Monday, June 30, 2008

Grandchildren--and more thought son aging

Here's the latest picture of Morgan and Kegan, and one of them with their Houston cousins, Braden and Ryan. The latest cute thing said by one of my grandchildren. Megan: Ford, do you have poop in your pants? Ford (20 months) Yes, No, Maybe so.

The neighbors--Susan and Jay, plus Sue, and Jordan and Jacob--came for dinner last night. I fixed leg of lamb as a treat to myself and a thank-you to Jay for taking Scooby for his summer haircut. We visited the garage apt.--everyone approved heartily of the redo--and after dinner we lingered briefly on the porch, because it was so pleasant. Jacob has an enormous crush on Jay, who he calls B. for no known reason, so he was delighted with the company last night, so delighted that he had to go to "Time Out" for jumping on the furniture after he'd been warned several times. He got into his impish, show-off mood, and Jordan came near the end of her wits. I realized though how unbashed kids are about their crushes--they don't know to be self-conscious and embarrassed. I wish we could avoid teaching them. I'm sure Jay is flattered by the attention, and he receives it gracefully.

Jay and Susan stayed on after the others had left, and I asked about his father who was critically ill in the hospital not long ago. His father is better but neither parent is able to care for the other one, and together they are unable to fix their meals, which has led to family upheaval. They are both about 77 and were active and leading their own lives two or three years ago. That frightened me because they're not that much older than I am. We talked about how you stay healthy and active, all talking about what we already know--you have to stay active, physically and mentally, and stay involved with the world. My brother, who may not appreciate my revealing his age, is 76 (I think--he once gave himself an extra year by mistake and it's hard for me to be sure now) and he's active and busy all the time. He owns a small ranch, and he and his wife do almost all the work on it themselves. I have another friend who is 77 and out and about all the time. We tease about the string of women in his life. And then of course there's Charles who at 90 rides his bike ten miles and is excited about going to a week-long fitness camp in the Davis Mountains. I certainly have good examples around me, and I know you don't have to sink into helplessness but I suspect it takes work and will power--and maybe having no one to wait on you so you have to do it yourself.

I recently read a blog that quoted an author--I want to say Sara Paretsky, since she's one of my heroes, but I may be wrong. Anyway, whoever it was said that the years late in life are "a chance to sing." Her advice: "Bee ballsy, make a point, have an interest." I think that's dead on.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Being post-fifty and post- everything else

Today I replaced the cyclamen in my planter boxes. Cyclamen does beautifully through the winter, with bright blooms, but it doesn't like Texas summers. I bought caladium, though to me they are sort of ho-hum ordinary. I couldn't come up with anything more creative that would grow in my shade-only boxes, and really the caladium look pretty. Don't you think? I also bought more basil for a pot in which basil flourished two years ago and died last summer, And tonight Jean brought me cut flowers from their garden, so I'm surrounded by lovely things. Here are Jean's flowers and one of my planter boxes.

It was a dark and stormy night . . . not a great way to begin a novel, but it sure describes what's happening here tonight. Our hundred degree temperature plunged to 71 when the wind came up about 6:30. My dinner guests and I had abandoned the porch as too hot, and I kind of wished we'd go out there to dine, but then it was too windy. Then just about eight, they all left hurriedly fearing the coming storm. I brought in the dog--a big fraidy-cat--and then walked out on the porch to enjoy the storm winds. I love a good storm. Charles rushed home because his daughter, only a few years younger than me, is visiting, and he wanted to be there when she came home from dinner--she's frightened by storms. I would have sent him anyway because he doesn't need to be driving on a dark, stormy night.

All this talk on the Sisters in Crime listserv about post-menopausal women and life after 50 keeps reverberating in my head. One woman, now 71, wrote that in the last twenty years everything about her life has been better than ever. And I wrote to agree with her. I think I'm happier and more content than I ever was but I also have more confidence that I can do what I want to accomplish (write and publish that mystery!) and that most of the time my instincts are dead on (I recognize that's a dangerous presumption). I like my life--my family, my own work, my job work, my house, everything.

Which reminds me that I recently saw a query about "Has your life turned out like you thought?" Not at all. A child of the fifties, I expected to get married and some man would take care of me. That obviously did not work out well at all. I had as my model Browning's wonderful line from Rabbi Ben Ezra: "Grow old along with me/The best of life is yet to be/The last for which the first was made." Do I regret being single at 70? Minimally. Sometimes I'd like someone to go to dinner, exhibits, things that I mostly skip now because I don't like going alone. And yeah, sometimes I'd like that comforting hug that only comes from a long-term partner. But being alone has its compensations, and I've made the most of them without much regret. Children? I never really thought about them, but they've been so central to my life. They are the core of everything I am. Grandchildren are icing on that cake. Career? Although I read The Feminine Mystique cover to cover, I didn't think about a career. And in this enlightened age, I'm ashamed to say I didn't think about it until I was divorced. But I've had a wonderful dual career as a publisher and an author--and its far from over just because I'm turning 70. No, my life didn't turn out like I thought it would--just much better!

Since I'm being so profound, I have another thought--people often aren't what you imagine them to be before you meet them. An author came to town last week--we'd e-mailed and talked on the phone but never met. She was so incredibly businesslike and efficient that I expected someone sleek and intimidating--and here came this motherly, warm woman with a twinkling sense of humor in her eyes and a great willingness to be friends. We met with the provost and the director of TCU's Energy Institue, and I loved it that she kept calling them "Guys." After the meeting we went to lunch and found ourselves sharing stories of our past marriages and lives. What a neat experience.

The rain has come, but it's not a storm. Thunder is rumbling in the distance, but the rain is a nice soaking one. Hope it lasts all night. We should be so lucky! Texas is once again worrying through a dry season.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Diets, yoga and life in general

