many shapes and forms—we have tried to surround our homes with manicured and mowed lawns, which proved to be a mistake in some parts of the country. In the desert Southwest, for example, the cost of maintain a lawn, in water alone, is astronomical and suggests we should think of a new way to garden. It’s not easy for some—one of my sons routinely mowed down the evening pinks which sprouted in my lawn. I loved them, but he said, “They’re weeds, Mom.” In our neighborhood newsletter, a contributor complained about people who do not used weed-and-feed regularly and thus provided a crop of dandelions for the whole neighborhood. I wanted to tell him to make a salad out of the greens and enjoy.

But I like gardens with lots of native plants—yarrow, cone flowers, coreopsis, Mexican hat flowers, oleander, rosemary, mint, lantana and a long list of others. I don’t have much sun either on the front or back of my house, so my choices are sort of limited.

Some of us do like to let nature take its course. Granted, some plants need a little taming. Yaupon holly, for instance, does not need to be painstakingly trimmed, it’s interior opened up as one friend showed me years ago—talk about a time suck. But neither does it need to grow out of control until it shouts neglect. What I ideally aim for is a moderate course between two alternatives.

I have neighbors who have been growing vegetables in their front yard. The result is plants of all sizes and shapes with no discernible pattern—I find it distracting and think such gardens should, like the traditional kitchen garden, be in the back of the house.

And much as I like free-form growing, I don’t like when a jungle sprouts in the bushes to the west of my house, with volunteer trees offering to get out of control. I guess maybe in gardens as in politics, I’m a moderate liberal (no hooting, please, from friends and family).
How does your garden grow?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

God compensates


Reality is the leading cause of stress among those who are in touch with it.

—Lily Tomlin

The quote above is something I liked well enough that I wanted to share it. My mom would have liked it. She was fond of such sayings as “The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine,” or “God works in mysterious ways his wonders to accomplish.” The latter is sort of what’s on my mind tonight.

Between Jordan and me, we have a fairly constant stream of visitors to this house, usually at happy hour. Since the discovery of my broken ankle, most of them make a beeline for me to ask, “How do you feel?” My answer is that every part of me feels perfectly fine except for my ankle which hurts like sixty. A month ago I would have cheerfully said I felt fine when I really didn’t, but now I do. I think it’s one of God’s mysterious ways.

As many of you know, I’ve struggled with anxiety, balance problems, fear of falling, even some insecurity. Now that there’s something in my body that actually hurts badly enough to focus all my energy, those neurotic (my term) ailments have all gone away. Sure, there are some logical explanations—I’m on a new anti-anxiety medication, and it works wonderfully, makes me feel like a new person. I’m also on my new bright red walker, and I have no fear of falling. I sleep well and pain free at night, and during the day I sit at my desk and think all is well and I can conquer bear. But when I stand up and walk, I am indeed in touch with the reality of pain. It’s as though God said, not unkindly, “You want something to worry about? Here’s a real something.”

The fracture, as I understand it, is not exactly a hairline but almost. No displacement of bones. If I’ve got it right I sprained the ankle, and the sprain pulled the ligaments apart until the bone broke. That’s why it hurts worse now than it did a few days after I fell. The fracture is at the bottom of the fibula, the lesser bone in the leg, and not weight-bearing.

So tomorrow I go in the morning to have my puffy hand x-rayed (it doesn’t hurt but has an ugly bruise) and to have a bone density test I should have had several years ago. Then I go to be fitted with a walking boot that I will wear night and day for at least four weeks. I hope that will lessen the pain by supporting the ankle better and also begin the healing process.

The Dean DeLuca Golf Tournament is this weekend (nobody in Fort Worth calls it anything but the Colonial) so Jordan and Christian will both be working. I’ll have Jacob at least one night but pretty much I’ll be home alone for four days. I can either mope and have a pity party or I can get a lot of work done. I have invited all the non-golf people I know to stop by for coffee or wine, so I’ll probably have visitors. Life ain’t so bad.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Waltzing with my Walker

 
My Queen Bee chair
For several years occasional friends have suggested that because of my lack of balance I needed a walker. Once, maybe ten years ago, two good friends went into hysterics at the idea and declared that was what they would get me for Christmas. It didn’t come to pass, but now I am officially old: my new, fancy walker arrived today. Jacob was so excited he could hardly stand himself—unpacked it, and assembled what needed doing, and only had to call Jay for help on one small piece. It’s very fancy with a seat, a basket for carrying things—note to self: the basket does not carry a glass of wine. Tried it tonight and dumped wine all over the kitchen floor. But it has locking brakes—you lock it if you’re going to use it to stand up or if you’re going to sit in it. So tonight as Jordan cooked dinner and then Christian finished cooking, I sat like the Queen Bee and told them, step by step, how to make German potato salad my way. Jordan calls the dining room chair I always sit in my princess chair; now she says my walker must have a name, so I’m going to call it my Queen Bee chair.

After all my reluctance, I have to admit a walker makes it easier to walk. Still my ankle hurts, even though it’s the distal portion of a leg bone and not the ankle that is broken. Tomorrow I go to the doctor and then, presumably, to get a boot. Perhaps to have my hand ex-rayed and a bone density test. I’ll talk to the doctor about pain medication—so far I’ve just been taking aspirin and find wine more effective but one can only treat oneself with so much of that.

