Sunday, July 31, 2016

An unprecedented national dilemma

This country is facing an unprecedented dilemma with no easy solutions. Remember Richard Nixon just before he resigned? He was obviously a man falling apart. In retrospect we have Alexander Haig to thank for holding the country together and effecting a smooth transition ad Nixon flew off to California and Gerald Ford took office. I suppose we have mechanisms in place to check the mental health of our leader.

But as far as I know, there is no plan for checking the health of a candidate. This never occurred to me until I read too many posts questioning the mental and physical health of Donald Trump. Now I know that you can’t take Facebook posts as truth on any subject, and if I’d seen only one or two posts I’d disregard them. But I have seen too many that suggest Trump is showing the effects of extreme stress—physical fatigue, an unusually red face (I thought that was his orange make-up), and excessive sweating. He’s also forgetful—not remembering what he said from one speech to the next, confusing issues, showing an appalling lack of knowledge about today’s world, and telling outright lies.

Trump’s avid followers may dismiss these signs, but those of us who are concerned about our country are bound to see them as alarming. His sudden bursts of temper—as in wanting to hit speakers at the Democratic convention—are frightening, since if elected he would have his hand on the nuclear button. He seems quick to anger without reasoned consideration. Nor does he forget and forgive.

I frankly am terrified of a possible Trump presidency. I think he could blow us all up in a fit of temper. And I’m doing everything I can to get that fear across to voters. I know too many who say they can’t stomach Hillary—if they don’t vote for Trump, they’ll vote for Johnson or Stein. As good as giving your vote to Trump.

Hillary needs all our votes. And to cynics who range from despising to criticizing, I will suggest that in 25 long years of persecution, she has never been indicted for anything, never proven guilty. Trump on the other hand was just indicted and fined for stiffing a contractor. Come on, people, why isn’t this crystal clear?

If we are to build America and continue life as we know it, Hillary is the only choice. We simply cannot elect a loose cannon like Trump.

Please, folks, study the background, the candidates, and the issues. Put some time in on this—it’s your life, and your kids and grandkids. Too precious to throw away in some misguided rebellion against the system. No more war, no more bloodshed, no more hate and anger. Please?

Where is Alexander Haig when we need him?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hiding in a book

I suspect most of those who follow this blog are readers, so in effect I’m going to be preaching to the choir. But I had two lessons today on the power of books. One was a newspaper article which discussed the growing communication gap between peace officers and citizens, especially black citizens. The article suggested several books to read for better understanding of each culture and how they can relate to each other.

The second was a more personal experience. I have been lost or hiding in a book all day yesterday and today. It’s a manuscript I’m reading for my friend Susan Witting Albert, a fictional exploration of the relationship between General Dwight David Eisenhower, his wife Mamie, and his British driver Kay Summersby. Believe it or not, I was too young during WWII to be aware of much of this history—or the scandal which was apparently kept quiet. But I didn’t even know the battle history, and I find it fascinating.

Getting lost doesn’t happen with every book I read, though I don’t know about you. But in a few books I find myself wrapped up in the world created by the book, so much a part of the characters and what’s happening to them, that I can read all day without stopping. It’s a rare and wonderful treat when that happens.

Oh, sure I read a lot of books that I enjoy but am not driven to read constantly. The plot is good, the characters believable, but that magic is just not there. I think of the things we see on Facebook and TV about teaching a child to read and opening a whole new world for them. Three of my four children were avid readers growing up (not so much now that the world crowds in on them) and some of my grandchildren read, others don’t. Jacob finds it boring, and I’m waiting for the light bulb to go on in his head. Madison, the oldest, crushed me when she said she thought To Kill a Mockingbird was boring—maybe she had the wrong teacher. They read dystopian sci-fi an fantasy things like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Rick Riordan’s books and the Game of Thrones—things I can’t relate to. But I’d rather have them reading those than not reading at all.

I had a professor when working on my masters who said he’s rather have kids reading comic books than not reading. I remembered that my knowledge of the Bible is straight out of the comic book Bibles I had as a child. And my conception of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, the rise of Satan, etc., all stems directly from a class on Milton I took while working on my Ph.D.

Yes, reading opens a magic world for us and enlarges our horizons. I’ve got to get over the lingering guilt that I should be working when I’m reading. A fellow author reminds me that reading is working for us. What a nice thought. I’ve worked hard the last couple of days.

Friday, July 29, 2016

First date jitters

When Carol Roark came to get me for supper tonight, I felt like a teenage girl on her first date. I had warned Carol that getting me out of the house was a difficult process but she plunged ahead, called it “extricating” me. Jordan stood by for advice and counsel, but Carol did it all—as my kids used to say, “by self.”

First I have to transfer from walker to wheelchair—a lightweight transport chair. This requires someone to hold the wheelchair steady while I pivot on my good foot. Then just getting the chair over the doorsill is a project that often has me tilted at crazy angles and Jordan cautioning, “Keep your arms in.” Then it’s down a steep makeshift ramp, across some plywood boards, and down a small drop to the driveway.

Getting into a car is also a process. The wheelchair has to be pulled up close to the seat, as head-on as possible. Once again, I pull myself up on the good foot and try to pivot until I can back onto the car seat. At times I can’t help but do a little hop-step on the weak foot. Once on the seat though, I can slide myself around and all is well. I’ve done serious study of cars—no way I can get into Jordan’s Forerunner, even the Lexus Suburban that Christian had briefly was a bit high. On the other hand, Jamie has a Porsche sports car—I’m afraid if I get down in it, I may never get back up. He’s taking me to a doctor appt. Tuesday so we’ll see.

Carol and I met Lon, her husband, at the Old Neighborhood Grill where aside from the fact that Lon drank half my wine before we told him which was mine and which was his, all was well. We had a pleasant visit and a good supper. My neighbor Jay (yes the good-looking one) came along, and the visit got longer. Then it was time to reverse the process.

Carol wanted to make sure she had the strength to push me back up the ramp, so both Jay and Lon stood at the ready, though Carol insisted she wanted to do it herself. When I was safely back in the house, she said, “This proves that we can do more outings.”