I ate a gingersnap today. It was stale, but I dipped it in coffee and it tasted pretty good. And then the guilt hit me--a cookie is not on the diet I've sort of invented for myself--no bread or rice or pasta, only occasional potatoes, no ice cream sundae every night (okay, I really was doing that, but they were very small sundaes), and no bread and butter at ten o'clock at night (especially bad, since the kids always say, "Have a little bread with your butter, Mom--I really like butter). And no eating after seven or eight at night. I don't weigh daily, so I have no idea if its working or not, but I feel better about myself and feel thinner--which of course can be horribly misleading. I also heard the other day about a woman who lost 40 lbs. in ten months or so by doing yoga faithfully--and I'm doing that, though not daily. I alternate with my bike so that I get the cardio--I do four miles in 20 minutes at an average of 11 mph and at the second level of resistance. No one has told me if that's good or bad, but it seems pretty good to me. So then tonight I had that ice cream sundae--hey, its Friday and I needed a splurge. I feel much more guilty about the gingersnap than I do the sundae--no carbs there!
This weekend I'll cook meals pretty much on my diet--open-faced egg-salad sandwiches with smoked salmon and fresh tarragon, accompanied by gazpacho, tomorrow night for old and dear friends, and Sunday a leg of lamb with a potato/onion/tomato something--you put the vegetables in a baking dish, layering with thyme, then put the lamb over it on a cake rack and roast the whole thing, so the drippings go down into the vegetables. This is in part a splurge for me--we frequently had leg of lamb when I was a child, and I love a cold lamb sandwich--and a thank-you to my neighbor Jay for taking Scooby to the groomers.
The AgentQuest listserv that I'm on has been kicking around the term "postmenopausal woman." One of the writers wanted to use it to describe her heroine in a pitch to an agent, but most of the others felt the word was a pejorative and conjured up bad imagees. The originator replied she meant it to imply zest for life and later explained how wonderful her life has been since 50. I totally agree with her--these are the happiest times of my life.
Fridays are sort of like my vacation. I worked this morning and did a lot of planning for the spring '09 season (we have to work way ahead), went to one grocery (another tomorrow), and did manage to go through a very short (56 pages) manuscript for the second time. But tonight I'm indulging, reading the Deborah Crombie novel I bought earlier in the week and enjoying it, though I have some questions about structure. I've been embroiled in an e-mail argument with an old friend in El Paso about Cormac McCarthy--a recent article, by another friend of mine, suggested that McCarthy ought to go back to being a recluse instead of appearing all over the place on Oprah, etc. My El Paso friend found that mean-spirited and launched a lively defense of McCarthy and his brilliance as a writer. Frankly I've never thought that--he's way too bloody and graphic in his violence for me, and I thought All the Pretty Horses was affected rather than natural. Besides, his emergence as a media star after years of shunning everything public has a sort of unbelievable air about it--like his agent convinced him. But my friend beat me down, and I finally agreed to disagree. I talk with people who think McCarthy's work is great, but I also talk with as many or more who have no interest in hm. The world of literature is amazingly lively.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Keeping busy

I thought I'd have a lot of time to write this weekend, but I realize that I have friends coming Saturday night for a light supper--gazpacho and egg salad sandwiches with smoked salmon and tarragon--and the neighbors Sunday night for leg of lamb, which is a thank-you to Jay for taking Scooby for a grooming. It occurs to me that I invent all the things on my calendar that keep my busy. If I wanted to write every evening, I could do it--I'd just have to cut out entertaining, eating out with friends, occasional literary evenings, wine on the porch with the neighbors, and all the things I enjoy. At this stage of life, no thank you. I like the activities I create, and I've gotten good at not doing what I don't want to.
Wynona is back home from the vet with clean teeth. I am tempted to tell him what life without a cat is like if he bugs me again, because last night I had a taste of it. He wasn't sitting on my desk, stalking me until I fed him; he didn't demand food just before I went to bed. And this morning, the neatest thing of all--he didn't get me up at 6:15--Scooby and I slept luxuriously late until 6:45, and then I was so rushed I set off the alarm when I let him out. But again, no messing with Wywy's food and antibiotics. Still, I missed him. And tonight I feel sad for him--he hasn't quite got his back legs into action again after the anesthesia. He tried to jump up to where I usually keep his food, out of Scoob's reach, and he fell down backward. I picked him up and soothed him and let him eat, but then I moved the food down to the floor, at least until Scooby comes in for the night. Just now he jumped up on my desk but almost didn't make it--one back leg gave out on him visibly. I do not want to talk--or think--about what I've spent on animals in the last two weeks, between Wywy's health and Scooby's haircut and tooth brushing.
I'm working away on the mystery, and it's going well. The more I write, the more I think of what's going to happen next. I've thought about Robert Parker,who never goes back to rewrite, because I get to a certain point in chapter five and realize some thing that happened in chapter two is all wrong, and I have to go back and change it. A character that I had a straight, upright man in his fifties really needs to be a nervous, milk-toast man in his sixties, with a combover hairdo, and similar things. But still I'm pleased with the progress. A bit more on chapter five, and then I'm going to go back and study the first four chapters one more time--this is, maybe, the fifth time. My mentor and favorite crime novel authority has agreed to read them. When I realize what little luck some of the writers on the Guppies (going to be published) blog are having, I feel strangely optimistic--like the gods of publishing are going to smile on me. Maybe that's smug.
I spent a hot hour in the guest apartment today, undoing plastic bags of linens, seat cushions, books, etc., and then I did four loads of wash. I figure all those linens got dusty while stored in the garage, even if they were in plastic bags. Jeannie came over for a glass of wine and brought the rest of a jar of pickled herring I'd left at her house. After we had our wine and herring, she helped me put the dust ruffle on the bed. So tomorrow I'll get the main bed made and collect linen for the other beds. It's really beginning to look like a room.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A miscellany

