Friday, November 24, 2017

Prognostications and Predictions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Bountiful Feast




I’m not sure whether to say my family has done it to me again or I have fallen for it again. They were so sincere about that blasted hogshead we were to have for dinner, even sending me a picture of the grocery ad and telling me it was in the oven.  Colin said he’d never carved one before, and Kristi very seriously said she didn’t think it was that good a price considering all the bone you got with it.


They got me. I finally believed it, in spite of the long history of practical jokes my sons have played on me over the years. This time, Colin had enlisted his entire family, including sister-in-law Kristi. When the dishes began to appear on the table, I asked where the hogshead was, and Colin said, “Mom? What are you talking about? Why did you think there was a hogshead?” I was tempted to throw the entire platter of turkey at him but am glad I didn’t, because it was so good, moist, tender, and delicious.

We had all the usuals—turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes and dressing and rolls with real butter and green bean casserole, though Lisa makes a different green bean dish with sour cream and parmesan and corn flake topping. This year, for the first time, she used fresh green beans, and they were delicious. For dessert, an apple pie nicely seasoned with ample cinnamon. Kegan got a turkey leg that he much enjoyed but couldn’t finish, said he’d get to it tomorrow. A lovely feast with family, and I relished every minute.


Otherwise, a lazy day, reading and napping while others cooked. Chilly--Colin keeps the house cool--and I sat with a small heater blowing on my legs--so comforting. Long visits with Colin, which I enjoy though sometimes I think he takes a position contrary to mine just for the sake of it. We did some nice reminiscing, and he pulled up a lot of pictures from his phone that recalled a happy past. I think that’s a big part of what holidays are about—sharing the good memories.

I hope each and every one of you had a bountiful day, filled with food, love, and gratitude. We have so much to be thankful for, which only means to me we must work harder to preserve the way of life we treasure.

On to Christmas, with all its joy!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Oh my goodness, what a day!

November 22, 2017

Several poignant reminders of JFK’s two speeches, one planned and one impromptu, in For Worth on November 22, 1963, sent my mind plummeting back in time to the long weekend we spent glued to the ongoing pageant of tragedy and grief on TV. I was living in Missouri at the time, with no inkling that I would someday live in Fort Worth. Texas was still a foreign country to me. When we moved to Fort Worth and drove occasionally to Dallas, I could not bear to drive by the Book Depository. But oh that weekend—moments that remain forever engraved on the mind.

This morning, Sophie knew something was up. She always knows when I drag out the bag I pack for visits to kids’ houses where no public transportation is involved. She’d stare at me, watching my every move. My assurances that she was going too did not calm her. When Jordan began loading the car, Sophie went beserk, barking and jumping around. But she’s been a good traveler all day. Now she is doing a dance around Colin’s shepherd-mix dog. Soph seems to be saying, “I know you’re bigger, but I will only put up with so much.” She barked harshly just now when I gave Grace a little love,

Jordan and Jacob planned to drive me to Waco. First thought was that we could meet Colin, Kegan, and Morgan for lunch, but as noon approached and there was no plan, I announced I was going to eat lunch. We left Fort Worth a little before one o’clock, and when we arrived in Waco, Colin was still forty miles away. I said Jordan could leave me in a McDonald’s, and she fixed me with a look. “With one dog, two walkers, your bag, computer, and dog food?” We drove on and met the Tomball contingent in Reisl, maybe  20 miles from Waco.

Those who know the area will understand when I say Hwy. 6 from Hearne on was a solid line of traffic headed north—A&M people going to the Metroplex for the holiday. After College Station, it was heavy but moving traffic, until about Prairie View where it slowed to a crawl--people heading to Houston. By then we were in territory familiar to Colin, so we took back roads, but they too were crowded, and we spent some time moving inch by inch.

At one point I said something about looking forward to turkey, and Morgan told me we were not having turkey. Hogshead is on the menu. I said I thought I’d be a vegetarian, and she said, “I’m with you, Juju.” Colin finally admitted there is a turkey but says the hogshead is the center of the menu—only 79 cents a lb.! Fancy that bargain. He is curiously reluctant to show it to me, and I suspect it’s a figment of his imagination. More on that later.

A long day, but I’m grateful to be here.


Colin, just out of the hot tube, with his Turkey Trot medal
They were an hour late for the race, still ran the 5K course, and got medals

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The pre-holiday do-nothings


Ever notice that when a major holiday, like Thanksgiving, approaches, most if not all the concerns of your daily living go on hold? I remember it from days when I fed the hordes on turkey day. Today I feed no one; I simply eat and enjoy the love. But I still feel that sense of putting life in abeyance. My son will be here tomorrow to take me to Tomball, so, logically, I frittered away the day.

This morning, a good friend came for coffee and a chat, much enjoyed. This afternoon, another friend dropped by with a loaf of persimmon bread, which will make delicious breakfasts for me. In between, I kept up with some computer work, did a bit of packing and figuring things out, and read a lot. I’m reading a book to critique for a competition—it’s a bit hard because the books is print, and I am much more comfortable reading on the screen with my eye problem. Who ever thought I’d say that? An earlier book I had to critique was available on Kindle at a low price. But this one, by co-authors I’ve never heard of and from a publisher I’ve never head of, is close to $12 on Kindle. Since I do this as a public service, I’m not about to pay that—so I muddle through, reading a bit until my vision blurs, looking away, and reading more.

That reading is part of my urge to contribute to the greater good. I’m all too aware that I don’t do charity work for my church, for the local homeless shelters, for any of a lot of good causes. So, I do what I can—I’m active in an online writers group that actively works to encourage new writers; I edit my neighborhood newsletter and have a sinking feeling I may take over the web work; I give to Heifer International, the Humane Society, and similar groups, using those gifts as Christmas and birthday gifts. My theory is that each of us can and must reach beyond ourselves, reach out to make the world a bit better somehow. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of charitable work offers, from running an information cart on the littering of our oceans and beaches at a local museum to wearing a pink apron at a hospital. Nothing really satisfied. I guess I’m still looking, but the newsletter is a way to put my special skill to work for a good cause.