Not sure why I’m so blessed with friends, but I think it’s a great gift to me that she cares enough to learn the process and to plan on getting me out again. I am eternally grateful.

In Tomball I had lunch in restaurants twice, but Colin, who makes me feel so safe, was there. This was my first outing for supper and with someone who is not immediate family—well, close. It was good to be out in the world, and I hope to go more often now. I’ve always said I enjoy my solitude, but I also need the stimulation of people and good conversation. Thanks to Carol for giving me that opportunity, widening my world, and making me know that I will once again someday be able to come and go.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

An Act of Faith

July 27, 2016

I did something today that I’ve been dreading, putting off, considered ignoring: I upgraded to Windows 10, impressed by all those messages that warned the free upgrade was going away. The internet has been filled with dire warnings about what happened to some computers—files lost, etc. There was even a program you could install that said Never 10 and would prevent any automatic downloads. In fact, I think I had the program but it wasn’t apparent tonight—when I clicked the download button, Windows was merrily on its way.

I’ve been meaning to do this at night, but each night I automatically turned off the computer and realized the next morning the deadline was looming. So this afternoon I started the download when I went to nap—very tired, took a long nap, and when I got up it was 96% complete—great timing.

So far, as the download promised, all my files are exactly where I left them. The only problem I had was that the print looked smaller but that may have just been me—I was tired. Jamie magnified it to 125% and it’s great. This is a big worry off my mind.

And that’s the other nice thing that happened today: Jamie, my younger son, came to visit, arriving in time to pick up lunch and bring it to the house. Jordan, Jamie and I had a very social lunch, and after she went back to work, he and I talked politics for quite a while. I finally took a nap, and he set up his computer on the dining table and began to work.

Wednesday being Betty’s night to come for supper, I asked if she’d bring chicken fried steak for Jamie and a blue cheese hamburger for us to split—all from The Star Café, the restaurant she and her husband own. She did, and we had a jolly dinner, with Jamie at his comic best. Food was delicious. And now I’m full.

Jamie is apparently coming off a heavy travel time for his office and says he’ll try to come spend a day or part of a day with me each week. I haven’t seen him for a while and loved having him here. He was good about doing things—putting dogs out, etc. His presence made it a special day, and I look forward to seeing more of him.

Didn’t get a lot of work done but I did draft one guest blog and keep up with email, Facebook, and the like. So many folks on Facebook expressed their pleasure at the report of my progress in growing new bone—I am grateful for all the concern, can’t adequately express how great it makes me feel.

So the curtain goes down on another good day. I hope it was a good day for you too. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Good News Day

 I saw the orthopedic surgeon today for him to check progress of my ankle/leg. Let me preface this by saying he’s a really nice guy but going to see him always makes me nervous. No weight-bearing on my right foot is a difficult thing to accomplish. I have not put one foot in front of the other on solid ground for five weeks. Still, when I transfer from wheeled chair to bed or toilet or whatever, there are moments when I inadvertently step on that foot—not close enough, about to fall, etc. And of course there was a colossal fall in Tomball. Each time I think I’ve ruined whatever healing was taking place.

The first time I saw Dr. Cook we came home and I went up the front steps to the porch—didn’t have a ramp or a wheelchair at that point. I tried to step lightly on my bad foot, kind of a skip, but my brother would admonish, “You’re weight bearing, you’re weight bearing.” He said even one instance could make things worse.

So I went with fear and trepidation to the next appointment, sure that Dr. Cook would say I’d ruined it and he’d have to go in surgically and put rods, etc. in. Of course instead he said “It’s not any worse,” and told me to continue what I was doing. Today I was a bit more confident, but I could bat down an occasional thought of “Pride goeth before a fall.”

It turned out pride and those occasional mis-steps didn’t matter. I am growing new bone—I saw it on x-ray. Dr. Cook was encouraged and said it’s time to challenge the leg. I wanted to shout, “If it’s doing okay, can’t we just leave it alone?” But I am to start walking, with a physical therapist, three times a week. And I go back in two weeks.

Then there was the matter of the boot. We saw people in boots that were different from mine and asked about them. The doctor explained that they carried the Cadillac in the office, but my boot “would do.” Jordan wasn’t having any of that. He explained that Medicare had already bought me a boot and would not buy another. Jordan inquired about the price if we bought it outright--$200—and here I sit tonight in a new boot. It is lighter and easier on my foot, so I guess it was money well spent.

Megan went home last Saturday and Sunday she tripped and hurt her foot. Diagnosis today: hairline fracture of a bone in the foot. She is in a boot for six weeks, on crutches and no weight-bearing for two weeks. I told her she really didn’t have to go to extremes to show her sympathy. I’m truly sorry this happened and worried about her—how will she raise her two boys, cook for her family, and go to work? I’m sure it will work out.

I wrote to old friends yesterday telling them what happened, and they promptly replied today with intentions to call at a convenient time and to come inspect me and my new quarters. I assured them I’m all right and in good hands, but I’d love to see them. So sad it takes a broken leg to get them to visit.

Life is good, and I am blessed.