Hmm. Maybe it's an omen. I debated over what to call this post, couldn't decide, finally chose "A miscellany" and somehow hit the wrong key and was cheerfully informed that my blog had published. Not quite what I had in mind.
It's a hot, muggy night. My dinner plans cancelled, so Jordan suggested I come eat barbecue and potato salad (left over from Jacob's birthday). When I arrived she met me in the driveway and said, "Didn't you get my message? I asked you to stop for a bucket of chicken. Christian ate the barbecue." We made a salad, which was really good, and had some frozen pasta/chicken/carrot/broccoli thing out of a bag. Since she and I are both trying not to eat pasta, that wasn't a great choice. The worst of it was though that it had 940 mg. of sodium per serving. When we sat down, she sweetly asked, "Want salt with that?" It was okay--the company was better. It's obvious that day care tires Jacob out--he lies in front of the TV and rubs his eyes a lot, rousing himself occasionally to play with a balloon or ask to be pushed on the trike that he has not yet learned to steer let alone peddle.
It's also an animal day. Just now I heard rumbles of thunder, though nothing is forecast--darn! I let Scooby in because thunder scares him. On my way to Jordan's tonight, I left Wynona the cat at the vet so [she, he, it] can have a tooth cleaning. (Wynona was named as a kitten and was nearly grown when the vet said he could tell us why she'd never had kittens--she's a he; now we have big pronoun trouble, and every time I call him he Jordan says, "You know I hate it when you do that!"]. The vet said [he, she, it] could have no food or water after 10 p.m. tonight and I decided he would make my life miserable, so I boarded him overnight. He's 17 or 18, but the vet says cleaning his teeth and curing his gum infection will help a lot. He's been on antibiotics now for almost ten days.He's still lively, eats ravenously, and pees and poops, so I figure he's in pretty good shape. All his lab tests come back borderline. A lot of us should do so well at his age.
My garage apartment is finished and it looks--well, charming. I hope to get in there tomorrow and put things in order--bags of throw pillows and other decorative things are thrown on the bed now, and I'll have to wash linens and make the beds (all eight of them). But the furniture is in place. The futon is good looking--I didn't sit on it, but it looks okay, probably not a comfortable bed but just fine for some kids. The double-bed bunk beds are lovely looking, beautiful wood. Hmmm. I wonder if Maddie will put linen on the top bunk for me. The hardwood floors gleam and the paint is a lovely soft yellow. Mini-blinds are passe, I know, but they're a lot better than the curtains we had. I'll post pictures when I get it back together again.
Our neighborhood is in the midst of a flap. Most of us signed leases for gas drilling on our property--I really didn't want to but if everyone else signed, one house holding out was a joke--they'd drill under my property anyway to get to the adjacent land, so I might as well deposit the signing bonus. Now another gas company is threatening to put a gas drilling site too close to the neighborhood (this is a big deal throughout Fort Worth with the discovery and tapping into the Barnett Shale). The owner of the property says if they neighborhood is successful in blocking the drilling permit, he'll put something really obnoxious on the property, which is unfortunately zoned industrial. Chesapeake, the gas company, is offering to install sound barriers, landscaping, and other neighborhood-enhancing things, so it seems logical to me to negotiate. I've said as much on the e-mail chat line and boy! have I heard from the bullies, who are all for rushing in with hot-headed anger and boasting that no threat will stop them from standing up for their rights. Doesn't seem to me that's the way to get anything done, nor is it the way this neighborhood has accomplished the many things that make it a lovely place to live.
Guess I'll retreat quietly to writing my mystery which is going better and better. I now have four chapters in draft. I want to polish them and then my mentor from graduate school, who taught genre lit for many years, is willing to read them. But tonight I have some ideas about chapter five that I want to get down first. It's fun to be so involved in the story. And then, late, I might let myself read some of the Deborah Crombie mystery. I've read only a few pages, while riding my stationary bike. (stationery bike?)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Mystery of Writing, or Writing the Mystery

First off, a digression. Scooby has his summer haircut--a bit late, since it's been hot for at least two weeks. But with his shaggy dog coat gone, he looks so cute--and, to my relief, he's not as fat as I had begun to fear. Now they even brush his teeth when the bathe him--how about that! He's so hard to handle--enthusiasm, not meanness--that my neighbor took him to the groomer and retrieved him, for which I am so grateful I'm going to fix them a leg of lamb Sunday night.

Friends and I went to Dallas tonight--I go some seldom it felt like an adventure. We ate at my very favorite restaurant, Patricio's--a hearts of palm salad--and then went to Barnes & Noble where Deborah Crombie was signing the 12th novel in her Scotland Yard police procedural series. I'm a big fan and have read all the other books. She talked about writing and brought up a couple of things I'd never thought about--she works hard to create crimes that forensics can't solve, because if the crime can be forensically solved, the detectives in the story wouldn't have anything to detect. She also has many story lines going in her books, so many that after her last 650-age manuscript, her editor expressed real hope that she would have fewer--and a shorter book. She has publishers and agents in the US, England and Germany--I can't imagine getting to that position. I'd happily settle for an agent and a publisher in the US and let it go at that. But her novels are dead-on about London, and the ongoing relationship between the two main characters carries the reader from one book to the next with a real sense of continuity. It's really a series that should be read in order--with some series it doesn't matter; with this one it does because the relationship deepens and matures. I was surprised at the crowd that turned out--maybe 75 people. I didn't expect her to talk and didn't expect to have to wait in line, but it was all fun.

I'm on vacation from my own mystery tonight, but I did scribble some notes after listening to Deborah, and I have some more ideas, mostly rewriting the first four chapters I've done. Last night I made major changes throughout, that I feel really improved the manuscript so far. But tongiht? Well, I'm torn. First of all, it's almost ten, and I don't last much past ten. And then there's that new mystery to read. But, wait, a copy of Southern Living came in the mail, and the recipes are always so good. So much to do, so little time!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Of Grandchildren and Birthdays, Books and plants

