Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mood swings—we all have them

Sophie lost her chew toy last night
Cricket and June Bug proclaim innocence, but if you look
between Juney's paws, on the right, you'll see the purloined chew
Last night I was in a funk, and I didn’t know whether to attribute it to the weather (a good possibility), a lack of major excitement in my life at the moment, or a couple of awkward social encounters. When I talked to dinner pal Betty tonight, she had the same complaint. We decided we were blessed with each other as longtime friends and we’ll keep it that way.

Betty and I went exploring to a new restaurant tonight, Tina’s on the Bluff. We turned off Weatherford too early, didn’t realize Bluff doesn’t go all the way through, and wandered aimlessly for a bit. I was astounded by all the new apartment construction—where do all these people come from? A friend told me 40 families a day move to Fort Worth—they must all move into brand new apartments, because they are going up everywhere.

After a telephone call and some scribbled notes, we finally found Tina’s. No parking lot, only on the street, so it was a bit of a rough access for me on my walker. Once in the courtyard, I was confronted by three round steps—until Betty spotted the ramp.

We ate on the patio. Typical Tex-Mex menu, but what I liked about it was that it wasn’t overwhelming with tons of dishes. Just the standards (wish they had spinach enchiladas). We each had a sour cream chicken enchilada and sides of guacamole and refried beans. All good.

We ate in the patio. Somehow, when I saw an article about restaurants with patios, I got the notion this was near that new Uptown development and had a river view. Well, it’s close to Uptown but the river is too far away, and the patio, enclosed by arched brick walls, doesn’t have much view.

But it was good, solid food, wait staff was pleasant, and now that we know how to find it, we’ll go back. Betty thinks it would especially be a great place for lunch.

The Colonial golf tournament has started just a mile or so from our house—it has a fancier name, for the corporate sponsor, but it changes from year to year and it’s easier just to say Colonial. For me, in past years, it has always meant avoiding the terrible traffic congestion. When the children were little and we’d drive by, I’d say, “Look at the silly men chasing a little white ball.” Golf is not my game.

For Jordan, Colonial means party time. She will be there all day every day, Christian would, but he and Jacob leave on a 5:30 a.m. bus for Jacob’s two-day fifth-grade trip to San Antonio. Jacob is excited that his dad is one of the dads on the trip, and I told Christian to treasure it because it won’t be long before Jacob will be appalled that one of his parents is going on an activity with him.

Back to Colonial—Jordan has been preparing for this as though she’s going out of town and leaving me alone for a month. I’ve had advice to stock up on groceries (well, I mostly do that anyway but Betty will shop for a few things Friday), arrange social engagements (I do that anyway, and now two happy-hour visitors are roped into helping feed dogs), lock the doors and turn on the alarm (I do that anyway). Of course, there will be something we’ve both forgotten, but bless her for taking such good care of me. I think I’ll survive quite nicely. And, no, I won’t watch it on TV.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Walking, walking, to….anywhere

I dream about walking all the time. Last night, I suddenly walked across a room, said to a friend, “Look at me!” and walked everywhere thereafter. My steps were sure and strong. In reality, I can take two faltering, shaky steps without the walker, and that’s all. My surgeons is not worried about this at all, says someday I’ll find myself in the kitchen and the walker is elsewhere and I’ll walk (I didn’t ask how I got to the kitchen if I didn’t have the walker with me.). He should know, and I suppose he’s right, but four months after surgery I’m impatient.

The surgeon also advises against a cane. He says a cane doesn’t give enough of a support base, and if you fall, you have to rely on your wrist to stop the fall. Most of us don’t have wrists that strong. I used to use a cane as a security stick before the fall, but it does no good now, so I take comfort in his advice. A friend had extensive back surgery last week and walked her cul de sac (with a walker) yesterday. I know I couldn’t do that less than a week after surgery, and it makes me feel timid, scared, inadequate. Jordan repeated the surgeon’s words, “Do not compare yourself to others. Your surgery was different from all others.” But the comparison is inevitable.

I do worry that it’s lack of confidence that keeps me tied to the walker. With it, I’m more confident than I was without it before surgery. Which to me means I could probably walk better if I’d just let go and do it. But when I do, the results are shaky, and I’ve been cautioned so often about the terrible things that will result if I fall again. It’s obviously not a case of pick yourself up and try again. There might be no second chance.

Feeling puckish tonight—love that word. I think it’s the rainy weather. Tomorrow will be better—the weather and my mood. A bright spot tonight: Jordan and I are eating leftovers—bean salad on toast and cucumber/avocado salad. But she, sweet thing, planted and nurtured some leaf lettuce for me, and I will make wilted lettuce, like Mom used to. All I had to say was “wilted lettuce,” and Christian said no thank you. Irony: he loves green beans seasoned the same way—bacon drippings and vinegar. He’s not home tonight for supper, and Jordan has promised to try it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Baseball Hero Ate Broccoli and other notes

After an uncertain season, Jacob’s Little League team won their play-off game last night. He came out to the cottage afterwards, bearing a hot dog on a plate, and I gave him the buttered broccoli I had fixed. I cooked it out here partly because he likes the way I cook it—mushy beyond belief—and partly because his dad really does not like broccoli, so I thought I’d spare Christian the cooking odor. Jacob ate the whole crown by himself. So wonderful to find a vegetable he likes. Tonight, he came out when my dinner company was just leaving. Jacob was polite and cute, and when I turned around he had disappeared. I called his phone and asked if he had something on his mind, and he said no. I guess he just came to be here, and I’m so sorry I missed that opportunity.

My dinner guest, a colleague from TCU, brought me a chopped sandwich and potato salad from Heim’s Barbecue, a relative newcomer to town. I had been there once really liked the bbq and was overboard about the potato salad. It’s twice roasted potatoes, far superior to the potato salad usually offered in barbecue joints. Good dinner tonight.

I had an intimidating lunch guest today. She didn’t mean to be, but Heather is a lunch-time lead cook at Café Modern in the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art. (I’ve been mistakenly promoting her to sous chef.) She’s also an old friend, who brought lunches and conversation to me when I couldn’t get out. I figured it was my turn to cook, but what do you fix for someone who daily cooks in an upscale restaurant? I settled on bean salad on toast, a recipe I’d found in Bon Appetit, I think.