I saw the orthopedic surgeon today for him to check progress of my ankle/leg. Let me preface this by saying he’s a really nice guy but going to see him always makes me nervous. No weight-bearing on my right foot is a difficult thing to accomplish. I have not put one foot in front of the other on solid ground for five weeks. Still, when I transfer from wheeled chair to bed or toilet or whatever, there are moments when I inadvertently step on that foot—not close enough, about to fall, etc. And of course there was a colossal fall in Tomball. Each time I think I’ve ruined whatever healing was taking place.
The first time I saw Dr. Cook we came home and I went up the front steps to the porch—didn’t have a ramp or a wheelchair at that point. I tried to step lightly on my bad foot, kind of a skip, but my brother would admonish, “You’re weight bearing, you’re weight bearing.” He said even one instance could make things worse.
So I went with fear and trepidation to the next appointment, sure that Dr. Cook would say I’d ruined it and he’d have to go in surgically and put rods, etc. in. Of course instead he said “It’s not any worse,” and told me to continue what I was doing. Today I was a bit more confident, but I could bat down an occasional thought of “Pride goeth before a fall.”
It turned out pride and those occasional mis-steps didn’t matter. I am growing new bone—I saw it on x-ray. Dr. Cook was encouraged and said it’s time to challenge the leg. I wanted to shout, “If it’s doing okay, can’t we just leave it alone?” But I am to start walking, with a physical therapist, three times a week. And I go back in two weeks.
Then there was the matter of the boot. We saw people in boots that were different from mine and asked about them. The doctor explained that they carried the Cadillac in the office, but my boot “would do.” Jordan wasn’t having any of that. He explained that Medicare had already bought me a boot and would not buy another. Jordan inquired about the price if we bought it outright--$200—and here I sit tonight in a new boot. It is lighter and easier on my foot, so I guess it was money well spent.
Megan went home last Saturday and Sunday she tripped and hurt her foot. Diagnosis today: hairline fracture of a bone in the foot. She is in a boot for six weeks, on crutches and no weight-bearing for two weeks. I told her she really didn’t have to go to extremes to show her sympathy. I’m truly sorry this happened and worried about her—how will she raise her two boys, cook for her family, and go to work? I’m sure it will work out.
I wrote to old friends yesterday telling them what happened, and they promptly replied today with intentions to call at a convenient time and to come inspect me and my new quarters. I assured them I’m all right and in good hands, but I’d love to see them. So sad it takes a broken leg to get them to visit.
Life is good, and I am blessed.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Piece by piece--and civility, Democrats, and what have you

 That’s how slow progress on the cottage seems, but today was a red letter day. We went from this
to this.
The new couch will be easier to work with because of its solid color. Big advantage: it’s a hide-a-bed. Every time I’ve had one I’ve sworn never again, but this will be handy for the occasional out of town guest or for grandkids who might want to sleep in the cottage—dare I hope?

At any rate, that’s one more piece of the puzzle, and it makes me all the more anxious to get in the new space. I understand this week they’re making my cabinets for kitchen and bathroom—another step forward. I can see the sitting area in my mind and am wondering how close it will eventually come to the picture in my mind.

Other than that, it’s been a political day. I’ve had the Democratic convention on off and on, and until tonight it distressed me. The Democrats were in as much chaos as the Republicans had been and were, to my dismay, as rude. Even Nancy Pelosi was booed. What do you do when the party you’ve given your life to boos you?

I know in part this anger is directed toward Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who is now out of the picture, but I haven’t kept up with the details of why everyone’s angry with her. I gather it has something to do with dirty tricks to keep Bernie from being the Democratic nominee—which only proves both parties can do dirty tricks. Another sad commentary on our society.

It’s all part of a pattern that’s been discussed a lot—not so much the dumbing down of America (though that’s a real concern too) but the loss of civility. It’s easy for someone like me, a senior citizen, to look at the younger generations and wrong my hands, thinking of all that’s gone wrong. I’m not generally prone to that kind of thinking, but I am appalled at the loss of manners and civility. At first I thought it was simply the Republicans because Trump encourages such antics, but when it appears in the Democratic Party too, I’m afraid it’s a general loss of civility. Who among us was raised to boo at a speaker? What happened to courteous attention. When Bernie followers even boo at him, we’ve reached a low point. How can I teach my grandchildren manners when they have these examples in front of them? (Actually my grandchildren are much more polite than the people at the conventions.) Maybe it’s a crowd mentality?

I wish we could figure out a way to reward good manners and punish rudeness, but you can’t legislate these things. Thankfully tonight the convention seems more unified—hope I haven’t spoken too soon.

I read a lot by people who post on Facebook that they will never discuss politics because you can’t ever change anybody’s mind. That may be true, but I read a moving post by a woman who said she feels she has a moral obligation to speak out against the threat that Donald Trump poses to this country and our way of life. So watch for me to speak out—but in civil terms.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Life in the slow lane

I now live with three dogs—the two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels belonging to Jordan and Christian have come to stay, apparently for the duration. They quickly learned that happy hour means treat time, so even before we settle down with a glass of wine, they begin barking and demanding. Sophie knows what to do with a rawhide treat—go off in a corner and chew until it’s gone. Cricket and June Bug haven’t quite figured that out. They gnaw a bit, and then the lick a lot. Finally, one will tire of that game and walk away; quick as a flash, the other one is on the abandoned treat. So then we have a sort of pas de deux where they simply trade. Finally, when they tire enough, Jordan takes the treats away and saves them for another day. They are after all a bit expensive.

Tonight Sophie got hold of one of their abandoned treats—Jordan tried to get it from her but the wretch growled. When I grabbed her and took it out of her mouth—with some tugging,, I admit—she never offered a sound, so I praised her lavishly. She’s really done a good job of letting these two interlopers into her house, and I try to make sure she maintains a sort of privileged status. But Cricket and June Bug are sure cute and silly.

When Jordan calls them to go out or eat supper, they all three follow her anxiously. She looks like the Pied Piper of dogs. In another month or so, Sophie and I will be in our own quarters, and things will be much easier.

Tonight Jordan, Christian and I had Sunday supper—Doris’ casserole, a favorite of all the family except Megan who detests it, and a good green salad. Sunday supper used to be a tradition in the family, and there were times when the kids were in high school and college that I cooked for 15 or 20. Sometimes I make an effort to invite people to share with us but it’s hard since I can’t cook. I do however have a great file of recipes that will feed Coxie’s Army.

Once I tried a cornbread/hamburger mixture, and my brother looked at me and asked, “Sis, is the budget the problem?” In my own defense I also sometimes did leg of lamb.

