Sunday, October 15, 2017

Some thoughts on sexual harassment

The current and ongoing dialog about sexual harassment, somehow sparked by Harvey Weinstein who sounds like a sleazebag, is a conversation long overdue, and I heartily cheer it. I particularly applaud that growing public acknowledgement that harassment, like pregnancy, is not just a female problem. Harassment, in fact, is not even a shared problem like pregnancy: it’s solely a male problem. I shared a post on the use of passive voice—we should say men raped women, not women were raped; boys impregnated teens, not teen girls got pregnant. They didn’t do it all by themselves!

But I have an almost embarrassing confession: I have not ever been harassed. I shared this at dinner with my daughter and her husband, and when I said, oh sure, there was the professor who hugged all the girls a little too long and too tight, and the osteopathic physician, a lifetime friend, whose hands wandered a bit when he was treating me, but I don’t call that harassment. At that point, Jordan called for another glass of wine.  But to me, the term implies, “Sleep with me or lose your job,” and I’ve never been in that position. The worst I’ve felt is patronized, like the man who once said to me, “Dr.? Really?” Yes, I have a Ph.D., and yes, I can run an academic press. Oh and there’s the man who hired me for a good-paying job and then took me to dinner and explained how oversexed he was. I told him we weren’t going there because I was newly divorced and vulnerable, and that was the end of that.

In truth, the fact that I’ve never been seriously harassed makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with me as a female. Am I not attractive enough? Maybe it’s a compliment, and men saw strength. Whatever, that’s beside the point.

I am interested at how quickly the “Me, too” suggestion went viral on Facebook. The idea was to post that simple phrase if you’ve ever been harassed, and it’s spread like wildfire, which is good recognition for the enormity of the problem. I have special praise for a male friend who chimed in with “Me, too.” I’m sure it related back to his childhood, but brave of him to join the chorus.

I found myself today in the strange position of agreeing with Woody Allen, not one of my heroes, who said he was afraid the current revelations would ignite a new set of witch trials. I think though I’m not sure we saw that in cases like accusations against Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby—women came out of the woodwork with accusations, and I can’t help but wonder about the veracity of some of those charges.

Will the same thing happen again? If I, as, I hope, a reasonably attractive, accomplished woman, at one time a divorcee and a single mom, have never been harassed, surely there are others. The numbers of victims is epidemic, and I recognize that with sorrow in my heart and anger in my brain, but I fervently hope that a lot of neglected women don’t see this as a way to draw attention to themselves.

Harvey Weinstein is going to suffer the just rewards of his long and unpleasant career and, probably, many more men are going to join him in punishment, financial or otherwise. But I hope it doesn’t get out of control. Remember the McCarthy era, those of you who are old enough. And teach that lesson to our younger sisters. Let truth ring out, but let’s not the rest of us try to ride on its coattails.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

 A hick goes downtown

In spite of my complaining about cabin fever and a solitary existence, I do get out fairly often to have lunch or dinner with friends. We seem to be in a rut, though. There are many wonderful choices in restaurants in West and Southwest Fort Worth, and we have our favorites, plus looking for new places. What we don’t do, sad to say, is visit downtown Fort Worth.

Today I had lunch with an old friend with whom I’ve recently reconnected. She lived smack in the middle of downtown for thirteen years and now lives on the fringes. Downtown is her stomping grounds, and she knows the one-way streets, the parking opportunities, and, especially, the restaurants.

We parked in one of the many valet stations around Sundance Square and had lunch at P. F. Chang’s. People ate at outdoor tables, though we elected to sit inside. Still, I could stare at the buildings and marvel at all the restaurants she mentioned—many I’d heard of but never visited and a few I’d never heard of.

It was Saturday, so the streets weren’t exactly bustling, but there was a sense of life. As we stood waiting for the car, I thought that one thing Fort Worth has done very well is to blend new architecture with old. New buildings don’t shout out at you in contrast to the venerable old—they blend and complement. The valet stations and Sundance Square itself are other things the city has done well. Valet stations are located so that you seldom have to walk more than a block to your destination.

Sundance Square is located in the midst of the north end of downtown, an open plaza with tables, chairs, and fountains which spray from the ground occasionally, offering youngsters a great chance to run in the sprinklers. Many restaurants have outdoor seating opening onto the square, although new office buildings face on the other side. It’s almost always bustling with people.

Downtown Fort Worth is electric, alive, a wonderful place—but then so is the whole city. I love living in Fort Worth, safe and secure in my little corner and yet with that whole world of opportunity available to me if I’ll just venture past my secure, known neighborhoods. I love living in Fort Worth, and I resolve to see more of it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Feeling a bit sad

Not sure why I feel sad tonight. Maybe it’s because no one is in the house tonight, and I feel a bit isolated. But I often—usually—spend the evening without seeing them. I guess it’s a comfort to know they’re there. Besides, I’m expecting a certain eleven-year-old home soon, and he always cheers me. He’s been to Cotillion, so I’ll know that he’ll have tales to tell, including about the latest love of his life.

Maybe it’s because of an eye problem which I suddenly took seriously, although in retrospect it’s been coming on for some time. But I scared myself today—and exasperated an admissions person at the doctor’s clinic. I know just enough about a lot of medical matters to be dangerous—and today it was detached retina. The admissions clerk scolded me on several counts, until I finally told her she sounded antagonistic. “No, not at all,” she said and seemed to forgive me requesting a new appt. so I could see the doctor I have seen for 30 years instead of one I didn’t know. We old folks don’t change easily. But I did talk to one of his colleagues who said it didn’t sound like a detachment, and he’ll see me next week. Now to figure out someone to take me.

I don’t even think it’s that. I think it’s the rash moves the sitting president has made in the last couple of days. Threatening Puerto Rico, cancelling the Iran nuclear agreement, slashing the ACA—how many people will die before we get that straightened out? His zeal for erasing President Obama’s accomplishments, regardless of damage to our country, is purely appalling. And while he’s made these bold public moves, without Congressional support, serious things are going unnoticed: a bill to end the EPA, another to end the Dept. of Education (the only good I can see there is that is gets rid of Betsy de Vos). It’s like a slash and burn campaign, and it scares me.