News that I found interesting today: read the best statement on all this bathroom fuss from the superintendent of Granbury schools. He said it looked to him like a solution looking for a problem and suggested that Texas legislators spend their energy and time on the big problems—like why Texas ranks so low educationally in the nation and massive funding cuts to education. Local administrators, he suggested wryly, can deal with such problems as who pees where. I like that man.

Not so much the legislator—which I could remember where he’s from and whether he’s state or national—who wants to regulate the age and weight of strippers.  Talk about dealing with major issues of state.

Jordan’s cooking got interrupted by friends tonight so Christian finished the dinner, and he, Jacob and I ate without her—German potato salad, kielbasa, and the blue cheese green salad she’d made. Most interesting discussion because Jacob wanted to know what it meant to be transgender. We discussed all aspects of that and bathroom use for a long time, and I’m so glad we could talk openly rather than having him pick up misinformation on the school grounds. Our conclusion: God wires some people differently but loves them all.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A good bad day

 
There really are three dogs here if you can see June Bug hiding in the upper left.
When we consolidate our households, all three will be living here. Cricket and June Bug
are King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, bred to be placid and quiet. Quite a puzzle for Sophie
who wants them to run and play with her.  But she calmed down nicely.
No blog last night because I was just too tired after a family visit that lasted later than I thought. My oldest son, Colin, arrived about ten with his two children—Morgan, almost eleven, and Kegan, nine. The cousins were ecstatic to be together, and Christian and Jordan had come to greet everyone--and brought their dogs. So we sat and talked—about their new swimming pool, about our plans for the cottage, about the world in general. At 47, Colin is a handsome man in good shape, and I am so proud of him—and love him dearly and so welcome his infrequent visits. They live in Tomball, northwest of Houston, and this weekend his wife kicked them out of the house (his words) so she could have a girls’ weekend.

Jacob spent the night but was up early for his baseball game. His parents came and collected all three children, while I let Colin feed them and I slept late. He’s an early riser anyway.
Cousins at the baseball game
When they were gone, Colin went for a run, and I dressed and piddled at my desk. We headed out about ten or so to get the x-ray of my hand the doctor had requested—but the doctor’s orders had not arrived at the x-ray place so no go. Colin was already confused by this city he’s grown up in—I took him back roads to Hulen to avoid zoo traffic, and he said, “We’re on Hulen. How did we get here?” Asked where Old Granbury Road was and I told him not anywhere close. Then I took him across a new bridge over the Trinity where the land is mostly undeveloped but you know it will sprout offices and apartments within a year. Apparently Neiman Marcus is going in out there. Colin said you could tell plans are big because there were four huge cranes. We circled around by the new Press CafĂ© where there’s a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, and he said, “Fort Worth is looking just like Austin.” High compliment.

Jacob’s game went to ten innings and then they lost by one point—bitter. But we all met for lunch at Carshon’s Deli (Colin won’t come to FW unless he can have a Rebecca sandwich). I had a half Reuben, and everyone got to speculating on why the specialty sandwiches all had girls’ name beginning with R. We forgot to ask but I’m sure there’s a story there.

After lunch Colin and his children headed for Frisco for a visit with Jamie and Eden (Maddie and Melanie were in Boulder); Jacob and his family went home; I worked at my desk and then took a long nap. By the time I got up Jacob was playing with the boys directly behind us, and Jordan had assigned me to order them pizza, which I did.

But now it’s evening, and my foot hurts, and my ambition, enthusiasm, whatever goes downhill in direct proportion. I have powered through fixing myself some pasta and am hoping Jacob will bring all the pizza detritus to the kitchen for me. Hard to carry things with a walker. I have ordered a new one which has a seat, a carrying basket, a hook for my purse, and—greatest of all—a cup holder. It doesn’t exactly say “Wine” on it but I’m sure that’s what it’s meant for.

Last night a friend of Jordan’s was here and in the course of conversation said, “I hope my children take such good care of me.” Tonight my thought, despite my pity party over a painful foot, is how fortunate I am to have children who take such good care of me. With people my age, a broken hip is often the beginning of the trip down the slippery slope, but this is not a hip—it’s a hairline fracture of the fibula—and I am determined to be of good cheer and ride it out. Six weeks in a boot!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Whining again

 After vowing not to whine anymore, because it made me feel like a wimp, here I am complaining. My right ankle—the one I twisted when I fell two weeks ago—was getting much better. Until the last two or three days. This morning I decided I didn’t want to wait to the weekend and have it become an emergency situation so I called the doctor’s office. I could hardly walk and was lurching around the house holding on to furniture and walls. They gave me an appt. with a PA at 2:30, saying my doctor was completely booked.

The morning was brightened because friend Carol brought a used-book dealer to look at my books, and she took 40 books, most for her business but a few for her personal reading. Carol was a great salesperson, pointing out one title after another. Carol estimates I have about 500 books left, not including the ones I wrote. Maybe books are like spaghetti or salad that grow in the bowl as you eat.