Dishes on toast are quite the thing these days, and it makes me smile. When I was a child, my mom frequently served asparagus on toast or mushrooms on toast. She would not, I admit, have thought of beans on toast. I wanted cannellini beans but settled for pintos. I doubt my thoroughly midwestern mom even knew what a pinto was. But I made an oil and vinegar dressing, with lots of assorted herbs, mostly what I had on hand or in planter boxes, and soaked the beans overnight. Today I salted them, which made a huge difference. They were delicious. Served with a tangy avocado and cucumber and feta salad. Quite good.

The result of all this food activity is that I have more scrumptious leftovers than I can deal with, and I will be out for several meals in the next couple of days. Jordan and I thought we’d have a girls’ dinner tomorrow and make a dent in some of it, but Christian has a church meeting and Jacob has another play-off game. I’ll be eating leftovers alone. That’s okay.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A blog out of thin air

I was chastised, gently, today for no blog last night, though I explained it was not laziness but lack of anything significant to say. So tonight I find myself in the same position but feeling obliged to write. It was a pleasant day but not one that brought any remarkable events or even things to comment on.

I wanted to go to church, mostly because the anthem was the Lord’s Prayer, but my chauffeurs were out late last night and slept in. This morning I heard the anthem was not sung by our choir but a visiting group, so I don’t feel so bad. I intended to listen, got busy with something else, and forgot to turn it on. My day was working—reading a novel for a competition, working on the neighborhood newsletter, and stealing a bit of time for the mystery I started last night.

And cooking. My weekends lately are my special cooking times. This week we decided to do a pork chop dish in the crockpot for Sunday dinner. I have neither the crockpot nor a convenient place to plug it in, so I gave Jordan the meat, soup, and instructions. We planned dinner for seven, but then Jacob’s baseball game of yesterday, cancelled due to rain, was called for seven tonight. Jordan stayed home, and she and I ate in the cottage. The meat was flavorful but dry—not an experiment I’ll try again. I’m leery of pork chops just because they are usually dry. Don’t like a baked chicken breast for that reason either. But our asparagus tonight was wonderful—I’ve been following an old friend’s recipe and topping it with a mixture of sour cream, a bit of mayo, and lemon juice, then finished with buttered bread crumbs.

Jacob is just back from an overnight trip with his grandparents and cousins to Dinosaur Valley in Glen Rose. He said it was interesting, fun, and he wants to go back. Score! It’s hard to impress a ten-year-old. Tonight, we’re waiting to hear if his team won—if so, they have another game; if not, praise be, the season is over. Talk about mixed wishes.

I could rant about state politics, as if national doings are not bad enough. But I saw a suggestion tonight that Abbot, Patrick, and others are using the focus on Washington to slip through odious legislation as the Texas legislature ends its session—principally LGBT amendments to existing bills, a sneaky way to pass laws. They have now cancelled health care assistance for disabled children and passed new, restrictive anti-abortion laws despite a slap-down by SCOTUS for the legislation that closed most of the women’s health care clinics in the state. And then there’s Daniel Patrick’s ridiculous bathroom bill. I like the slogan that says, “Flush Daniel Patrick.”

I have never felt threatened in a public restroom, but I imagine if I were born a male, identified and dressed as a female, and was forced to use a men’s bathroom, I’d rather pee my pants. And all these bills are in the name of Christianity. So wrong.

I read an interesting open letter from the pastor of a small church to Franklin Graham, yes, Billy’s son. The gist was that the pastor didn’t know what Bible Graham was reading, but it wasn’t the one he read—and he quoted chapter and verse. The distortions that pass a Christianity these days horrify me. And Jesus weeps

There, I’ve rambled enough for a non-eventful day.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

No blog tonight

No blog, nothing to ponder or ruminate on. An ordinary but nice lazy day, cooking (corned beef hash and deboning a half leftover chicken to make salad), reading, lots of reading, and dinner with a good friend.

I had read a piece about new places with patios, so we set out for one—reservations needed, nothing available until 8:15; next one, 45 minute wait, no seats at the bar, and I didn’t want to stand for that long. We had good hamburgers at The Tavern, a perpetual favorite of mine.

Finished Killer Characters by Ellery Adams and thoroughly enjoyed it, recommend it. I decided to check on Amazon for earlier titles in the Baywriters series. One thing I like is that if you’ve already ordered the book—casual reading does run together in one’s mind—they’ll tell you. I had read several of the first titles in the series but ordered one I hadn’t read. And I’m still reading the book to report on for a competition—it’s slow going, because it’s a beautifully done book about a subject I avoid if I can. ‘Nough said.

Looking forward to Monday, when I resolve to start editing, rewriting the book I have in very rough draft. In the meantime, I’m piddling. That’s what one should do on the weekend.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Friday, May 19, 2017


Sophie in her favorite position
showing off her new haircut
A friend of mine belongs to a writers’ group that took on the subject of happiness. She posted one response on her blog, where I read it. I was immediately intimidated. The writer found happiness in places that made sense to me—nature and serving causes other than oneself are two I identified with.

But he also listed music, big ideas, and books. The music is classical, the big ideas come from books on science, philosophy, spirituality, psychology, etc. I enjoy classical music, especially the romanticists, but my real joy is in the folk music of the’60s and ‘70s. Books? I am never happier than when I am caught up in a good mystery. Reading Jung was painful in college—I’d never do it today. In short, I felt like a shallow person who never stretches her mind. My college professor to this day describes me as a “closet intellectual.”

But then I had an epiphany: I was doing what I do too frequently—comparing myself to others and coming up short. I need to recognize that we are all different, not better or worse, but just different. And I, by gosh, need to stand up and be proud of who I am.

No, I don’t find joy in classical music except occasionally being swept away by Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, or Rachmaninoff. I don’t go to concerts—neither my ear nor my musical education have taught me enough to appreciate the music fully, and I get fidgety. I find joy in Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, Joan Collins. I don’t read nonfiction except when something catches my eye—a memoir, an exploration of faith, etc. I’m pretty much a folk music and mystery gal.

One thing he didn’t mention was food. I find great joy in food—cooking it and eating it. I had a food day yesterday: my love of kosher food came out when I had herring with sour cream for lunch, a rare treat I haven’t enjoyed in a long time. For dinner I had a buttered, boiled potato, sautéed zucchini, and a lamb chop with a sauce of olive oil, scallions, minced garlic, a good squeeze of anchovy paste, and a bit of white wine. So good I had to defrost a couple of baguette slices to sop up the rest of the juice. Yes, I had a recipe, but also yes, I fiddled with it and simplified it, leaving out chicken broth and a couple of other things. The recipe served four, and I was doing one lonely but succulent loin lamb chop. Living alone and often eating alone in the evening, I think it’s important not to grab a bowl of cereal but to have a full, balanced, enjoyable meal.

