Friday, December 15, 2017

Laughter at a memorial service and great plans gone awry


At our cozy happy hour tonight
Oh, there were tears, but laughter also rang out at Trinity Episcopal Church this afternoon at the memorial service for Father Mart Gayland Pool, one of the kindest, most natural men I’ve ever met, a true gentleman. His good friend, Father Bruce Coggin, preached about Gayland’s generosity, curiosity, his sense of humor and his idiosyncrasies, and about the nature of life and death. A moving service, a fitting tribute, and a joyous send-off for a friend and much-respect member of the community.

Amye, the dog whisperer
with a mesmerized cricket
Tonight, I had great plans, a scene in mind that I intended to write. But two of Jordan’s close friends came for happy hour and I was easily distracted. We talked dogs and holiday traditions and memorial services—on my mind since I’ve been to two in the last six days. All this in front of the fire and Christmas tree. Lovely setting, good friends, pleasant evening.

And a pleasant day, including lunch with Carol and Lon. Memorial services are not exactly day-brighteners, but this was a true celebration of a life well lived. And once again tonight I am reminded how lucky I am that the “young” people—omigosh, they’re in their forties! —are so affectionate and open with me. Life is good, and for one day I don’t want to think about tax bills and sexual predators and fake news and what is happening to America.

Back to normal tomorrow, and I’ll write that scene. It will probably keep me awake all night. Sometimes when I have a scene in mind, I write it a hundred times in my head at night, as though I’m trying to remember it. But then when I go to actually write it, I often can’t remember the wonderful details of my nighttime version. Go figure.

Sweet dreams, everyone.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A bit of local history and a fond farewell


The Book Ladies say thank you to Peter at The Old Neighborhood Grill
Photo by Carol Roark
In 1965, my then-husband and I moved to Fort Worth because he had a surgical residency at Fort Worth Osteopathic Hospital, on the corner of Montgomery and Camp Bowie. That first year, I worked as secretary to the pathologist at the hospital and, informally, as a pr person. I remember being proud that I started the first in-house newsletter for staff and employees, though I’m sure in those pre-computer days, it was a pretty primitive publication.

I left the hospital when TCU awarded me an NDEA fellowship (those were the days of strong national support for higher education, now sadly gone) to work on a doctorate in English. But the hospital remained a major place in my life until our divorce in 1981 or ’82 (strange I can’t remember the exact year) and even after that. My doctor/brother had an office in the hospital, and I’d go see him occasionally. Good friends like the late Connie and Russ Jenkins kept me on the fringes of the osteopathic world by taking me to various events.

The day officials announced the closing of the hospital, I was in a doctor’s office, and we sat together and had a sad wake. I remember him saying, “I’ve never practiced in any other hospital.”

Last night a thread started on the Fort Worth Memories Facebook page with the question, “Who remembers FWOH?” Answers poured in. You’d be amazed how many people want to tell you what year they were born there and/or when their children were. Many commented on the camaraderie and care at the hospital, but inevitably there were a few people with bad memories. I saw no one else among respondents that I remembered from those days, so I became self-appointed apologist, explaining that when people have suffered the loss of a family member or undergone a severe illness or trauma, their memories are naturally colored by their experience. It’s been an interesting but time-consuming exercise, and the comments have brought back lots of memories, most of them good. In some ways, I long for those days, but then I remind myself I’ve gone on to build such a better life.

This morning, nostalgia of another sort. The Book Ladies, a group I mentioned just the other day, have met regularly at the Old Neighborhood Grill for a monthly breakfast for several years. Now we have word that Peter Schroeder has sold the Grill, new ownership to take effect In January. So this morning, we had a special breakfast to say goodbye, thank you, and God’s speed to Peter. A good turnout, and we presented Peter with a book titled, The Joys of Retirement. It’s a book of blank pages, but each book lady wrote Peter a personal message. Lots of fun.

Topsy-turvy day for me. I started the day with a haircut—my stylist is so kind to come to the cottage until I get back to driving—and was still in pajamas when Carol called to say my presence was required at the Grill. She gave me ten minutes to get out of pajamas and into clothes. So I went, sans makeup but with a cute new haircut, if I do say so. Then, my lunch guest had to cancel at the last minute, so now I’m about to cook that chicken pot pie for my family. Still I got my daily words written, so I’m feeling smug.

Remind me, smug goeth before a fall😊

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Alabama and a cooking dilemma


It’s a strange world when you can’t decide whether to blog about politics or cooking, so here’s a bit of both. Like much of our country, I’m jubilant over the Alabama results. A good friend is coming for lunch tomorrow, the man who years ago shepherded me through the Ph.D. program and continues to read and critique almost everything I write. He emailed to suggest he bring champagne, so we could celebrate the Alabama election—so out of character for him and so perfect for the occasion. I told him I’d supply chardonnay—can’t quite do champagne at lunch.

We were not only spared a pedophile, we were spared a man who openly defied the Constitution, who wanted to abolish the Bill of Rights (or was it the first ten constitutional amendments—who can keep track of his radicalism?), who called some minorities “reds” and “yellows,” who thought homosexuality should be illegal. And who incidentally can’t ride a horse and shouldn’t try publicly. The list goes on and on. We were saved from the worst of the alt-right, but it’s frightening that 68% of whites who voted in Alabama voted for him. We owe the black population of that state an undying debt of gratitude.

Debate rages over the most significant aspect of this victory. I am not a political analyst and can’t begin to understand all the implications, but to me it’s a clear defeat for Mr. Trump, who had endorsed Moore and led his weak party to follow him. It’s a signal that if Mueller doesn’t get him (which I believe he will), the women of this country will. In my dreams, Trump and Moore pay for their sins behind bars and Franken is restored to the Senate—and higher office should he wish.

As for Ryan’s promise that they’re coming for Medicare and Social Security, it’s so wrong it makes me sputter, but I’ll save it for another time and move on to cooking. As I said above, my mentor Fred is coming for lunch. He doesn’t like to back out of my driveway, so I fix lunch here, and he claims to be amazed at what I can turn out without a kitchen. I decided to “amaze” him with chicken pot pie. Found a good recipe.

Then realized I couldn’t do that crescent roll braid in my oven. Decided on puff pastry. Bless Jordan—she tried; first she brought me phyllo dough, which the Albertson’s person convinced her was the same—it’s not; then on a trip to Central Market she triumphantly brought home puff pastry. When I looked at it today, it’s pastry shells that come with a strict warning against baking them in a toaster oven. I debated baking one as a test, or using the crescent rolls dough I’d bought, or asking Jordan to cook the pastry shells—or giving up and asking Fred to bring lunch.

