Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Celebrating a good report

Jordan stole my thunder and posted this picture and a
sketchy report before I could so if this is old news,
I apologize.
Jordan and I celebrated today with a mid-afternoon glass of wine and a charcuterie and cheese board at Café Press. We had what she called "an experience." Lovely to sit outside—we couldn’t see the river but knew it was there, and the restaurant is surrounded by a park-like setting. The trailhead is right there, and people came by walking dogs, riding bikes, and walking or running. Made me think again what a neat city we live in.

We were celebrating a good appointment with my hip surgeon. I was cleared to gradually put more weight on my left foot, aiming toward full weight in 3-4 weeks, which means I’d then be walking normally and using the walker for balance only. I asked how I’d know if I was putting too much weight on it, and the one-word answer was “Pain.” So far, I’ve been almost pain-free. I hope to quickly graduate from wheelchair to walker full time.

I am fine to stay alone, per the doctor. Although he doesn’t really care about physical therapy he will continue it for a bit and wrote orders for the therapist. Other movement restrictions were taken away (I can cross my ankles, which I’d been doing unconsciously, but not my thighs—that’s okay), and I have a much better idea of how to put on pants myself, etc. The surgeon and his PA. are more laid-back about things than the therapist. I no longer have to sleep with that wedge between my knees, but I have to continue to stretch groin and butt muscles.

I cannot drive or do stairs, but those things will come By the time I go back to the dr. it will be just shy of a year since all this began—though I know I’d felt it for some time, as in years with twinges in that hip. I could not sleep on my left side for long because the hip would begin to ache. I still can’t sleep on my left side, but I can sleep on the right. I’ve been faithfully sleeping on my back—which causes a vanity problem. It’s wearing away the hair on the back of my head!

It’s been a long year, but now I feel so incredibly much better and livelier than I have in longer than a year—much longer. My balance is better—I notice that when I stand at the sink to do dishes. I’m sure I have more life and vitality than I did three or four months ago. No, I won’t say it’s been worth the pre-op pain and the drastic change in lifestyle, but I am incredibly grateful to be where I am today.

And to be looking ahead—today we discussed making family plans for Christmas. I figure it’s a good thing that I’m not buried in the moment but am planning ahead.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Dogs I have known and loved II—the dog that broke my heart

I always thought Sophie needed a playmate (this was before the Burtons and their Cavaliers moved into the house) so I was ever on the lookout for the dog I couldn’t resist. I saw him one morning—I suspect on Facebook when the shelter that held him posted his picture. I called my neighbor, Jay, and asked if he wanted to drive to Decatur that morning (30-40 miles away). “Not particularly,” was his answer. But when I told him the story and sent him the picture, he was hooked. I called the shelter to make sure they’d hold the dog for me. And off we went.

At the shelter, someone mentioned that the dog had gotten a bit testy with a groomer, but no more was said and in my euphoria, I passed it off. He was sort of collie-like, sort of Aussie, I wasn’t sure. He had no back-story; he’d been found on the side of the road. But he was gorgeous, and he loved both of us right away. Jay walked him around to see how he behaved and pronounced it good. We took him.

In the truck on the way home we named him Luke Alter. Jay thought it had a perfect ring, and I thought it sounded like a character out of one of the many westerns I’d written. We laughed and joked, always with Luke pressing his nose between us to get attention.

I took him to the vet, who pronounced him mostly Bearnese Mountain Dog—small for the breed but the coloring was right on. He was healthy—and well behaved. For the first few days his only flaw was a tendency to escape the back yard—if I parked in the back of the driveway and headed toward the front door, I’d find him trotting along next to me. He’d dug out and just wanted to be with me. Sometimes he dug out when there was no one there—then he’d appear at the front door, obviously wanting to be let in. Luke knew he had a home, and he had no desire to go anywhere else.

Trouble began when he got a toy stuck under an ottoman, and Jacob tried to free it for him. Luke apparently thought Jacob was taking his toy and snapped. We chalked it up to a misunderstanding. But then Luke violently attacked a dinner guest who went to him with arms outspread. Next it was the teenager across the street who dog-sat for me. And he snapped at Jacob again. My dog-sitter’s mother said the most cogent thing: “You can keep him but you’ll have to change your lifestyle.” It meant no more company; the people I loved would not feel free to come to the house.

Jordan and Christian finally said they were going to curtail Jacob’s visits to the house. They couldn’t take a chance.

All along it was clear that Luke adored me—and I returned it in kind. He’d sit next to my desk, and we’d have long petting sessions and conversations. But I was tormented. I had to do something. I consulted my vet; trainers and breeders. The universal opinion was that if he was a biter, he wasn’t going to change. And if I surrendered him, I needed to be truthful: I couldn’t foist a biter off on innocent people.

Reluctantly Jay and I took him to the humane society. I swear they euthanized him before we were even out of the parking lot. It was one of the most traumatic moments in my life.

I blogged about the pain this had caused me, expecting a flood of sympathy. Instead, I got the most responses I’d ever gotten to a blog—close to 500—almost all condemning me for my cruelty, saying I hadn’t tried. Several people rushed to the humane society to adopt him, only to find he was already gone. When I was feeling most vulnerable, I was vilified. It hurt…and Luke remains a raw place in my heart to this day. I truly loved that dog, but I couldn’t give up family and friends for the sake of a dog I’d had less than a month and one that experts advised me to put down. Luke broke my heart.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A loverly day

Eden and her mom
You can tell where she gets her good looks
(I say that even though her dad is my son)

Special happy birthday to Eden, my beautiful 14-year-old granddaughter. She’s smart, sweet, talented, and beautiful--all the things you could hope for.