I have no doubt Trumpf will not serve out his full term, but it will take so long to undo the damage he’s done. How many people will die? How much public land will be sold and exploited? How much irreversible damage will be done to the already-fragile environment? I somehow can’t wrap my mind around all that without wanting to weep.

I read a statement by Trumpf today on the release of an American family held by the Taliban in Pakistan. Apparently, negotiations for their release have been ongoing for some time, but Trumpf took it as a personal victory. Trumpf went on and on about how the Pakistant were at last respecting us. The emphasis on the term “respect” scared me. It was like he equates it with fearing us.

This man-child makes me sad—for our country, for me, for my grandchildren and yours. How long will it take before the Cabinet invokes the 25th Amendment about an impaired president, or congressional Republicans develop some backbone? Privately, they are worried about him, from what I read, but publicly they are cowering in their shoes.

A bright note in the day: the upholsterer delivered a throw pillow he’d been working on. It’s needlepoint, done by a dear friend probably at least 30-40 years ago. It had gotten beaten down over the years—four kids, seven grandchildren, and who can count how many dogs?—and he gave it new life. The design is from the classic story found on Blue Willow china. I grew up eating off that china, and will use my mom's daily A most meaningful pillow for me.

And another high point: Jordan and I, having done luxury shopping yesterday, did staples shopping today—don’t ask how much I spent—and I again demonstrated my prowess with automated shopping cart. This one worked fine, and I didn’t hit anything, not even Jordan, though I backed into her cart once.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Another day to be grateful for friends. If I don’t get out much, I still don’t lack for friends. They come to me, and I am so thankful. Today, Jean came for coffee, but she had remembered a doctor’s appointment that cut her visit short. Still she bought the perfect small plant to replace one that died from lack of water while I was in the hospital a month or so ago. Jordan and I had searched for the perfect small, low plant until she finally threw her hands up in defeat. But Jean knew exactly what I was talking about and where to get it.

After she left, Jordan, who is a wonderful friend as well as a good daughter, called, said she was headed to Central Market and would get me in five minutes if I wanted to go. Of course, I did, though it was one time I didn’t have a Central Market wish list. Just on the principle of it I got smoked salmon, sourdough bread, chocolate, and some good Irish cheddar. Major discovery: Central market does have motorized shopping carts. They’re hidden away in a corner in the entryway but they are available. I got one today that needed some loving attention—the only way to start it was to put it in reverse and then back to neutral, at which point it would take off without my giving it any power. But it wouldn’t stop, and even though it was going slow that was a problem. The only way to stop it—and keep from booting Jordan from behind—was to turn it off.

Tonight, I expected Sue for happy hour but Jean also called and was at loose ends for an hour. Turns out Sue and Jean knew each other at church long before I ever introduced them. And I thought I was friendship central! We feasted on good Irish cheddar and smoked salmon and had a most pleasant evening.

I have for some reason been reluctant to work on my novel-in-progress. I finished the first draft last night—with a whimper, not a bang. Did a little revision on one part I knew I wanted to change, but have been drawn more and more into reading other mysteries and ignoring mine. I guess that’s okay for a while, if it doesn’t become a permanent habit. It may be relief at reaching the end, no matter how much work remains to be done on that new project—and, believe me, it’s a lot. And maybe it’s a bit of disappointment that Pigface isn’t flying off the shelves and garnering tons of Amazon reviews. But I know those risks only too well. I suppose I could go on analyzing and excusing forever without learning much. Instead, this weekend, I’m really going to dig in on revisions.

I’ve been reading the Molly Murphy series by Rhys Bowen, about a young Irish immigrant girl in New York Century at the turn of the last century. I started these once and don’t remember being enthralled, but I am now. Bowen has done extensive research on historical events, the character of the city, living and working conditions. So far Molly, as a fictional character, has been on the edges of the shooting of President McKinley and involved in a shirtwaist factory fire that, fortunately, has a happier ending than the Triangle fire. Fascinating stuff, but there are at least ten or twelve books in the series and, having read three, I need to pull my nose out of New York and read other things. Then again, my new reading addiction proves a point I like to make about series: if readers like the characters, they’ll read all the books in a series. I’m already thinking about the next adventure of Kelly O’Connell, even though I’m still working on a Blue Plate Café mystery with Kate Chambers. Such is life, and I’m enjoying it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Earthquakes, sewer lines, and oh, my!

I came home today from a delightful lunch to find workmen ringing the front doorbell. They explained they were from the gas company, needed to run a camera down the sewer to make sure it wasn’t damaged during the move of the gas meter. Turns out though they couldn’t find the sewer trap or whatever it is. One said they’d go up on the roof, which puzzled me a bit, but okay. But pretty soon there were three men with impressive equipment prowling around the back yard. I called our contractor who told me where the trap was. They found it and said the line had collapsed, due to age.

I know I have a suspicious mind, but they were checking for their damage, found it collapsed, and it was due to age? I was doubtful, but just then Jordan came out to the back yard, curious to find three men there when she got home. She’s good at holding her own in situations like that, so I bowed out. Our schedules haven’t meshed, so I don’t know what they concluded, what she found out, etc. Contractor asked if we were having troubles with drains or toilet, but the answer is no. I’ll wait to talk to Jordan before calling the plumber who knows this house well.

This evening, I was waiting for Betty and Jeannie. We were going to have a glass of wine and catch up before Betty and I went to dinner and Jeannie went home to care for her husband, whose health is not good. But Jacob came out saying he was really freaked. Things in the house were shaking, and he heard footsteps. He grabbed two paring knives, after I assured him a bread knife was not a good weapon and went back in to get his homework. This time, he felt a sudden breeze and heard a voice say, “Leave.” He came running out, carrying both knives point up—yes, my heart was in my throat. He was convinced my old house has ghosts. When Betty came, she went in with him, declaring that she was excellent at detecting ghosts. By gosh, she came out and reported that items on the kitchen counter were dancing. She said earthquake, but I could hardly believe that when I felt nothing in the cottage. But there was an eleven-year-old boy and a seventy-something-year-old woman telling me earnestly there was an earthquake. Still waiting for a rational explanation.