Those Sunday night dinners with cousins and friends remain a good memory for my children, and that makes me glad I spent all those Sundays cooking. They grew up with hospitality as a way of life.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Chaos to Calm

My daughters
This afternoon I found myself alone, with three sleeping dogs, in a house that was eerily quiet. I’ve been used to chaos the past week—two ten-year-old boys can make more noise than a herd of elephants. And their mothers, my daughters, aren’t always soft-spoken. Plus there have been people in and out all week—repairmen, plumbers and electricians working on the cottage who found it necessary to come into the main house, the wonderful lady who cleans for me every other week, and of course happy hour guests. I’ve loved every minute of the chaos.

But today Megan and Ford went back to Austin, Jacob went to visit his other grandparents, Jordan went to work on her house, and I was alone. I took a deep breath and enjoyed it. When the grandchildren were little they’d make a total mess of the house, toys strewn everywhere, and I’d mentally worry about reclaiming the house. But their parents were good and when they left, the house was back in order, if not spotless. I used to take one of those deep breaths and say to the dog, “It’s ours. We have our house back.” I was of course sorry to see them go, but a part of me was relieved. That happened again today—when everyone was gone, the major portions of my house were neat. Some rooms will never be neat again until the merge/move is accomplished. But I have my house back.

Seemed like yesterday, my birthday, was particularly hectic, though it was a lovely day. Still Jordan had a flat tire, Christian came to pick up the grandsons so the girls and I could have a lovely lunch at Neiman’s, and then we gathered for supper. It was low-key, as I requested, with only one dinner guest. We had hamburgers on paper plates in the living room. Funny, how some birthdays you want a huge, blow-out celebration and others you want low-key. For my 70th we invited almost a hundred people to Joe T.’s for supper, and as 80 approaches, I’m wondering what I’ll want. But for now, this year, low-key was  great.

People energize me, and one of the blessings during this housebound phase is that Jordan has made sure to invite people over, so that I’ve had lots of company. I am not solitary like writers are said to be, and I can’t write new material for more than two hours at a time, if that.  But I also enjoy aloneness. It gives me a chance to organize my thoughts—today I cleaned off my very messy desk and had, heaven help me, a new thought about one of the half-baked projects in my computer. I had a lovely nap and was primed for a simple supper alone when Jordan arrived and fixed me supper. After all the dinners we’ve had this week, focusing in part on filling up two young boys with wooden legs, I was ready for simple and light—cottage cheese and raspberries.

Tomorrow I’ll be home alone, with the dogs, for much of the day. I’m rather relishing the idea.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Another birthday milestone--and some interesting thoughts

One year ago today, on my 77th birthday, I embarked on a project of using this blog to chronicle my year. After a year I planned to review the year, reassess, and perhaps publish the blogs. I wrote that I was striding confidently into my 78th year, in good health, with the blessings of family, home, career, wonderful dog. Little did I imagine how much would change in a year nor how I would be tested.

Notable in my mind is the fact that I can no longer claim to be in good health. I am officially disabled and taking advantage of Medicare’s home health services. Long story short: I fell in early May and ended up, through my own stubbornness, with an ankle that a trauma surgeon declared beyond surgical repair—a mixed blessing.

I have been non-weight-bearing on my right foot for five weeks, with no idea when things will change. I wear an orthopedic boot night and day. At first this threw me into a great depression, and I decided this would be the year that I aged. Pulled myself out, with the help of medication, because I knew I didn’t want to live that way.

To complicate matters, I have had troublesome stomach issues for about five weeks—far too long, and a physician’s assistant has ordered overdue tests. I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of this and correct it. I recognize that though my ankle/leg may get better, I may never walk gracefully and there may be canes, walkers, even wheelchairs in my future. That’s okay, better than a lot of alternatives.

My children have been really supportive. Jordan and her family will be moving into my house in late summer, but she has effectively moved her dogs and herself in already, my oldest son came and got me and took me to his house for a week to give Jordan a break, and this past week my oldest daughter has been here doing yeoman’s work, filling in for those chores I can’t do for myself as I scoot about the house riding on a walker. My younger son will spend a few days with me in August when Jordan goes out of town.

Some good things have happened: I published The Gilded Cage, a book that may be the pinnacle of my career. My chili book is a finalist in the cookbook category of the Will Rogers Medallion Award. Construction of a cottage for me—converting garage apartment—is nearing completion, and I hope to move in September.

Most of all I have had the loving support of a wide variety of people. Many have called me courageous, which is not a trait I’d assign to myself. I’d never, for instance, ride a roller coaster. Going down the ramp in a wheelchair is enough adventure for me. But there are different kinds of courage, and if people see my upbeat spirit as courage, good . It gives me a goal to meet.

My son-in-law said tonight I’ve been tested by my journey and come out of it a stronger person. I’d like to think that’s true.

Birthday grins from two adorable grandsons
I no longer make predictions about the coming year. Lord knows what it will bring, but I hope I’ll be ready to continue the journey in good spirits.

Publish my blogs of the past year? It looks like a lot of work. Maybe only if I can hire an assistant.

Thanks to each of you for love and support.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tacky Yard Art

I seem to have an affinity lately for tacky metal yard art. It began perhaps three years ago when a friend gave me a purple metal pig. We hung it over the deck and called it The Flying Pig. I never thought of a whole flock of animals, but a year ago on my birthday my oldest son and his wife gave me an adorable and colorful Chihuahua, suitably dressed.

A wise old owl followed, then a pink flamingo, and for Christmas a colorful peacock with his tail fanned out. When we finish the cottage they will all go out around the patio. I remember when my oldest daughter threatened something awful if I put a flamingo in the back yard—not to worry, the life-sized one is in the back, but there is a one-dimensional one in the front yard. Its pink needs revitalizing.

Recently I was in Tomball, from whence came all these treasures, and I needed birthday presents for two dear and close friends, one a lifelong cat lover. Since I’m immobile I sent my daughter-in-law, Lisa, out on the hunt. She scoured several sites but could not find a cat, and we finally settled on a bright yellow chicken. The second gift I needed was for a dog lover, soi got a Dachshund.

