Sunday, June 30, 2013

A tale of two women--take two

Apparently, as many of you reminded me, I posted a semi-defense of Paula Deen without full knowledge. The use of the “n” word came out in court testimony, when she and her sons were sued by a black former employee. I am suspicious of such cases—maybe that former employee saw a chance to make some money. Give Paula credit for telling the truth under oath.

But there is more damning evidence—the remark about black waiters in white shirts was made as recently as 2007. No excuse for that. And there is more I won’t detail here.

A friend told me when she moved to Texas from California fifty years ago, she was appalled at the racial epithets and slurs. But, she added, when you haven’t lived in southern culture, you don’t understand how pervasive that attitude is. Unfortunately we still have it today: as evidence, I offer the unreasoning hate for President Obama.

But back to Paula Deen, I leapt before I looked—or researched (who has time to research for a daily blog?). If I knew I didn’t have the full story, I would have backed off. And I won’t exactly leap back to her defense again, except to say that I think she’s been heavily punished, perhaps too heavily, for what she did… and said. She’s become the symbol for a lot of resentment that has nothing to do with her. And I wonder if there’s not an element of star revenge involved. Don’t some people like to see successful people fall?

The celebrity chef world will survive without Paula Deen…and, bruised ego and scarred feelings aside, she’ll survive on the money she’s earned (if she was a wise investor). Indeed, she may yet rise again, like a yeast-rising dough. But I think we should all learn a lesson from this “scandal.” At the least we should learn to look at ourselves before we criticize others.

As for me, mea culpa. Apologies and a promise to try not to post when I don’t have all the facts.

As for Wendy Davis, her star continues to rise, and following it will be fun. I only saw one of her TV appearances this morning, but she was composed, sure of herself and her views, and determined. Go Wendy. More people are behind you every day.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A tale of two women

Two women have riveted my attention this week. One of course is Wendy Davis, State Senator from my home town. I think she was once my city council representative and know she was once our state rep. She won her Senate seat against great odds and a smug self-confidence on the part of her opponent.

In the Texas Legislature, she has successfully fought on behalf of the everyday people of Texas—particularly for education and for women. Ambitious? What politician isn’t? But I think she’s more dedicated to the people of Texas than most politicians we watch.

Her heroic filibuster the other night demonstrated how hard she will fight for what she believes, once again in the face of great odds. Her Republican opponents, bent on controlling women’s anatomy, were sure she’d fail. And they certainly tried to make it happen. To my mind, the help with the back brace may have been a violation of Texas’ ridiculously strict laws governing filibusters, but to call mention of a sonogram law as off-subject in a debate on abortion is patently political, and, I bet, wouldn’t hold up in a court of law.

Rick Perry took an undigified personal swipe at Wendy Davis in a speech to the National Right for Life Association, saying it’s too bad that she, a single mother at a young age, didn’t learn from her own lesson that every life is precious. (Note, please, that Davis, who fights for choice and health care, not abortion, chose to carry her child—as the mother of four adopted children, I am grateful to four young women who made that same choice.) What Wendy Davis learned was to make lemonade out of lemons—she put herself through school and then Harvard Law School. No small feat. Until this week, general wisdom was that she was known in Texas, particularly North Texas, but not outside the state. Suddenly she has catapulted onto the national and even international political stage. Tomorrow morning, she will appear on all three major networks talk show.

Go Wendy! And don’t the rest of you ever count her down and out.

The other woman on my mind is Paula Deen, who is down but not yet out. I’m not sure what started this flurry—did she publicly confess her racial slur? Did someone dig up some quotes? Whatever it was apparently happened about as long ago as Wendy Davis’ child out of wedlock. Thirty years ago, I don’t think any of us were as aware and politically correct as we are today.

I’m not a particular Deen fan, though I sometimes watched her show. Her recipes are enticing, but too rich in butter and cream for my diet, and the way she says “pee-can” riles me: everyone knows it’s puh-cahn with the emphasis on the second syllable (sorry I can’t give you the phonetic description). And she is way too cutsey, but give the woman credit. She too came from an unfortunate start—among other things, as she revealed in one of her books, she was at one time severely agoraphobic (I can identify) and overcame it. She’s built an amazing empire, but now that empire is crumbling beneath her feet—book and TV show contracts cancelled, endorsements dropped.

When Matt Lauer interviewed her last week, I thought I had never seen a woman who had aged so fast. She’s a broken woman. And Americans broke her with their sometimes pompous sense of right and wrong. If she used the “N” word and made some outrageous suggestions about black waiters, it was way in the past. Do we have to crush her completely now? Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. How many of us could honestly say or do that?

Two women with much in common—shaky starts in life, overcoming their backgrounds to reach great success. One’s star is rising; the other’s star has fallen to the ground. Both intrigue me. And I hold our hope for both of them.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Vacation Bible School

