Saturday, March 31, 2018

To those who celebrate, a blessed Easter or Passover.
To those who find spiritual comfort in nature, may you grow in the spirit of this season of renewal.
To all of us: Did you know that the world's
major religions all profess some version of the Golden Rule:
Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
In this season of renewal, let us all strive to live by that,
to put hate and anger aside, and let love rule in our hearts.
Peace, my friends.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Cooking up a holiday storm

Chicken Stroganoff

Easter and Passover are holidays I associate with a lot of cooking. When I was married, I hosted a few seders, but I don’t remember much about what I cooked. I remember the seder plate with its symbolic foods and how I struggled to sip Manischewitz. I found a recipe for Manischewitz ice cream the other day and a friend, who had also been married to a Jewish man, agreed with me it might be really good and was probably the best way to serve that wine. Probably I cooked a brisket, a la my mother-in-law who called it first-cut breast and could make it delicious. Mine was a pale imitation. For Easter I always think of ham and either scalloped potatoes or potato salad, though I long each year to cook a leg of lamb. Some year the circumstances will be right, but not this year.

We are having ten for brunch, one a vegetarian and one who will not eat anything with onions in it. Limits your menu choices. I am fixing sausages for the meat eaters and a leek/ricotta/pesto pie for all but the onion-hater. Christian will fix a Spanish tortilla with potatoes and eggs, and we’ll have fruit salad, hot cross buns, and bloody Marys. Should be fun.

Meantime I’m cooking. You know if you order chicken Caesar salad these days, you get Caesar salad with rotisserie chicken slices? Most of the time I want old-fashioned chicken salad with mayonnaise, so I was delighted to find a recipe for Caesar chicken salad that called for cut up chicken and a Caesar salad-like dressing. But when I made it tonight, it didn’t seem to have anything to bind it together. It’s going to be liked marinated chicken bites. I’ll assess tomorrow, but I suspect I’ll add a bit of mayo for tomorrow night’s company supper.

Meantime, I’ve had the same thing for supper, lunch, and supper—and probably will have it for lunch tomorrow. I invented a quick way of doing chicken stroganoff, mostly because I had a large piece of chicken that really needed to get out of the freezer. Here’s my rough approximation of how I made what I thought was enough for one and turned out to be one and between a half and three-quarters.

Make a cup of beef bouillon or use a cup of refrigerated broth.

Pre-cook some pasta, about a cup of whatever you have on hand. I used rigatoni because that’s what I had.

Sauté a generous cup of cubed chicken in a mixture of butter and olive oil. Dump in baby green peas to taste—or omit. When chicken is heated and beginning to brown, stir in one Tbsp. flour. Mix thoroughly.

Stir in the broth in about two batches, waiting until it thickens enough to make a sauce. Add pasta. At the last minute, dump in a Tbsp. of sour cream. Stir and serve.

Your instinct may be to use chicken broth, but trust me, the beef gives it a more robust flavor.

What are you cooking this weekend?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Some Arguments I’m Really Tired of Hearing

Someone’s paying those marchers – if that were true, I know a lot of people who are still waiting for their checks. The survivors of the Parkland massacre are tough, sharp kids who have had enough. They have been well-trained by their school for leadership positions. It’s just that nobody thought this was the direction that leadership would take. They are nobody’s tools and nobody’s fools. And yes, they had help-because they knew how to use the system, to start a Go Fund Me campaign, to publicize their movement, enlist others. Give them credit, and for God’s sake, stop the personal attacks.

Guns don’t kill; people do. If people didn’t have access to rapid-fire weapons with bullets that can dissolve organs and bones, they would not be able to kill at the rate that mass shootings have established. People shoot the guns but the guns do the killing. Something like 3400 school children since Columbine. Appalled? I am.

The Second Amendment protects my right to own a gun: As legal scholars and past members of the Supreme Court have said, that’s a gross misinterpretation. When the second amendment was written, guns were single-shot, muzzle loading weapons. Our Founding Fathers could never have imagined the weapons of today. But the key is the wording, a “well-regulated militia.” That meant a militia with training sessions, an order of leadership, practices, etc. Want that in your life? Enlist in the armed services or join the National Guard. It clearly does not mean a lot of people running loose with guns in their hands.

I need my guns for protection. From what? You fear a military takeover? What chance would you have against military forces? You want to shoot an intruder? Do you know the statistics of deaths to a family member, particularly children, when there are guns in the house? They go up astronomically.

Nobody’s going to take my guns. I got my rights. Nobody is coming for all your guns. This movement is about sane but strict regulations. Hunters should certainly keep their guns (but you really don’t need an AR-15, even for wild hogs.) And within limits citizens should have them for protection. But we need much better laws, and we need to enforce them.

Thanks for listening to the rant. Now, on a lighter note, you know what life is like when the high point of the day is having your passport photo taken. Regulations—and costs—are much stricter these days. My passport expired last year, which means I got it in 2007. If I recall I paid $60 for it. Today, it’s $189 plus you must have it in hand six months before your return date, and it takes six to eight months to process, which means Jordan and I paid an extra fee to something called RushMyPassport.

For the picture, you must not smile, you must not cover your ears with your hair (Jordan had to take off her earrings). The resulting picture is what you expected—pretty grim. All this in preparation for our Great Lakes Cruise next fall—we fly into Toronto and leave from there, but you need a passport these days to go to Canada.

What a world we live in!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Dinners, tornados, and wet dogs

Betty and I had our usual Wednesday night dinner tonight, though it was sort of a milestone. Eighteen years ago tonight was when the massive tornado roared through west Fort Worth and on into downtown. It must also have been a Wednesday night, because we were having dinner at Pappadeaux, between a half mile and a mile from where the storm entered downtown. What was interesting tonight was that it told us how long our Wednesday night dinners have been a tradition. Back then, it was already an established pattern, probably for about five years. And, gulp, we were in our fifties!

