Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A time for resolutions--or is it?

Jacob and I celebrated New Year's Eve tonight with fondue and wine--sparkling cider or "kid wine" for him, and chardonnay for me. He asked for fondue because we had it last year and he loved it. I had forgotten that it is both expensive and work-intensive--I stirred until I thought it would never come together. And then he said he didn't really like the cheese much but he ate the bread and apples. Truth is, it wasn't as good as I remember either, and it scorched on the bottom. Nonetheless, the idea was fun.
The other night at dinner we were joking about my son-in-law's 2014 resolutions, and I suggested he resolve never to say, "I don't eat ......." He looked appalled and said he couldn't do that. So I said that I had no resolutions to make, and he retorted, "Oh. Because you're perfect?" And I said, "You got it." Truth is I do have some resolutions in mind, though they are only vaguely formulated in my mind--I may blog about them later, but all I can say now is that they have to do with personal growth.
Meantime it occurs to me that New Year's Eve is also a time to look backward and give thanks for the good things in our past year and in our lives. I started a list.
On a daily basis, I am grateful beyond words for my four children and their families, their love for me and pride in my work, their successes in their own lives and families. They make me proud every day--well, okay, there are a few lapses. I am particularly grateful for Jordan, her husband Christian, and their son Jacob who constitute my local family and whom I see almost every day. Because I keep Jacob in the afternoons and a lot of nights I am particularly close to him...and I wish I had that relationship with my other six grandchildren.
I am grateful for my writing, my involvement in the online mystery-writing community, and the shape that work gives to my daily life, though I'm glad I don't rely on it for my livelihood. I'm grateful for my oh-so-comfortable house where I am completely at home, and for those who help me run it--the wonderful woman who cleans, Greg who keeps the garden, Lewis and Jim who see to repairs major and minor. Jacob pointed out it takes a lot of people to run my house, and I said, "Yes, a village." I'm thankful too for wonderful neighbors
I am grateful for Sophie, that wild Indian of a dog who stole a big chunk of expensive tuna off my plate last night and just snitched a Kleenex (used of course). She is daily in her devotion, even lying in the middle of the bathroom when I shower. She is good company, and I love our special tummy-rub time late at night.
2013 brought problems but mostly moments of high delight--there was a marvelous trip to Hawaii with Jordan in late February--a place I never thought I'd go, and I loved it. Thanks to lifelong friends Martha and Dick for hosting us. There was a wowzer of a 75th birthday party, mostly celebrating the new deck in my backyard. For most of the year, Elizabeth lived in the guest house--she was great company, Jacob adored her, and I welcomed not only our late-night wine sessions but also the presence of another person on the property. A corner of our small community here will always miss her. This fall brought a much-anticipated visit from my high school buddy Barbara and her daughter, Amy--too short but wonderful times. We can laugh together as we did in high school.
And there was our Christmas trip to Santa Fe which also brought about a visit with a thirty-year friend I probably haven't seen in ten years.
Do I have worries? Of course--the health of my oldest son is tops on my list of worries, closely followed by what I should do about my career. And there are niggling small annoyances but I feel so blessed by the life I lead.
2014? I think I'll try to grow up--and out (spiritually and mentally but, Lord help me, not physically). God rest ye all and bring you a bright new year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Post-Christmas retrospect

The Alters, minus two, on the Plaza--sunny day
Back to blogging. My blog vacation was actually a Christmas vacation in Santa Fe with all of my family--16 of us in one large contemporary house within walking distance of the Plaza. It made for wild and noisy good times, a boisterous Christmas morning, and a generally wonderful experience. Years ago, when my children were in high school and college, we spent every Christmas vacation in Santa Fe, and it was a city where I felt completely at home, as though I'd lived there in another existence. It's now been ten years since I've been there and even longer for the children, but there was a lot of "Remember when..." as they reacquainted themselves.
Skiing was a major attraction for all but three of us, though it didn't happen until Dec. 26th. We arrived late Sunday, fiddled on Monday, and went to brunch and walked the Plaza on Tuesday. I found some trinkets for this one and that and a lovely wall cross for Lisa. Fun, but after one walk around the Plaza in my awkward boot, I'd had enough. Besides it was cold.
I also chickened out of caroling on Canyon Road, but everyone else had a great time.
Caroling on Canyon Road
For folks like me, who travel to Santa Fe on their stomachs, we ate at Gabriele's, new to me but delicious--can't beat crab enchiladas. One morning all sixteen of us had brunch at LaFonda--the kids and adults both loved it. They split us into tables of eight--so much more manageable. Another night, we thought we had reservations at Guadalupe Café, long a favorite of ours, but when Megan called to say we were running late, whoever answered said, "We're not open for dinner." Big problem, but it wasn't. The Pink Adobe has bought Guadalupe--the latter serves breakfast and lunch, and the Pink Adobe had a private room waiting for us. Expensive, but oh so good. Melanie, Jordan and I went to Chimayo one day--they had never been to the Sanctuario and brought back more than their share of holy dirt. I found a few quiet moments to sit in that wonderful chapel and talk go the Lord about 2014 and pray for the people on my prayer list. Lunch at Rancho Chimayo was as good as always. I get tired of spicy food and was happy with an avocado filled with chicken salad. And, finally, the three of us found ourselves on the next ski day with Maddie (14) and Jacob (7) for company, so we had lunch at Harry's Roadhouse, where I love the meatloaf. Very carefully saved and protected half my large sandwich for the drive back--sad story. Jordan though I packed it, and she thought I did. No meatloaf. I ate a cold cuts sandwich--good but inferior!
Lot of cooking went on; here, Mel and Eden make banana pudding
Full time life for a week with one teen and six children is interesting. We have a ten, nine, eight, two sevens and a six. The have incredible energy, even after a day on the slopes, and are incredibly noisy. I think we had never before been in as spacious a house where they could run and play. I learned to take my hearing aids out. For me, much of the week was quiet--reading and doing miscellaneous at my computer--but I liked that. And I liked knowing I was in Santa Fe and looking out over the lights of the city at night. I was glad to be back home, and I'm grateful for the privileges and opportunities and loving family that I have.
Some of the noisemakers
There were down moments of course--it's hard to be the matriarch, and it's hard to be in a house where no one is in charge and everyone has their own idea of how and what to do. And the trip ended badly with an emergency hospitalization of my oldest son. But more about those things later. Now I prefer to dwell on the pleasant memories--and they are many.
Goodbye until the next time
(photo courtesy Lisa Alter)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christmas Curmudgeon