I divided the day between my two favorite activities—cooking and reading. Cooking in the cottage is getting a little better. Jordan brought me a rotisserie chicken breast (not the whole bird, bless her!). This morning I boned and sliced it, got an amazing amount of meat. Chicken sandwich for lunch. Then I put the carcass on to simmer—my fancy-dancy hot plate turns itself off after a while, so there was an hour or two when it didn’t cook, but I got broth to use for a casserole tonight. May put the broth back on the burner tomorrow.

Tonight I made creamed chicken on toast with the broth and some white wine. Pretty good if I do say so. Diced a couple of scallions and a stalk of celery to go in it, added tiny frozen peas. May make chicken salad tomorrow—I think a friend is coming by about lunchtime.

Got alone fine, though Jordan wandered out and served as first assist—reaching things for me and the like. I do tend to spill—probably the worst tonight was I took the lid off the broth which was cooling and dripped the liquid off onto my until-then clean pants. But it was condensation, not broth—still a pair of pants destined for the washer.

But I found out I can fairly easily stand at the counter to stir ingredients in the frying pan or at the sink to wash dishes. I keep the walker with a seat firmly behind me, so that the back of my knees always knows where it is. And I hang on to the sink if needed. Pretty proud of myself.’

Last night I thought I’d just dip my toe into Deborah Crombie’s latest mystery, Garden of Lamentations. Because Crombie’s work tends to be dense and require concentration, I intended to move on to something lighter—it was evening, and I was tired. But there is no dipping your toe into her work—I was immediately hooked and spent most of today reading.

I know it doesn’t seem like I work hard, so a vacation day may not be in order-but that’s how I viewed today. And while reading a completely unrelated work a couple of ideas for my work-in-progress popped into my head. I’m ready to write tomorrow and then continue proofing the last mystery I have to post online. Yep vacation but not a wasted day…and one that was good for my soul.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dogs I have Known and Loved – Rescue Dogs

            I’ve thought about writing blogs about the dogs in my life for a long time. Tonight seems like a good time, and rescue dogs, a good topic. I cheer every time someone rescues a dog; I’ve long been active on the lost-and-found circuit on Facebook, though it seems to me I see fewer postings lately. I could hardly bear it when I used to see pleas for help for dogs due to be euthanized within 12 hours and the like. But I admit it: I’m a failure at rescue dogs.

As a very young child, I was afraid of dogs. When I was an infant, my parents had a Scottie that was jealous of me, so jealous she snapped at my face and ran away. It wasn’t the first time she’d run, but this time my folks just let her go. That seems unthinkable to me now, but it was a different time and place, and they were different people. They liked dogs, but they weren’t that concerned with their welfare in the way I am.

Anyway, someone made the mistake of later telling me about this incident, and I was immediately afraid of dogs. I outgrew it, due in large part to a wild collie mix my brother brought home (a rescue dog, I’m sure). Timmy (she) was wild, crazy, gentle and loveable, and I loved that dog. Timmy disappeared from our lives—I have no idea what happened to her. She may well have died and I was sheltered from the fact. But more about her another night, because I have wonderful memories.

When I was about eight or so, my parents bought me a rescued English cocker named Rusty for his red coat. They knew I longed for a blonde cocker spaniel, but somehow they didn’t see the dissonance between Rusty and a delicate pale blonde American cocker. Rusty was stocky, not particularly attractive, and not particularly loving. In his previous life he had apparently been abused by someone in uniform, because when brother John came home from military school, in uniform, the dog attacked him ferociously. A well-placed kick from John saved the uniform and the brother.

Rusty developed a lump on his shoulder, a big lump. If I touched it, he growled, so I didn’t try that but once or twice. I don’t know if the folks took him to the vet or not, but he probably went downhill. One morning Mom found him at the basement door—he had died trying to get outside. I was sorry, sad, but I had never really had a relationship with Rusty. The idea of bonding, forming relationships with a dog, was yet to come in my life.
I compensated for the blonde cocker I never got by writing my first series of short stores, probably at the age of ten or twelve. The central figure was a Victorian spinster lady named Miss Shufflebaum. She had a blonde cocker spaniel named Taffy who got her into all kinds of trouble, like pulling her down on the ice. My mom kept those stories, on lined paper in childish writing, for a long time and I eventually got them; when I was in my thirties or so an artist friend did some illustrations that perfect caught my vision of Miss Shufflebaum. Alas, too many moves later, I've lost both stories and drawings, but they remain clear in my mind. Taffy is one of the dogs I've loved.

Next: Luke, the rescue dog that broke my heart.

Friday, February 24, 2017

So many books, so little time

I continue writing on the novella, though progress is slow—I try to know each time I quit what the next scene will be and then I write scene by scene. Confession: I did not do any original writing so far today, though I might get to it tonight. For me it’s slow going as I get into a work; eventually it picks up a momentum of its own. I’m waiting for that moment.

But meantime there’s so much to read: I want to reread Susan Wittig Albert’s The General’s Women, which I enjoyed in galley form. It blends the stories of General Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower, his wife Mamie, and his wartime driver and lover, Kay Summersby. Historical fiction at its best.

Then the new Deborah Crombie novel, Garden of Lamentations, is waiting on my Kindle. This is the latest--#17, I believe—in her interconnected Scotland Yard Series featuring Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. I’ve found this series consistently complex and riveting, alternating between horrible crimes and the domestic life of Duncan and Gemma as they find their way as parents of a blended family. Crombie, a North Texas native, “does” England, the clothing, the accent, perfectly. So that will take me a while.