I don't remember ever hearing about Vacation Bible School as a child in Chicago--maybe it's a new thing, or maybe it's a southern thing. But every summer at Fort Worth's University Christian Church, and at churches all over, signs go up saying it's time to sign up. My children never went, though I'm sure they could have. Jacob went for the first time this year. Today, the last day, he brought home a yard sign he'd made and proudly pounded it into my front yard. His mom and I aren't sure what it says: I say "Whom will you serve?" (shaky grammar) and she says "Who will you save?" Anyway, you get the point, and you can see the pride in his face.
He also brought home stained glass cross with wind chimes hanging from it. HIs mom oohed and aahed over it and asked what he was going to do with it. Proudly he said, "I'm going to give it to Elizabeth," and Mom said, "Oh," with a bit of disappointment. But Mom and Dad got a cute picture of Jacob, framed with stars representing the people and things he loved--I wasn't included but oh well, the dogs were.
In the car today I asked if he liked VBS and he said, "Yes, it was fun learning about God. I mean I knew about God before, but now I know much more." Isn't that what it's all about? He wants to go back next year.
The last two days, however, he has snookered me into believing his folks said he didn't have to go back to day camp but could spend the afternoon with me. Caused a bit of an uproar today because they really hadn't said that. They'd even delivered his lunch box to the day camp. But I told them I thought even a seven-year-old should have some say in what he does, as long as it doesn't become a habit. And I told him that sometimes it's best not to argue but to say, "I made a mistake. I'm sorry and I won't do it again." We rushed up to the day camp (a whole block away) to retrieve the lunch that had been left for him there, so they wouldn't have that added irritant. Haven't heard what happened yet.
But I will tell you that being a grandparent gives you a whole different perspective. I don't know that I was ever harsh with my children--I hope not--but I think I see more these days (and perhaps Jacob is teaching me) the value of listening to the child and letting him have a say in his life. Gosh, why don't we know the things at thirty or forty that we know in our seventies?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A new deck and a busy day

They started framing the new deck on the back of my house today. As  you can see, Sophie likes it. It will be 10x12, just right for a table and six chairs and lots of plants. This picture was taken about six, so you can see that on many nights it will be plenty shady for cocktails and supper. Tonight of course was just too blamed hot, but a late night glass of wine out there would be pleasant. Meantime I'm forbidden to go out there--everyone is sure I'll fall over the framing. Susan and Jay went out there with no problem tonight, and I'm sure I could--but how embarrassing to prove them right. Besides, I have no reason to go right now. The Bundocks, Lewis and Jim, only work on it mornings--today was the first day--because the afternoons are too hot.
I'm enjoying my new routine of getting up at 6:30 and doing my yoga, though I tell myself if one morning I don't want to leave my bed that early, I don't have to. This week I'm delivering Jacob to Vacation Bible School at nine in the morning and picking him up at noon. Today by the time I took him to the church, I had done my yoga, watered the porch plants, started two loads of laundry, read my email and Facebook, and made ham salad for my lunch! Still, I didn't settle down to serious work as early as I hoped.
Started a new, as yet untitled novel today, the next in the Kelly O'Connell series, and got a good 800 words done. Still hope to do 200 more tonight to reach my daily goal of 1,000--last time I did that, I felt the novel flowed more smoothly and went faster.  I see days looming when I won't do that much, but I can also see some when I'll do more.
Tonight I hosted an impromptu happy hour. Since our former neighbor, Sue, was coming over at six, I invited Jay and Susan. We had a good visit, but no Sue, so they went home; two minutes later, Sue arrived, so I had a second happy hour. We too had a good visit but I was sorry they had all missed each other. I had my supper all ready to heat and did so about eight--stuffed zucchini and corn on the cob. Delicious.
Now, on to that last 200 words!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Texas woman to make us all proud

I am so in awe of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis. She's got a tiny bit over three hours to go in her thirteen-hour filibuster to prevent the Texas legislature from passing the strictest anti-abortion law in the country. The bill, sponsored by men with a sketchy knowledge of medicine, especially the female reproductive system, but political ambitions, would close ninety percent of the reproductive health care clinics in the state, forcing some rural women to drive hundreds of miles for care. Many would simply go without, to the detriment of their health, and so would many poor women. I believe it also bars exceptions in cases of rape and incest. It's a severe ramping up of the "war on women."
Senator Davis, wearing pink running shoes, is reading letters from hundreds of women all over Texas, telling their stories. Some letters have made the senator cry as she reads. Some have prompted questions from her opposition, giving her a slight break in talking. Whens she completes the filibuster, shortly after midnight, she will have successfully defeated the bill. Law requires this special called session to end at midnight tonight. Governor Rick Perry could conceivably call a second special session--and there are rumors he's considering it--which would cost Texas $30,000 a day. But I think both sides are tired of the fight. The session was originally called ostensibly to consider taxes or budget but has dealt with nothing but the abortion issue, which did not pass during the regular session.
Senator Davis cannot sit down, drink water (or anything else), take a bathroom break or any other kind of break. The filibuster rules are strict, and I got to wondering how one "trains" for this ordeal. Do you load up on water to avoid dehydration, or do you stop drinking it well in advance to avoid bathroom emergencies? One has to think of practicalities. Whatever, Senator Davis didn't have long. Her colleagues chose her to do this job just a day or two ago. The record for a filibuster in Texas is held by a gentleman (sorry I forget his name or the nature of the issue) who talked for something like forty-five hours. He was quoted today as saying the hardest part was staying awake.
Some time back I heard mention of Senator Davis as a possible gubernatorial candidate--for heaven's sake, we've got to have someone to get Perry out of office. Whether she'll run or not, no one knows, but I foresee a grass roots campaign to draft her.
Texas has a history of extraordinarily strong women, and someone commented today how much we miss Ann Richards and Molly Ivins. They'd have blistered the Republican-controller legislature. I once wrote a Texas Small Book for TCU Press titled Extraordinary Texas Women. If I had it to do over again, I'd surely add Wendy Davis. Proud to say she used to be my state representative and is from my part of Fort Worth--or maybe I should say I'm from her part of Fort Worth.
Go, Wendy! You can do this!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Current events--state, national and personal

