Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Dogs, diets, and an alarming start to the day

Before: Shaggy Sophie. After: slim and trim

Well, I got my day off to an exciting start today. I let the dog out before disabling the alarm; then I made it worse by leaving the door ajar so she could come back in. The alarm’s “voice from nowhere” was issuing me stern warnings while I stumbled around to find the remote control. Then the siren went off. Sophie howled and came barreling inside to pick up her chew toy from last night—I suspect her thought was if there was an intruder, he was darn well not going to get her treat. Finally, things got beyond the abilities of the remote, and I had to deal with the actual control panel. But I did get it all stopped, so I could make myself a soothing cup of tea.

I’ve been lax about posting on the blog for a couple of evenings, but I have had such a good excuse. Jordan has been out here talking to me most of the evening. We’ve talked about family and friends, people who make us joyful and friends who disappoint, birthdays and celebrations, dogs and kids—and of course food and menus. We laughed and got teary-eyed. And yes, we drank a bit of wine.

One big topic of discussion was Colin’s upcoming fiftieth birthday—a great jolt for me. But we just got word yesterday that the children’s half-sister from California will come for the celebration, and we’ve known for some time that Uncle Mark, Aunt Amy, and cousin Emily from the Bronx will join us. A wonderful, rousing family affair. I anticipate a lot of high jinx and laughter.

On one of these evenings, Jordan looked at me and said, “I’m really upset with you.” My heart sank. How had I overstepped the bounds of the mother-daughter relationship? But I burst out laughing when she said, “It’s the biscuits. The whole cottage smells like fresh-baked biscuits, and I can’t eat one.” I had baked a tube of Pillsbury biscuits to stash in the freezer for my breakfasts. Jordan is on a self-imposed “Whole 30” diet, so no carbs. I guess all is well in our relationship, biscuits aside.

I dislike this dieting that pops into our lives occasionally – Christian is on it too, and it severely limits the things I can cook for Sunday dinner, rules out a lot of things I’d like to cook. For this week, I gave them a list of possibles, hoping they would choose trout or a lamb stew; Jordan chose one of two chicken dishes. Christian hasn’t voted yet, but he did give everyone a good laugh when Jordan caught him in the kitchen complaining, “I’m so hungry! I’m so weak!”

I’m just old-fashioned enough to believe in a regular diet of three balanced and modest meals, and I harbor a lingering suspicion that alternating dieting and splurging is not good for the body. Of course, I was this fall in the enviable position of needing to gain weight, and while I no longer have that excuse, my doctor still says, “Your sodium is low. Eat all the salt you want.” Jordan and Christian came they are in recovery from the excesses of the holidays and the rodeo season.

A former neighbor was here for happy hour last night and kept saying how good I look, slim and with a sparkle in my eye and a sharp new haircut. I wanted to urge her to continue, but then she’d say, “You really look so much better. You didn’t look so good the last time I saw you.” I’m sure my voice was weak when I asked, “How long ago was that?” I don’t like to be reminded of my down periods.

For several weeks now, friends coming into the cottage have exclaimed about the weight Sophie has gained—I discarded the idea of putting her on the Whole 30 but did cut down on the size of her supper. Today, she’s back to being slim and trim, all due to a haircut. Bobo who grooms her said it was her winter coat, and he took it back a little more than usual this time. She seems to know and prances around here as if proud of herself.

A moment I wish I’d had my phone to take a picture: when I went to brush my teeth last night, Sophie lay between me and the commode, keeping guard. You must be protective when your human is brushing her teeth! I love life with a dog.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The tax man cometh and does not bring happiness

carnitas for dinner
I’m one of those compulsives that people love to scorn. I start organizing my income tax return on New Year’s Day or shortly thereafter, not because I am anxious to give Uncle Sam the money (particularly not this year with the new tax law) but because I hate the chore and want to get it behind me, so that I can take a deep breath and say, “Wow! That’s done for another year!” This year, more than ever, I’ve dreaded it because of all the reports that people who previously got huge returns were now owing great amounts—thank you, the Republican swamp.

Much as I hate it, I rely on a tax planner from my accountant to organize my returns. That usually comes in the mail about mid-January, by which time I have things sorted into categories. This year, it didn’t arrive, so by the first of February I dashed off a note asking about it. Seems that the revised tax law made new planners necessary, and the software wasn’t up to speed yet. Without really chastising me, the accountant was saying, “Chill, and be patient.” As I read in various news sources about other people filing and getting bad news, I was increasingly nervous. Saturday, I sent another of my gentle queries—not minutes after I hit Send, Jordan came out with my mail, which included the tax planner. So guess what’s the big thing on my calendar for Monday.

But not today. Today is Sunday, and once again I went to church online. The fragile dog in the house was not doing well this morning, and concern kept Jordan and Christian home. The sermon was “Deep Joy in a Shallow World.” Among the takeaway lines, “We have learned to make a living, but not life.” Russ Peterman stressed that happiness does not come when you are seeking it but only when you forget yourself in service to others and God

It made me think of the new word I had just learned this morning: hygge. It’s a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary, as cozy, charming or special. It cannot be purchased or learned—it just happens. Sort of the polar opposite of Marie Kondo. But I’ve known those moments, often in a small gathering of people I care about, sometimes around an outdoor fire. To be treasured.