A Christmas picture of most
but not all the Alter bunch
Facebook has been reminding us a lot lately that for many people the holidays are not the joyful family time that most of us dream of. Some are grieving, or sick, or lonely. It can be a hard time to face, with memories of happier times making the bad times all the harder. It's good advice, and something we should all keep in mind. Tonight I am, as I have been every Christmas of my life, surrounded by family, so I can't speak for the deep depression that some feel at the holidays.
But I've decided that joy at Christmas and feeling the spirit is a two-way street. If you're blue and alone, go serve at a soup kitchen, go to a church carol sing, reach out to a neighbor who may be alone or not realize that you are. My kids are off caroling tonight while I babysit the youngest who was too tired to go. But they'll come back, full of hot chocolate and cider, and bringing the Christmas spirit with them.
I sat at a mall table today with a young woman who was alone. Actually I asked if she minded if I sat there while my family decided what to do next. It was, I explained, like herding cats. She smiled and was gracious, but when several of my family descended on the table to eat cupcakes, she excused herself. I said we didn't mean to rush her off, and she said no, she really needed to go. But I worried about her the rest of the day. She didn't seem capable of reaching out to me like the woman I met in line tonight waiting for our turn at the restroom. By the time we parted, we were old friends. Christmas does that to some people. I wish others could get that spirit .
Last night I decided I was a being a bit of a curmudgeon myself, withdrawing into myself. Maybe I was remembering Christmases when the grandkids were young, cuddly, and awed by the whole thing, or maybe it was even my children's early Christmases. But everything seemed hectic and loud and disorganized to me. When I went to bed, I talked to the Lord about it and resolved not to think so much about how I was feeling and to think more about how my family was feeling. I wanted to make them glad I was in the midst of them.
This morning when I got up the first thing I did was to wash my hair and put on makeup. It made an enormous difference in my attitude, and I've had a terrific day.
I wish for each of you a joyous Christmas. If you celebrate, I wish you may feel the spirit of the gift of the Christ Child bringing joy, hope and peace to the world. If you don't celebrate the holy day, I wish for you the joy of the season.

Friday, December 20, 2013

How did I do that?

Enjoying wine and tapas with friends
I spent the morning answering that question to doctors, x-ray techs, and all sorts of people. My answer was always, "I haven't a clue." It seems I have broken the fifth metatarsal on my right foot--that's the long bone that leads to my little toe. I noticed Tuesday night that the side of my foot really hurt; the next day I thought I'd bruised it; the next day I thought it really looked funny, and I should check with the doctor's office. They said they wanted to see me right away, so this morning I went to the doctor's office, where they diagnosed a probable broken bone and sent me for x-rays. Off to the x-ray facility, some 20 minutes away. They confirmed the broken bone and sent me back to the doctor's office, where they sent me to the orthopod's office, only they sent me to the wrong one. A snippy young girl informed me I'd have to go to their other office. Of course, I got hopelessly lost, had to call for directions, and ended up driving on a major highway which I avoid if at all possible. The doctor was pleasant--knew my brother--and said, "How did you do this?" He fitted me with an orthopedic shoe for my right foot, which I am to wear for six weeks. Not a fashion statement, and I had just bought such cute snow boots. Actually though the foot feels better in the shoe, and it's not too hard to get around in. But I was gone from 8:45 until 1:00 and was hungry, tired and frustrated when I got home.
As for how I did it, I really don't know. It's entirely possible I bumped into something, stubbed my toe hard, twisted my foot wrong. I am not the world's most graceful person, but I don't remember anything specific that caused me instant pain. I suspect it may be a spontaneous or stress fracture--no, it has nothing to do with emotional stress.
Tonight all the trauma of my morning melted away with an evening with good friends at The Wine Haus--we chatted, drank wine, and ordered tapas. I was extravagant and ordered the lamb chop small plate--so good! Had a lovely time in an informal, lively atmosphere, with a gorgeous Great Dane wandering around.
I'm going on a blog vacation. With the craze for new words--like Icemageddon--I wonder if you'd call it a blogacation. At any rate, I probably won't post again until close to the New Year, unless something burns in my mind and has to be said. I'll have my whole family around me, which makes concentration hard, and I probably need to clear my brain by cooking and reading with grandchildren and doing all that kind of thing. Maybe I'll have fresh new thoughts when I start blogging again--we can all hope.
Meantime, to all of you who follow my blog, I wish you a blessed Christmas and a bountiful new year. I wish I could hug each and every one of you, but please let my very best wishes suffice.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A green Christmas

There's an old saying that a green Christmas means a full churchyard--I guess because the folk knew in the back of their minds that if there wasn't snow and cold to kill off bacteria, bugs, whatever, more people would die. When I was a child, my dad, a hospital administrator of necessity preoccupied always with the hospital census, would say, "A green Christmas means a full hospital." I'm not sure it's fair to apply that to Texas, where Christmas is almost always green. And certainly this year we've had more than our share of ice and sub-freezing temperature--any bugs of any kind ought to have been zapped..
I'm not sure if it's age or what, but I'm acutely aware of illness and death around me this holiday season. A man I greatly admired from my church died, after a long, agonizing battle with Alzheimer's, and I heard today of the death of the father of a friend--a man who suffered frequent bouts with pneumonia and other forms of ill health. A friend fell, knocked himself out, and broke both major bones in one ankle--he's in rehab and hoping to be home Christmas Eve. A neighbor's cousin had surgery, twice, for cancer, and the other day I got a message that my cousin's chemo was not working but was making her a wreck. She cries constantly, is agitated and restless (which I thought was pretty much her normal state anyway). Did I, the care facility inquired gently, want to discontinue the chemo and give her palliative care? Of course I did, but it's a weighty decision to make about another person's life (she is incapable of handling her affairs or making decisions, and I hold power of attorney though I've not seen her for over sixty years; I am her only living relative, which also strikes me as sad; she is in Toronto and I am way down here in Texas). Friends who have been on my prayer list a long time remain there, and I think my prayers get more fervent. As a friend of mine said to me, "There's a world of hurt out there."
Why this season this year? There is of course, no answer. Life goes on. But to me, I have had a wake-up call--again--to reach out to those who are ill or lonely or frightened and to those who grieve, not just at Christmas but all year long. Christmas, the time of rebirth and joy, just seems to make it all more poignant.
There is a passage from the Common Book of Prayer that speaks volumes to me, and I'd like to share it. It's often called the Prayer before Sleeping:

Keep watch dear Lord with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love's sake.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chirstmas in Tahoe with a really busy author

Please welcome my Wednesday weekly guest, prolific author Kathi Daley. Her energy, from writing to cooking, sports, and gardening, amazes me. Leave a comment for Kathi, if nothing else then to say where do you get so much energy? Do you sleep?