One thing he mentioned that is beyond my reach—his joy in his partner, his wife one presumes from the context. I have built a happy, fulfilling, wonderful life, but a small corner of me regrets that I am sailing into old age without an emotional and physical partner. My four children and I are close and loving, but they are each married and their first loyalty is to their spouses. I reflect on Browning’s “Rabbi Ben Ezra”: “Grow old along with me/The best is yet to be/The last of life for which the first was made.” That’s the vision I had as a young, starry-eyed girl. Life taught me otherwise. I do not regret any decision in my life, but that lingering regret remains. If I ever write a memoir, I’ll have to come to grips with it. (I might defend my lack of intellectuality by pointing out that quoting Browning suggests my English Ph.D. was not totally wasted.)

The important thing is that I do find joy and happiness in life almost all the time, and I’m grateful for that. And I think in some small way I make the world a better place—through my children, if not my writing.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Launch Day for a New Book

Oh, happy day! Kelly O’Connell is back. Well, sort of. Keisha tells the story in my new novella, The Color of Fear. You can find it as an ebook on a wide variety of digital platforms—Kindle, Kobo, B&N, Sony, Apple and others. In print, it’s available from Amazon.

The Color of Fear marks my return to mystery fiction and the Kelly O’Connell series after an absence of more than a year. Some of you know that two major, traumatic events kept me from my computer: complicated hip surgery, which followed several months of undiagnosed but excruciating pain, and the move from my three-bedroom house to a 600 square-foot cottage. Surgery in January took away the pain, and I am feeling strong and healthy, but I can’t yet walk without a walker and am not allowed to drive a car. I remain highly optimistic that those things get a little closer every day.

The move to the cottage was my choice and remains my delight. I love my little hideaway and am almost perfectly comfortable with everything I need—living area, office, fancy bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen area. Only the kitchen leaves me wanting more. Because of zoning restrictions, I have neither stove nor oven, but I am learning to make do with an amazing magnetic hot plate—and the oven in the main house where my daughter and her husband and son now live.

As I told the doctor recently, I’m writing, I’m cooking, and I’m wearing make-up again. All sure signs of recovery. The Color of Fear is the first thing I’ve written from start to finish since the surgery, except for blogs.

The Color of Fear also marks a return for Kelly O’Connell, who took a year or more out to have a baby—Cynthia Grace Shandy. Keisha kept the real estate office running, so it’s only fitting that this time Keisha narrates the short tale wherein Kelly and her family live under the threat of infant Gracie’s kidnapping. The story serves as a reprise of many of the previous novels in the series, as Keisha, in her search for the kidnapper, recalls Kelly’s earlier adventures.

Keisha remains outspoken and independent and her voice is clear and strong as she balances her need to protect Kelly and her family with her love for new husband, José Thornberry. Some but not all of Kelly’s friends and foes from previous stories appear here, along with such new characters as Clyde, the guard dog, and Cowboy, the homeless guy with a soft heart.

I hope you’ll all welcome Kelly and her clan back into your hearts.

Next on my agenda? A sequel to The Perfect Coed. First draft is written, and I’m about to begin editing, aiming for publication in September.

To those of you who are my readers, thanks for sticking with me for my year out, probably one of the most difficult years of my life. I’m so glad to be back with you.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Garden of Friendship

Hibiscus Jordan planted by my cottage
She had to trim a tree to get them enough sun for blooms
Several women have said things to me in recent months that amounted to, “You have so many friends. I don’t have friends like you do.” I think they don’t realize you must be a friend to have friends, and you must work at friendships.

They really are like plants in a garden. You cultivate them, from planting the seed—or idea—to nourishing and feeding often. One woman (she’ll recognize herself, so please know you are not alone in this) said a new widow near her mentioned going out to dinner, but it hadn’t happened. I pointed out it wouldn’t unless she took herself over to the woman’s house, knocked on the door, and said, “Let’s go to dinner.”

Over the years, I have had countless dinner parties in my home, mostly small but always people I wanted to spend time with. One friend said something about my guests reciprocating—that old, “If I entertain you, then you owe me.” No, they don’t always reciprocate, but it takes a lot of rudeness to get yourself off my friend/guest list. I persevere, and I’ve decided most people appreciate it. They may not have time to entertain, or interest in cooking, or it may just not occur to them. I don’t take it as a personal affront.

A friendship I cultivated: a young woman (from my perspective) who was once a work-study student in my office. She went to work in a writing-related field, but then moved away. Suddenly she was back, having gone to cooking school and worked in a vineyard. Voila! We had two things of interest in common: books and food. She’s a sous chef at a major restaurant in town. We met occasionally for lunch, and she kindly brought me lunch more than once when I was housebound. Now that I’m cooking, I’ve invited her for lunch—a bit intimidating, but I think I can handle it. Just an example of the two-sided work that goes into a friendship.

When I meet someone I think is interesting or has interests like mine, I’m not shy about inviting them over, maybe first for coffee or wine on the patio. I do cook dinner for friends some, but it’s limited in the cottage with sparse cooking facilities. But entertaining is a great way to make and keep friends.

Letter-writing has become almost obsolete in this day of social media, and I’m the first to admit that I communicate by email and Facebook. Using those tools, I’ve re-connected with friends from my childhood, including the girls who grew up next door. They live in northern Michigan, but one visits me when she’s in Texas—what a rare treat! I also have a couple of friends I’ve kept in constant touch with for fifty years or more. Some are not the frequent communicators I am, and I have to realize that silence doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve forgotten me…nor I them.

Tonight I had dinner at Press Café with Betty, my longtime dinner pal. For years now, we have made it a habit to go out to dinner on Wed. nights. When I was housebound, she brought me dinner. But now we’re exploring new restaurants and having a ball. Press Café is not new, but we both love the fish sandwich—except that it’s hard to eat and I got half down my shirt. But Betty is yet another example of a friend—we work at it, we make sure to keep up with each other. And I know she’s there if I need someone.

Tend to your friends, folks.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Gratitude for a marriage gone awry

Fifty-three years ago today I stood in a garden on Osteopathy Avenue in Kirksville, Missouri and exchanged vows with the late Joel Alter. We didn’t care that only a thin line of bushes separated us from the goat pens nor that the music was a rented tiny organ—I don’t even remember what was played. A friend had made my dress, and I kept it for many years before giving it away. We honeymooned, with good friends, one night at the local Holiday Inn.