Made a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, grabbed a small glass of wine, and then a small nap before Jordan came. I told Jordan I feared the diagnosis would be “You’re clumsy” and my sweet daughter said, “Well, you are.” The woman examined the new bruise and swelling on my hand and asked if I bruise easily. I truly wanted to reply, “No, I’m clumsy.” I have no idea what I did to my hand and arm but it sure does look ugly.

Sent for x-rays. The site said two-hour wait, so I voted for waiting till tomorrow, but Jordan went in and came back to get me. Honest, we were out of there within half an hour or less, and the doctor’s office sent the report before five: small fracture of the fibula just above the ankle joint. I’ll see the doctor, not the PA, Monday morning. Meantime I’m trying to stay off my feet and using a neighbor’s walker—I’ve resisted the latter for a long time, but it really does help. I feel more secure and there’s a more even distribution of weight.

So Jordan and Jacob are here tonight, though she has gone to a birthday party at the Wine Haus down the street for an hour. Tomorrow night, Colin will be here with Morgan and Kegan so that will brighten my weekend a lot.

I don’t mean to sound like Joe Bftsplk, but it seems it’s always something. In a sense I’m relieved to know there is a diagnosis and I wasn’t just being a wimp; on the other hand, all those people who keep warning that I’ll fall and break a bone can now say, “I told you so.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Big Book Sale


Subie and I waiting for eager buyers
Today was Jordan’s big book sale. I call it that, even though it was my books we were selling, because she conceived the idea, carried it out, planned it, and was hostess. She invited teachers and moms from Jacob’s school to come to a special sale, 3:15-5:15. We forgot that on Wednesdays most kids are in school until 4:00 instead of 3:00 because of UIL.

By 3:00, Jordan had everything ready—small quiches, fruit, cheese, salami, and wine. One mom came with two boys and bought two books. But as the afternoon went by, more moms came—the ones she and I both know—and they bought books, sometimes three or four children’s books, sometimes my newest novel for which we charged full price. We were disappointed that no teachers came, in spite of promises, but still sales amounted to a nice total. And, most important, it was fun. I get lots of hugs from these young mothers and I love it. They drifted around the house, they chatted and gossiped and they browsed books and asked questions about them.

Friend Subie was here to act as treasurer, not that she was that busy. But we had a good chat, sometimes joined by Jordan. Subie had to leave just as more moms were arriving. The last guest left about 9:00—no wonder I was tired.

Tonight my house looks like a book display, with many books on zogs borrowed from the TCU Press. Jordan and I will take them down tomorrow, but she did all the dishes and refrigerated the food before she left. Tomorrow I’ll have quiches for lunch—enough of the small ones will equal a regular serving, and they were so good.

It was a nice end to a day that didn’t start off well. My ankle hurt, my hand hurt, and I was still feeling sorry for myself. I stumbled about the house, fiddled at the computer without accomplishing much, and ate peanut butter for lunch—a sure sign I’m out of ideas and energy. Then an early nap, but by the time Jordan arrived, I was up, with makeup on, and ready to go.

Caroline, Jacob and Hayes, with the old lady
(Sorry I think I closed my eyes)
Two of my favorites of Jacob’s friends were here, and I was lucky enough to get my picture taken with them.

A good day, but oh my, am I ready for bed.
 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Monday blues on a Tuesday night


Monday blues on Tuesday night

May 17, 2016

For some reason unknown to me I have the Monday blues on a Tuesday night and indulged in a real pity party tonight when a friend dropped me off at dinner. My ankle that should be better by now is more painful tonight than it has been, and for some unknown reason I have a bruised and swollen right hand. This morning I couldn’t shift gears without using both hands, but it’s much better tonight. Still swollen and tender, so much so that someone commented on it at dinner. I’m getting tired of physical aches and pains, and I swear I’m not going to mention them again.

My good friend Subie said she’s found she has all these things happening to her right now—like yesterday’s cataract surgery—and she thinks they just come in spells and you have to live through them. I’ll adopt her philosophy, actually one I’ve always believed in—this too shall pass. I think it’s just as you age, those spells come more often and linger longer.

Actually it was a good day. Took Sophie to the vet today for her annual checkup, where she was pronounced in perfect health. It’s always a chore for me because she gets so excited, but I’ve developed a system—I drive the car right up to the gate to the yard, open the car door, and then cautiously open the gate, get a leash on a wriggly dog, and put her in the car where I attach a second leash that is like her car seat—or restraining leash or whatever. It assures she won’t go through the windshield if something awful happens. The vet staff kept oohing and aahing about how cute and well behaved she was—they just haven’t seen her at her demanding most. Tonight as I was leaving for dinner, she escaped and went rocketing down the front sidewalk with Subie and Jordan in hot pursuit. I hollered for Jacob, and he and his friend Hayes bolted out the door. They all came back dragging an unrepentant Sophie. I told her I didn’t spend all that money at the vet this morning only to have her run away tonight.

Had a nice lunch with my mentor today—he doesn’t like that term but he’s the one who practically hand-carried me through graduate school and reads almost everything I write. We’ve been friends for forty years and are frequent lunch buddies. We chat about our writing projects, our families, politics (in complete agreement) and other things going on in our lives.