It’s snowing as I write this. Huge Christmas snow that drifts slowly to earth, dancing to and fro, before it lands gently on the frozen surface of the meadow outside my window. The house is quiet and I am alone with only my thoughts, a crackling fire, and my dogs for company. I am lucky enough to live in a small community situated on one of the largest alpine lakes in the world. My house is surrounded by forest, making visits from the forest animals who call our region home a daily occurrence. While small-town living is not for everyone (just ask my sons, who couldn’t wait to move to a larger town the moment they graduated high school) I love it and couldn’t in all honesty see myself living anywhere else.

Christmas on the mountain is a particularly magical time of year. The small towns around the lake go all out to welcome holiday visitors with white lights shining from store windows, huge trees decorated with Christmas ornaments, and festive red bows displayed to draw in last-minute shoppers. Most years we have snow blanketing the area to allow for the much-anticipated opening of the ski resorts for which Tahoe is known. For me, Christmas is about spending time with family and friends as I juggle the demands of baking and decorating to ensure that every holiday is a memorable event.

Somewhere between enjoying the outdoor sports I love and my volunteer work in the community, I write two cozy mystery series. My Tj Jensen Paradise Lake Mysteries are full-length cozies of approximately 300 pages. The series is set in a small alpine town near a large freshwater lake, and the protagonist is a high-school gym teacher who lives on the family resort where she grew up. Books in this series are published three-to-four times per year.

I also write a series I think of as a cozy lite. Each book is between 150 and 200 pages, with a new story coming out every six-to-eight weeks. This series is also set in a small alpine town where the protagonist, Zoe Donovan, is the owner of a wild and domestic animal rescue and rehabilitation center. If you love having animals as a focal point in a story, you will love this series. My readers tell me that the appeal of these short books is the ongoing interaction between the characters as they live out their lives.

In addition to my cozy mystery series, I published a mystery/romance this holiday season. Road to Christmas Past is a heartwarming story about a woman who receives an early Christmas gift from her dead aunt and sets out across the country with a handsome PI to follow the clues to a family she never knew she had.


Kathi Daley lives with her husband, kids, grandkids, and Bernese Mountain dogs in beautiful Lake Tahoe. When she isn’t writing, she likes to read (preferably at the beach or by the fire), cook (preferably something with chocolate or cheese), and garden (planting and planning, not weeding). She also enjoys spending time on the water when she’s not hiking, biking, or snowshoeing the miles of desolate trails surrounding her home. 

Books by Kathi: Zoe Donovan Mysteries: Halloween Hijinks, The Trouble with Turkeys, Christmas Crazy, and Cupid’s Curse (January 2014); Tj Jensen Paradise Lake Series: Pumpkins in Paradise, Snowmen in Paradise (January 2014); and Road to Christmas Past, a mystery/romance.

Visit Kathi:

Facebook at Kathi Daley Books

Twitter at Kathi Daley @kathidaley

Webpage www.kathidaley.com

Email: kathidaley@kathidaley.com


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In the spirit of Christmas

Christmas is about many things, among them the blessing of friendship. It's a time we all seem ready to renew friendships, check in with people we don't see daily, take the opportunity to wish others a Merry Christmas a great New Year. I've taken that to heart today and had a very social day, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out.
Taking the day backward, I went to dinner with good friends Kathie and Carol at Piola, an Italian restaurant  where I had wonderful lasagna with rich tomato sauce (and brought half home for tomorrow). Above, me in my dress-up, go to dinner clothes--a wonderful garment that my brother and sister-in-law gave me. The other night I was wearing a necklace they gave me, and when they complimented me on it I said, "I'm glad you like it. You gave it to me." Lots of laughter, and Cindy said, "Hmmm. I'm surprised I didn't keep it for myself, I like it so much." So let's hope they remember that they gave me this--what would you call it? Not quite a kimono, nor a hapi coat. Anyway, it's great, and I look forward to wearing it a lot more. And yes, we had an interesting, cheerful, fun dinner.
Lunch was with another good friend, Jean, with whom I always exchange Flowers of the Month cards as gifts. We schedule lunch and go together to get our flowers--today lovely roses--two sort of Tropicana and a red one, with holly and a sprig of evergreen. Great chicken salad sandwich at Lucille's, and we caught up with each other's plans for the holidays.
This morning I had breakfast with the Book Ladies, a group of women whose careers have revolved around books.  We meet once a month for breakfast. Some days we talk about books; other days, it's everything from politics to grandchildren. Most but not all of us are retired now. I've been going to that group for more than twenty years, and it has changed over the years as members come and go. No dues, no rules, just show up for breakfast and visit. Lovely tradition. I've been there when only one other person showed up. This morning there were twelve--the holiday spirit.
Yawn! All that socializing has worn me out.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A writer’s crossroads

I’m at a crossroads tonight and thinking of Robert Frost’s poem about the road not taken. I don’t have an active work-in-progress right now, though I have several thoughts and possibilities. It would seem the holidays would be a good time to be “between projects,” but I’ve done most of what I’ll do for the holidays—a small amount of entertaining, packages wrapped, plans made. Now it’s a question of waiting.

Like the narrator of Frost's poem, I have two roads open to me. The first would be to continue the two series I’ve started—Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and Blue Plate Murder Mysteries. A Blue Plate book would be next, and I have the opening catastrophic incident in mind but I’m not sure where to go from there. I don't have the answers to those old questions—Who? Why? I guess I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. It may be that inspiration hasn’t struck because I’ve been busy, but I’m not the sort to sit and think it out. I either get a bolt out of the blue or I don’t. Sometimes if I start writing it all becomes clear to me, but that’s a dangerous path.  And my publisher wants a synopsis before issuing a contract.

There are advantages to continuing the series. I get wonderful comments about them, though not an abundance of reviews. Maybe people who review aren’t the people I’m writing for. As books from a small publisher, they sell relatively well—I was after all the best-selling mystery author for Turquoise Morning Press for 2012. Not sure I’ll make it again this year, and I may have fallen behind on promotion in frustration over the gap between e-book and print (my July title has still not appeared in print). Other than that I’m settled into a comfortable relationship with a publishing company I like. The familiar always beckons.