Last night, I said to Jordan that I was going to make myself creamed ham and new potatoes: she made a face. When Jean came by this morning, I said it again, and she made a face. But when Jeannie came by tonight, I repeated it, and she said, “Ooh, I want to come over here for dinner.”

I had a slice of good ham in the freezer and defrosted a small piece of it; boiled three tiny new potatoes and let them chill before trying to peel; chopped celery and green onion; dumped in more baby green peas than I meant, but, hey, it was the end of the package. Sautéed all that in butter, sprinkled a tablespoon more or less of flour on it, and stirred in milk until I had a nice, think sauce. Seasoned it with salt and pepper and finished it with a good dollop of sour cream. After the first bite, I had to go back to add salt, but it was delicious. Enough left for lunch tomorrow, if I add some grated cheese, which sounds really good to me. Ah, yes, somedays I want to activate that microwave that’s in my closet—not enough counter space.

Tomorrow, my oldest child will arrive about 1:30, with two of my grandchildren. We’ll load the car and head back to Tomball. Color me excited.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Jordan is my hero[ine?]


Jordan with Cricket and June Bug
(I call them Tweedledee and Tweedeldum)
Just one of those days. I had a most efficient packing list for my trip to Tomball (I’m leaving the Burtons to guard the compound but will take Sophie with me), but in putting things in my bag this morning, I lost the list. Jordan found it for me.

I couldn’t find a specific pair of pants I really wanted to take: Jordan found them for me.

When I came back from lunch, the friend who brought me doesn’t like to drive through the gate, and I had a fairly heavy package. With impeccable timing, Jordan drove up right behind us, carried my things in while I clomped across the uneven and treacherous pavement of the driveway. We had just had a nice lunch at The Tavern with my beta reader and his wife, sort of a gathering of old friends.

But my day wasn’t over: trying to get clothes out of the closet to assemble for my brief trip I got tangled in the vacuum cleaner cord, nearly fell, couldn’t get my walker untangled. Said a few choice words.

Feeding Sophie, I spilled dog food all over the kitchen floor. Have you ever thought about sweeping from a wheelchair? I got some swept up and dropped half of it, a pattern I seemed to repeat several times.

The day got better again when I went in the house to sit in front of the fire while Christian cooked dinner—a delicious salmon recipe. The fire, the food, and the company soothed me after my…ah…unusual day.
Tonight's salmon

I think I need a vacation from being on permanent vacation.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Memories, nostalgia, and self-absorption


This morning Facebook presented me with a memory from six years ago but didn’t show a picture and wouldn’t let me share it. It was a post about watching a chef roast a turkey and then, 24 hours before serving, put it in the fridge “to dry out.” What’s with that? I thought the whole point was to keep turkey meat moist. Apparently, refrigeration made the skin crisp and the meat even more moist. Could have fooled me. But the post went on to describe a successful book signing at Barnes & Noble and then dinner with Jacob. I’d fixed a version of the Scottish “bangers and mash,”—sausage and mashed potatoes—and he loved it, so I taught him to say bangers and mash. As he toddled off, close to bedtime, to watch just a few minutes of TV, he said, without my asking, “I love you, Juju.” He was five at the time.

The whole post made me think how many things have changed. The best I get from Jacob, now eleven, is a sort of mechanical, “Love you too,” when I hug him at night and tell him I love him. He sounds exactly like one of his uncles. And I no longer cook turkey, so I have no chance to try that turkey theory. My daughters do all the holiday cooking these days. Nor do I go trotting lightheartedly off to book signings, conferences and the like—missing the latter is a bitter blow, magnified by the surgeon’s suggestions I’ll never abandon the walker.

When I saw the surgeon Friday, he asked the usual questions: Was I getting out and about? Did I feel life was getting back to normal? At that point, my voice got a little shaky, I’m sure, as I told him life would never get back to what had been normal for me. These days my life is circumscribed—I’m in the cottage alone with Sophie I’d say 65% of the time; I get out some to lunch and dinner with friends, and I occasionally eat in the house with the family. I don’t have the drop-in visitors that I did when the cottage was new and a novelty, and I miss them.

I have so much to be thankful for, and so many people are in much worse straits than I am, but occasionally, I have a little pity party. And the flashback post this morning triggered one.

My pity party has disappeared quickly, not because I contemplated the people with disabling illnesses and chronic pain and financial straits, all those dire circumstances, but because I contemplated my own daughter. I had dinner in the house tonight. Christian fixed a dish that was sort of like a Mexican version of spaghetti mac—hamburger, pasta, corn, taco seasonings, and I don’t know what else, but it was so good. He put cheese on top and put it in the broiler—and left it too long. But the result was not what he feared—crisp and good, like the cheese that drips out of a grilled cheese sandwich and solidifies on the pan.

Jordan was cheerful and talkative, but clearly, she does not feel well. Her back is better, though there are still movement that hurt her. But she’s had a heavy cold now for a week, and she feels rotten, as we all do when we have a cold. I realized she has not been herself for two weeks—first the back and then the cold. And while she has not come out to chat and giggle, it’s because she feels lousy. So color me more tolerant and less self-absorbed.

This will be a good week. Let us all now give thanks for all our blessings.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Long Live the Queen! But not some others


Cheers to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, who will celebrate their 70th anniversary on Monday with a private family dinner. In a world dominated these days by sex scandals, their union is a bright ray of hope, a testament that true love does exist. They are also celebrating with a stunning portrait taken in their private quarters in Windsor Castle. Giving my age away: I remember getting up—I guess it was early in the morning here—to listen to the ceremony on a crackly radio. My Canadian father was an Anglophile through and through, and that wedding was a big occasion in our household.

