Monday, April 30, 2012

One of those days

  1. Life is all about a new toy--and joy!
It's one of those days--that's all I can think of to write about. Nice morning at my desk, catching up with things; even nicer lunch with my former boss, dean of the libraries June Koelker--no agenda, just plain catching up and being friends. I really appreciated and enjoyed that.
Dinner with close old friends Carol and Kathie--Kathie just lost her father last week and is busy planning ceremony, taking care of details, all that. We talked and talked, but we also managed a few laughs. I am blessed to have such longtime good friends--we're there for each other when needed, and I think relaxing with friends was a good break for Kathie. Hope so.
But I end the day with no profound thoughts, nothing special to share. Feel like I should have some great wisdom, but I don't. Got to finish the mystery I'm reading, because I have promised myself I won't start another but will turn my attention to my own mystery that I need to revise.
So goes the world. Some days are just so-so.
And that 1. at the top? It appeared, and I don't know how to get rid of it. Forgive me. Too lazy to risk losing everything just to deal with that silly number.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Boys and sports

Watch out, Texas Rangers. In a few  years, here comes Jacob Burton! I went to his baseball game today. Peewee Baseball is for a long time an exercise in watching strike-outs, but when Jacob came to bat, the bases were loaded. I was afraid he's strike out and blow the chance, but he nailed it and made it all the way to second--tagged out on his way to third and so disappointed. He wanted to score. We couldn't convince him that his hit enabled his team to score the two points that gave them a winning game (2-0). I kept asking how many innings they played and was told, "They play an hour." Apparently, the cut off the game after an hour, though they play out that inning. Today it was five innings.
Kegan, the youngest of all my grandchildren and a Houston resident, plays a mean baseball game--look at that stance above. He's a bit small for his age but makes up for it in fierce determination. He plays soccer too, and I have a wonderful picture of him. This is Kegan on the soccer field. I love the sort of scowl on his face--this sweet boy turns into a tiger for sports. Normally his fine, blonde hair lies flat to his head but for soccer  his parents oil and spray it into a Mohawk.

Jacob appeared one day with the messiest mop of curls I'd ever seen. Wondering why his mom had let him out the door that way, I tried to smooth the mess. "Juju! That's my Mohawk." He'd just been with Kegan.
Sawyer and Ford, my Austin boys, both play soccer and swim like fishes, but I have no pictures and Megan couldn't supply them today. I wonder if they're all going to take after my grown boys, both of whom are now dedicated to triathlons. Even Lisa has the bug, and today her ex-sister-in-law ran a marathon in Atlanta. The exercise bug is catching. I'll stick with  yoga, thank you.
I admit I'm an unabashed sentimentalist--and also hooked on the Food Channel's Restaurant Impossible, where Robert Irvine has two days and $10,000 to turn a failing restaurant into a success. Tonight when I watched a couple open their eyes and see their redecorated restaurant for the first time, I teared up. A part of me always wishes I'd gone the chef/restauarant route when I was younger, much as I like being a writer.
Tonight the air is still. The leaves of my elm tree barely move, and the bugs were after me. I didn't spend long on the porch. But it's still a lovely night.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lush spring growth and a lazzy day.

The huge elm in front of my house is fully leafed out, except for one cluster of branches at the very top that is bare. I called the city about it--it's their tree, not mine--but I always call with trepidation, afraid they'll say it's old and they'll just cut it down. I figure since my house is ninety years old this year, the tree probably is too. The woman at the city forestry services assured me they are all about saving trees, not cutting them down. This was two weeks or so ago, so I think they have decided it the dead spot is too high and too insignificant to do anything about. Over the years branches, some of them large, have fallen off--I live in terror that one will fall on school children walking by or that, some fierce night, the entire tree will crash into my house. But I love that tree. It anchors my house to the street.
Tonight I took wine and my Kindle and sat on the porch, but mostly I stared at the tree, watching its branches wave in the spring breeze. It's a lovely evening--just the right temperature (I have no idea what) and not so humid I was aware of it. My herbs are growing beautifully. I've let my green  onions sit in the soil too long, and they're developing bulbs--I used several of them tonight in some cooking. The rest of my gutter garden is pretty much a waste--some seeds didn't come up at all, others produced scraggly plants you wouldn't want in your salad, and the cilantro has already gone to flower. Greg says that it's too hot for such a shallow planter and maybe I can use it in the fall. The onions, meantime, flourish. I tried an experiment tonight. I've read somewhere that if you put the root end of a green onion in water, it will sprout. I'm skeptical but trying. I've also read that about the base of celery--if the onions work, I may try the celery next.
I keep celery on hand mostly to make ham salad, which I love. I buy a thick slice of Black Forest ham--between a quarter and half inch--at the deli counter at Central Market, shred it in the blender, add a bit of mustard, celery, onion, and mayo to bind. Makes a great lunch for several days.
My stay-at-home day was lovely. At 9:30 this morning, I thought it loomed before me; by noon, I wondered where the morning had gone. But I sent off a guest blog post, made notes for a ten-minute talk in a week or so, did some work for my memoir class, proofread and sent off to the designer new copy for my web page, and proofread my Kelly O'Connell short story. Soon I'll offer it to you in pdf form, free of charge.
And tonight? I'm reading The Scarlet Pepper a White House mystery by Dorothy St. James. Yes, I've got work to do--papers to critique, a novel to revise--but I'm being lazy.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jacob's thoughts on my mortality--and some other thoughts

Last night at supper I recounted Jacob's latest comment about my impending death--"I want to  live with you the rest of your life, but then I won't have long, because you won't live long." Betty's reply was that he's really obsessed with that and she thought he's afraid of losing me. So this afternoon, I sat him down and explained that I had been to the doctor yesterday, who said I'm in perfect health. I went on to say that yes Jacob can run farther and faster and jump higher than me, but there are some things I can do he can't--I was prepared to demonstrate with yoga poses, but he asked if I could do a cartwheel. Never could in my entire life, but I didn't tell him that--just said, "No, I can't." He demonstrated his version of a cartwheel, and I said, "I think I could do that." (It's not very graceful!) I admitted I have aches and pains that come with age but told him I planned to be around for a long time, long enough to see him graduate from college. When I used that age-old line,"Of course, I could get hit by a truck tomorrow," he said, "Well, I worry about you when I'm at school." Bless his little heart. I assured him I'm very careful. I did not say stuff like "None of us know" or "Anybody can get sick and die"--didn't want to scare him. I think he's reassured, but he ended with, "Okay, but when you say you have an ache or a pain, I'm going to call you 'Old Lady,'" which he does frequently. His parents think it's a sign of disrespect, but I know better--it's love. I told him he could please stop talking about when I go to Heaven.
An apology to some of you: today Blogger told me I had something like 54 unmoderated comments, so I published them all. Many looked familiar, and I think Blogger has goofed somehow and I'd already posted them. But please know that I love and welcome your comments, and if I failed to respond, it's because I didn't know the comment was there. They've changed the system, but I'll try to keep on top of it.
And last but not least, here's the newest doggie member of our large family, Eddie Hudgeons of Austin, a 3-year-old, seven lb. poodle. Megan reports that he's sweet, perfectly housebroken, loves the  boys, sleeps quietly in his crate in the boys' room at night. But he's agressive toward other dogs--at 7 lbs? He was attacked in the pound and that apparently soured him, but such aggression may limit his family visits for a while. I'm anxious to meet him. Not sure at that weight what variety of poodle he is--too big for a teacup, too small for a miniature. Sophie will look like a giant next to him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Good day, lazy, happy evening