We were happy for fifteen years. He built his career as a surgeon, bought us my “doctor’s wife” house, drove fancy cars, and, best of all, adopted four children. I often think of those as my golden years. They were followed by two miserable years while the marriage was crumbling. A failed marriage is never a one-way street, and I’m not writing tonight about recriminations (oh, yes, I have a long list but, probably, so did he). We divorced in 1982.

This is not a letter about blame. It’s about gratitude. If I hadn’t married Joel, I wouldn’t have the four wonderful children I have. I wouldn’t be in Texas, where I’ve been for 52 years. And I wouldn’t be eating kosher food, which I love. Joel taught me a lot of things but probably none more important than an exuberant joy in life. He loved to dance; I was a lousy dancer, but I could dance with him. He loved animals, and I caught his love, particularly of dogs. He cared about people, and I am more open and concerned about others than I might have been if he were not in my life.

A friend looked at me today and said in pure astonishment, “If he hadn’t brought you to Texas, we never would have known each other”

But the biggest thing Joel ever did for me was to leave me after 17 years of marriage, 20 years together. He reduced me to tears one night shortly before by telling me he’d take the kids, the house, everything but me. Of course, I wouldn’t give up my children. At the time, I didn’t see his leaving as a gift. I was in my early 40s, with four children ages 12-6, and I was scared, no terrified, about the future. It turned out just fine, thank you.

I have come to appreciate that great gift. If he had stayed, my children probably wouldn’t be the well-balanced, happy people they are, family people, contributing to their world. I wouldn’t have had the career I did nor would I have become the writer I call myself today. And I wouldn’t have built the wonderful life I have—friends, church, a secure home, great memories of the last thirty-plus years.

So thanks to Joel, though he didn’t intend his leaving as a gift, and his life didn’t turn out to be the happy days he expected. I have carried Joel with me, all these years, in a small place in my heart, in too many dreams, in some of the better ways I react to people and the world.

When people moan about divorce or how hard it is on the children or some such nonsense, I just smile and say, “Not always.”

Thanks, Joel.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The details of daily living

Have you noticed how the details of daily living get in the way of the things you really want to do? I don’t mean cooking and cleaning the kitchen and laundry and making the bed. I mean reorganizing your closet—or your files, both of which have been heavy on my mind lately. And yet I’m aware that doing them will take from my writing time, the business I devote my days to.

The gas company is complicating life. They are replacing our meter and digging huge holes on our property. We sit on caliche, so I know it’s hard digging for them. Friday, I couldn’t go grocery shopping with Jordan—our weekly outing—because they had our driveway and the neighbor’s blocked, and she couldn’t drive up here to get me. Today a friend was coming for lunch but called from the street with the same problem. “I’ll go bring you lunch,” she said, but I told her to come on up the driveway on foot, and I’d make tuna salad. No sooner had I opened the tuna than they moved their equipment and told her they’d keep the drive free if we wanted to go out. Too late. We had tuna, avocado, pickles, and tomatoes. And probably a better visit than we would have had in a restaurant. Tomorrow, same story, yet another verse. I hope they’ll free the driveway so I can go out to lunch.

Late this afternoon, Jordan came in and announced she was here to work on my closet. I dropped everything and joined her—mostly as a spectator, since reaching clothes in the closet is a real stretch for me—no pun intended. We didn’t discard much—three things and a bunch of hangers—but she pulled all the spring and summer tops to one side, and put the pants on a low bar where I can reach them. I folded winter-like pants and put in a drawer where I’d discovered space. For a long time, I couldn’t bend enough to open the drawers on the buffet or whatever that serves as bedroom drawers for me. Today I could—the drawers are long, so I have to do one handle and then the other until I get it open enough to pull the center out evenly.  But now I can bend enough to do that. Every time I do something new, I feel inordinately proud.

I’m almost afraid to comment on what lovely weather we’re having, for fear if I enjoy it too much it will go away (is that an old-fashioned Puritanical superstition or not?). But tonight, after closet organizing, we sat on the patio with wine. So pleasant, it was seven before we came in and I fixed my dinner. Spinach fettucine with butter, lemon, garlic, anchovy and lots of shaved pecorino.

MY goal tonight is to proof one more short story—more about that later. But now I must get to it.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother’s Day compassion—NOT

Mother’s Day should be about love and compassion, right? Please tell that to our legislative leaders, both national and state. While it was a mind-boggling time—historic, to use a more proper term—in Washington last week, the Texas legislature did not get left out of the party.

Currently a handful of right-wing extremist representatives are using parliamentary procedure to block 100 bills because they aren’t getting their way. One of the bills blocked has to do with cutting Teas’ way-too-high maternity mortality rate. Particularly appropriate on Mother’s Day. Sure, it’s called serving for the good of the state.

And state officials have found a swell way to turn young immigrants into haters of the U.S. and terrorists. Just lock them up in a for-profit juvenile facility thinly disguised as a day-care center. Really, guys? You want us to believe that? It is so wrong on so many levels, among them the fact that for-profit prisons should be outlawed. We encourage crime by making it a source of profit—there’s no direct money in educating youngsters and leading them away from a path of crime. So, let’s make a buck!

Second, the immigration law in Texas is harsh enough, tearing children from their mothers’ skirts (often, literally). But to put them in a for-profit incarceration center goes beyond any sort of human decency. Yes, I believe our governor has signed that one into law.

As he did the sanctuary city law which forbids city governments and law enforcement officers from ignoring Texas’ harsh immigration laws. The tiny border two of El Cenzio is suing the state government over the law. The mayor refuses to turn in his fellow citizens. Resist, he says, is the right thing to do.

This may seem like a non sequitur, but I assure you it’s not. Last night my oldest granddaughter went to her high school prom. Her father, mother, and younger sister checked into a hotel for a Mother’s Day getaway and left the keys to the house to Maddie She was encouraged to invite her close friends, boys and girls, for the after-prom all-night party. My son’s reasoning? “I’d rather have them in my house than in a cheap bar or hotel.” His stipulation: they collected all car keys (Maddie knew where they were) and the kids were forbidden to touch his liquor (he’s a connoisseur of fine Scotch). They didn’t hide liquor, jewelry, anything, just opened the houses to the kids.

We’re waiting to hear a report, but I’m betting on Maddie. I have faith in her to do the right thing and to have chosen her friends well. How does this relate to the Texas or national legislatures? I believe if you trust people, they will live up to your expectations. If you distrust them, they think, “Why the hell not?” and do what you suspected them of doing.