In high contrast, in our country you cannot read a newspaper or Facebook or turn on the TV without being hit in the face with another sex scandal, the details of which you probably don’t want to know. I know I don’t. We have too many Harvey Weinsteins, Donald Trumps, and Roy Moores. But what I feared seems to be happening—accusing sexual predators has gone beyond a search for truth and justice for a few and become a grasp at the brass ring, a chance at fifteen minutes of fame, and, just maybe, a political tool.

When I told a younger friend I’d never been harassed, I recalled a couple of cases of wandering hands and one uninvited kiss that stopped when I said no. To me, harassment is fondling, groping, real physical abuse. My friend patiently explained I have been harassed and don’t realize it (does that imply I’m too dumb to know?). I think a definition is needed here, a line beyond which men—and women—should not go. On the other hand, I think it oversensitive to interpret every move as sexual aggression. An older man wrote today that he sure was glad he was old and married, because he wouldn’t know how to court a woman today without offending. I hate to tell him that being old and married in no way exempts him from an accusation.

That brings me to Al Franken and Leeann Tweeden. Franken of course is the comic turned serious and valuable senator from Minnesota—I certainly had my doubts when he made that dramatic career change, but I have since been impressed with his record. His colleagues praise him, former employees testify to his respect for and defense of women, and—oh yes—Republicans hate him. The incident of the kiss and fake groping took place on a USO tour to entertain the troops, an atmosphere generally known for horseplay. The photographer who took the now-infamous groping photo once claimed it was staged and that the victim was feigning sleep. Note Franken does not actually touch Tweeden’s breast—he was horsing around. Stupid but true.  (The photographer may have rescinded that—I’m not sure).

Far be it from me to accuse the victim but there are a couple of things to think about: Leeann Tweeden is an avowed supporter of 45 who has been active in right-wing causes, appearing on Hannity’s show and other things. Her radio station says she has openly talked about the incident for years, so why is she suddenly so offended—I suspect it’s that “me, too” bandwagon I feared. And a photo of “the kiss” shows her with her arms wrapped around Franken, not fighting him off. Roger Stone, drum beater for the president, apparently knew the Franken accusation was coming before it was public. Mitch McConnell is leading a fervent charge for a complete investigation, while ignoring charges against the titular head of his party and not being nearly as loud in his call for a look at Roy Moore, though I think and hope Moore’s career as a politician and as a predator is toast.

Al Franken has been a gentleman, immediately apologizing, apparently both publicly and privately (the White House had the gall to use that against him), and Tweeden has accepted his apology. Franken has also called for an investigation—and I hope he gets it, because there seem to be a couple of sticky wickets in there. To my mind, he is guilty of one incident—please note that—of boorish behavior in bad taste. A sexual predator? I hardly think so.

If we destroy the lives and careers of good men like Franken, we are going to be left without leadership. I wonder if Jimmy Carter would get a pass today on his admission of lustful thoughts about other women. It’s an atmosphere we’ve allowed to balloon. Men like  Weinstein,Trump, and Moore deserve everything we can throw at them, but let’s show some common sense here.

Okay, all my good progressive buddies, you may start to throw those stones.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Me, the film star


Today was a non-work day, taken up by the filming of a promotional video for the physicians group that includes my hip surgeon. Last night and this morning we straightened the cottage—Jordan brought out flowers and did a clean sweep of my desk. I had make neat stacks, but she deemed that unacceptable. So there I was, all spiffed up and ready—and the videographer misunderstood and unloaded all his equipment on the front porch of the main house. He thought I just worked in the cottage and was not a happy camper when I held firm to filming in the cottage. But it all worked just fine.

Video filming is not for the impatient. There’s a bit of shooting and then a lot of changing angles; a few more shots, and then more changing angles. In about two hours, he and his assistant set up equipment, interviewed me (pre-arranged questions, which the assistant read), and filmed exercising, washing one dish over and over and over, typing (how many times can you type “The quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog”?), and walking on the backyard walkway. Kraig and Susie were delightful people, and we chatted lightly during those interminable periods of getting the camera angle just right. They were also considerate, and Kraig kept saying he didn’t want to stretch my limits, etc.


They left about eleven-thirty, and two-thirty found me in Dr. McGowan’s office for a faux office visit—I made it real by asking some questions that had been on my mind. Upshot is that I can practice getting me and the walker in and out of the car, though I know I shouldn’t drive until after my eyes are fixed. But my car is in Tomball and while there for Thanksgiving I can practice on the big parking lot that is the front of Colin’s property.
Dr. Jeffrey McGowan, who gave me a new hip
and a new lease on life
            Dr. McGowan also told Kraig that I would probably use the walker the rest of my life. Sort of a disappointment but not an unexpected one. He said I might well get around the house without it, but I gather that would mean I would lurch from furniture to furniture. I couldn’t hear all this, but Jordan eavesdropped.
Videographer Kraig Kitchem at work in doctor's office


All in all, an interesting day, but one that wore me out. I came home and napped. Tonight, is a lazy reading night.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Nothing new


No blog tonight or not much of one. It has been an uneventful day although productive. Home all day, working on neighborhood newsletter and novel and moving ahead nicely with both. I’ve had a brief visit from Jordan, who is not feeling well and stayed home all day, and a slightly longer visit from Jacob who came out this morning to retrieve his leftover pizza from last night and again this evening to take out garbage and do a few “straightening” chores I needed done before tomorrow morning when a video crew arrives to film me for a promotional video for my hip surgeon and his hospital. More about that after the fact.