My friend Betty and I have lots of adventures on our weekly dining trips, but tonight was an old favorite--Pappadeaux. But with a twist. We split the Greek salad for one, as usual--so good, but so large--and then ordered oysters. We split the Oyster Duo with Rockefeller and a Romano Parmesan sauce--three of each. But we liked the cheese ones so much we ordered another half dozen. Lots of laughs and lots of good food--and a bit of nice chardonnay. After dinner, Betty swung by her house to show off her garden, which truly is lush and lovely--I love the use of all kinds of ferns. She of course can name them but was stumped when I asked her to name the yellow flowering bush in my yard. Greg has told me the name, but I don't seem to be able to hold it in my brain. I'll ask again when he comes Friday. I came home and went out on the porch to read but was antsy--not unusual--about what waited for me on my desk. So I came in, fed the dogs, changed clothes, and settled down to write this blog and the guest blog I should have written two days ago.
But it was a nice end to a good day. Maybe it was the peanut butter toast that started it out right. (I admit many mornings when I only have cottage cheese, I'm hungry well before lunch.) At a routine doctor's appointment, the doctor confirmed that no carbs might indeed by making me cranky. He said the trick is low carb, not no carb. I finally unhooked that ugly old, really old TV in my bedroom and gave it to Booker, the crossing guard, who says his grandkids will use it for video games. And I returned the U-Verse equipment from that set to AT&T at the UPS store that I didn't even know existed downtown. The kind of little things that you're glad to get done and off your conscience.
So now on to a blog about whether or not a serial killer fits into a cozy mystery--sure hope I can make a case for it, since that's the main plot point of No Neighborhood for Old Women.
And then? The luxury of reading someone else's cozy--just finished The Last Word by Ellery Adams and thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend it highly. Now starting The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James, one of her White House gardener series.
A good day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Brightening my mood

I've had a case of the blahs lately. I thought it was because I'd had such a busy time there for a bit, with big events, and then I settled down to the ordinary--although today I met with a book club that I thoroughly enjoyed. A lively, wonderful group of women who were full of questions and weren't afraid to suggest what they saw as flaws in Skeleton in a Dead Space. On the whole, though, they were enthusiastic about the book, and those that read the second book said they thought Kelly was better in that one. Growing into your characters or letting your characters grow or whatever--it was nice to hear.
But this afternoon Jordan and I each had different agendas, and she said I was cross and curmudgeonly lately--why is it me, when she's determined to stick to her agenda, which was wine with the girl next door at whose house Jacob was playing. Anyway, we made nice, went over the recipes I wanted her to look at, and she went off to have wine. I declined because Sue was coming for wine shortly, and I figured it didn't become me to sip my way through the afternoon.
But I've also been put out with my oldest son because he planned a big family reunion for Memorial Day--and forgot to tell me. Oh, I knew it was a possibility that the New York Alters would come visit, but no one told me there were definite plans for them to come to Houston, not Fort Worth. My nose was out of joint, and I considered cutting him out of my will. Well, not really.
But Sue and I were talking about diet, and she said she gets crabby when she cuts out carbs--I haven't had bread since I overindulged when the Canterbury Choir boys were here. Sue ate a slice of peanut butter toast this morning and said she immediately felt better. Hmmm--something for me to think about.
I had a good visit with Sue. She's only a tiny bit older than my oldest, and she calls me her Fort Worth mom, but we are also good friends. So we talked about everything from kids to parents to food--you name it. I chide her about some things, and she's not afraid to tell me when I'm wrong. When she left I went off to the Grill to have my weekly meatloaf fix with the neighbors, most of whom had already finished their suppers, so I righteously ate only half my meatloaf and brought the other half home. But their conversation, along with Sue's took me out of my funk. If you will, it took me out of myself.
I have a routine doctor's appointment tomorrow, but I'm going to ask about carbs (honest, I've lost four lbs.).
Meantime I think I'll have peanut butter toast for breakfast.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dogs on my mind

Sophie, my Bordoodle pup now almost a year old, has been a morning brat lately. She greets the day, full of energy, with lots of barking, and unfortunately she has the small-dog yippy bark. Mostly she barks at Scooby, to get him to play with her--and he barks back, the hoarse bark of an aging dog. But squirrels, a car in the driveway, the neighbors' dogs--anything can excite her. I'm grateful for tolerant neighbors. By mid-morning, she's calmed down, and we don't hear much out of her the rest of the day. Sometimes I want to say to her, "Look how lucky you are to have a good, loving home. Why can't  you act like you appreciate it?"
Those of you who know me know I'm a dog person. Oh, I had cats for the kids when they were growing up. Jamie in particular was a cat lover--he claims their last cat has cured him of that. But almost twenty years ago he brought home a gray kitten, part Maine Coon, one of the world's loveliest and sweetest cats. When Jamie left home, I insisted on keeping Wywy (don't ask), but we lost him to old age last fall.
Still its dogs that capture my heart.There's a difference between liking dogs and being a dog person, though the former don't always underestand that. I'll tread lightly here, so as not to step on toes, for I've had this discussion with one of my sons-in-law who indignantly protests that he likes dogs. A true dog person can't imagine living without a dog, regardless that, if well cared for, they're expensive and take a lot of time--probably more time than I give mine. I've had dogs, big dogs, all my life, except for a spell when I had Cairn terriers. I'm finding again with Sophie what I found with the Cairns--little dogs are stubborn. I'm sorry in some ways I let my brother convince me I don't need a big dog at my age. I admit, however, I don't walk either of mine for fear of being pulled down--Sophie has too much wild enthusiasm for the outside world, and Scooby never got over his instinct to herd buses, strollers, trucks, whatever moves. Both my sons are dog people; my daughters not so much, though Jordan and Sophie are crazy about each other. If I get hit by a truck tomorrow, Jordan will take her.
Don't get me wrong about Sophie: I love her. She is like the little girl with the curl--and when she's good and sweet, she's irresistible. And she's reliably housebroken--something I haven't always accomplished with dogs. She's probably got another year of growing up to do.
If you follow me on Facebook you may have noticed that I repost a lot of pictures of abandoned, endangered dogs, some on the EU list at varioius shelters. Breaks my heart, and I want to go rescue each of them--but I have my hands more than full, thank you. Confession: I'm sort of selective. I repost the collie, lab, shepherd, border collie mixes that appeal to me, some of them, like Sophie, the ragamuffins of the dog world. Not so much the pit bulls and similar breeds.
But I've noticed a high number of pit bull mixes on Facebook lately. I'm wondering if that's because people are breeding them for fighting or just why so many need loving homes. I know pit bull fanciers will jump all over this, but there are some breeds I'm leery of--pit bulls, Rottweilers (Colin had to give up one he could neither trust nor control) and, to a lesser extent, Dobermans.
Idle thoughts, but now that my mind is on dogs, watch for another post about some dogs I've known and loved. I think just as we're all meant to have one or two real loves in our lives, the same is true of dogs. We have one or two that are soulmates. I've been lucky with both kinds of loves, and I count my blessings. Sophie? She's an adorable, irresistible brat-child.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Life's Milestones