Pappadeaux has lots of windows, and although we didn’t see the funnel cloud, we clearly saw the sky turn the color of split-pea soup. No way we were venturing out in that, so we ordered another glass of wine. Later, Betty’s husband Don would say, “I can’t believe the two of you just sat there and ordered more wine.” What would he have had us do? Charge out into the teeth of the storm?

I like to think that not informing customers what was going on was an informed decision by restaurant management, but to this day I’m not sure they shouldn’t have told us to take shelter under the tables in case of flying glass. Perhaps they wanted to avoid panic. We lucked out on that score.

We didn’t know what had happened, of course, until we got home. I found a message from Jordan that said, “Don’t worry. I’m safe.” I asked her later if she was at all worried about me, since she clearly had been home and knew I wasn’t there. She said yes, but repeated she knew how worried I was about her. And she was right.

Trauma of another, milder kind tonight. It was time to change Sophie’s flea collar, and Jordan had picked up a new one at the vet’s office. I swear that dog has sixth sense. As Jordan unwrapped the color, Sophie began to back away. She went into the bedroom, but I guess couldn’t stand the suspense and edged into the kitchen, from where she watched us warily. Then she went under my desk. I got cheese out of the fridge, and Jordan coaxed and coaxed until she came to take it and back rapidly away. On the second piece, Jordan was able to take hold of her color, and she stood looking scared but not protesting while the old collar came off and the new went on. Fitting the loose end of the new was too much for her, though, and she backed away again. Before it was all over, we gave her almost an entire slice of Velveeta or, as I call it, dog cheese. I wonder if perhaps the odor of the new collar alerted her—or was it really sixth sense?

Another rainy day today, dull and a bit depressing. Great weather for gardens but not so great for dogs. Sophie has been reluctant to go outside all day, even when I knew I’d be leaving her confined to the cottage for some time and wanted her to do preventive pottying. Last night, with thunder rumbling most of the night, she was on my bed a lot. When I got up to go to the bathroom, we tussled just a bit for control of the favorite spot in the bed. I’m looking forward to sunshine that’s predicted for tomorrow. My disposition could use it. So could my dog.

Friends helped my disposition today. Lunch with three women whose company I enjoy—had a great cream of spinach soup at Aventino’s. Tonight, Betty and I went to one of our favorites—the Tavern—and split a vegetable plate. Turns out you choose from four sides they’re offering that night, so we had broccoli, cole slaw, green beans vinaigrette, and spaghetti squash with spinach, mushrooms, and a “raisin medley.” I got one raisin; Betty got two.

I came home and happened to read something to the effect that eating protein at every meal prevents aging. I guess I blew that one. My cottage cheese for breakfast just won’t cover all three meals.

Here’s to happier weather tomorrow and for Easter.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A damp, chilly day and my view on Facebook

Spring was in full bloom when I woke up this morning—rainy and a bit chilly. Oh the temperature wasn’t bad, but it just felt cool. Rain was heavy, then slight, then heavy again, but it rained almost all morning. Actually, I’d have liked it—after all, my basil seeds, and my newlettuce and onion were getting good soakings,--but I had to go out in it.

Or I thought I did. Two days in a row now I’ve tried to go to doctor appointments that are really next week—somehow I was just a week off on my computer calendar. Yesterday I caught it before I left the house. Talking to a friend and arranging a lunch for next week, I noticed that the audiologist was listed twice—once yesterday and once the next Monday. Hastily I called to check, found out it was next week, and cancelled my ride in time to avoid Betty picking me up or me showing up there only to be told I didn’t have an appointment.

Not so lucky today. There was great confusion over whether Jordan or Christian would take me to the eye doctor. Ophthalmology appointments always take so long because of eye dilation and all that someone drops me off, and I call when I’m through. To my surprise, Jordan came back after dropping Jacob at school to get me, and I arrived at the office with one minute to spare. Checked in and settled down to wait my turn, only to have the receptionist come and say solicitously, “Your appointment is not until next week.” I called good friend Jean who came to get me and take me home. I figured Jordan had barely gotten to her office, and it would upset her routine to have to leave again so quickly.

I’ve had two nice long days at home at my desk, with a brief detour this morning. With rainy weather, I’ve been grateful to be at home, snug and secure. And it’s great nap weather.

Yesterday I got into a protracted—really long!—and sometimes unpleasant discussion of gun control, so ugly that it led me to block someone, a thing I’ve only done twice before in my long years of social media. The person I blocked accused me of being an angry old white woman, which I readily acknowledge—I am angry that children have to show us the way. But the line that got me was that he wasn’t going to enable me—sorry, sir, no man “enables” me. I have another FB antagonist who is absolutely, to my mind, off the wall in his arguments, leaping from this topic to that so fast, you can barely follow and always coming back to blame it all on Obama and Hilary. But I know he’s otherwise a good guy at heart, and he has never ever attacked me as a person—so I don’t and won’t block him. I enjoy our exchanges—okay, sparring matches. But many on the conservative side cannot exchange opinions without attacking the person voicing the opposite view. I deplore that. I am not now capable of volunteering for many causes I find worthwhile--speaking out is one of my ways of paying it forward.

Some ask why I’m so vocal on Facebook, and I can only reply that my conscience makes me speak out against what I feel is unjust, dangerous, cruel,, detrimental to our country—and these days that’s a lot. To remain silent would be to be complicit. Fellow authors suggest I might antagonize readers. I hope not, but it’s a price I’d pay for liberty and justice for all in this country. I am constantly reminded of Martin Niemoller’s WWII words:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

That, my friends, is why I speak out—for my family, my grandchildren, for you, and for me. I hope it doesn’t upset you.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Everyone has a handicap—mine’s just obvious

I used to be depressed when I went to a certain assisted living facility in town. Everywhere I turned, people wandered the lobby and halls on walkers or oxygen. Not for me, I thought smugly. Now I’m on a walker.