I cannot fathom this hatred of immigrants, particularly Mexicans and Muslims. Texas, of course, is focused on Mexican immigrants. They are, we’re told, criminals, rapists, the dregs of society. Funny, some of the Mexican-Americans I’ve met are the nicest people—kind, caring, raising their families to be good citizens. In California, farmers are crying because their crops are rotting in the fields—the immigrant workers are afraid to come to work. Not all immigrants can afford the time and cost of citizenship—a factor no one considers apparently.

If we continue this ban, think how many service industries will be affected. The hospitality industry will take a huge hit—no one to clean hotel rooms, wait tables, tend bar. Who will clean your house and your office? There are a thousand other jobs done by Mexicans. Don’t tell me those jobs belong to Americans—most Americans won’t do a lot of them.

I think we need to get a grip on this immigration nonsense. By all means, deport any known and proven criminals and terrorists. Stop deporting innocent people or those with minor infractions in the long-ago past. Sure, it’s hard to detect terrorists, but we have tremendous law enforcement tools and techniques. Put them to work. And use a bit of compassion. And outlaw for-profit prisons.

Happy Mother’s Day. Sorry for the rant. Maybe I shouldn’t read the news.

PS: My son’s house was just as he’d left it. Yay, Maddie!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cleaning and cooking—woman’s work isn't done even on Mother's Day

It’s either a sign that I’m back in the real world or I’ve lost my mind, but lately I’ve been cleaning drawers in my kitchen, drawers in my office, bags of junk stuck away in my closet. When I moved in to the cottage nine months ago, I was in pain and not caring about much else. I left the move to my children, mostly Jordan, and they brought what they thought I needed, put it wherever it fit. The longer I lived here, the more drawers became a jumble and I missed things, mostly cooking utensils. I’m gradually taking my life—and my drawers—back.

Today I found note pads—I always need something to jot a note on. Pencils and pens, always needed. But lots of things I didn’t need—three way plug adaptors, drawer pulls and knobs for the house kitchen, not mine; hardware for my flexible screens, Tools. I sent much back into the house, kept what I needed and could find a place for—including screw drivers. They went in a bottom kitchen drawer with a bit more room.

But this was also a cooking day. I made dinner for Jordan, Christian, and friend Amye. Meatloaf, Aunt Reva’s asparagus, Louella’s rice. The meatloaf recipe comes from my weekly dining pal, Betty. She and her husband own the Star Café on the North Side, and this meatloaf is served at lunch every Wednesday at the Star. Aunt Reva was a treasured friend whose ranch/B&B we visited often. We were considered family, and often ate with Reva and her husband, Charles, on the porch overlooking a small lake, while we stayed in a nearby cabin. And Louella? I’ve never met her. She was stepmother to my high school friend, Barbara, to whom I am still close. Louella sure knew how to cook.

And tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I have beautiful roses on my desk, and I spent a couple of hours today filling out the registration and medical history for 23andme, the DNA testing service, another Mother’s Day gift. Tomorrow Christian will cook a big breakfast, we’ll go to church, and then a short break (nap for me)—followed by a meal at Joe T.’s. I haven’t been there since I first lost mobility, about a year ago, so this will be a treat. And also break my routine. The more I vary my routine, the better.

Life is looking good.

The End

Friday, May 12, 2017

Who am I?

Excited tonight because Jamie and his wife enrolled me in 23and me, the DNA testing service, as a Mother’s Day gift. I’ve been struggling with registering tonight and stalling on the DNA sample. So anxious about doing it right. I’ve always thought I was half Scottish and half German, but who knows what I’ll find out? We always thought Jamie is half Greek, half Chinese—and his results came up pretty much that way except there was a bit of Native American in there. Puzzling, if you know the supposed story of his biological parents and how they met.

Today I sent my novella off to the formatter—doing that correctly is beyond me. I’ve made a mess of it before. But I also discovered the beginnings of a new Blue Plate Café Mystery that I thought I had abandoned and then the computer ate it. I abandoned it during the time I was feeling so rotten, with intense hip pain, and walked away from several projects. Now I’m picking up several of them, but I thought this one was lost. My memory is that I thought it wasn’t going anywhere. But today I thought the basic premise had real promise for a good mystery set in a small town. My list of books I want to write grows out of bounds.

We are suffering through the replacement of our gas meter. It has been back by my French doors for years (well before the French doors) and the meter reader has supposedly come into the yard to read it. I’ve almost never seen such a person, so I worry a bit about what they read. Now they’re switching to self-reading meters and putting them closer to the street, but still aesthetically placed. The crew has really been polite, helpful, and creative about placement. Today they were working, digging yet another huge hole in the front yard and a hole in the back for the new meter. I had to keep the dog in. And I didn’t get to go grocery shopping with Jordan because she couldn’t get her SUV into the driveway to pick me up. She got my groceries for me and even remembered the “Hello, Dolly” bar that I like for dessert.

I spent much of the day reading and finishing Carolyn Hart’s Walking on My Grave. Fun to once again be in Broward’s Rock and at the Death on Demand Bookstore with Annie, Max, and their friends. Tried to call up a new book I ordered and can’t find it on Kindle—a mystery to resolve. Next project is to proof my own short story collection.

Busy but happy days.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The inflexible routines of aging

Excuse me if I digress for a moment to say how blessed I am. For part of this morning and the early afternoon, Jamie was here, nose buried in his computer. But he was here, in the same room where I was working. Tonight ten-year-old Jacob is on my couch, buried in his iPhone while I work at my computer. But he’s here. (He’s so wrapped up in whatever’s on his phone that he didn’t even blink when I took the photo above.) It brings me great joy to have them here. I don’t care that they don’t carry on conversations or pay attention to me. It’s enough that they are here with me.

Jamie’s visit caused me to reflect on how we get set into routines, particularly as we age. I think we find comfort in doing the same thing at the same time every day. I eat breakfast, such as it is, between eight and nine every morning; lunch is between eleven-thirty and twelve-thirty, and diner is sixish. Living not exactly with the Burtons but not far from them, one of the adjustments I’ve had to make is that they don’t eat dinner at six. Sometimes they don’t eat dinner until eight or later. Hard for an old lady to change.