I am much less upset about domestic spying than I am by the law the Texas legislature is trying to pass, dooming many women to back-alley, coat-hanger abortions and depriving poor women of affordable, available medical care. One person on Facebook suggested they don't care about individual women, they just want to please their base. I can't figure out what base the Republicans have left since they've alienated Hispanics, black Americans, women, and most thinking people. Who's left? Old, angry white men. Enough to vote them back into office and to re-elect Governor Perry, who supposedly called this special session over--what was it? taxes? budget?--Whatever it was, it got dumped and the session has been devoted to abortion legislation. And now Perry's talking about another special session--which will cost taxpayers tons of money--did I read #30,000/day. Our fiscally conservative governor. I love Texas, but too often I'm ashamed to live here.
On to the matter of domestic spying, which doesn't particularly upset me. Wasn't the program started under President Bush? Why were there no outcries then? Because no Snowden came forward? Since there's been testimony that some 50 terrorist attacks have been averted, I think it's well worth keeping. If you're trying that hard to hide something, it's probably something you shouldn't be doing. I don't think whoever's doing the wire-tapping, etc., pays much attention o us ordinary citizens.
As for the Snowden person, I think he's getting far too much more attention (and sympathy in some quarters) than he deserves: if he had a security clearance, I would presume he took an oath not to reveal what he knew. He violated that and caused his country all kinds of trouble-is that really patriotism. Besides, his background doesn't exactly support him with credibility. But that's all another matter.
Though I did have an eye-opening encounter with the FBI today. I got an email on a writers listserv that pointed out that was posting pirated books. I've asked them to cease and desist before and they've done so, but I checked today and several of my titles were listed, including Mattie, which is my bestseller on Amazon. So the os in their name, which undoubtedly means out of stock, is not true. The email alert gave instructions for reporting them to the FBI, with the caveat that the FBI gets a gazillion tips a day but if enough of us complain, they might do something. So I clicked on the FBI tip site, filled out my name, and lo and behold! the site automatically filled in all my other information. Now I realize that may be a computer function, but it was, as I said, eye-opening to even think the FBI had it that accessible.
Two cooking magazines arrived in the mail today, but I resisted and finished reading galleys on my next Kelly O'Connell Mystery. Danger Comes Home will launch as an e-book the week of July 22--a nice birthday present for me--with print to follow. So now I've read galleys, typed the list of my corrections, and sent it to the editor. I can have the guilty pleasure of reading recipes the rest of the evening.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Birthdays and family celebrations--nothing better

Sawyer's older cousin Maddie helps him decorate his birthday cake.
She explained she'd done that in life skills, which she said is
just home ec renamed.
He liked the Rick Riordan books I gave him.
This weekend the Alters all gathered at Megan and Brandon's home in Austin to celebrate Sawyer's ninth birthday and a bit belatedly, Jacob's seventh and Melanie's (I'm not saying!). The pictures above are self-explanatory. Sawyer drew his birthday out into a three-day affair and loved every minute of it.
From the moment we arrived about lunchtime Saturday, it was chaos, pandemonium, and exuberant fun. Everyone swam and bounced in the bounce house and played X-Box--except it was in the room where I slept and I shooed them out for a nap. Then the boys' uncle, aunt, and two-year-old cousin arrived and it was back in the pool; then the Hudgeons grandparents arrived. Megan had planned one of her usual feasts--hummus, guac and salsa before dinner; sliders with all the trimmings, corn on the cob, and a huge salad of marinated vegetables; Penny Hudgeons brought marvelous horseradish pickles from Central Market. Everybody ate too much and waited until almost ten for cake--with of course a swim in between.
Much as I love my family, I admit the noise and confusion wears me out. And I take my hearing aids in and out--one minute it's too noisy (often loud music) and the next I can't hear what anyone says. I was exhausted Saturday night and slept soundly--having evicted the X-Box players from my room.
Today we "hung out." Jamie came out to run about nine, and one by one kids began to clamor to ride or run with him and then adults joined in until he had a whole pack--but on Jamie Alter time, they didn't leave until after eleven, when it was getting hot. Melanie, seven-year-old Morgan, and I went to a terrific plant store--the faery gardens caught our eye, and I bought a small one for Elizabeth who was watching Sophie, plus two succulents for my cactus garden in a container on the front porch. It was a funky place with wonderful plants and pots, all reasonably priced, Koi carp in a pool, parrots in a cage in the gift shop, and a great-looking cafĂ© up a level overlooking the nursery. Morgan had a wonderful time, and we all want to go back.
We didn't expect all of the runners/bikers to be back but they were, so we ate leftovers for lunch and it was back in the pool.
Jordan, Jacob and I came home the back way--183 to 281, then at Hico cut over to Glen Rose, up to Granbury, and home on 377, with a devious route once we hit Benbrook. Three-and-a-half hours, half an hour longer than our trip down on I-35 but we were afraid of Sunday night traffic jams and enjoyed the scenery--though we got silly by the time we got near Fort Worth. One of Jacob's memories will be those two crazy ladies, his mom and grandmom, taking him on trips.
I'm home again, and as always glad to be here, but I did so enjoy the weekend. As we were saying goodbye, I hugged Jamie and said "You have a wonderful family," and he replied, "So do you." So true. I am rally blessed.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Texas and convertibles