During the church service, much of the camera work involved shots that put the viewer behind the organist, looking over her shoulder as she played. Remarkable experience—four keyboards, all those stops, and the footwork that we couldn’t see. For someone who can’t rub her belly and pat her head at the same time, it was impressive—and the music, as always, glorious though it never sounds quite as full online. This morning, the church presented third graders with Bibles. It was sort of a nostalgia moment—was Jacob really that young just four years ago? Dr. Peterman stood by to shake hands with each child—someone should prime those kids about shaking hands with their right hand. About half offered him their left.

Weekends mean good food at the Burton/Alter compound. Last night, Christian fixed a pot roast with gravy and roasted potatoes, Jordan made a salad, and I contributed a killer
Roast pork done on the stovtop

vinaigrette—new recipe. Look for it on Thursday at the Gourmet on a Hot Plate blog. Tonight, we had carnitas—sort of tacos without the tortillas, though Jacob and Christian had theirs in corn tortillas. I’m not a fan of tortillas and always eat the filling without the shell, and Jordan is avoiding carbs, so we just had the meat and accompaniments. The recipe for the meat is in Gourmet on a Hot Plate. Gosh, I really am becoming an obnoxious self-promoter. Sorry about that.

And now we head into another week. Have a good one, everybody.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Valentine’s recap

My late-night pal
Few things are more comforting than the company of a dog. Here’s Sophie, in one of her favorite places—she sleeps at the end of my desk when I am working late in the evening. She’s not a great cuddler—her leaps on my bed are short-lived. It’s as though she buries her face in mine and then becomes bored and jumps down. But she wants to be close. When I sleep, she’s often, but not always, at the foot of the bed—she has her favorite chairs in the living room. But when I stir the least little bit, she’s at the side of the bed, wanting to be petted and reassured about the day to come.

Sophie is always anxious to go into the main house. It was, for goodness’ sake, her residence for the first five years of her life. But after she checks things out and enjoys the company for a bit, she lies by the back door, ready to go back to the cottage. Last night, Jordan put her in her lap, an awkward move at best with a thirty-pound dog, and Sophie put her head on Jord’s shoulder briefly, but then she struggled to be down.

We had a split Valentines dinner last night. Christian was going to cook a special dinner but
Jacob and the croque monsieur

make it do double duty as a project for Jacob’s French class. I suggested croque monsieur—Jacob’s French teacher does not want to know how he pronounced it! Croque Monsieur is essentially a glorified ham and cheese sandwich, but oh so rich! It calls for thinly sliced boiled ham, good bread like sourdough or ciabatta, and a rich cheese sauce made with gruyere or Emmental. You toast the bread, make the ham-and-cheese sandwich with a bit of mustard, pour the cheese sauce over, and then bake or fry until it has a golden crust.  Not for the cook who is faint of heart, nor for the dieter.
Boys cooking

Jacob and Christian made one sandwich (I won’t say who did how much of the cooking, but you can guess). It was a work of art-. As Christian said, it looked like the picture.He cut it in fourths, so we could each have a bite. Jacob ate my bite. I guess I’ll have to go to La Madeleine for a croque monsieur.

But Christian wanted something else for dinner, so I gave him a recipe for chicken francese—French chicken, right? Only it turns out francese is Italian for French, and the recipe was not only Italian but American Italian. So he and Jacob cooked both. The chicken was delicious—in a delicate lemon sauce

Today was, I think a pivotal day in American history, when a president tried to usurp power and break the long tradition of checks and balances in a democracy, all over a crisis that does not exist. Once again, I feel as if we are living in suspended animation, waiting for the other shoe to drop. In this case, the other shoe will drop slowly, with long, drawn-out court cases. Pray to God that our democracy and our country may survive and triumph over the will of one man and the venial abdication of responsibility on the part of many. I have my own list of deplorables.

And as if to echo the national mood, the weather turns cold again tonight, after a day in the balmy seventies. Roller coaster weather is hard on all of us. Stay warn and safe,

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!

Nobody wants to know the technical reason that chocolate makes you feel almost as good as being in love—phenyl-what?—and nobody really needs to know that St. Valentine was beheaded by order of Roman emperor Claudius for marrying Christian couples. Claudius thought being married would make soldiers less fearsome in battle. So Valentine was fearless in love.

But everyone needs chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Here’s a recipe that you can either call pudding or mousse, whichever strikes your fancy. It’s quick and easy, and if you don’t have the ingredients on hand, it’s not too late to run get them. Just to show how old this recipe is, it calls for a double boiler. Anyone have one of those still?

16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, either two 8 oz. dark candy bars or chocolate bits

½ cups chopped walnuts

2 Tbsp. crème de menthe

4 cups whipping cream

Melt the chocolate in that double boiler you don’t have or the microwave. Just don’t let it burn. Stir in walnuts and crème de menthe. Cool to room temperature

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the whipped cream until thoroughly blended. No white streaks.

Serve chilled in individual dishes. Wine glasses, even martini glasses, are nice Decorate with chocolate sprinkles.

Note: I don’t really like nuts in soft things, so I leave them out of this. Everyone to their own taste.