On those treasured days when Jamie comes over from the Dallas area, we go to breakfast. The goal is always nine o’clock. This morning it was at least ten before we were settled in the restaurant, and I was so ravenous I ate a double order of corned beef hash (with a lot of ketchup). We hadn’t been home long when I looked at the clock and realized it was nearly noon. Then, suddenly, it was almost two, and Jamie had to rush back to Frisco to take one of my granddaughters to an art lesson. He literally ate leftover chicken-fried steak out of his hand as he ran out the door, and I ate a light lunch of leftover tuna salad and a bit of smoked salmon with cream cheese.

I napped, as I always do, but later than usual. See? There’s my routine again. I nap about two, read in bed for five to fifteen minutes. Today, it was almost three before I crawled in bed. I slept so hard I thought I was in bed for the night and woke with a start at four-thirty to scramble to make an appetizer for neighbor Margaret who was coming for happy hour. By five, we were on the patio, sipping wine and eating hummus that I’d topped with chopped onion, cucumber, and tomato (oops, forgot the feta).

And so I didn’t eat dinner—leftover lamb, cold, with cherry tomatoes and gherkins--until almost eight. I’m clearly off my routine—and it’s a great thing. But tonight, as usual, ten is my bedtime.

I’m not sure if routines are a good thing. I think my mind tells me flexibility is good, but my body votes for routine—with such strong votes as hunger and sleepiness. I hate to admit it’s age, but I think maybe that’s at least part of it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Chicken-fried steak

The late Jerry Flemmons, longtime travel editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, was not just an aficionado of Texas food, particularly chicken-fried steak. He was a crusader. He once wrote an essay featuring the late, lamented Massey’s in which he discussed the various abominations that masquerade as chicken-fried steak. He was scornful of gourmets who insisted the meat should sit on the gravy, not under it. He decried people who put ketchup on their chicken-fried. I wish I had the essay at hand, because Jerry spun it out at a masterful length. Clearly, he knew what chicken-fried steak should be—and he found it at Massey’s. When TCU Press published his book of essays, columns, whatever, Plowboys, Cowboys, and Slanted Pig, the author picture showed Jerry in front of Massey’s. And we held the launch party there, serving guests small bites of chicken fried (I once knew a man who said the word “steak” was redundant; he always ordered chicken fried—period, end of sentence).

I had fork-tender chicken-fried steak for dinner tonight. Fork-tender is an overused description of the dish, but this honestly was. I never once picked up my knife. The serving was so large a friend and I shared it, and I still brought home a good-sized portion. The meat was accompanied by terrific mashed potatoes—rich with butter and cream. As a side, we had roasted creamed corn and declined a second side—too much food.

But, ah, dessert. No name for this dish that I know of, but it was delicious. A flour tortilla, deep fried, crispy, and redolent with cinnamon. Topped by sautéed bananas in a sauce (butter?) and a scoop of vanilla ice cream dusted with cinnamon. I almost never eat desserts that are not chocolate, and I never eat ice cream, but I devoured my half of this, scraped the tiny bits off the dish

Where was all this? At Horseshoe Hill, a self-proclaimed cowboy cafeteria in the Stockyard District of North Fort Worth. The restaurant was established several years ago by Grady Spears, well known Fort Worth chef. It’s nicely touched with cowboy atmosphere, but not too much.

A good place to discover. A small restaurant, nice and quiet on a Wednesday night.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

A non-event day

Here’s a touch of lightness for a non-event day. As I posted the other day, I finally, reluctantly got rid of Sophie’s chair which just didn’t fit in the cottage. Jordan’s friend (and mine), Chandry, had some of the men at her business pick it up. I asked if anyone was going to use it, and she said, “Yes, me. I’m going to put it in the cabana for the dogs.” So, here’s Lulu, sitting in Sophie’s chair (note on dirty it is). Shh. Don’t tell Soph. Without her chair, Sophie has taken to sleeping on my bed, which is okay with me Once I get in bed, she doesn’t stay long. Except she seems to sense the times I really want to go right to sleep, and then she’s desperate for affection, nuzzling me, squirming up close, persistently begging for affection Dogs, how can you help but love them?

Nice breakfast today with my Book Ladies group that meets monthly. They are all women whose lives have had to do with books—librarians, teachers, bookstore owners, a couple of authors. Most of us are retired now, but we still talk books…or politics…or families. It’s a loose group to say the least. I look forward to it in part because it’s the once-a-month time I allow myself potatoes for breakfast. Thanks to Carol Roark for faithfully hauling me to the Grill for these meetings. I will be so glad when I can drive again, but that’s still a bit away.

I always have a problem hearing at that crowded table—twelve or more women this morning. To compound my difficulties, I forgot my hearing aids. And found I could hear about as well without them as with them.

A couple of exciting things today, well—exciting for me. I got the revised cover for the novella, plus the editor’s comments and suggestions. Her structural suggestions were really helpful—scenes that left the reader hanging, an unsatisfactory conclusion, and the like. Introducing a guard dog and then not involving him in the story is like introducing a gun and never shooting it, she said. So now the dog is part of the action.

But I spent a lot of time today laboriously adding all those commas I left out. Don’t get me wrong—I’m a huge fan of the Oxford comma, but sometimes I forget even that one. Glad it was a novella and not a full-length novel. At this rate, I’m on track to publish in late June. Will send to the formatter as soon as I give it one more reading. Help me spread the word—another Kelly O’Connell Mystery on the way. Watch for it, please.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Panic and other moments in the day

Sophie decided to go walkabout this afternoon. After my obligatory afternoon nap, I let her out as I always do. Oops. About two minutes later I noticed the yard gate and driveway gate were both open…and no Sophie in the yard. She never misses a chance. Bless Jordan. I called her and she was out the door with a leash and a treat. After stopping traffic as Sophie ran across the street, Jordan finally cornered her and brought her home, nonetheless the worse for wear. I cannot describe the panic I feel each time a dog, any dog, is missing. In this case, I feared a car hit though I also worry about dognappers. I have become a little calmer because Sophie consistently returns unscathed and joyful about her outing, but that worry is always there.

Sophie had a hard day anyway. The plumber and upholsterer were both here today. The plumber required many trips outside to see what was going on; for the upholsterer, the plumber—by now a good friend—locked her out in the yard, which caused her great frustration. She recovered by napping on the couch.

I now have three newly re-upholstered chairs. I’ve thwarted Sophie’s tendency to sleep in the wing chair by putting a cushion in it. She eyes the barrel chairs, but I’ve only seen her in one once.
The couch seems an obvious choice. The chair she’d slept in all her life was so stained and dirty that I’m ashamed—a friend is putting it in her cabana for a dog chair (appropriate). And I’m reconsidering Sophie’s bath and grooming schedule. That thick doodle coat is too much for me and I send her to the groomers, but I think now it must be more often.