Texas is hard country in which to drive a convertible. In summer, the sun is too intense (and I've gotten a bit fearful of skin cancer after three go-rounds with it), and in winter it's too cold, though I had a friend who once owned a convertible and swore he would drive it in summer or winter, top down, with either the a/c or heat blasting. I'm not that brave, but it's lovely to drive top down in those brief periods we call spring and fall.
I drive a VW bug convertible, and I'm the proverbial little old lady from Pasadena who drove her car to church on Sunday and that was all. Since 2004, I've managed to put 27,600 miles on it. But one reason I got it was because I didn't want to be a stuffy old grandmother. Fat lot of good that did me--Jacob doesn't like the top down because it messes his hair. The other day we were on our way to a swim lesson, and I asked what possible difference it could make. "I want to look good when I get there!"
But one of the joys of summer to me is coming home from my daughter's house about eight o'clock at night with the top down. It may still be in the nineties, but the sun is down and the breeze is lovely.  Jordan and Christian often host a Friday night potluck, and I usually leave early to get home before dark. I put the top down, leave off my visor so the wind can blow my hair, and come home the scenic route, through residential areas with tree-lined streets and, then finally, through the park by the zoo. It's a heavenly feeling, and I am sometimes tempted to drive around just a bit more.
Other than that, this was a day of confusion--two medical appts. left me thoroughly confused about my insurance, I can't understand why the tax assessor's office billed me for my car license when the sticker on my car says 2/14--the office says their records show I last paid in 7/13--go figure! Next the grocery declined my debit card--two separate trips--and I forgot to take the chips for the dip I brought to Jordan's potluck. Everyone else there had that kind of day too, so I didn't feel bad.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Being a grandmother on a birthday

This is Jacob, first thing this morning, using a flashlight to try to peek at his birthday present. Of course, I told him he could open it.
Jacob with his mom, after he opened his Minecraft figure. Who knew what Minecraft is? He showed me on Amazon, but it turns out I didn't quite order the right one. Still, he was pleased, and I promised to get the other one next year (by which time he will have moved on from Minecraft completely).
Jacob goes to day camp this summer, but he elected to spend the day with me --be still, my heart. What a great compliment from a seven-year-old. We went to his swimming lesson--impressive crawl, backstroke needs a little work, but he's pretty much pool safe. Then we went to the Dollar Store to get donations for him to take to Vacation Bible School next week--toothbrushes, crayons, rulers, glue sticks, things like that. While we were in there, my friend Jeannie came in--she was meeting friends at a nearby restaurant and was early, saw my car, and figured out where we were. We all trooped to Subway (Jacob's choice) where Jeannie guided me through the routine--I haven't been to Subway in years. My offer of frozen custard was declined, so we came home where he watched TV and I got some work done.
At three o'clock two other little boys arrived to go to Jacob's birthday party, and they were all wildly excited. Thanks to Don Lee for sitting on the porch with me while they whooped and hollered. Then Jacob's mom came to take them to Pump It Up and I, mercifully excused from that part of the excitement, took a nap. I met them, with Christian's family, at a restaurant called BJ's, new to me. Not good, not bad, but I couldn't hear. When everyone else went back to Jacob's house, I scooted home to work. But I got a sweet thank you from my birthday boy, and it was a lovely day that I enjoyed. I hope he did too.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The good kind of a day

Today was one of those days--not outstanding but good. I wrote two guest blogs (for July and the new Kelly O'Connell Mystery, Danger Comes Home) and felt my morning had been productive. This evening a good friend who calls me her big sister came for supper. It's not often in mid-June that you can enjoy the front porch, but it was a lovely evening, and we had wine out there. Mary talked about how fortunate and blessed she feels in her life (even though she's widowed) and that made me think the same about my life. She also brought greetings from an acquaintance who said she loves my books and my blog--thank you, Vicki!
I fixed a tuna pasta for supper--sort of started with a recipe and went from there. I meant to put asparagus in it, but the asparagus had gone south, as had the zucchini with which I was going to make appetizer crisps--rolled in butter and parmesan and then baked, they're heavenly. We had tuna pasta, too heavy on the anchovies (my fault) and salad with the hearts of romaine Mary brought. The tuna was not a recipe I'll keep, even with my fiddling with it.
Then we sat on the porch again for a last glass of wine. Mary is a pinot grigio drinker, while I'm devoted to chardonnay, so she always brings her own wine. Tonight she decided she'd leave the rest of the bottle for Elizabeth, but she had a devil of a time putting the cork back in. She whittled over the garbage can several times, finally got it in, and went to put it in the fridge, when the cork popped out again. More whittling, than back in the fridge. This happened three or four times, but she was a woman on a mission and wouldn't give up. I was laughing but when I asked if I could take a picture she said no. Guess it's not very dignified for a professor.
A good day because I felt I accomplished some meaningful work, because I enjoyed Mary's company, and because she made me realize all over again how blessed I am with all the good things in my life--family, meaningful work, friends, a safe and comfortable home.
And her fight with the cork gave me a good laugh.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The perils of reading the newspaper

Trivial thoughts on reading yesterday’s newspaper:  a Tarrant County woman was unable to pay almost $3500 in traffic fines, went to jail, and complained about deplorable conditions. If it was $100 I might sympathize but that’s a lot of fines and means a lot of tickets. Why didn’t she take more care with her driving? Why didn’t she pay the fines as they were imposed rather than letting them accumulate to an impossible total? Sorry, but not much sympathy from this law-abiding citizen…..President Obama wants Europe to try U.S. food. This is one time I’m not in step with our president—why should they when Europe bans all the altered foods we are offered. They don’t tolerate Monsanto at all, while we are left to figure out what’s safe and what isn’t. I’ve stopped buying familiar and favorite brands because Monsanto has a hand in them, even Jacob’s beloved chocolate chip toaster waffles…..And, finally, Texas just executed its 500th prisoner. Makes me cringe with shame and cry with outrage. Sometimes Scotland looks really good—think I could convince my family to go?

And then on Facebook—that oracle of truth—I read that human intelligence is gradually diminishing. Now I know there’s a lot of talk about “dumbing down America” but is this now an international epidemic? I thought some countries, particularly Asian countries, put a much higher value on education than we do in this country (especially in Texas). But then, if I can’t figure out first-grade math homework, maybe the world’s intellectual capacity is going to hell in a handbasket.