Acquaintances who don’t know my story try to encourage me that I’ll eventually walk unassisted. “Baby steps,” said one friend recently. I’ve gotten so I bring the truth right up front: my surgeon says the walker is my friend for the rest of my life. My balance is not good, and he’d rather have me protected than risk another fall that might do irreparable damage. He tells me I don’t have to explain that my surgery was way different than an ordinary hip replacement, so I’ll spare you that tale. Just take my word for it, please.

Yes, it’s a nuisance. I can’t jump up from my desk and run to get something from the kitchen. At parties, I can’t mingle and meet. I’m relegated to a seat where I hope people will come to greet me. It leads to some wallflower moments. There are places that I cannot go because they are inaccessible, and some public bathrooms are a real problem with tiny stalls. If I get me and the walker in, then I can’t close the door.

I so far have not been allowed to drive, though I think that’s just around the corner. I did prove that I can go from house to car, stash the walker in the back seat, and get into the car. To prove to my kids that this is all okay, I’ll have to check in with the rehabilitative driving program at Baylor. But driving should free me of my dependence on others to some extent.

I don’t think I’m being over-sensitive when I say I notice a change in some people’s attitudes toward me. I have become the old lady who can’t get around much, who is content in her cottage. But I am blessed with friends and family who see me differently and, with the help of others, I have a fairly active social life. As a friend said to me the other night at a party when I said my piece about being on the walker forever, “At least you’re here.” I agree. It’s not the end of the world.

I can still keep y cottage fairly neat, dress myself, work at my desk, and cook—all big parts of my life. It’s not as though I retired to a recliner to watch TV all the livelong day.

Before this happened to me, I did not have good balance. Never. In my whole life. Steep stairs, for instance, made me nervous—now people kindly help me up and down them. Open spaces made me uncomfortable—now I have a cage around me, so I know I won’t lose my balance. In short, I don’t have to stretch myself to do things that bothered me before, though I do try to stretch just on general principles.

I don’t know how to explain it without sounding like a wimp, because I try never to trade on being “handicapped” and yet in some ways life is easier. I do try to be as independent as possible, but still….not sure where to go with this, so I’ll quit.

Just please don’t pity me. And don’t treat me differently. And don’t call me old. Thanks.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday, spring plants, and Sunday dinner—what a day!

            Sunday morning found me in Palm Sunday services with Christian and Jacob. It was a joyful, happy service with more palms than I’ve ever seen, and people waving them everywhere. The little children singing a hymn were adorable, some with their palms hanging limply down as though the child had forgotten why he or she was holding it. There was an air of excitement and anticipation in the church—and a lot more people than usual. And why not? Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a happy event, even though he predicted the dark events of the week ahead.

fountain grass
ground cover
kid of hard to tell
but it's so green and healthy
            Today wasn’t quite as lovely as yesterday. The sun hid for much of the day, but it was still warm, and by late afternoon a nice breeze blew. Neighbors joined us to sit on the patio for a while, a small celebration of Jay’s birthday tomorrow—of course, he’ll be twenty-nine again. By sunset, clouds to the west seemed to promise storms, though the forecast is vague. My ground cover is amazing, and rain will make it burst forth even more. The plants Jordan put in pots seem fine, and the basil seeds are just beginning to send up tiny sprouts. I’m thankful that Jordan has taken an interest in my vegetable garden and is following Jay’s directions explicitly, so I don’t have to nag about watering.

Somehow, I associate lamb with Holy Week meals. It’s traditional, of course, both for Holy Week and Passover, but I’m not sure we had lamb at Easter when I was a child—the origin of so many of my taste preferences. I think we always had ham and scalloped potatoes. But tonight, I experimented. Made Shepherd’s Pie but used ground lamb instead of beef. Some recipes call for cubed meat, but I’ve always liked to make it with ground meat. Despite Christian’s aversion to peas and cooked carrots, I just dumped in a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, and he dealt with it bravely. In fact, he complimented me several times on the meal, but said he wouldn’t have known it was lamb if he himself hadn’t picked up the lamb at Central Market. I can tell the difference instantly, which led him to say my palate is used to more tastes than his. At any rate, it was a successful dish, with a bit of grated cheese in the mashed potato topping. Another recipe for my growing cookbook.

Tomorrow, back to serious work. Got to start editing the first draft of my==sob!—still untitled novel.

And don’t forget, folks, Murder at the Bus Depot will be available April 6 on Amazon as both ebook and print. Shortly thereafter it will show up on B&N, Kobo, and several other digital platforms. Enough of this lollygagging around. I’ve got to act like a working author.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Love is in the air

Wow, just wow! I’m not quite sure how to describe this evening. Tender, touching, exciting? Jordan’s good friend and a boy (man?) I’ve know probably thirty years, proposed to his girlfriend tonight. Wait! It gets better. He dropped to his knee on the 18th Hole of the Colonial Country Club Golf Course, with an audience of thirty or forty people watching from the Sky Room, an upper room with expansive windows directly overlooking the 18th. The only person who didn’t know in advance was Kelly, the bride-to-be. And she was suitably surprised.

Jordan and David
Jordan has lots of close girlfriends, but David may be her BFF. They dated briefly in high school and have remained close ever since. I have always considered David a member of the family, although he has his own close-knit family, of whom I’m very fond. So Jordan was involved in this from the get-go. She went with David to pick out the ring; she met with his parents to plan the party; and she threatened me within an inch of my life if I breathed a word, even to Sophie, before tonight.