Today we had a birthday lunch, and I presented by offerings by setting them at each place at the table. Mind you, I was a little hesitant about this—these are not casual ladies but they seemed pleased with them. The dachshund is not inappropriately named Fritz and will go on a sun porch. Not so sure about the chicken—one of Betty’s daughters already thinks her backyard looks like a Turkish flea market—and this will do little to correct that impression.

I’m fascinated by these critters but I realize there is too much of a good thing. I’m swearing off.       

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Domestic Matters

 Today was a milestone. I got to tour my almost-completed cottage. It’s not quite as big as I thought, but perhaps will seem bigger with furniture. It’s going to be a cozy hideaway, and I could see places to put a lot of things I want to hang on to. What serves as a kitchen area is pretty small, but rest assured—I can fix tuna salad for you. Or tea. Or happy hour, which we can enjoy in the comfort of the sitting area in my parlor/office.

I can imagine myself working at my desk and staring out at the garden through the French doors. The doors let in a lot of light, plus the contractor put 16 recessed light bulbs in various places in the ceiling. The place is so bright that the old yellow on the walls jumps out at you. Today we picked a new paler shade of yellow but still with the warm peach overtones that I like. We also ordered carpet—splurged here a bit and chose a low pile (good for wheels of my walker, although I keep reminding everyone I don’t intend to be on a walker forever). The carpet is not the plain beige I thought I’d end up with but has sort of a beige and cream zigzag pattern. My daughters assure me it looks good in a large sample. Unfortunately, it’s not practical to load me in the car to go see the large sample, so I will trust their judgment.

The main room, where I’ll spend most of my time, is lovely, open and light-filled. I think with furniture it will look warm and welcoming. Heat and a/c goes in tomorrow, so bit by bit we’re getting there. I’m getting antsy to move in.

Meantime, this week I’m home with two daughters, two grandsons, and three dogs. None are a problem, though the daughters tend to roll their eyes and laugh at me. Megan can find stains on clothes that I think are perfectly fine.

They get kudos, however, for feeding me well.
Sunday night, Megan fixed a wild rice/chicken salad with celery and roasted almonds; the next night we had tuna salad with avocado and cherry tomatoes—I added a bit of blue cheese.
Last night it was pork tenderloin with roasted new potatoes and green salad. Leftovers were delicious tonight.

My birthday---shh!
78—is coming up Friday, so we’ll begin celebrating tomorrow with lunch for two good friends, each of whom have June or July birthdays. They’ll bring the food, and I’ll pour the wine. And I know they’ll want a tour of the cottage. Nice way to celebrate.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I have become a statistic

As many of you know, I fell in late April/early May and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I broke both bones in my lower right leg, almost in the ankle. Walking on it for two weeks did not help healing, and an orthopedic surgeon pronounced it beyond repair. I am now wearing an orthopedic boot night and day, which is a real pain but if it keeps me out of surgery, I’m grateful to do it and wheel around on the walker (you’re not supposed to do that). Getting me out of the house in a transport chair is difficult for all involved, including me—but it can be done. I am officially handicapped and have the benefit of the Medicare Home Health program. I cannot put any weight on my right foot for the foreseeable future.

At first I thought this was the event that would turn me into an old woman, but I don’t feel that way anymore. Depression has been replaced by an optimistic kind of acceptance, and I remain in good spirit most of the time. Frustrated, though, by all the things I can’t do—reach up in a cabinet, fix my meals (unless someone has already prepared food), make my bed, etc. Washing my hair is an exercise in ingenuity—I balance on one foot, holding on to the sink with one hand and lathering with the other.

In spite of all, I fell again last week when visiting my son in Tomball. In my own defense it was dark and my eyes hadn’t adjusted. I thought I lined my walker up with the edge of the bed, but in truth I had them at an angle—and the bed simply wasn’t where I thought it should be. I ended on the floor, whacking the side of my head. Had a huge shiner the next day—looked like a painted eye patch. Then it began to heal—draining into my cheek and neck. I’d post a picture but I don’t want any of you to see me looking like that. Jordan and Jacob have taken to warning visitors before they see me.

All this means that I am a statistic:

1 of three seniors fall each year

1 of five sustain serious injury, usually fractured hip or head trauma

700,000 are hospitalized

250,000 break a hip, which is often the end to good health.

Deaths from falls have dramatically increased since 2004 and now stand at 58 per 100,000 people

Many seniors become so afraid of falling that they cut down on activities, thereby growing weaker and more prone to falling.

What factors can you work on to avoid falling?

Exercise to strengthen lower body

Take plenty of Vitamin D

Exercise to improve balance

Check meds—do they make you sleepy, dizzy, unsure of your footing?

Check your vision

If you suffer from foot pain or wear inappropriate shoes, you’re more likely to fall.

Home hazards include throw rugs, broken stairs, stairs without handrails.

Listen up my fellow senior citizens and be very careful but do live your life and enjoy it!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Dining Out in Tomball

Tomball isn’t exactly a metropolis yet, though it may be headed that way. It’s a small, sleepy town that suddenly folks discovered, and it had a growth spurt. The main highway through town is lined with all the chains you’d expect. I saw the old part of town and it’s charming—I remember having ice cream at a sweet shop there. But not a lot beckons you to dine in a restaurant.

Last week, we generally ate at home. I’m of the pick-up, leftover variety for lunch, and Lisa cooked us such good suppers that we stayed home—chicken piccata, chicken parmesan, hamburgers on the grill, cheese enchiladas. But we did venture out twice for lunch.

The first time was to Goodson’s, a chicken-fried-steak place I’d heard was renowned. They do toot their own horn, calling it the best CFS in Texas. It was a funky place with a plastic cow in the lobby, lots of stuff on the wall, etc. The steak was good—batter terrific and generous, serving large (and we ordered small) but the meat was tough. Colin and I agreed that the CFS at the Star Café in Fort Worth is better. The Star, where Colin briefly waited tables, is owned by good friends but don’t think we’re prejudiced—our choice was a carefully considered decision. The sides at Goodson’s were great and leftovers made a good meal the next night.