My oldest son, Colin David Alter, is 43 today. How did that happen, since I'm only 35? (They say there's an age where you always feel you are in your soul--mine is 35; my thirties were great.) I remember clearly so much about his entry into our lives. (The picture is Colin with his children, and two nephews, taken about four years ago.)
We had applied with the Edna Gladney Home, a maternity home/adoption agency, about a month earlier and were expecting a long wait. But there came this call: could the caseworker make a home visit the next day? Of course she could. In retrospect, I see that this lovely woman named Marie dropped hints that I was too dumb to catch. Me: I haven't gotten the curtains up in the nursery yet. Marie: The baby won't care. Galvanized by this visit, we rushed around to friends, borrowing crib, changing table and lots of tiny clothes that made me cry as I washed and folded them.
The very next day they called to say we had a baby boy, but there was one problem: he might have red hair. I laughed aloud. I'm blonde; my then-husband was dark and mostly bald. I drove to the hospital where he was a surgical resident, and ran across the parking lot shouting "We have a baby!"
I called my parents, but only Dad was at home. When I told him the baby was born on April 22--who knew it would be Earth Day?--he said, "That's Jeannie's birthday." Jeannie was my baby sister who died at six months. I was always told she had a congenital heart problem, but I wonder now if it wasn't SIDS. But each year on Colin's birthday, I say a small prayer for Jeannie--and for my parents who were so devastated by her loss. She would be 68 or 69 today, but I'm beyond imagining that.
I knew nothing about babies, hadn't read any books, had no idea what to do. Joel dropped us at home and went off to do a varicose vein surgery (not sure why I remember the type of surgery so clearly). A friend parked her 18-month-old with her mom and came to be with me. Together, we managed to feed him undiluted formula, which promptly gave him diarrhea--the worst sign in a newborn (he was eight days old). I called the pediatrician who was a friend and mother-figure to me, and she said she'd meet me at the hospital. Then, "No, wait, I'll come pick you up." He was fine, no weight loss, and we finally figured out the problem. But to this day, he says that's why he has Crohn's disease.
I'm not sure how women who give birth do it, but I was exhausted that first week. People came and went all hours of the day (by the fourth baby, that didn't faze me at all). To top it off, friends had to be out of their house for some reason and came to stay with us, bringing a toddler. That set the pattern for our lives--three more babies, always a houseful of people, more food served than I can now imagine. I did it all and loved it, but I look back at myself with amazement.
Colin David, I sure am glad you came into our lives. I love you a lot.
To the rest of you, thanks for letting me take this nostalgic trip. Forty-three? Can't be. It was only yesterday we brought him home, and yet it was a long time ago because so much has changed.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Single Life--and Food

I pretty much enjoy my single life. With an empty nest, I've gotten used to the independence and freedom. I've built myself a good life, full of friends, and I have a family so close I can't imagine introducing a new person into that circle. At home, I can keep my own hours, do with my house what I want, fill my closets and not worry about keeping them neat. I'm not sure there's room for a man in this house--or in my life. Oh, sure, sometimes I'd like to have a companion to go to an ocasional theater or music thing (I'm not devoted to either), but I have an active enough social life.
But I'm an admitted foodie--and that's where I miss a man or, even more, the family I used to cook for daily. As I posted on Facebook,  yesterday was a red-letter day because both Bon Appetit and Southern Living arrived in the same day. I spent a goodly amount of time poring over them--a first-time run-through, because I'll go back, more slowly, and savor. Some months not much grabs my taste buds, but this month both were full of things I want to try, notably a lot of varieties of chicken salad. It's not that I eat a lot--I'm currently on a small portion, no carb kick, which means I ordered a cheeseburger without a bun tonight. But I want to cook these dishes, and I can't eat them all myself.
Then, tonight, I went through my miscellaneous recipe file which includes breakfast recipes--I keep my appalling collection of recipes in separate files for Entrees Tried, Entrees Not Tried, Vegetables, Appetizers, and Desserts. This miscellaneous file is mostly breakfast foods and soups. I was looking for ideas for Jordan who will entertain the whole family, 16 of us, on Mother's Day for breakfast. And once again I found all these scrumptious recipes that serve 6, 8, 12. I simply can't cook them all.
Yes, I do entertain fairly frequently, and Jordan said tonight, "Call me. Christian often has evening events, and I'd love to have supper." So I guess I'll do that. I'm always afraid my friends get worn out with my dinner invitations.
Stuffed pull-apart bread anyone? It has bacon, scallions, and cheese in it--okay I leave out the olives. Or how about a breakfast strudel with eggs, onions, ham, chives, cream cheese, and o.j. (Once again, I cater to my tastes and leave out the bell pepper--I don't like them and neither does my stomach.) Cooking does for me what meditation does for others.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