The video should be fun, but I had other lessons today in how medical problems take up my time. I had an appointment already to see my general physician about a spot on my back that I fear needs to come out—sent a photo to the doctor, and he said to come in and they’d remove it So today I called to ask if they could also do my clearance for eye surgery at that appointment, and I ran into what I think of as the reception-area block. Oh, no, the doctor couldn’t possibly do that. He’d look at the spot and if it needed to come out, I’d have to make another appointment, and he couldn’t possibly combine it with the surgical clearance appointment. I’d have to come in one day for blood work and then come back for the exam. Let’s see—that’s five appointments, right? I explained that I cannot drive and must rely on others and that was a lot of doctor appointments and a terrible imposition on those who carry me around. The receptionist reluctantly said she’d explain to the doctor and ask if it was all right. I told her he was more than familiar with my situation—I’ve spent half the fall in his office, for pity’s sake—he’d need no explanation. She called back with word it would be okay.

All this came about because my eye surgery is now scheduled for December 21. Awful close to Christmas, but I guess it will be fine. I have mixed emotions—want it done in December to get it off my mind and to roll it into other medical expenses for this year since I think I’ll qualify for the medical deduction, which may well go away next year. But having a definite date gives me the willies. Yes, I want it done and over with. Last night I couldn’t read the menu or the bill in a dim restaurant, and then, because my depth perception is off, I poured wine onto the counter instead of into the glass.

But other than these non-adventures, to me it’s been a day to make my heart heavy. The congressional vote for the tax bill was not unexpected but it still hurts—it will hurt me, but it will hurt a lot of others much more, and I worry about the poor and sick. Congress has struck a double blow—taxes and health care, and Paul Ryan is jubilant. Betsy DeVos has taken away protections for disabled students, and 45 has struck down the ban on importing ivory, thus opening the way for poachers and his own big-game hunting sons—another of his distractions from the Russia scandal which tonight threatens to engulf Jared Kushner. Al Franken has been accused of harassment; he apologized and called for an investigation of himself—but the Republicans are out for blood. I’m sure outspoken Franken has been a thorn in their sides all along, and they see a chance to get rid of him.

And they may be concerned about Roy Moore—he would be an inconvenience, after all—but are totally unconcerned about all the women who have come forward again today to accuse 45 or about 45’s own braggart confessions of groping and other gross details. The hypocrisy on Capitol Hill is appalling.

I echo the blogger who said tonight he is deeply ashamed of his country. Where have these people come from? How have we sunk so low?

I hope to have my optimism back tomorrow, but now I’ll just say goodnight. Try to love each other and pray for our enemies within.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Busy day…and a good one


Every evening when I type the date on my blog post, I wonder where the month of November has gone. How can we be halfway through already, with Thanksgiving a week away? I do NOT want to hear how many shopping days are left until Christmas. Have you done your shopping? I’ve got a good start on mine—all online ordering, since it’s hard for me to get out and shop, and I never was a good shopper anyway. Bless Amazon.

Worked long and hard today on the neighborhood newsletter but it’s the kind of work I enjoy—tracking down details, checking on facts, rearranging words and punctuation. For me, that’s fun. In one article there was a reference to a Miss Maberry. From context I could tell she grew up in our neighborhood in the 1920s, but she just seemed to hang there in space. It was an article reprinted from years ago, so the original author was not available to question. I asked a friend who’s an author/historian/archivist/researcher, and she soon came up with fascinating information on Miss Maberry, who apparently lived in her parents’ house all her life, a single lady. That kind of little stuff really excites me.

Tomorrow, back to editing the next novel. I’ve been dillydallying because my editor can’t look at it until January. But a conversation with dinner pal Betty tonight plus a reminder from my webmaster made me realize I have a lot to do between now and January 1 and I better get to it.

Betty and I took Jacob with us and went to a reception that Jordan’s new company gave to welcome her tonight. We only planned to stay fifteen minutes. She introduced us as only staying five minutes—is there a message there? Just kidding. We had both dressed carefully to make her proud, and we were so impressed with both the office space and the people. Lots of sincere greetings, a beautiful space with a lot of wood decorating it, a kitchen that was to-die-for and chefs from a cruise company at work in the kitchen. Bonus: good wine.

The office is U-shaped and wraps around a patio that is all wooden deck, with lights in the trees. The party drifted through the offices but was centered on the deck. Really classy event, and I’m so proud of my baby child and so happy for her.

We went to a local restaurant having a lobster festival, and I had a lobster roll—good, the meat tender (sometimes it’s not when you’re far from the ocean and it’s been frozen and cooked too long). Betty, who cannot resist shrimp just because I can’t have them, had lobster/shrimp Newburg. Jacob had cheese pizza, and we brought a whole lot of it home.

Nice, now, well-fed and socialized, to be home in jammies and at my desk. Jacob is supposed to be doing his homework. I can see that he just turned off the TV, so maybe that’s a step in the right direction.

The world seems to be in its place. Okay, we won’t talk about tax plans and health care bills though I can’t help giggling: 45 cut the advertising budget and enrollment time for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, as a way of killing it. A record number of people have already signed up. Anyone believe in karma?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Feeling a bit ditzy


Today was the monthly meeting of the Book Ladies, a group I’ve belonged to for over thirty years, gulp! One other woman shares my longevity, but the rest are newcomers of various duration. We never meant to be a ladies group—all those years ago, we just gathered friends whose lives revolved around books and they happened to be all ladies. No men applied. We have no dues, no minutes, no agenda. We just gather at The Neighborhood Grill, order breakfast, and sit and talk, sometimes about books, sometimes not. By serendipity or good fortune, I don’t know which, we are all liberals or progressives or whatever you want to call us. Years ago, there was one woman among us, someone I really liked, who stopped coming to breakfast because she was uncomfortable about the politics. I think this was in the days when George W. Bush was working up to invading Iraq.

I enjoy these breakfasts, am fond of several of the women, but I confess these days when the table is crowded and the restaurant noisy, it’s hard for me to keep up with the conversation. Darn, some days I hate this aging business. Today a woman who I used to work with sat across from me, and we had a good conversation.