Jeannie cancelled, and I told Betty I had planned to put out smoked salmon and cream cheese. Upshot was we had a delicious dinner of open-face sandwiches of cream cheese, tomato, diced scallion and smoked salmon—plus a thick slice each of Braunschweiger, because I know she likes it. Yeah, they don’t go together, but it was good, and certainly all I needed for supper after a large lunch. Thanks to Sharon Corcoran for taking me to Aventino’s where I had lasagna, intending to bring half home for lunch. Yep, I ate the whole thing.

A puzzling day to say the least.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

An unexpected day

June Bug, on the right
No writing. A day of the unexpected. Today got off to a hectic start at the Alter/Burton compound. We left at 8:20, dropped Jacob and a buddy at school, took June Bug to the vet, and made it only five minutes late to my cardiologist’s appt. Of course, we got lost in the hospital parking lot and had a couple of testy moments, but it all worked out. I worried bigtime over being late—doctors’ children are taught never to be late to a medical appointment. But it finally dawned on me that Jordan is also a doctor’s daughter, and she wasn’t nearly as upset about it as I was.

After all that worry which raised my blood pressure, we probably waited 45 minutes to see the doctor. Good appointment. The doctor seems to think I’m doing fine, explained a few things, reassured me. And as we left, the vet called and June Bug was ready to go home. It was almost eleven by the time we got home, and I spent the next hours catching up on email, etc.

About 2:30 I crawled into bed for a nap. Just closed my eyes when the phone rang. An old friend, a woman whose friendship I really value, was in town briefly and could she come now for a visit. I jumped up, made the bed, dressed—and waited 45 minutes for her to arrive. We had a great visit, lots of laughter, lots of worrying about the state of the nation. Now we’re Facebook friends, and I hope for an annual visit.

She was gone about 30 minutes when another dear friend arrived—I knew she was coming. She’s troubled and wanted to talk, a service I’m always glad to provide, though with a lot of self-doubt. We had a glass of wine and then she went to get us hamburgers from the Neighborhood Grill. Another good visit. Not sure how much help I was, but I tried…and she laughed a few times.

What this day has taught me is that I’m blessed with good friends, lasting friendships. That’s worth getting a day behind in writing any time. But, it has been a long day that began early and was without the nap time that I am almost addicted to. I’m sleepy tonight, and it’s chilly—supposed to go into the 40s. Not sure I’ll survive winter with grace. But for now, I have on wooly socks and flannel pjs and am considering wrapping the prayer shawl around my shoulders. Quite sure I’ll wake in the night too hot, but for now I’m cozy—and going to sleep early.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Some chicken excitement

The neighbors behind me have a couple of chickens. They had three but one day they let them out on the grass, not realizing their gate was open. Another neighbor’s dog came charging across the lawn, and before they could stop him, he got one of the chickens. The two survivors are still traumatized and rarely come out of their coop. I watch out the window when I can, because I like to see them.

But today, when I let Sophie out in the afternoon, she had a conniption fit at that corner of the yard. Through the window, I could see the plants and bushes shake, and her deep guttural sounds, unlike squirrel barks, alarmed me. I went to the door once, and it looked like she was stymied in getting to whatever she wanted. And then I saw the neighbor in his yard, so I figured he would take care of it. Stern orders to Sophie to come inside went unheeded. She did come in once, very excited, and barked at me a couple of times as if to say, “If only you knew how exciting this is.”

The neighbor’s wife called. There’s a thin strip between the fence and my cottage. Some years ago, when I had a dog that was an escape artist, I had it blocked off with a wire gate, because I couldn’t see the dog and always worried he’d get away when he was out of sight. It seems today one of the chickens somehow ended up in that strip, and Jason, the neighbor, was on his way to get it. I called Christian to say there was a crisis and would he come out and help—my principle concern being to get Sophie away before she broke down that unsubstantial wire gate. But I woke Christian from a deep sleep, and he was befuddled, wanted to talk about it when I wanted action.

All is well. Jason returned the chicken to its own yard, and everyone went about their business. I can’t really blame Sophie for her uncontrollable behavior. She is, after all, a Bordoodle—half border collie, bred to look after barn and farm critters. I’d like to believe if she got to the chicken all she would do is herd it, but I’m not at all sure of that. She does sometimes try to herd the other dogs in the family.

By coincidence, I had just been to the web page of the kennel where I got her. Best I can figure is that they were experimenting with poodle/border collie crosses, and she was of an early litter, perhaps their second. Today they offer three sizes of bordoodles—petite, miniature, and standard. Sophie is a miniature, the product of a border collie bitch with a miniature poodle dog. She is 30 lbs. and sturdy. At first glance you’d think she is a poodle, but I work hard to prevent grooming from making her look like a poodle.

I’ve always felt a bit of guilt that I paid a lot of good money for Sophie, when perhaps I should have rescued a shelter dog. To my amazement, the fee I paid for her six years ago is now a drop in the bucket. The price has at least doubled. Still, she’s worth every penny.
The day we chose her

She is one of the best dogs I’ve ever hard—why do I feel disloyal to others in saying that? She is sweet, affectionate, well-trained, healthy—and stubborn, headstrong, and spoiled. When she’s worried about me, she sleeps on my bed or right next to it. When I’m in the main house, she wants to come back out and guard the cottage. She knows that’s where we live, although she spent several years in the house. She takes her responsibilities most seriously, but also her rights, like a treat after dinner and dinner on time when she’s hungry, please. If she doesn’t get her way, she’ll bark until she does. If pushed too far, she’ll growl, though the one night she growled at me, she was so remorseful she spent the rest of the evening at my feet, looking deep into my eyes as if to ask if I still loved her.

At six, she has lost none of her puppy enthusiasm for chasing squirrels or greeting visitors. And in those circumstances, she is deaf to my commands. But otherwise, she is well trained—no accidents in the house, sleeps by my side during the day unless a squirrel calls, comes when called, knows sit stay, down.

In short, she’s like a lot of people I know—not perfect, but darn close. Okay I admit it. I adore her.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sunday dinner and other food matters

Jordan and Christian have subscribed on a temporary basis to one of those food delivery services that sends you meat, spices, recipes, etc.—everything you need. The one they chose is HelloFresh, and I’m wondering if it’s the one that is Fort Worth-based.