But then there’s the thought that if you don’t branch out and try a new road, you stagnate. I have two new projects in mind—an academic murder mystery, which is in draft form, and a series featuring a dog rescue person. I think each has possibilities, but it’s like taking a big step into Frost's deep undergrowth. Would I pitch them to my publisher or would I self publish?

Self publishing as an indie is beginning to look a little less rosy these days, with stronger, lower-priced competition from the big houses. I read an article today that suggested Darwinian theory is about to hit independent publishing. Would I be foolish to give up the comfortable berth I have (I think it’s secure—hope so).

Fortunately, I don’t depend on my writing for living expenses—it’s “walk-around money plus”—so the decision is not crucial in that sense. Nor am I trying to build a huge career. But it is crucial in that I want to find projects that challenge me, keep me engaged, and keep me young at heart. And, egotistically, I like the satisfaction of people telling me how much they like my books. All writers are egocentric to one degree or another.

I have pondered this a long time and find my thoughts going in circles. Your thoughts and comments will be appreciated. Dare I take the road less traveled?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Just my opinion...

Two moral issues, one local although it has been noticed nationally, and one a longstanding national problem, are troubling me tonight.

In the Fort Worth area, a young man was sentenced to ten years probation for killing four people while driving drunk. The defense attorney came up with a deviously clever plea: affluenza. It seems the boy’s parents had showered him with everything except attention and discipline. I remember the time, now years ago, when my nephew, about the same age as this young man, locked himself out of his truck on a remote ranch road in southern Colorado. He had to walk sixteen miles for help, and he said he kept repeating to himself, “Actions have consequences.” The young man in question has never learned that lesson. Will he learn it on probation? Who knows? Ten years is a long time. As part of the deal, he is going to rehab, for which his father will pay $450,000 a year and it may take several years (wouldn't it have been cheaper and better to pay attention to the boy as he grew up?).. Once again, his parents rescue him. I know nothing about where he’s going, but I suspect he will have cushy quarters when a bit of a hardship experience might make him recognize reality and the enormity of what he’s done. But I was never in favor of a jail sentence.

Outrage has been instant over the “mild” sentence, and some have called for the dismissal of the seasoned judge who handed down the sentence. But I read something that made sense to me: if he’d been sent to prison, he’d probably be out in two years; this way, he’s under the thumb of the judicial system for ten long years. In addition he’ll get effective therapy, usually not available to kids in his situation. Yes, once again, he’s fortunate he comes from wealth. But if it makes a useful citizen out of him instead of a criminal, it’s worth the father’s money. Nothing will bring back the people he killed, but perhaps he’ll come out as a person who spends the rest of his life making amends. It’s the most we can hope for.

Gubernatorial candidate Gregg Abbot (let me be upfront: I am not a fan) is about to insert himself into the situation—to what end I’m not sure, except that action will appeal to his base. As always, right wingers need to learn about the separation of powers in our government. A citizen cannot meddle in the judicial system.

The other moral problem on my mind is on almost everyone’s mind today, the anniversary of the unimaginable horror of the massacre at Newton. I cannot begin to wrap my mind around the loss  of a child or grandchild in that manner . The school shooting in Colorado and the appalling number of children killed by guns in the year since Sandy Hook only reinforce the horror. I grieve for all those parents and want to clutch close the schoolchildren in my family.

Have we learned nothing? Liberals tells us that ninety percent of people want strict gun control laws. I’m not sure. In Colorado, where shootings prompted stricter laws, the people recalled the legislators who had passed the laws. And yet there is a loud anti-gun lobby. Personally, I’d like to see them all banned, but I know that won’t work. Why are legitimate gun owners worried about gun control laws? That boggles my mind.

I don’t have an answer. Do you? We have to stop school shootings! No conflict about that.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Selfies, weather and a great dinner

The ice is gone. I can walk across my porch or down my front steps without peril to life and limb. Of course it's sloppy and wet, and leaves are everywhere because the couldn't be blown and gathered as was the plan for early this week. Today brought bone-chilling rain, and I was colder than I had been when it was 16 degrees. Maybe that's what I cooked myself a good dinner tonight.
Don't get me wrong--I'm not one of those who eats cold cereal and calls it dinner. But I do sometimes settle for salad or a sandwich. Tonight I cooked a small marinated pork loin roast--lemon and garlic. I'll probably be eating it every which way until I tire of it and give it to the Burtons but it sure was good tonight. With eat, I had a medium red potato and leftover broccoli, both I confess heavily laden with butter. It was all so good, and I ate every bite.
Long before President Obama's so-called gaff with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and a phone camera, I'd heard the term selfie but not understood it. When the Oxford Dictionary announced they were adding it, I looked it up online and found what all of you probably all know already: a picture of yourself taken with your cell phone.
After the headline-making incident at Nelson Mandela's memorial service, I decided I'd try it. Besides, I have a neat new haircut to show off. The results were not stunning. I probably took and erased ten shots, and I share this one only in the secure knowledge that you are all my friends and won't judge. But below is the best of the crop. To my mind I look like an eighty-six-year-old woman who  has been beaten about the face. Can I blame that on the lighting in my kitchen? It is a neat haircut, don't you agree? In rebuttal I offer the picture above, which many of you have seen.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Writing Through the Seasons