Home to work for a bit and then to lunch with Mary Dulle. Mary always asks if I have errands to run and today I did, so we went to Albertson’s where I bought wine and shampoo (essentials), but the main focus of my grocery list was items on the Food Bank list. Mary admired my skill with the automated cart, but when I got out in the parking lot, it was apparent that cart was losing its battery. I practically had to push it the last little bit with my feet. What should have been easy turned complicated. Then we went to CVS to pick up prescriptions, and I somehow managed to sign the cashier’s slip and return my debit card to them with that slip. Came home, frantically searched purse, bags, etc. Mary searched her car—nothing. I finally called CVS and yes, they have it. Mary will drive me up there tomorrow.

Meantime, I came home and minded my own business. Feeling domestic, I baked oatmeal raisin cookies (frozen, a band fund-raiser for Jacob) and oh my, they were good. Then I baked the frozen spanakopita Mary brought me from the Greek Festival—baked the whole pan and will refreeze it. One piece was plenty—so good but so rich.

Mary said there used to be a column in the newspaper where people could air their gripes. In our neighborhood newsletter, a neighbor has started a “Cheers” column which I think is much more positive, but I can see the need to gripe. So my gripe today: is the proposed tax bill really going to include an exemption for owners of golf resorts? How much more toady can Congress become? And 45, as our president is licensing an escort service in China under his name? Surely, I’m mistaken, but I fear not. What ever happened to the dignity of the office? I agree with whoever said they would now vote for any functioning adult.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Some days don’t go as you planned


Another day at home all day in the cottage, but my mood was much improved over yesterday. Maybe it was because the sun was shining. I spent too much of the morning dealing with the busy-ness of life—a prescription bill from the mail-in pharmacy, a call to inquire about scheduling the eye surgery (no, in spite of a promise to call back before the end of the day, I have not heard from them), a call to my doctor’s office to renew prescriptions which they said were called in to the pharmacy (they weren’t, and it makes me nervous to go without cardiac drugs), a call to check on auto insurance (thanks to Colin, that one seems straightened out). All in all, a morning of frustration.

I did spend some time on my Christmas gift list—more frustration. I give several magazine subscriptions, and untangling which ones automatically renew and which don’t is a mammoth project. I made a little headway.

But I also edited two chapters on my WIP and did some thinking. It may sound pretentious or silly or something, but thinking is part of an author’s job. And I have figured out how to make two characters really fit in while eliminating one who just didn’t fit in. I threw him in one day in a spirit of making my thousand words a day, but he didn’t belong. Just didn’t have the oomph to deal with it in a fresh way tonight, and may not tomorrow because, gasp!, my social calendar is sort of full.

I confess I spent way too much time on Facebook these days. I enjoy the social camaraderie, like an exchange today with the daughter of a late and very treasured friend—can’t believe she’d just have turned 92. To me she is always in her seventies and forever young. But there is more to my focus and, as you can guess, it’s the ever-increasing tangle of the presidency, the investigations, and now the idiocy of Roy Moore’s candidacy for the Senate. Something new unfolds every few minutes, and I can’t bear to miss it.

Tonight, I thought I’d have the whole family for soup, but it turned out to be Jacob’s Bible study night and he had to rush. Then his parents both disappeared, and I fixed myself soup and salad, put dishes, soup and everything away. They appeared about nine for dinner, and we had a good visit. Life is, if nothing else, unpredictable.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

No Sunday Funday


Long, slow Sunday, the kind of day when I long for daylight savings. The family didn’t want to go to church and had busy activities scheduled, so me and my dog and my computer have been alone except for pop-in visits. By 5:00 p.m. I thought it was dreary and dismal, and I had to remind myself that it’s the time change. Predicted rain never came.

I cleaned out the fridge and freezer and made a pot of chicken soup—rotisserie chicken, broth, canned tomatoes, a few carrots, a couple of potatoes, a half onion. Now, when it’s almost done, I cubed and added a half zucchini.

Pet peeve: you have to be so careful when you buy diced tomatoes. Plain, original are rare. Only when I opened the can today did I realize that I bought diced tomatoes with green chilis. Not the end of the world—chilis in chicken soup are probably a good addition, but it’s not what I had in mind or what I wanted. And the line about green chilis was in tiny print.

Soup smells good. Perhaps it will warm my soul.

It did warm my soul today to see on TV that the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas held services this morning. I had thought the pastor, who lost his daughter in the shooting, said the church would close and perhaps be demolished. But there he was this morning, preaching the word of God. Somehow that’s a sign of hope and courage to me. Not defeated, not turning away from faith, these people are carrying on. A huge crowd attended. Bet they didn’t all fit in the church.

On the other hand, all the news about Judge Roy Moore chills my soul, more than our usual daily diet of Republican scams and presidential bloopers. To think that scores of pastors, men who supposedly share my faith, are defending this man and Senators are dancing like cats on a hot tin roof seriously assaults my faith. Moore, who should even have to forfeit the honorary title Judge after being barred from the bench twice for judicial misconduct, is a man to whom corruption of all kinds clings like a polyester cloak. One report says Moore will win a landslide; another says his Democratic challenger is running slightly ahead, which in Alabama is a huge victory. I may just close my ears until the election is over. Nah, I’d never do that. Probably won’t close my mouth either

I’m sure much of the country is outraged by the Alabama politician who compared Moore’s situation to Mary and Joseph, but someone kept posting on my wall comments to the effect of “What about corrupt Hillary.” It’s a tactic 45 uses all the time. A friend called it “whataboutism” and labeled it a Russian disinformation technic. Someone else referred to Newt Gingrich dating an intern and waiting until his wife was hospitalized fighting cancer to tell her he was filing for divorce. Sure, it makes my point, but it too is whataboutism. When talking about Moore, folks, can we please stick to Moore and not drag others in for better or worse.