The second place was the Classic Café in Hempstead. Colin kept saying it was my kind of place—and he was right. Talk about funk! In the front there’s an antique/junk store, and the lunchroom is behind it. You approach through a garden that is a jumble of blooming, vibrant native flowers—the kind of garden I always wish I had enough sun for but, alas, I don’t. The menu was equally pleasing—sandwiches, wraps, a few entrees, a couple of soups. Lisa had a caprese sandwich (I never heard of making that salad into a sandwich), Colin had a chicken pesto wrap on what looked to be a spinach enchilada, and I had an open-faced turkey, melted brie and cranberry relish. It was delicious, though I itch to try it with real turkey and not lunch meat. But it was the kind of restaurant where the waitress chats with you. You can take home a pan of lasagna, King Ranch Chicken, and a couple of other casseroles. Down home at its best.

            Tomball has other restaurants, one I’ve been to several times—Mexican food at Julio’s, which is funny because Colin once worked at Uncle Julio’s in Fort Worth. And the kids mentioned a hamburger joint I’d like and one other. I don’t need to go back to Goodson’s, though I’ll go to Classic Café again. And I’ll let the kids lead me to other explorations. Good times.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Hi, ho, hi, ho. Home again@

I’m back, with apologies for the hiatus. I’ve been in Tomball visiting Colin, my oldest son, and his wonderful family. Jacob went with me to play and hang out with his cousins Morgan, almost twelve, and Kegan, nine. They swam and fished, swam and fished, swam and fished. Jacob caught the most—five fish, including a catfish, first caught in the lake by anyone in our circle. The kids also made s’mores over an open fire, had a water balloon fight, ate snow cones, jumped on the trampoline, went to a movie, went to Top Golf, made their own pizzas and sundaes, and did a thousand other things I can’t think of right now. Aunt Lisa was Camp Tomball Director, and she kept them busy and happy. Last night I asked Jacob if he wanted to go home or stay there, and he said he wanted to stay there the rest of his life.
I should explain. Colin and Lisa live in the country, down a skinny gravel road, outside Tomball. They have a ‘50s moderne house on about three acres with wonderful landscaping that’s been in place long enough to mature, a  small lake (or large pond), and new this year, a wonderful swimming pool.
I also took Sophie, and all three grandkids were good about walking her, and she herself was good as gold—got along with their shepherd mix (even though they ate each other’s food). She slept all night—sometimes on the couch, which was verboten—didn’t mess in the house, was just generally well behaved. And she loved the company, pitched a fit the couple of times we went out and left her.
My days fell into a wonderful pattern. I set up an office at the end of the dining table where I could look to the left at the swimming pool and straight ahead at the lake. I worked at my computer until lunch, read a bit after lunch, napped, and before I knew it, it was dinner time. My favorite time of the day came after supper when we took wine down to the lake and sat enjoying the company, the place, our world in general.

Colin worked hard, building makeshift ramps, etc. to make the house safe for me. And both of them waited on me hand and foot until I am if possible more spoiled than Jordan has made me. Lisa would constantly say, “Drink water. If you don’t Jordan’s going to kill me.” Both Colin and Lisa were around most of the time. Colin even worked from home all but a day and a half, and Lisa, a teacher on summer break, had some appointments but was home or entertaining kids most of the time.
All in all, it was a wonderful week. But this morning, Megan, my oldest daughter, and her nine-year-old son Ford, drove from Austin to Tomball to get us and we came home to Fort Worth. Ford and Jacob will be in the TCU Baseball Camp all week, and Megan will stay with me. She has work to do so I may get a little done, but I’m not counting on it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Restoration ecology--and a slight hiatus

I hope you've been missing Judy's Stew the last few days. I am temporarily unable to post for a variety of reasons, none of them serious or cause for concern. I hope to be back next weekend and hope you'll once again check in to find out what's been going on in my world and my liberal mind.
I did read a blog tonight about restoration ecology, applying the idea of healing after a disastrous fire, to what we need to do for our society in the wake of recent violence. Read it here: Food for thought.
Y'all have a good week.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Another Dark Day for Dallas

July 8, 2016

Dallas has had dark days. November 22,1963 stands out as the darkest, the day President Kennedy was assassinated. The negative reputation earned that day stayed with Dallas for years. I remember when I first moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, we drove to Dallas to look at the assassination site. Just the drive made me so nervous I thought my heart would beat out of my chest. Fifty years later, I go by it without a thought, which is a pity.

Now Dallas has another blot on its history—last night’s shooting that killed five and wounded seven, most of them law officers. So much has been said about it that I hesitate to add to the mass. Many people have asked an unanswered question—why Dallas? Some suggest it’s the racist divisiveness fostered by Texas’ extremely conservative state politicians. Other suggest it’s because Dallas has so many underprivileged, angry people with access to guns. (One protestor last night was carrying an AR-15 slung over his back—he supposedly came in peace but one wonders.) And then there are those who blame the racist hate-mongering of President Obama. Pardon me? I must have missed that. I find the president one who embraces all people and stresses the need for unity, not division.

So why Dallas? I suspect it was probably happenstance. The angry young man who was eventually killed in a parking garage could easily have been in Chicago, Seattle, Cleveland or Philadelphia. He just happened to be in Dallas. On the other hand I read somewhere that this was a plot hatched some time ago, waiting for an opportune moment to happen. That would certainly make it more sinister, if such is possible.

As a resident of Fort Worth, some 35 miles to the west, I’m not fond of Dallas. The pace is too hectic, the drivers are rude—though I have to add that the restaurants are really good. My feelings are not based on the traditional rivalry between the two cities (Dallas is where the East peters out; Fort Worth is where the West begins). But a recent poll showed Dallas to be one of the rudest cities, while Fort Worth is one of the friendliest. In Fort Worth, though, we feel the impact of events in Dallas and perhaps none more than today.