Please welcome my guest, Edith Maxwell, who writes about the locavore movement and farm fresh foods that go into many a stew…and other dishes. In her Local Foods Mysteries series, organic farmer Cam Flaherty usually finds her herself in a stew, not the edible kind. Morning, Edith. Take it away.
Thanks so much for asking me over, Judy!
I don’t know about where you live, but up here in the northeast corner of Massachusetts, it’s getting to be wintertime. We have snow on the ground, the garden is put to bed and mulched with salt marsh hay, and a hearty stew has become the dinner of choice.
I write the Local Foods Mysteries series, and the books follow organic farmer Cam Flaherty through the seasons, too. A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die (Kensington Publishing, 2013) opens on the first farm-share pickup day of the season at the start of June. Summer approaches and the New England growing season is getting underway. Cam is planting seedlings, cutting asparagus, turning compost, and hoping for good weather when she finds a body in her greenhouse.
Her customer and eager volunteer, Brazilian Lucinda DaSilva, heads up the Locavore Club, and has vowed to eat only locally grown food for a year. A girl scout working on her Locavore badge not only aids Cam with the harvest but also helps them both escape a nearly fatal encounter. And then there's the local militia group with its decidedly non-local agenda. Cam has to dig up secrets buried deep beneath the soil of her farm. And when the police don't make progress in the case, she has to catch a murderer whose motto seems to be, “Eat Local. Kill Local.”
The second book, ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part, comes out at the end of May 2014. It starts at a fall Farm to Table dinner, with a local chef cooking Cam’s produce in her barn and a bunch of guests eating under a big rented tent on the farm. Days are getting short and the mood at the dinner is unseasonably chilly. Local entrepreneur Irene Burr made a lot of enemies with her plan to buy Westbury's Old Town Hall and replace it with a textile museum – enough enemies to fill out a list of suspects when the wealthy widow turns up dead on a neighboring farm.
Even an amateur detective like Cam can figure out that one of the resident locavores went loco – at least temporarily – and settled a score with Irene. But which one? With the fall harvest upon her, Cam must sift through a bushel full of possible killers that includes Irene's estranged stepson, her disgruntled auto mechanic, and a fellow farm subscriber who seems suspiciously happy to have the dead woman out of the way. The closer she gets to weeding out the culprit, the more Cam feels like someone is out to cut her harvest short. But to keep her own body out of the compost pile, she has to wrap this case up quickly.
I’m writing the third book now. Farmed and Dangerous takes place in a snowy January, so the timing is perfect for me to sit in my warm upstairs office and look out at bare trees and white-laden streets as I create a dangerous blizzard and Cam’s hunt for the killer who poisoned food from her farm. I’ll be able to tour the greenhouses of my local farm in January to make sure I get the details right and can check the kinds of produce that they provide us every other week in our winter share to verify that Cam’s shares are accurate. The book isn’t due until May first, but by then I hope to have it polished and be off on my next season of writing.
Readers, what’s your favorite season? Or the one you most like to read about?
A mother and former technical writer, Edith is a fourth-generation Californian but lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the rest of the Wicked Cozy Authors. You can also find her at @edithmaxwell, on Facebook, and at www.edithmaxwell.com.

Locavore Edith Maxwell's A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die in the Local Foods Mystery series lets her relive her days as an organic farmer in Massachusetts, although murder in the greenhouse is new. 
She has also published short stories of murderous revenge, most recently in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold (Level Best Books, 2013) and  Fish Nets (Wildside, 2013).

Edith Maxwell's alter-ego Tace Baker published Speaking of Murder, which features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau and campus intrigue after her sexy star student is killed (Barking Rain Press, 2012). Edith is a long-time Quaker and holds a long-unused doctorate in linguistics.



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gnawing on bones and celebrating life

If you heard a report of two fairly well dressed ladies "of a certain age" gnawing on bones at Ellerbe's (for non-Fort Worthians, that's one of our more upscale--read expensive--restaurants), I confess to being one of them. Went with good friends Betty and Jeannie tonight for our annual Christmas celebration and gift exchange--oops! I didn't realize we were exchanging gifts and had only trinkets while they had lovely, thoughtful gifts. Thought we had agreed before not to do that. Anyway, we had a good visit, great wine (Laird Vineyards which Betty had visited and was enthusiastic about) and a terrific supper. Betty had redfish, but Jeannie and I zeroed in on the rack of lamb. When we had cut as much as we could off the bones, she said, "I wish I could just pick it up and gnaw on it." I thought, Why not?, and picked mine up. She followed suit--and I know I got a lot more meat. The lamb was crispy on the outside and a perfect medium rare inside--what a delight. For dessert, I had a small but oh so rich piece of flourless chocolate cake and they shared an oatmeal cookie with cream cheese filling--looked more like a slice of carrot cake to me. Great evening, great food, and very special company.

The dinner marked the end of my first day back in the outside world--went to the cleaners, hardware, the grocery and the Dollar Store (twice). Felt so efficient to run so many of the errands I worried about the whole time I was housebound. Two things I learned: every store in town is out of rock salt, and doilies are old-fashioned. No one carries them any more. Such a pity. In the Dollar Store the clerk didn't know what I was talking about and offered me tissue paper. No, sweetie, that won't do it.

My driveway is still ice, even after temperatures of 42 today, but Jordan pulled my car up to the back gate where everything has melted due to southern exposure, so getting in and out was a piece of cake, even carrying too many sacks of groceries.. For some time, before I went, a police car blocked off the street just in front of my house and I worried about getting out. I think a water main broke and froze at the other end of the block. But I still didn't feel comfortable walking down the driveway to get Jacob. The street and sidewalks in front of the school are fine--just not my driveway. I am indebted to neighbors with young children who have brought him home to me.
We did homework, but he begged to do his new advent calendar, and we discovered we hadn't found the calendar itself, so we had eleven days to catch up on (his parents have been married nine years today--where does time go?). We did four days until Mom came, and then she was upset we hadn't finished homework. But the calendar--the Jacqui Lawson Edwardian Calendar--sure is fun.
I'm a happier camper tonight..

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Icebound Day 5

Yesterday, mail. Today, the Sunday paper. Tonight, dinner at a restaurant, but oh my was it an ordeal to get there. Jordan insisted I couldn't drive and what would I do if I had a wreck at the bottom of the ill where it's still icy. I said I'd call neighbor Jay and see if he and his big truck were going to be home. I called, and he said he'd come walk me from house to car. Jordan backed the car out to the side steps to the porch, and then made me demonstrate how I'd get there.
Trickiest part was getting across the porch, which still has a huge patch of ice, but I had a plan. I used a porch chair as a walker. Worked great. Steps were clear, and she had put rock salt on the small strip of sidewalk, which is edged by crape myrtles that make hand grips. No problem. But the driveway was a solid chunk of ice, slippery than you can imagine. I simply went from tree to car rand edged my way around the car. Not perfect, but it worked.
Jordan left, threatening to call her siblings.
Jay arrived and we made it to the car, although he told me bluntly if I started to pull him down, he'd let go of me. I did get out my Scottish walking stick with the pointy end but didn't use it much. At the Old Neighborhood Grill I had no choice but to park on ice but, holding on to the car and then grabbing the pole of a handicapped parking sign, I made it. Felt like I'd redeemed myself because between Jordan and Jay I was beginning to feel like an idiot.
Had a nice dinner with friend Mary. Comfort food--meatloaf and mashed potatoes--and good conversation. Jay came a little after 6:30, chatted and had a beer, and then I was on my way home. He taught me a lesson I'd forgotten from my years of living on ice and snow. When you walk on ice, you don't lift your feet--your shuffle, keeping your weight equally balanced on both feet. Drove home with no problems, and Jay followed me into the driveway and made sure I was on dry ground. Three cheers to my handsome neighbor who is truly a good neighbor.
Tomorrow, the world. I have so many errands to run. We have a plan--Jordan will drive my car to the backyard, where the snow is melted, and I'll go in and out the back door. Yippee! I can do those errands that have been bugging me! Yes, I'll be careful but I always am. The problem is really a north-facing house and a driveway shaded by trees. Maybe it will melt by tomorrow.
I am really tired of staying home, and while it may be a character flaw, I'm tired of my own company. It was a joy to be among friends tonight.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Icebound: Day 4