If you’re old enough to remember double boilers and valentines like the one above—remember they used to come in variety packages? —you’re old enough to remember Valentine Boxes and the days when every kid worked hard to make his or her own to be proudly carried to school on the day. Lots of tissue paper, some crepe paper rolls, cut-out cardboard hearts, maybe even a bit of lace if your mom sewed. It was definitely a competition to bring the fanciest box. And then teachers made sure you had a valentine for every child in your class, so no feelings were hurt.

Ah, the good old days. I don’t think kids do that anymore. They’re missing wonderful memories.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Is it the walker?

Several years ago, friend Betty and I went to a new restaurant for our regular Wednesday night supper. The waitress was, to say the least, condescending, with a too-cheery, “Well, are you ladies out of the town tonight?” I remember having perhaps the best appetizer I’ve ever had—one huge scallop on a bed of pureed cauliflower, topped with a dab of foie gras. We each had two glasses of wine, and we got our revenge—the waitress forgot to charge us for the wine. I called the next day to pay for our drinks and was curtly told, “It was her mistake. She can pay for it.” I thought it was karma for her attitude toward us, but that’s the first time I ever noticed age discrimination.

It hit me in the face again today. A nice guy came to measure for a section of fence that  needs to be replaced. I was the one who had called him (I’m comparative shopping), made the arrangement for him to come out this morning. The whole thing was my deal.

When he got here, Jordan was in the cottage, and, because she is more fleet of foot than I am, she opened the door. He greeted us both and proceeded to talk directly to Jordan with an occasional word my way. It was clear he thought she was in charge, even when she gave him my email and told him it was mine.

After he left, I said it was obvious he thought I was incapable of absorbing what he said, either because I look my age (that crepey neck), I had to ask her to hand me my hearing aids, or I’m on a walker. At one point I wanted to raise my hand and say, ”I’m the one paying this bill.” I did interject a light-hearted comment in an attempt to become part of the conversation—it didn’t work. Jordan maintains I am being too sensitive, but I don’t think so.

A friend who is blind says that people talk extra loud to him until he wants to say, “Hey, I’m blind, not deaf.” I think too many tend to think one disability somehow affects the whole package, especially including the mind. I am not in dementia. I am old, and I use a walker, but my mind is clear and works fine, thank you very much, and I enjoy a full and vibrant life. I do not want to be isolated or categorized because my legs don’t’ work quite right. In the two years since I’ve been using the walker, a few friends that I used to see frequently have dropped away. I don’t know that it’s the walker, but I have a suspicion. And I am so grateful for the many who have stayed by me, putting up with loading my walker, praising my independence.

Strangers are extra kind to me in passing. They nod and greet me, they hold doors, they wait patiently because I am a little slow. The difference comes when I make personal contact with just a few people. Next time you meet someone with a handicap, don’t stereotype them in your mind with that handicap. Look at the whole person. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sunshine and problem solving

My romaine harvest
Loving this bright, sunny day even if it is still cold enough that I have my woolly gray sweater around my shoulders and my prayer shawl over my knees. Sophie, feeling better than she has in a couple of weeks, is out enjoying the sunshine instead of sleeping in a chair. Her day got off to a better start than mine—she ate the biscuit I had put out to defrost for my breakfast.

My day got better though. I woke in the night worried about three things—hearing aids, my herb garden, and the novel I think I’m writing. You know how sometimes in the night your brain gets wired, and no matter how hard you try to think of other things your mind always goes back to what’s bothering you? That’s where I was at two-thirty this morning.

I am having hearing-aid-battery troubles—one ear keeps going dead, which I could stand except that, because my aids are hooked to my phone, the phone quits when the battery goes out. The other day I picked Jacob up from a sleepover. Not wanting to disturb people I didn’t know early on a Saturday, I parked at the curb and called him. The phone rang once and disconnected. About that time, I realized that right aid had died, but I didn’t connect the two. Kept trying to call—I’d hear him say, “Juuu” and then nothing. When he finally came out, I asked why he didn’t answer and he said, “I did. You called so often I thought you were butt dialing me.” Later that day when I went on an errand by myself, I had to choose which was more important—the hearing aids or the phone. I chose the phone.

This morning the wonderful Tracy Burger at TCU’s Miller Speech and Hearing Clinic told me I can use disposable batteries until the rechargeable one on order comes in, so I feel relieved about that.

And the equally wonderful Zenaida who cleans my cottage every other week was able to undo
The out of control mustard

the extension on the arm of my herb garden, so now the light is back down low, directly on the seedlings. Last night Christian and I transplanted the basil, which is semi-flourishing, to a separate pot, and I started seedlings in the herb garden, having figured out that mix and match wasn’t a good idea. If you do three of the same things, they grow at the same rate, and you aren’t raising the arm for one plant and thereby depriving of the warmth and light it needs. I worried about not being able to raise and lower the light not just because I didn’t want to waste seedlings but also because I didn’t want to be a failure at indoor herb gardening, after my son had given me the garden.

So far I’ve harvested romaine—made a salad—and mustard greens, which I added to a salad I served a friend the other night. The plant had grown tall—taller than the highest extension of the light arm—and had flowered, which to me indicated harvest time. It was good but there wasn’t enough to make a real difference in the salad.