School daze

If  you have children, five or older, this picture is familiar to you. You've been there, done that. Some parents thrive on school programs and carnivals. I was never one of those parents, and I confess to a certain amount of relief when my youngest child left elementary school--no more carnivals, programs, PTA. Okay, I could have, should have, but I didn't. Once they got to middle school my children didn't seem to care about my involvement, and I was the single wowrking mother of four. It was one burden off my back (I still had Scouts, etc.). Tonight I found myself back in a familiar auditorium, where I'd been years before, watching the kind of program I'd seen countless times. The kindergarten and pre-k put on the PTA program tonight at Jacob's school, and, yes, the children were adorable--lively, happy, animated. They'd memorized lyrics to seven songs--no small feat. I enjoyed the program and was proud of Jacob--he was one of many who held signs for the "Sight Word Song." The woman who teaches them has patience and skill, and she did a good job. I was glad I went. But I did have that deja vu feeling and I wondered how many programs I will go to in the coming years. No carnivals--I draw the line there.
Jacob always gets a smiley face for the day at school--I think he's gotten a frown twice. Yesterday he got his third, or as he says, he "pulled a tab." Not quite sure about the lingo, but he was punished for wrestling on the playground. His story was that he tried to stop a fight, and one of the boys jumped on him and began fighting him. This morning, a teacher corroborated that story, and I truly think Jacob got a bum rap--but then I'm a prejudiced grandmother. The lesson I hope he learned--and we talked about it this afternoon--is that fighting is one instance where it's okay to tattle. You go tell a responsible adult, but you don't try to break it up yourself. Poor kid--he was lectured by the principal, who came out to the playground; he was in trouble with his teacher, and big trouble with his parents. But today, I guess everyone sees Jacob's view of the event, and the nice thing is kids are resilient. They bounce back nicely and easily.
The big talk today was of the dead tarantula found in front of my house and duly transported to the school. I heard about it so many times, I began to feel guilty as though that dead tarantula was my fault. We went through "they won't hurt you, they're good for our gardens," etc. I think Jacob believed me but his father was still insisting, "If they don't come in the house."
School days--they're fun, and this is all making me a bit nostalgic. After the program Jordan sent Christian to take Jacob to the reception, and we hurried home to feed my dogs. Then we sat on the porch with glasses of wine and reminisced about her days at the same school. Good memories.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Anticipation is generally a good thing. It means you're looking forward to something joyful. But if you're an anxious person (that would be me) it can be just the opposite--it's the fear that grips you before an event of any significance. Last Monday, as you know, I spoke at Baylor University for their Celebration of Texas Literature, Music and Film. I did really well at not worrying about it--had a talk written and pretty much down in my mind that I thought was solid and good. No need to worry I told myself. But Sunday morning, it hit--maybe it was the dark black thunderclouds and heavy rain or the fact that the weather persuaded me to skip church--but anticipation, or dread, set in. I gave the speech to myself one more time (I used to have a cleaning lady who would say to the kids, "Your mother's in there talking to her papers.") but to me, my voice sounded quavery, not strong and sure, and I skipped or mispronounced a few things. By Monday morning, I was asking that eternal question, "Why did I ever agree to do this?" It's so easy to agree six months in advance!
Jamie wrote me "Butterflies keep you on your toes," and Christian cheerfully said, "It's the anticipation. It always happens before a presentation, but it makes you better." I wasn't convinced.
Of course, it all worked out. When I got to Baylor, I met wonderfully friendly people and soon found myself telling stories of Texas history and authors to our lunch group. Then we toured the libraries, which I really found interesting. And the setting for my talk was comfortable--a circular tiered classroom with a desk in the pit: I could sit.
When I actually delivered the talk, I felt comfortable, elaborated spontaneously on a couple of points, made a point of not reading but talking to the audience, swiveling my head from one side of the room to the other. They said it went well; in fact, they were highly complimentary, had lots of questions, thanked me for coming, and bought eleven books.
I had the same anticipatory dread about my recent foot surgery, almost going to the podiatry office in a daze. It turned out to be so easy and so painless.
Wonder if I'll ever learn or conquer this?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A disastrous dog day

With the Canterbury Choir visitors safely on their way, much as I enjoyed them, and the Baylor speech behind me I  thought my life this week would be full of peace and tranquility. Not so! I took the older dog to the vet for his annual shots. Had to lift him, almost piece by piece, into the car--front end first, then hoist the back end. When I got to the vet, I called for help, and the tech had to put a leash around his rear end to hold it up. We got him into the office where he seemed a bit better. I said I was worrying about getting him to the groomer for a much-needed summer haircut, and they told me the groomer we all use picks up from them. So we agreed on that, and I picked him up about four-thirty, looking so much better and walking pretty well. But he wouldn't get into the car--the owner and I did the hoisting bit again. Once home, on familiar territory, he was much better.
Meantime, in the late morning I was happily working at my desk, thinking Sophie was safely in the backyard. Doorbell rang, and there stood a really nice gentleman--school custodian?--holding Sophie and asking, "Is this your dog? She was running in the street and schoolyard but she ran toward this house and I thought maybe she lived here." I have no idea how he managed to catch her, but I thanked him profusely. I had left the inner gate to the yard open, thinking I'd be straight back with Scooby while Sophie was in her crate inside. And then I forgot. With her new skinny body, minus all that fur, she can still slide under the electric gate.
So tonight, after the dogs were fed and so was I, I thought all was well. Went to let them in for the night--and the back door wouldn't open. Between 7:00 and 9:00 two boards in the floor had warped and jumped up, blocking it. Decided one gate would be better than two and tried the door in my bedroom--bolts were stuck, probably because I haven't used that door in the eighteen years I've been here. So I had to bring the dogs out two gates, in the dark, on leashes, to the front door. Let me tell  you that my dogs are sweethearts, fairly obedient, anxious to please--but they are not leash-trained because I don't walk them for fear they'll pull me down. It's my balance problem, not their behavior problem. Tonight may have been a wake-up call.
We made it--thank heaven for automatic gates, motion-sensitive lights and other conveniences. Both dogs are safely in the house, and Jordan has said to tell them not to pee until she gets here in the morning. Lewis, the life-saving contractor who keeps my house running, says he'll be over first thing in the morning.
I have the urge to say, "Why me, Lord?" but I know these are minor troubles, amusing in retrospect. Still when I did my yoga late this afternoon I thought how peaceful everything was and how thankful I was. Now, I'm grateful for all the people who allow me to lead the comfortable life I do--vet, groomer, contractor.Other days I add to that list the lady who cleans my house, the good friend who maintains my yard. If it weren't for these people I'd be in assisted living without dogs--a thought I can't bear.
And poor old Scooby? He definitely has a neurological problem in his back legs--the demonstration the vet gave me was revealing. Plus he still has balance problems--perhaps an inner ear thing, perhaps a stroke. But his spirit is strong, and he plays with Sopie when he can, scolds her when he thinks she needs it. I am not going for heroics, but I'll do all I can to make him happy and comfortable. as long as I can have him. Can't imagine life without dogs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Talking Texas Writing at Baylor