And there’s a Charlotte McLeod mystery, The Withdrawing Room, that I downloaded on impulse after a well-known mystery writer wrote, “If this is your first time with Sarah Kelling, oh how I envy you.” Kelling is a widow who runs a boardinghouse and gets herself involved in mysteries. My reaction is evidence that blurbs do work, at least some of the time.

But first I must finish Copy Cat Murder, fourth in the Hat Shop Mysteries. I’m enjoying it but keep putting recreational reading low on my to-do list, with the results that it takes me too long to finish a book. Some dedicated reading ahead tonight. Sounds good to me.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

My new web page

A dog and his boy
Change is good for the soul, and I thought after a year plus, it was time to change and maybe update my Facebook header. I contacted my webmaster, the fabulous Lisa Auslander (I love her email address that begins with tabbycat), told her what I was thinking, and turned her loose. Lisa has recently updated my web page, and she designed the Facebook head so that the two coordinate.

An explanation if probably in order: I have long wanted people to know that writing is not the sole focus of my life, in fact probably not the primary focus. I have always said I am first and foremost a mother—that’s my most important role in life and, someday, how I hope the world remembers me. My kids are in their forties now but that doesn’t change a thing.

The grandchildren are growing older, with diverse lives of their own. Regrettably, the days of cuddly babies who think Juju is wonderful are past. But I still follow their activities—from soccer to martial arts and beyond—avidly. Wish I had more time for each of them, and wish I saw all of them more often.

And Sophie snuck in next to them—I blog about her often enough, but I don’t think I’ve talked about how important dogs have been in my life. There’s been a dog since I was five or six, sometimes three or four, and I’ve thought of writing a book around the theme of dogs I have known and loved. Because I’ve loved every one of them. Asking for a favorite is like asking which is my favorite child, but I think the last book I published is always my favorite and the dog of the moment is likewise my favorite. Sophie, my Bordoodle (poodle/border collie cross) has been with me for five years. I got her when she was eight weeks old and spent a year training her, not that she’s well trained even today. She knows the basics but sometimes her exuberance gets the best of her. She’s great company, and I miss her when she’s gone even for an hour—she often goes in the main house to play with her “cousins” and I end up calling and saying, “Please bring my dog back to me.”

Writing is of course one of my passions, and I miss it when I’m not actively writing. It’s been a long hiatus while I suffered through a destroyed hip, surgery, and recovery, and I haven’t written anything but blogs in months. I’m delighted to have written 2000 words in the last week. I have grand plans—but not enough time. I’m grateful for the body of work I published and for the kind reception most but not all of it has gotten. Writing is fun—to me, it’s akin to math, only I work out problems in words and when I get it just right I feel the joy that a successful mathematician does. Move over, Dr. Einstain.

And cooking—yes, you know the blog often is filled with food recipes, and the like. In another life I might be a chef—by the time I decided that in this life my feet and back were too old to take those long hours of standing. But I still love to cook…and don’t get to do much of it. My limited kitchen facilities in the cottage plus my temporary confinement to a wheelchair make it difficult. But I hope to get back to cooking, and I still collect recipes like a madwoman.

And the cottage—ah, the cottage. It’s my refuge, my safe haven, the place where I can work in peace and feel that I’m master (mistress?) of my world. I’ve lived here six months now and cannot imagine a different life, though I was happy in the main house for 25 years. Building this cottage was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life…and I’ve made a few good ones plus a lot of not-so-good ones. The cottage was an outstanding one.

All in all, my new illustration for my Facebook page illustrates my good life, the happy life I am so fortunate to live. The sketches in the heading have another purpose: several years ago a friend, who is an ardent liberal activist, told me that she posts political things on Facebook but she also posts pictures of her grandsons, her dogs and cats, and her spacious and lovely gardens so that people will now that there’s another dimension to her than political activism, so that they’ll realize she’s really a nice person. I wanted my new heading to show that while writing is important, there’s more to me.
We're used to tulips as closed flowers, but look how striking
they are when fullyopened.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Another upbeat day

Another really good day. Due to an unforeseen accident, I was alone all day—which allowed me to prove I can do all kinds of things, including pulling up my pants without bending over, fixing lunch, get myself in and out of bed. This heady independence may go to my head.

A new caregiver arrived at 7 a.m., but at 9:15 she got a call that her mom had been in an accident. The poor thing was hysterical. I urged her to go, told her I’d be fine, but she said she had to call the office. I didn’t want that because I didn’t want to take a chance on who they might send at the last minute for a partial shift, so I repeated my assurances. Finally she said she’d go, but she had to calm down first. And she went into the bedroom, had hysterics, talked on the phone, and then said she was going. I pray for that family tonight.

I called Jordan at work, and she called to check a couple of times, but I was fine. The physical therapist came at eleven and stayed about 45 minutes. And therein lies another triumph: when I got myself into bed, she grinned and said, “Nice.” One exercise is always difficult—I have to lift the bad leg straight off the bed, maybe knee high, 20 times. I’ve been getting it a few inches up and Jordan’s been helping it the rest of the way. Today I had done about five leg lifts when I noticed Ellen’s hands were at her side. Without knowing it, I’d been lifting the leg myself.

Lunch, nap, and off to dinner with pal Betty. We went to Winslow’s and sat outside because the evening was so pleasant—scallops, risotto and spinach. So good.

I am disturbed—okay, that’s too mild a word—highly upset at the rate that the administration is taking away protections. So far, in addition to immigrant sweeps and immigration freezes, they have taken away the protection of clean water and the protection of wildlife, introduced a bill to end the all-important Environmental Protection Agency, and introduced a bill to cut nutritional funding for food for poor children in schools, whittle away at public school funding, and open the door for federal funding of charter schools—a move which my state, Texas, heartily supports.

