Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Taking Stock

New Yer's Eve gaiety with Jordan
and her BFF from high school, David

Oh, how hard it is to remember to write 2019! Soon it will become automatic, but today I must think carefully. Seems to me as we look optimistically toward the new year, it’s a good time to look back and take stock of what happened in 2018. Most folks seem to agree that for a variety of reasons it was a bummer of a year.

Nationally, it was a year beyond belief and not in a good way--one increasingly outrageous act after another, one false tweet followed upon another. But there were hopeful signs—Donald trump’s presidency seems like one of those endangered species that he so wantonly removes hunting restrictions on—it’s endangered and crumbling; the NRA’s hold on America is also crumbling, thanks to some courageous teenage survivors of a horrendous mass shooting; the Republican stranglehold on Congress has been broken—I realize whether or not that is good depends on your personal point of view, but to me that is cause for rejoicing. I have a great deal of confidence in Nancy Pelosi, for whom I will use an unladylike phrase—she’s a tough old broad.

For me personally, health matters were once again prominent in my concerns, and again, there was good news and bad. Recovery from my bizarre and complicated 2017 hip surgery found me stronger every day. I have accepted the doctor’s suggestion that the walker is now my lifetime companion and focused on getting as good on the walker as I can. These days I’m fairly good at collapsing the walker, stashing it in the car, and driving away—I can do errands alone, which is a relief to both me and Jordan. And the atrial fibrillation which flared in 2017 seems under control, but in 2018 eye surgery for an implanted lens that went wandering proved to be an ordeal. I had just gotten over that when I began to feel negative about food. Turns out intolerance to a heart med led to “acute renal failure”—not the way I wanted to lose 15 lbs. I didn’t eat, slept a lot, and didn’t care one whit about my writing—the latter tells you I really felt bad. But thankfully that is all behind me. One more hurdle to jump in my ongoing effort to prove to doctors that I am healthy. I swear they keep finding one more thing that “we really have to investigate.” Meantime, I am feeling strong, healthy, and happy.

And 2018 was a landmark year for me—I turned 80. Don’t feel it, hope I don’t look it, though it’s hard not to act it on a walker. Jordan engineered three wonderful days of partying, and all the kids came, along with many many friends. But a planned Great Lakes cruise later in the summer had to be cancelled for health reasons.

A side note: I am heartened by the kindness of people when they see me on the walker, from those who hold doors to the grocery people who worry that a sack may be too heavy and all those who simply smile and say hello as they pass by. Americans are generally good, kind, caring people despite the turmoil in our country and what sometimes seems a prevailing climate of hate and racism.

My writing career took a tumble and a turn this year. In the spring I published a Kelly O’Connell Mystery, Contract for Chaos, but it landed with a thud and needs love to this day—it’s about racism, so I thought it timely. The few who’ve read it often say it’s one of the best Kelly novels, but it hasn’t caught fire. I am proud of the cookbook I published in November, Gourmet on a Hot Plate, an outgrowth of my learning a different way of cooking in the cottage with a tiny kitchen and no stove. I’m trying to build an audience for a related blog. I want tiny kitchen cooks to share their recipes, concern, ideas, etc. Turns out many single people say the cookbook is great for meals for one. Possibly because I have little room for dinner guests and most of my entertaining these days is at happy hour. Consequently, the book has lots of appetizers.

But my career took a major turn when I inherited the “second battle of the Alamo” project. It’s a big deal for me to write under contract to a major publisher and on a subject that fascinates me, but I am tremendously saddened that it came about because of the death of an incredibly vital and energetic woman who I called a friend. When Debra Winegarten realized the seriousness of her cancer diagnosis, she called and asked me to write the book she had under contract. The publisher was agreeable, and Debra’s wife sent me all her massive research materials. So, since September I’ve spent my days deep in Alamo history. The book will be a tribute to Debra, who passed away in September.

For the time being, the Alamo book marks at least a temporary end to my mystery writing and return to my first love—the history of women in the American West. The book will take the first half of 2019 and maybe longer, and where I’ll wander after that is up in the air. I toy sometimes with the idea of mysteries based on the real-life people of the second battle (think Daughters of the Republic of Texas) but no aha! moment has hit yet.

So that’s my year, a mixed bag of good and not-so-good. How about you? Have you taken stock of 2018? Are you feeling the general optimism about 2019?

No comments: