Friday, January 31, 2014

Rodeo tradition

Tonight three branches of my family set off for the rodeo--the fourth is sidelined with flu and colds. I am happily at home with the dog, who went bananas with excitement at all the people, especially children, in my house earlier. I used to love the rodeo, looked forward to it every year. As my children grew from toddlers to youngsters, it was a rite of passage the year that one was deemed old enough to attend the rodeo. We went with friends, long gone from Fort Worth, though I can't remember if we ate supper beforehand or at the rodeo. But our rodeo night was one of the highlights of the year.
I'm not sure when my family began the tradition. I remember once when Maddie, the oldest grandchild, was about four we toured the grounds with her Uncle Colin and Aunt Lisa. Uncle Colin was severely ill at the time and his one regret was that he didn't have the energy to play with her. Another year, when Sawyer, now nine, was still in a stroller, we took him to the barns--he screamed in displeasure the whole time, and his stroller wheels were caked with manure. Not one of our better outings.
But in recent years they've all gone to the rodeo. Tomorrow, according to tradition, we'll tour the barns and exhibits and the Midway. This grandmother will wimp out again--will do the barns and maybe the exhibit hall, but when they head for the midway, I'll head for home. I've done it--watched proudly as my grandchildren slid down the highest slide, rode on scary rides, but I no longer want to stand around waiting. I used to take a book and plant myself--the kids would come get me when they were ready to move on. No more. And no more rodeo. I have heard, even written about, the care taken of rodeo stock, and I think I'm less afraid of seeing an animal hurt (though that would break my heart) than seeing a cowboy (or cowgirl) hurt. I know--they choose to do it. But my stomach for violence and injury is increasingly weak.
Besides, it's so quiet and calm at my house right now. And tomorrow, at 6:45 a.m. Jordan and I leave for my book signing at the Old Neighborhood Grill. I need my rest. Still, it's lovely, if lively, to have my kids and grandkids here. Tonight, two of my children and five of my grandchildren will sleep under my roof. Such bliss.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Well, drat!

I wear a medical alert bracelet, though I've never used it. If you read this blog regularly, you'll know I inadvertently tested it with a false alarm in the middle of the night recently and caused quite an uproar in my family and my neighborhood. I wear it because I live alone and because, as my children will be quick to tell you, I have been known to fall. But not lately. Still it's a nice security measure, and it gives me some degree of comfort to know I have it on.
Well tonight I glanced down at my bracelet and noticed the alert button is missing. It just apparently fell out of its "secure place." I've looked in the usual places, called the restaurant where I had dinner, emailed the people whose cars I rode in today. The most frustrating part is that this happened once before, and I ordered a new alert button at a cost of $60. Then I found the original one, comfortably sitting in a corner of the cupboard where I keep dinner dishes. So theoretically I have two buttons--but do you think I can find that safe place where I put the extra button? Of course not. My kids will be here this weekend and will no doubt scour the house. Meantime I hate to order another one because I'm just sure one will turn up
On a cheerier note I had a really good and interesting supper tonight at a downtown place called the Little Red Wasp. The manager even came by to comment on our menu choices--white wine and hot dogs. We began the meal with homemade potato chips (still warm) and ranch dip-I know next time Betty will insist on pimiento cheese with corn chips and I'll be agreeable. Then we split a hot dog--I asked what kind of hot dog and never got more than it was pure beef and no casing, but I will say it was delicious. Dressed with homemade chili, onions, and pickle relish it was pure delight--even with white wine.
We'll go back there (even with a $5 valet parking charge). I have my eye on the Reuben next. But I just might have to have another hot dog.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The power of hate

I try to teach my grandchildren not to use the word "hate." One told me he understood that we shouldn't hate people but wasn't it okay to say "I hate it when my collar is too tight?" How do you answer that, and where do you draw the line? When is hate acceptable and when is it not? Unfortunately, my grandchildren and children everywhere are growing up in a world of hate.
The other day a minister I know announced she was closing her Facebook account because of all the hate she encountered. I happen to enjoy Facebook and I think it helps me tell people about me and my books, so I''m not closing my account. But I'm appalled by the hate I encounter.
This morning, after the State of the Union, it was particularly evident. A man who I occasionally spar with over politics and ethics went way over the line when he posted about "the Kenyan, B. Hussein Obama." He and I have had this discussion and he took to calling the president the half-Kenyan, apparently as a result of my arguments. But now he's regressed. It's a way of reminding people that he's not one of "us." And B. Hussein? He seems to want us to link him mentally with Sadam Hussein and perhaps Osama bin Laden. If I ask if there's a racial implication, he acts offended and says he's never heard one word about Obama's race (has he had his head in the sand?). I thought he was not only filled with hate, he was disrespectful to the president of our country. Disagree with his policies, as a vocal segment of the population does, but please don't carry it to the level of personal hate. What about the Florida politician who called for hanging President Obama? And wasn't there a call for the death of the entire Obama family? And all those calls for impeachment. I have asked on what grounds and been told he's ruining the country (vague at best) and he's violated the Constitution--I'd have to be a constitutional scholar to judge on that one, and I know these people are not scholars of any sort. This same man is compassionate about lost dogs, abused dogs, etc., and quick to praise folk music and hymns. Within the last few days he posted a tribute to Pete Seeger--had he listened to the message in Seeger's music?
State Senator Wendy Davis has come in for her share of hate, from misrepresentation of her family life to the demeaning monicker, "Abortion Barbie." Can people not say they oppose abortion without resorting to personal insults and distortions?
I happen to be a practicing Christian, which really shouldn't bear much one way or the other on this subject of hate. But so much of the hate is couched in terms of "I'm a good Christian." It embarrasses me for my religion to be so distorted. Christ said, "And of these the greatest is love." For hate and Christianity to be tied together makes me think, with fear, of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Rational disagreement is based on thought and reason; hate is a base emotion. Let there be peace. We live in times too filled with partisan hatred, and we can only move forward if we can let go of anger and hate..

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Travelin' Jack Lives On

Last night I posted about the sad story of the death of my neighbors' cat, Travelin' Jack. Tonight it seems there's a sequel. Jay was running errands, including a stop to donate old towels to the Humane Society of North Texas (they always need them if you have some to donate). Impulsively he went in to the cat room--and there he was. A five-month-old kitten, black, named Jack. Intrigued, Jay called Susan, who said she at first thought, I'm not ready. I'm still crying. She went to meet the kitten. Long story short: Jack, the kitten, came home this afternoon after being neutered this morning. Susan is debating about a name, but I vote for the way she described him: Just Plain Jack. He apparently was raised with dogs, doesn't seem alarmed by them at all, and the dogs are curious but much calmer than they were with Travelin' Jack.
Don't tell me our animals don't choose us. What made Jay step into that cat room? And what made Susan go to see a kitten, when she was still grieving. Just Plain Jack knew where he belonged, and he was calling them.
Our friend Elisabeth suggested that Travelin' Jack's spirit is hanging around, in no rush to cross over. He's just taking him time travelin' on. I like to think that his spirit lives in Just Plain Jack. Jay and Susan report two coincidences today--when she went to the humane society, a black cat watched her from across the parking lot but when she came out, it was gone; Jay reports a black cat crossed his path somewhere tonight. Me? I think Elizabeth is right--Travelin' Jack is hanging around in spirit until he sees that all is well with Just Plain Jack.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Short,, Happy Life of Travelin' Jack

My neighbors lost their cat, probably not quite a year old, yesterday. Hit by a car  and by the time he got to the emergency vet, there was no way to save him. Jack may have had a short life, but it was colorful.
He wandered up my driveway one summer night when several of us were on the deck--a teenager of a cat, long legs, skinny. Sophie immediately had a barking, growling fit, and this stranger of a cat retreated. But the next day he showed up on Susan and Jay's front porch and spent the day sunning himself. Susan put out food and water and for a while we all thought he was content.
But then he traveled on. Susan was fearful that something happened to him but she also knew the travelin' nature of cats. One day we heard about a cat that had been hanging around the school across the street, so Susan and Elizabeth went to look for him. The teacher who found him had taken him home but could not keep him. Arrangements ensued, and Travelin' Jack was delivered back to Susan and Jay.
Susan began an intensive campaign to semi-civilize him and introduce him to the dogs. She kept him in luxurious quarters in the basement and went down often to visit and play, leaving two frustrated dogs behind a closed door at the top of the stairs. Jack began to get venturesome and would meow at the door at the top of the steps. And then there was the day he swished his tail under the door--and one of the dogs bit off the tip. Susan expected blood all over the basement but Jack seem none the worse for the experience--except his tail was shorter.
Gradually introductions were made, slowly and carefully, and the dogs were more curious than hostile. Jack began to have the freedom of the house, and eventually he and one dog began to sleep on the bed together. After several weeks, Susan felt he was acclimated enough that he could wander around and would probably stay on the property. Apparently, yesterday, he wandered just far enough off to meet a car, but, injured, he made his way home and back to his basement security place, which is where Susan was drawn by his painful meowing.
I have long believed that we don't choose our pets--they choose us. And Travelin' Jack knew right where he wanted to be--with Susan and Jay. I think, similarly, Sophie chose me. Over the years of raising four children, I've had countless dogs and a few cats choose me--or one of the kids. And each time we lost one, it left a great, gaping hole that is slow to fill.
So all we can say is what Susan said: Travel safe and happy, Travelin' Jack. See you on the Rainbow Bridge.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cooking for company

This was a cooking day, the kind I really enjoy. Oh, I got time in for some computer work and a nap but primarily I was preoccupied with this evening's meal. Jordan had invited friends of theirs, with a son Jacob's age. It both pleases and flatters me that she wants her friends to eat my cooking at my table. But she always comes an hour early to make sure the house is to her liking (I actually had straightened my desk and done a few things like that). But she lights candles, moves this here and that, and fusses. And she gets  bit uptight about it--I know the thing to do is wait quietly until she has a glass of wine. I only fussed when she turned on the a/c thinking she was just lowering the temperature.
We debated over the menu a lot--from a down-home casserole that is a family favorite to a fancy fish dish. I was told that our guests like seafood, so the final choice was sea bass cooked in parchment and seasoned with ginger, soy, sake, and green onions, rice, and stir-fried veggies. That meant a morning trip to Central Market to get fresh sea bass. It was a simple meal, but I spent much of the day putting it together--making the soy/sake sauce, cutting up veggies, making an appetizer of goat cheese and wasabi, cooking broccoli so the young boys could have plain broccoli while I mixed ours into the stir-fry. I had set the table last night, so when I finished chopping and fixing, I had a wonderful tuna sandwich and a great nap. (I'm afraid to say this aloud but I sleep so well lately!).
Our guests arrived, we had appetizers on the deck, and then I realized the husband had to leave early to catch a plane, so I rushed to make packets of sea bass, stir fry the veggies, and get Jordan to fix the boys' supper (Cane's chicken, broccoli and rice). I was worried that cooking sea bass filets for 10 minutes in a 400 oven might leave them underdone--turns out I did them for 15 minutes inadvertently and they were perfect. I think the parchment contains the moisture.  Anyway, it was a successful dinner and met with lots of raves. Dinnertime conversation was lively and entertaining--for some reason we got off on the JFK assassination and various aspects of it.
One guest left and the rest of us sat around having a great discussion about this, that, and the other thing over vanilla ice cream with chocolate/raspberry liqueur sauce. A perfectly lovely evening.
Jordan is wonderful about doing dishes--I helped on the fringes but she basically had the kitchen cleaned while I was packing up the few leftovers and putting dishes away. We make a great team--but then we've always known that.
The event of the evening: Jacob's loose tooth came out. He's been worrying it loose for days but refused to let anyone touch it, in spite of threats, promises and whatever. He and his dad were roughhousing tonight and whoop--there it came. Such a tiny tooth to cause so much fuss, but it did leave a gaping hole in his smile.
Tonight I am thankful that I have kids who value my company and want me to meet their friends and cook for them. I love my friends my own age, but it's a blessing to have friends of all ages. One of the many blessings of my life. Thanks, Jordan! Life is good.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The pleasure of being an author

Nothing is quite so much fun for an author as to speak to a small but responsive group. I had that fortunate experience today when Betty Bob Buckley invited me to speak to her PEO Chapter, a group of about twenty women. I asked what I should talk about and was met with a vague, "Your books." So I told the women how I got started writing--age ten--and my mis-steps and small triumphs along the way. And then I told them the story behind each of several books, ending of course with my two current mystery series. They laughed along the way and asked intelligent, pertinent questions afterwards. I sold several books--a goodly number for that size or audience and that occasion--and when we adjourned for lunch, conversation at my table was still lively--and still mostly about my writing. Lunch, made by the hostesses for the day, was delicious--chicken enchiladas served with Fritos (which I put on the enchiladas for a crispy contrast--so good!), guacamole, and Black Forest cake--my favorite ever dessert. And I got to visit with Betty Bob on the way over and back, so it was an all around plus event.
Some authors may think a group that small isn't worth the time, but I firmly believe it is. Some of the women who didn't buy today may show up at my book signing in a week--I passed out flyers. At least one woman told me she'd be ordering for her Nook, and others may well spread the word of mouth. Besides, I enjoyed myself.
After getting to the doctor at 8:30 this morning and then the luncheon speech, I was beat and wanted to crawl into bed but no such luck. Jacob brought a friend home--bless them, they cleaned the dog poop out of the back yard and gathered up the bottles left from the broken bottle tree (thank  you, Sophie!). Then I fed them ice cream and sparkling grape juice. They took turns being the bull and the rodeo clown, all of which was very noisy. The other grandparent and I sat and had a good visit as much as possible in the midst of the melee. When the boys went to the other end of the house and it grew too quiet, I went to investigate--they were at my desk (a no-no without me there) and Jacob was on the phone to his mom.
Max and his grandfather went home, Jordan arrived for a brief visit, and when they all departed, I felt like a deflated balloon. Treated myself to a tuna fish sandwich for supper--ah, heaven. I don't know that I've been all that busy but I do feel like I've been on a roller coaster.
Tomorrow is yet another busy day. I'm going to bed early--I always say that and never do it, but maybe tonight.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dry spell

While much of the country freezes with subzero temperatures and the East labors under a heavy snow fall, North Texas is getting off fairly easily. This morning I bundled for extreme cold in jeans, my warmest sweater, and a quilted down jacket. And I really felt cozy. Well, at least at first. I swore when I came home at 10:30 it was colder than when I left at 9:00. And tonight it's to be 18--that's really cold for us. But by Saturday? Sixties. As someone said, Mother Nature seems to be off her meds.
For me, this funny weather is a dry spell, though I'm not sure the two are connected. I wonder if most writers don't go through these dry spells. Oh, I've been busy--writing blogs, guest blogs that are scheduled after Murder at the Tremont Inn launches Feb. 27, editing the neighborhood newsletter, making my presence known on Facebook and even exploring Twitter and Pinterest a bit, though I've ignored them for weeks, even months.
I've been busy socially. I'm a big believer in keeping up friendships and in the fact that it takes an effort--so I've been out to lunch and dinner a lot. In fact, tonight is the first night since last Sat. that I've had dinner at home alone. You know what? Eating leftovers (even from last Sunday) is kind of fun. I'v got a fire in the fireplace and a book to read.
I have 10,000 words done on a new novel...but then I got distracted by another project I really wanted to move ahead on. Besides, I have no contract on this newest one, no deadline. I don't usually write to deadline so that doesn't bother me, but I feel that I'm resting, gathering strength to plunge into a new novel. My horoscope said today that news in the next week would give me a burst of new energy. I guess I'm waiting.
There's another stumbling block--I've got a 450+ page novel to review, and I don't like to plunge into my own novel while my imagination is caught in the world of the one I'm reading. As is not unusual for me, I started this one thinking Why did I agree to review this? Now, almost a hundred pages into it, I'm getting hooked on the story. Don't know if that's good or bad--shouldn't take a hundred pages to draw me in.
Enough rationalizations about why I'm not writing. Do you have reasons you put off doing things? I think we all do. But if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend the rest of the evening reading my book.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dream On

Please welcome my guest author, Michele Drier. Not only is she a prolific and talented author, she is the president of the Guppies (Going to be Published or Great Unpublished) sub-group of Sisters in Crime. Find her at
Your turn, Michele:

A couple of weeks ago, Judy wrote a blog about a dream catcher. This made me look at a piece that’s been hanging on my office wall for better than ten years.

I don’t know if this would officially be called a dream catcher. It’s a piece my mother did in an Art I class she took in the late 1970s when she was in her mid-fifties.

My mother was an actress. She found her passion in high school in San Ramon, California, when that area was almost all farms. She was born in San Francisco and lived in the Bay Area until she moved to Humboldt County, in the far north of California, when she was in her forties.

She hated the weather (way too much rain), hated being so far from San Francisco (about 300 miles) but loved the chances she took to learn and to find her forte.

Going back to school as an adult gave her challenges beyond being a wife, mother and secretary, the big three in the 1950s. She kept with it and received her BA in 1970, the same year my youngest sister graduated from high school.

This was the time that my mother let her great passion bloom. She became one of the best-known little theater actors in the North Coast region, was cast in several films shot there, was a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and eventually earned an MFA in film.

It was difficult going to college at the same time as one’s mother, particularly when she kept making the Dean’s List and was offered a year’s study in Italy.

My mother taught me many lessons, from tying my shoes to telling time, but the most important one was to stay curious. She’d drop the dish towel and call us to come out and look at the sunset—a thing I do with my grandchildren, now. At the height of the Cold War, she’d start dinner table fights with positive comments about Russia and communism. She wasn’t a communist, but she wanted us to develop our own beliefs by using our minds to learn and sift and choose.

Today is the sixth anniversary of my mother’s death, but she’s with me every day. I look at a picture I took of her at the top of the Montmartre Steps as I’m writing. I pass a portrait of her and my eldest granddaughter every time I walk down the hall.

And I glance up at her dream catcher—her assemblage piece—several times a day, not consciously registering, but knowing she’s cheering me on.

I need to remember to keep focusing on the dream.


Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home.  During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series.

She writes the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries and the six-book Kandesky Vampire Chronicles paranormal romance series and has just published her eighth book, SNAP: Happily Ever After? She’s working on the seventh book in the series, SNAP: White Nights, scheduled for publication in early 2014.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January--the cleaning out, cleaning up month

I used to know an older doctor who told me he hated January because he'd just paid for Christmas and here came January and quarterly taxes. Well, my dislike isn't quite that severe, though I do pay quarterly taxes. But to me, it's a month of cleaning out and cleaning up.
First of all, I leave my Christmas decorations up through Epiphany, so January 7th is the big take-down-Christmas day. It involves having my local kids and/or neighbors get the storage things out of the attic (I'm not allowed up there except in extreme cases with four younger adults in the house). Then I have to dismantle, wrap and pack all those decorations--and there's always something you find after you think you have everything packed. This year it was a music box Santa in a sleigh. Then kids/neighbors, whoever, has to put the boxes back up in the attic. Christian has become kind of keeper of the attic, and vows to get me large storage bins but think how hard they'd been to get up and down--he doesn't like my 15 or so grocery bags. This year I was appalled when he said his goal is to see a tree in my house at Christmas--haven't had one in years because I'm usually gone. Jacob, Christian and I got it all back in the attic the other night. I wanted to clear out the guest room because other branches of the family will be coming the end of January for rodeo weekend.
The other January chore I dread is accumulating tax information--once I get that questionnaire from the accountant I feel honor-bound to get it done quickly. This year I've developed a new system and have dealt with quite a few categories--but I have miles to go, and twelve months of bank statements to check. I resolved to do one tax chore a day, but I've fallen down on that. So that huge task still looms.
This year, the leaves were slow to fall from the trees, and I have a lot of oaks on my property. When they did fall, it was first too icy and then too cold to rake, so when we came home at the end of December we waded through piles of leaves. They're mostly gone now and it's a joy to walk down a leaf-free driveway after dark, but the yard and porches are discouraging--devoid of plants that I've brought in to winter. Those that are still outside are mostly ones that will flourish again in spring (well, not the dusty miller Jacob had to have and has since ignored) but even the oregano looks pretty pitiful. The wandering jew has died, as has a plant I don't know the name of--it was lovely with dainty white flowers in the spring, but they disappeared with summer heat and now it looks like straw. Greg has cleaned out the cyclamen and some other non-survivors, but the whole aspect is discouraging.
We think of January as a time for a new start--resolutions and all that--but I think it's a month designed to get us ready for spring. Of course we still have stock-show weather and February to go through. And it's to be bitterly cold day after tomorrow.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A couch potato, a working author...and a spiritual book

Martin Luther King Day, and I’m a bit ashamed that I didn’t do community service today. But I did do family service. Since there was no school, Jacob was here all day. Last night, he and his dad came for supper—yummm! Pork chops in a cream/Dijon/bourbon sauce with sautéed apples (which Christian didn’t like) and onions. Jacob hugged me goodnight, and his dad asked if he didn’t want to spend the night. I pointed out he could sleep late (if he went home, he’d have to get up early to come here) and have waffles for breakfast. Instant reply: “Bye, Dad.” He did sleep until slightly after nine, got up demanding, “Can I have my breakfast?” and spent the morning watching TV (another cause of guilt on my part—but I got so much done while he was content).

We went out for lunch to meet a former student of mine, Jacob grousing all the way. He didn’t want to eat with an old lady (I explained she was his mom’s age), he wanted to eat at the Grill. But my friend Heather entranced him telling about the homeless man whose story she is writing and talking football with him. When we got in the car, he said, “That was pretty much fun.”

So we had a distant but good day—I got a lot of work done, and he watched TV. Maybe every once in a while it’s okay to just let him chill and be a couch potato. It was a beautiful day, and he should have been out playing—but with no playmates, what fun is that?

Tonight I went to the church women’s book club discussion of God’s Hotel, a book I am more and more impressed with for what it teaches about holistic medicine, what the author calls “Slow medicine” as opposed to “efficient modern health care.” You watch the author grow spiritually and as a healer during the book—she learns to sit by a patient’s bedside, quietly, for long periods of time, trying to determine what comes between that patient and health; she sees a patient hover, with one foot crossing over and the other still in this world—and then choose to live. It’s a remarkable look at spiritual healing. We agreed working in those conditions, with the indigent, homeless, often mentally ill patient population isn’t for everyone in the healing professions, but for this woman physician, it became her passion. And what she learned along the way is remarkable.

The book is also a good look at what bureaucracy does to medicine—and we drew the parallel to what bureaucracy does to education. People who have never stood before a classroom make dramatic decisions, just as people who’ve never treated a patient build new hospitals (without storage for wheelchairs) and make decisions about patient care. If you have any interest in medicine or spiritual journeys or the concepts of community and charity, I urge you to read this book.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mindfulness on an ordinary day--or not

Today was an ordinary day, the kind when nothing big happens except a trip to Central Market. The kind of day I enjoy, but also the kind that makes me think I have time to be self-aware, to meditate, to, as some would say it, get in touch with myself. There are lots of huge questions lurking in my mind, from what do I really want out of life to how will I plot that next novel but I, like most of us, get so involved in the daily-ness of life that I push those questions to the back of my mind.

My brother recently told me that he read that mindfulness, that state of living in the present moment, observing your thoughts and actions as though from a distance without judging them good or bad, inhibits creativity. Oops! There goes that. I need my creativity, the right side of my brain. I’d have thought just the opposite—that mindfulness would enhance creativity.

A certain sense of distance is also one of the signs of anxiety—or at least it is to me. If I'm anxious I can feel as though I’m watching myself drive to the store, walk through the vegetable section, choose my dinner from the fish counter, joke with the guy at the checkout register.

So who are we to believe? Is it better to be in the present moment or experiencing it as an outsider? I guess to my mind it’s better to be actively engaged in the present moment—as a writer, I can store actions, events, feelings away for use later on.

On another but perhaps related note, I’m reading a wonderful book titled God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet. Dr. Sweet worked for years at Laguna Honda, the San Francisco hospital for indigent, incurable patients—the last almshouse in the nation. To help her understand her patients, she studied the works of Hildegard, the 16th Century nun who ministered to the poor. Hildegard’s medicine was based on observation and the four humors—if an ill person was too dry, he or she needed moisture; too wet, dryness was needed. That’s a simplification of what was really a complicated set of medical beliefs. But wrapped up in that—and in Sweet’s medical philosophy—is the concept of holistic medicine: treat the soul as well as the body. Much of the Laguna Honda philosophy and practice speaks clearly against modern medicine which divides the patient into physical parts. Sweet saw few cures but some were remarkable; more, she saw—and treated—the spirit of her patients. She saw them as people, not simply as patients.

I’m trying in my mind to link the Laguna Honda philosophy to the concept of mindfulness, and I guess what I keep coming back to is the concept of distance. Why should we distance ourselves from our lives—be it sickness, health, joy, sadness. I think we need to live in the moment, experiencing it as fully as we can. And that in itself is an art.

Rambling thoughts on a Saturday night when I’ve had an exceptionally good dinner and a nice glass of wine….

Friday, January 17, 2014

Lazy days

June Bug, one of the Cavaliers, making herself at home in my shawl. Such a cute, shy, timid baby. She warmed up to my because I loved on her while bored with talk of Las Vegas.

Do you ever want to just be lazy, even if you have a pile of work facing you? That's how I've felt the last few days. Actually I've been pretty efficient and busy, but I resolved not to feel harried and rushed. Can't even tell you what I accomplished yesterday, but I think I got the wheels rolling on self-publishing a novel--an adventuresome first for me, and you'll hear more about it later. I wrote a guest blog, to appear later, got Jacob from school, and went to his house for supper with neighbor Jay (the handsome one). Cheese/chicken enchiladas, good appetizers, great company, and too much wine--I was so sleepy when I came home. Jordan really fixed an excellent meal, and they were both gracious hosts.
Jacob came home with me since he had no school today. He wanted to stay at his house, but once he got here he was sweet and charming. I sent him to bed and settled down to give Sophie her nightly tummy rub when suddenly there was Jacob. We had a nice, philosophical discussion about dogs at 10:30 at night. He really appreciates dogs, realizes what they do for us, and is sweet and loving with his own two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and with Sophie--though the difference in temperaments is dramatic. The Cavaliers are so quiet and timid, and Sophie, bless her, is so rambunctious and playful.
Today, in spite of my resolution not to be hurried, we found ourselves at the grocery at nine and home by nine-thirty. Have you ever tried to work at your desk with cartoons on the TV? That's where I was.  Not easy. But about eleven I took him to a friend's house--the friend's grandfather, bless him, took them to the science and history museum and the stock show, where people were just setting up. Then McDonald's and back to Max's house to play. Then to our house where they played more on the front lawn while three frozen adults sat and watched.
Tonight all is quiet, and I'm at my desk but still lazing through the evening, not feeling rushed by anything. Had a leftover half a bacon cheeseburger (a rarity for me) for supper and thoroughly enjoyed it.
It's one of those quiet nice times when I don't feel rushed, and I think life is good.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Livin' High

Yesterday I posted above livin' high at local restaurants; today it's just living high in general. Today my horoscope said something about "the various elements in your life that are flowing together smoothly" and that's exactly how I feel. Everything in my life seems to be going well. I feel good and optimistic, and I wake up each day with joy. I'm not a big believer in astrology but I do read my horoscope most days--usually it's so wildly off the mark that I ignore it, but I find it comforting when it's optimistic like today. It went on to say something about a key relationship might thrive if I don't let ambition get in the way--I always think that means a romantic relationship, and I'm way beyond believing a knight in shining armor is going to ride my way. On the other hand, it could well mean a professional relationship--and I made a contact today that I think will smooth out one project for me a great deal, so maybe that's it. I don't see ambition getting in the way, but I suppose we don't see ourselves clearly.
Tonight's a full moon, which may have something to do with this. I don't follow or understand all that about Mercury in retrograde or anything, but I wonder how long this euphoria will last. I'd like to bottle it, please.
Tonight Mary Dulle and I went to the city's Neighborhoods office awards dinner--the Poohbah was one of three honored in the newsletter category. Mary edited it the first half of last year, and I did it the second half so we shared the spotlight and had our picture taken with the mayor and our city councilman. It was pretty impressive to hear what some neighborhoods have done--the Neighborhood of the Year (still can't figure out where it is) instituted an extensive drowning-prevention program. Another neighborhood lightened a tunnel under RR tracks that kids have to walk through to get to school--an artist painted a mural. There's a lot of civic pride in Fort Worth, and it was neat to see it and see how many people turned out for the dinner. Nice, efficient program--over by eight. The way things ought to go!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Livin' High

People outside my neighborhood in inner southwest Fort Worth may not understand this, but I was eating high on the hog today. I had breakfast at the Old Neighborhood Grill at the monthly get-together of the Book Ladies and lunch at Carshon's with an author who's become a friend.
The Book Ladies is a group of women who are interested in books, most of whom but not all had careers dealing with books. We have retired librarians, a couple of authors, a lot of readers. Some days there are three women; some days twelve or more. We have always said the group is open to men, but few have been brave enough. One husband sometimes comes and buries himself in a newspaper.
The Grill serves the most sumptuous breakfasts ever, from steak and eggs to breakfast tortillas, wonderful hash browns (if you remember to ask for them crisp). and terrific biscuits. I try to be modest--one egg over easy and one piece of wheat toast, with one pat of butter. Every once in a while I splurge on hash browns, but then I'm so full I kick myself.
The Grill is also home to my signing parties. Next one will be there on Saturday, February 1, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. because that's when owner Peter Schroeder says his readers come in. It's worked well for me before. That weekend most of my children and grandchildren will be in town, and I know they'll wander in for breakfast. To catch the non-breakfast folk, I'll have another signing Feb. 3, Monday, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Folks can choose to have a glass of wine and socialize or stay for supper--it's always good.
For lunch, I met author Chloe Webb (Legacy of the Sacred Harp) at Carshon's, the only real Jewish deli in Fort Worth as far as I know. Chloe and I love the egg salad sandwiches, but I had just fixed myself one the other day, so I decided to have half a tongue sandwich (my love of tongue is probably another story in itself). My favorite waitress wrinkled her nose and shook her head--in other words, don't order the tongue tooday. So I had a bowl of potato soup which is always wonderful. At Carshon's soup, pies, chicken and tuna salad, are always made in the restaurant. The chocolate chiffon pies (Wed. and one other day) draw large crowds. I've been eating there for more than forty years, so it's home to me and they know me.
I think my point is you can eat at all the upscale restaurants in Fort Worth or even Dallas and NYC, but you honestly can't beat a neighborhood café with good food. I love to have the waitress at Carshons' say, "You want a pickle with your soup?" because she knows I love their pickles, or the person at the cash register at the Grill look at me in the evening and say, "Meatloaf and green beans?" Yep, that's what I want. There's something wonderful about familiarity.
I heard from friends that the Grill was out of meatloaf tonight. Travesty! So glad I had a conflict with our regular Tuesday night dinner.

Monday, January 13, 2014

That kind of a day

It's been that kind of day around here--slow and not much going on. Sophie was so bored she decided to dig into her toy basket herself. She did have some play time with Jacob, and it was fun to see how protective she is of him. When his dad wrestled with him, she got really upset and tried to jump into the fray. She also "talked" in her own expressive way.
I've been editing a manuscript all day--it's probably been ten years in the writing, but I really hope it sees the light of day this year. It's been edited, but I'm going through it again, checking the edits, finding things I want to change. I imagine I could go through it ten more times and find things to change. There comes a point where you just have to trust yourself. This is one I think I want to self-publish as an experiment, so I want to be sure it's perfect. But all editing makes a long day, and Sophie too has felt the boredom.
I need to get back to  yoga--haven't done any exercise in almost a month because I'm not sure how to go about it in an orthopedic shoe. It seems easier to just wait---two weeks and two days--than to figure out what I can and cannot do, but I know that's a cop-out. I have however been very active--from housework to walking, running errands, etc. Not a couch potato--that's my justification.
Last night I made chicken soup--good flavor, funny thick and long noodles that I had in the cupboard. Tonight when Jacob was hungry, I fished out the meat (he does NOT like meat) and gave him noodles--the soup had turned very thick in the fridge and didn't produce that much liquid when heated--guess the noodles soaked it all up. "I don't like noodles," he announced. I reminded him he'd eaten them a week or two ago, and he said, "Well, I don't like them now." His dad came along, liked the soup, and after eating a bowl took the rest home with him. I was glad to send it since I have dinner plans the next three nights and lunch plans two out of three days (ah, the whirlwind life of the retiree).
Nice news tonight--the neighborhood newsletter I've been editing since spring has won an award from the city Neighborhood office. The former editor, good friend Mary Dulle, and I will go to the awards dinner Wed. night.Surprisingly, when Mary posted the announcement on Facebook, it got lots and lots of comments. Nice feeling for both of us.
Tonight I am grieving with young friends who have been dealt the kind of blow that I don't know how you recover from. I have faith they will recover, and I remember them in my prayers, but the devastation they must feel now is beyond my comprehension. I want so badly to reach out, but there is nothing I can do. This winter, with its unpredictable and sometimes miserably cold weather, has been a bad one for sickness and death. As my friend Jim says, "There's a world of hurt out there."
The whole day makes me think that life has its ups and downs--moments of joy, times of great grief, boredom and busyness. I guess we each have to learn to balance them for ourself.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Dreamcatcher

I bought a dream catcher in Santa Fe, a small one because they were cheaper and because I thought a larger one might be too showy (actually I bought it in Chimayo, which is a great place for magical beliefs because of the healing dirt found in its sanctuary). For those who don't know, a dream catcher is a leather-bound circle, with a web in the middle and a central open space. Feathers and beads hang from the outside circle. Clearly a reproduction of a plains Indian artifact.
I thought it would catch my creative dreams and save them for my writing. After all, the other night I dreamt the opening of the sixth Kelly O'Connell novel--it's just that it wasn't really a dream. I was only half asleep and I was recalling actual events.
I figured dream catchers were kind of trendy because my daughter-in-law said my oldest granddaughter had one for a while. What? She got rid of it? I may have to discuss that with her, but my list of things to talk to her about grows. For instance, she didn't like To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, that's unpatriotic or something.
Today I read the tag on the dream catcher--it catches bad dreams in its web and holds them, while good dreams escape through the hole in the middle--wait! the good dreams are the ones I wanted to hold on to. Anyway the legend goes that with daylight the sunshine disintegrates the bad dreams, which is all to the good. I'm a heavy dreamer, sometimes dark, and I almost always remember my dreams, though I may forget them shortly after I wake. On the other hand, some stay with me for a long time. Once I came to the office and reported one to Melissa, my colleague, who has ever after said to me, "I hated being peed on by that possum." It's true--it was in my dream. I think we had discovered a family of possums in the building's courtyard the day before.
Anyway, today I hung the dream catcher in the window. Jacob looked at it and demanded, "What is that?" When I told him, he walked over to examine it and then said, "You don't really believe that do you, Juju?"
"Yes, I sort of do."
"It doesn't make sense. It's not true." Ah, a practical child of the 21st century. I refrained from reminding him that he still believes in elves at Christmas...and Santa too!
"Well, is it okay if I kind of believe it? I'd like to."
"I guess so," he said with a sigh as he walked away. I continue to have faith. Jacob sometimes thinks his grandmother is crazy.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Value of a Dog—Lesson #2

First_responder : Abstract vector illustration of an ambulance with sirenes Stock PhotoSome of you know this story. Please bear with me, because others don’t, and because I have  a point to make here about dogs and their importance in our lives.

Sophie woke me a little before 2:30 Wednsday morning. I can lie in bed and tell by her bark how serious the “threat” to our safety is. This was serious, a frantic bark. And it kept on. Then I saw tail-lights in the driveway, and the motion detector light activated. I thought someone was going around to the back, so I pulled on some clothes and looked. Nobody. I looked for those tail-lights again and realized that they were emergency vehicles—aha! The police had once again caught someone at the corner by my house. It certainly had nothing to do with me, so I went to the bathroom, got a drink of water—with Sophie still barking. Then it all happened at once—the phone rang and someone pounded on the door. I looked through my glass door and saw several men on my porch and one had a bag that looked like an EMT bag.

Grabbed Sophie and opened the door to a kind man who said, “We had a medical alert call for this address.” I assured him I was all right, said I do wear an alert bracelet but hadn’t set it off, hadn’t heard it go off. He asked several times if I was sure I was all right, and I said I was. He was neither impatient nor angry, just kind. As the men left, my neighbor wandered up and said “You okay?” Yes, I was.

I looked and realized other neighbors were out there. I thanked and reassured them, but then the house security system started going off and the phone rang—I had to run to assure the security people they should NOT call the police. Somewhere in all this my son-in-law from Austin called and asked if I was okay. I could hear him reassuring Megan, my daughter. Then he said Jordan, my younger daughter, was on her way, so I called and told her I was fine, to go back home. She said she was so close she’d come ahead. With all the confusion and newly awakened from a deep sleep, it was not my finest hour—not sure I was even coherent.

I called the medical alert company and they did have an alarm. They guess I rolled over on the bracelet. I asked if I should take it off and they said no. They advise sleeping with it on. The problem, of course, was that I didn’t hear the phone when people called to verify the alert—no hearing aids and sound asleep.
Today I have thanked and apologized to everyone (including a Facebook expression of thanks to first responders), and I’ve learned some lessons. The ringer on the phone by my bed is now on, and I’ve found out how effective my security systems are, but the big thing is I will really pay attention to Sophie’s barking. She’s an alert watch dog (now sound asleep in the comfy chair across from my desk).

The good news: I wrote nearly a thousand words on the opening of a new novel that morning. Yes, it’s about an unexpected first responder visit in the night. My mom used to say all things work to some good.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Wednesday guest--with some great sounding books

Please welcome my guest author, Carolyn Mulford.

Carolyn decided to become a writer while growing up on a Missouri farm. She earned an M.A. in journalism and went off to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. There she became fascinated by other cultures and addicted to travel. She edited a United Nations magazine in Vienna, Austria, and a national service-learning magazine in Washington, D.C. She then worked as a freelance writer and editor and dabbled in fiction.

A few years ago she moved back to Missouri to focus on fiction. Her first novel, The Feedsack Dress, became Missouri's Great Read at the 2009 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. In 2013 Five Star released the first two books in her mystery series, Show Me the Murder in February and Show Me the Deadly Deer in December. The books (in hardcover and Kindle) feature three women who grew up together in a small town, led wildly different lives for thirty-five years, and come together again as each faces a major crisis.


I select the main characters for my books as carefully as I choose companions for a long trip. They must share some of my interests but differ enough to surprise, challenge, and entertain me day after day for months.

The protagonist for my Show Me series began to form ten years ago while I was working in Washington, D.C. I was horrified when the Bush administration revealed the name of a CIA covert operative, exposing her and acquaintances abroad to danger, ruining her career, and surely ending some friendships. I empathized because I’d feared that I wouldn’t be the only one to discover a friend in Vienna led a daring double life. Leading such a life required tremendous energy, brainpower, self-confidence bordering on arrogance, and—fascinating to me—idealism mixed with deception.

 But I hadn’t worked abroad for years and had avoided the CIA when I did. I planned to move back to Missouri. My spy would do the same. After thriving in a dual career in one of the world’s great cities, she would be compelled by a failed mission to give up her day and night jobs and return to her rural hometown. I call her Phoenix Smith.

In Show Me the Murder, Phoenix arrives weak from a near-fatal wound. She expects to relax with her childhood neighbor and closest friend, Annalynn Carr Keyser. The only child in a wealthy, educated family, Annalynn stayed home and became a civic leader. She has just buried her husband. He was found with a bullet in his head in a cheap motel with the body of a young woman. Everyone else except Annalynn believes it was a murder-suicide. She asks Phoenix to help prove it was a double murder.

Skeptical but sympathetic, Phoenix agrees. Soon she recognizes signs of a set-up and fears the killers will come after Annalynn, who refuses to run. Using different skill sets and reconciling conflicting attitudes, the two women risk their lives to identify the killer. To Phoenix’s disgust, the third member of their high school trio insists on helping. Connie Diamante expected to star on Broadway, but she never made it beyond summer stock. After her marriage disintegrated, she moved back and leads a precarious existence as a wedding singer and voice teacher. Connie adores Annalynn but barely tolerates Phoenix. Much of the book’s humor comes from the sparring and the coerced cooperation between Connie and Phoenix.

I had these three ongoing characters well in mind when I began writing. To my surprise, a character brought in as a plot twist refused to get off the page. So the series includes Achilles, a K-9 dropout who adopts Phoenix.

In Show Me the Deadly Deer, Phoenix goes with Annalynn, now acting sheriff, to look for a missing farmer. They find him dead on a pond bank with an antler sticking out of his back. Did someone frame a deer? Phoenix thinks so.

She searches for the deadly deer as an excuse for questioning suspects. At first she views the investigation as a game to relieve her boredom, but she cannot maintain an emotional distance as she sees how the death affects and endangers others. She breaks the law not only to find evidence but also to prevent additional tragedies.

In each book in the series, the women unravel complex crimes, deal with social issues (e.g., elder abuse in book three), and struggle to overcome large and small personal problems.

My major goal for each book: to tell a good story about people worth caring about.

You can read the first chapters of Show Me the Murder, Show Me the Deadly Deer, and The Feedsack Dress on my website: Questions for book discussion groups and ordering information are also there.





Tuesday, January 07, 2014


I've been meaning to write a blog about dogs for some time--how important they are in my life and the lives of many I know, what I think of non-dog people (yeah, there's a bit of judgment), and how grateful I am to have Sophie for company. I'll get around to that eventually, but tonight I had a different kind of dog experience.
My longtime friends, Subie and Phil Green, came for a supper of leftovers--long story, but they were suddenly in town and called. Phil has been visually impaired ever since I've known him, and I think now he's almost completely blind, though he says he can read some on computers under certain circumstances. He brought his assistance dog--the second one he's had. I had to explain that idea to Jacob today because he'd never heard of it. Unfortunately he was gone when Subie, Phil, and Santiago arrived. I was curious about Sophie's reaction, and she was predictable--ran to sniff his privates right away. But she was ecstatic, and Santiago, now eight plus, was patient. Such a well-trained dog.
Sophie of course wanted all the attention and affection. When Santiago came to me to be petted, she was right there, wanting more than her share of the attention. But they really got along well, and Sophie behaved admirably, though she wanted to be in either Subie's or Phil's lap all the time--forbidden behavior in my house.
We caught Santiago eating out of her food (which I store in a small garbage can)--she's not big enough to get into it, but he is. Then Sophie was very quiet in the living room but there was a certain crunching sound. Subie said, "Someone is up to no good," and I said, "Santiago is right at our feet, but I can see Sophie and she's really concentrating." Of course she was--on the small basket of crackers we'd left on the table. She wouldn't come, wouldn't leave those crackers, until I descended on her.
In the backyard together, they were both fine, though the neighbors dogs went nuts.
The evening taught me that Sophie would love a companion--but it would have to be a well-behaved, well-trained dog. And Sophie would always want to be the alpha dog. Dogs with the extensive training Santiago had don't show up in rescue shelters often. But it's amazing to think what they can do for their owners.
Besides, it was a lovely, catch-up on the news visit. I will be glad when they are in town permanently, just a few blocks from me. Subie is already planning to take me on walks and museum visits and she'll probably get me out of the house more. There goes my temptation to be a recluse.

Monday, January 06, 2014

The first real day of 2014

Did you know that today was considered the most depressing day of the year? It's because kids go back to school, people go back to work, and vacation comes to a crashing halt. Frigid temperature across this nation this year probably added to the depression.
Although it wasn't depressing, today was all those things to me--the day I planned to get back to routine, to do my yoga, to drink less wine, to get real work done at my desk. It only worked out medium well.
By coincidence, this is also Twelfth Night or Epiphany or, as my neighbor calls it, Little Christmas. It marks the night the Three Wise Man arrived with their gifts for the Baby Jesus, signifying the great gift God has given his people--the gift of a new life, led by a new savor.
I remember from my childhood the tradition of a neighbor who was a surrogate aunt for me. We each put a small branch of greenery on the fire and made a silent wish for the coming year. It's become a tradition in my family, and now we've roped neighbors Jay and Susan into it. So tonight, we each burned a branch (okay, mine missed the flames twice and Jay finally had to put in it for me--wonder if that invalidates my wish?). We had a jolly good time and had a supper of the beef casserole I mentioned last night on Potluck with Judy (, So good that Jordan and I kept sneaking back for "just a little bit more" but it will feed Cox's Army.
And the reason I got fairly well off schedule today was that it too me most of the morning to make the casserole. The fellowship of family and friends was well worth it, and I'll make up the work another day. But, alas, not tomorrow. Since Epiphany is over, my task for tomorrow is to take down Christmas, always a sad chore.
So tonight I have the indoor lights on the mantel and buffet blazing and a fire in the fireplace. From my desk I can see the festive lights Jay and Susan keep in their arbor, and if I roll my chair to the other side of the office I can see their multi-colored lights on the front porch. One last night of Christmas magic. I love it.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Openly political—skip if you want, but I hope you won’t

I try not to devote my blog to politics or the volatile climate in this country and, specifically, in Texas, but there are some things I can’t resist putting into words.

One of my earliest public memories is of seeing a woman jump out of a car and yell, “Hooray! Hooray! Roosevelt is dead.” I went into the house to tell my mother, and she said, “Hush. Don’t talk that way.” I didn’t know then, as I do know, that a lot of people, like my parents, thought he was a god on a pedestal but there were hard-core haters. I suppose they disliked the New Deal, the CCC, Social Security, and other programs designed to protect middle- and low-income Americans.

Since then I have seen dislike, often extreme, for the leaders of our nation. I myself admit to highly negative feelings about Richard Nixon and even more so about George W. Bush, though in the latter case it was less hate that despair at his foolish decisions.

I don’t think, however, I’ve ever seen such unprecedented hate as President Barack Obama is experiencing. It both amused and saddened me a few days before Christmas to see a picture on Facebook of a large, float-like vehicle emblazoned with the slogan, “Impeach Obama!” From time to time you see other calls for impeachment on Facebook.

What I wonder is on what grounds? I still don’t understand the legal grounds for the impeachment charges against Bill Clinton. What would you charge Obama with? Policies you don’t agree with? Don’t think that’s written into the constitution. Lurking always in the background, though many deny it, is the charge of being black. In the land of the free and of equality, that surely is not a crime. Treason? Hardly. Economic misjudgment—that’s in the eye of the beholder and most of us aren’t as knowledgeable as the president is but I’m under the impression that our economic outlook is greatly improved.

Of course that leaves the Affordable Care Act. Republican politicians run ads that say, “Keep Obamacare out of Texas.” Not too long ago, I commented on such a post by David Dewhurst, asking him “Why?” Could he, I challenged, provide statistics. I have not received an answer—does that tell you anything? The ACA seems to be working well in states like Kentucky that have welcomed it; a surprising million and a half or somewhere in that area have enrolled in Texas, where Republicans have made it difficult it to impossible to enroll. They are sacrificing Texans’ health to their urgent desire to weaken our president and make him a failure. Many Texans, bombarded by misleading Facebook posts, editorials, etc., have not even investigated the enrollment procedures. If they did, they might be surprised at the savings and improved coverage they’d find.

I know a man who will say thousands of his clients have lost their policies—yes, they have because those policies did not meet the standards. He quoted astronomical amounts that new insurance will cost these people, but have they investigated the program? I doubt it.

Come on, Texans, get beyond the hate and the misleading media information. Dig into the fact and make your own judgments. Don’t let other people think for you.

And let’s stop the hate on Facebook.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The end of family time

I had a bit more family time than I expected--even after we returned from our week in Santa Fe. Jacob was with me all week, from Monday until this afternoon, while his parents were out of town. I thought we had a good time until I asked him today and he said no, but I hope he was joking. One thing I realized this week was that I'm not a helicopter grandmom--I don't have time to hover over him, which means he spends far more time on the iPad and iPhone than he should. It used to be TV but he rarely watches that now. We often exist at separate ends of the house and are both content.
Last night, thought, he built an elaborate "house" by my desk and insisted he was spending the night there. I suggested the floor was hard but he could not be dissuaded. So I brought extra blankets, and the oversize doll pillow from the playroom, tucked him in and said goodnight.
About six a.m. I felt this pat on my shoulder--really a nudge. He wanted me to move over so he could get in my bed, where he promptly slept until ten in the morning. He told me later he hadn't all night. I suggested he probably had but was restless and it didn't seem like it. Anyway, above is where he started out and to the right is where he ended up.
We did other things, though he isn't thrilled by the grocery store or errands. We had fondue for New Year's Eve and company he likes for New Years dinner with black-eyed peas and ham. He had two long and good play dates with a kind family who took him to the Main Event (whatever that is). We read, though that's not his favorite activity and it's slow going. I think he's a classic example of too much digital entertainment. We laughed at silly things and worried over what he wanted for lunch, until he said, "Pretend  you're making me an after-school snack." I did it and it worked--nothing trumps Honey Crisp apple slices with hazelnut peanut butter on them.
Sophie delighted in having him, dogged his every step, sat on the bed next to him while he did Minecraft. When he came to crawl into my bed, she settled herself on the dog bed beside me, though she rarely graces me with her presence at night, preferring the chair in my office. Today I caught her growling out the window at a squirrel who was taunting her deliberately. I always think with her shaggy coat she looks a bit like a gorilla when she does this--or some less kind of monkey.
It's Friday night, and Sophie and I both find the house a bit empty. Sure it was more work to have him and I had to build my schedule around him, but I loved every minute of it. I loved staring at him in the morning when he was peacefully sleeping and looked three or four instead of a grown-up seven. I loved laughing at his antics and groaning over his jokes. I loved listening to him read to me, often punctuated by "How do you say this?" and he'd spell a word.
Vacation isn't quite over. I'm giving myself till Monday. Then I'll start my routine--what yoga I can do with my foot in that boot, regular writing, and dealing with my so-called career. But then Monday is Twelfth Night, and we usually have the neighbors for supper and a traditional burning of the greens.
Life is really really good.


Thursday, January 02, 2014

Reflections on a family holiday

Reflection on our all-family Christmas in Santa Fe has led me to two resolutions that I hope to make a way of life in 2014 (besides the eternal resolution to do my yoga routine more regularly).
Because my balance is sometimes more than a bit iffy, my grown children are always ready to help, and I find myself clinging to them. Now in an icy parking lot in Santa Fe, I was only too glad to have Jamie's arm, but most of the time, on dry pavement, I am just fine--even though this year I was clunking around in an orthopedic shoe on one foot. So my resolution is to be more independent--not only about walking but about living. I received a Keurig coffee maker for Christmas and my first thought was that I didn't want to figure out the set-up directions; I'd wait for my neighbor to come by. But I went ahead and did it, because there are a lot of little things like that I can do for myself...and should. I figure the more independent I am, the less likely to become a little old woman--or to have my children see me that way. It's a two-way street: I cling, and they see me as helpless. Well, I'm not and I intend to prove it. Yes, there are times I need a hand up a curb or something, and then I'll ask.
My second resolution is to be more assertive. In Santa Fe I spent way too much time at my computer or reading. Granted I was happy doing that, but I was sort of out of the loop. And sometimes I got my nose out of joint (that phrase makes my oldest son laugh). The night that son was in the hospital, my daughters went to sit at the hospital with his wife while she waited for the results of an endoscopy. Nobody said, "Mom, he's your child. Do you want to go?" The next day I mentioned that to Megan, my oldest daughter, and she said, "Mom, if you wanted to go, you should have said so." Point well taken. Sometimes the conversation rolls over whatever I try to contribute to it: from now own, I will make myself heard. And I don't like being shut out of the kitchen and kitchen decisions when they're cooking, etc. Sure, everyone makes one meal, and they do it their way. But I sometimes feel like Adam's off ox--when I ask what I can do, they wave and say "nothing." Probably that's in large part my fault--I seem comfortable at the computer, so why should they bother me. I'm going to make a real effort to assert myself and be part of the action.
So that's two--independence and assertiveness. As for that third--yoga. Yeah, I'll do it when I get rid of this boot. Though Monday, which for me starts the routine of the everyday world again, I may see what I can do with the boot on.
How about you? Did you make any realistic resolutions?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

An author to meet amd her wnderful fantasy

Wednesday is guest day on Judy’s Stew, and I’m delight to start the new year off by welcoming Terrie Moran. Take it away, Terrie, and share your good news with us.


Hi Judy. Thank you for inviting me to spend New Year’s Day 2014 with you and your friends.

I have exciting news this year. Well Read, Then Dead, the first novel in my Read ’Em and Eat Café and Bookstore series is scheduled for release in August 2014 by Berkley Prime Crime.

And how did this miracle come about?

Easy peasey. I got a brilliant idea that I knew would make a fabulous, highly saleable book, and I sat at my computer day and night for three weeks until, voila! I had a perfect manuscript—no revision necessary. Then I sent the best query letter ever written to the head of Berkley Prime Crime who replied within forty-eight hours and said although they normally don’t accept un-agented manuscripts, they would certainly make an exception for me. They immediately sent a lackey to my house to pick up a copy of the golden manuscript. A Berkley honcho called me a few hours later and offered a paltry six figures for the book. I scoffed; they raised the offer to a comfortable mid seven figure range and the deal was sealed.

So now sunset finds me sipping Mojitos as I lounge on the sand in front of a silk-sheeted cabana on my private Caribbean island. Mornings I swim with the dolphins. In the afternoon I dictate my next New York Times Best Seller to my amanuensis, Greg the Gorgeous. If my brain gets knotted, we stop working and he massages my feet and then...

Oh wait, I think I’m jumbling my fantasies.

The truth is Well Read, Than Dead and the two subsequent books in the series are being published because I trudged along a very traditional route to publication. For more than thirty years I promised myself that when I retired I would join a gym and write a cozy mystery. The problem was, would I ever retire? Two weeks after the horror of 9/11, a close friend died. Both events reminded me that life isn’t finite. The following year my first two grandchildren were born, twelve days and 1300 miles apart. Within weeks I retired. Two days later I joined a gym. And in 2003 I began writing a cozy novel. I wrote. I revised. I struggled. Finally, in early 2006 I completed the first draft. And instead of dancing gleefully around the house, I looked at my computer screen and said, “Now what?”

Zig led to zag and I found a mystery writers’ conference called Sleuthfest scheduled two weeks in the future. That first conference was my introduction to Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and many wonderful friends in the mystery community, readers and writers both.

When I joined my local chapter of SinC, they were in the midst of a call for submissions for a short story anthology. I decided to try and found that I loved writing short stories. So, while editing my novel, I wrote and submitted shorts. By late 2007, I thought the novel was ready for prime time. But wait!  I needed a synopsis, and a buffo query letter to send to agents. More drudgery. Eventually I began the arduous query process and was astonished to get form rejections within two or three days. I’d polish up the query and send it out again.

In the meantime, I wrote short stories. I attended conferences. I made more friends.

Time marched on. The query process evolved from snail mail to email. I managed to have one or two of my short stories published each year. And the years flew by.

In 2012 Sleuthfest rolled around again. I met with Kim Lionetti of Bookends Literary Agency. She listened to my pitch but was not encouraging. My characters were too old for the storyline. Still she offered to read a few chapters.  Weeks later she let me know that her initial assessment was correct but asked if I would write something else. And so I did. I wrote Well Read, Then Dead.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Still I wouldn’t trade how my career actually progressed for all the Mojitos and cabanas in the world.


Short-listed twice for The Best American Mystery Stories, Terrie Farley Moran gathered some of her previously published short stories, added in a couple of new stories and put together an e-collection, The Awareness and other deadly tales, which you can find on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The only thing Terrie enjoys more than wrangling mystery plots into submission is hanging out with any or all of her seven grandchildren.  You can find her blogging at www.womenof and she is on Facebook as Terrie Moran.