Like much of North Texas, I'm still trapped at home. It was supposed to be above freezing--slightly--for five hours today but it doesn't look like much around here melted. The street is clear in the middle and I might be okay if I could make it from the front door to the garage--but the porch and driveway are still ice. My son-in-law is trapped at home because his car is in the garage and the gate is frozen. Jordan parked on the street but swears her car moved a bit during the night. Scary stuff.
Today I had a furnace repairman for company--my only human contact, other than phone stuff. Jacob went home last night, and I miss him though I'm a bit glad to be relieved of worrying about how bored he is and what to feed him.
I've gotten past the iced-in lethargy and gotten a lot done the last couple of days. Jacob and I straightened the playroom and targeted several toys to be given away, pending his mom's approval. He really took the minimalist position and wanted to discard some things that have sentimental value. His question was "What?" I've gotten some chores down that I thought I need the kids help on--polished a huge and badly tarnished silver tray (that was a project) and the repairman took down the defective garland from the door.
When I most need to do yoga, I always put it off. But I did it this morning and felt better for it. Didn't feel it was my best workout ever but maybe tomorrow will be better.Tonight I have several projects on my desk, which always pleases me.
I've decided being iced in teaches you patience--we all know that feeling of "Will this ever melt?"--but it also teaches you gratitude. I'm in a warm house, plenty of food (though I'm really ready for a restaurant meal), plenty to do, and a loyal dog for company. She follows me from room to room. Is she checking on what I'm doing? Now she's settled in "her" chair opposite my desk, curled into a little ball and cozy as she can be. Later tonight, she'll go to her bed for tummy rubs, but then she'll wander off and tomorrow morning I'll find her curled up in her chair. No newspaper for four days but I can keep up with the world on television and the Internet. Mail today for the first time since Thursday--two pieces so insignificant it wasn't worth opening the front door to get them. I heard of a friend whose furnace has been out since Friday and it got down to 16 in their house--yes, I'm grateful and praying for them and others. Part of my neighborhood lost power last night but not my street--again, I'm grateful.
Tomorrow, it is supposed to melt quite a bit. I have a tentative plan to go to dinner with a friend, and Wed. night I have plans for a Christmas celebratory dinner with two friends--even made a reservation.
Surely this is going to melt and we can get back to normal. I just pray it isn't a forecast for the winter to come.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Sweet potato dressibng

This sweet potato dressing is spectacular. It’s great with turkey at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Warning: All quantities are approximate, so adjust them according to taste.

3 large sweet potatoes

Pork sausage meat, anything from half a pound to a pound. I usually use breakfast sausage, but I've heard Italian sausage works well. I’m picky about my sausage meat – no MSG, no nitrates, no high fructose corn syrup, etc. If I can’t find what I’m looking for in bulk form, I squeeze it out of the casings or make it myself with ground pork and salt, pepper, sage, paprika, etc. There are lots of recipes on the Internet that help with the proportions of herbs and spices to meat.

Butter or oil

1 onion, 3 or 4 celery stalks, 1 green pepper and 1 red pepper, all diced. The green and red pepper give it a festive look.

Several sprigs of parsley, chopped

Bread crumbs, the coarse kind used for stuffings and dressings, or you can make your own with stale bread and add salt, pepper, sage and other herbs to taste. I usually use around half a package of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing.

Bake the sweet potatoes until done. Sauté the onions and sausage meat, then add and sauté the celery and peppers. There is quite a bit of fat in ground pork, but you will probably need to use butter or oil as well. Peel and mash the sweet potatoes and mix in the meat and vegetables. Add bread crumbs to taste (the more bread crumbs, the drier the dressing). Season to taste. Add a little water if it seems too dry. Bake in a 9x13 pan at 350 degrees (medium oven) for about half an hour.



Barbara Monajem is the award-winning author of the Bayou Gavotte paranormal mysteries, Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil, Tastes of Love & Evil, and Heart of Constantine. She wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. After dabbling in neighborhood musicals and teen melodrama, she published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. Now her kids are adults, and she's writing historical and paranormal romance and mystery for grownups. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

About Heart of Constantine

Vigilante Native American rock star Constantine Dufray has hit bottom. His telepathic abilities have spun out of control and destructive rumors about him run rampant. Some are true—he caused a violent cop's suicide, and telepathy destroyed his marriage—but he didn't poison his wife, and he couldn't have caused riots at his concerts, killing his fans...or could he have? Now an unknown enemy is trying to frame him for rape and murder. Meanwhile, aura reader Marguerite McHugh finally gets a close encounter with the mysterious star, but it's nothing like she expected. When Constantine finds her after she's been drugged at one of his shows, Marguerite's pulled into his quest for the truth. As danger mounts and murders pile up, Constantine and Marguerite are forced into an ever-more intimate relationship. Only by facing their fears and working together can they unmask the killer before more innocent people die.