And I’m working on that novel, putting into play all the notes I made yesterday, trying to get to know the characters better, figuring out their backgrounds. Usually I get the first line and just sail into a story, but it wasn’t working this time. I didn’t feel I knew the characters well enough. I’m slowly getting a handle on it. Thirty-six hundred words; only sixty-seven hundred to go!

Enjoyed my weekly Tuesday night happy hour with neighbor Mary Dulle tonight, and then had sauerkraut and potatoes for dinner. I intended to add meatloaf, but the vegetables looked so good I just stuck to them. So glad I don’t have to watch a political speech tonight. I didn’t want to watch trump last night but kept it on in case coverage switched to Beto. It didn’t on the channel I was watching.

Interesting and horrifying times we live in.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The blog I didn’t write last night

Jacob and his mom on the midway
Conversations—first with a close friend and then with my daughter—carried me through the evening until it was bedtime, and I wasn’t sharp enough to post on the blog. You didn’t miss much except a bunch of trivia. This morning, in retrospect, I will say that mother/daughter conversations are a rare and lovely treat.

We talked about family—siblings and children/grandchildren, holidays, travel, fences and gutters, food, and a host of other things. We laughed, we worried, and we got downright passionate about some things. And we drank wine. Such evenings are a benefit of my unusual and wonderful living situation.

The rodeo ended in Fort Worth amid great hoopla because it was the last year the event would be in the iconic Will Rogers Coliseum. Next year, the new and lavish Dickies Arena where, among many changes, I hear the tickets will be a lot costlier. The new building has risen like a behemoth just blocks from the old coliseum. I am with the many who feel sentimental about the change of venue. And where will the midway be? Jordan and Christian bravely took three pre-teen boys to the rodeo and midway Saturday.

Sopphie's first day with us
Did you know this month is Black Dog and Cat Appreciation Month? I am wondering at the overlay with Black History Month—coincidence or was that someone’s wicked sense of humor? I never had a black dog in a long life filled with many dogs—until Sophie Girl. I didn’t even think of her color when that lively pup stood out so from the other sleepy, lethargic ones. She was simply adorable and mischievous at the same time. In the last almost eight years, I’ve found the only difference about having a black dog is that she’s harder to photograph. But I do often call her, in affection, “my little black dog.” She still sniffles and snorts—poor baby is living with allergies. When I told friend Jean last night about this special month, she immediately thought of Velvet, the pure black cat she had and loved for many years, now long gone.

It was a dreary weekend, and I had to go to church via my computer because life was too hectic for my family. I appreciate being able to do that, but I like so much better being in the rich surroundings where the music is lush and full, and you feel a sense of awe at being in the community of faith. The Texas Boys Choir sang for our service yesterday, and I know they sounded better in the sanctuary than on my computer.

I filled the weekend with cooking. Saturday night I made salmon patties, something I’ve probably been making for at least sixty-five years. But somehow, I got off on the proportion of meat, egg, and binder. Ended up with salmon hash—tasted just as good but not pretty to look at, and I remembered my mom insisting food is half eaten with the eye. Sorry, Mom. I also wilted some cabbage and cooked it with water and a bit of molasses—half of Sunday’s meatloaf dish. Christian walked into the cottage and demanded, “What is that smell?”

The meatloaf was kalpudding, a Swedish dish which sandwiches meatloaf between layers of cooked cabbage. No, I don’t know why the Swedes call it that. Much as I like cabbage, I found it
superfluous. My takeaway though, is that a meatloaf of equal parts of ground pork and ground beef has an entirely different texture than my usual all-beef version. I liked this—more dense, less like eating hamburger. Once again, it made me think of my mom who always put pork in the meatloaf. Now I have a fridge full of leftovers—meatloaf, salmon hash, spinach, a bit of black beans and another bit of chicken salad, tossed salad from last night. Lunch will be a buffet today.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Is your suitcase packed?

Mine is not. I am not an easy or an enthusiastic traveler. But this leads to a lot of inner conflict. I am surrounded by addicted travelers: one friend just returned from Machu Picchu; another leaves tomorrow for three weeks in India; yet another goes to Australia in April for three weeks. I have neighbors, longtime friends, who go to Europe twice a year. When I confessed to them one night at supper that I don’t much like to travel, he looked at me in amazement. “Judy, I’ve never met anyone like that.”

Too often, I feel that not wanting to travel indicates some sort of deficiency in me. Perhaps I’m not adventuresome; maybe I’m not intellectually curious, which would lead to the inescapable conclusion that I’m boring. Whatever, none of this is helped by the fact that my youngest daughter, Jordan, is a travel agent. And she keeps putting temptation in my path.

But it’s true. I’m happy as a clam in my cottage. I like my own bed. I hate to leave my dog. Travel doesn’t have the siren call for me that it does for many. Yes, I have traveled a good deal in my life—mostly within the continental U.S. but as a child I went to Canada a lot, and I have been to Hawaii—a wonderful trip that I loved—and to Scotland, the land of my ancestors—a trip that will always be a highlight of my life. I’ve been to most of the western and midwestern states in our country, with a few ventures into New York and Florida (hated the latter) and lots of trips to North Carolina. The things about travel is that once I do it, I enjoy it.