What a lovely 24 hours! Jamie and Mel, Maddie and Edie arrived about 8 Friday night, and since Edie had said she wanted to cook with Juju, we whisked right into the kitchen and put slices of French bread in milk and eggs to soak overnight for French toast. The rest of the evening was filled with girls' chatter and occasional adult conversations. I swear those girls went to bed three times, playing musical beds each time. I can never tell when I get up who will be sleeping where.
Next morning Edie and I fed everyone our French toast--which was crispy on the outside and nice and soggy inside--and then Maddie and I made a bean dip for Jacob's b'day party--I popped it in the oven when the toast came out. Mel and I each had errands to fund, so we all went together--with the girls. The vet, the drugstore, Barnes & Noble, Origins for make-up. And on the way home I suddenly remembered the bean dip which was still baking away. It had big crusts around the edge, so I let it cool and cut the crust away. It tasted like those crusty bits of cheese that drip out of a sandwich onto the skillet and harden. I was sort of reluctant to throw those crusts away. Later in the day, I stirred the dip, heated it in Jordan's microwave and put it out--people kept asking how I made that delicious dish. Of course with my big mouth I had to tell the whole story.
Jacob's birthday parties--yes, two--were delightful. There was a pool party at a nearby public pool--the seating area is roofed and had a wonderful breeze. The kids and most of the adults had a great time in the pool but Jacob refused to do more than dangle his feet in the water, in spite of the urgings of Maddie, the favorite cousin whom he calls, as we all do in affection, "Moo." (That's an earlier picture of them playing.) Then it was back to Jacob's house for chips and dip, barbecue and potato salad, and presents. Jacob thoroughly enjoyed every minute and didn't seem to get over-stimulated. He was very methodical about opening presents, pulling every piece of tissue out of each bag, while Maddie kept a list so Jacob and Jordan can do thank-yous. Christian put on a funny tape of Jacob's first introduction to baby food and we all had a good laugh--since all 25-30 people gathered were either famly or close friends, no one yawned and said, 'Oh, home movies. How wonderful (?)"
Jamie and his family headed back to Dallas, and I came home tired but happy. I did manage a little reading over the weekend. Finished In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming and was so taken with it I jumped right into her second book, A Fountain of Blood. Problem is I find myself thinking in the world of the novel I'm reading instead of the one I'm writing--not good. Am I going to have to give up reading to write? That sure goes contrary to traditional advice.
I am starting a planter tray of seeds of spiral marigold plants--they grow into bushes, instead of the usual marigolds but right now they're the tiniest green shoots. It's fun to watch them change visibly day by day.
Life doesn't get much better than grandchildren, books, and plants. Today I'm catching up--straightening the house, cleaning up, writing, reading, and planning ahead for the week.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Our local newspaper let 130 people go in one fell swoop on Monday, and a good friend of mine was among them. She'll be okay--her husband has a good income, she's creative, and I know she'll land on her feet. But others among that 130 have young children to care for, and mortgages and debts to pay, gas to put in their cars, taxes, insurance . . . . what do they do? In a city with only one major newspaper (that's most cities these days!), its hard for journalists to find another job--the market is glutted. Melinda in my office pointed out that when publishers Harcourt Brace closed in Fort Worth, they unleased a whole lot of people with the same skill set on the job market. Some of them are still not working.
McClatchey, the syndicate that owns our paper, let either 3,000 or 5,000 people go across the nation. They're downsizing, saving on paper by cutting out features and all the things I want to read, plus aiming at thirty-year-olds, who aren't the people who read the paper. They want us all to read the news online, but their website is confusing and never develops stories in depth. I want that copy of the paper with my morning coffee, and slim and poor as it has become, I still read my homestown newspaper.
Marshall McLuhan predicted the end of print decades ago, and it hasn't happened in the book world. Granted we move toward digital all the time, but we'll never lose the print versions. I'm not so sure about newspapers' survival--and it saddens me. When we compiled an anthology titled Literary Fort Worth several years ago, we found that some of the best writing about our city was done by the journalists, mostly from the Star-Telegram. If anyone tries to compile a second volume ten or fifteen years from now, there will be many few writers to consider.
We had a gullywasher this morning, one of the hardest rains I've seen in a long time--and it didn't scoot on by like so many storms. It seemed to linger over us for 20 minutes or so before declining into a drizzle. The sky was dark the thunder and lightning constant. Scooby was not about to budge from his bed, and I left him for about an hour until he started to roam the house--a sign he needed to go outside. He was determined to go out the front door, which would have been folly. I couldn't hold him as scared as he was. So I dragged him bit by bit through the house, all the while whispering encouragement. Once I got him out the back door, I didn't even feed him for fear he'd ignore the food and bolt back in the house, where I can't leave him alone. I barely made my 8:30 meeting. Tonight Scoob gets double rations, though it is supposed to rain again. Other than working about the dog, I enjoy good storms. I'm sure if I were in the Midwest I'd no longer say that.
The Sisters in Crime listserv is great for learning new words and catching new phrases--I particularly liked "Only visit grown-up but stay in childhood," spoken by a man in his nineties. I think I've talked about skanky and hinky, two new words, I've learned--and then there's earworm, a name for that song that gets in your brain and won't leave. And I was particularly moved by Mario Cuomo's tribute to Tim Russert in which he said the late newscaster "regarded any day not lived with enthusiasm as an opportunity lost."
I'm on Chapter Four--almost done with it--on the first draft of my new mystery, and I'm enthusiastic!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Temptations of a dog lover

I almost got a second dog yesterday. Someone sent me a blog about an Aussie mix in the Humane Society who was loveable, sweet, all the things Aussie are (probably they forgot to mention he was wild, too, which Aussies are). He was scheduled to be euthanized in four days. (Discouraging statistic: they get in 100 new animals a day and they are having to euthanize because they don't have room.) Well, of course, I couldn't stand the thought of that. I forwarded his picture to Jamie and Jordan, with a note, "Should I or shouldn't I?" (This maybe was a dumb questions from a woman who spent $350 at the vet the day before and will probably spend that much again next week, plus Scooby needs a haircut--$75). They both said, 'You shouldn't," but when I told Jordan he was about to be put down, she said, 'You should go meet him." Now that's a big help--what am I going to do? Look at that perfectly adorable dog and say, "No thank you, go ahead and put him to sleep." Not likely. Reminds me of the day the adoption agency called me about one of the children--when I wasn't expecting to adopt a baby that day--or anytime soon. I said, "Well, we'll come look at him," in the tone one would say, "We'll see if the tomatoes are fresh today." Of course by the time I got to the agency, I had named that baby. (All this was before you shot pictures around the world on the internet.)

The name wasn't a problem with the dog--he was Trevor (think of the responsibility of animal shelter people have to think up names for all the strays they find!) I emailed my neighbors who have talked of getting a second dog and said if I was agonizing over this, I wanted them to also. Scooby would love a playmate in the back yard during the long days but would I need a new doghouse, another major expense And what would happen at night? Scooby's used to lying at my feet, sleeping by my bed--where would I put a second dog. I sure didn't want them playing in the house all night. And would Scooby be jealous, feel displaced from my affections? A true dilemma.

I called the Humane Society to ask age, crate training, etc., intending to go have that fateful look. They didn't have an Aussie and no dog named Trevor. Found out today he got a good, loving home--and was diagnosed with heartworms which require expensive, prepaid treatment. I know if I'd gone and met that dog, I'd have brought him home, heartworms or no.

And this afternoon Scooby is sound asleep at my feet--I don't usually let him in an afternoon, but there is yard work being done today. The rain that was supposed to come has not shown up. Yesterday we had a squall--fierce winds (I think I read 65 mph) and very dark, but it passed by in minutes leaving behind a barely moist surface.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Old cats and old people