And tonight was neighbors’ night at the Grill, so I had a pleasant dinner with good friends.

Jordan meanwhile was at the house rearranging this and that and preparing for the book sale tomorrow. She has invited moms and teachers from Jacob’s school, and is preparing for a party with wine and snacks. I have my orders to straighten the house in the morning—my desk, my bedroom, and the bathroom. She has invested so much time and effort into this that I hope it goes well. My coffee table holds a huge pile of books—if you come in this house you cannot leave without taking a book. Great idea on her part. At this point I’m less interested in making a profit than I am in downsizing my library.

Busy times!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday blues on Tuesday night

May 17, 2016

For some reason unknown to me I have the Monday blues on a Tuesday night and indulged in a real pity party tonight when a friend dropped me off at dinner. My ankle that should be better by now is more painful tonight than it has been, and for some unknown reason I have a bruised and swollen right hand. This morning I couldn’t shift gears without using both hands, but it’s much better tonight. Still swollen and tender, so much so that someone commented on it at dinner. I’m getting tired of physical aches and pains, and I swear I’m not going to mention them again.

My good friend Subie said she’s found she has all these things happening to her right now—like yesterday’s cataract surgery—and she thinks they just come in spells and you have to live through them. I’ll adopt her philosophy, actually one I’ve always believed in—this too shall pass. I think it’s just as you age, those spells come more often and linger longer.

Actually it was a good day. Took Sophie to the vet today for her annual checkup, where she was pronounced in perfect health. It’s always a chore for me because she gets so excited, but I’ve developed a system—I drive the car right up to the gate to the yard, open the car door, and then cautiously open the gate, get a leash on a wriggly dog, and put her in the car where I attach a second leash that is like her car seat—or restraining leash or whatever. It assures she won’t go through the windshield if something awful happens. The vet staff kept oohing and aahing about how cute and well behaved she was—they just haven’t seen her at her demanding most. Tonight as I was leaving for dinner, she escaped and went rocketing down the front sidewalk with Subie and Jordan in hot pursuit. I hollered for Jacob, and he and his friend Hayes bolted out the door. They all came back dragging an unrepentant Sophie. I told her I didn’t spend all that money at the vet this morning only to have her run away tonight.

Had a nice lunch with my mentor today—he doesn’t like that term but he’s the one who practically hand-carried me through graduate school and reads almost everything I write. We’ve been friends for forty years and are frequent lunch buddies. We chat about our writing projects, our families, politics (in complete agreement) and other things going on in our lives.

And tonight was neighbors’ night at the Grill, so I had a pleasant dinner with good friends.

Jordan meanwhile was at the house rearranging this and that and preparing for the book sale tomorrow. She has invited moms and teachers from Jacob’s school, and is preparing for a party with wine and snacks. I have my orders to straighten the house in the morning—my desk, my bedroom, and the bathroom. She has invested so much time and effort into this that I hope it goes well. My coffee table holds a huge pile of books—if you come in this house you cannot leave without taking a book. Great idea on her part. At this point I’m less interested in making a profit than I am in downsizing my library.

Busy times!

 
For some reason unknown to me I have the Monday blues on a Tuesday night and indulged in a real pity party tonight when a friend dropped me off at dinner. My ankle that should be better by now is more painful tonight than it has been, and for some unknown reason I have a bruised and swollen right hand. This morning I couldn’t shift gears without using both hands, but it’s much better tonight. Still swollen and tender, so much so that someone commented on it at dinner. I’m getting tired of physical aches and pains, and I swear I’m not going to mention them again.

My good friend Subie said she’s found she has all these things happening to her right now—like yesterday’s cataract surgery—and she thinks they just come in spells and you have to live through them. I’ll adopt her philosophy, actually one I’ve always believed in—this too shall pass. I think it’s just as you age, those spells come more often and linger longer.

Actually it was a good day. Took Sophie to the vet today for her annual checkup, where she was pronounced in perfect health. It’s always a chore for me because she gets so excited, but I’ve developed a system—I drive the car right up to the gate to the yard, open the car door, and then cautiously open the gate, get a leash on a wriggly dog, and put her in the car where I attach a second leash that is like her car seat—or restraining leash or whatever. It assures she won’t go through the windshield if something awful happens. The vet staff kept oohing and aahing about how cute and well behaved she was—they just haven’t seen her at her demanding most. Tonight as I was leaving for dinner, she escaped and went rocketing down the front sidewalk with Subie and Jordan in hot pursuit. I hollered for Jacob, and he and his friend Hayes bolted out the door. They all came back dragging an unrepentant Sophie. I told her I didn’t spend all that money at the vet this morning only to have her run away tonight.

Had a nice lunch with my mentor today—he doesn’t like that term but he’s the one who practically hand-carried me through graduate school and reads almost everything I write. We’ve been friends for forty years and are frequent lunch buddies. We chat about our writing projects, our families, politics (in complete agreement) and other things going on in our lives.

And tonight was neighbors’ night at the Grill, so I had a pleasant dinner with good friends.