And yes, there are places on my bucket list. If I could snap my fingers and be there, I’d go back to Scotland in a flash. I’d like to ride the Royal Scot, the luxury train that winds through the Highlands. As a substitute, I might like to take the train across western Canada. My one trip to New York City was pretty much a disaster, but maybe I’d like to go back, mostly because we have beloved relatives there. New England in the fall beckons to me, as do the Outer Banks of the Carolinas. Jordan and I had reservations for a Great Lakes cruise last summer, but I got too sick to go, and I’ve not worked my enthusiasm back up about that. I’m pretty content to travel by car (with someone else driving) in Texas to see my kids.

I have one friend, also a writer, who doesn’t much like to travel and finds it hard as we age (that’s a factor in my travel reluctance also). She posits that seniors often retire and travel because they have nothing else to fill their days. I sometimes think some people travel so they don’t have to stop and think about their lives and the empty days. These theories of course don’t apply to everyone—some of the most interesting and vital people I know are those who travel. Which leads me back to my inadequacy.

I’m going to Tomball TX in April—four hours by car—to celebrate my oldest son’s50th birthday. And next Christmas I’ll go with my whole family to a vacation house in Blanco TX. Now that’s my kind of travel. Scotland in my dreams. Texas is my reality.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Little Annoyances

Sometimes life just seems full of little annoyances. Nothing big. Nothing that matters in the long run. But still, things that are annoying. Like yesterday, when my computer wouldn’t turn on. I pushed the button. Several times. Then I pushed it and held it. Nothing. Many folks would shrug and move on to do something else, but I spend a large portion of my day at the computer. On days I’m home all day, it’s my lifeline to the world. It’s where all my work is stored. I made my way around the desk to where it’s plugged in—yes, to a surge protector but nothing is guaranteed. Unplugged it, waited a minute, plugged it back in. Power! I was connected.

An archive sent me three photos I had purchased for the Alamo book. I can’t open them to add to my photo log and write captions.

My dog has allergies. I can hear her when she breathes. Sometimes it sounds the way a child does with a stuffy nose; other times it sounded like air going through a damp sponge. The vet and I treated it by phone, because there’s no way I can get her to the car to bring her in. She’d get better; then she’d get worse; then she’d throw up. I thought of pneumonia. I wrung my hands. I worried a lot. Tonight, she’s much better.

Went to the Wine Haus last night about five with Jordan, Christian, and good friend Nancy. Delightful evening. Lots of laughter. Got in the car this morning to go to the grocery—no sunglasses. They were at the Wine Haus, which is closed until three. Of course, what started out to be a gray day this morning turned sunny and bright. I squinted.

The cold snap we’re having, however, is more than an annoyance. It’s definitely the next step up the scale of problems. My cottage is chilly. I never feel quite warm enough. I now work wearing my gray all-purpose sweater that gets me through the winter, and on days like today I drape my prayer shawl across my knees. And I added an extra blanket to the bed. I still think I may never really feel warm again until the temperature reaches 80 and stays there. None of this 80 one day and in the twenties the next, thank you.

Jordan thought 22o was too cold to shop early in the morning. “I don’t want to get you out in that temperature.” I didn’t remind her that I’ve lived in Chicago and northeastern Missouri—I don’t like cold, but I can handle it. She’s the Texas-born baby. We went about ten o’clock, and the car was so warm I had to turn the heat down a bit.

Now they say there’s the possibility of sleet this evening. I plan to go to dinner with friends, but I don’t think me and my walker will do well on sleet-slick handicapped ramps.

Later this evening: no sleet, and a delightful dinner at Righteous Foods. Salmon tacos, wonderful black beans, and churros for dessert. Good company. Satisfying end to an annoying day. Got my sunglasses back. My editor opened the mystery file of images. All is well in m world.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Hey, doctor, I'm not sick

I am a child of osteopathic medicine. My father, countless uncles, brother, ex-husband and some cousins were all osteopathic practitioners. Today, my nephew, his wife, and one niece proudly hold the degree, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. I think in the public mind osteopathic medicine is often confused with chiropractry and characterized by manipulation—and sometimes voodoo. Here’s the truth as I understand it: chiropractic medicine is an offshoot of osteopathic medicine which began to emphasize manipulation; manipulation is but one tool in the osteopathic doctor’s medical bag.

Andrew Taylor Still of Missouri developed the concept after the Civil War when he lost his wife and several children to spinal meningitis. Basic to his thinking was the idea that health, not disease, is the natural state for the human body. His focus on manipulation came about because he found the body that was well aligned was much more likely to remain healthy. He also stressed the body as a unit—if you have appendicitis, it is not just your appendix that is in trouble, but the entire working system of your body. The ankle bone is connected to the knee bones, etc.—there’s something to that old ditty. Sounds pretty logical, doesn’t it, but in the late-1800s it was radical thinking. Today, of course, osteopathic physicians are fully licensed in all specialties and subspecialties of modern medicine, and they employ all its tools. The only difference, when there is one, is a focus on health as the natural way for the whole body.

All of this came to mind because I collided with modern medicine recently. It’s a long story and I won’t go into details, but basically last summer a medication I took to control my heart rhythm was making me sick. It was probably a little over two months before I convinced doctors that the medicine was the problem—no anti-nausea pills were going to cure it. By then, I had apparently developed a kidney infection which, to my alarm, was called acute renal failure. Antibiotics took care of it, but in the course of checking out my recovery a small anomaly in my blood landed me in a hematologist’s office. And that’s the point of my story.