Today at Baylor Uiversity my talk, "Exploring Women of the American West," was part of a two-week long Celebration of Texas Literature, Music and Film. My talk was in Celebration of Texas Writers. I was a bit intimidated by the prospect of this, not being easy at formal presentations, but it turned out just fine.Son-in-law Christian, an avid Baylor alum, drove us down there. We had lunch at the Faculty Center, then toured the extensive Texana collection (even behind the scenes) with the director as our guide--it was an interactive tour as he was open to questions, comments, etc., and we really enjoyed it. Off to the Armstrong Browning Librry to tour the Browning collection in its most impressive building--lots of artifacts, portraits and paintings, and impressive stained glass. But not quite my cup of tea as I'm more interested in and know more about Texana. Besides I was getting tired of walking and standing.
Then a walk clear across campus--a good way--to the Moody LIbrary where we looked at the posters celebrating Texas writers and then collapsed in Starbucks (how modern have campuses gotten?) Then it was time to head to the English building for my talk which seemed to go well--the audience of about 40 was attentive, interested, and sometimes laughed and smiled. It was in a circular tiered classroom, and I had to keep turning my head to take in all of the audience. Afterward, questions, sold some books, a reception, and then dinner in Waco before heading home.
Thanks to Dr.Dianna Vitanza, chair of the English department, and longtime friend Donna Walker-Nixon, for putting this together and making it work. Donna was our tour companion and dinner host but she said Dr. Vitanza was the one who was instrumental in making me the choice for the slot.
I'd never been to Baylor, though now I feel I've walked much of the campus. It's pretty, much larger than when Christian was there in the '90s, and I saw many more bikes than I ever did at TCU--maybe because it's such a sprawling campus. Christian loved the nostalgia, pointing out where his grandparents' had lived in boys and girls dorms, where he lived, various buildings in which he had attended classes.
And the Mexican restaurant where we had supper? He'd eaten there many, many times, and was glad to return.
This is a sort of goofy picture of me next to a display of my books--well, the picture's not goofy but that's how I think I look. The display was in the Moody Library, apparently the main library on campus.
I'm weary.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

You want mayo or mustard on that burger?

It's not hard to fall off the diet wagon. Just when I lose a couple of lbs., I find some excuse for gaining them back. This week, it was those full breakfasts for my English guests, the generous helping of creamy blue cheese dressing I ate for lunch while feeling righteous about having salad and not a burger, that twice-baked potato last night, and maybe an extra glass of wine when chores or good company kept me up late.
One of my downfalls is mayonnaise, though I use the low fat made with olive oil--someone suggested I am fooling myself, but if so, it makes me feel better. On the Guppes (subgroup of Sisters in Crime) listserv there's been a flurry of messages about mayo. Some people range from gentle dislike to active disdain, and I have friends like that, including one daughter who does not eat those white things--mayo, cream cheese, goat cheese, feta, sour cream. To my mind, she's missing half the world's good stuff--but maybe that's why I'm constantly trying to diet.
Then there are the people in my camp who love it. You'd be surprised at how many people artichokes with mayonnaise--both in parts of the United States and much of Europe. Europeans often serve mayo with fries--one of the Brit boys confirmed that saying "We eat it with chips." Then, with a glance at me, "Uh, fries." One person wrote that she likes to dip fries in vinegar and since she tried that, she's discovered all sorts of vinegars (vinegar plays a big role in Slavic cooking). Confirmed mayo lover that I am, I can't see either of these--hollandaise with artichokes and ketchup with fries.
Some people seemed to think that heavy use of mayo is a Midwestern custom, and it seems to me that more people in Texas want mustard and ketchup on their burgers. I sometimes have to ask for mayo--must be my Midwestern roots. I don't have a recipe for it, but I've heard a lot about chocolate cake made with mayo--keeps it moist. Bet it's on the Web.
Europeans on the other hand are disdainful of our use of what I call salad or yellow mustard as opposed to a good Dijon or Bavarian. On the other hand, my youngest daughter won't eat any other kind of mustard! Go figure.
I think this all started because someone asked an author from Switzerland (I think it was) about mayo and loose meat. The latter I've never heard of, but there's always a Guppy with an answer. One wrote that it is ground beef cooked with onions to a crumble. It's eaten on white bread with mayo. That actually sounds good to me, but not white bread unless it was a good sourdough. And maybe it came from the old Maid Rite chain of restaurants.
See why I can't lose wieght? It's ot that I'm obsessed with consumption of food but I am fascinated by the various things you can do with it, flavors you can combine.
Which brings me back to my Brit guests--they were surprised I served jam for the biscuits with a bacon-and-egg breakfast, because they don't mix savory and sweet. Same thing the next morning when I served oatmeal (porridge) with sugar and also provided sausage and bacon. Sweet and savory again. I forgot to tell them about the ever-expanding uses of bacon, in ice cream for instance, or dipped in chocolate. I'm afraid I draw the line there.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A weary, lazy day--and a plea for help

Weary was the word for me today. I was up early to fix another big breakfast--bangers (sausages), bacon, oatmeal (porridge), and biscuits. I'm sure eating those breakfasts, even though I ate modestly, made me tired for one thing. I had thought to eat my cottage cheese and serve the Brits, but that didn't seem cordial to me. Besides, I enjoyed their company so much. After an early breakfast, they hustled off to finish packing, and I rinsed dishes. Got them out the door at 8:25 and as gone myself by 8:30 for a haircut.
In one word, my time with my British guests was delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed them, and we had such language fun. Bangers/sausages, chips/fries, porridge/oatmeal, boot/trunk--all thoses little things. The boys joined in, sometimes translating for me. I know another host family with musical inclinations, and they sang together and shared music--guess it depends on  your interest, but mine was words. They left me with beautiful prints of Canterbury Cathedral and a CD. But I confess that late nights, early mornings, and all else left me weary too. I wouldn't change a minute of it but I am tired. Spent the reset of the day being weary--except for stripping beds in the apartment and washing the linens, bringing in the food and things I'd left for their convenience--yeah, I wasn't all that lazy.
Tonight Jacob is spending the night, so I had the bright idea of taking him to Central Market--we'd get supper, eat at a table right by the playground, and have fun. The Latimers next door agreed to go too--Jacob and four-year-old Abby are great buddies. At just barely a year, Grayson is too little except to either smile charmingly or cry. Central Makret was a disaster--no tables, with people waiting for them, sporadic music ("Sweet Caroline" and others, not too loud--I loved that). Playground was beyond belief. By contrast, the grocery--which I ran through quickly, was empty and lovely. I told Meredith and Brannon that the next time I had a bright idea they should just politely say "No, thanks." On the way home, Jacob and I went by Curly's Custard Stand--peaceful and calm. Next time: hot dogs at Curly's and custard to follow--Jacob had chocolate tonight . Still, it was fun, and he's rolling around on the floor with Sophie now--she's delighted.
A plea to readers: If you like a book (particularly mine, of course), did you realize  you can go to the title page on Amazon and click the Like button right next to the title? It mkes a huge difference. And if you want to leave a reader's comment after you read--even one or two sentences--there's a place for that below. All of that helps the books immensely. Personally, if you've read my books, I'll be grateful for the help. Right now, of course, I'm particularly pushing Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Libbie (Kindle version) and Sundance, Butch and Me (Kindle version).  Never thought I'd go in for all those marketing techniques, but here I am.
A peaceful weekend ahead. I'm going to read--almost at the end of one novel, and may order another, though I have lots of work on my desk. Monday I go to Baylor to speak, and I really should be reviewing my notes--why do I keep avoiding it?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A day of oops moments