Secrecy worked. When I asked Kelly if she expected this, she said not today. They both knew that marriage was in their future and had talked about it, but David’s elaborate planning caught her off-guard. He had even gone so far as to have golf balls imprinted with “Will you marry me?” When they got to the 18th hole, her dad put the balls in the hole, she went to hold the flag for someone, looked down, and then looked at David. That’s when he dropped to his knee and proposed.

Those imprinted golf ball
Keepsakes, I'm sure
Later I told him I was incredibly proud of him, doing that in front of what he knew was a huge audience, and he said, “I’m proud of me too.” I thought it was a pressure situation to do what he did knowing all those people were watching. We cheered and clapped, but of course they could not see or hear us. Afterward, we milled around, drank wine, and ate hors d’oevres.

Turns out I know Kelly’s grandmother and her mother from our local PEO chapter, now dissolved. But it was good to see them again, and I had a great chat with her father, who is a good friend of a man I used to work for. We veered off into talk about medicine as a vocation and all sorts of other things.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, but it was one of those that frustrated me because my walker and I were often left alone at a table—even Jacob wouldn’t come sit with me. Were I mobile, I’d have been up, “working” the room, but I had to sit and wait for people to come to me—which several did. Some of Jordan’s friends of whom I’m particularly fond were there, and it was fun to see them. Jacob was impressed by the proposal and the reception when David and Kelly entered the room to claps and cheers, but other than that he was bored and ready to go home. I watched him though, and he chatted amiably with adults he’d never met. Gets his people skills from his parents..

A happy blending of two individuals and two families. May God bless them.

A monumental day in other ways. I am so impressed by the March for Our Lives across the country and the fact that there were only a few puny counter-demonstrations. Incredibly proud of my fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Eden, for marching with her mom and holding a sign high though I couldn’t tell from pictures what the sign said.

And Jordan planted the things we bought—pictures of that tomorrow. Spring—and love—really are in the air.
Me with David's parents and, far left, a family friend who
grew up on my street, as did David's dad

Friday, March 23, 2018

Tidbits from a day gone mostly right

March 23, 2018

I’m here to testify weather does make a difference in your disposition. Up earlier than usual this morning, partly because I couldn’t sleep and mostly because I suspected Jordan would want to leave early for our Friday morning shopping trip. She did, and while I wouldn’t say we were either one grumpy, we weren’t exactly happy and chatty. We dropped Jacob at school at went on our way.

By ten o’clock, I was back home, having been to the grocery and the nursery and checked out a site that worried me—found out the latter will be a piece of cake. More about that another time. Grocery shopping was fine, but the nursery was a joy, if expensive. We got two large ferns to put by the “front” door to the cottage, a geranium and two pots of fountain grass for the patio. Tomorrow is planting day Jordan tells me. It’s a joy to know that spring is settled in enough that we can put these plants out, clean the patio, and move into the “summer living room.” Got to do something about mosquito control this year! Next: coreopsis for the bed under my office window--it's the first thing you see when you drive in the driveway.

The rest of the morning I put off a call that I thought would result in hours of computer research for me, checking on ISBN numbers for my books. Every book has a unique number (International Standard Book Number), one for digital, one for print, one for audio. One company that I was dealing with told me I could neither correct one nor post a new book because the number was already in use. A ten-minute phone call solved three problems—they retrieved the information from their stored files, posted my books, and all is well. So a shout-out to Draft2Digital, a company that posts books on various digital platforms for indie authros, doesn’t charge their authors but takes a cut of the sales. It’s such a pleasure to do business with a company where you are not put on hold, shifted from one tech to another, and they solve your problem quickly—and, oh yes, the tech spoke clear English. I love dealing with them.

And I placed my first order for curbside pick-up from Central Market. It was an adventure. List in hand, I called, prepared to discuss my specific preferences etc.—did I want my bananas green or ripe, my avocadoes soft or hard (actually neither were on my list). Turns out you can only order online. So I checked into the site and proceeded. Like any new site, it was a bit confusing, and it took me two phone calls, but I got it done and next time will be easy. I ordered two cheeses, some ground lamb, cottage cheese, and dried thyme. The latter was my biggest problem—I didn’t know how much an ounce is so I ordered two. I now have enough leaf thyme to last a lifetime. But still a lot cheaper than buying dried out thyme in a jar at the regular grocery. I put my generous bag in the fridge to keep it fresh.

I learned as I went. For instance, I started out browsing dairy, but I really didn’t need to browse all the many dairy items to find cottage cheese. So I figured out you can go to product and type in the specific item you want. Cheese, for instance, is offered in blocks of a specific weight—need more? Order two. There is even a place for you to add a note for your personal shopper—about those hard avocadoes, for instance. I opened a new account which earned me four pickups free of the $4.95 service fee.

I’m not a grocery snob, but there are simply some things I can get at Central Market that I can’t get at Tom Thumb, Kroger’s, or Albertson’s, like ground lamb, pecorino, and the bulk spices. You pay through credit card when you order, so the order was easy for Christian to pick up on his way home from work. Warning: order at least four hours or the day before you want to pick it up—or better the day before.

So it was a good day of groceries and work and learning lessons—and spring, glorious springs. Turning my attention to a menu for Easter brunch.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Content but not

Today was a beautiful spring day in Fort Worth. Started out a bit chilly but soon warmed up so that I could have the patio door open, and Sophie could come and go at will. The ground cover planted last fall is looking green and healthy, and my new lettuce plants look good. It even smells like spring.

I spent an almost-peaceful day at home. I say almost because I found myself embroiled in problems that go with posting book text on various digital platforms—the size is not right, the ISBN doesn’t match (now a problem with two books), the pricing is not according to our standards. Makes me crazy. I only discovered some of the problems late in the afternoon, so I’ll wait until tomorrow to call for help. You call one place for Amazon, another for whatever other platforms you have the book on. At this point, I have Amazon in order, I think, but Draft2Digital, the multi-platform outlet, is giving me fits over ISBN numbers.