Jordan meanwhile was at the house rearranging this and that and preparing for the book sale tomorrow. She has invited moms and teachers from Jacob’s school, and is preparing for a party with wine and snacks. I have my orders to straighten the house in the morning—my desk, my bedroom, and the bathroom. She has invested so much time and effort into this that I hope it goes well. My coffee table holds a huge pile of books—if you come in this house you cannot leave without taking a book. Great idea on her part. At this point I’m less interested in making a profit than I am in downsizing my library.

Busy times!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Monday, May 16, 2016


Klutz in the Kitchen

May 16, 2016

I distinguished myself in the kitchen the last couple of days. Yesterday, I let an iron skillet sit on a warm burner to dry—only it was on a high burner. By the time I smelled it at the other end of the house, the skillet was pretty much ruined, and I will order a new one.

This morning, I hand washed the glassware left from yesterday—and managed to reach for a towel and knock one of the small carafes onto my unforgiving stone floor. Glass shattered though not in too wide a range—couldn’t find the dust pan until I unloaded the whole utility closet. Not a happy camper.

At noon, trying to open a box of wine—don’t judge!—I got into a fight with the spigot and got wine all over the floor. Threw a junk towel over it to soak it up, which proved to be a good move because a few minutes later I took a box of blueberries—most of them eaten and the few left wrinkled enough that I knew they’d be sour—out of the fridge and set it on the counter. Somehow, maybe in putting the box of wine in the fridge, I dumped the blueberries on the kitchen floor—and stomped some before I realized it. But as luck would have it, most of them landed on the towel I’d put down, so I picked up the others, threw them on the towel, and emptied the whole thing into the sink. From there I took them to the trash. I was about through with the kitchen for the day.

But tonight I redeemed myself with the one-person meal I cooked. Linguine with brown butter, sage and Parmesan. Honestly, I couldn’t taste the sage but the brown butter and Parmesan combination was wonderful. I’ll do that again, maybe with more sage since my plant seems to be flourishing. Really good supper.

Maybe I’ll venture into the kitchen again, but not tomorrow. I have lunch and dinner plans, providing the weather cooperates. Storms are predicted. Spring in Texas is always unpredictable but more so this year. Yet we should feel blessed—I heard from people in the Northeast who woke to temperatures in the 40s and 50s.

A wild thought just occurred to me. Fifty-two years ago today I married Joel Alter, the father of our adoptive children. We divorced in 1981 or 1982, and he died three and a half years ago. I felt sad when he died because I remembered the good Joel I married and not the man he became, but no regrets. I’ve had a good life, raised four children as a single parent, forged a career for myself—all things I wouldn’t have done if I were still married to him. And the kids turned out to be wonderful people—another outcome I’m not sure about if he’d still been involved. The Lord looks out for us in various ways.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday night thoughts

 My girls and their sons left about eleven this morning after a breakfast flurry to go to a TCU/Baylor baseball game in Waco. Ford, nine, thinks at this point he wants to go to TCU on a baseball scholarship; Jacob, almost ten, remains a firm Baylor fan and was devastated to know that their seats were right behind the TCU dugout. Scholarship? I don’t think he’s even thought about the concept.

Laundry to do, dishwasher to empty—somehow I dislike that last chore more than others. I spent the day mostly working at my desk, doing a few household chores, and taking a long nap to recover from staying up too late with my wine-drinking daughters last night. The visit was too short but so delightful.
Reading with horror/amusement about the Republican state convention in town this week. They rant that homosexuality is forbidden in the Bible. Former President Jimmy Carter has pointed out that it is never mentioned in the Bible and existed long before Christ’s time. The state platform also says it is abhorrent to Texans—wonder how many they polled on that. And abortion is out the window—again. I love narrow minds—NOT.

Hillary Clinton just sent me a fund raiser that said, “We won’t win this one without a fight.” Truer words may never have been spoken, but I doubt she expected this much of a fight when she went into the campaign. And if she and Trump are the nominees it will only get worse and nastier. I admire Bernie for hanging in there and for his answer when Barbara Walters wanted to know one word he would want his presidency known for: compassion. I admire Hillary for campaigning like the trooper she is and taking the high road. I am really tired of the Facebook posts about what a crook she is—do these people not read the news? And ditto for posts about what slime her husband is—he made a huge, unforgiveable mistake, but he did a lot of good as president. Too many people ride their hobbyhorses to death.

So here I sit, the one writing chore I assigned myself today done plus this blog. I have three books to read for a contest, so I think I’ll continue with one. My brain is rattling with ideas for another book—and one of them is about a man. Hey, wait, it’s me who always writes about women. Got to keep working those ideas on the back burner of my brain. One day I think I should finish the two mysteries I have started; the next I think historical fiction like The Gilded Cage is my forte. And occasionally the thought creeps in that maybe I’m through; I should content myself with managing the books I’ve written and not start another. I try to bat that thought away.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The joy of people I care about

What joy to be having a girls’ night with my two daughters.  Granted, there are two nine-year-old boys here, but after they got over loud giggly fits and visits from neighborhood children, they’ve been fairly quiet. Meantime we’ve had a lovely afternoon and evening. Lingered over wine and appetizers—including the good tuna my friend brought last night and a sharp Irish cheddar.