Years ago, a neighbor and good friend needlepointed a pillow for me with the Blue Willow pattern on it. I have my mom’s Blue Willow china plus some that my ex gave me. My kids grew up on it, and now that I’ve downsized by distributing all the other china sets I had to my family, Blue Willow is both my daily china and my entertaining choice.

The pillow, however, has gotten worn and dirty over the years. Jordan wanted to get rid of it, but I wouldn’t hear of it. The upholsterer took it today and will use leftover material from the chairs to back it.

I argued with my neighbor tonight. Nothing new. We argue all the time—he’s a conservative, and I’m a liberal. I like to say I’m a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, but the two may be incompatible. Tonight’s topic was Stephen Colbert. I contend that when government, FCC in this case, investigates social media for unfavorable comments about our presumptive president, we are on a steep, slippery slope. Jay argued that it was profane. I dislike profanity, in fact I’m pretty much a prude on the subject. But I think the level of comment doesn’t affect my basic idea—censorship is censorship, and it leads to dictatorship. Anybody want to weigh in?

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Travel, sort of, and food

I was in Paris on a photojournalism internship. I wandered the city, finding charming homes and picturesque old business buildings to photograph. I marveled at the cleanliness of the city (true or not) and remarked on an article about their careful treatment of the disabled. I was just ready to write my essay on the week and grieved as my sojourn came to an end. And then I woke up!

Meanwhile, back in the reality of Fort Worth and my kitchen, it was a food weekend. It began with Friday lunch. Jordan ad I have developed the habit of getting lunch from our favorite take-out, Local Foods Kitchen. This week, she said she didn’t need anything, but I said let’s go because they might have salmon cakes (a mutual favorite). We came home with a salmon cake each (I thought mine dry and made it into salad—so good), ceviche, egg salad, and a Hello, Dolly dessert (which my daughter declines to eat and I parcel out through the weekend). In addition, our neighbor sent over some roast duck. What a lunch! Friday night I had dinner with a group of interesting people at the Kimball Museum buffet—delicious quiche, salad, a wonderful cucumber/spinach vichyssoise.

Then Saturday, it was back to my kitchen. I spent much of Saturday cooking, following a New York Times recipe for spring lamb and a snap pea salad. I should have known the recipe called for cooking the meat too long—what they called “tender” I call overdone. I love beef and lamb medium rare, and after an hour, these lamb cubes were well done, like stew meat. Good flavor, but not what I expected when I sprang for that expensive meat. The salad was good and a learning experience—I have long wanted to shave cheese, and vegetable peelers just didn’t work. I found that my mom’s old square grater does a perfect job—we had shaved pecorino. I also let the mint for the salad wilt and it didn’t refresh in ice water. The salad called for thinly sliced fennel—I’ve never used fennel, thought I didn’t like it because of the licorice taste. I loved it—crunchy and crisp, with the licorice taste barely a hint. Phil, one of my guests, thought it was a new kind of onion; I said no, fennel, and he said, “Fennel onion?” My summation: I probably won’t use those recipes again, but the cooking was fun, I learned some things, and an evening with old and good friends was priceless.

Today I volunteered to make Doris’ casserole, a family favorite, since Jordan, Christian and Jacob were out of town until late afternoon. The casserole has a tomato/hamburger layer (seasoned only with garlic, salt and sugar); an egg noodle layer with cream cheese, sour cream, and scallions, and a top layer of grated cheddar. It’s irresistible. It's also in my cookbook, Cooking My Way Through Life With Kids and Books.

However, it’s 8:00 and I’m still waiting for dinner—which has to be cooked in the house since I have no oven. Jordan has gone to a friend’s to borrow jewelry, a bit of a disappointment because I thought we would sit and have family dinner together. Win some, lose some. I’m still hungry, but it will be worth waiting for. And once again, it was a lovely happy hour on the patio.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Help Me Decide

Two cover choices for my novella, “The Color of Fear.” I have asked my family and a few friends. Their reaction has almost always been for cover B, but when I explain my thinking, they usually agree. I want your opinion.

Cover B is obviously more eye-catching, quivering with tension. It makes my stomach knot. But it is not me. I write cozies. I’m afraid someone would buy the novella and be disappointed (it is about the kidnapping of an infant, hence the booties in Cover A and the bassinet in B). The novella will be in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series, and I think this cover matches others in the series and picks up the Craftsman architecture theme nicely. I love Cover B but a book-savvy friend said she dislikes monochromatic covers, because they tend to fade into the background.

I have almost decided on Cover A with some modifications, but I could be persuaded otherwise. Let me know what you think. And there’s a third possibility—I can ask for a third rough sketch. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

On a totally different note, I watched an old friend leave the house today. Men came to pick up an overstuffed chair I’ve had for over forty years. It was big, soft, comfy—big enough for two, and back in the day, when we were all young and had big parties, I watched more than one romance begin and flourish in that chair.

It’s clearly too big for the cottage, but I moved it out here because it had become “Sophie’s chair”—where she slept day and night. As a puppy, locked in the office with me and the chair, she ruined the upholstery with her chewing. These days she’s in and out of the backyard frequentlyWhat a wonderful post, Judy. A lovely insight about your younger self's wisdom, and how you have grown as a writer. It's great that you are continuing to allow that book to reflect the growth, and to keep reaching readers. Clearly it's a story that resonates. Thanks for sharing this.
 and has stained the chair with mud, leaves, and general dirt. The dilemma: where will she choose to sleep now that her chair is gone. One of my newly upholstered chairs will go in its place, but I am scheming about ways to minimize her damage without hurting her feelings.

Oh, the things we do for our dogs.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Fictionalizing your life, or how autobiographical is your fiction?

I’ve been proofing Mattie, the first adult novel I ever wrote and winner of the 1988 Western Writers of America Spur Award for best traditional novel. It’s been available on Kindle forever and done well at 99 centers--#64 today in Kindle ebooks, Genre Fiction, Medical. I’m going to post it to other platforms and thought after almost thirty years it deserved another proofing.

Mattie’s story is loosely based on the life of Georgia Arbuckle Fix, a pioneer woman physician in western Nebraska at the turn of the twentieth century. I didn’t know at the time that Mari Sandoz had also fictionalized Fix’s life in Miss Morissa, and the comparison by loyal Sandoz devotees was not kind to me.