This afternoon I looked out my kitchen door to see Sophie wandering in the driveway. She had somehow opened the gate from the back yard, where the dogs are confined. Thank goodness the main driveway gate was closed, but it is not always. She came happily when I called—no, wait! She came because Jay was in the yard painting window trim on their guest house, and he called her. She ignores me but will come for someone new. So now I have her escape route to worry about.

The good news: my landline phone works again. Yesterday all the satellite phones in the cottage said, “Base no power.” Christian thought the base had probably died of old age and volunteered to go get me new phones. But tonight, the phone rang! Unavailable was calling, so I didn’t answer. But I called Christian, and sure enough—he checked and found the base, in the main house, had been unplugged. We suspect a couple of sixth-grade boys, but I’m glad he found it before he bought new phones.

Nice casual, easy supper with Carol tonight. We chose to go to Lucille’s Bistro, a comfortable, reliable place. She had pizza, and I had a chicken salad sandwich that I held together by sheer will power as I ate. It wanted to fall apart and drip all over the plate. But it sure was good. We talked taxes and health and politics—we are on the same page on the latter topic. Both appalled and dismayed.

And that’s the second reason for my discontent tonight. I read today that Jared Kushner released confidential information from the daily presidential briefings to the new prince in control of Saudi Arabia, who now boasts he has Kushner “in his pocket.”. In some doing, Kushner may well have triggered the arrest of some 200 Arabian princes and powerful businessmen, and he may some day be ultimately responsible for the execution of some of them. Donald Trump Jr., meanwhile, has been busy trying to get India to ignore its own laws and proceed with the financing and construction of the Trump Tower in that country. Business as usual.

 Meanwhile at home, it’s looking more likely every day that the so-called president was elected by chicanery, orchestrated campaigns of false information, and election tampering. While dismissing those concerns, he’s busy suing a porn star to keep her quiet about an affair he says never happened and replacing his cabinet, almost all of whom have been fired or resigned during his so-far short tenure—pray God that it remains short. The corruption everywhere is so blatant that it astounds.

The country is in such disarray that I am fearful of our future. Yeah, it’s hard to enjoy the beauty of a spring day. The Statue of Liberty weeps for us==and so do I.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pollyanna Dances On

Third night in a row out on the town. I’m dizzy with the excitement of it all. Well, not really, but it’s been fun. It’s Wednesday night, dinner with Betty night, but tonight we had a special treat. My longtime (at least forty years) friend Linda came in from Granbury, and the three of us went to the Wine Haus, had good wine, food from Chadra, and lots of catching up. Such fun. Glad to see Linda, who flits here and there about the world—from Dubai to Angel Fire to South Padre—and doesn’t make it to Fort Worth often enough. Betty and Linda both had pizza, but I indulged in lamb chops and mashed potatoes and ordered stuffed dates for the table. Too full to eat all the dates, but they were so good. Nice evening.

Comments on last nights blog made me realize I needed to clarify impressions of my life, lest I sound like Pollyanna dancing my way through life in bright red shoes, turning everything I touch to gold, every minute to joy. As I said last night, I’ve had my hard knocks: the deaths of my parents and several people close to me; a difficult divorce; a lifelong battle with anxiety (the doctor says I’m just not wired like other people—I don’t know how helpful that is). My heart has been broken by a couple of good men and bruised by a few not so good. I am neither a best-selling mystery writer nor a well-respected literary author—I’m just a yeoman writer. In the last three years or so I’ve had several difficult health crises, with the result that I can no longer walk without assistance and my vision is slightly impaired, my heart slightly off-kilter. I cannot hop in the car and go to the grocery or out for lunch. My outings have to be carefully planned, and I necessarily rely on others. Despite my joy in my cottage, I miss many things about life in the house that was home to me for twenty-five years, and despite what sounds like a gay social life, I spend long hours alone in the cottage. Some days loom long and empty.

But I choose not to write about those things. I choose, for instance, not to write about the heartbreak of a dissolving marriage but to focus on the joy I found in raising four children as a single parent—they taught me more than I could ever hope to teach them. I choose to be happy and to write about happiness. Like self-pity, happiness feeds on itself.

The best thing my ex-mother-in-law could say to others was, “I wish you a lotta luck.” I always wanted to scream, “I don’t believe in luck. We make our own luck…and our own happiness.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fine dining

While I was having an elegant dinner,
this is what Jacob was doing; he's in the center, of course 
After a hard day at the computer, what a girl—or an old lady—needs is a fine French dinner. Tonight, a friend and I went to Paris 7th. It’s an off-shoot of St. Emilion, which has long been one of the few bastions of fine dining in Fort Worth, with an impeccable reputation of excellent food, fine wines, and outstanding service. Paris 7th has instituted a bistro menu for early diners on Tuesday and Wednesday nights—appetizer, entrée, and dessert—for a prix fixe.

This new restaurant is in space evacuated by a toney French restaurant that tried too hard—dark atmosphere, extraordinary prices, although, so I hear, good food. It went out of business, So Bernard Tronche, owner of St. Emilion, moved in, redecorated and lightened the space, and created a truly pleasant atmosphere, light and bright with cheery red upholstery, café curtains in the windows, and a clever use of small mirrors to enlarge the space. The restaurant was almost full, but the noise level was muted and tolerable. You got the sense that you were dining among people who were enjoying good food and company. The day’s full menu was on two chalkboards that waiters carried from table to table—I peeked but couldn’t tell much. I suspect it listed scallops, pate, escargot, beef bourguignon, steak au poivre, sole meuniere, and, of course, frites. The man next to us had an elaborate presentation of steak tartare.