Tonight, I made the filling—looks good though it violates my purity theories and uses Campbell’s cream of chicken soup. But tomorrow, I’ll put it in a Corningware dish, cover it with roll dough that I’ve pressed together into one piece, and bake it in the toaster oven. Cross your fingers, please. Maybe the chardonnay will be so good the pot pie won’t matter. Do I need a salad? Ah, indecision.

This is, though, exactly the kind of situation that leads me to work on that cookbook, Gourmet on a Hot Plate. It’s about exploring what you can and can’t do in a tiny kitchen and what’s the best way to do it. Puff pastry? Crescent roll dough? Forget it?

As for Roy Moore, no sympathy. Cheers for Doug Jones. He’s got a huge task ahead of him, because the country looks to him to make an impact in what seems to me a corrupt Senate. And, of course, McConnell is rushing to push the horrendous tax bill through before Jones is sworn in. Is that legal? The trickery and deception never end.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Living the Good Life


The other night at a party a friend half my age sat down by me, and when I asked how he was, he said, “I’m living the good life.” An unusual response from a man the age of my children, so I asked him what he meant. “My family and I have our health. We have roof over our heads, a pretty nice roof, and we have more to eat than we ever possibly could. And my wife and I have good careers.” I agreed with him: the good life.

I have long been aware that by his standards I too live the good life, but I’ve often taken the thought further in my mind. Why am I living this blessed life when people are losing their homes to horrendous wildfires? When people in Syria are dying, caught between warring armies? When people in Africa are starving to death? Did I go through those trials in a previous existence and work my way up to the good life? I don’t exactly believe that the Lord chooses some of us to live in almost luxurious comfort while other endure endless privation and hardship. Sometimes it makes me feel more than a little guilty, and it spurs me on to give—what I can financially and in service and goods. But none of us can ever do enough. The thought is in the foreground of my thinking as we prepare for yet another family Christmas.

I certainly was living the good life today. Went to a breakfast potluck for the Book Ladies, a group I’ve belonged to for at least thirty years. Usually we meet once a month at the Old Neighborhood Grill, but today we were invited to a member’s home. We had our meal in a wonderful solarium that was festively decorated for the season, and we dined on wonderful dishes—green chile egg casserole, cheese grits, a cake, sausages, fruit—and we had a book exchange, one of those were you could “steal” a book someone had already chosen.

I went from that wonder almost directly to a Christmas luncheon with two friends. We went to Rise, the restaurant new to Fort Worth but known in North Dallas for its souffles (and for being a favorite of George and Laura Bush). The Fort Worth incarnation is almost a carbon copy of the Dallas restaurant and, I suspect, the one in Houston—heavy, ornate wooden doors, a massive centerpiece that tables are gathered around, and glassed-in porches (quieter and my choice for a meal).

Ordering soufflĂ© leaves you lots of time to talk while the souffles cook. The menu says, “You may wait on your soufflĂ©, but your soufflĂ© won’t wait on you.” Betty and I had creamed spinach soufflĂ©, while Jean had a southwestern chicken. We split a sweet raspberry soufflĂ© for dessert—two sweet for me, and too much soufflĂ© in one meal. But we had a wonderful time.

I came home besotted and sluggish—a nap cured me, but I resolved for the umpteenth time to eat modestly over the holidays.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday, oh Monday


Today seemed like an ordinary day—stay home and work. Mondays are often my most productive days, and today was no exception. I wrote the scene that was on my mind and figured out the bare bones of the next scene—always lovely to know where you’re going when you return to a manuscript. I did some business work, catching up on things from the neighborhood newsletter to defrosting sausages and cooking them for a potluck breakfast in the morning.

A bit of good news—the Poohbah, newsletter for the Berkeley Place Association, which I edit, is a finalist in the newsletter for the mayor’s neighborhood awards. I’ll go to a luncheon in January and see if we won. Nice to have your work recognized.

Beyond that, it was an ordinary day, and I had no blog ideas. I didn’t want to get heavy again about our country’s dismal situation, sexual predators (okay, I’m breathless about the Alabama special election), the Russian intervention investigation (say that fast three times) which seems to be heating up. There’s so much to mull and worry about, but I wanted to find something light hearted and new.

And then Jordan reminded me. Thirteen years ago today, she and Christian married in a truly beautiful ceremony at University Christian Church—full choir and everything. I remember being so nervous about lighting the unity candle, but Colin walked me up to the chancel and stood by me every minute. And Jordan had decreed she wanted both her brothers to walk her down the aisle—her father was there but in a wheelchair. When they got even with where he sat, both boys leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. Even one of my most non-sentimental friends said, “Be still, my heart.” Then Christian walked down the aisle to get her.
To my surprise, I don't have any pictures on my computer from that momentous occasion. Shows you how far I've come in technology--or even, maybe, how far technology has come. I snatched the one above from Christian's Facebook post.

Tonight they celebrated with steak and lobster, at home, and Jacob and I were exiled to the cottage—except he went to Young Life and I didn’t see him until they all came out here at ten to share chocolate pie. Meanwhile I had leftovers for dinner--but Rob Seume, your meatballs were great the next day.


So it was, like every day, a special day. There’s always a golden lining when you look for it. Every day is special in some way. Oops, I sound too Pollyanna-ish.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas spirit and a gleeful dog


When my ex-husband and I moved to Fort Worth in 1965, we had few friends by Christmas and the holiday loomed as a little bleak, though I think that my brother and his family came down from Missouri in a converted bus that year. Still, to make Christmas joyful, I threw a small tree trimming party. Our friends were then like us—physicians in training and pretty much broke. It was a modest party.

The tree trimming idea actually traces back to my childhood. We would go as a family to pick out a tree; my father and brother would put on the lights and retire; my mother and I were left to put on the ornaments. The process had none of the joy that I thought trimming the tree should have, so a party was my attempt to create that joy.

Over the years since then I have hosted a tree trimming party almost every year. Those parties grew until there were sometimes fifty or sixty people, and I began cooking and freezing in late November. The week of the party I’d lay out the serving dishes, each with a tiny slip of paper to remind what was to go in what dish. It was a lot of work, but the kind of work—and anticipation—that was fun for me.

Alas, those days are over. Last year, my first year in the cottage and the kids first year in the house, we were all too frazzled with moving and my health problems. This year, I couldn’t face all that cooking. I had neither the facilities for doing it nor the ambition, the latter an admission I hate to make.