Here is a buy link for Amazon.com:


Saturday, December 07, 2013

Icebound: Day Two

What else is there to say? It's getting old. It looks like pretty snow, but that's deception. It's ice, through and through. I admire people who walk on it--saw more pedestrians than cars on the street today. But I'm not even setting foot on the front porch.. I do not need a broken hip. When I should be doing things at home, all I can think about is the shopping and errands on my list that I should have done today. Jacob and I have spent the day "doing our own thing"--except for the Baylor game, he's pretty much been watching videos. I've done some work at my computer but nothing is urgent and engages me. I've read a lot and tried to think of meals for a fussy seven-year-old.
My adventure with the furnace this morning was a little harrowing. You may have read on Facebook that the temperature in the house was down to 66 by the time I got phone directions for fixing it.  So far, it's stayed toasty and warm--well as toasty as an old house with lots of old glass windows can be. My printer righted itself too. Both just required turning off and then turning on again, but I never would have dared do that to the furnace without the direction of a professional.
The outlook for the next couple of days is bleak--at best four hours above freezing tomorrow; almost all church services in the city cancelled. Cold temperatures. Monday not a lot better, and it will take warmer temps and some sun to melt all this ice.
Lethargy overtakes me on days like this. There are many thing to do, but somehow I just want to read or curl up in my bed. Hope my energy returns with better weather.
Stay safe and warm, please.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Thoughts on Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has been on my mind all day. Facebook has been full of tributes and quotes and so many of his words speak directly to my convictions. I guess the one that most impressed me is that he later said that when he finally walked out of prison, he knew that if he didn't leave anger, hatred, and bitterness behind him, he would still be in prison.
I cam across a curious post on Facebook that was headlined "Five Things You Should Know about Mandela," or something to that effect, and showed him in a cordial pose with Fidel Castro. Not surprising. I'm sure they met. But I thought the picture was inflammatory, with the headline, and the five things--not sure I can remember them all--were the reasons I admire the man. He was an activist, called a troublemaker (in fact I think that's the name in Afrikaans given him as an infant). It was, to my mind, one of his most admirable traits--he was active against a grossly unjust system, and he was willing to serve time in prison and even die. Once offered a pardon if he would discontinue his activities, he refused.
He was against racism, against poverty, for labor unions--why should such things be secret? They are no surprise to me at all. Nor is the fact that he wasn't particularly fond of America or George W. Bush, thought the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were examples of America's imperialism and by-products of Bush's greed for Middle Eastern oil. I've never completely banished the latter suspicion from my mind, in light of the missing WMDs, and I can see how other countries, with their own problems, see some of America's policies as imperialistic. I wonder why this particular site, one I usually admire, felt compelled to post this message.
Did you know he was on the list of America's "watched" people or whatever it's called until 2008, even though many United States singers and celebrities were a huge part of the 1980s campaign for his freedom, a campaign that may actually have been of some help in ultimately securing his 1989 freedom. I think "We are the people" came from that campaign and its public performances--the phrase was a favorite of Mandela's.
There have been a lot of attempts to compare Mandela to other leaders. I myself said he makes me think of Gandhi with his philosophy about love and forgiveness. I heard a national newsman say he wasn't FDR, and someone else said he didn't measure up to Martin Luther Kind. I'm a bit baffled by these attempts to measure him against some sort of human yardstick. He was who he was, a man born into a difficult society who decided to devote his life to improving the lives of his fellow black Afrikaners. Did he face an even tougher world than MLK? Highly possible. Was he as great as FDR? Who knows? They lived in different worlds and faced vastly different challenges. It's apples and oranges.
No need to compare. Nelson Mandela was a great man who fought the good fight, inspired many throughout the world, and will continue to inspire us. RIP.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Winter storm mode

It's here. The freezing rain. Apparently the "major event" will come about midnight, but it's cold and wet and miserable. The dog keeps wanting to go out and then wanting to come back in the minute she goes out.  Jacob is tucked in hid bed, watching TV, though I'm about to roust him out for tooth-brushing. I have tried but I can't quite get him to understand the idea of a total power outage. Gave him his own flashlight that he is to keep by him all the time but NOT play with. But he doesn't understand about no heat, no lights, no cooking--he will expect his waffles in the morning. I of course am afraid the power will go off in the middle of the night. But I'm resolved not to bring any more bridges up here. We're in the house probably for the next two-and-a-half days, and we'll have to make the best of it.
Jordan just called--she and Christian are safely in Austin, a trip that worried me but she wants so badly to go to the John Mayer concert tomorrow night. Christian gets stars in his crown for undertaking the drive. Who knows when they'll get back to Fort Worth?
All my worries earlier in the week about getting Jacob to and from school Friday faded when the FWISD called his mother (robot call) and said school is cancelled. What a relief. On this morning when I can sleep late, he'll probably wake up at seven. Pray he'll quietly watch TV.
Of course this would be the night my internet connection went down--but just on the computer. The TVs were fine. With dread in my heart, I called that automated gentleman; he re-booted; I rebooted; nothing worked. All of this of course took a good deal of time. But then he connected me to a service technician. The technician turned out to be a lovely lady in San Antonio--not India, not the Philippines--who spoke lovely English. We chatted, worked together to figure out the problem, and she even said I'd taught her something. Sometimes all things work to some good.
So here I sit in pjs, sweatshirt, and a shawl over my knees---cozy and comfortable, with The Sound of Music on the TV. By Sunday, Jacob and I may both be bonkers and dislike each other, but for now we're having fun and we're happy. Not supposed to go above freezing until Sunday afternoon--sigh!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Reluctant Amateur Sleuth

I'm trying an experiment in reaching out to other authors and introducing my blog readers to mysteries they might enjoy. So as long as I get volunteers, my Wednesday blog will feature a guest. Please welcome my guest, award-winning craft author Lois Winston. Lois has hosted me at Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers several times, and I'm delighted to return the favor. Thanks, Lois, for being my guinea pig.
The amateur sleuth mystery is a popular genre. Most of the sleuths featured in these mysteries become amateur sleuths because of their inherent curiosity and dominant Snoop Gene. To put it bluntly, they can’t keep their noses out of other people’s business. They also think they know more than the professionals assigned to ferreting out the bad guys. Some, after starring in a certain number of series books, even branch out and become professional detectives. Every amateur sleuth thinks she’s the next generation Nancy Drew or Jessica Fletcher.
Not so with Anastasia Pollack, protagonist of the eponymous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. My amateur sleuth is decidedly reluctant. She’d like nothing better than to turn the clock back to that time not so long ago when she led a typical middle-class life with a devoted husband, two great kids, and a job she loved as the crafts editor at a women’s magazine.
Unfortunately, as documented in Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, Anastasia’s life will never again be what it was. The series opens with Anastasia discovering that her recently deceased husband led a double life. The devoted husband and father was secretly more devoted to his mistress, Lady Luck, than to his wife and kids. Before dropping dead at a roulette table in Las Vegas (when Anastasia thought he was at a sales meeting in Harrisburg, PA,) Karl Pollack gambled his family into deep debt. He also owes fifty grand to a loan shark who doesn’t care that Karl is now dead and Anastasia is penniless.
But what would an amateur sleuth mystery be without a murder? When Anastasia returns to work after the funeral, she discovers the body of the fashion editor glued to Anastasia’s desk chair. The weapon? Anastasia’s glue gun—complete with her fingerprints and no others. The police believe they have an open-and-shut case. Anastasia has to find the killer before she’s arrested for a murder she didn’t commit.
However, solving the murder is only one of her many problems. Anastasia needs to dig herself out of debt. Her husband left her with a mountain of unpaid bills, unfiled income tax returns, and drained bank accounts. In order to climb out of debt, Anastasia finds ways to moonlight in each subsequent book to whittle down that debt and find a way to pay for college for her sons.
But that’s not all. Karl also stuck Anastasia with his nasty communist mother, camped out (now permanently) in Anastasia’s home, along with Manifesto, her French bulldog. The arrival of Anastasia’s mother, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and Catherine the Great, her white Persian cat, adds another level of tension and dysfunction to the already tense household.
The one glimmer of light in Anastasia’s life becomes Zack Barnes, the photojournalist who rents the apartment above her garage. Except he might not really be a photojournalist. More and more, Anastasia suspects he really works for one of the government alphabet agencies—the ones who go off on secret missions.
And did I mention there’s a Shakespeare-quoting parrot?
If you haven’t figured it out already, these are humorous mysteries. Anastasia has been compared quite favorably to both Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon in starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews called Anastasia “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”