I might just quit reading the newspaper and start skimming Facebook. Too depressing.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Thoughts on my dad

When I think of my dad, my first thought is how sorry I am he missed his great-grandchildren. He would have enjoyed them so much. My youngest daughter is too young to remember him, but he thought she was created especially for his delight. He would sit for hours watching her and chuckling while she gooed and cooed on her blanket. My next thought is of him is disreputable clothes, with awkward knee pads, working in his garden or, in clothes almost as disreputable but cleaner, leading us through the woods at the Indiana Dunes at night (I was terrified of course) and making us all freeze while a skink crossed our path. This man was a college president, always dignified, in a Brooks Brothers suit and a fedora, but he loved nature and being outdoors. And if a student wandered by while he was gardening, no problem—he greeted them cordially.

Dad was not what I would call a warm and fuzzy dad, though I know as his only biological child (a younger sister died at six months) I was the light of his life. If he ever played ball with my brother (his stepson), I don’t know about it. But I got so much from him—the confidence that I could do whatever I put my mind to, a work ethic that won’t quit, superior training in office procedure (I worked for him for a while and could even today be the best darn executive secretary you ever had), a sureness of faith, a sense of obligation to my community, and, yes, my liberal tendencies. Forty when I was born, Dad was an Anglophle (born in Canada) so we had formal dinners every night—roast beef or lamb and potatoes, never fried chicken that you picked up with your fingers. I have heard hints that in his youth he was quite the rake, but that was not the man I knew. He loved to read, and he and Mom read all of Will and Ariel Durant aloud to each other. His heroes were Winston Churchill, FDR, and Harry Truman.

He left us, rather suddenly, in 1977, before the digital age, and I have no pictures to post. But I am proud to be his daughter, and I wish he could see what my children and I have done with our lives (he’d be proud, especially of what fine people my children are), and he’d love all seven of his great-grandchildren. You were gone too soon, Dad, and I miss you, yoiur advice, and your wisdom. And, yes, your love.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rescue: A story for dog lovers

Jacob, my Fort Worth grandson, was afraid of dogs until two years ago when I brought Sophie home Now he's a confirmed dog lover, and he's wanted his own dog ever since. Mom Jordan wanted one too but agreed with Dad Christian that with them both working full time and Jacob in school, it wasn't the time. They sure couldn't train a puppy. But Christian harbored a longing for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. When I said "Yippy little dogs with lots of energy," he said no, "They were bred to sit quietly on King Charles lap." It seemed a moot point until this week.
Jordan had begun to suggest they just walk through the humane society, but Christian knew what would happen. So he got on the King Charles rescue site and located a pair of sisters, ages four and five. Their owner died, and the widow couldn't cope. Crate trained, housebroken, calm, vetted--just right. After talking with the rescue society four times yesterday he arranged for the family to go to Waco this morning. It seems they would not let him go get the dogs and bring them home to surprise Jacob. They wanted to interview the whole family. I guess they passed muster, because the picture above is Jacob in the car between the two dogs, June Bug on the left and Cricket on the right, on the way home.
Jacob is euphoric. They don't jump on people (Sophie does but a spray bottle has almost broken her) and they don't bark. They seem to be adjusting well as this picture shows.
Tonight Jacob is at my house for a few hours but won't spend the night because he wants to be with his dogs--Christian hopes they'll sleep on his bed with him. As is too usual, Jacob's watching TV and I asked if he's all right, after supper. "No, I miss my dogs!"
Tomorrow is Father's Day, and Thursday is Jacob's seventh birthday--a perfect age to take some responsibility for dogs--so the dogs are a joint present, though Christian maintains they are for Jacob's birthday. He did not grow up close to dogs, and I think he's anxious for Jacob to have that experience.
I'm proud to say that all four of my children now have rescue dogs. Only Mom, the big advocate for rescue, has a kennel-bred dog. Sometimes it makes me feel a bit guilty, but I do love Sophie. Tomorrow I meet Cricket and June Bug--love those buggy names.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Social grace--and the art of hostessing

I'm pleased to report that I've raised four children with social graces but tonight I have just one of them in mind. In the summer, Jordan and Christian open theier home for a potluck supper every Friday--or sometimes every other Friday. Tonight was the first one of this season. Their friends bring their children, along with favorite dishes. Kids play outside and have a wild time, then melt in front of the TV, while adults mingle and visit and catch-up. When I left tonight, there was a gin rummy game going at the kitchen table.
Jordan chooses a theme for every party--often it's Mexican food, but tonight it was appetizers, so we had tamales, quesadillas, veggies, two kinds of hummus, tuna salad. It's BYOB.
Jordan is one of the most gracious people I know. Once a friend said to me, "Jordan makes you feel like she's been waiting all day to see you." It's an art, and I'm so happy for her. She enjoys her own parties, and I am grateful to be included with all the young people. (Omigosh, they're all approaching their forties, so not so young any more.) But still I am greeted with hugs and warm affection that is genuine, and I'm included in the conversations
My children grew up in a household that was often filled with people. I entertained a lot--still do--and I'm pleased to see Jordan carry on the tradition.
And darn! Why didn't I think to take a picture of two!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Procrastination and the good life