And to end on a light note: I really like the word “bigly.” Like the sound, the implication. I’ve longed to use it, but I thought it was one of many pseudo-words 45 has added to our lexicon, and was therefore off limits. But I looked it up today—love, love, love the dictionary resources available online. The first use was in the middle ages, so I am bigly relieved. Is that the right usage?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Good Old Days—or were they?


Two longtime friends came for chili and conversation last night, women I’ve known since at least the seventies. All of us were once married to doctors. One, like me, is a divorcee, left by a husband who moved on to greener fields without the responsibility of kids; the other was widowed way too young by a heart attack that shouldn’t have happened. Today, we have outlived all three men—there’s a message there, though I’m not sure what it is.

But we talked about those heady days. We were young, happy, with young children—perfect families, we thought. Our husbands were newly out of residencies and in practice, and our lives were filled with camaraderie, conventions, cruises, and more money that any of us had ever known. (Those days are long gone for docs today, a fact I view with mixed emotions.) But as we talked, we recognized that those days weren’t quite as golden as we thought, that there was an undercurrent of tension, the feeling we were in a balloon that could pop at any time. It was an unreal existence, as though we were dancing too hard to keep our fears and doubts at bay. It was good to share.

I often think today’s good times are better. I never remarried because I only met one man who I thought would love my children as much as I did and who I wouldn’t have hesitated to welcome into our close family circle. (I saw too many women who concentrated on having a man in their life to the detriment of their children.) It didn’t work out for other reasons, and I have been single since the early eighties It’s been a great life, and I don’t think I’d trade. Two good careers—one at the TCU Press and one as an author, and a close family that I adore. Yes, I’ve been blessed.

The last few days I’ve been grateful for the blessings of my life, mostly because I had lots of visiting and getting out. One night dinner pal Betty and I went to her restaurant, the Star Café, and shared a tenderloin and baked potato—absolutely wonderful. Last night, my visit with the two friends, plus suddenly there were others in my cottage, carrying their wine—a woman I looked forward to meeting and hope to visit with more another night, and a woman I really like and admire but see infrequently. Today I had lunch with friend Carol, and we discovered at Lucille’s that it’s Lobsterama—a lobster roll and good conversation as I caught up with her recent trip to Australia.

There’s been a long thread on a subgroup of Sisters in Crime about whether you are an extrovert or an introvert. I think, like a lot of people, I’m a mix of the two. But I find being semi-housebound as I am and dependent on others to get out, I am tending more toward introvert. Some days it seems a big effort to gear up and get out, and those are the days I tell myself I need a social life and I need to get out and about. I need to make that effort and not spend the day at my computer in my pajamas. I’m working on not being an introvert, because that’s not how I want to live my life.

No big cocktail parties or cruise ships with six thousand people, thank you. But a quiet lunch or supper with from two to six people? Count me a happy camper. Too much solitude isn’t good for my mental health.

A big oops: I forgot to stand and face east at eleven this morning, in honor of our fallen soldiers. But a flag flew proudly at the foot of our driveway, and I hope each and every one of you remembered to say a prayer for our fallen soldiers, veterans, both those with severe problems and those who seem to have survived relatively unscathed, and those who serve today.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A prophetic dream?


Weird but intense dream last night, prompted I’m sure by all the allegations of sexual misconduct flying in the air these days. I was working in a hospital (not unusual—I did in high school and college). There had been incidents with predators, and I was terrified. Everyone was on alert, and watches were increased. A young man was arrested for repeatedly patting a girl in the tush. He was bewildered, and then frightened, as what seemed a slight incident morphed into a criminal charge and a possible jail sentence. Calls to his dad and a lawyer didn’t help, and this young man saw his future crashing. The girl he’d “offended” never came forward to say anything about the incident, but everyone in the hospital was crying for the young man’s head on a platter.

I think this dream reflects my personal feelings about the many allegations we’re seeing these days. A post or two on Facebook reminds that a “person is innocent until proven guilty,” but that’s not the case here. An accusation becomes widespread rumor and is soon accepted publicly as fact. Protestations of innocence fall on deaf ears, and lives and careers are ruined by innuendo.

The really scary thing is that each of us tend to make individual judgments, often independent of the facts even if we know reported facts. I’m as guilty as anyone, for I’ll quickly say that I think Alabama Judge Moore did what the woman claimed he did when she was fourteen, and he should get out of the race and so-called public service. He’s been called down from the judicial bench twice in his own state for judgments based not on the law but on his own belief system, which seems pretty warped. He’s a racist and a bigot on record, and to my mind a piece of slime. And I’m appalled at the prominent Alabama Republican leader who excused him by saying that Mary was fourteen and Joseph much older.

On the other hand, why make a fuss about slight incidents ascribed to former President George H. W. Bush. There was absolutely no sexual intimacy involved, no force, nothing but a casual pat on the behind. Bush has apologized, and many have pointed out it’s hard to see an old man in a wheelchair as a sexual predator. He gave good service to the country, and we should not repay him by shaming him in his last years over incidents that, to me, seem trivial. Others will disagree, and I understand that.

I think it all proves that nothing is black and white. I applaud the openness that our society now is experiencing. I think it will make would-be predators think before they act on base instincts, and I hope it will punish some severe offenders. But there’s no logic, no equality in the handling of each accusation, and I’m afraid some good lives will be ruined by falsehood.

Then again, I have no concern for Judge Moore. I’d hang him out in the wind any day.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

The Confession No Author Likes to Make


Texas author Robert Flynn once said to me that having a book out of print is like having a child that you never see (this was long before digital publishing kept books in print forever). I think that’s sort of how many authors feel about their books—they’re children we’ve sent out in the world to make their way, with our help via marketing.. And when they don’t find success, you grieve for them.