Tonight, with the tree already trimmed, we had a small potluck gathering for neighbors, a group we’ve been close to. The beauty of potluck is that you get a wonderful array of treats, and we had a bountiful table. The downside is that Jordan wanted to use china and silver and got out all the good stuff, which now must be washed. Still, it was a lovely warm fun party, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Who knows what next year will bring?


One of life’s joys, to me, is to be greeted by a joyous dog. Sophie got left in the cottage—she just gets too excited with even a small crowd of people, and with people coming and going I was afraid she’d slip out the door. The look on her face when I left was pure devastation. During the evening, which ended nicely early, someone let her into the back yard, so she greeted me when I came out the door. That little black dog wriggled all over with joy, jumping here and there, running to the cottage as if to lead the way, and then looking back to make sure Jordan and I were following.

Now, Sophie and I are settled in, and after a warm day, I’ve turned the heat back on because it turned chilly outside. I have happy memories of a lovely evening to keep me cozy. And I can look out on my backyard which Jordan has made bright with Christmas lights. Such joy!

See? I told you I’d be more cheerful than last night. Sweet holiday dreams, y’all.













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Saturday, December 09, 2017

A downer night


No blog tonight, or at least I intend none. Who knows? My brain may run away with my typing fingers. But my thoughts tonight are gray, and I figure this is the season of joy, so it’s not appropriate to spread gray thoughts.

Then again, maybe I’ll tell you that the novel I’ve just begun writing is about racial prejudice or bigotry, and it occurred to me that a few months ago our country was consumed with the racially charged issue of tearing down statues of Confederate heroes. No thoughtful consideration. They all had to come down right now! Instant action.

Now our country is consumed with sexual predators. We rush to judgement, forgetting that the American way is innocent until proven guilty. I suspect even honest and upright men are quaking in their shoes. In fact, I’ve read such about Congress these days. In our haste, we’re about to destroy the legislative branch of our government. And maybe the reputations of a few good men.

It’s well known I’m no fan of 45, so it will be no surprise that I lay all this turmoil at the feet of our faux president. He has promoted bigotry from day one, with immigration policies, support for Nazi protestors, a cold shoulder to Puerto Rico, a wall between us and Mexico. He has also leapt to the defense of Republican sexual predators—note that it’s a party-line thing. He quickly condemned Al Franken but supports Roy Moore, because we “need” that Republican seat in the Senate. Like hell we do! But of course 45 supports someone like Roy Moore, because there are now 16 accusations against him for sexual violations. And no one—not one single voice in the House or Senate—has called for an ethics investigation.

I’ve read and hesitate to believe that the destruction of America is his goal, and he will accomplish it much as Hitler tried to destroy Germany—divide and conquer. 45 is doing a good job of dividing, but I’m not sure he’s clever enough to have it as a long-range goal. I think his divisiveness comes from his personal prejudices and impulsiveness.

Nonetheless, I am sad about America tonight. And I’m sad because I went to the memorial service for a friend of at least forty years. It was in a funeral home instead of in the church she’d attended almost all of her adult life. The service was poorly attended and highly impersonal, until her oldest son got up and made remarks about his mom. Even then I’m not sure he’d paid enough attention to her professional accomplishments, which were stellar. She was the founding chair of the department of anatomy at an osteopathic school that now, almost fifty years later, has flourished and become a major health science center. It has flourished because of her early efforts and those of her colleagues, many now gone. My friend was there for 36 years, serving as dean of students among other capacities. Her students adored her, and I feel sure if they’d known some would have been at the service. All in all, it made me sad.

And America makes me sad.

Tune in tomorrow. I promise to be more cheerful, more in keeping with the season. It is, for all religions, a time of hope and joy and new beginnings. Let us rejoice and look to the future.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Scary Moments and Placid Gardens


Scary moments this morning. McLean Middle School, where Jacob is in sixth grade, was locked down. Although we were late for a doctor’s appointment, Jordan insisted we’d drive by the school (it was on the way). About three blocks away, we saw a cluster of police cars, an ambulance, and a TV van, along with a group of people held back by barricades. A helicopter circled overhead. But at the school all seemed quiet. Still, a police car was stationed at every intersection nearby.

Jacob texted and was, understandably, scared. The morning dissolved into an onslaught of texts and emails. While waiting for Jordan to come back and pick me up, I got an email from TCU: two people had been shot, one survived. The shooter was on the loose. He’d been sighted near the middle school and then near Albertson’s Grocery—right where we were headed. Apparently, the incident was a disagreement between three adult roommates, none of them connected to TCU.

We got the grocery to find business as usual and one lone officer standing in the parking lot. Jordan speculated on whether the shooter could be hiding in the back of the store. Unlikely. She finally decided we should live on the edge and shop. We did, uneventfully, and on the way home got word that the lockdown was lifted.

Still haven’t heard tonight if the shooter was found, taken into custody, whatever. It didn’t seem to be on the local news I watched. I did hear they didn’t believe he was still in the area, a “belief” that is not much comfort.

Came home to my yard, where ground cover has been installed in a large portion of the yard. It looks great, and Christian, who is enthusiastic about the whole thing, says the biggest plus is that they carted off all the rocks which were in the yard—we live in an area of extremely rocky soil. 

Shout out to John Filarowicz and his Five Star Landscape Company.They did an excellent job, left a clean site behind them, were polite when they were here. With a nice neighborhood twist, both John and his wife, Sara, grew up in our Berkeley neighborhood and Sara was Jacob’s first-grade teacher at Lily B. Clayton Elementary, across the street from our house. I couldn’t remember her first name this morning, and Jordan said that was because we always heard Jacob call her, “Mrs. Filarowicz.” Keeping it in the neighborhood is sort of like keeping it in the family.

Sophie of course could not resist this morning. She did not tiptoe through the tulips—she romped and ran through the ground cover, merrily chasing squirrels. Both the squirrels and the dog were energized by the cold weather.

I am delighted by the ground cover, which is protected with a heavy layer of mulch, because when it takes hold we won’t have a mudhole in the half of the yard where it’s too shady for grass. Sophie has been bringing in mud, too often depositing it in my bed. I suppose now I’ll get mulch in the bed, but it seems less objectionable.

Tonight, the Christmas lights blaze, the yard is peaceful, and I suppose the shooter no longer lurks in local streets. We’re locked in, just in case. Stay safe and warm, folks. It’s another nice wintry night.