Today Jean and I picked up our flowers of the month--a program sponsored by the AAUW (American University Women). Jean and I exchange certificates for the year each Christmas and always have lunch before we pick up our flowers. Aren't these lovely? White roses kissed with lavender. You can't see it too well, but the vase sits on a coaster hand woven by Jean. Today we went to a classic tea room and had scoops of salad--chicken for her and tuna for me--with fruit. Fun.
This is one of those nights when I start a blog and don't know where it's going. I've had a lovely two days being lazy. Finished (for now) a major editing project, so the chore of digging into my next novel is facing me--it's been simmering in the back of my mind for a long time, but I'm a believer in that simmering process. At the same time, I'm a procrastinator, so tonight I've written a guest blog and am writing this and trying to convince myself to start on my newsletter. Once I get those first words on paper, I know the rest will come easily--it's getting started that boggles me.
But being lazy is kind of nice. This morning, by 10:30 I hadn't done a lick of work--at least at my desk. I'd watered plants, done my yoga, showered, read Facebook and the newspaper and my emails but hadn't settled down to anything serious.
Meantime I'm enjoying the feeling of not rushing, not feeling pressure. There was a blog somewhere today about the need for writers to write faster, produce more. It's true that the more books you have in print, the better each book sells. But several Sisters in Crime protested--one that quality would suffer and another that personal life would suffer. I second both arguments. I'm fairly productive--once I start a novel, I keep at it (probably what's keeping me from starting), but I don't want to sacrifice quality. And I have way too much else in my life--family and grandchildren and friends. Writing is a huge part of my life, but it's not the only thing--my children and grandchildren come first and I will always drop everything to be with one or more of them; I'll also drop things to have lunch or a glass of wine with a good friend. And sometimes, I just want to read someone else's mysteries.
It's a good life. Now on to that newsletter....

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

food and friends

Every once in a while a day away from our duties--for me, a day away from my desk--is good. I had such a day today, mixing food and friends. This morning I had breakfast with the Book Ladies, a group that meets once a month, sometimes talks about books, sometimes talks politics, too often talks about who is ill (the joys of getting older). I ate modestly as I usually do, because I knew I had a food day ahead of me.
This evening, I went to the weekly gathering of neighbors at the Old Neighborhood Grill. The cashier takes one look at me and says, "Meatloaf, green beans and wine?" and I say yes. Conversation is usually lively and fun, and tonight one couple's daughter and granddaughters--ages 3 and 4 months--were there which was fun.
But the highlight of my day was one of those memorable meals that you only have occasionally. Betty and I thought we should go see our longtime friend, Mary Lu, who has lived in assisted living in Dallas for several years. So we scooped up Mary Lu's brother and his wife, Alex and Virginia, and all went to Dallas. On the recommendation of a friend, we ate at Sevy's on Preston Road. Wonderful, interesting menu, but I had a meal I'll remember--lobster salad, which was really lobster bites on a crisp potato cake, with a creamy dill sauce, green beans and salad. I practically licked my plate, and when the waiter took it, he said, "You did very well."
The restaurant was, unfortunately, a bit loud, and with five people, we weren't seated really close. I probably have the worst hearing of the bunch, and I kept fiddling with my hearing aids, trying to make it better. But then I noticed others were saying,, "Pardon me?" and "What did you say?" and at one point Alex, seated on one side of me, said to his wife, seated on the other side of me, "I can't understand a word you just said. I didn't feel so bad. I sat next to Virginia, and since she was the person I could hear best, she was stuck with me. Never did get much of a visit with Mary Lu--the whole point of the trip--but had a good visit with Alex and Virginia and enjoyed it a great deal.
As good as the fellowship all day has been, that lobster plate will stand our in my memory. Wish I'd thought to take a picture of it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Why do we write? One answer

I've been mulling over thought on why authors write. For money? (Hah, lots of luck with that!) For prestige? (about as much luck with that.) For self satisfaction? To entertain others? Because we have stories to tell? Because we can't not write? How much ego is involved?
Well, today I had a partial answer. Two lovely ladies I'd never met before drove from Sulphur Springs and Dallas to have lunch with me because they like my books. They'd recently discovered them, through word of mouth (the best kind of publicity)--a friend of a friend told one of them. They thought it would be interesting to talk to me. I asked them what else brought them to Fort Worth, and they said nothing--I was the purpose of the visit.
Before we met, they had driven around "Kelly's neighborhood,"--Fairmount--and they were familiar with the architecture, etc., from pictures on my web page. Finding Old Home Supply was a special treat for them. We lunched at Lili's Bistro on Magnolia, in the heart of Fairmount.
 I answered questions about my books, tried to explain some things about writing and Fairmount and Edom (the real version of fictional Wheeler in the Blue Plate Mystery Series) that I thought might interest them. Conversation never lagged over a nice, lazy lunch. Afterward, they followed me in their car to see the house that inspired Skeleton in a Dead Space and I told them the story of how I'd been stopped at a stop sign, looked at the house, and suddenly thought "There's a skeleton in a dead space in that house." That was how the book began to take shape. They seemed to really enjoy that.
So what did I learn? I learned that I do entertain readers, that they liked my books and look forward to the next ones, which means I am, as I've always said, a storyteller. I also admit that there's a bit of ego involved--it's an amazing feeling to have people come all that way to talk to you. I hope they went away enriched, satisfied, and eager for my future books--and some backlist. I know I went away feeling good about my writing, and on down days, I'll remember them and the visit.
Thank you, Sarah of Sulphur Springs and Suzanne of Dallas. You gave me a boost--and a bit of insight into why I write.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Van Cliburn Competition--and more