My latest novel, Pigface and the Perfect Dog, isn’t finding the love that I thought it would. I worked really hard to promote this book in advance—guest blogs all over the place, a Facebook campaign, etc. Big launch party, which was lots of fun and accounted for a good portion of the sales to date. It’s been out two months and has one review each on Amazon and Goodreads. Its sales are nothing to brag about, although people who’ve read it tell me they really enjoyed it. No, I’m not whining, nor am I asking you to rush out, read it, and review. I’m trying to analyze why it isn’t doing as well as some of my other books.

Pigface is second in a series, so it’s not the difficulty of engaging readers in a new series. The first book, The Perfect Coed, did quite well, thank you. And I really like the cover of Pigface, especially the display type. It has a cute puppy on the cover, and animals supposedly always attract readers. So there’s a double boost—a dog in the title and a dog on the cover.

I’ve concluded the title is misleading. If I had to categorize Pigface, I’d call it a dark cozy. It still fits the cozy genre pretty much, though one review pointed out that the language is a tad stronger than most cozies. There’s no gruesome violence, though there is an on-scene non-fatal shooting, and there are one or two quick glimpses into a personal relationship before the bedroom door closes. Still, it’s much more cozy than thriller.

I thought the title was so clever when it came to me one day like a bolt out of the blue. One of the bad guys, unknown to him, earns the nickname Pigface, and dogs, two of them, are prominent in the story. The title also fit in with the use of the word “perfect,” established in the first book, so it gave the series some continuity. But I fear that people think it’s a kid’s book. The Pigface term is misleading and may conjure up everything from Animal Farm to Babe. It apparently doesn’t conjure up visions of a mystery about open-carry protestors and darker matters. My bad.

Titles are hard. I’ve always thought they came to you, as this one did, unexpectedly, sort of an instinct thing, and then you better, by gosh, stick with it. Apparently, I need more research. There are several online sites with good, solid advice on picking a title, with many warning it’s the most important marketing decision you make. Oh gosh! It’s too late to change the title, although I did read about an author whose book title was Astro-Logical Love; she did a bit of editing and changed the title to How to Satisfy a Woman Every Time. Sales tripled. I think this is a case where I say, “Oh well,” and plow ahead, marketing as I can. Next time I’ll be more thoughtful about a title.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Wintry weather




Cold and wet, a day for soup and chili. I had both today—what a treat. Neighbors Margaret and Dennis took me to the deli for lunch—we all had soup and shared a bottle of wine. Lovely treat at lunch. Good company, soothing food—I was a happy camper and came home to take a nice nap, while Dennis kindly included my groceries on his planned run to Central Market.

Jordan’s back had been bothering her for several days, but she finished it off with a real wrench last night and was incapacitated this morning, to put it mildly. She slowly got better as the day went on but she announced chicken soup or chili would be good for supper, and finally decided on chili. I rescheduled dinner plans and checked my pantry, pulling out two cans of diced tomatoes—only one turned out to be tomato sauce, so I had sauce aplenty but not much tomato (as I reread the recipe I realize it didn’t call for diced tomatoes and I was mentally mixing in my ubiquitous recipe for Doris’ Casserole). Chili is forgiving, and it was good anyway. Margaret and I talked about what we put in chili, and I forgot to tell her the essential ingredient: beer.

Not too many years ago, I wrote a book on chili, its history, the chili festivals—the big ones were held just last week in Terlingua, and lots of recipes ranging from the ridiculous to the really hot and complicated. I included my own recipe, which is also in my memoir/cookbook, Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books.

I call my chili Judy’s mild and tentative chili—no chiles, etc. but you can embellish it as you wish. And, yes, I put beans in my chili. Heresy, I know. Here’s the basic recipe.

Judy’s mild and tentative chili

1 lb. ground beef

Enough oil to sauté onion, garlic and beef

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 8-oz. can tomato sauce

1 cup beer

4 tsp. chili powder or to taste

½ tsp. Tabasco (optional)

2 tsp. salt

2 c. canned beans, rinsed (I prefer pintos)

Note: the diced tomatoes didn’t hurt; go ahead and add them if you wish.

Brown onion and garlic; add hamburger and cook until all pink is gone. Add everything else except beans and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes. Stir occasionally, and add more beer as needed (you’ve got that open warm beer anyway). Taste and add more chili powder as needed. Add beans and heat just before serving.

My family likes to top it with crushed saltines (in your hand, of course), chopped purple onion, and grated cheddar.



Should you be interested, here are some handy buy links (I’m operating on the theory that one should never miss an opportunity to hawk one’s books).




Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Cold and blah


My day started off badly as you may have read in an earlier post. I got up at 5:15 by mistake. I washed my hair and did some other stuff and waited for the 7:00 news, which turned out to be the 6:00 news. What a bummer. I’m pleased to say I did read a project I was reading for someone else and made good use of the time, but I was still out of sorts—and by lunchtime I was sleepy. At least now, thanks to Christian, the clocks in my cottage are all fixed. Probably tomorrow I’ll wake up, look at the clock, and think it’s an hour ahead—then I’ll go back to bed and be an hour late with everything all day!

Today was an appointment with the retina specialist. Every new office insists on doing the full eye exam like you haven’t seen two other doctors in the last two weeks. If anyone comes near me wanting to dilate my eyes, I will probably throw a screaming fit and collapse in a puddle on the floor. Nothing new today, although I liked the doctor and felt confident about him. Long story short is the same old story—I will have surgery, but I don’t know when.

Ever since I’ve been old enough to go to the eye doctor, I’ve dreaded it. Mostly, the doctors I’ve seen have been knowledgeable and kind; one is even an old friend. So I don’t know why I dread it—dilation? Could be. Anyway, an appointment drains me and I’m off kilter for the rest of the day. Today, the combination of too-early-to-rise and the eye appointment really got me, and I slept for two hours in the afternoon. Brightened for happy hour company, a jolly gathering, but still feel sort of out of sorts. Fragile? Not how I like to think of myself.