Whoosh, what a day. I served eggs, bacon and biscuits to my Canterbury guests at eight this morning--the  time I'm usually just barely getting organized for the day. Was supposed to have them at the church by 9:30, but first they got locked out of the apartment, a problem complicated by muddy dogs--I thought I would have to change clothes to deal with it. We got that bit of excitement solved, but they dawdled and it was 9:50 before I got them to the church. Rushed home to read emails and do whatever. At  eleven, Jeannie and I went up to the Star--our friends' restaurant where the choir was to lunch--to see if we could be helpful. We sat around, alphabetized name placards, then decided to put them out on the tables--lots of waiting for the choir people to arrive. But boy oh boy when they did! We ran food from the kitchen to the dining area (down three steps, thank you) more times than I can count. Finally it all settled down and we had lunch. I probably had the shortest nap on record before I had to get Jacob.
I've been losing things lately and today was no exception. I've lost a full set of sheets--no idea where they could be, and I've looked. Today at the Star I thought I lost my walking stick--then found it. Got home and couldn't find my phone--decided I must have left it at the Star but calls to the restaurant and to Betty indicated it wasn't there. I cancelled service. Then I found it in my car and remembered I was checking it when my guests came out to the car this morning. I reached for it at the Star but never got that far because Betty wanted help with something. So once I had the phone in hand, I had to reactivate it, which proved to be complicated with the automated system--finally ended up on chat with two customer reps. Took maybe 30 minutes but I got it reactivated.
Didn't know if Linda was coming for dinner or not before class, as she usually does. Finally caught her, and she wasn't. With a sigh of relief I snuck back into a second nap, ate a leftover hamburger for dinner, and wished I could go straight to bed.
Class tonight was good--such a nice night we met on the porch--there was enough light to read until almost the end of the class. Bugs were a problem, but otherwise a pleasant and interesting evening. Sometimes I feel so inadequate to steer and guide these women, and sometimes one or the other of them is so much better at putting into words what I'm trying to say. Why am I teaching? Because I edit afterwards? Is that enough?
Shooed them out the door, did a couple of things, and went off to pick up my guests at the church. Chris, the adult with my two boys, came in for a beer and we sat on the porch and had a great discussion about his fascination with America, his interest in the American experience and the West, and what he's sensed about Texas since he's been here. Such fun to share ideas with someone you don't know well. I think when we are so familiar with people the exchange of ideas sometimes pales, but a new perspective makes things interesting.
To repeat myself: Whoosh! I'm tired.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Canterbury Boys Choir comes to town

Tonight and tomorrow night I am hosting two boys from the Canterbury Boys Choir and one of their adult chapterones. I was to pick them up at ten tonight at the church, but I had one of those three-o'clock thoughts: I can fit three people, two boys and an adult, in my car, but not with the luggage that must accompany a tour in the U.S. Another church member will deliver them, and I'll have to find someone to take them back to the church Friday morning for their flight to San Diego.
The two boys are both gluten free, so I've loaded the apartment with fruit, plain potato and corn chips, gluten-free crackers, peanut butter, and gluten-free chocolate brownie cookies. My good friend Weldon, himself gluten free, came over tonight to make gluten-free cheese-bacon biscuits--from a Bisquick mix oddly enough. They smell heavenly! Jeannie scrambled up on the top of the double bunk bed today to make it. I'm not that agile and would get too easily frustrated, but Jeannie said, "It's kind of cool up here. I like it."
I only feed them breakfast, so tomorrow it's eggs, bacon, biscuits, o.j.and milk--tea or coffee for the adult. Friday, when we'll be in more of a hurry, it's gluten-free oatmeal. I have this vision of ending up with a lot of gluten-free food that I guess I'll eat. Weldon assures me the biscuits aren't too fattening. But then, I'd slather butter on them.
Tomorrow the boys all tour the Fort Worth Historical Stockyards District and then eat lunch at The Star Cafe, owned by good friends Betty and Don Boles. Jeannie and I are going up to have lunch, just to be there. Should be fun. (Retirement is a lot of work, but it doesn't have to be all the time!)
Tomorrow night the boys' choir gives a concert at my church, co-sponsored by Trinity Episcopal, but I can't go. It's my class, and they've missed three weeks. I don't dare cancel on them, but I will kick them out the door fairly rapidly, so I can go collect my charges.
I'm looking forward to this experience. Should get me out of my rut--if indeed I'm in one.

Monday, April 09, 2012

A voice from the past

Years ago, when my children were young, there was an unmarried pediatrician on the hospital staff with my ex. He became a family friend, often a regular at the dinner table--he'd just drive in the driveway, but there was always enough food. Oh, there was the night the teenage daughter of friends, living with us to complete her senior year, said,"Why does he always come on the night we're having salmon croquettes!" But he was welcome and fun.
He dated a flight attendant named Jackie, who flew for Northwest. At this point, I have no idea how they met, but Jackie was also at our house a lot and she and I became fast friends. I'm not sure which came first, but I think they split up and then he moved to the Northwest. Jackie and I kept in touch a bit but eventually lost touch. I had no idea where she was, how to find her, but over the years, I thought of her often and wondered about her.
A few days ago on Facebook someone named Jackie contact me and asked if I remembered her. I asked if she were that Jackie, and she wrote, "Yes, that would be me." We were so excited to hook up again that we exchanged lots of emails that day. Our lives have gone divergent paths--she flew until she retired eight years ago, is married but no children, close to nieces and nephews so feels like she has grandchildren. And sounds happy. When I said she'd have to come visit, she said it would be a while--the children keep her busy. I do hope we can maintain the friendship. Among other things, we have cooking in common.
One of the problems I've found with blogging is that people know all about you and don't think to respond--they sort of think we're in touch when it's one-sided and I know nothing about what's going on in their lives. Thank you, Barbara A., my BFF, as the teens say today, from high school, for not falling into that trap--I love our correspondence.
About a year ago, I heard from another friend, who goes even farther back. Her husband was an intern when my ex was doing his surgical residency. She and I were close, and the four of us did some things together, though he was sort of prickly. They moved to a suburb, he established a practice, and one day she was gone--left him. No farewell, no idea what happened to her. She, too, wrote me--she's in Texas which is closer than Jackie in Ohio, and we brought each other up to date. But I haven't heard since. Jan, if you're out there, let me hear.
That my friends is one of the joys of Facebook. What's the saying--new friends are silver, old are gold, keep the new but treasure the old. I do treasure old friends. Many of those to whom I was once close are scattered about the country now--Santa Fe, the D.C. area, Atlanta, Omaha--and not all are good communicators. Listen up, people. Treasure those times we had together and nurture friendships!
And there are people who were in and out of my life that I wonder about now. Strange--some friendships are forever, others transitory.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