Thursday, December 07, 2017


Winter at last…or is it?

December 7, 2017

Predictably all us Texans who complained about 80o in December were moaning today about how cold it was and how cold it’s going to be tonight. The temperature wasn’t bad today—in the 40s—but the wind was fierce. I had an appt. in west Fort Worth and Jordan remarked it was colder there than at home. Of course it is—the wind blows more freely the farther west you go and the farther away from tall buildings.

My neighbor Jay (you remember, the handsome one) came to look at the new ground cover tonight (he approved! Whew!) and his wife called from the stables where she rides to warn about taking in the plants. He told her it would be 27 for two hours—not long enough to freeze plants but she wasn’t convinced. He also told her it would be colder at the stables because she was in the country without concrete and tall buildings to hold the heat. She still wasn’t convinced, He left muttering about marital discord—or was it accord?

The ground cover is in and looks great. They covered some areas I didn’t know they would, and we may have to put other things over a bit, but I am pleased. The landscape company did a good job, prepared the soil (took out several wheelbarrows full of rocks), tilled it, spread potting soil of some sort, and mulched thoroughly. They assure me the plants will be fine with tonight’s short freeze. And, hey, by Sunday or Monday it will be in the sixties again.

Writing lesson: if it bores you when you’re writing, it will bore readers. I was slogging around today, when I suddenly decided to discard close to 500 words and substitute action for conversation. Magic! The words flowed, and I wrote quickly, took a nap, and wrote more for daily total of about 1300 words, not counting what I pulled out. I saved those for possible later use, though I doubt it. Good feeling.

I’m also making good progress on the book I am reading to evaluate for a contest, so I’m feeling sort of smug tonight. May sneak in a bit of a novel tonight. Jacob has just finished his required 30 minutes of reading which to my delight he does in the cottage. Tonight, he was quite enthusiastic about the book he’s reading—about a young boy in love with baseball who loses a hand in an industrial accident and is learning sports again. Jacob says when his parents tell him to read, he groans inwardly, but then when he’s reading, he really likes it. I’m going to work on that. Question is how to pick books that are not necessarily what I’d like but what he’ll like.

Perfect night to curl up with a book. Stay warm, y’all!






Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Some things that made me happy today


Here’s something that made me happy today: did you know there is a fellowship in the name of Erma Bombeck and Anna Lefler? It annually awards two recipients with a two-week retreat at the hotel of the University of Dayton and a slot at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. The university sponsors the program. Dayton is the late humorist’s hometown.

It’s particularly fitting to remember Bombeck at this time of year because of her essay, “Where did Christmas go?” The humorist, who once said only a thin line separates laughter and pain, began that piece with, “There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child,” and ended it with, “Time, self-pity, apathy, bitterness and exhaustion can take the Christmas out of the child, but you cannot take the child out of Christmas.

In these troubled times in our country, we need all we can get of Erma Bombeck—and of he spirit of Christmas, no matter the faith you follow.

Something else that made me happy today: lunch with an old friend. I can’t tell you how long I’ve known Jim Lee, but it’s a long time. When he was chair of English at the University of North Texas, he’d call me to announce he’d had a million-dollar idea, and I’d cringe because I knew it meant work for me. Later, he moved to Fort Worth and became a regular volunteer at TCU Press, serving, as the provost so clearly specified, “without compensation.” We worked together, we edited books together (Literary Fort Worth, Elmer Kelton: Essays and Memories, and probably others), he wrote at least one book under my tenure (Adventures of a Texas Humanist). We were partners in crime, frequent guests together at literary events, and constant lunch companions. When I retired and he tired of his unpaid position, we drifted apart, and I hadn’t seen him in several years

We do email occasionally, and recently I wrote and told him I didn’t like to let people who’d mattered to me slip out of my life. Would he come to lunch at the cottage? He would and did. We had a good time, catching up on people (how neat that he remembers all my kids and asked about them) and sharing stories old and new, commiserating about age and friends now gone. I hope we do it again.

And more happiness: Betty and I went to Pacific Table for our weekly dinner and split Trout Amandine. It came with a choice of zucchini or root vegetables. She wanted the root vegetables, but I hesitated when I heard parsnips, turnips, and rutabaga. Then I threw caution to the winds and deferred to her taste. The vegetables were good, the trout was wonderful, and it was a pleasant if quick dinner.

Too much happiness in my world to let Roy Moore and the likes dim it, though I will continue to speak out That’s how outraged I am about what is being done to our country. Oops, I forgot—happiness is the word of the day.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The frustration of a silent computer


To many people, the computer, particularly Facebook, is a thief that robs them of time. For me, it’s what I do all day most days. In the morning, with my cup of tea, I read my email and then Facebook. It’s a ritual, and, yes, it sometimes takes me almost a couple of hours. These days I pay close attention to Facebook, because I am so interested, so concerned, and sometimes so outraged about what is being done in our country. Sometimes Christian accuses me of believing anything I read on FB, but that’s not true. I’ve been stung several times, and I watch sources closely, and if I quote or share something I’m not sure of I say so.

Believe it or not, Facebook is not my only activity. I do my banking online, marketing for my books, keeping up with health care matters and appointments, ordering Christmas presents, and a host of other chores related to daily living. And let’s not forget my primary occupation: I write books on my computer. That takes a major portion of my day.

Soooo—you can imagine my dismay about eleven this morning when the computer told me I was not connected. That happens fairly often, and I know how to reconnect quickly. But this time, the connection we use was not offered to me. I fiddled, I waited and tried again, I fussed and fumed—nothing. I turned if off and on. Still nothing.

When the connection is down, two programs ae available: Word and Kindle. I had already written the scene for the day, and I’m not one of those people who can write for hours on end. When I’m done with what’s in my head for the day, I’m done. And I’m enjoying the book I’m evaluating on Kindle, but not enough that I was desperate to get back to it. There were other things I meant to do.

By late afternoon when it was still off, I called son-in-law Brandon who said instantly that it sounded like the router in the house was unplugged. Sure enough, the lady who cleaned for us today had unplugged it. Jordan came home, plugged it in, and I was back in business.

You’ll think this is silly, but it’s hard to tell you how much that ruined my day. Yes, it’s terrible to be so dependent, but I confess I am.

And during that, due to a miscommunication, I got stood up when I thought I was going out to lunch. Dressed, with make-up, and I ate peanut butter.