Tonight, we had meat loaf, oven-roasted sliced sweet potatoes, and fresh green beans. Delicious. Sunday night dinner is a tradition in my family, as much as I can make it continue, and the Burtons help me cling to it. Jordan, I think, appreciates the tradition, and Christian likes the opportunity to cook.

I had toyed with the idea of these delivery services—one daughter-in-law has tried one, and another has become a rep for a company that sends recipes and spices, while you provide the meat and other fresh ingredients. I was stopped by two things: I really like to cook, follow (or deviate from) recipes, and a food delivery service is a bit much for one person. So it was fun to experience the meal tonight. Jordan tells me pork chops are next up, after Christian cooks the roast he’s had in the freezer forever. Problem there: I wanted to cook it with my recipe—red wine, onion soup mix, and mushroom soup. Another time.
 After dinner, Jordan and I sat out on the deck, and when I mentioned that I wanted her to take a picture of the bougainvillea, she said she'd take it with me in front of it. I don't look so great, but that is the most gorgeous potted plant I've ever seen. It doesn't measure up to those that grow free on rooftops in California, but in a pot, in Texas, it's pretty spectacular. It would show up better in daylight. With the patio at my door I don't sit on the deck much and this too was a treat--with Sophie at my feet.

Grocery shopping has been a problem for me lately. Getting used to new medications has been an ongoing process, and I frequently had no appetite or interest in exploring new recipes. When I did find something I wanted to cook, I’d buy the ingredients and then something would come up—Jordan would fix a family meal, leftovers demanded to be eaten, dinner invitations came, etc. I’d buy ingredients for something I wanted to fix, and then life would interfere, and the ingredients would sit in my fridge. Right now, I have a really good ham slice meant for chicken and ham croquettes, which sounded good to me at one time but when I reread the recipe, it was too much trouble and required cooking capabilities I don’t have. I threw it out and decided to make ham salad tomorrow. But now I have leftover meatloaf—life’s dilemmas.

And sometimes I find something I want to cook right then—I don’t have the ingredients. Were I mobile, with a car, I’d just go get it—used to do that a lot. But I can hardly ask Jordan to take me to the store for one ingredient. As she says to me frequently, we need a better system.

Meantime, with cabin fever threatening, I am making a concerted effort to get out more and have people in more often. Grateful for the friends who have stuck by me during my bouts of less- than-ideal health and for new friends I’ve made in the last year.

Which reminds me. A post in Facebook this morning sent my mind to thinking again about how many good, kind, caring people there are in the world and in this country. Specifically, it was about a plane-load of truck drivers who heard the call that help was needed in Puerto Rico and, as one said, made an instant decision to join and fly down there to do whatever they could. I can’t help wondering how, in a country with so many wonderful people, we turned our government over to a bunch of selfish, ambitious, egocentric men.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Mishmash Saturday

I didn’t blog last night because it would have been a repeat of the previous night’s “Out and About.” I went on a quick grocery run with Jordan and otherwise spent the day at my computer and managed my thousand words.

Dinner last night with friends Subie and Phil was a treat. We went to Piatello at the relatively new Riverside shopping center. Sat on the deck and as Phil said, it was an absolutely perfect evening, reminiscent of evenings in Santa Fe. The restaurant’s deck is partitioned off with planters, but beyond them is open deck and beyond that, apartments with a huge green area and some funky sculpture. There was a TCU tent on the green, undoubtedly building interest in today’s game (which TCU won, thank you very much). Kids ran wild on the deck and the green, and dogs were plentiful—I particularly enjoyed watching a young German shepherd, maybe six months at the most. Well behaved for the most part, but there were moments when he was clearly saying, “But, Dad, I’ve got to go investigate,” and Dad was saying no. There was also a gorgeous Labradoodle (soft spot in my heart for doodle dogs, of course), and beneath my feet Phil’s guide dog occasionally stirred, making me think Subie was kicking me.

Fall is in the air—I had a wonderful panzanella salad with fall vegetables—roasted beets, apple slices, raisins, and something I wasn’t sure about—squash I think—with greens and wafer thin cheese. Subie and Phil shared a Caesar salad and each had chicken saltimbocca—I got tastes of each, and they were really good.

But what made the evening was sitting outside with all that vitality and life going on around us. Great cure for my encroaching cabin fever.

Today I’ve been housebound again—writing and reading. Sophie has been my companion and I looked at her tonight as her eyes clearly told me she wanted her dinner—and I realized that she, like my children, has known me all her memory (doubt she remembers much before eight weeks when I got her) and has relied on me for food and love and care. No wonder she is a “Mama’s dog.”

I had the dubious pleasure today of being labeled on Facebook by a friend (former friend?) as an over-educated white female who wants to be a field Negro—a statement that to me reveals racism and a misogynist attitude. Welcome to contemporary America. I have not worried about speaking out on Facebook. In fact, I think it’s imperative for each of us, in these perilous times, to speak out against the chipping away of our rights, the destruction of the environment, the spread of racism—see there I go again, preaching. If I have lost readers over that, I am sorry, but my integrity is more important than book sales. But to have someone I considered a friend call me that—okay I called him a racist, maybe tit for tat—appalled and surprised me.

Excuse me now. I’m going to slink off and fix some supper. Sorry, no, it won’t be greens and cornbread. Pasta with pesto and grated cheese, I think. Over-educated? Really?  Want to be a field Negro? Doubt that.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Out and About

My dinner pal, Betty, and I went out to dinner tonight—first time I’ve been off the “compound” since last weekend when I went for two short drives with Jordan. We ended up with Jacob as a companion tonight—his parents were going out, something I found only at the last minute. That governs where we go. I had actually picked out a local wine bistro—I want to try their tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich. Talk about retro.

But I couldn’t see that Jacob would be comfortable there or find much he wanted on the menu, so we went to the Tavern where he likes the mac and cheese. He’s at the age where he always has an objection first to everything. This time it was that it’s always so cold in that restaurant—and I will agree with him. But then he said, “No, it’s fine,” and we gave up asking about other options, etc. It wasn’t as cold as usual, though my suggestion we eat on the patio fell on deaf ears.