When I said this at supper, Betty, who had initially expressed dismay, said she didn’t know all that. She, her husband, and some friends concluded the other night that all they could do is pray. And at that, I let her have it, both barrels (it’s okay—we’re still friends). But I lectured about the importance of making your voice heard, the negative example of Germany in the 1930s, the news that can be found, selectively on Facebook, the importance of writing your Congressman. She nodded, but I’m not at all sure she’ll do it. I’m afraid the country is too full of people like that—they are distressed, but they do nothing about it.

Come on, people, be activists. Make your voice heard. There are a thousand opportunities around you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Good, the Bad, but no Ugly

The Good: I went to see my family doctor this morning. He said I was making better progress than he expected and than many patients with less complicated surgeries. He raved (well, as much as doctors rave) about how good I look. When I stood on the scale—yes, I stood without holding on—his nurse said, “I haven’t seen you do that in months and months.” All in all I enjoyed a great reception. And found in spite of my ravenous appetite I’ve lost another two lbs.—although we don’t know how accurate the first weighing was. I told Jordan I wanted to stop for doughnuts on the way home.

The Bad: When we came home, as is custom, Jordan went to let Sophie out so she wouldn’t try to escape as we maneuvered the wheelchair in. She came back saying, “Wait until you see your house. She’s trashed it.” Sophie has never been like those dogs you see on Facebook who strew garbage from one end of the house, tear up furniture, etc., so I couldn’t imagine.

She had tracked mud all over the house—wood floors, carpet, her sleeping chair. And I was expecting friends for lunch. Jordan did a hurry-up vacuum job and then used a damp towel to get up the worst of the mud. The carpet is beyond hope, and I put Renuzit on the grocery list. Anyone have any better suggestions?

Soph was a pain all along this morning. I left her out for an hour to get some fresh air before we shooed her inside. She spent the entire hour chasing squirrels and barking, that high excited yip of a smallish dog. It wasn’t her fault, mind you—the squirrels were taunting her. What’s a girl to do? I just didn’t realize how muddy it was—my view is all of grass.

More good: I wrote 800 words of fiction today—my first foray into a new project, a novella. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a start, and I can begin to feel the juices flowing. And, yes, Elaine, Keisha and Kelly are there. Fun. More tomorrow.

All in all, the day balances out on the good side, really good. How about your day?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Insights in church…and politics at high tea

Tulips, the gift of a friend, bring
spring into the cottage
Started the day by going to church. It’s been months—at least last May—but since I am feeling so well and pain-free, I was more than ready to go back. Have been getting out to eat with friends, and if I can do that, I can go to church. Today was special—a reception for Cyndy Twedell, who's been a minister at the church for 30 years. The brief ceremony was the kind that inevitably brings tears to my eyes, good tears. Cyndy epitomizes as a minister and as an individual Christian love and caring—reaching out to underserved communities, active in our shelter for the homeless, going on mission trips, leading the prayer shawl group, more than I recount but always extending God’s love to others.

During the church service, I had one of those thoughts that surprise you and then seem so obvious: I read on Facebook and elsewhere wry comments that the sitting president has indeed made America great again, he has united the country but not in the way he intended. These remarks stem from the fact that undeniably many more people are politically active and involved than usual. But it dawned on me that this presidency and this Congress have also awakened the faith of many of us. Today in church I had a strong sense of my faith, its importance in my life and its role in guiding how I treat others. My goal is compassion and love for all—all peoples and animal life as well. I am appalled by stories of immigration sweeps that arrest anyone Latino, regardless of their immigration or law-abiding status. I am horrified by stories of people trying to enter or even return to this country who are turned away. For some reason, one story sticks in my craw: legislation to rescind the ban on hunting wolf pups, shooting bears in their dens, and using steel-jawed toe clip traps on bears. The traps cause unbelievable agony, and I cannot believe humans would resort to that when there are humane ways to re-locate bears if necessary. In short, I am appalled by the governmental lack of compassion and caring, by the selfish greed of voting immunity from prosecution for themselves while prosecuting others wildly.

Change to a light note: we had high tea tonight.
Jordan fixed it for a few friends some of whom contributed. I even made chicken salad at nine this morning, before church. She served a beautiful spread. This is my kind of food but I was afraid others would find it slim pickings for supper. I thought Christian for instance would be prowling for snacks by eight o’clock, but not so. We were all over-filled with good food.

A nice surprise, political at that: my neighbor, directly behind me, is president of our neighborhood association and has just announced for the school board. Jason Brown is the kind of guy who really cares about our neighborhood, our kids and schools, and our city. Jacob played with his son until after dark, so Jason walked him around the block to home. We invited him in, asked about his campaign—his campaign consultant told him to practice his spiel on friends and neighbors, so quite quickly, at our request, he was explaining his position on several issues. Fascinating. To my relief, he said Betsy DeVos will have little effect on us at this level.

If he’s on your ballot, please vote for Jason Brown for the Fort Worth ISD School Board.

Interesting day, and I’m tired. Sleep tight, y’all.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Food—or gluttony? And a political p.s.

I am starving all the time lately. Don’t know if my body is anxious to regain the 20 lbs. I lost on my hip journey or what, but I am hungry. Last night I cooked—something that has not been easy for me from the rolling wheelchair (which is not supposed to move while you’re seated, but I cheat a bit) and standard height counters.