But the day was retrieved by dinner with three friends, to celebrate one’s birthday. We went to Istanbul Grill, a newish Mediterranean restaurant. I had moussaka (and maybe learned how to pronounce it)—delicious, and a pleasant evening with serious and lighthearted discussions. Now on this chilly evening, I’m home in my cozy cottage, warm and snug (Jacob shed his sweatshirt and said it’s hot), and the world is good. I hope yours is too.






















Monday, December 04, 2017

Living in anticipation


It’s sort of like suspended animation. Every day I wait for some new development on the Trump/Mueller front. Last week I read a post that this week Mueller would rip Trump’s administration apart. So, I woke this morning with anticipation. Nothing. Except releasing Federal lands so that oil drilling, etc., can exploit them. I’ve also read that 45 does not have the authority to do that and the Navajo nation has already filed suit. But all these suits and investigations take time, and I am an impatient person.

And you can only read so much on the internet before your mind begins to go fuzzy. Trump has endorsed Moore—sad day for our nation. Another accuser has found evidence that contradicts Moore’s denial—hope for Alabama. Romney might possibly, if encouraged, oppose Orrin Hatch, who really needs opposition in Utah. King Jong Un is going to blow us all to smithereens. We have missiles that will “microwave” his systems. Who can keep up, and who knows what to believe?

Today, my anticipation and I stayed quietly and comfortably in the cottage. Highlight of the day was that the mobile groomer came for a spa day for Sophie. Sweet Soph always leaves with high joy, and I can only hope she behaves for the groomer. I warned that she was a dirty mess, and when the groomer brought her back, she said, “She really was a mess!” But tonight, her coat feels soft and clean. We’ve had some behavior problems, and I took to heart what our new minister said about not telling children they’re bad—surely it applies to dogs too. I’ve readjusted my attitude toward Sophie, showering her with love instead of stern scolding. It’s sort of working. Right now, I’m not sure where she is—it’s so warm, I have the doors wide open. But that cold front will creep up on us any minute now.

Another cooking and writing day. I made a pot of chili, and then I cooked some carrot and cauliflower I found in the vegetable bin and added them to my ongoing soup pot, along with the pinto beans that were too much for the chili My Wednesday lunch guest will get to choose between soup and chili.

And I wrote 1200 words today or thereabouts. I’m working by scene instead of word count, and it seems to be going well. I have a writer friend who likens it to seeing as far as the headlights will shine, and that’s right. I can’t see into the great darkness to the end of the novel, but I know the next few things that will happen.

Tomorrow is a busy day—lunch and dinner plans, and at least one or two scenes to write. But its more fun to be busy than not.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Hallelujah! A new day has dawned


It is particularly appropriate that this morning my church, University Christian Church, welcomed a new minister and his family. I say appropriate because this is the time of year we think of new beginnings and gifts from God. Dr Russ Peterman, his wife, and four teenage children come to us from northern California, but I understand from church gossip that he has Texas roots, grew up in the Panhandle, and is named Russell after Russell (better known as Red) Steagall. Good recommendations!

I liked him. I liked that when he spoke informally he emphasized that he was not God’s gift to us; we were God’s gift to him. We’ll see how he feels about that in a year or so. I liked that he was up front that his family would always come first with him. I liked that he said any parent knows that the way to make a child be good is not to tell him how bad he is—I took that to apply to us as the children of God as well as to literal parents and children, though I was temped to poke Jordan who was sitting next to me. I liked him because his sermon was clear, interesting to follow, and made a good point. I think I’ll like his theology. And I liked him because he speaks clearly and was easy for me to hear and understand. Jacob liked him, because he was funny and didn’t preach too long.

I think the arrival of the Peterman family, if not a gift from God, is a sign from Him that good things are going to happen in our church. We’ve been without a resident minister for some time now and while we’re all grateful to Rev. Chuck Rolen for his interim service, there is a different feeling in the church now that we have a minister who plans to stay for years—yes, he said so. The congregation turned out in large numbers for both services, and if you listened and waited, you could sense an upbeat in the air, the sense of joy and optimism.

A personal bonus from being in church, besides the lovely greetings and hugs from friends: one woman told me she’d read Pigface and the Perfect Dog and couldn’t put it down; another told me that when she inherited her late mother’s Kindle, she found all my mysteries on it, and she was currently reading the third Blue Plate Mystery. I had enjoyed several “bookish” lunches with her mom and was anticipating another when she died suddenly.

Tis the season to be joyful. We made a good start this morning at UCC. Merry Christmas, everyone, and particularly the Russ Peterman family.

PS: Should I tell him my mother’s maiden name was Peterman? A church friend said to me, “Well, you both fell out of the same tree. But it’s an awful big tree.”


Saturday, December 02, 2017

A Quiet Saturday


Weekends are often the quietest days of my life, and today was no exception. My family was busy, to put it mildly: a football game for Jacob, two weddings, a party, and a Dallas get-together for the adults. When I saw Jordan this morning, I said, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” but she did sneak out for a quick minute late this afternoon. And Jacob has promised promised promised to check in with me when he comes home from ice skating at ten. I remember days that busy fondly, not sure if I miss them or not. Maybe that's part of the identity I am giving up for elderhood.

Meantime I had a pleasant day doing two things I enjoy: writing and cooking. Yesterday I cleaned out the odds and ends left in the freezer—a bit of something tomato-based I didn’t recognize, some beans (not sure of seasonings on them), some cooked chicken, a seasoned lamb patty, and a half-full container of beef broth. From the fridge I got caramelized onions—should have cut the strips into small pieces, because they were stringy and hard to deal with but so good. I added chicken broth and canned tomatoes, and voila! Soup! I let it simmer all day and had a cup for supper. All that simmering meant you couldn’t distinguish anything in it, but it was good--a touch of that lamb flavoring came through. Now I have this large pot of soup I’m wondering what to do with.

I wasn’t really hungry by dinner, because I’d had a cranberry/orange scone from Central Market for breakfast—I had no idea how big those were. For lunch I had a twice-baked potato, also from Central Market. But with my soup, I managed a small sirloin slider and a small salad with Cardini’s Caesar dressing—my latest favorite of prepared dressings.

As for writing, today was the day I vowed to get back to what I laughingly call the work in progress—there’s been no progress for too long. I abandoned it at 2600 words because other matters kept pressing in. Tonight, I have it up to 2800 words but the strangest thing happened. It isn’t going at all like I planned—the characters are not doing what I thought they would, and the good guys are being stubborn, the bad guys acting nice.