Betty and I waffled from hamburger (they are soooo good there) to steak salad and ended with fried chicken, which turned out to be like chicken-fried chicken—two pieces of breast meat, so we split it. Good, but it might better have had cream gravy on it.

Dinner with an eleven-year-old is interesting. I am grateful that cell phones weren’t yet in use when my kids were that age. Betty has been eating supper with Jacob since the days when he, still a baby, spoke gibberish. He had the inflection of sentences down, but the sounds made no sense. I’d answer in perfectly normal English, and he’s reply in his own secret language. He obviously had a lot to tell. It sent Betty into hysterics.

Today, Jacob doesn’t have that much to tell. Left alone, he’ll ignore us and stare at his phone—who knows what games he was looking at. But when we once engaged him in conversation he was polite and talkative about where he wants to go to high school and college. Then Betty asked something about math, and he was off asking us about improper fractions. Say what? I proved to be a total failure at converting them to numbers. (First he had to remind me what an improper fraction is.) I am so glad I’m not in school and having to take math classes. After a bit I think he decided we were hopeless and went back to his phone. I suspect he’s not allowed to bring his phone to the table at home, but if I enforced that in a restaurant he’d be bored to tears by the things Betty and I talk about.

All in all, it was a pleasant evening, and I was delighted to be out and about in the world, but also glad to get home to the book I’m reading.

I tried a couple of experimental steps today without the walker and without holding on to anything. The good news is I didn’t fall; the not-so-good, my hip seemed to buckle, as it did when I first could put full weight on the walker. Guess I have to keep at it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Political confession coming up

I have too often been accused of being a fervent member of the Democratic party, and I am always taken back to my dad, who used to say he voted for the best man (not many women ran for office when I was a kid). The best man just always turned out to be a Democrat. I’ll admit that’s true for me too. I was raised in a household where FDR was a god, and Truman not too far behind him. My dad even cooperated with Richard Daley, Democratic mayor/boss in Chicago. I have rarely if ever voted for a Republican candidate.

But it goes beyond that. In the past if I thought a Republican was the best candidate, I would have voted that way. No longer true today. I am openly, honestly anti-Republican. People ask how I deal with Republican friends, and I must admit that I have few to none. The people I chose to spend my time with are those with values and concerns like mine—compassion for others, leading the list. I have a few Republican acquaintances that I like, and one brother that I adore who refuses to even enter an open discussion of politics with me. My suggestion that open discussion benefits everyone falls on deaf ears.

This hard-core stance has been strengthened, confirmed, whatever, by the Republican reaction to the Las Vegas massacre. This, they uniformly declare, is not the time to discuss gun control; it’s a time for mourning. Hogwash! If there ever was a time to discuss America’s disgraceful record of gun deaths, it’s now. We cannot avoid the uncomfortable statistics that America leads the world in gun deaths, and certainly is way out in front of developed countries. I have found fascinating and frightening statistics on Facebook and shared most of them.

One I particularly like is a long list of things that are regulated—women’s bodies, leads the way, but there are others—liquor sales, driving, school bake sales, home improvements, driving a car, owning and caring for a dog, cutting hair for a living. The list goes on with endless trivia—but guns are not on it.

The administration recently made it easier for people with mental health issues to buy guns—anyone remember Newton? And there’s a bill before the House now to legalize silencers. It includes a rider or whatever to permit bullets that can pierce body armor. Who is the wide world needs to pierce body armor? Who needs an assault rifle? The NRA and they own the Republicans, bought and paid for. Speaker Ryan, with great sensitivity, has tabled the bill, which simply means he’ll wait for the public furor over Las Vegas to die down and then introduce it.

The lack of compassion is evident in other matters: Republicans just let CHIP insurance for nine million children expire, yet the House has passed a strict—and probably unconstitutional law—covering abortions after 20 weeks. Just when a woman finds out her baby may have serious, life-threatening deformities. Ah yes, compassion. They care more about unborn children than those that are here, sick, starving, uneducated. They now want to re-establish CHIP (how many desperately ill children have died during this lapse) and extend help to children in Puerto Rico but they’ll salve their consciences by cutting Medicare—which isn’t theirs to cut.

The list goes on. I write to my senators, yes I do, but they are both hard-core Republicans and send me platitudes in response. In general, with few exceptions, I find Republicans to be dishonest, devious, greedy, self-serving, and lacking in compassion. They value dollars in their pocket over human life, even in the face of a tragedy that killed 59 and wounded well over 500.

Yes, I’m anti-Republican. And I will do everything in my power to defeat the party in upcoming elections. We as a country are caught in the grip of a party that thinks more of its donors than of its constituents. It’s way past time for a change.
We must not let the memory of Las Vegas die, as we did the outrage of Newton. Take as a slogan, "If not now, when?" and keep the anguish, the horror, the indignation alive. And above all, vote those sobs out of office.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

My Beautiful Black Dog

I missed Black Dog Day a couple of days ago. Can’t remember what was on my mind Sunday—probably not much. But last night, like all our nation, my mind was on the massacre in Las Vegas. I haven’t put that tragedy aside, but first I want to pay tribute to Sophie, my black Bordoodle (deliberate cross of a miniature poodle and a border collie). Why she came out of that cross black, or really black tipped with gray, I’ll never know.

At six, Sophie is into middle age but has lost none of her enthusiasm for chasing squirrels and other creatures that might invade her yard. She’s also enthusiastic about visitors, making her welcome plain. Woe betide the occasional strange she doesn’t take to—I am immediately suspicious of that person. In short, Soph has a zest for life that is a joy to see. And affection? She demands to be first in line, in front of the other two dogs.

Sophie has gotten more protective as she ages. If I go in the main house for dinner, she goes for a bit but then wants to come outside, where she stands guard at the cottage door until I return. Generally, she starts out the night by my bed, though during the night she migrates to the couch or her favorite chair. She’s had a little problem the last two nights. Colin has slept on her couch. When I got up in the middle of the night last night, she quickly appropriated the spot in the bed I’d vacated and expected to return to. It took a little coaxing to move her, and at that I had barely enough space to keep from thinking I would momentarily fall out of bed. But I had a warm body pressing against my legs.