We tell ourselves that would never happen in Fort Worth, but that’s head-in-the-sand denial. It could as easily have been an angry young man here. We have a peaceful protest planned for Sunday, and I pray it remains peaceful.
Last weekend, speaking on the occasion of the death of holocaust survivor and activist Elie Wiesel, President Obama delivered a message that is particularly meaningful today: He raised his voice, not just against anti-Semitism, but against hatred, bigotry and intolerance in all its forms. He implored each of us, as nations and as human beings, to do the same, to see ourselves in each other and to make real that pledge of ‘never again.’

It’s a message we all need to take to heart today.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Another day, but not another dollar

It's beginning to look like a home
In many ways my days are unremarkable—I get up before eight, do my morning rituals including washing my hair at the kitchen sink while balancing on one foot, and then take breakfast to my desk. Breakfast may be anything from yogurt to cereal. I work all morning and somehow never get to my new project—today it was Facebook, email, newspaper, and entering The Gilded Cage in a contest. Then it was lunch time-my standard fare of tuna salad with cottage cheese. Then a bit more time at my desk and a nap.

Tonight we had happy hour, which turned into a lively discussion of Italy, travel, and, of course inevitably, politics. My neighbor Jay and I have opposing political beliefs—he swears Hillary is a felon and should be in jail; my arguments fall on deaf ears. Our other guests were surprised at the vehemence with which we debated. Later, after others had left, he said, “What’s wrong with them that they get so anxious when we debate politics?” He doesn’t take it seriously, though I do a bit more because I’m appalled that someone thinks as he does. He did say, however, that he would not vote for Trump because “He’s crazy.” He thinks the Republican party will disallow the Trump candidacy. Interesting to see the GOP convention—is it next week?

When Jordan was young, I served dinner every night at six, and I had a balanced meal planned for every night of the week. Those days are long gone. If I ask at five what’s for dinner, she has no idea. Tonight my dinner was a couple of miniature quiches, some cherry tomatoes, and cottage cheese followed by some of the Jello with fruit. I fixed all this myself because Jordan was still outside inspecting the cottage.

The cottage is coming along. Today they put in the window for my bedroom and put on the siding where it was once a parking bay. The window looks great. The bedroom looks very small.
My tiny bedroom
Insulation and sheet rock are in place, and it’s beginning to look like livable space. I wish I could go see, but it’s still a mess inside and there is no easy way to get me down the steps out of this house—a ramp that scares Jordan half to death—and up the steps to the cottage, though there will be a ramp there eventually. Besides, I don’t expect to be in a wheeled device forever.

Somehow at the end of these unremarkable days, I’m exhausted. Could go to sleep now at 8:15 but know I’d be wide awake at 5:00 a.m. or earlier. And another day of nothing done on the new novel. I have lots of ideas, and I know I’m procrastinating.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Happy day with good news

Friends, I had an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon today, and I cannot tell you how anxious I was about it. I had so many warnings about dire consequences if I put weight on my broken ankle at all. There are of course instances where you can’t help but put a little weight on it, like the night I nearly fell between my walker and the bed and decided it was best to use the foot instead of ending up on the floor.

So please rejoice with me that the doctor said “it’s not any worse.” No, he didn’t mention healing, etc., but he’s apparently not an effusive person. I thought this was the best I could hope for, couple with his prescription to continue what I’ve been doing for three weeks and then go back to see him.

So tonight, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and a celebratory dinner—meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes with cream gravy. I’ve been eating light—tuna salad, etc.—but tonight I found myself hungry. Probably a good sign.

That’s all, folks. It’s my good news of the day.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Fourth of July Memories

How do you celebrate the Fourth? With a barbecue, burgers and dogs and potato salad? Do you go someplace to watch fireworks?

I am spending a quiet day at home today, but the Fourth brings many memories from over the years. When I was a teenager in Chicago, I used to go with a group of friends to Soldiers Field where we watched stock car races (what that has to do with patriotism baffles me to this day) and then what we considered a spectacular display of fireworks. I suppose it would pale by today’s standards. In retrospect, it was unlike my parents to let me go to something like that with a group of friends, but they did.

My neighborhood has a parade which is pretty much a big deal—one family offers mimosas and bloody Marys at a curbside stand, but the focus is really all on the children.  Toddlers as young as two drive their foot-powered vehicles on the six-block route that ends at the local elementary school where there are snow cones and other goodies.

When my children were young—thirty years ago or more—they dressed in red, white and blue, pulled the red wagon, and were a proud part of the parade in the neighborhood where we then lived. One year Jamie made a striking Paul Revere, though I wonder to this day where we got a tri-cornered hat for him. He even had a brass bell to ring as he sounded the alarm. The kids would weave crepe paper banners into the spokes of their bikes. They never won a costume prize but that didn’t seem to faze them.

When my ex was still with us, we went to the top floor—twelfth?—of the Medical Education Building at TCOM. As a faculty member, he had access. Great view, luxury seating, but I only remember doing that a couple of times.

One year the kids and I went with their Uncle Bob (an adopted relative) to watch the city fireworks. For some reason we decided to go to the middle of a long high bridge over the Trinity. Uncle Bob, now long gone, was gay as a goose and afraid of many of the things that spook me. In the middle of the bridge, we simultaneously had panic attacks, and the kids had to lead us off. Not our best year.

Some years I went with friends to Oakwood Cemetery, a local historic landmark, for the tour of graves of famous characters and then to watch fireworks from the banks of the Trinity River. A few years we went to the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens for a concert followed by fireworks, and many years I went to local Colonial Country Club with friends—often Jordan’s friends. We sat on the ground directly under the fireworks, and I decided I didn’t really like the sensation of those loud explosions coming right at me—made me feel like I was having a heart attack. A couple of years I went with neighbors, and we watched from a second floor balcony—much more my style.

One problem with going somewhere to watch these displays is that they all end about the same time, and traffic snarls—it can take an hour or more to get home.

Tonight I’m spending the evening quietly at home—obviously since I can’t put weight on one foot and am in no shape to go anywhere. We had enough fireworks last night—loud, rolling thunder and great flashes of lightning. It got to Sophie who slept part of the night with me. Jordan reported this morning that at one point she had both her dogs, who were visiting, plus Sophie in bed with her.