Tonight’s bistro menu was asparagus soup, duck confit, and an apple tarte. The soup had a great flavor but was a bit thin and not quite hot; the confit was rich and delicious—a small serving was more than enough to fill me up; and the tarte light and lovely, with a small scoop of ice cream in which a sugared walnut was embedded—surprised me when I came across something hard in my ice cream. We had a good French chardonnay, not included in the bistro price. One server brought bread; another filled our water glasses; still another removed used dishes. But our waiter was on top of it, stopping just often enough to assure that we were enjoying our meal.

Once again, an evening I thoroughly enjoyed, one that made me feel back in the stream of life instead of puttering in my cottage. I am blessed.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The stay-at-home writer, sort of

Thankful today for a bright blue sky, plenty of sunshine, and almost balmy temperatures. I have a good friend who refers to the details of daily life as brush fires, and in his terms, I spent the morning putting out brush fires. I was reminded of an editor I used to have at TCU Press who once said she knew the advice—pick up one piece of paper at a time and don’t put it down until you’ve finished dealing with it—but she had a hard time putting it into practice.

This morning I faced recipes I wanted to put in my ongoing cookbook—some I fixed this weekend, some from earlier days—along with some tax matters to solve (who gets away with sending a W2 in March, when I sent all my information to the accountant weeks ago?), yet another revision of Murder at the Bus Depot. This time I had to unpublish it and will have to wait a couple days and then re-publish. This has been an enormously difficult book to get online, and I think it’s “them” and not me. Out of four phone calls to take care of business, I was asked to leave four messages and have only had a return call from one. Grateful it was the accountant. The other calls had to do with a pirated copy of my chili book, an appointment to check my hearing aids, and I can’t even remember the last one—what will I do if they never call back and I never remember?

A morning like this makes me so grateful for a career that I can continue as long as my brain and my fingers on the keyboard hold out, one where I can work at home in my pajamas with my dog sleeping peacefully nearby, and one where I can work at my own pace, set my own deadlines. I’m quite sure having that desk-oriented career keeps me young—well okay, not in years but you know what I mean—maybe active and alert are better words. Friends who are more mobile than I do a lot of volunteer work that keeps them on the go, and I regret that lack of mobility won’t let me join them. But sometimes I see their volunteerism lock them into schedules that are almost like working again, and then I appreciate my life all the more.

I do admit to spending too much time following current events these days—who can resist? I won’t burden you with opinions tonight, but I will quote Dorothy Parker: “Should they whisper false of you/Never trouble to deny/Should the words they say be true/Weep and storm and swear they lie.” You know without my telling you who needs to heed that advice. He must be an awful poker player.

My stay-at-home career wouldn’t be quite so happy and fulfilling if I didn’t have family and friends who come to visit, who take me out for lunch or dinner, who give me the taste of the world that I miss in my solitary work.

Tonight I had a wonderful taste of that larger world beyond my cottage. Jordan and I went to a reception following Mary Volcansek’s Final Lecture at TCU. Mary is a dear friend—she calls me her big sister—and a client of Jordan’s. It was a lovely affair and a great tribute to Mary’s long academic career. For me, it was a bonus—a chance to greet colleagues I haven’t seen in a while and visit at length with one pair of old friends. Granted, I had a hard time hearing, but it was still a heady experience and made me feel part of the mainstream again. Wine was good too.

Going to bed happy tonight.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Random happiness

Today has been a banner day. Colin, my oldest child, came through town (I mean that literally—he didn’t even come to the house, but we met at Carshon’s) with his Lisa, twelve-year-old Morgan, and ten-year-old Kegan. We celebrated a reunion of sorts (half the family) and Jordan’s birthday with brunch at the deli. Colin could, I’m quite sure, sneak through Fort Worth without telling me, but he’d never be here without a trip to Carshon’s. He’s in his late forties now, and he’s been going there ever since he was a baby.

It’s always a joy to see one of your children after an absence—okay, only since Christmas—but it’s a particular joy to see him looking so well and happy, since he has a chronic health condition. Lisa said he spent spring vacation skiing like an eighteen-year-old, and he has a smashed thumb and who knows what else to show for his wipe-outs. All four of them looked glowingly healthy. Colin is riding a wave—happy marriage, wonderful children, good job, amazing home. He’s a happy man, and I love his positive outlook on life.We sent them on their way back to Tomball, and Jordan and Christian went about the business of celebrating her birthday.

When I bought this house, some twenty-five years ago, I was warned about living across from an elementary school. The school has ben a joy, especially since it’s the focal point of our neighborhood, the glue that holds it together, and Jacob went through all grades there. The zoo? Not so much. Every spring break, zoo traffic seems to get worse. These days it’s bumper to bumper even in front of our house, which means some drivers are trying to make an end run around the traffic—and failing. As for the road through the park that’s our favorite shortcut everywhere, don’t even think of it. I thought by Saturday it would be over, but it wasn’t. Now we’re waiting for Monday.

My neighbor Jay (yeah, the good-looking one) put in my vegetable garden today. I was convinced he waited too late for lettuce, but I was thinking seeds and he bought plants. Had to dig up the ground and all those spring weeds and install a drip watering system which is on a timer to the faucet. I am so excited—I’m going to make wilted lettuce. When I told him that he said no, he’d fixed the water source, so it wouldn’t wilt. He also planted onions and some basil seed. The basil will last the whole long summer. Having basil at your finger trips is a treat—I recently bought some from the store, but it was limp and unattractive, and I pitched it. And there’s nothing more wonderful than lettuce and onions that have just come out of the dirt.