Tonight, Jordan and I sat outside with the three dogs. Lovely evening, but every time Sophie chased a squirrel, Cricket, the older of the two Cavaliers, tagged along with a look on her face that said, “What? What should I do now?” June Bug, the one who’s been under the weather, just ignored them both.

A bonus to our evening happy hour—two blue jays flitted back and forth from the edge of the roof to branches of the oak tree above them. I know they don’t have a nest this time of year, so we were curious. And, oh rare occasion, we saw a hummingbird flitting about the hibiscus. Now if only the cardinal would come back.

I cannot get Las Vegas out of my mind—nor should any of us. I was appalled today to read that this was the 273rd shooting this year, albeit much more spectacular (sorry, can’t verify the statistic, but it sounds reasonable).. Stephen Paddock earned himself the dubious distinction of being responsible for the largest mass shooting in American history, even surpassing the slaughter of Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee. I worry now about who will set out to beat that record—a grisly thought.

Republicans have uniformly deflected calls for tighter gun control by saying, “Not now. This is not the time. This is a time for mourning.” My indignation knows no bounds. If not now, when? It’s appalling to me that these men and women callously ignore the rate of gun deaths in this country compared to other developed (and most undeveloped) countries. It is beyond acceptance with a shrug. We must vote these people out of office, make gun control a major issue in the upcoming congressional elections. The callousness of the Republican response baffles me. They seem, as a collective group, to be totally without compassion.

Even Stephen Scalise did not come forward, he who was critically wounded by an out-of-control gunman last spring. It’s like they never learn, they never sense the mood of the public. Makes me think more about where I want to live next—Canada? All those health benefits, tight gun control (no machine guns). Looks increasingly attractive.

Hmmm. Do you think I could get my family to go with me?

Monday, October 02, 2017

Another Day of Infamy

By now, I doubt there’s an American who has not heard the news: 512 people shot, 58 killed, by a single gunman. We don’t know his motive, probably never will. It seems likely that he was severely emotionally or psychologically damaged, although his family seems unaware of any such history. His father was once on the FBI Most Wanted list—what, if anything, does that have to do with today’s horrific event?

On Facebook today, the mood of the country seemed resigned to “This is the kind of country we live in.” The only developed country that has such mass shootings—though never this large before—on a regular basis: we average two a month. And citizens feel we can do nothing to change it. I reject that thinking. We can and must change it.

Ten days after the shooting of school children in Newton, Connecticut, support for stricter gun control began to fade as the horror of that massacre faded from the public mind. We seem to have short memories for that which is unpleasant or uncomfortable. By ten days later, a CNN poll showed that 52% of Americans opposed stricter gun control.

Will that happen again? Americans right now are stunned horrified. There will undoubtedly be a call for stricter gun control. But will it last? It seems to me we face a choice: Do you want to take a knee with the NFL or do you want to shrug in resignation when a man shoots over 500 people. For me, today’s event dramatizes the choice in characters that faces our nation. While this massacre was not racially motivated, or so we assume, it demonstrates the unleashed violence of our culture, the violence that football players are peacefully protesting.

Change begins at the local level, with each one of us. Will you stand silently by and shrug or will you take a knee?

Sunday, October 01, 2017

October Sunday

Hard to believe that it’s October already but the signs are all around us—Halloween decorations. Someone posted on Facebook that she’d seen Christmas in some stores and it was too early. Shoot! I thought it was too early for Halloween when Jordan brought home pumpkins last week. But tonight her house is awash with skeletons and Halloween drapes that are, I suppose, meant to look like Spanish moss or something creepy. There are Halloween cocktail napkins in the container on my coffee table, a lit pumpkin (no candles, thank you—a plastic pumpkin with electric lights—what is the world coming to?) outside my patio doors, and a lit ghost by my front door. I guess the whole month will be dedicated to the ghostly tradition.

Lazy day today, writing in the morning with a side trip to Central Market. Still looking for a house plant. I appreciate the suggestion of Mike’s Garden Shop or whatever—I’ve been there and like it, but Jordan is not likely to take on an errand that far out of our beaten path. I’m still looking, but came away with some smoked salmon and pickled herring—prizes from Central Market! Also a beautiful, full white mum for a pot outside the front door. I love to shop there—Jordan not so much so, but she was pleased with the mums..

The big day brightener today was the arrival of my oldest child, Colin David. He’s here on business for two days but will take time to visit with us—he’s sleeping on my couch as I write—and to solve a couple of my financial dilemmas. We had a jolly dinner—chicken enchiladas and a new corn recipe with sour cream, cilantro, and red onion.

Welcoming a child home no matter their age is always a special treat, and I am delighted to have him here. I looked forward to long, heartfelt talks—but he retreated to his bed early and declared he’s not much good after 8:30 at night. A child half my age, who wears out before I do! Still I’m delighted to have him here. Every once in a while, I glance over to make sure he’s really here.

I wrote a good bit today—almost but not quite up to my daily goal. Resolve (once again): new routine tomorrow. Exercise followed by desk chores followed by writing. One thing I’m aware that I really need to work on is being more active. Pushing the rollator around the cottage instead of sitting in it is a good start.

Have a happy week everyone.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Happy days are here again

It’s true—the sun was shining today, and it was an absolutely gorgeous day. Jordan asked if I wanted to run errands with her and after first declining so I could stay home and write, I changed my mind and went. We went to Calloway’s looking for a small, low house plant for one that died from lack of water and for mums or something to put in a pot outside my front door. She had gotten gorgeous mums at Central Market for $14.00. At Calloway’s, surprise, they were almost a third again of that amount. And the smallest mums were $14.00. Houseplants were all succulents. We gave up and moved on.

I did some odds and ends on my desk—a couple of people I needed to get in touch with, an unexpected vote-by-mail ballot that I needed to figure out (still haven’t), but I did write 1100 words today and hope to do the same tomorrow.

My cooking experiment was pasta with anchovies and crisp bread crumbs. Since the recipe served four I had to cut it down, and I’m not sure I got the proportions right. I love anchovies but this was a bit much. The idea of crisp breadcrumbs on pasta is great though, and I’ll find other uses for it. Meanwhile, I’ll have to refine the pasta with anchovies before I share it

I cleaned out two shelves in the freezer and found, among other things, a large piece of chocolate Bundt cake. Shared it with Jacob, but it was too much even for both of us and a good-sized piece went back into the freezer.