It’s intimidating to re-read something I wrote all those years back. My style is different—the 167-page book is all long chapters and lots of space breaks, and did I really begin every other sentence with “So”? I’m correcting only egregious errors; why mess with success?

The content is more interesting though. I was seven or eight years out of a marriage that started wonderfully and eventually disintegrated. Mattie goes through the same experience two-thirds of the way through the novel; her once-passionate marriage is gradually chipped away until she and her husband, Em Jones, can barely stand each other. Mattie’s retrospective wisdom about the situation struck me—I didn’t realize that I had learned that much from my own marriage, but, darn, sometimes Mattie really seems to understand life. Wish I’d put that knowledge to work years ago

At the time I wrote, I was raising teen-age daughters, with all the angst that involves. The angst is reflected in Mattie’s rebellious daughter, Nora. Only Nora never reaches the wonderful reconciliation my girls did—they are now best friends with each other and with me. When I wrote, we hadn’t reached that reconciliation either, and the angst was much too familiar.

Late in the book, Mattie takes into her home and bed a drifter named Eli, skilled carpenter, a good man, but not one to settle down. I took a week off from work to write the last chapter. The words came in a rush as though someone was channeling me who knew the story. Eli simply rides off after a while, moving on as is his nature, leaving Mattie devastated again—and puzzled. At the time, I was seeing a man I liked well enough to envision a future with him—he liked my kids and wasn’t scared of them, rare in suitors. He was gentle, kind and fun. But as I wrote those last pages, I had a flash of clarity: he too would be moving on. He was no longer going to be a part of my life story. We were together that night—celebrating our joint birthdays, I recall—and I was sad. But I couldn’t tell him why.

Scary thought, especially for mystery writers, if your writing not only reflects your past but predicts your future.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

A Day of Family Milestones

Madison Lane Alter, my oldest grandchild is eighteen today, and Megan Alter Hudgeons, my oldest daughter, celebrates a twenty-year anniversary of her graduation from law school this weekend. I am so proud of both I’m busting my buttons, buy a corner of me is crying, wanting to hold on to the past.

Maddie was a magical child, the first grandchild and adored by six aunts and uncles on my side of the family and an uncle on her mother’s side. We were all sure we’d never seen a more beautiful child. She was sweet and smart, more than a bit willful, but she knew how to enjoy life. We worried about how she would adjust to a sibling but when her sister, Eden, came along, they loved each other—and still do. Spats, yes, but I’ve never seen an outright fight, and I’ve seen lots of sharing. Eventually five cousins followed, some in a cluster, and Maddie was patient, loving and kind with them. They adored her, and it appeared mutual.

Always a good student, Maddie demonstrated several interests as she went through school—voice and guitar, theater, basketball. She learned sign language, and in her junior year in high school she earned her certificate as a Certified Nurses’ Assistant. She’ll go to Boulder, the University of Colorado, in the fall. No telling, but she’s likely to end in some form of health care—she has in the past expressed interest in working with children, particularly those who are hearing challenged.

Maddie drives a Jeep, works after school, has a busy social life, and is the all-around kid. We’re all excited for her future, which looks rosy.

Megan and Brandon
When Megan was a child, I told her she’d be a lawyer because she argued with everything I said. “Mom,” she’d protest, “don’t program me.” But my prediction came true After graduating with honors from TCU, she worked as an admin for a Texas legislator for a couple of sessions, and then enrolled in the UT Law School, where she met fellow student Brandon. This fall, she will mark twenty years with the international law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright and Jaworski.

We always say once a child gets in Austin, you can’t blast them out. Megan and Brandon live in Austin. They’re raising two fine sons, Sawyer and Ford, and are gradually redoing an older house.
Megan with her sister, Jordan

Like all my children and grandchildren, these two bring light and life to my days.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Random thoughts on a not-rainy storm day

Once again, severe storms were predicted, and we dodged the bullet but were blessed with about ten minutes of fairly heavy and steady rain. Just about the time a friend and I decided to reschedule our lunch plans. We should have waited ten minutes! But I had a good day, proofing the first novel I ever wrote. Mattie, a Spur Award winner from Western Writers of America, has been on Kindle for several years, and at 99 cents, it’s the best-selling title I have, still sells steadily and ranks well. Now I’m getting it ready for other platforms and decided it was time to proof again. The temptation to edit is strong, but why mess with success.

Several things I read online—yes, mostly Facebook—prompt me to comment. One was a statement by a physician that the ACA is not the problem, the insurance industry is. I think we all know that, but the Republicans in Congress refuse to admit it. The word de-regulation leaps into my mind. I am not a foe of regulation. In a free market insurance industry, greed trumps (an apt word) the health of individuals. Not gonna happen, and I know it.

I read again Joe Kennedy’s speech in Congress about health care, and his brilliant take-down of Ryan, comparing the versions of the Bible’s definition of mercy that he and Ryan had apparently read. Got me to thinking about the children of great leaders—so many of the children fade away into obscurity in the face of their parents’ great accomplishments. I think, for instance of FDR and Eleanor’s children, who weren’t wastrels by any means but didn’t carry on to the family tradition. In her own way, Margaret Truman walked proudly in her father’s footsteps, as does Caroline Kennedy. The Nixon girls chose obscurity deliberately, as apparently did the Johnson daughters.

But the Kennedy family has carried on a proud tradition of public service. Look at how many of them have entered the public service arena after Jack—Bobby, Ted, Patrick, Joe, Maria Schriver—I know I’m leaving some out. They have all accounted themselves admirably, showing real concern for their fellow man not often found in the children of privilege. Old Joe Kennedy, a reprobate from all reports, did something right—or maybe it was Rose. I share a birthday with her, a coincidence I really like. (No, this is not a comment on Ivanka or whatever her name is.)

Concern for one’s fellow man is much on my mind. In Chechen apparently they have not only imprisoned gay men but are calling their parents in to execute them—what an unbelievable horror. And a young woman who escaped North Korea talked about the awful conditions in that country, where a woman was executed for having watched a Hollywood movie. Apparently, and I didn’t know this, many North Koreans have escaped to China—where there Is a reparation policy. Young North Korean women are sold on the market for as little as $200.

A friend recently toured torture camps in Cambodia. Another person on her tour said to her, “Animals don’t do that to other animals.” I am deeply troubled, horrified, by man’s inhumanity to man and by his cruelty to animals—from big game hunting to killing bear cubs in their dens to dog fighting and other atrocities. I think God weeps. I know I do.

I seem to like the word “apparently” in this post. Please forgive. It’s late, and I don’t want to do it over.