Then they cooked while I offered bits of advice—salmon in an anchovy/garlic/butter sauce with capers. Megan really loved the recipe—she did the fixing—and Ford ate it, while Jacob refused. We sat on the deck until cool evening air drove us inside. Then we sat in the living room and had more wine.

They are delightful company—going from laughter to giggles to reminiscences of their childhood. They’re busy visualizing my new quarters, making suggestions for paint colors, and the like. There’s a strong bond between them and a certain compatibility of all of us together that makes for a smooth, happy evening.

For lunch today I had a visit from another of my special people, someone who is almost a child of mine. Elizabeth (known to the world as Beth) lived in my garage apartment for a year, during which we had more fun, lots of wine on the deck late at night, cooking adventures, and a generally good time. Probably twenty years before that she had come to my office as a work-study student, and we just always stayed close. She’s been in Pennsylvania for two-and-a-half years now, but comes to visit her family here frequently and works in a visit with us.

Today we went to Torchy’s and brought tacos home to eat on the deck. Jacob and Elizabeth were always close, and Sophie adored her so the visit was a treat for all of us.

Guys are nice, and I love the company of a good man, but there’s something about girls’ visits that is so special, so unspoken yet so tangible. It’s a given that we can speak honestly without fearing criticism, find support and interest and love.

As my youngest son said to me when he found out his second child would be another daughter, “Girls are so neat.”

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Friendships Old and New

 
This has been a day that made me realize all over again how blessed I am with friendships. This morning, a friend came by for a quick cup of coffee. She was someone I’d never met before, but we belong to a small Works-in-Progress chapter of the internet organization Story Circle Network. This WIP group is so small that we all become closely involved in each other’s lives—I’ve never been part of such a supportive group before. This morning Debra Winegarten was giving a program at the Fort Worth Women’s Club. For several reasons I couldn’t attend, so she came for coffee and what she called a “Judy sighting.” We had a delightful visit, and I can’t wait to do it again. And now, when I read Debra’s posts, I’ll feel like I know her even better.

Then tonight three old friends came for dinner—I fixed Italian tuna sandwiches: tuna on ciabatta rolls with a homemade really good pesto, tomato and hard-boiled egg. I used the good tuna I order from a cannery in Oregon, and I really think what gives that pesto its zing is the addition of anchovies. You can add them to a lot of dishes and people don’t know they’re eating anchovies (the automatic reflex is to say “I don’t eat them”) but they add a certain depth of taste.

I’ve known all three women for years, but we got to talking about the way we met—different circuitous paths. I met Subie through Women in Communication, a now defunct group, probably in the early ‘80s. We also both belonged to the same PEO chapter (an international philanthropic educational society) and soon became fast friends. I’m not sure how I met Kathie, except that it was undoubtedly through TCU where we both went to graduate school, and she was good friends with the man I then worked for. Kathie introduced me to Carol, who became one of our major authors at TCU Press. Now Kathie and Subie have met because they’re both docents at the Amon Carter Museum—although they’d known each other slightly before. Kathie, Carol, and I have had lunch and dinner together sporadically for years, and we’re delighted to have Subie back in Fort Worth and part of our merry little band.

The day said a lot to me about the nature of friendship and the way we make friends. Part of it I’m sure is being open to meeting new people but another part if that there are just some people with whom you click. It’s a little like falling in love—there’s no explanation for it. It just works.

As with family, I am blessed with friends. Going to sleep happy tonight.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Food, laundry and other exciting things

 Today my doctor emailed that since my uric acid is well within the range of normal, he’s not going to give me medication for gout. So I celebrated and had marinated tuna for supper—my brother said that didn’t sound very celebratory to him, but it was to me.  I also had the sweetest ear of corn I’ve had in forever. So good. I may have said this before but the list of what you cannot have with gout is astounding, topped by fish. I adore tuna, eat it sometimes twice a day

Company for dinner tomorrow night, and I’ve worried a bit about my back holding out. But I got a start on it tonight by making the pesto and hardboiling the eggs, plus I did dishes from that and my dinner. Back felt okay, though I knew when it was time to sit down. Much encouraged. Also got out dishes for dinner tomorrow, when I emptied the dishwasher, but can’t decide where we’ll eat. Options these days are narrowed—sunroom table is piled with quilts to go to laundromat. If the weather is good we’ll eat on the deck.

Have been doing loads and loads of wash—Jordan brought in everything from the cottage. She folds the sheets, I fold the towels and small things. We apparently have pre-approval from the city for a building permit, need to clear up one or two small items (is a firewall a small item?) and then construction can proceed. Lewis, contractor, says by September he expects to have me in and settled in the cottage. News has all been good lately.

Jacob had Star tests Monday and Tuesday so the rest of the week they play. Today they were to take a pillow and a blanket for a long reading hour. Since he didn’t have his backpack, we went into panic mode about finding a paper sack big enough. At my suggestion, we ended up stuffing pillow and blanket in his suitcase—minus all the other stuff he’d had in it. I watched him trudge off this morning carrying that suitcase and couldn’t help but giggle. He said kids asked all day why he was carrying his suitcase around. I did suggest he roll it, but he said that would look weird—I’m finding it hard these days to understand what is weird in fourth grade terms.                