But if you caught the reference to the Democratic Party celebration song in the title of this post, happy days are not here again. Certainly not for the people of Puerto Rico. I read a post tonight about all the aid the sitting president has dispatched to that island, but I find it hard to reconcile with his increasingly vile tweets about the territory, its leaders, and its people. His scorn for the suffering and death there, while he plays golf at one of his estates, is beyond anything Americans ever envisioned in their nightmares. Apparently, his anger can be traced back to a failed investment, a case wherein he left the island territory a debt of something like $32 million.Like many others, I think San Juan’s mayor is a hero(ine?).

Clearly, Trumpf or tRump, whichever you prefer, has committed many impeachable offenses, and there is an increasing level of outrage across the country. But where is the Congressional outrage, even concern? I find it hard to believe that these two bodies of men and women, elected to serve their country, have not risen up in protest against the slow but steady dismantling of everything we stand for. The Republicans control Congress, and he is their problem because he is the titular head of the party.

Are they so blinded by privilege, power, and bribes that they are willing to sit back and watch our country fall apart under their watch? Is there not a backbone among them except for Senator John McCain, that venerable hero, and two or three women? (Hours after McCain told an interviewer that he is probably dying, Trump ridiculed him for going back on his health care promises—what McCain promised was to work for the best solution for the American people, not to support one heartless bill after another, all born of desperation.) I simply cannot believe I live in a country governed by a system of checks and balances and yet this man, whom many believe to be mentally ill, runs rampant and unchecked.

In my rosy, ideal world, Congress would put country above party. On that note, sweet dreams everyone

Friday, September 29, 2017

A funny kind of a day

I accomplished absolutely nothing useful today, but strangely enough I feel better and happier tonight than I have in days, even weeks. Woke to rain, yet another dreary day, and while I knew I should be grateful for the moisture, my only thought was that I really wanted a sunny day to help me improve my disposition. It didn’t happen—either the sun or the improvement. A friend cancelled a longstanding date, and Jordan was not pleased when I told her about yet another doctor appointment. She’s glad to take me, usually wants to be there, but when I first tell her it’s like another chore added on to the many she already has. And there have been too many appointments lately. And where I thought we would have lunch together, I found she had other arrangements—as well she should. She can’t babysit her mom all the time, when I don’t need it except for sociability reasons.

We had joint appointments for facials at Origins, the store where I’ve bought make-up and skin products for at least a decade, probably longer. The ladies who did them were cheerful and fun, and my mood brightened a bit, though I was baffled by the products used on my face. I think maybe I’ve had one facial in my whole life before. Truth is that when Alicia finished, my face did feel better, fresher. But the mood didn’t last, and I was on the edge of tears on the way home.

But the day began to turn around. Black bean soup for lunch tasted really good. I took care of a few details on my desk and then two a solid two-hour nap. Woke feeling like a new person. Not a mysterious turn-around. I had contacted my doctor to report feeling lethargic with no interest in food and a slight feeling of nausea. As I suspected, he suggested I needed to cut back on one medication, and I think the change kicked in today.

Jordan and I have shared a couple of experimental meals since Christian has had other obligations. We do that to try the things we know he wouldn’t like. Last night’s meal was a bust, maybe partly due to my own ambivalence about food, but I’m delighted to report that tonight’s meal was a success, and I loved every bite.

I fixed scallops in a lemon/basic sauce. Got the scallops just right, with a nice brown on the outside and still tender on the inside. The sauce was butter, white wine, lemon peel and lemon juice, and chopped basil, thickened with cornstarch in a tiny bit of water. I sliced a couple of mushroom that needed to be used and threw them into the mix. Jordan made a salad of leftover canned artichoke hearts, diced Roma tomatoes, avocado, and blue cheese, with lemon juice instead of dressing. You’d have eaten every bite too.  Those recipes are keepers, though the salad, I confess, is an off-the-top-of-my-head one remembered from a salad served me probably fifty years ago at a ranch in the Texas Panhandle—watercress and tomato in lemon juice. I just added blue cheese and avocado.

I have scenes in my mind for the novel I’m working on, and they will be my priority tomorrow. In the last week, I accomplished only 1500 words, but now things are looking up.

I’m a happy (happier?) camper tonight. I feel like I’ve come back from someplace far away.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Another blessed rainy day

Apparently, it rained a lot during the night, because it was wet and humid this morning, but blessedly cool. Don’t laugh—I put a shawl over my shoulders while I worked at my desk this morning. And I loved it. The kind of day you want to curl up with a good book—or with your computer.

I tried the routine thing again this morning. No laundry to fold and hang and put away, but it was still almost 10:30 before I settled down to the Work-in-Progress. Maybe I shaved a little off yesterday’s time, but not much.  I timed how long it takes to do my exercises at the grab bar—and I’m embarrassed to tell you what a small portion of my day it takes. No excuse for not doing them every day.

Once again, my radio program jinx proved true. I was scheduled to be on a Red River Radio (blog talk radio) show today from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Having goofed once before on time zones, I studied the directions carefully—clearly CDT was different from EDT. So at four I settled down at my computer to get a few odds and ends done before the show—only to discover an email from the host asking where I was. I hastily called in. It worked out okay—there was already one other guest author that I knew would be there plus two more I wasn’t expecting. I’m wondering if they weren’t call-in guests. One of them read a poignant piece about the death of a child, but I wasn’t sure if it was fiction or memoir. Moving, nonetheless. Coming late to the party, I never was sure if the one of the others was a poet or novelist and didn’t learn much about the author who I knew would be featured.

I did read a passage from The Color of Fear, and I got to talk a bit about my mysteries, so all was not lost. But I’m still embarrassed about being late.

Christian wasn’t home for supper tonight, so Jordan and I experimented with a dinner we thought he wouldn’t like. We didn’t much like it either. It was a crab/artichoke hearts/mayonnaise spread on bread, topped with tomato slices and sliced Monterrey Jack and broiled. I instantly knew several ways I’d improve it—toast the bread first was a no-brainer. But it was rich, without a real taste of crab, and not really worth the trouble. Not going in that cookbook I keep talking about.