There are currently four full-length Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries available in both print and as ebooks: Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, Death by Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, and the recently released Decoupage Can Be Deadly. In addition, there are two ebook-only Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries: Crewel Intentions and Mosaic Mayhem. Sample chapters and buy links for all can be found on my website: http://www.loiswinston.com.
About Lois
Award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois at www.loiswinston.com, visit Emma at www.emmacarlyle.com, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth and Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/anasleuth

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Storms and bridges--a lesson in anxiety


This picture of me was taken tonight by friend and neighbor Susan Halbower after we attended a dinner and concert at TCU. I post it because I am usually so un-photogenic. My grandfather once told my mom the only place he'd hang her picture was in the barn. She was a beautiful woman, but she didn't photograph well, and she passed that gene on to me. So I'm grateful to Susan for this picture.

It was 81 and sunny today, the best of all fall days. When I stepped out to get Jacob at school, I thought how pleasant it was to be comfortably warm but not hot. So why did I wake up at 5:00 this morning obsessing about sleet and freezing rain? Because by Friday the temperature is to drop 50 degrees and the weather will bring us that dreaded “wintry mix.”

When my brother lived in Colorado and we’d tell him schools were closed, he’d laugh and say, “What you got, guys? An inch?” But snow is one thing; ice is another. And North Texas gets ice.

Anxiety is pandemic. Everyone goes into anticipation mode when the weathermen (weather persons?) first mention ice, sleet and freezing rain. We talk about it for days, dread it, stock up on groceries, act as if the end of the world is coming. Yes, I’ll go to the grocery Thursday morning—my list includes a new flashlight (which I forgot on the hardware run today).

I told Jacob today that this weekend we would use the iPad sparingly (to save some battery for Juju to read) and we might have no TV and no lights. “You and I might spend a cozy time in front of the fireplace,” I told him. “Well, that sounds exciting!” When did seven-year-olds get so sarcastic?

Tomorrow I’ll bring in plants and water those I leave out heavily—most of the herbs should make it without any trouble, but the fern and plumbago I’m trying to save need to come in, as do the bright red cyclamen that Greg planted today for the front porch. He also brought four perfect small poinsettias—just what I wanted for my Christmas decorations. It’s beginning to look like the holidays around here.

Back to worrying. How will I get Jacob at three if it starts sleeting? Jordan assures me neighbors with kids at the school will help, and she’s probably right. I’ll be glad to have my grandson as company Friday and Saturday (his parents are going to a John Mayer concert in Austin). The last time I set my mind to being housebound (the storm that wasn’t), I was alone. I much prefer company! And I know that by Sunday or Monday at the latest, we’ll be moving freely about the city.

I used to know a man who said to me, “Go on. Bring that bridge right on up here.” I’m dragging that storm bridge as hard as I can. And me a kid who grew up in Chicago and lived in the “icebox corner” of Missouri. But still I feel that dread in my bones

Monday, December 02, 2013

The road diet and ACA

Forest Park, the major thoroughfare that runs through my neighborhood, has been put on a road diet love that term!). Once two lanes each way, it is not one lane each way with a center turn lane and a small bit marked off as a barrier between cars and pedestrians and also as a bike lane. It really came about after a child was hit at the point where the road makes an S curve on Halloween 2012. In spite of some claims, it never had to do with cyclists--they just got an extra benefit.
There was a great hullabaloo before it was implemented--people for it, people predicting dire consequences, visits from transportation authorities at neighborhood meetings, ruffled feathers, and anger. The president of the neighborhood association was initially opposed but after meeting with city officials decided the road diet should be given a try. Now he likes it.
These days most people think it's a plus and the road is safer. Yes, you have to wait longer at stoplights, but that's a small trade-off for safety. Stoplights have been adjusted, especially to handle heavy traffic at school drop-off hours. On the other hand, people are complaining the drivers now cut through the neighborhood at unsafe speeds, presenting a worse hazard than the four-lane road. Generally though people are using the road and saying the new striping works well.
It reminds me of the Affordable Care Act. In states where it's been given a fair try, like Kentucky where it has the governor's strong support, it's working well and accomplishing what it was intended to. In states like Texas where it has the governor's firm condemnation and refusal to set up marketplaces in the state, there's a lot of vocal opposition--and fear. People haven't given it a chance. They condemn without investigating what they're condemning. They complain about higher rates--when they're paying for inadequate policies and could get better insurance more cheaply if they'd brave the now-improved website. In other words, they condemn without investigation, without understanding what it is they so adamantly oppose. Just like the road diet. Give it a chance.
Part of it, of course, is the hatred that is showered down on President Obama--if he supports it, it must be bad. I for one am appalled at such negative attitude. Another factor is the botched roll-out, but not many websites roll out smoothly and especially not one of this scope and complexity. I for one was not surprised and saw no reason to declare the program dead.
I drive up and down Forest Park a lot, not often at rush hour, but recently when I did, traffic was flowing well. And my insurance rates haven't gone up--they've gone down. I'm a happy camper. Maybe if some doubters would investigate when they're condemning, they'd be happier.
Back to the book I'm reading.