Elizabeth, who used to live in the garage apartment, was coming to visit or so I thought. She loved salmon cakes, and I’ve been wanting them for a while, so I decided to do that—except no salmon. Okay, tuna cakes (don’t judge). I need to re-sharpen my cooking skills—the cakes fell apart in the skillet. Granted I did have the tools I need—like a thin metal spatula to turn them. In fact, I don’t have half my kitchen things I really need—butterfly wine opener, rolling pin (Jordan bought one today). I think when the kids cleaned the kitchen they threw out a lot, and their understanding of cooking equipment doesn’t mesh with mine. Mostly when I ask about this or that, I get a shrug.

Back to the tuna cakes—with lots of lemon, one was good. And I have two small ones left for lunch tomorrow. They make terrific sandwiches with mayo. To accompany them last night I cobbled a salad of shredded lettuce and cut canned asparagus--put dairy-free blue cheese dressing on it. Mary Dulle brought the dressing from California, and it’s the best I’ve tasted—saved that humdrum salad.

Today I had lunch with Subie and Carol at Swiss Pastry Shop and ordered a hamburger—they serve Waygu beef and will cook the burger medium rare/rare which is how I love it. Pickles, tomato, lettuce—wonderful but huge. Normally I’d have Black Forest Cake—swoon!—but I’m avoiding dairy again these days. To compensate I brought home a chocolate/raspberry pound cake. Ate the other half of the hamburger tonight for supper. I will serve the pound cake to Elizabeth when she comes in the morning—we had our wires crossed about when we’d visit while she’s in town.

My political thought for the day: I posted elsewhere that my faith underlies all my life, especially these days my politics. I hold firmly to Jesus’ words, “And of these the greatest is love.” Accordingly, I am outraged by many things that strikes me as immoral, and this morning, in an idle moment, I listed some in no special order. Bear in mind though that these things have all started the less than a month that Trumpf has been in office:

Gag order on the EPA and its looming dissolution, plus confirmation today of man who sued the agency several times to lead it—putting a thief in charge of your valuables

Denial of climate change

Threats to our national park system

Denial of transgender rights

Travel ban on foreigners from certain countries

Wholesale deportations and sweeps, blockades, etc. in major cities

Failure to investigate Trmpf’s ties to Russia, Russian influence on our elections or Trumpf’s tax returns

Today Congress apparently voted to okay the shooting of hibernating bear families.

I must add that the Republican Congress bears responsibility for instigating some of these or for failure to stop them.

What a world!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Wowser! Look at my new web page, please

I am over the moon about the redesigned web page that Lisa Auslander made for me. It’s clear, concise, welcoming, and, well, cozy, like the mysteries I write. Lisa has enlivened the page with hand-drawn sketches. No long blocks of copy here. Lisa has captured what I want you to know in small, easily read blocks of type, and it is easy to move from page to page and different topics. I love the simplicity of it—too many authors’ pages overwhelm with elaborate designs.

Please do look, sign up for my “only-occasional” newsletter if you’re so inclined, and admire Lisa’s fine work.

Lisa drew a marvelous sketch of my new cottage, the place that makes my heart happy these days. There’s a sketch of Bertha Honoré Palmer, from The Gilded Cage, and a Craftsman house to introduce the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries. Look particularly at the sketch for the Blue Willow plate (Blue Plate Café Mysteries).

If you don’t know the Blue Willow story, you should. It’s a love tragedy. The beautiful daughter of a mandarin fell in love with a humble servant, defying her father’s wishes—he wished her to marry a powerful duke, who arrived bearing jewels. The night before the wedding, the young lovers ran away, taking the jewels with them. They found safety on a secluded island and lived happily for many years. But the duke never forgot and finally found them. He sent soldiers who put the pair to death. The gods, pitying them, transformed them into a pair of doves. You can follow the story on the plate, from the lovers running across a garden bridge, chased by the whip-yielding father, to the pair of doves in the sky.

My mom served almost all our meals on Blue Willow china, and I use it today. My collection includes everything from some good English china to the dimestore version, and some passed down from my mom. That china accounts for the Blue Plate Mysteries, though the name is a play on words—it can also stand for the blue plate special of the day, a term some restaurants and cafes use for the daily special. Take your pick.

Monday, February 13, 2017

One of those days

Is there a spot on the moon today? Or does the calendar know it’s the 13th but think it’s Friday? Either way, my luck has changed. Woke up from an afternoon nap feeling sort of blue, and the evening at my desk has done nothing to improve that mood.

I set out to find the files of some novels I had starts on, rough notes, maybe 1000 words of a first draft. There should be two of them, but I cannot find them. It may be that my computer in its wisdom has decided they should be abandoned and has swallowed them. It’s probably the best fate for them, but before I start something new, I wanted to check.

Today I digitized two books, and one was rejected. I had to go back and correct the way my name was displayed. And I burned myself out this morning trying to collect tax information for my accountant. I don’t think I’ll ever finish, and it’s frustrating because it keeps me from creative work.

My publicist wrote with a note that a blog post was due today. But I’d never heard of this blog and hadn’t even begun to think about a topic on the book requested. I don’t do spur-of-the-moment well, so I will lie in bed tonight and think on it. It’s a romance blog—yes, there’s a bit of romance in Murder at Peacock Mansion, but it isn’t front and center by any means.

And then friends came for happy hour. The wife reminded me that we were having lunch with a third friend Friday—oops, my mentor is scheduled to bring lunch Friday. I’ve double-booked myself. You’d think I had a galloping social life but it’s simply not true.