And that’s it. I’m trying hard to get a handle on which way the political winds are blowing, but I can’t seem to do it. Nor can I get a handle on the weather winds. Think we’re due for storms in the night but not sure—they might move north of us. Just in case, keep an eye and ear out and stay safe.

 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Come out of the closet

 I’ve lived in Texas slightly over 50 years, and tonight was the first night I sat out a storm in a closet. I was propelled there by a nine-year-old who was freaking out, demanding we had to hurry. He gathered water, snacks, his blanket and pillows, his iPad, and his Rubik’s cube. “I didn’t know what you would need,” he explained.

So that’s how I spent a good part of my evening sitting in a dining chair, amidst my clothes, glass of wine on the floor, book in my lap. “Juju, you don’t have any protection.” I always thought you went to a closet or interior bathroom to escape flying glass, and I was safe from that. He explained that if a tornado came he would put his blanket over Sophie and then over his head. Protection. I wish someone had gotten a picture.

Oh yes, we took the dog with us. She was nervous but I think less from the storm than from these strange surroundings. Jacob would not let her out, though he periodically darted out of the closet to “check.” He’d come back and report that we ought to stay a few minutes longer. At one point he said to me, “I’m nervous about storms, you know.” Yes, I’ve known for years.

Tonight was neighbors night at the Grill, which is why Jacob is spending the night. But when storm predictions began to look serious he said he wanted to go but he didn’t. One neighbor, Mary, always walks and Jacob likes to walk home with her. “What if I’m walking home with Mary and it begins to lightning and hail?” I didn’t point out that Mary is too smart to do that. But we stayed home and I made BLT sandwiches. By nine, he needed SpaghettiOs.
 
Don’t get me wrong-it was a good strong storm with lots of thunder and lightning and wind, blowing heavy rain. I love a good storm and would have enjoyed watching it, but Jacob wouldn’t let me out of the closet. When we did come out the air was that funny green it gets after a storm. Now with the sun setting, it’s a pale pink and I think somewhere to the west of us there’s a pretty sunset.

Power outages all over our neighborhood, except we seem blessedly immune. Predictions were for restoration at 2:30 this morning but I just saw a message that someone’s power had come back in.

Spring in Texas is like no place else. Hope everyone else was safe and free of storm damage.

 

Monday, May 09, 2016

Worn Out and Plumb Tired

That’s how I feel tonight—worn out and plumb tired. Ever feel that way? I tried to reconstruct my day to see why I’m so tired. Went first thing this morning to the bank to sign the loan papers for the remodeling of the cottage—no we still don’t have a permit. I signed on the dotted line for what is to me a whole lot of money, so maybe that in itself was tiring.

Then Amy, my travel companion, and I ran errands—mailed eight packages, which took a lot of time standing on my feet, and then went to Staples for file folders, hanging folders, and the like so I can start loading my new file cabinet—a task in itself which seems daunting. By then, my ankle was beginning to bother me—it is now swollen and a rainbow of colors, with bruises up my calf and down my toes. Staples has rearranged yet again—I wish stores wouldn’t do that. So I sat in the office furniture section while Amy scoured the store for what we needed. The one clerk we asked must have been new—he didn’t have a clue. But we got what I needed eventually.

Came home to eat an early lunch and take a long nap. Jordan emailed all her plans for organizing things this afternoon, and that convinced me further that I needed a long nap. She comes in bustling with energy—not sure how she does that after a full day of work. But she arranged my office pretty much to her satisfaction, brought all the bed linens in from the cottage to be washed, started on books in the dining room. I mostly sat and watched, though while she worked in the office I put together a flyer for her private book sale. Other than that I watched.

And now I’ve piddled away the evening and am ready to go to sleep.

Long text exchange between my children. Last year we went to Lubbock—just the five of us—for my induction into the Western Writers Hall of Fame. There was some talk of a similar family trip to Chicago but I thought it had faded away. Now it’s come up again with a certain dedication. I had been content to let it fade away, not sure I felt up to the trip. But tonight I scolded myself—go now or never. And with the kids I feel I can be dependent. This time around, at least until my ankle heals, I have no objection to a wheelchair or walker. (That’s a huge admission!) And I know I’ll be in good hands.

So I’m thinking of places I want to go, things I want to show them. One is the architectural tour of Chicago from the Chicago river. The University of Chicago; the hospital (now condos) that was the center of our lives. The house where I grew up; the nearby house President Obama owns. The Lake Shore—although I think Lake Shore Drive has changed so much I’d be lost. I don’t care so much about Marshall Field’s but I’d like to eat at Berghoff’s. And of course tour Hyde Park and Kenwood with the wonderful architecture, and the grounds of the Columbian Exposition. Oh, my. I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

Maye I just got my second wind, but tomorrow will come too soon. Sweet dreams, everyone.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Thoughts on motherhood

 Jacob’s homemade card for his mom opened with the line, “I love you the yellowest.” Now I ask you, if that’s not wonderful, what is? There was more to it, but I loved that first line.