If you have lots of whatever protein molecules in your blood, you may possibly have multiple myeloma. I had only one molecule, but the doctor felt obliged to check it out—probably both to protect my health and her medical status. My protest that I felt great was met with the cheery assurance that I wouldn’t know if I had this condition. Urine and blood studies followed and still only one molecule, but I was anemic (remember the kidney infection). She wanted to do a bone marrow biopsy but said she would give me two months to bring my red blood cell count up (as though by hard work and positive thoughts I could do that).

Yes, I was worried, but I came to some conclusions, and that’s why I’m boring you with my medical history. My gut told me I was healthy, and my brain told me I felt better than I had in years. I could not see subjecting a person who felt as well as I did to an invasive procedure. (No, I’m not a Christian Scientist, but yes, I believe in following your instinct in health and other matters.) I knew the biopsy was a minor procedure, but it still invaded the body’s health system and as such carried some risk. At that point, I didn’t think the need outweighed the risk, and I, who have always followed doctor’s orders, resolved to ask for a second opinion.

This story has a happy ending. My blood work had improved to the point that the doctor dismissed me as a healthy patient. She had indeed been practicing good, pro-active medicine but like much of medicine today she saw disease, not health, as primary. And from the onset of taking that cardiac medicine to the final good outcome, the story is one of being caught up in the medical spider web. I could easily have been drawn into being a chronic invalid had I not resisted. I could have let medicine convince me I was sick. There’s an object lesson in my story.

Watch yourself in the doctor’s office. Yes, the doctor is a friend (like we tell kids about police officers) but you are your own best advocate. Uncertain? Take a spouse, other loved one, or friend to be your advocate.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Wearing my Pollyanna shoes

I asked my daughter this morning what came to her mind if I said Pollyanna, and she said nothing. So I hope some of you know that Pollyanna was an 1814 novel that featured a young girl with an eternally optimistic outlook on life. Boring in literature but not, I find, a bad way to look at life. I am Pollyanna.

And as I follow Facebook and other sources on the internet, I am encouraged about the world. We hear so much gloom and doom, and admittedly there is much dark to worry and moan over. The separation of children from their parents and now the word that it would be too much trouble to reunite them—I hope that ends up in Nuremburg someday, with the orange squatting president as the lead defendant. The ongoing foolishness of a wall that nobody wants that will do no good, cost a fortune, and destroy the environment. And the destruction of our environment on so many fronts. The greed and corruption that seems pervasive throughout the current administration—why in heaven’s name, I wonder, would anyone want to attach themselves to that? And why, oh why, do so many still seem to fawn over this man who is without a doubt corrupt and most likely a trator?

But the tide is changing. I see encouraging signs. Republican officials are pulling away from trump—a Senate amendment, which seems likely to pass if it hasn’t already, will condemn his withdrawal from Syria; several Senate Republicans have come out against the prospect of declaring the southern border wall a national emergency. The worst racist members of Congress have been ostracized and relegated to the sidelines, where they have no voice in government. The southern district of New York has demanded documents from trump’s inaugural committee, and it seems likely that his tax returns will also be unlocked.

Yes, we have miles to go, but these are encouraging signs, things we didn’t see a year ago It seems the universe that he thought he controlled is caving in on trump, and he’s fairly helpless. Karma is beginning its long slow climb to right the universe again.

A friend said to me tonight it’s amazing how rapidly trump was able to undo what it took years to put in place, and that is unfortunately true. But the American people are speaking, and I have faith in their collective voice. Today the buzz is about how many trump supporters are gobsmacked by their higher income tax bills and/or reduced refunds. The so-called president’s popularity is at a historic low. The tangled mess is unwinding.

I’m encouraged on another front. Across the world, people, communities, and countries are taking extraordinary measures to stop climate change and save the environment. They are planting trees—not just a few trees but whole forests, developing alternatives to single-use plastics, finding new methods of filtering water and growing crops in desert countries, developing non-toxic fuel alternatives. The numbers of countries who are partially or wholly dependent on solar power is astounding. I wish I’d kept a list of the projects that impressed me, for they are numerous and innovative. So while we hear all those prophets about the doomsday clock ticking, I am encouraged by the global effort to stop that clock. I only wish my country could do more, but I look to a hopeful future.

Be of good cheer, my friends. I really do think the future can be bright.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Summer in February and other delights

The weather gods are seriously confused. I think the high in Fort Worth today was 81—sunny, bright, and delightful. But this is February and the stock show is winding down in its final week. We should be having “stock show weather”—ice and sleet and freezing winds. It was so balmy today I almost put the top down on my car, but because of the fragile condition of the back window, I’m a little afraid to do that. I contented myself with driving with all four windows down and Alex Beaton Scottish ballads blasting. I’m as bad as the motorcyclists who treat everyone to their brand of heavy metal punk or whatever.

I was reassured to see that I was not the only one unenthusiastic about the Super Bowl or the halftime entertainment. I wish I’d seen more of the ads, and I still like the NFL one. But, whew! It’s over and done with for a year. I hear the audience was larger than ever, though with all the people who posted on Facebook about what a disappointment it was, I’m surprised about that.