I learned from the physical therapist today that I am classified as homebound—she was taken aback that I have several outings planned this week. I’ve been homebound or mostly so since early fall. Now that I have little or no pain, I’m anxious to get out. In fact, a friend is taking me to a breakfast group in the morning, and my mouth is set for biscuits and gravy. I lost twenty lbs. on this journey, and I can allow myself such indulgences.

With visions of biscuits and gravy, I’m going to pack it up and spend the rest of the evening reading. I’m still enjoying Jenn McKinley’s Hat Shop Mysteries. It does, however, seem like a very long evening ahead, and I don’t want to go to bed early because I’ll not sleep at 4 a.m.if I do that.

Let’s see—I can’t think of anything else to whine about, so I’ll quit. A bit of belly-aching is good for the soul. Thanks for listening. Tomorrow will be a better day. Blessings and sleep tight.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A confession

I’m contrite this morning, because I was really cranky last night. Just ask Jordan, who bears the brunt of it, simply because she’s here and handy. I know she wishes there were siblings close for her to consult with when I get this way, but Austin, Tomball, and Frisco are a ways distant.

I’m cranky because I’m frustrated by all the restrictions placed on me—physical and emotional. I can’t put full weight on my left foot, I can’t bend over, I can’t cross my legs, I can’t get my left leg at an angle less than 90 degrees. But I think it’s the emotional frustrations that bother me most. I can’t be left alone, although Jordan does leave me for short spells while she runs in the house—I have to promise to sit at my desk or stay in bed. Most of the time I have a caregiver. Now I ask you about the sense in this: today I had a lovely lady I liked a lot, but she’s 84 years old and half my size.

I lost my good disposition when Jordan announced I would have a caregiver on Sunday morning because Jacob is to be an acolyte, and she wants to go to church. I sort of look forward to weekends as a vacation from caregivers. Most of the ladies who have spent time with me are pleasant. I like them, genuinely. But in my small quarters, it’s annoying to have some always present, especially if they’re inclined to be talkative. I crave solitude.

For some reason, I decided in my fog of unhappiness to make my dog the focus of the issue. For almost three weeks, she lived in the main house with Jordan, Christian, Jacob, and their two dogs. She got treats, she slept on the bed, she had a generally good time. So when I came home to the cottage, she didn’t instantly transition back to thinking of this as home. And they all let her into the house any time she wanted to go.

Probably I was a little too firm in insisting they leave her outside, where she’ll default to me house. But daily, she has gotten more used to spending time with me. She sleeps on my bed intermittently during the night, and cuddles up to me as much as she can. I’m always having to warn her off my bad leg.

Jordan and Christian are cooperative in this effort—Jordan insists Sophie knows whose dog she is and where she lives, but Christian says he understands completely how I feel. Sophie isn’t talking about itA.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Food, youngsters, and—taxes

Since finding an online recipe for beans on buttered toast (was it Sam Sifton’s column in the New York Times?), I have been obsessed with the idea. Somewhere in my past, I’ve eaten that and loved it, but nobody in my family or circle of friends recognized it until Jeannie today said, “Oh, I ate that as a child.”

Yesterday on his day with me, Jamie spent a good deal of time cooking a pot of beans. He had soaked the beans the night before and brought an onion, garlic, and bread to fix them for our lunch. The bread was Wonderbread which his daughters like, whereas the recipe calls for a hearty peasant bread—Jamie’s bread did not standup to the beans, but otherwise the lunch was delicious. Beans being beans, I was afraid to have more than one helping but I loved it and am lobbying for it for supper tonight. Try finding the recipe on Google.

Today in Sifton’s column I found a recipe for miso-grilled scallops. It had a good explanation of umami, that fifth taste that always puzzles me a bit but was described there as “delicious.” Hmmm. Maybe I should do another cookbook just because I’m having such fun with recipes..

Plentiful goings and doing at the cottage—in addition to Jamie, the physical therapist came yesterday and put me through my paces, left me with instructions for exercises that I can do without difficulty—4 times a day but they only take about 5 minutes. She’ll come twice a week.

And of course, Jamie all day and a caregiver until three and Jordan’s friends Mike and Marty who brought a yummy supper of chicken and zucchini. Sophie loves it when there’s a full house at the cottage, and so do I.

Today, an outing—went to lunch at Carshon’s, the deli that is a favorite of mine, with Carol who is so good as to load up me and my wheelchair and take me to lunch. Good time, good visit—and I came away with a wonderful idea. Carol prepares their taxes for the accountant on a spread sheet. I’m no genius about spread sheets, always thought them generally a nuisance—I once had an employee who was spread-sheet-nuts and wanted to turn everything into one. Bur I can master a simple one. Tonight, I whizzed through several categories of items and felt truly accomplished. Sigh, still a long way to go. But thanks, Carol, for the idea.

Tonight was ‘50s night at Cotillion, and these ten-year-old boys rolled their T-shirt sleeves and slicked back their hair for the event. So adorable.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Ramblings about dogs, weather, onomatopoeia

Cuteness in my kitchen

My sleeping companion
Cuddled as close to my bad leg as she can get
Lazy day—up at six but fiddled around, especially on Facebook. Now it’s nine in the morning and I still haven’t written my morning blog. I’m still liking this new schedule of rising earlier and getting the blog out early in the day.

Cool this morning in North Texas (53 according to my indoor/outdoor thermometer and only 64 inside—surely that’s wrong) but as I watch the ferocious blizzard in the New York area on TV I’m grateful for our clear skies and bright sunshine. But it won’t be warming up like it did the past few days. Pet peeve: Facebook friends, mostly writing acquaintances, who post dire messages about their weather but never tell us where they are. I want geographical locations, please.