The Fourth is the most dangerous holiday for dogs. One out of five dogs disappear. We used to have a collie who was desperate to get inside when fireworks went off. Before we realized this he destroyed an aluminum screen door—in a rent house, of course. Sophie, bothered by thunder, is not much aware of fireworks, but she’ll be inside.

Happy Fourth everybody.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

A world without dogs would be empty

How much of a dog person are you? How much do you worry about their sensitivity and feelings? Jordan arrived about six tonight bringing her two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels hoping to begin to acclimate them to what will be their new home. Sophie had just begun to chew on her dental chew (she gets one every night). This was the thickest big one she had ever had, and chewing on it was a long and hard job. She chew, and watch Cricket and June Bug warily, as though they’d come over and steal her chew. They wouldn’t. They don’t particularly like chews, and their temperament is far from confrontational. But Sophie was ready just in case.

At one point, David (one of my "other sons") put the chew on the buffet, at my request. Sophie came looking for it, sniffed it out, climbed on a footstool, and grabbed it off the buffet. David watched and said, “I’m impressed.” I told him poodles and border collies are two of the smartest breeds, and she is a dynamite combination.

Sophie is such an important part of my days since I’m home all the time. She gives me th companionship I crave. She sleeps on her chair in my office—that old, ratty, filthy chair is going to the cottage with me, because where else would she sleep? Maybe we can wash the slipcover. When I nap or at night, Sophie visits me in my bed. Sometimes she stays a while, and sometimes not.

In the late afternoon when folks gather for happy hour, she thinks it’s time to eat and demands her chew treat and her dinner. But she won’t eat her dinner alone in the office—she’s a sociable creature and wants folks around when she eats. Tonight, Cricket and June Bug made no attempt on her food, though Soph would eat and look around warily. It may take more for Sophie to acclimate than the two spaniels.

Tonight was a light summer supper. Jordan makes superb tuna, with the tuna I order specially from Oregon. I told David I’d be interested if he could tell the difference—he’s a confirmed tuna lover but eats Chicken of the Sea albacore. He took one bit of our tuna and said, “Oh my gosh, yes!” It really is soooo good. Now I have lunches for the next few days.

Tonight the spaniels will sleep in their shared crate in the sunroom, and Sophie will have free rein in the rest of the house. Jordan objected to that and said the first time she barks, she’s locked up in the office. My argument is that if she barks, she’s protecting us against something and we need to pay attention. Authorities say a dog that barks is one of the best protections against burglaries. We’ll see what Sophie does tonight—and what Jordan does.

I love dogs—did you guess?

Saturday, July 02, 2016

A World of Hate and Lies

 As we get ready to celebrate our American heritage, it strikes me as too bad that the internet has spawned a world of hate and lies. Those who are aware know that Facebook brings out the vulgar worst in some people, a minority really, but they make so much noise they seem to be in the majority. Today, though, I was struck by the accusations

This morning I learned that President Obama is a Muslim fellow traveler and Hillary a Communist mother. Hillary should be in jail while the FBI charges are pending, and she is much more dangerous for our country than Donald Trump (but nobody said in what way). Obama has trashed the Constitution (what again is his field of expertise? Does someone say trashed because of his interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, which should be clear to any citizen with half a brain—the 2nd does not mean individual citizens armed with AK 15 rifles but rather a militia armed with powder-loading muskets).

Friends say if I get that upset by these postings I should get off Facebook, but I don’t think that’s the answer. For one thing, I enjoy Facebook immensely and for another it behooves me as a writer to keep a fairly high profile. Also, just as we ae called up to testify to our beliefs about religion, I believe we are called upon to try to spread a little sanity on the political discourse. I know you don’t convince people on Facebook, especially when their minds are made up the other way. To my way of thinking, they are blind believers but a good friend accused me of that in reference to the Clintons, so I’m sure conservatives see me as a foolish liberal. But if I can impress one individual with the idea that America is about equality and Christianity is about love and faith, not hate, then I will have made my Facebook angst worthwhile.

Today the world mourns the death of Ellie Wiesel. He stood for what I’m trying to say, insisting that silence helps the tormentor but not the tormented. His reference of course was to Nazi Germany, but I think it applies to present-day politics: if I remain silent, I help conservative forces who will take this country down a path I don’t want to think about. I will continue to speak out. Hope it doesn’t cost me readers.

Rant over. It was a pleasant day, though hot, and I am still grateful to be inside. Friends came for happy hour, and I am a happy camper. Will work some tonight.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Blatant Self Promotion

There is no other word for this blog. But for the time being I’ve introduced a new header for the blog, and I might as well explain—and brag. I thought I had posted about this but a good friend says it has not reached my blog, so here goes. It was all over Facebook and garnered many complimentary comments—I am in danger of getting the big head.

Through the summer, the Lone Star Literary Life web page is featuring me as a Texas author. The illustration you see above is the montage created for that feature, and it is accompanied by a most flattering write-up that you can find at To say that I’m thrilled, flattered, and humbled is a huge understatement, but I am all those things and grateful. When you retire and kind of fade away into the sunset, it’s wonderful to have your accomplishments recognized and celebrated. I remain proud of everything I did for TCU Press and of the books I published during those years. So please don’t judge me harshly for bragging.

Tonight was our potluck salad dinner—delicious! We had pea salad, pasta salad with chicken, tossed salad with strawberries and poppy seed dressing, potato salad, and fresh fruit. Looking forward to leftover lunches in the next few days.  The pea salad and pasta are what Jordan made last night when I unjustly worried about the outcome because she’d had a few cocktails—Christian’s wording, not mine.

and we had a hilarious good time. Have you ever listened to three men, each of whom does the laundry at their house, discuss the proper way to fold towels and the pros and cons of various methods? The evening went on in that vein, with lots of laughter, teasing about an inability to use an iPhone, and in general affectionately picking on people.

So tonight I’m feeling appreciated professionally and loved personally—can’t ask for much more than that. Long weekend looms but Jordan will be around and I have things to do. All will be well.