Every four years, Fort Worth hosts the international Van Cliburn Piano Competition. Young pianists come from all over the world to compete in this prestigious event--one of if not the most renowned in the world. Newspaper coverage is, of course, intense, and those of us who read the newspaper feel we get to know each competitor. The program starts with thirty; twelve make the semi-finals, and six the finals.
Fort Worth families host these young people, no small task. They have to assure the pianist will have privacy, and a grand piano or baby grand is imported into the house for practice. Some hosts request no practice after ten; others just enjoy the music. Host families provide entertainment, comfort, and support. Good friends of mine hosted a competitor this time around. He wanted steak every night--apparently our steak is better than that in his native Italy, and he wanted the protein to keep him in shape for the competition. So they took him for the best steaks in the city. My friends, Mary and Joe, fell in love with Alessandro Taverna, as they have with every competitor they've hosted, and they were crushed when he didn't make the semi-finals. In an article in the paper this morning Mary was quoted as saying Alessandro was more philosophical than she, saying he was just starting his career and he knew such disappointments were part of it. In the end, he wound up consoling her.
The article, with its quotes from Mary, got me to thinking about competitions. I admit to being fairly addicted to the Food Network, though "Chopped" is not one of my favorite programs. Still, if I'm in the kitchen cooking, I watch it and soon find myself identifying with one of the contestants. I'm always crushed when they are chopped. All are graceful about accepting it, but I sense their disappointment...and many had such great dreams of what they would do with the prize money.
Then my mind jumped to writing, not unusual for me, and I thought about all the competitions for writers. I've been fortunate enough in my career to win really nice awards for my western writing (including the Western Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award) but none for my mysteries. I still feel a novice in the mystery field, with four books published, and am neither surprised nor disappointed. Some of the most prestigious prizes are based on votes from fellow writers, and I know I don't attend conferences and schmooze enough to get that well known. On the other hand, I treasure the fans who write me about how much they enjoy my books. And I'm not really good about submitting for contests--my children would tell me that's a defeatist attitude.
But it struck me that whatever your passion--music, art, cooking, writing and others--there are competitions and you have to go for the gold ring. Losing competitions is part of growth in your career, and more power to people like Alessandro who can be philosophical and accepting.
Tomorrow we find out who the Van Cliburn winner is, but great career opportunities will come to all those who made the competition (screening is pretty fierce) and I wish them all well as they carry their beautiful music out into the world.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Teacher let the monkeys out!

Lily B. Clayton, "Sweet Lily B."
Photo by Polly Hooper
Remember that old ditty we used to sing as kids? "School's out, school's out/Teacher let the monkeys out!" I remember it was the most exiting day, so I was surprised that Jacob didn't seem to think it was out of the ordinary. As I've said he attends the public elementary school across the street from my house, a wonderful, historic building where one kindergarten classroom even has a fishpond and a mural of fairy tale figures. And he loves it. He told me yesterday he wasn't excited because he'd like first grade so much. Thank you, Sara Filarowicz, for being a teacher who made him love school.
I on the other hand was excited that school is out--no more homework for two months, late afternoon naps for me, maybe more work done.
Jacob will go to Clayton Yes!, an independent summer program housed at the school. His mom will take him and pick him up, but I hope they'll stop often for a visit.
Meantime it must have hit me this afternoon. I'd had an hour nap before I went to get him, but when Jacob and his mom left at four, headed for a pool party, I went back to bed and slept soundly for another hour, woke up feeling loggy and dumb. Took me a while to realize that I was finally wide awake and hungry.
Probably I'll be really glad when school starts again in August.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Anticipating a birth

If you read this blog much at all, you know I have four children. And many of you know that I've never given birth. All of my babies (now ranging in age from 44 to 38) are adopted. Every once in a while I had a pang of regret that I didn't have that period of anticipation, of waiting for a birth. Most of them arrived unexpectedly on the scene, only to be greeted with great joy.
But now I feel another kind of birth coming on--I'm getting ready to birth another Kelly O'Connell Mystery. I know it's ahead of me. I've signed a contract. I have a sort-of synopsis, and fleeting thoughts about it go through my mind, little ideas that I mostly try to jot down. One important thing is that I know the first two lines: Keisha says to Kelly, "Someone's trying to kill Miss Lorna," and Kelly says, "Did you just say the coffee is ready?" Not sure what comes next--it will happen when it happens. Sometimes I'm anxious to get on with it, and other times I put it aside in my thinking. Is that like pregnancy? You will have to tell me. My deadline (or due date) is still quite a way off, so I know I'm early. I have time to procrastinate.
And I have a novel by someone else to edit, at least one guest blog to write. Plus it's amazing how much time yoga, lunch with friends, etc., can take out of my day. School is out in two days, and Jacob will not be spending his afternoons with me, which will I think make a whole different work schedule. On the other hand now that I'm not so rushed on school days, I've made several luncheon appointments so I may be shooting myself in the foot.
I know to the mothers amongst you comparing the birth of a baby to that of a novel is ludicrous, and I'm sure the discomfort of pregnancy and difficulty of birth can't compare, but I will say birthing a novel is not easy. The process leading up to it can be filled with doubt, anguish, despair--it's seldom pure joy, though there my be moments of that. And you'd think once you've given birth to it--sent it off to the publisher--it's all easy. But not so--there are revisions and marketing and waiting for reviews.
I  think ultimately I'll produce a novel I'm proud of, but nothing like the pride I feel in those four grown children! They are wonderful human beings; my novels are always going to be genre fiction.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Spring in Texas--and a new deck