Jacob is studying such things as onomatopoeia and alliteration. I found out last night I was way off the track in spelling onomatopoeia—so much for a graduate degree in English. Jordan and Jacob laughed and laughed at me. Still, I think it’s fairly advanced that he’s learning that in fifth grade. Will he still remember it in sixth? I just queried Jamie and he remembers the meaning but not the spelling.

I spent too much time yesterday on Facebook but there were so many comments about Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions that I couldn’t tear myself away. Elizabeth Warren’s attempt to read a letter from the late Coretta Scott King to the Senate and her slap-down by Mitch McConnell are big news—and like some other recent events they’ve galvanized opposition to our so-called president and his appointments. “And, she persisted” is going down in the history book of memes and the onerous (oh oh, Rule #19—don’t impugn a member of the Senate) Mitch McConnell has also written himself into history books but for all the wrong reasons. The so-called president seems to be appointing cabinet people who will dismantle programs. Perhaps his goal is to completely restructure the government--or destroy it.

Finally got a book (No Neighborhood for Old Women) posted to several digital venues last night. Today’s goal: post Desperate for Death, sixth in the Kelly O’Connell series.

 Got so sleepy about 9:30 a.m. I was nodding off into the keyboard, so I went back to bed. A couple of phone calls woke me but I did doze because I remember one dream fragment. Got up with the arrival of son Jamie. Now he is working at the coffee table from his laptop while a pot of beans simmers on the stove. Late but delicious lunch coming up.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

In praise of some politicians

I guess I liked rising early better than I thought because here I am again at my desk at 6:15, waiting for dark to turn to daylight. My body was tired of being in bed, achy. Yesterday I heard from several people who said they love this hour of the day, and I’m beginning to see why.

I am also energized this morning by yesterday’s news. Yes, it was bad news for liberals who value our country’s heritage and want to preserve it in the face of unrestrained madness. The confirmation of Betsy DeVos is a tragedy for our country and our educational system. Private charter schools, which she advocates, have been shown to be discriminatory and generally academic failures. My grandchildren are all (okay almost all) good student that come from academically achieving backgrounds so mine is not a personal worry—it’s for the country, for the thousands of children that we must help move to a high level of existence—better jobs, etc. If we’d done a better job in the past, we might not face the current administration. I don’t take Hilary’s “deplorables” lightly. I understand students at the university where I worked so many years now sport “Make America Great Again” caps and “I’m a deplorable” shirts.

I don’t remember the details but I do recall that early on when DeVos was mentioned, I was more appalled by her lack of knowledge of history and the way the world operates. She seemed not to be a deep thinker. That bothers me as much as her unformed ideas on education.

If I were Betsy DeVos, there would have been little rejoicing last night. She must realize it was a squeaky victory, and one that she owes to overly generous campaign contributions and party loyalty rather than to any accomplishment, knowledge or capability of her own. Go slow on that champagne, Betsy babe.

But look at the challenge to her. I’ve waited years for the progressives in this country to show the spark of life shown yesterday. Fifty—count them, 50—votes against DeVos, mostly Democrats but a few Republicans who listened to their consciences. Phones in DC rang off the wall as folks weighed in with opinions mostly against this appointment. And this protest won’t stop here—it is a rising tide. The man in the White House better learn to swim in rough water.

And then there’s the Senate Majority Leader’s remarkable slap-down of Senator Elizabeth Warren. During hearings on the appointment of Jeff Sessions, generally regarded as an extreme racist, Senator Warren quote a dated letter from Coretta King and was forbidden to speak again for breaking the rule against impugning someone’s character. Pardon me, but if you can’t criticize why are they wasting our time and money on these hearings? A sour-mouthed milquetoast like Mitch McConnell is no match for the fiery and comitted Senator Warren. The difference between the two is basic—she is committed to the good of ALL American people; he is committed to the wealth and success of Mitch McConnell and maybe the Republican Party. Watch out, Mitch—a lot of us are waiting to see you crash and burn.

My dander is up this morning, and I find it energizing.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Watching the sun come up—sort of

I have never been an early riser, although even as a teen I could not sleep the day away. Somewhere between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. was good, preferably 9:00. But this surgery recuperation has thrown my clock off. Last night I was falling asleep at my desk at 7:30, so I went to bed. And didn’t, as I intended, get up in an hour.

As a result, 5:45 this morning found me at my desk. Lots of people, including one of my sons, tell me that it’s a wonderful time of day and I’m missing something by staying in bed. It was pitch dark as I sat down and began to browse the computer. My office faces the wrong way—no sunrise to be watched with pale pink slowly turning to a blue-gold but sunsets are terrific from my desk. are often more dramatic and brilliant. I planned to watch it go slowly from dark to light this morning even if I couldn’t actually see sunrise, but ultimately it happened too fast. One minute it was dark, the next pale daylight.

No birds this time of year but I looked for Jordan’s dogs on their early morning pit stop—too early for them. Yesterday when I let Sophie out, the girls had already been out and were back inside in their beds. Today Sophie went out in lonely darkness, begged to come back in, then changed her mind. Now she’s gone in the house with the girls.

I’d like to tell you I did something remarkable in that “found time” but it wouldn’t be true. I read email and Facebook—the latter is maybe righting itself or maybe it was just me. But I found more of general interest and a little less vitriol. That would be a welcome change.