I did write my thousand words for the day this morning and felt good about them. A sudden twist to the story jumped into my mind last night. I sometimes fear that the novel will be all one sudden twist after another. I shall read carefully to make sure those twists all hold together and are headed someplace.

Now time to read someone else’s writing.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Quiet, wet, and rainy

What do you do on a totally unremarkable day, except worry about the state of the world and pray for the people of Puerto Rico? I tried to follow my new regime this morning. Read email and Facebook over a cup of tea, put away a mountain of clean clothes, got myself dressed and ready for the day, did the standing half of my exercises, took care of a few odds and ends on my desk—and it was 10:30 before I could turn my attention to my writing. I had to quit and finish fixing lunch for a guest at 11:15. Yes, I made a little progress, but not enough to brag.

Lunch was the high point of my day. My friend Heather, who is a chef, came for lunch. I always feel obliged to fix a special, creative meal for her, and I learn while doing it. Today as you might have guessed from last night’s blog, it was black bean soup and Italian style tuna sandwiches made with homemade pesto. Good, but as always, I find things I could have done better.

Spilling some of the juice from the beans made for a really stiff soup, though still flavorful. Then I could have sworn I had sour cream but couldn’t find it—soup would have tasted so much better. Jordan confessed to having borrowed it and not yet returned it. The eggs for the sandwich didn’t get quite hard boiled (got to figure out that new hot plate), though Heather, bless her, said that’s how she likes them. And the sandwiches, terrific in flavor, were hard to hold together.

Still we had a good visit. We talk food and restaurants and likes and dislikes. Heather is a former student of mine, an English major gone astray, but since she strayed into food service, who can blame her? She cooks at the Museum of Modern Art and teaches at Sur le Table.

In the afternoon, the sky darkened and the rain came, gently and softly. But then, as I was about to nap, there were two big bursts of thunder, which set Sophie to barking ferociously. Then, protecting me, she even sat in the bathroom while I used the facilities. No more thunder, so no more barking, and it was lovely to nap with rain drumming on the roof.

Tonight I had dinner with Jordan and two boys—a frequent overnight guest whose parents travel a lot. His father is a Congressman, and he has interesting stories to tell about his summers in D.C. Jacob of course invited himself to visit this summer.

For a day in which I didn’t accomplish much, I sure am tired tonight.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Writers have many ways of avoiding that empty computer screen—some clean the bathroom, others scrub floors or wash windows, a few go for long walks (for inspiration, of course), still others dig in the garden or mow the lawn. My preferred method of procrastination is cooking, so today, the day I had marked to charge back into my work-in-progress, I made black bean soup and pesto.

I’ve shared my recipe for black bean soup here before, so I won’t repeat it. Suffice to say it is one of those things that I cannot make without spraying it all over the kitchen—counter, wall, floor. The pesto went a bit better, but I also cannot cook without spilling, so now my relatively clean jeans have a big spot of olive oil on them. In my own defense, I will say that cooking from a seated walker is not easy—lots of standing up and sitting down, Probably good exercise.

I am not faithful about my exercises these days. I think that hospital stay demoralized me in more ways than one, and my walking program has taken a backward slide. Some days I can’t imagine walking unassisted. When I say I can’t walk, everyone from my daughters to the technologist at a mammogram yesterday says to me that I am walking, just not alone. So that remains my goal, and days like today when the difficulty of cooking, making the bed, even getting dressed when you have to wheel from one place to another fill me with determination to reach that goal.

But then my days are so busy they get away from me, and I realize it’s nine o’clock and I haven’t exercised, and I’m too tired. Mind you, these are not strenuous exercises—some are done in my desk chair and some standing at a grab bar in the bathroom. But they are tedious. I need to put myself on a rigorous schedule where exercise comes first in the morning (my best time), followed by time spent on the work-in-progress until I reach my daily goal of a thousand words. Takes will power to do that.

On a bright note, I wrote about 500 words on the WIP today. Number four in the Blue Plate Mysteries. Some days I think it’s great; other days I wonder what fool wrote that drivel. Tentative title: “Murder at the Bus Depot.”

Monday, September 25, 2017

Lessons in Reading and Writing

The other night I blogged about reading a cozy mystery that started off way too slowly. I’m here to apologize, sort of. I may have made a hasty judgment, but there are also lessons to be learned by both readers and authors. The action did start too slowly—I haven’t checked, but I bet it was at least three chapters until we discovered a body. Before that the reader was entertained with a Bible study group’s afternoon of board games and their all-day picnic. What I as a reader didn’t realize was that this was the fifth book in an established series, and many readers already felt comfortable with the characters. So maybe they were more interested in board games and picnics.

Lesson for readers: don’t start with the fifth book in a series. Go back to the first.

Lesson for authors: even if your series has an established audience, get right into the action.

After the discovery of the body, this novel, which I’m still not naming out of respect for the author, took off in a hearty manner. There were clues and red herrings, plot twists and turns and blind alleys. I was hooked to the extent that I read the last page reluctantly—I liked these people and liked being in their world (even if they did sing unfamiliar hymns scrolled on a screen—first time I ever heard a logical explanation of that: when singing, people raised their eyes heavenward instead of being alone, locked into the pages of a hymnal).

Long story short: I ordered the first book and found, to my joy, that the action started almost immediately. So now I’m a follower of the series.

Lesson for authors: series really matter a lot. If you can create a world that readers are drawn into, feel comfortable in, you’ve got return readers. I hope to capitalize on that in my future writing. I have seven books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, three in the Blue Plate Café series, and two now in the Oak Grove Mysteries. I’m well more than halfway through the fourth Blue Plate book, and I think I’ll stick to my three series for the foreseeable future.

A final note: Kudos to my unnamed author for thinking to set a mystery series in a Bible study group. The unexpected is one element of the cozy mystery—who expects all those murders to happen in Cabot Cove? Similarly, who expects a Bible study group to be involved in solving murders. Nice thinking out of the box.

Excuse me now. I’m in the midst of a really good mystery.