Nice Mother’s Day. I’ve talked to all my children and most of their spouses, enjoyed my kind of lazy Sunday at home working at my computer. My friend Linda spent the night, plus Jacob had a friend overnight—the boys were good as gold. Linda meant to stay for Mother’s Day early supper but felt compelled to get home to Granbury to do a sick call and catch up on all she’d left undone while gone three weeks visiting her daughters.
So by eleven, it was just Jacob and me—he was on the iPad, I was on my computer, and he was content—except of course that he was hungry. His mom picked him up at three, and his dad picked me up at five. We visited over wine and too many snacks, ate hamburgers (Christian makes the best hamburgers!), and had a pleasant evening.

Now as I sit down to write, I’m struck by two things: the number of loving tributes to moms on Facebook and the fact that I, for whom children and grandchildren loom so large in my life, never thought about being a mother. I just assumed that happened after you married but I had not dreamed, yearned or longed for that status. The fact that babies didn’t come along didn’t really bother me; it bothered the heck out of my then-husband.

Long story short, we ended up adopting four babies—how we got four, including an Eurasian, is a separate long story. But I don’t know how to put into words the importance these children have always had in my life. I cannot imagine life complete without them. When they were infants and toddlers, I constantly delighted in the wonder of them—as did their father. I could go on forever with funny tales about my brilliant, precocious children.

Their father left when the oldest was twelve and the youngest six, and though everyone marvels at my years as a single parent, I think those were some of the happiest years of my life. Oh, sure, we had our problems—teen-age angst, cars (my brother said mine was the only driveway that needed a stoplight), the night Colin didn’t come home until five and then reported he’d been swimming in a quarry (really? Be still my heart!). But we had traditions—everyone showed up for family dinner on Sunday night with extended family and close friends (I often served twenty), holiday trips, regular meals (gone by the wayside now), and lots of other wonderful memories.
A friend once said to me, “My children are my whole life,” and I replied, “Oh, I don’t think we can give them that burden.” So I try hard to diversify—to maintain friendships and a social life, to keep up with my career. But you know what? My children—and now my grandchildren—are indeed my whole life. I am so richly blessed.

Big bonus: they all love and like each other and can’t wait for any excuse for a family get-together. Wait till they hear the next one will be to move me from the main house to the cottage—whenever.
I am so thankful to be a mother—and that’s my Mother’s Day thought.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Tribute to my mom


With people posting pictures of their moms on Facebook, I wish I had good pictures of my mom. I do have a few but they are not digitalized. She died too soon for that. Besides, she always said she took such a bad picture that her father told her the only place he’d hang it was in the barn. I inherited that from her.
The other things I inherited are her love of cooking, food, family and laughter. I’m sure I missed that indefinable quality that made many describe her as the most dignified and ladylike woman they knew. With a degree from the University of Chicago and a background as secretary to Robert Maynard Hutchins, chancellor of the university and founder of the Great Books program, she probably could have had any kind of career. But she was a ‘50s housewife who kept home and family together, supported my father in all his efforts, and satisfied her own ambition with volunteer work.

Mom taught me to cook. Once one of her friends came in when another girl and I had made a mess of the kitchen. “How,” the friend asked, “can you let them do this?” Mom’s reply? “If I don’t, they’ll never learn to cook.” Another time I carefully followed a recipe for devil’s food cake. When they tasted it, Mom and Dad exchanged long looks. “Judy, how much baking soda did you put in this?” “Nine teaspoons,” I told her proudly. She checked—and it was a typo in the recipe. I had followed it to the letter but wasn’t quite smart enough to realize that nine teaspoons would be wrong. Some of my best memories, though, are of cooking with her. To my father’s frequent dismay, she loved to experiment. He was a meat-and-potatoes man and steadfastly ordered roast beef when she dragged him to seafood restaurants on the East Coast.
When my brother and I were young, Mom would tell us stories of the medical school days of our fathers (they were roommates at one point; John’s father died of a WWI wound and Mom married my dad). She’d tell, for instance, the time my uncle stepped out into the hall of their apartment building to pull a fuse as a joke on newlyweds and the door slammed shut behind him. Problem with that was that he was stark naked, and my aunt was in the bathtub. When she came out she couldn’t figure out how she lost him in a one-room apartment. Tears would roll down her cheeks when Mom recounted this.

Or the time a friend came to ask her to witness some important business papers. Mom found out the friend hadn’t had breakfast and set about making toast. She signed her name, Alice P. Mac—and checked the toast. When she came back instead of completing her name with Bain, she wrote Bread. To this day one of my friends laughs about Alice P. MacBread.
She was a terrific grandmother, adored and amused by her grandchildren. Once she sat between my two oldest, then toddlers, in the back of a car. They were tired and screaming, and the louder they screamed, the heartier her laugh. My dad drove as though he’d never met any of us.

I have so many rich memories of Mom that I’m sure I left out a lot. When she died at 87, in 1987, I wanted to call her and demand she answer the questions she left unanswered, from “Who is in this picture?” to “How do I cook such-and-such.” I talked to her a lot. Today I swear she visits me. I wake with the sense of someone in the house—Jacob? Sophie? No, I think it’s Mom, watching over me.