I remember the late Elmer Kelton, great Texas cowboy novelist, talking about the writing of The Wolf and the Buffalo. He set out to write about the life of a Buffalo soldier at Fort Concho after the Civil War, but this Comanche chief kept crowding in, demanding to be part of the action. Ultimately the novel became the story of two lives—a Buffalo soldier whose fortunes were rising, and a Comanche chief whose world and way of life were disappearing. Elmer won awards for the book, and it is considered one of his best, out of a long and prolific career. If you haven’t read any Kelton novels, rush, do not walk, to get your hands on one. You’ll be richly rewarded

The message of course is an age-old one for writers: listen to your characters, and they’ll tell you where your novel is going. I’m listening, but I’ll be darned if I can tell what Kelly and Keisha are telling me. (I’m working on a Kelly O’Connell Mystery.) I’ll get back to it tomorrow, and see if I can figure out what’s happening.

A really pretty day, but I didn’t venture out of the cottage. I often don’t if I’m alone. I can open the French doors and have the lovely day come inside with me. Now, at nine at night, the air is getting, as a former nanny used to say, “airish,” just a touch cool.

Don’t forget to watch for the super moon tonight.

Friday, December 01, 2017

The transition to elderhood—a fancy name for growing old?


Today in Central Market we had to wait our turn at the deli meat market. Jordan stood by the counter and talked to the server when it was her turn. An attractive young woman was also being waited on at the same time. I sat in my motorized grocery go-cart, but it was obvious from conversation that Jordan and I were together. The other woman offered Jordan a taste of her New York-style pastrami, and they struck up a conversation. In the checkout lane, the same young woman came up behind me, so I said, “Hello, again!” She began to talk to Jordan, never spoke to me nor acknowledged me.

That’s not the first time I’ve been invisible recently, though I’m never sure if it’s because I’m handicapped or because I’m perceived as elderly (hey! I’m young at heart!). But I came home today and read a lengthy article, sent by a friend, on the transition to elderhood, and the need to shed our identity and take on a new one. I’m not sure about shedding my old identity—it’s who I am, but perhaps I need to think more about my new status of “elderhood,” with its connotations of wisdom with age.

The writer had experienced a health crisis several years earlier and now, in retrospect, recognizes that was his transition to elderhood, his forty days in the desert as it were where he shed his old identity and re-entered society, ready for his new role. It struck me that my health problems of the last eighteen months are maybe my own personal transition. But into elderhood? I’m not sure about that.

I know that life is different than it was two years ago—before my hip disabled me and ultimately required extensive surgery, before my heart decided to beat to a different drummer, before that lens in my right eye decided to go a-wandering. And that invisibility I mention above is part of the change.

Elderhood sits uneasily on my shoulders, though I recognize my social interactions are forever changed. Some longtime friends are loyal and oh! So very good to me; others have kind of dropped away. Part of it is me—I no longer leap at every opportunity to go to a conference, a book event, evens sometimes a neighborhood dinner. It’s too easy to stay in my cottage. Nor do I burn with the passion to write—my approach these days is more leisurely, sometimes dominated by procrastination which was never like me.

The article recommends developing a dedicated circle of elders and mentors. I’m not sure about that. I am reminded of my writing mentor. He and his wife moved into an apartment complex where my daughter had once lived, and when I protested that it might be noisy because there were a lot of young people, he said that was precisely why he chose it. He did not want to be surrounded by old people. I sympathize. The cottage is my way of avoiding assisted living yet getting the assistance I need—like, Jordan, please come hang up my clothes because I can’t reach. But I am also around young people—Jordan’s friends--and they welcome me into their community. I guess they regard me as older, but they never make me invisible.

I’ve gone on too long, but this is a subject I’ll keep puzzling over in my mind. I’d welcome your thoughts on elderhood even if you’re still young. I keep going back inmy mind to “You’re only as old as you feel.”  Just drop me an email at j.alter@tcu.edu.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

From the doghouse to the Nativity



Sophie and I are both in the doghouse this evening, though I am more acutely aware of it than she is. In fact, she seems not to care. This morning a friend and I sat sipping coffee and remarking that Sophie was having the time of her life chasing squirrels, running at border collie-speed across the yard but, mercifully, not barking except for an occasional yip. We talked about what a high time she was having without bothering anyone..

Wrong! Jordan came in at noon, and I could immediately tell that someone was in trouble. She announced that it didn’t maker her happy to buy lights and string them on the fence only to have them torn down as Sophie jumped against them in her unending quest for a squirrel or two. She had ripped them and, yes, tonight two tiny sections light but not the glorious string of previous nights.

Tomorrow, I’ll buy replacement lights, and Jordan will hang them on the outside of the fence. But a bit of the joy was dimmed today.

And Sophie wasn’t through. I let her out tonight, and she began jumping at the fence again, so I noisily put out her food. She came skidding in, stepped in the bowl of food, and scattered it to the four winds. I swept it into a pile, but before I could get it in the dustpan, she began to eat it. It was a slow process, so I swept the remainder into her dish, and she ate half, just finished it tonight when I came home after an evening out.

I went with friends to the opening of the nativity scene exhibit at the Museum of the Americas in Weatherford. We had a delicious dinner before at the Fire Oak Grill—wedge salad, scallops, and mashed potatoes. Good food, good wine, good conversation.

The museum features native work from North and South America, so there was a range of nativity scenes, an entire room full of them. I marveled at individual creches, from semi-life size to tiny and intricate, each with full explanatory signage. What an undertaking it was to do all that signage. Some were bright and colorful, others more somber. The scene that attracted the most attention was a nativity of bunnies—no other animals except a couple of sheep. By Santa Fe artist Jose Ortega. Fascinating, though I had to ponder a bit about replacing the holy figures with bunnies, essentially comic figures--not sure I got the joke.

But as a practicing Christian, I sat in the only chair in the room and soaked up the idea that the birth of Christ inspired so much art, so varied in approach and theme. It was overwhelming, and I just let the idea roll over me, bringing a certain peace. In these troubled times, we foresee the end of things…and yet the story of Christ’s birth has been with us for centuries, and nativity scenes since the Middle Ages, according to a plaque in the room. It’s a comforting thought and a nice one to carry with me into this holiday season when we’re beset by sex scandals and nuclear threats and selfish politicians who would tax us to death.

Thanks to Harold and Elizabeth Lawrence for once again welcoming us to their museum and a super exhibit. If you’re in the Metroplex and haven’t visited this small, private museum, make it a point to do so.