My cat, Wywy is an old man at 17, almost 18. Wywy is a shortened version of Wynona (after Wynona Judd--Jamie's idea) but it's led to complications. Wynona is a male, and over the years we've vacillated between "he," "she" and "he, she, it." I've known he was failing, as they say--the vet told me in January he had the beginnings of kidney failure, and he'd lost half a pound. But, essentially, he got a clean bill of health. The last couple of weeks, though, I thought he looked thinner, and he began to lose coat, so I took him back to the vet. Putting him in a cat carrier and taking him to the vet is almost on a level with the dentist in things I don't want to do, so I was most proud of myself today. Expensive, but probably not a mistake. All his blood work was "borderline"--not bad but on the edge of being bad. His kidney function was a little bit off, so they gave him IV fluids, and they sent him home with vitamins and antibiotics, the latter in anticipation of cleaning his teeth and gums next week. He's not a happy camper tonight--doesn't think I've fed him. I really have, but if he won't eat it, I can't do much about that. And I put the antibiotics in the food! I know he won't be with me for a long, long time, but I'd like to make his final years as comfortable and graceful as I can. But now I have to put him in the carrier again next week--yikes!
I'm afraid I'm less successful with my cousin in Canada. She's 74 and bipolar, has been institutionalized most of her adult life and in trouble when she wasn't. I'm now her only living relative and so responsible for her, with power of attorney. She has gotten so difficult that the assisted living lodge where she's been has decided it's time for her to go to a nursing home. In Canada they're all provincially owned, but so far two have rejected her for behavioral problems (she can't share a room--it wouldn't be fair to the roomie). But what came as a great lesson to me today is that the second home rejected her because they don't allow smoking and have no services to deal with people with "that addiction." Of course, it makes perfect sense. If you had nursing home patients smoking willy nilly, you'd have fires all over the place. I just hadn't thought of it. I know we can't get Jennifer to quit smoking at this point, but beyond that I'm bumfuzzled--my being in Texas and her being in Toronto doesn't help, but I really don't want to have to go to Toronto to straighten it out. Strikes me as a futile trip. She does know who I am and is grateful I'm handling her finances, but I have visions of her anger if I told her to quite smoking! Another reason to give up the filthy weed.
I'm writing my mystery, averaging about four pages at a time--sometimes I'm very pleased with it and other times I think it's trash. I'm not querying, because the editor to whom I sent it suggested I wait a while. I will, but then I'll query him again if it gets to be too long. I've decided the thing to do is complete the second novel and then move on to a different series. I'm amazed at the number of unpublished books some of the unpublished writers on the Sisters in Crime AgentQuest listserv have written--and the science they make of querying. I think they spend much more of their time at that than writing. I'm also finding that quite a few of the published ones are ebooks only, small publishers, etc. The writer who makes it with a NY publisher, even a mass market house, is rare. And today's listserve messages made it clear that the writer who earns as much as $12,000 a year is also rare. The consensus on the listswerv was that we do it for our own enjoyment, which which I would agree, except that writing without an eye on publication seems pretty fruitless--and publication to me still means print media. Maybe I'm a Luddite (took me a long time to learn the meaning of that!).

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Whole Lot of Nothing Much

Jacob is in his crib in the guest room--on the monitor I can hear him talking to himself, Scooby is at my feet, the cat is fed, and the world is in its place. Jacob is spending the night, and he adapts beautifully, only asking twice "Where's Mama?" and satisfied each time when I tell him Mama has gone to a party. Hunter from next door, age seven, came over for a while, and they watched Schreck together. Jacob was fascinated with a "big boy" and threw his pacifier at him, which nonplussed Hunter. His mom and I, with glasses of wine, watched and laughed.
I hate it when little things go wrong or minor errands loom--like I really need to get my car cleaned, and I have to go for a drivers license--I like to clear the slate of such things but they linger. And this week my remote keyboard quit working (probably because I dropped it) and I was so frustrated trying to work on the laptop keyboard. I finally got Brandon on the phone. He said press this, press that, and it was fixed in about three minutes. Made my day.
I haven't been back to my mystery in a week or so. I sidetracked myself reading Lillian Stewart Carl's The Murder Hole, set in Scotland on Loch Ness no less, and then I had work things to do, a column to write, and other distractions. But a couple of nights ago I reread what I've written and began to get back in gear. What I wrote that night struck me as insipid and will probaby go, but I think I wrote good stuff this afternoon. And tomorrow looms long and quiet--I can write. Jacob's parents will come get him about nine--I really want to watch the special "Meet the Press" because I was an enormous fan of Tim Russert. He's one of those figures that each of us feel was a personal friend. Then I have to make banana pudding, and after that the day is mine until 5:15 when Charles will come by, and I'll drive us--and the banana pudding--out to Jordan's for Father's Day, with a stop for the grocery things I forgot today. Until then, I'll eat smoked salmon and leftover cold steak (one of the world's great treats) and broccoflower (really good with butter, salt and pepper) and I'll write and read. Sounds like a wonderful day.
Jordan was watching the floods in Iowa tonight on TV and said, "There's a lot of bad stuff in the world," and I couldn't agree more. The world is in turmoil, and this country certainly is. A friend and I talked about it yesterday, and we see lean years ahead--high, high prices of everything because of the gas crisis and a period of real tough cutting back for most of us. I read a list of things you can do to save money, like stop buying lattes, but they're the things I already do. As Jean said, "I thought that was how we live." But I wonder and worry about trips--will I be able to go to Scotland? I feel secure, but I see some luxuries and treats disappearing. I feel perfectly able to step up and do my part in such a situation, but I worry about the careers of some of my children. Yes, Jordan, a lot of bad things are happening.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Appalled, just appalled

I admit it's not hard to appall me. I can get indignant over rude drivers, ill behaved children (not my grandchildren, of course), miscarriages of justice, you name it. I find a new cause a day, but today I've found two.
The first is a Texas Panhandle rancher, supporter of Hillary Clinton, who has started a website to boost John McCain, now that Obama is the Democratic candidate presumptive. I won't dignify the website with a URL or name, but it has attracted 100,000 hits and 35,000 supporters. The nameless rancher plans to organize them to run ads against Obama in key swing states and to find out information to use against Obama. And he is, he says, a loyal Democrat. He's not even a loyal American, and I hope Senator Clinton herself swoops down on Wellington, Texas, to box his ears. To seek ways to defame a man out of sour grapes is about as low as you can get. I wrote a letter about this to the Star-Telegram and it was published this morning, before I read the latest. But I am appalled (yes, truly!) that Clinton supporters think they should seek vengeance by supporting Senator McCain. If they supported Clinton in the first place, then this action does her great disrespect and goes against everything she was campaigning for. The microsize of some people's brains amazes me--okay, it appalls me too.
This morning on NPR as I drove to work I heard a fascinating report on golf courses. It seems that Palm Springs, California, out there in the desert, has some 50-plus golf courses, and each one uses as much water IN A DAY as the average family of four uses in four years. Come on folks, where was golf invented--in cool and wet Scotland, for sure not in the desert. Melinda tells me there was a move to build a course in Lajitas, Texas, down by the border in Big Bend country where water is precious. It sparked a massive controversy, and I don't think its built yet--but the land is cleared. The encouraging news is that the golf industry (is it an industry?) is beginning to recognize the problem and take steps to go green--which means the greens may turn brown. But, hey, if you want to play golf in the desert, learn to do it on scruffy, scrubby hard ground with cacti--and maybe you could have a few small greens. No water traps, though. This may anger my golf-playing friends, but come to think of it, I don't have many of those--and they probably wouldn't read the blog anyway.
Summer has definitely come to Texas--it's hot and muggy tonight, though Betty and I took hamburgers to Jeannie and Jim and there was a wonderful breeze on their patio--to the point it nearly blew over the wine glasses. Yet the minute we got to the other side of the house, it was still and hot. When I got home I realized one glorious advantageof summer--at 8:45, it wasn't dark yet. Don't know if that's enough to carry me through three and a half months of heat, but it's nice. Now if it would only stay dark until at least 7:00 in the morning, Scooby would sleep. But no, the days are long.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Shaky hands,a racing heart, and a reclaimed pair of pants