A glorious Easter

Church service this morning was superb--I keep wanting to use the word glorious, but there's no other word for the music. And the hymns were from my childhood--"Jesus Christ is Risen, Allelulia," and "Crown Him with Many Crowns." Thought-provoking sermon on change and the the wonder of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus with our stupendous choir! A thrill. I tried to let go of all anger, hurts, disappointments, and just let the music wash over me.
Tonight, drinks and deviled eggs on the porch, though it was a tad cool. Then leg of lamb with vegetable gratin for ten of us. The presence of my oldest, Colin, on his way to his brother's in Frisco was an extra treat--he carved the lamb, sat at the head of the table, and led Jacob in the grace. Good friend Sue was here with her teenagers and parents--tomorrow the parents leave for Canada, to be back next fall. And I was so glad to see her kids--they've grown into wonderful young people.
I offered ice cream cups for dessert and Hunter, twelve, took me up on it. When I asked Jacob if he wanted one, he said, "I didn't eat a good dinner." Told him he could have one anyway, but he declined--then later I found him eating one.
Lively conversation, sense of being surrounded by loved ones--and Christian rinsed all the plates and put them in the dishwasher. Hope the true meaning of Easter sank in for each of us.  But I am so thankful for all I have and for all the blessings given me.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

A cooking failure and a lovely evening

My Easter table
What do you do when it's the Saturday night before Easter and you're alone and having a pity party? Why cook yourself a good meal, of course. So that's what I did. But it didn't quite work out. First of all, I generally don't like tilapia. But I found a recipe that sounded good--poach it in wine, make a cream sauce and top with sauteed mushrooms. Of course I fiddled with the recipe--no way I'm putting two cups heavy cream in a sauce, so I added a small spoon of light sour cream. Of course I didn't let the cooking liquid reduce enough--impatience!--and I didn't as the recipe said thicken it with cornstarch or flour and water. Result was a runny sauce that did nothing for the fish. And guess what? I don't like tilapia. The aspargus was good, but I've been eating on the same bunch of aspargus all week.
I decided chocolate and chardonnay fix anything, so I took both of those, with my Kindle, out on the porch. Lovely evening. As I came out the door, a small gray and  white kitty skittered away from my monkey grass--hope she's not someone's lost baby. Then I sat and stared at squirrels, who are my enemy because they ruin my porch plants. The big old elm in front of the house has a huge knot hole in it--one  year we sat and watch birds fly in and out. They had built a nest there and were feeding babies. Tonight squirrels were in and out of it. Do they build nests? The world does not need more squirrels, at least my corner of the world.
I got my chili book as ready to send off as I can today, and the book on my pile is dark and depressing--a holocaust survival tale with a twist. Not what my mood needed. So here's the glory of an e-reader: I ordered Carolyn Hart's newest Death on Demand book, Death Comes Silently, and read until it grew too dark. Then I came in and filled the deviled egg shells--gosh that filling is good!
Mood much improved now.
For those of you who celebrate Easter, may you have a blessed day tomorrow. If Passover, enjoy that. I've lost track of how far into Passover it is, but I do have fond memories of seders more raucous than reverent. But I'm sure the intent was there, and I think seders are meant to be joyous. How I'd love some good, crisp, hot latkes!
Table set with my Easter china--check. Eggs deviled--check. Dishes out to cook lamb and vegetables--check. I'm all set for Easter dinner. So glad to share it with Sue Boggs, her children and her parents as well as Jordan, Christian, and Jacob. And maybe my Colin--what a treat even a brief visit from him will be.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Heigh, ho, to the groomers we go!

Don't know that you can tell the difference--it's hard to photograph a black dog, but Sophie belatedly got a hair cut today. Above is fuzzy Sophie, and to the right is new Sophie. Her border collie/poodle coat was out of control--and smelly to boot in spite of baths. I labored under the delusion (I do that a lot) that God gave dogs their coats for a purpose, and I shouldn't mess with it. But I finally wrote the breeder, who said a wise thing to me, "Doodles are man-made mutations, not dogs as God created them." Short answer: 1" all around, 1-1/2 to 2 inches on the face." She sent me a picture, and this morning Sophie and I happily went off to the groomers--well, I was happy. Bad news: she was so matted all they could do was shave her. "One inch?" I asked hopefully. "Nope, shave. She won't look anything like she does now. Be prepared." I begged for saving as much face and tail hair as they could, so tonight I have this skinny small dog with a bushy face and bushy tail. She'll grow out to the right length in six weeks or so. Doesn't seem to have bothered her at all, and she's the same irrepressible personality.
Scooby missed her. He barked all day. Greg, the lawn guy, was here, and he said "Scooby's barking to find out where she is. He's gotten used to her." Scooby did give her a thorough sniff-check out when she came home.
Usually I have Scoob cut back to one-inch for summer. Not sure about it this summer, whether his disliking the trip to the groomer would balance out his discomfort. Got to think on that one. Owning dogs is not cheap!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Letting go--it ain't easy