Storms brewing tonight. The sky has turned a funny color, and I hear thunder rumbling quite close. Sophie is looking a bit alarmed. I’m expecting happy hour guests. They said they’d be here unless it comes a tornado. I’ve got the TV on just in case.

Later: the storms turned into nothing but a lovely gentle rain, kissing the new lettuce plants. Jay said maybe if he’d planted two weeks earlier, it would have rained two weeks ago. We’ve gone quite a while without rain.

Lovely visit tonight with friends who were neighbors almost fifty years ago and have remained friends ever since. My hors d’oevres platter turned out to be just right, and we visited about everything from kids to cruises. A perfectly lovely evening. So comfortable to be with people you’ve known forever who know you and love you in spite of your foibles.

Time to read.

Friday, March 16, 2018

St. Patrick’s Day and the urge to cook

The approach of St. Patrick’s Day fills me with an urge to cook Irish dishes—perhaps that Guiness stew I saw on the TODAY show this morning or maybe colcannon, which has always interested me. I saw a recipe today for colcannon made with kale, with the comment that you can substitute cabbage. Heresy! Colcannon is a dish of mashed tatties and cabbage; kale is the interloper, and I for one hope it’s days are numbered. Unless it’s very young and tiny leaves, I am not a kale fan—and I’m not sure even then.

Colcannon makes me think of kalpudding—best described as meatloaf with carmelized cabbage. It’s a Scandinavian dish, not Irish, but the recipe stares at me every time I look at my file of recipes I want to try. I doubt anyone here would try it. Sometimes I yearn for the days when my kids were all at home every night and were pretty much a captive audience for my cooking experiments. I need a new audience.

Mystery author Keenen Powell wrote a blog about the Irish breakfast she fixes for her family every year—it began with blood sausage. I’d forego that. I dutifully tried blood pudding when I was in Scotland, and while it was not objectionable, it wasn’t that good either. I asked our B&B host what the point was, and he opined it probably had to do with using every part of the animal. No, thanks.

But the rest of the breakfast sounded wonderful, if heavy enough to be a hearty supper: rasher (thick slice of bacon or ham, fried), fried new potatoes (skin on because that’s where the flavor is), scrambled eggs, sautéed tomatoes, and what we in Texas call northern or sweet beans. I could maybe get some in our family compound to eat the rasher, eggs, and potatoes, but they’d protest at the tomatoes and claim beans were not breakfast food. I may put a little lox in scrambled eggs and call it Irish breakfast.

I’ve invited some old and valued friends to join me tomorrow night. I wanted to fix them an Irish supper, but this is the wife’s first venture out as she recuperates from extensive surgery, so the man said he thought just wine with snacks. I’ll do a platter with smoked salmon, cream cheese, vegetables, and some baguette slices. Foiled again in my longing to cook Irish, but the salmon is a tip of the hat to Irish food.

St. Patrick’s Day is the birthday of my baby-child, the youngest of my four—note I didn’t say which birthday. It’s not a decade-changer but she has moved into that range where women get a little touchy about their age. I’ll cook a birthday dinner for her Sunday. She asked what I wanted to cook, but was scornful when I suggested corned beef and cabbage. “You know I don’t like either of those things!” I told her the real question was what she wanted and gave her several choices, and she chose Norwegian hamburgers, a recipe from my oldest child’s Norwegian mother-in-law. These are delicious, and we all love them and thank Torhild for introducing us to them, but it’s an odd choice for a half-Hispanic child born on St. Patrick’s Day.

Green beer, anyone?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A look back at good times

I wrote this blog six years ago, but it came popping up with a comment in my inbox tonight, and it seemed too perfect not to share again. Thanks to son Jamie who found the complete lyrics to “Who’s Knocking at My Door?” Anyone else remember this? Here’s the original blog post:

Way back when I was in Girl Scouts--I think that was the connection--we used to get on the church stage and do a skit that began, "'Twas a year ago today/that my Nellie went away/She was sixteen, the village queen/The prettiest girl you ever seen." Each person took a role--Nellie, the father, the wicked lover, etc.--and we recited this in a singsong manner, accompanied by deep knee bends. It's an indelible memory of my childhood, but I never can remember the rest of the words. The story is of course going to be obvious melodrama--Nellie is lured away by a mustachioed villainous actor; a year later, she returns home bringing her infant. She has been abandoned. Everyone I asked about this looked at me blankly, indeed I think they thought I was a bit addled.

But last night I found a whole web site devoted to it. The poem or skit or whatever it is bears the title "Who's knocking on my door?" and there are countless variations in the wording. But it's more universally known than I thought. Most people remember it from the '40s and '50s. For me, it was like finding an old friend.

This is what Jamie found:

Who’s Knocking at My Door?

It was a dark and stormy night
When my Nelly went away
And I'll never forget her
Til my dying day
She was just 16
And the village queen and the prettiest trick
That the valley ever seen
The farm ain't the same since me Nelly went away
The rooster died and the hen won't lay
But in this window I'll put a light
40 below zero, gosh what a night

Who's that a knocking at the door?
It's your own Little Nell
Don't you know me anymore?
What happened to the actor guy
Who used to call you Honey
Did he leave you all alone when you hadn't any money

Oh, he's a slick town guy and he lies with ease
And he's got more money that a dog has fleas
But he left me alone when I was most forlorn
The very night that my little Dumbell was born

Is that there Dummy
Well it ain't no other
The gosh-darned image
Of his gosh-darned mother

Hoity Toity my fair beauty
Or you'll come to harm
Cos I hold the mortgage
On your gash-darned farm
Give me back my Dummy
Your Dummy
My Dummy
Your Dummy
My Dummy

Who's this a comin
It sounds like a mule
I ain't no mule you gash-darned fool
Can't you tell by me badge
I'm the constibule

Now what's the harm
Do please tell
Well he ain't done right by my Little Nell
Yes I have
You have not
Yes I have
You have not

And I guess I'll have to fine him a dollar and a quarter
Which all goes to prove the price of sin
And tomorrow night we play East Lynn

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Come Spring. . . .