I came home about 1 p.m. today and as I drove in the driveway I could see the yard man had been here, blown the leaves, mowed the lawn. But getting out of the car, I happened to glance across the street and down the side street next to the school. There was my dog! Dumb, but I called him, and he looked up as though amazed to see me. Thank goodness he didn't strike out like lightning in my direction--he sort of ambled like he wasn't sure what to do. Our street is busy, and I was terrified he'd be hit crossing it. I was able to tell him stay when a car came and then "Come" when I thought there were none. A car did stop for him, and then he was safely across the street, ambling up on the porch with an attitude that said, "Gosh, I'm glad to be home." He was so hot and thirsty, he drank a whole bowl of water. I loved on him and told him how good he was and finally put him outside with a treat. But my heart raced and my hands shook for a long time. It was sort of like seeing one of my kids in the middle of the street. Fortunately, Scooby knows he's got a good thing going, and isn't anxious to get away--just curious about the outside world. Here he is this evening, at my feet in my office, saying, "Mom, I"m really glad I'm home." And, yes, I called the yard guy.

I was having a shaky day anyway, with the nagging feeling that there were things I should have done and didn't. Well, I found out--I hadn't taken my medications (blood pressure, thyroid, all that kind of stuff) since Friday! Took them this morning and began to feel better about mid-morning. Don't tell me you can't tell when you've not taken your blood pressure pills!

I just got my favorite khaki pants back, and I'm thrilled. They're nothing special--cheap, from Old Navy. But I just love the way they fit and feel. And about a year ago I lost them. The last time I could remember them, I was at Jamie's house, but he and Mel swore they'd looked and the pants weren't there. Melinda kept asking where I'd taken my pants off! Then last week Jamie called to say they'd found them. (I sitll want to know where!) I'll wear them to a girls dinner tonight, even if they are a tad casual for the restaurant we're going to. Jamie also sent a yoga mat (they have a plethora at their house), bright blue. Now I can practice in style! Jamie said increduously, "I think you're more excited about the pants than the yoga mat!" Darn right!

9:00 p.m.

The day has ended much better. We had a lovely, lazy, relaxed dinner (okay I didn't like my choice, but they were out of veal and I chose blindly the second time around). I was with two friends, one an editor, and the other a librarian whose own books I've published. So the talk was all about books, changing technology, the future or print, all that heavy stuff--and we moaned over it, groaned about the future, but loved every minute of the talk. And we agreed: print is not going away, even as technology increases.

So now I'm going back to reading my good old-fashioned book. 'Night.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

There's a spot on the moon

That's one of those old sayings that I'm forever repeating and leaving my children behind, often in gales of laughter at the silly thing Mom just said. But if there's not a spot, I have no explanation for the dumb things i've done this weekend. I decided yesterday morning that it was so cloudy and still cool that I'd put the top down on my VW. It went down--but not quite all the way. The little warning light, which usually shows the temperature, kept flashing an outline of the car, meaning the top is not down. But I couldn't get it to go farther, so I thought Okay! I'll put it back up. It wouldn't do that either. This is where my priorities come into play: I decided I'd have to go to the VW place but first I had to go to Central Market to do my shopping. A few blocks from home I had the thought that if this was a computer, I'd turn it off and start again. So I pulled over, turned the car off, restarted it, and voila! the top went down! Actually I'm sure all that mechanism is computer-driven, so it was probably smarter than I realized.

Then, tonight, I was making dinner for Jeannie and Jim, when Jordan called, said Jacob's play date cancelled, and they'd like to come play at my house. So I thought it was time to double the rice recipe. It calls for cream of celery soup, but I only had one so I substituted cream of mushroom for the second. Feeling smug I put it in the oven, baked it, took it out and thought it looked really gray and funny. I'd forgotten to put cheese in it! So I stirred in the cheese and baked it some more, and it was great.

Meantime, Jordan had a bad day, so I went to "play" at their house and took my dinner with me. And play I did--Jacob discovered a great game. He'd roll his ball under a big over-stuffed chair and then come pull me by the hand to get it. I said, "Last time," but the next thing I knew he was standing by me, grabbing my hand, saying "Hand. Mine!" He is actually making small sentences and asking questions that are more than one word.

My cooking is going to change--I've got to lose those love handles. No more rice casseroles, no more sandwiches for lunch--okay, today I had a half an open-face pimiento cheese sandwich, and yesterday I had my lox, cream cheese, onion and tomato without any bread. I can do this. No more snacking late at night. I can do that too. My daughter-in-law Lisa has lost 40 lbs. in the last year and looks terrific--all that weight from two babies close together is gone. If she can do that, so can I on a lesser scale. And she is soooo proud of herself. I'm proud of her too. Here's the new slim Lisa with two of my grandkids, Morgan and Kegan.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Love and chocolate and other matters

Paula Dean said on a recent show that the feeling you get from eating chocolate is the same feeling you get from falling in love. Hmmm--food for thought, especially for a chocaholic. But I'd been thinking about love the other day and the fact that in my life there've been three men I was really in love with. Okay, one is my ex, but one of the others was before and the other was after and both of them stand out more in my memory now than the good days with the ex. Doesn't take a genius to figure out that bad times cancel good. But I was thinking, without a lot of regret, that those days are behind me, that kind of passionate, all-consuming love doesn't come when you're seventy. And maybe that's okay--my hormones aren't raging any more, and I have some wonderful memories. And I can always eat chocolate and test the theory.
I'm supposed to be proof-reading but I have managed to kind of piddle away the day. I did have a yoga lesson and Elizabeth, my student-turned-teacher, said frequently, "Very nice. You've been practicing." And indeed I have. My down dog was good today. I can't remember the other thing that elicited that practicing comment, but I was as proud as a third-grader who brought home an E for excellent. But I've spent much of the day with a Lillian Stewart Carl Scottish mystery, The Secret Portrait. It's basically about an American who has deluded himself to think he's the inheritor of Bonnie Prince Charlies' claim to the throne--and it's none too complimentary about Charlie's delusions of grandeur which cost many Highlanders their lives. I did a quick bit of research and found that my clan, the MacBains, were among Charlie's supporters. I presume a bunch of them died on the field. I'll have to go back and look because I know there was one MacBain (Red MacBean?) who covered himself with glory but I think it was an earlier battle, perhaps Stirling Bridge. Then I got a mailing from Clan MacBean today and it occurred to me I ought to enroll my oldest son in the clan. He, who wants to go to Scotland with me, is the obvious inheritor of the Scottish tradition in the family.
I also whiled away the time taking an appetizer to Jeannie, so we could sit on the patio over wine. She's one of the few people I know who appreciates pickled herring like I do. I bought a jar on impulse this morning in Central Market and we sat there saying, "That's so good!" I left the jar and crackers, so I can go back tomorrow and have more, when I take them dinner. I came home tonight and fixed myself Dover sole--the most delicate delicious fish I know. I floured it lightly sauteed it and then dressed it with a butter/lemon sauce. It was lovely, accompanied by fresh asparagus.
But now I ought to get to proofing. You know what? I have to finish that mystery first.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Busy Days