What about you? Are you a morning person? Do you find it’s your best time? I know some writers who “sprint”—write fast for a brief period—in the morning and claim it keeps their work moving forward. Probably something I should try—not sure I will, but I sort of liked my early morning. Now I’m ready for a nap.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Home Again, Home Again, Thank God I'm Home Again

(With apologies to Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Got home about noon today, thanks to dedicated efforts of Colin, Jordan and Kegan (a nurse asked if my boy-boy grandson with long hair was my granddaughter). In a way, it seems like I’ve never been away, but in most ways I feel that I’ve been on a long journey. It will take me a while to process the emotional and spiritual effects of that journey. The physical effects I know—lots of limitations. And I have a lot of therapy to do to regain strength. Would rather not regain the 20 lbs. I lost on this journey.

Meantime, not much has changed. I spent the afternoon at my desk, sorting accumulated mail, etc., and had a long nap. Grateful for my sleep numbers bed that raises and lowers head and feet, just like a hospital bed. We’ve had had my favorite foods—lox and cream cheese for lunch, Railhead BBQ for supper. Jordan did a grocery run for me, and I’m looking forward to yogurt, LeCroix, all kinds of things I haven’t had in a while.

Sophie seems glad to have me home and pays more attention to me than she did at Garden Terrace. She likes having all the people in the cottage.

Yesterday Brandon took three young boys to the stock show and, feeding them, spent $100 in less than two hours. Today was Christian’s turn for boy excursions—he took Kegan and Jacob to Flight Deck. Not quite as expensive but not cheap either.

A study in contrasts, not just blonde and dark, but these cousins are so different in style--the long-haired soccer kid, and the all-around preppy boy. Yet they love each other. Pictures tell all.
No wise comments from this corner on the political situation or anything else. I’m sleepy and ready for bed and a book at eight o’clock. Can’t get past the feeling that today is Sunday. We all feel that way, and the kids will be lucky if we don’t send them to school tomorrow.

I plan to rejoin the world tomorrow-no more spending the day in my pjs with dirty hair.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Another Frabjulous Day

I'm going home
I can’t tell you when I’ve been happier or had more fun than at lunch today. I am going home from the rehab facility tomorrow, and this morning both my daughters came to meet with staff about my discharge and pack up the things I had here. All seems in order about the discharge, and though the staff wishes I’d stay longer, they seem okay with my leaving, and we’ve gone over such practical matters as exercises, daily activities like getting in and out of bed or to the toilet, and medications.

Then the girls dressed me—literally, they hold clothes up to each other and say, “This is cute” and similar things and talk about me as if I were a three-year-old: “Doesn’t she look cute?” I ended up in a fairly heavy sweatshirt type top in avocado green, heather white pants, and an off-white shawl. The girls kept warning that it was truly cold outside, and I ended up uncomfortably warm.

We headed for a new restaurant in a new mall area sort of near the rehab center. I’ve been wanting to go to Piatello, but if the Jordan had listened to my directions, we never would have gotten there. The whole development of southwest Fort Worth has me befuddled, and apparently the rehab place is farther south than I thought. I’d have had us in Cleburne before we found Piatello. Good lunch—split the meatball appetizer and each had a different salad. I had a small small serving of wine—first in two months, and it made me unbearably sleepy.
With my beautiful girls

The girls went off to go to the rodeo, and I went to sleep. Tonight I still can’t shake my lethargy. Six hours later it’s not the wine; tt may be lack of sleep because various medications have had me up and down too often during the night: it may be relaxation that I’m finally going home after two weeks. Whatever, I’m uncharacteristically sleepy and looking forward to reading it bed.

Tonight is our annual Alter family rodeo night—but this year it is a bust. Traditionally, we go to the rodeo on Friday night, tour the grounds and Midway Saturday, and go to dinner Sat. night. I long ago gave up rodeo—I just don’t enjoy it anymore. The Frisco don’t like rodeo and don’t go, so their absence is not unusual. But half of Colin’s family—Lisa and Morgan—are not here, and the Austin branch is leaving at 7:00 a.m. because both boys have “can’t miss” activities. I’m grateful for my time with the girls today. Colin will spend time tomorrow, and I’ll see Jamie next week, but it’s not the big family gathering I anticipated. Still I’m glad the rodeo brought everyone to town.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

A little bit of lightness for troubled times

Before the presidential campaign kicked into full swing, I was a die-hard Facebook fan. (These days, life can be divided into before the election and after—anyone got the appropriate initials in mind?) I confess I spent way too much time scrolling carefully through Facebook. Unlike the many who have given it up because of the hate, I still go to the page—but I browse, leap, skip, pick and choose. It’s not just the hate, though that bothers me—I am tired to death of being pestered to sign a thousand and one petitions most of which will do nothing.

I decided between troubled times and my rehab incarceration I needed a light diversion and discovered Jenn McKinlay’s Hat Shop Mysteries. I read the third, Assault and Beret, first. Two cousins who co-own a hat shop in London, are at the center of these stories. Viv is the creative, talented hat maker and the will o’ the wisp unpredictable personality. In this novel, she has married someone in Paris without telling anyone and left him two days after the wedding because he was too perfect, there was no clash. A year or two later, she and her cousin, Scarlett, are to go to Paris where Viv will teach a class, and she orders Scarlett to find the missing husband so she can have the marriage annulled. Improbable, yes. But you must call on willing suspension of disbelief. Scarlett tells the tale, and her voice--brilliantly ironic and clever—carries the story. It’s a mystery, and there’s the requisite suspense but Viv, Scarlett and the missing husband are the meat of the book. I enjoyed it thoroughly. So now I’m into Cloche and Dagger, first in the series. If you want some light diversion, I recommend these books.

I had delightful visitors tonight. Thanks to Jordan for bringing Jacob and Sophie to see me. I must get home before Sophie thinks she totally belongs to Jordan. She is always a bit ill at ease here and barks, which worries Jord. But these two are so cute!