Pleasant day today. I followed up on photo requests for the Alamo book and made some progress or at least reassured myself that I was still on some archivists’ radar. It’s sort of a one-step forward and two steps backward process. And I wrote a thousand words on that novel that jumped into my brain a couple of days ago. Still early days, and I’m getting to know the characters, figuring out how they’d react, finding new bits and pieces about them. So far, it’s heavy on narrative, which is unusual for me. I figure I’ll just write and see what happens.

But I had the most fun late this afternoon when I cooked dinner for Jordan and me—we abandoned Christian and Jacob to leftover white chili (it was sooo good). I fixed Coquilles St. Jacques—Christian doesn’t like either scallops or the mushrooms in it, and I discovered by phone that two of my children have no idea what it is. Translated into English, it’s a French dish of scallops in a cream sauce, with a bread crumb and cheese topping. The recipe was billed as quick and easy which was misleading, and I spent almost two hours happily prepping for it. Every bite was worth it, although Jordan said good as it was, she prefers scallops just browned in butter.

How I deviated from the standard recipe I followed will be the subject of Thursday’s post on my Gourmet On a Hot Plate blog. Watch for it at

Another week off to a good start. Happy days, everyone.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Super What?

I have no idea how this image fits the Super Bowl except maybe Linus got knocked out by a football, and Lucy is consoling him--or apologizing. But the picture struck my fancy more than a lot of footballs sailing through the air. Guess that tells you my attitude before I even begin.
Yes, tonight is that game. I considered inviting a couple of friends for a Souper Bowl party, but Jordan and Christian beat me to it. They know how to mark the occasion. They invited a few close friends, including some young people for Jacob, and Christian slaved all day over a huge pot of white chili. Someone brought a couple of dips, and someone else, a bowl of fresh fruits. We had a traditional feast.

The guests were all people I’m fond of, and I was glad to see them. But I really don’t have much interest in football. Christian said he’d be more excited if it was a team he likes—but I don’t particularly care for any team, so that cancelled out my interest. I had already seen a couple of the best ads—Budweiser, Jeep—and I’m not sure how interested I will be in the halftime entertainment.

So I visited, ate my chili, drank some wine, and came home to eat some chocolate. Turned on the TV just in time to see a super ad that had people passing a gold football at a banquet, crashing into tables, etc. Missed enough that I don’t know what was being advertised, but I admired the talent and skill of the acrobatic actors and the concept dreamed up by whatever PR firm.

Now the halftime show is on. I have no idea who the guy leading the entertainment is except that I’m quite sure it’s not John Mayer. My daughters will be so proud of me! Whoever he is, he just took off his jacket, revealing solid tattoos from wrist to shoulder on both arms. Do these people think what that will look like as they age and their skin begins to sag—and keeps on sagging? I hate to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but I guess I am. This entertainment does not restore my faith in mankind, but I am grateful that other things do.

Super Bowl of course makes us think of food. Have you noticed how advertising really pushes the seasonal foods of the moment? We’re about to go from dips and nachos and the like, for football watching, to chocolate for Valentine’s Day. I never object to chocolate—in fact I crave it. But somewhere the other day I saw mention that made me question my devotion. Chocolate hummus? I can’t quite imagine it. Not sure I want to.

This has been a weekend of recalling old times. Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend, and today my friend Linda went to a birthday party for another old friend, a woman my age who was once the nurse assistant to my ex-. We have not seen this friend for over fifteen years—she’s been going through a rough patch. But Linda brought back a good report on her and her family, who we knew well once upon a time when we were all young and optimistic. Fun to hear about people I’ve lost touch with, even if some of the stories are sad. It makes me realize, as my friend said yesterday, how very fortunate I am.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

The nicest thing happened this morning

Really, it was nice. I wrote a novel before lunch. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, and no, I don’t have a title yet. But as I was dozing in bed and working hard to keep Sophie from realizing I was awake, I plotted out a novel. The thing is, I kind of thought I was through with the cozy, but I found myself thinking about mysteries.

First, I thought of a new Blue Plate Mystery—an aside, did you know that Murder at the Blue Plate Café is on sale for $2.99 today through Monday on Amazon, Kobo, and maybe other platforms? Anyway, I thought about having Kate, the star and café owner, kidnapped, but I didn’t know why or by whom and the prospect of writing the emotions of a kidnap victim, left to die in some isolated cabin, was daunting, although her dog would have engineered her rescue—maybe that’s far-fetched. I don’t like to write about psychological pain. I know authors, some good friends, who can do that, but I can’t.

Then I thought that I seem to be getting more and more involved with cooking and food, and maybe I should write a new mystery that takes off in a new direction. A culinary mystery. And I came up with a central character who is an assistant (read gofer) for a diva TV chef. Suddenly I had a whole cast of characters, a victim, a villain with a credible motive, and even some side issues.

Best of all, I got up and captured it all on the computer before it left my brain.

Sometimes I am really enthusiastic about a new idea, and I ride the crest of that excitement for a few days and then the idea falls apart. It may happen with this one, but I don’t think so. As the kids say, I’m pumped. For one thing, this mystery will give me a chance to talk about food and include some recipes, which will help my tendency to write short. I’m even thinking I’ll set it in Chicago. It’s been fifty-plus years since I lived there, but I can find a lot about my old neighborhood online, and some things never change. The Loop is still the Loop, the lake is still there, the city still has the energy that so captivated Carl Sandburg.