Busy, busy, busy is what I've been. Problems have piled on my desk at the office--a legal problem so real that we had to call in the lawyers caused me to spend time researching our book, others like it, etc.; there was a big blooper on one book--not the end of the world though others in my office seemed about to commit hari kari; manuscripts were piling up, though I managed to wade through the pile, rejecting several, sending one to a reader, and with great joy forwarding proposal packets on one to our board.
So after this busy-ness, I am staring at a long weekend. I had hoped to be in Austin, in fact in about 20 minutes I had hoped to be at a book signing where I would see lots of old friends. And then I'd spend the rest of the weekend with Megan and her family. But the idea began to fall apart mid-week, and I could tell it wouldn't work. by then, Jordan had all kinds of plans for Jacob, so I won't get a glimpse of him this weekend--and as I told her, I'm not going to visit her and Christian. Good gracious! I have a yoga lesson, book pages to proof, several mysteries to read, and of course I can always work on my own mystery. The agent who asked for three chapters wrote today to say that it's obvious I'm a talented writer and the manuscript is polished but it isn't for him--do you suppose he says that to all the girls?
I talked with my brother about health issues last night and got a loud and clear message: do not be marched into something you're not sure about. So I've cancelled the gum cleaning until after my consultation with the dentist when I can ask how it's done, etc., as well as press him on why my entire mouth has to be replaced. And I'll go to the doctor about my persistently sore shoulder--but even if it hurts, it doesn't hurt badly enough to have surgery. I learned this lesson when someone prescribed an angiogram to see if I had an aortic aneurysm when a sonogram, much easier, cheaper, and less invasive, would do. But it's a lesson we all have to learn--informed patients have to look out for themselves.
I'll cook dinner for Jeannie and Jim again Sunday--I think I have to change what I'm cooking. Jeannie said we'd ignore Jim's usual diet--he's very careful about fats and salt and eats a lot of veggies, beans, and fish. But now the plan is to fatten him up because he's lost weight, so I've been cooking with cheese, sour cream, etc. I don't know if Jim is gaining weight or not, but I am. This weekend it's meatloaf, a cheesy rice dish, and a spinach casserole (because I want to eat it) that also has cheese in it. I can feel love handles when I exercise, so I know I've got to watch it. And I will next week. No more chocolate! No late night snacks! And less cheese, sour cream, etc. Of course, the pimiento cheese doesn't help. Nor does my fondness for lox and cream cheese.
Have a good weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Front Porches

When I was a kid on the South Side of Chicago, we had a screened porch on our old 1890s duplex. That meant in that climate and with the screens of the day, every spring Dad put up the screens, and every fall he tooks them down and put up storm windows. But in the summer, we lived on the porch--ate three meals a day there, and Mom and I often slept there. She had rigged a waist-high canvas curtain on the street side so that no one could see us, and the South Side being what it was, she cautioned me to be very quiet whenever anyone walked by. Chicago could be muggy in the '50s, and the outdoors was a lot better than the house which as yet had no a/c. I loved those nights.

Now I live in a house with a nice wide porch across the front, with about 2/3 of it roofed. I tell people it's why I bought the house. I have large and small dinner parties out there, and the neighbors often gather for wine or food or just to visit. Jacob loves to stand there and watch the traffic go by on our fairly busy street--"Truck! Truck! Truck!" Tonight I was sitting out there alone with a glass of wine and thinking how wonderful it is. It's hot but windy, so the porch is pleasant, and the huge old elm sways in the breeze. I always worry about that tree, because it periodically loses huge branches--and since it's on city property, I'm afraid the city will tear it down. The house would not be the same without it. On the property line to the west of the house there's an oak--a small tree when I moved here 15 years ago, but now it's grown to a graceful, good-sized tree. And all up and down, the street is lined with trees, so you can sit on the porch and almost forget you're in the city. It's like a boer of green. I'm not a great gardener, but I have pots of herbs on the porch--and I use them often.

Yesterday was a mixed bag of a day--in the morning I went to a new dentist who told me I need every filling in my mouth replaced. Megan said I need a second opinion but unfortunately that was the second opinion. The dentist was a pleasant, likeable man, and I think I trust him--but one wonders about such a sweeping diagnosis. He did do a much more thorough dental exam than I've ever had before, including a tiny camera with which I swear he took 50 pictures of the inside of my mouth--fairly scary. First step is a thorough "scaling" of my gums--enough to give one the willies.

But then in the afternoon I heard from a NY editor I'd written to for advice. He's an old friend from my westerns days. I asked for advice on marketing a "cozy," and he said he just happened to be editing a cozy series (he said wrly, "How the mighty have fallen," so I guess he considers it sort of a comedown) and why didn't I forget an agent for the time being and send it to him. He wanted an outline and three chapters, so I spent the evening constructing an after-the-fact outline and tonight I got it all off to him, with a note saying that I thought the outline in bare bones read like a soap opera, so I also included a synopsis, which sounded much better. Then later last night an agent I had queried asked for three chapters. I'm afraid to get excited about any of this, but it's good to even get responses.

Today I had lunch with my lawyer who is also a good friend. I need advice on the legal aspect of the second mystery which I've just started, and she explained a couple of things but said she's not a criminal lawyer but can ask some colleagues.