Elizabeth's garden
It's beginning to get a tad warm in North Texas these days--92 today. But we have had some absolutely perfect days, with temperatures in the eighties and just enough breeze, flowers blooming, the kind of weather that draws you outdoors. Spring and fall here are wonderful.
I have long said my big front porch is the reason I bought this house twenty years ago, and I've entertained out there a lot....or just sat by myself with a glass of wine and a book. But lately we've been spending more time in the back yard. Having Elizabeth in the guest house has many benefits but an unexpected one is the way she has perked up the yard. When I moved here, I had three large male dogs--my sons moved away and left their dogs, and I had a collie. Once the city tore up the back of the yard and replaced the photinas with small plants they assured me would grow. The dogs peed on the baby photinas and killed them. I pretty much gave up the space as a dog yard, kept it mowed, trees trimmed, cleaned, and that was it.
But Elizabeth has hung bird feeders in several of the trees and a petunia on one tree limb, plus she's put flowering plants and small statues all around the corner of her apartment and recently we hung a needle fern from the corner of her house.
Jordan contributed an old glass-topped table, and I found four of those ubiquitous plastic chairs in the garage, so now we often have happy hour in the yard. The table is in the back of the yard, under the trees, which makes it nice and shaded. But because of the bird feeders and trees, the table and chairs get nasty quickly. If company is coming, somebody has to clean. If it's just us, we kind of brush off the chairs and sit anyway. It's a pain to think of carrying dinner down the stairs and across the lawn, so we don't do it. I did serve appetizers out there one day, and Sophie ate a large piece of goat cheese with wasabi--fortunately no stomach issues followed.
Today I gave the contractor the go-ahead to build a 10x12 deck right outside the back door--it's a thought that long lingered in my mind, at first even a possibility for another owner. But the more we used the back yard, the better I liked the idea It will be out of that permanently finished wood which does not weather to gray and will have large rails so I can put pots on them. I know it will be sunny much of the day and not pleasant in summer, but in early mornings and late evenings it should be wonderful. And in spring and fall I can easily serve four people out there. I'm really excited about it.
A big bonus to being in the backyard. Sophie-dog can be with us and enjoy our company. We can watch while Jacob throws the ball for her. If we dine on the front porch, someone would have to hold her leash all the time--I'm paranoid about how excited she gets in the outside world, poor sheltered baby.
All in all I think this will be a positive addition to my property. Now I want it built tomorrow, but that isn't going to happen. They can't begin work until school is out, because they have such a hard time getting trucks in and out of the driveway with all the school parking. I'm impatient.

Monday, June 03, 2013

A step back in time

Back in the day—what? thirty-five years ago?—I did it every day. Got four children off to Alice Carlson Elementary school every morning. I can’t remember if I packed lunches or not, but I suspect I did—I was that kind of mother. Another thing I can’t remember is whether or not I did homework with them. Certainly it wasn’t as intense as Jacob’s is these days. But this last week of school, he has no homework. What a relief.

Today and tomorrow I find myself getting him out the door to school at 7:50 in the morning. He refuses a packed lunch, so I tuck a baggie of money into his backpack. Tonight we showered and shampooed—a major undertaking, if I do say so. Tomorrow there will be the routine of waking him up, not an easy task in itself. Then he tells me he always watches TV while his mom and dad fix breakfast. How long do you think it takes me to toast frozen waffles and pour syrup on them? My kids never got such good sweet stuff for breakfast. I know I insisted on a healthy breakfast, but I’ll be darned if I came remember what it was. I know they did not watch TV while they waited for breakfast.

Then Jacob dresses, brushes teeth, uses mouthwash, and brushes his hair—all of which he does himself with his eagle-eyed grandmother watching and daring to make suggestions which are rejected. It’s that blasted cowlick! Elizabeth walks him down the street and to his classroom, an outing they both enjoy.

Today I went to the grocery, and it seemed like the morning was over before it began. Grabbed lunch and a nap and there I was, picking him up at school. There was a school “cultural festival” tonight, and bless the neighbors who took Jacob along with their two boys. As I said, “I served my time thirty-five years ago.”

I have new admiration for all my children who do that daily. I did it all, but now I can’t imagine how. Having Jacob here is a delight, and it makes me nostalgic for some of the happiest days of my life. But it also makes me tired.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A miscellany

I haven’t posted much on my blog lately and I’m feeling guilty about it. Not sure if I don’t have anything significant to say (always a possibility) or if I want to avoid discussing my doctor visits which have absorbed a lot of my time and thought (all good news).

Tonight there is just trivia on my mind. For one thing, at two, Sophie still jumps on all of us to get attention. The other night I invited my good friend Betty into the back yard for a glass of wine, and Sophie was such a pest, Betty said, “Maybe we should go to the front porch.” Last night, she jumped a lot on Elizabeth who can handle it but said she and her ex trained their dogs not to jump, as puppies, by using a little squirt of water. So today I got a squirt bottle, used it twice, and haven’t been jumped on. When she wanted to go out tonight, Sophie sat next to me and “talked.” I responded quickly, with lots of praise. Can’t believe it was that easy. We’ll see. Betty is now outraged that I’ve hurt the poor dear’s feelings. I think Sophie knows she’s loved.

Today I went to a birthday luncheon/reception for a friend’s father who is turning ninety. He’s lively, good company, active, still driving, always up for a good time—except sometimes he likes his routine. He tells wonderful, funny stories, and I admire him a lot. I want to be like that. Didn’t know three other people at the reception besides the family, so I talked at some length with the two I did know and ducked out early. Kind of proud of myself for going alone, because I really don’t like to go to that kind of event alone. I once had a good gay friend who made a wonderful escort—and I miss him to this day, though he’s been gone twenty years.

And finally, there’s my new cause—unprocessed foods. I’m outraged at Monsanto, and I saw a list of brands that Monsanto owns that nearly undid me. I thought I bought healthy foods but Campbell’s is on there, as is Nabisco (the fruit/health bars I buy for Jacob), and Hellman’s, which I always thought was the best mayonnaise and like now because they make a version with olive oil. But who knows what else? I doubt I’ll go so far as to make my own mayo but I will substitute homemade white sauce for Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup in casseroles, etc. And I’ve learned to read the code on vegetables so I know which are naturally grown, which organic, and which genetically altered—and I watch what I buy. Don’t get me started on what’s happening to our food supply.

It’s June, and I can hear fireworks in the distance. Not sure if it’s Concerts in the Park or what but I kind of like it.