And I had a wonderful lunch today, with an old friend. Ray lived down the street from the kids and me at one point—we agreed today we’ll always remember the incident that brought us together as friends. His dog, a shih tzu I believe, ran into the open door of our house and jumped into bed with Megan, then a teenager. Ray says he can still see Megan coming out the door in pajamas, complaining, “That dog woke me up.”

Times and lives change. Ray moved to Dallas and then to Granbury, and we lost touch. I tried a few times to email him and got a canned response that said, “I can’t answer right now.” Since he’s a few years older than I (imagine that!), I feared for his health. Then a few months ago, out of the blue, he called. We chatted. We made plans to get together. But he fell and broke his leg, and then I was in that spell where an infection made food absolutely unappealing—I wouldn’t have been much fun at lunch.

Today all that is behind us, and his partner and he met me and another author at a local Mexican restaurant. The other woman was someone Greg, Ray’s partner, has known since high school—he even took her to their senior prom. I know her because she writes mysteries. So there you have it—no six degrees of separation. I got to brag about my kids, and he was astounded when I said my oldest is about to be fifty (I’m astounded too!).

But it was great to see Ray again, banter with him, and recall old good times—there were some not so good, but we skirted them. And we agreed to keep in better touch. He asked me if the deli is still there, and I assured him it is, so I’m pushing for the next lunch to be at the deli.

So wonderful to relive the past and also find out that you’re just as comfortable and happy with that person as you were twenty years ago.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Tying up those loose ends

  All my loose ends seem to be tying themselves up in neat little bows.

I got my car back. To my untrained eye, that fifteen-year-old Beetle convertible looks like new. To the wonderful guy who worked on it, it has a way to go. He says most of the work is done but we’ll keep fixing this, that, and the other until we get it where we (read he) wants it. This is a young man who has his own shop, builds and restores cars, only takes on jobs like mine if somebody he knows recommends it. Fortunately, a neighbor who’s a real car buff recommended me.

Kyle found three squirrel nests—in the fenders and evidence they tried to get into the hood—and something you don’t want to know about in the back seat. The black spots on the finish, he tells me, were fungus working its way into the paint—he’s gotten rid of the fungus and put on a clear protective coating that lasts five years. He’s educated me—what they use on the interior in most car washes deteriorates the leatherette or plastic, so I will not run it through an automatic wash—I’d stopped that anyway because I figured those brushes weren’t good for the top.

My car has wheel locks—who knew? And of course, I haven’t a clue where the key is. With a VW you have to get everything from the dealership, so I will buy new non-locking lugs from them. But Kyle will find a bar to remove the old locks without my leaving a hundred-dollar deposit at the dealership.

This car detail wasn’t cheap—but it, like the repairs I had done a year ago, beats buying a new car. I’ve thought about this and decided that for people like my kids, who trade cars every five years or so, such detailed care isn’t necessary. But it is if I want to baby an elderly car along until, someday, it will be a collector’s item. VW is apparently not going to make any more of the Beetle convertibles.

Our electric gate across the driveway is fixed, and I now know where the reset button is if it gets stuck (I’ve only had it fifteen years or so). I feel much more secure at night with that gate closed, and I’m grateful to Lewis Bundock, who has kept my house in good shape for twenty-five years. He fixed the gate in five seconds first thing this morning.

I picked up new pills for Sophie from the vet. She still sounds like she has a stuffy nose, but I don’t hear the wet breathing I did. The pill loosened up things apparently, with some side effects that created cleaning chores for me.

I retrieved my debit card from the restaurant without incident.

My hearing aid is fixed, sort of, and I have had a lesson in cleaning. I had that lesson before, but the aids were new, and I guess it was all too much to take in. Now I’ll be better about it. We’re experimenting with batteries and chargers to try to determine why one aid kept losing its charge. I’ve had hearing aids for years, but the big thing about these is that the phone talks directly to them, so I can stop saying, “Pardon me?” Too often I lapsed into “Huh?”

I succeeded in renting a huge house in the Hill Country for my family of sixteen for next Christmas. We’ll all be under one roof with things like a pool table and foosball to keep kids from getting bored. And maybe, just maybe, the adults can take side trips to some wineries.

I promise (I think) no more health reports but this last one. Yesterday I got the report on blood work done the week before, and my anemia has improved greatly which almost certainly erases the threat of the underlying disease the hematologist was scaring me with and the possibility of an unpleasant procedure. Since I feel better than I have in years, I did not take kindly to her comment that if I had what she suspected I wouldn’t know it. I think she needs to work on her bedside manner. I hereby declare myself healthy.

Tonight, German hot potato salad—Christian’s favorite—with a new brand of sausage (called kiolbasa). Christian waxed eloquent about the fact that I’ve been fixing this dinner for him for almost twenty years. It’s a recipe I fiddled with to “improve” it. I had sauerkraut with my potato salad—I’d seasoned it with caramelized onions, brown sugar, and white wine. So good, but neither Jordan nor Christian would try it, although he admitted it smelled good. I tried to point out that he tried sugar snap peas for the first time recently and liked them and maybe the same would be true. No sale.

Happy weekend everyone!