Yoga is or was meant to be relaxation preparatory to meditation. So when I did my yoga workout today, I was meditating alright--on anger. Hardly what it's supposed to be! I don't think I'm generally an angry person nor do I usually hold a grudge. I've long ago let go of my anger at an ex-husband, and more recently, I've been able to let go of my anger at two difficult former employees. But I have this one bit of anger that I'm still harboring and--dare I say it?--even nurturing.
I know all the reasons to let go of anger. This is Holy Week, with the holiest of Christian holidays fast upon us, and I'm a Christian who takes my faith seriously. Anger is not in the doctrine--forgiveness is, a "turn the other cheek" philosophy. I've prayed about this, but the Lord seems willing to let me stew in my own juices a while longer. I know the platitudes too--the only person anger hurts is you, etc. Those are all over Facebook.
A gentle lecture from daughter-in-law Lisa last night helped a bit but mostly made me feel guilty. She expects me to be a better person--and so does her husband, my oldest child--and I'm afraid I don't always live up to that.
Dinner with good friend Betty tonight was helpful--the more I talked about my anger, the harder she laughed, until I was laughing with her and seeing how ridiculous and uncharacteristic I'm being. So for the time being, my anger is less. Gone? No, not completely. Will it come back in full force? I expect so, from time to time but maybe each time it will be easier to let go of.
Dinner, by the by, was delicious--we split a tapas platter of smoked salmon crostini with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, skewers of grape tomatoes and mozarella with balsamic dressing, baby artichokes with blue cheese, asparagus with yet another cheese topping, and hard (spicy!) salami. Add a glass of chardonnay and it was great.
So here I am tonight, on my own Easter journey from anger to peace. Forgiveness? No, that's stretching it. I just need the peace within myself.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Mystery of Etta Place

Who was she? Where did she come from? What happened to Etta Place after Sundance and Butch died in a hail of bullets in South America? Well, that's the 1969 movie version--and then there's my version, now available again in ebook on a wide variety of platforms.
Here, told in first person, is my rwllinf of the story of Etta Place's life with the Sundance Kid, Butch Cassidy, and the Hole In the Wall Gang, told form her point of view and with a hint at a new look at the relationships between that infamous threesome and a question about who really died in that shootout in South America. 
She was born Martha Baird, but history will always remember her as Etta Place, the woman who rode with the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. This is history transformed into fiction in a novel that captures all the drama, passion, and adventure of the life of one of the West’s most amazing women.
Publishers Weekly wrote “Alter is a meticulous researcher but never at the expense of a skillful first-person narrative.” And The Literary Times said, "Judy Alter is one of the finest writers of Western fiction! Her realistic portrayal of historic events touches the imagination and stirs the spirit."
Heady praise for an author with at best a mid-list career.
Here, just in case, are links to Sundance, Butch and Me:


Thanks for putting up with me and my blatant self promotion. From now on, back to regular posting. Who knows? I might discuss politics--naw, probably not.

Monday, April 02, 2012

:Like seeing your chldren again

An author/friend once commented that having books out of print was like having children  you can't see. Well, I'm excited to announce that as of today I can see two of my OP "children" again. Libbie and Sundance, Butch and Me are now both available as ebooks. I've mentioned them before but in cases of blatant self promotion, I believe in repetition.
Libbie is the story of Elizabeth Bacon Custer's years with George Armstrong Custer, as I imagine them. Not all the fun and games her journals would suggest. Elmer Kelton wrote, "Libbie is probably the book Mrs. Custer would have written had she not been determined to protect her husband’s name.” a review in Romantic Times said, “A wondrous, intimate story of an unsung heroine of the West," and Affaire de Couer said, “Rings…authentically true….Brilliant and memorable….Kudos to Ms. Alter for a refreshingly unique story.” Here's a brief excerpt:

I knew that history would make a plaything of Autie, and when that happened, all my battles would be lost again. Autie rarely lost a battle—save that last big one—and his fights were always glorious, painted on a broad screen by the clamoring newsmen if not by himself. My battles were small and silent and private, but oh! they were important to me, and I had managed to hold the line. I would not see it all wiped away with the muckraking cry that Autie's overweening ambition had led him to disaster at Little Bighorn. I would make sure that the world saw the George Armstrong Custer I wanted seen. Only this private journal—to be burned upon my death—records my own wars.

Twelve years is not very long in a lifetime, yet it seemed my whole life was lived in those brief years of marriage. I had fought battles of my own, hard battles, to marry Autie, and once married, I thought myself the happiest and luckiest of women—married to the great boy-general, the hero of the Civil War. We would, I knew, grow old together, savoring the best of life, the last for which the first was made, so the poet wrote. I'm not sure when, exactly, that I knew that dream was not to be, that a love as intense as ours could not survive, that two people as willful as we could not be bound so tightly together. And yet, when all was said and done, I would not have traded those twelve years for anything on earth. Were they worth a lifetime? There is no answer, but even to think about it, I must begin earlier, back in Monroe.... I remember yet one snowy night when I was but sixteen years old.

 Libbie is available from Kindle at
I'm proud of these novels and the research that went into them. Hope you enjoy them. Tomorrow, more about Sundance, Butch and Me, the story of Etta Place's years with the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. 

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The wrong shoes, short pants and a lovely day

Long day, short blog. This morning, Palm Sunday, one of the high holy days of Christianity, I went to church in tennis shoes. Mind you, I didn't mean to--when I dressed I thought I looked rather nice: black top with my squash blossom necklace, cream slacks, and I planned to wear black shoes. Then Jacob and I got into the long pants/short pants discussion (heated, with much talk about casting blame on others) and I ended up at church still wearing my tennis shoes, Jacob in short pants with his long pants stuffed in my purse to hand over to his mother for the birthday party after church. Wondered if I should have made a sign that said, "I just had foot surgery." But it would have been fudging--I've been wearing other shoes. Probably no one noticed but me--and Jordan when I pointed it out. I took Jacob, in his short pants, into the sanctuary because the children were processing with palms and singing a song about the little gray donkey--presumably the one Jesus rode into Jerusalem. He liked that but soon after his dad had to take him to the day-care class. He's not ready for a whole church service yet.
Tonight, twelve of us for barbecue, potato salad, beans, and assorted appetizers--such fun to have all my neighbors on the porch, laughing and enjoying. They all talk at once, with the result that I don't hear much of what is said. But I sit back, sip my wine, and enjoy the camaraderie. I really watched what I ate but even so ate  more than I meant to: split a barbecue sandwich with Susan, potato salad, no beans, too much chip and dip, and a delicious Spanish cheese that Cathy from down the street brought. We were a group ranging in age from thirty to me, the senior citizen, plus five-, four- and one-year olds. Jacob was the five and the two from next door were the younger ones. Grayson is so ready to walk but just can't quite do it--adorable.
Late in the evenng, Sue, Jay and Susan, and Brannon (next door to the east) lingered, and I got to visit. Jordan had done much of the clean-up--I may never give a party without her. And Susan cleared the table. I had the house back in reasonable shape by 9:30--and I sent people home with all that food I shouldn't eat. Kept just a bit of potato salad!
What more could one ask than family, friends, and good food plus a lovely evening to be on the peorch. Last year it went suddenly from being too cold to being too hot for the porch, but so far this year we've had several good porch evenings. I love it. God is good.