Tired tonight, and glad to be home, but feeling peaceful and refreshed. May the Lord shine the light of his face upon you. And so we head into December--can you believe it?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A disheartening day




This morning I washed my hair, got my tea, settled at my desk and turned on the TODAY show—my usual routine. I was just in time for the 8:00 announcement that Matt Lauer had been fired, and my first thought was that it was a joke. I had to tell myself it isn’t April Fool’s Day. Maybe that’s the way my mind went because my kids are always playing practical jokes on me. But this was clearly no joke…and it got worse as the day went on. More smarmy, nasty revelations that I really didn’t want to know.

I don’t think I’m surprised. It's trendy today to talk about how you never liked him, but I liked Matt Lauer, maybe because I’ve watched him almost every morning for twenty years. I liked his sense of humor, thought he brought wit and intelligence to his interviews. I didn’t notice what today so many have commented on—there was a dramatic difference in his treatment of women and men during interviews. What I did know was that he was a prima donna, convinced of his own importance. And I disliked his treatment of Ann Curry, Clearly, she didn’t make it as a co-anchor because he didn’t like her. And I always liked her a lot.

All day the banner of news across my internet screen has had four, five, and six repetitive pieces about Lauer, each opening with a different angle but then segueing into the same explanation from Andrew Lack about the revelations at NBC Monday night. Surely, they knew, and surely this wasn’t a surprise, so one wonders that they acted all of a sudden. But they wasted no time.

Okay, Matt, I’m disillusioned, and I sure hope I’m not going to see your face every time I turn on the TV for the next week. You’re toast.

I hate the phrase, “his turn in the barrel” which Trump cohort Roger Stone cheerfully applied to Al Franken and I have seen applied to Lauer today. But whose turn is in next? Lester Holt would break my heart. How about Chuck Todd—he was nasty to Nancy Pelosi Sunday on air, and I used to think he was using his show to campaign for Trump.  I know these unveilings are healthy, but frankly I’m sick and tired of them, thankful for the few voices that remind us most men are good and honorable. We’re just seeing the worst who seem, for now, to be in the majority. Surely not true. Pollyanna will now change the subject.

On a cheerier note, I ate my way through the day. Last night I chunked up a kielbasa, sliced some new potatoes, and sautĂ©ed it (sounds so much better than fried) for Jacob, then threw some leftover caramelized onions in the skillet for me. Had a bit of that with scrambled eggs this morning for breakfast, a huge bacon/chicken/avocado sandwich for lunch, and tonight—ahh, wait for it—a whole lobster because Lucille’s is having Lobsterama. I need to sleep ten hours to sleep off all that food, at least twice what I usually eat in a day. Sure was fun, though.




Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A wasted but big day—figure that one out!


I’ve been up since 6:30 this morning—way too early for me—and I didn’t sleep well. I never sleep well when I have an early appointment, partly because I’m afraid of oversleeping. I wish I could figure out the alarm on either my bedside clock or my phone, but I haven’t. Part of my techy challenge. This morning, I was particularly anxious because I was to see the retina specialist about a symptom I thought he should know about before he went to cutting and slicing on my eyeball—the very idea gives me the shivers. But he gave me a clean bill of health, and the surgery is now scheduled for January 4. I’ll be asking for prayers!

The downside of that was that my eyes were dilated. One of the things I love about my cottage is all the windows and the bright sunlight that streams in. Didn’t love it so much today, and while I could pretty much read on the computer screen, I really couldn’t concentrate on doing much. So it was a wasted morning, of sorts, though I took care of some odds and ends.

Christian had dropped me off at the eye doctor’s office this morning, and a kind neighbor had agreed to pick me up. But Jordan emailed to say she was unexpectedly home, and I replied I was in an examining room, waiting for the doctor—always a good sign that the appointment is almost over. She said to call her. I did, no answer, so I called the neighbor. Then when I was in the downstairs lobby of the building, Jordan called and demanded, “Where are you?” I told her, and she said, “I’m in the doctor’s lobby.” I cancelled the neighbor and got back to Jordan—after a bit we got it straightened out. The ophthalmologist and the retina guy office in adjacent building Whew! I got home, thanks to my daughter.

The big news of the day is that Jordan booked the two of us on a Great Lakes Cruise at the end of next August—8 days,7 nights on a ship that holds only 200+ passengers and hits most of the spots on my bucket list.  The Great Lakes—specifically Michigan and Ontario—are home to me, and I’m more intrigued with this than the Alaska cruise we talked about. This one leaves from outside Toronto, and we may take a day or two there—I might explore family sites. The cruise ends in Chicago, and we’re hoping some of Jordan’s siblings will want to meet us there.

Another nice event of the day: good friends came for wine and happy hour. Sue calls me her Fort Worth mom, because her mom is far away in Ottawa, Ontario. She and the love of her life have announced their engagement, with a June wedding in the offing. So tonight, I got to share in their joy—they are both radiant—and hear all the details.

Jacob sort of chased them off about 7:15 when he announced he was hungry—his parents are out tonight. I ended the day by frying sausage and potatoes for him and, after he was served, adding caramelized onions left from a take-ou dinner for me.

For me, today illustrates the way our lives are filled with equal measures of stress, even fear, and joyous events. I often work on strengthening my faith, but I think today, as we head into the season of joyous celebration, is a reminder to rest assured in faith and let go of fear. Hope I can live up to that.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Home again, home again



I came home to a cottage fully decorated for Christmas. A small table tree with lots of lights, Christmas towels in the kitchen and bathroom, a small glittering tree on my desk, a glowing glass brick wrapped with a big gold bow, and, crĂšme de la crĂšme, a display of scattered green lights outside my French doors—somehow a projection of LED lights, like a screen hanging from the trees. Absolutely gorgeous. And the front door has the wreath granddaughter Eden made last year. The deck railings are draped with multicolor lights, and a fancy wreath a neighbor made is on the back door. The fence between the driveway and the yard is draped with white lights. Even the gate has greens and a wreath. We’re in full Christmas mode around here, and the view from my desk is really quite spectacular. Makes me cheerful.


Colin, with Morgan and Kegan, drove me to Waco where we met Jordan, Christian, and Jacob at Buzzard Billy’s for lunch. The minute I walked in, I knew I’d been to thatome restaurant before, but it’s been painted and spruced up, the name and menu changed. Matter of fact, I think it’s been stabilized—I remember the floor used to shake. We ate on the deck, overlooking the Brazos—lovely, but hot in the sun. And I ate too much fried food—pickles for an appetizer, oyster po’ boy for my lunch.