I am cheered by early voting returns—it appears that the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey have both gone to Democrats. In Virginia, that seems to demonstrate that racist propaganda doesn’t cut it with the voters. What a comforting thought in these times that one minister referred to as our period of darkness.

It’s really not that cold tonight, though I have the heat on. Tomorrow the high will be in the forties. Now that’s winter in Texas. It’s 51 and falling out right now. I view this with mixed feelings—I love keeping the patio door open and bringing the outdoors into the cottage, but honestly, folks, it’s time to get rid of this head.

‘Night. Sweet dream, sleep tight. I’m going to crawl under the comforter with a good book.


















Sunday, November 05, 2017

Adjusting to standard time


Don’t count me as among those grateful for another hour of sleep. Even as a teenager, I never could sleep late. Nine o’clock was a record for me, and when I had teenage kids of my own I was astounded that they could and did sleep till noon. These days I never set an alarm clock, but I’m almost always up by eight.

Last night Megan spent the night on the couch—her boys were all in the house. She pulls every blind on every window and turns out all lights. The result is that the cottage is a dark cave, even when the sun comes up. I was acutely aware of not wanting to disturb her, so I managed to doze until 7:45 the new time. But then I’d had it. I crept around, making a cup of tea as quietly as I could and turning on my computer. Finally, one of her boys came out to ask something and woke her. Then the world started to turn as it should.

We had biscuits and sausage gravy for brunch—delicious, though Jacob passed on the gravy and wanted honey. His two cousins thought he was crazy. Then everyone sat and talked for a while, and the Hudgeons family was off to Austin by eleven. At one point, Jordan said, “It’s only ten o’clock. I’m loving this.”

I came back to the cottage and worked a bit, but I was off my stride, and my body had definitely not adjusted. At one o’clock—which would have been two o’clock, I was unbearably sleepy. Napped, but that meant I got up with a long afternoon ahead of me. Somehow, lying there, I scolded myself for being lazy and unmotivated, so boy have I gotten a lot done.

Hung up several days accumulation of clothes, tried on some shoes I ordered and discovered as I suspected they were narrow, not the extra wide my feet have demanded since surgery (sob, the days of thin feet and trim ankles are forever gone). Took me the better part of an hour to arrange the exchange, print out the label, and package up the shoes for return. Washed dishes. Talked to the son of an old friend about a complicated family matter for a long time. And wrote my requisite thousand words for the day. I’m beginning to feel my way slowly with a new novel—very slowly.

The world goes on its shaky way—the shooting in Texas has everyone horrified, and I’m with those who are tired of prayers and hugs. We need action, but most of all we need to overcome the divisions in our nation, the sanction that’s been given to hate and anger. Who knows what makes people snap, but who can doubt that the uncertainty of our world contributes.

I was scolding one of my grandsons for talking about hating someone, and Brandon popped up with, “I hate Donald Trump, and I’m enjoying it.” I said that was like drinking a cup of poison and expecting Trump to die, but he denied it. Said his insides were not in a turmoil—he was just enjoying the hate. I doubt that’s a fair assessment. My brother said tonight a friend had said, “Oh, woe is me. I just found out one of my sons is a liberal.” When I asked how anyone could be anything else these days, he cut the conversation off. My sneaking suspicion is he won’t talk about Trump and Republicans because he knows how cruel and wrong they are.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Football in summer temperatures


My two gorgeous TCU daughters
My family has gone a-footballing. The TCU/UT game started at 6:15, but they left the house about 2:00, intent on finding several different friends they wanted to tailgate with. As Megan said, “It’s going to be a long day.” But they love it.

My thermometer tells me the temperature outside is 80, hardly football weather. I remember when I first moved to Texas. The last college football games I had gone to were in Iowa, and we bundled up—it was cold. When we first arrived in Texas, my new husband was a surgical resident, and the staff physicians often took us to TCU football games. I bundled up, because that’s what I thought one did for football games. And I ended up being miserably hot. I ad a full-length red coat that I had to hold or carry the whole night. I also remember that back then folks dressed for the game—no torn jeans and T-shirts, thank you. The ladies wore suits and dresses, and the men wore suits. TCU never won a game in those days, back in the mid-sixties, so I wondered why we went—my blood was not then purple. Thank goodness, that’s different today and they are winning many more than they are losing.
And grandsons--the one on the left looking serious is a dedicated TCU fan,
the one on the right, grinning, doesn't much care,
and I don't know what was going on with Jacob in the middle
Note the orange sleeve to the right--it's my son-in-law
See above that my daughter wore lots of purple--a divided family

I’m not a football fan. As I’ve said, I can never figure out what’s happening on the field. I used to go for the camaraderie. Now, for lots of reasons, it’s beyond me, but out of loyalty I keep it on the TV, muted. But every time I look up, hoping to see a score, they screen flashes scores of other games. I think it’s near the end of the second quarter, and I have no idea who’s winning. Oh, well. I suppose they’ll all come home and tell me, probably in the morning because I’m sure I’ll be asleep by the time they make it home tonight. A friend emailed to say it’s an exciting game—thanks a lot. I’m missing all the excitement.

Nice day. Went to Ol’ South with Megan and family and then to TCU bookstore, where Ford chose as his birthday present a T-shirt, face stickers, a football, and a pop socket. Jacob got a basketball, for which he swears he’ll pay me. Difference in kids—Sawyer happily went with his dad to look at books. Jacob and Ford ran loose like wild Indians. We finally corralled everyone, dropped all those males at the house, and went to Central Market.

I planned a good meal for myself tonight, but like many, it wasn’t quite right. I did a chicken thigh with soy, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in the toaster oven—and all that crisp skin, the best part, stuck to the foil I’d used to line the pan. Next time, I’ll grease the foil. The zucchini just didn’t taste right, but the ear of corn was delicious and so was the chocolate for dessert. Win some, lose some. I’ll have to try that chicken technique again.