My cheerful funny socks
Perfect for a happy spring evening

That was the saying of frontier women in the 19th-century American West. Hard as their lives were, they were always optimistic, they always thought things would get better, “come Spring.” It hasn’t quite come Spring yet…the days may be longer, but mornings are chilly and spring bloom is still to come in all its glory. But tonight, Christian was out spreading pre-emergent weed killer, although some have already emerged.

The biggest thing that gives me Spring-like hope today is the spectacle of all those fantastic young people who walked out of their classes today. In schools where they were locked in (that must violate fire laws if not civil rights), many took a knee. Their courage in bucking the status quo should give us all hope. No more shall we say, “That’s just the way things are,” or “It [whatever?] will never work, never pass. [Choose your topic—gun control, abortion, taxes] will never change.” The young shall lead us, and it’s up to us to follow, not give in to resigned defeat.

Conor Lamb’s stunning victory in Pennsylvania gives me hope too. It was a resounding rejection of our orange president, his policies, his instability, his mercurial temperament. He may think he’s the smartest man in the universe, but he just took yet another walloping. And Lamb set a pattern for other Democratic candidates to follow in the upcoming mid-term elections. I especially like him because he did not blindly follow the party line but adhered to his own beliefs. Integrity is pretty refreshing these days.

I am also heartened by the Republicans in Congress who are criticizing the shut-down of the House investigation of Russian intervention in our elections, with the weak conclusion that yes, there was intervention, but no, it didn’t favor Trump. That flies in the face of every other investigation, of the FBI and other agencies, and even of common sense.

And while the orange president won’t link Russia to the nerve gas attack on a former spy and his daughter, the UK has expelled twenty-three Russian diplomats because of the incident, other countries are following that lead, and even Nikki Haley, the US voice at the UN, has said publicly that the US associates Russia with the attack.

Meantime, the orange president is busy firing people. Someone suggested he be reminded  that he’s in the White House now and no longer running “The Apprentice” on TV. I remember my dad saying you never fire someone—you make them want to resign. Could it be that this flurry of firings represents the death throes of a terribly frightened man who is spinning out of control? That possibility holds both hope and apprehension, the latter with a prayer that he not do anything so drastic as to ruin all of us as Mueller closes in on him.

The firing that I find most reprehensible is the potential dismissal of Andrew McCabe from the FBI, just four days short of retirement. Sources say he may lose his benefits, which would be so unjust that we ought to all run screaming into the streets.

Saddest news of the day is the death of that amazing man Stephen Hawking. Tributes on the internet have been plentiful and eloquent and so have quotes—I like the one where he said we are but a pack of monkeys on a minor planet in the solar system of a very small star. Talk about putting us in our place. But perhaps the most striking quote is to the effect that those who talk about their own IQ are losers. Sound like anyone you know?

Peace and restful sleep, my friends. Some days are disheartening, but today I think humanity and compassion and love are going to win out.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Confession of a Libtard

Not really me, but you may call me
a tree hugger
I have been called a liberal, accusing of spouting liberal bullshit, and scorned as a libtard (the dictionary tells me that is a “liberal that does not have much common sense. It is used as an insult by conservatives to make fun of airhead lefties”; I think it’s a derogatory use of the word “turd”). A Facebook post quoting JFK on why he was proud to be a liberal sent me scurrying to the dictionary to look up the terms liberal and conservative.

The basic difference is so simple: liberals look ahead, while conservatives cling to the past and resist change. Since nature is ever-changing, ever growing, as is our world, and even our language, to cling to the past seems futile to me. I like the notion of looking ahead, welcoming change. Liberals are open to new ideas, new attitudes. I welcome the changing society around me, the acceptance of people of all faiths and colors, no matter their wealth or poverty, their country of origin, their sexual orientation, their preference for dogs or cats, city or country. I don’t see groups or classes of people. I see a great array of individuals. And I see a world where communications and travel make it impossible to remain an isolated country. We are now in a global world, and we best adapt. Our future does not depend on our country alone, but on that of the entire world.

JFK implied that to him being a liberal meant caring about people—their lives, their health, their jobs, their happiness, all aspects of their lives, the air they breathe. I heartily applaud that. And that doesn’t mean one class or group of people—it means all people.

Conservatives however seem mired in the past, clinging to old ways that are never going to come back in our global world. And even as they watch helplessly, conservatives see the ground under their feet shifting and changing. My favorite slogan from perhaps the 2016 campaign or earlier is “This is not your father’s Republican party.” Conservatives fight change, and, to my mind, it has led them to a dark and blind corner. The attitudes of far-right-wing conservatives are dated—racism, sexism, the assumption that the natural world—plants, animals, and the earth—were created for human convenience, etc.

I have also been called a humanist, with a slightly condescending tone to the voice. Humanism emphasizes the value of human beings, individually and collectively, and of critical thinking as opposed to dogma or superstition. Dogma and superstition to me are symbolic of clinging to the past, so it’s all one bundle.

JFK was proud to be called a liberal. So am I. But as I go merrily into the adventure of the future, I do look back over my shoulder. Not for a past that I would cling to or resuscitate, but for a past that brought many treasured moments and shaped me into the person I am today. Want to scorn me as a liberal humanist? Go right ahead. I may have it put on a T-shirt.

A p.s.: Financially I am a conservative. That means I don’t believe in spending more than you have, as an individual or a government. Today’s conservatives seem to skip blithely over that fact, giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy and then bemoaning we can’t afford Medicare, Medicaid or support of our veterans. Now that’s conservative bullshit.

‘Night all.