We didn’t get home until four-thirty, and I was whipped, grateful that my dinner date vanished into thin air. Stayed home and had a baked potato.

But I brought memories both silly and happy with me. Like Colin stashing the water glass I asked him to carry in my purse—it promptly spilled, dousing the purse, some of the contents, and the floor of Lisa’s car. Today, Jordan unloaded her purse looking for her phone and set her sunglasses down in ketchup on someone’s plate. And tonight, I stepped into the wastebasket to tamp down the contents, got my foot stuck, and had to be rescued by Jordan. Okay, you had to be there!

Moments that I treasure—the Tomball Alters decorating their tree as a family, Morgan practicing her clarinet for me, Kegan showing off his card tricks, long talks with Colin, all of us gathered around the bountiful table while Kegan offered thanks. Sophie behaved wonderfully during our whole Tomball stay, slept in her crate at the foot of my bed all night and sometimes during the day. Morgan was great about taking her for walks.

All in all, a Thanksgiving to be grateful for and a homecoming to warm the heart. Life is good.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Why do I grieve?


A friend of forty-plus years died this morning. She was a few years older than me (not that many!), had a progressive degenerative condition, and had no quality of life, I’m sure, at least for the last couple of years. It would be easy for me to say that, paraphrasing Ann Lamott, her part in my life was done several years ago when she moved to assisted living in Dallas and virtually dropped all communication. A friend and I went to see her a few times, and I called occasionally. The last time I called, she responded to questions but initiated no conversation, and while she knew who I was, I can’t guarantee that the call meant much to her. So why is her death rattling around in my brain?

She was a strong woman. Widowed young, with three small children, by a tragic domestic military accident, she put herself through graduate school and was founding faculty at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. I was there too in those formative years, both as staff and a wife, and that gave us a world in common. That world brought us together and probably was the basic glue of our friendship. But after I divorced, we were both single parents who enjoyed dining out—and we did. We traveled together just a bit, although she traveled extensively. We went to the same church and shared many friends there.

Tragedy struck again when she lost her college-age daughter to an accident. I’m not sure she ever knew sustained happiness after that. Her sons were attentive, and she adored her grandchildren, but you know the saying, “A son is a son/Until he takes a wife/ A daughter is a daughter/All of her life.”

In some ways we were odd friends. She boasted she could watch paint dry. I am happily impatient and want action around me, want to be part of the action. In later years she walked so slowly I thought I’d scream—because I needed to walk rapidly to keep my balance. She told me there was no hurry. I thought she was picky and outright critical, and sometimes her narrow idea of right and wrong irritated me; she probably thought I was a lax parent, careless and frivolous in my ways. I thought the skeleton-to-sophistication history of the osteopathic college was a marvelous story; she wanted to forget the skeleton years and was incensed when I included them in a book I wrote on assignment

But she was always there, always a part of my life. Even in her Dallas years, I knew she was there. And now she’s not.

Rest in peace, Mary Lu, and rise in glory. I hope your soul finds Bob and Tracy. You’ve waited for them a long time.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Prognostications and Predictions


Even before I came to Tomball I worried about Colin’s casual comment that we’d go to Matagorda Bay (a good two hours away) to “hang out” with friends on Friday. First of all, I don’t hang out well. Second, when Lisa said they’d fish, I foresaw a day with all of them fishing and me in the house. And I’d have to leave Sophie alone all day in a strange house. That’s pretty much what happened. I considered staying home with my dog, but that would have worried my son. And he has been sweet tonight about thanking me for going with them.

But here are the good parts: we had a lovely scenic drive quite early this morning. Took farm-to-market roads much of the way, which means lots of twists and turns, but a chance to study landscape and structure, both of which fascinate me. Coming back, we were on state highways—much faster, but way too many fast food chains and the like. Still, we went through or near towns I’ve heard about for years and now they’re located in my mind’s map—Angleton, Alvin, Lake Jackson, Brazoria, and others. And this evening we were treated to a spectacular sunset—the colors changed from moment to moment, gold to pink to intense reddish gold, and wispy clouds reflected the pink hues. Kudos to DIL Lisa for skillful driving and never getting lost.

The bay house was great—probably about the size of my cottage with a spectacular view. The inland waterway is right in front of the house—their dock juts out into it. Then there’s an island barrier of some kind—I couldn’t figure out if it was man-made or not, but it has no structures and apparently only a dirt road. I loved watching the boats in the waterway—speed boats, several enormous barges, a tug boat. Ever since my Lake Michigan childhood, I’ve loved to look out at water, so this met a deep need of mine. The owner, Thad, who went to high school with Lisa, assured me on a clear day you can see Cuba. Not!

The downside: I pretty much sat in the house the whole day. As to be expected, the houses are all on stilts, so it was an exercise for me to get up the stairs with Colin’s help. Once up, I wasn’t going down again until we were ready to leave. So when everyone went down to watch some game on the lawn (who has a getaway house with a lawn that has to be mowed?), I stayed behind with my book. The game seemed to involve throwing sticks at pegs in the ground with the goal of knocking the pegs over. I only saw on peg go over.

The sun, with the glare from the water, is excruciatingly bright and made my eyes, if not all of me, sleepy. And I was reading on my cell phone—tiny and further hard on the eyes, so I read in fits and spurts. Colin came up frequently to check on me and visit, and everyone came up for lunch. At one point I watched a rousing (?) Monopoly game. At 2:30 Colin announced we’d head out in about half an hour. We left at four. And so the day went.

Sophie greeted us ecstatically, as did Grace, the house dog who’d been left out all day in deference to Sophie. We had Thanksgiving dinner all over again, and I for one was grateful to be in familiar and comfortable territory.

But I did some thinking today, and it came to me that we make our own destiny even on a daily basis. When I think about it, I’ve been retreating into a book while others around me are “hanging out” all my life. As a child in the summer, I’d read on the front porch while neighborhood kids played. I remember incidents as a young mother when I used the excuse of a sleeping child as a reason to sit quietly and read a book while others played—once on a lake when everyone else was going out on a boat. So today wasn’t a surprise, and maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t hang out well—that’s just who I am, and I’m not sure I need to apologize. And physical circumstances kept me distant from the crowd today, though I’m not sure I would have had had much to contribute to the conversation anyway. There’s a big generation gap between me and a group of women in their forties. So it is what it is.

And I need to count my blessings and quit complaining, quit focusing on the negative. All in all, it was a good day.