I cancelled my plans to go to Austin this weekend with regret--it just didn't seem to be working out, and the trauma of getting there and back began to outweigh the pleasure of being there. The train from Austin runs three hours late (normally a four-and-a-half-hour trip). Jeannie pointed out that it's pretty scary that you can fly to London quicker than you can take the train 180 miles from Austin to Fort Worth. But Colin and I are moving ahead with plans to go to Scotland in the fall, and I'm getting excited all over again.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Rushing through life writing, cooking, and blogging

I read a quote from Anna Quindlen on another blog today. Of parenting, she wrote, "I did not live in the moment enough . . . .I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less." I think she referred to meals and baths and school visits and all those chores of parenting. Now that my children are long grown, I feel that pang of having rushed through their childhood. I used to say when I died, they'll say, "I remember her. She used to say, 'Go on now, I'm busy.'" And I was--busy at my computer. They don't seem to carry bad memories with them, though, for we're a close family. My oldest son has said he'd like to go to Scotland with me, and a couple of others are thinking of joining us. More would if they could afford it. And they're planning that big b'day party for my 70th, so I guess maybe they didn't notice I was rushing, always rushing.
I found one thing I don't rush through tonight--and I thought I did. It's writing. The Fort Worth newspaper sponsors a series of "Evenings with . . . " where the former book editor interviews various authors, always in a large public venue. Tonight's guest was mystery novelist Robert Parker. He was witty, quick, funny, and completely honest--and he flew in the face of everything I've ever heard or thought or learned about writing. He doesn't plan ahead, he claims he writes with his fingers and there's little connection to his brain, he writes ten pages a day--or that's his goal--and never looks at it again. When he comes to the end of the book, he sends it to his editor. At that rate, he writes three books a year--many authors can't manage one, and some take years and years to writ eone book. His books, which I really like reading, reflect that--they're surface, smart dialog, quick patter--and of course some action, but mostly dialog. Talking of westerns--he's just published his second and has a third written--he said he never does any research, saying that we all know all about the West from movies and TV. (I can hear the howls of protest from Western Writers of America, who take authenticity and historical accuracy very seriously--as I always did when I was writing historical fiction set in the West). Parker's western, the one I've read, is full of the stereotype and not the reality of the American western experience (another howl of protect from historian Patricia Limerick who pioneered the New Western History, which looked closely at the experience of minorities and women and debunked the myth of the great adventure for white males.) I like the Spenser novels and the Jesse Stone ones much better. But for all that I'm aghast at Parker's writing methods, it was fun to hear him talk, and you've got to admit his track record of novels, movies, etc. is impressive. He kept saying, "I can provide for my family"--in high style I'd say. I'm still a fan.
One of my neighbors left me a Wall Street Journal article about cooking blogs--the latest craze is bloggers who take one cookbook and cook their way through it, taking copious pictures and reporting in detail as they do so. I read Julie & Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen, the pioneer of such blogs which grew into a book and now a forthcoming movie with Meryl Streep. I liked it and even laughed at Julie's kind of in-your-face attitude (and admired her persistence), but I wished she wasn't quite so free with the F-word. The whole thing though makes me wonder if, in this new world of blogging, mine doesn't lack focus. Would I lose readers if I stopped musing about my life? Would a big publisher notice me if I had a really focused unusual blog? Maybe that's a fantasy like having a really unusual hook for a mystery. I'm torn between trying to develop something new, a mystery with that "hook" or sticking with what several readers have told me they enjoyed. So in a way, it's the same dilemma--stick with the blog, which is easy for me to do rapidly, or invent something new that might be so difficult I couldn't rush through it.
Too late at night for such decisions!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Pimiento cheese

Pimiento cheese is definitely a southern thing--I don't ever recall having it or knowing of it until I moved to Texas some forty-plus years ago. But, not being a pepper lover, I sort of avoided it. Then I tasted it tentatively, and now every once in a while I want some. I always buy it in the smallest possible container and end up throwing most of it away--one sandwich or a half sandwich and I'm done. I never served it to my children as they were growing up, and Jordan says to this day she doesn't like it, probably because so many of her friends' mothers tried to urge her to eat it.

The other day though in Southern Living I encountered a recipe that sounded really good and decided to try it. Of course, I doctored it a bit. It called for a jar of roasted red peppers--forget that! And by mistake I bought the smallest jar of pimiento, so I had half the amount specified for the amount of cheese I had. Where it called for chopped pickled jalopeno slices, I sort of guessed at the amount. I know Melinda in my office makes her spread really hot, and I always presumed she used quantities of Tabasco or chile powder, but the jalopenos sounded good. The recipe also called for cream cheese and just a touch of mayo, plus a mix of sharp and mild cheddar. It's hard to make because you end trying to process a really stiff ball of food. But I had a sandwich today for lunch, and it was really good--a much smoother texture than what you buy, and because there were more jalopenos than pimientos, it had a nice bite without the pepper taste. Of course, most who like jalopenos would say my spread is so mild that you'd barely know the jalopenos were there. I was sort of pleased with the result. I'll see if Jordan will taste a bite tonight. (She did, says she still didn't like it, but she really wants to like pimiento cheese--go figure!).

We took Jacob tonight when we took dinner to Jeannie and Jim and sit on the patio with a glass of wine--Jeannie's patio always has a breeze when no air is stirring anywhere else. To encourage Jacob about a car trip, Jordan kept saying, "We're going to Jeannie's!" So in the car he kept saying, "Jeannie's, Jeannie's." He was not the least disappointed. He thought Jeannie was wonderful, and he discovered porch swings for the first time--also thought that was wonderful.

I'm weary with mysteries tonight, thought I appreciate, Bebe Bahnsen, your comment--I did read tonight a lot about the serial killings of elderly ladies in Columbus, Georgia in the '70s. And I do think there will be a serial killer in the new novel. But the AgentyQuery list has me sort of discouraged. I may call a couple of old friends in publishing tomorrow and see what they say--one an editor of westerns and one an agent, with whom I long ago agreed to disagree. Wonder if he's forgiving? When I read and learn on these websites, I realize I was never very smart about "planning my long-range career." I just wrote and waited to see what would happen. Now, at this late stage, I must move beyond that. I would think I have a lot going for me--publication history, awards, memberships, etc.--but who knows in this world what that means. Meantime, I'm reading about Scotland.

My old cat got very finicky today. He wasn't eating, whereas he's usually after me every hour on the hour when I'm home to feed him. So of course I went from frustration at him to worry. I threw out the food in his bowl and put in fresh. No interest. Finally I gave him some straight "people" tuna, which is the worst thing you can give a cat with incipient kidney disease. He loved it, and after that he began to eat. So now I have this can of tuna in the fridge. Do I give it to him? Will he be spoiled and refuse to eat anything else? Do I throw it out? Owning a senile cat is not easy, folks! Here's a picture--not very good--of Wywy. Jacob adores him; Wywy hates Jacob. Wywy's name is Wynona--but after he'd had that name for quite a while, we discovered "she" is a he. To this day, I have a gender pronoun problem and often end up saying, "He, she, it." If I say "He," Jordan, who is so used to "She" says, "You know I hate it when you do that!" Actually, Wywy is a lot prettier than this picture. He has a huge, fluffy gray tail, and he can be very sweet.