Friday, March 31, 2017

Cabin Fever

I have cabin fever tonight. I’ve been blessedly free of that, content to stay home with my computer and books, but tonight I’m antsy. The Burtons have gone to a birthday party; I had a brief happy hour on the patio with Jordan but then she had to leave. Not that I didn’t have a sociability day—to the bank to sign some papers, to Local Foods Kitchen, one of my new favorite places, to pick up something for lunch—actually got egg salad (great) and lemony burssel sprouts slaw (not so great) for lunch and a turkey burger with pesto, goat and provolone cheese, and a tomato slices. Well-seasoned burger, and I hate half of it for supper. Jordan had never been to Local Foods, and I knew she’d love it—all those quinoa salads, etc. They had my favorite beet and orange salad in the display case, but I read somewhere that beets are one of three foods you should avoid—probably on Facebook and probably apocryphal.

Then we went to preview a neighbor’s “stuff” for the neighborhood garage sale tomorrow. I got some kitchen utensils to replace those I’ve lost in the shuffle—tongs, a good metal spatula, a ladle. Jordan added things I neither need nor have room for—a baby crockpot, an outrageous large, square purple candle (okay I know we’re TCU fans but still….), a stress reliever (small foam cow you squeeze) which I think I should give her, and tags for labeling potted plants—those are definitely for her unless we get some herbs.

Just after I finished lunch, John, my brother, and Cindy arrived—I had a b’day present for him, a coffee table book on the historic Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhoods in Chicago, with plenty of pictures including one of the house we grew up in. Lots of places I remembered and some that I was puzzled that I don’t. John was enormously pleased, more than I expected, and that delighted me. I think he’s getting sentimental in old age.

They brought with them their German Shepherd pup, Buddy, now 16 weeks or more—gangly, growing baby with big feet and one ear that isn’t quite ready to stand up straight. Docile, well-behaved, definitely spoiled. They argue about which of them is doing the spoiling, but I think they are both a bit besotted—who isn’t by a puppy? I thought he and Sophie would play well and they did at first, but something changed and she was not happy about him. I was afraid, as I know John was, that she’d go after that floppy ear, and finally we put both dogs on leashes. Totally unlike Sophie and I will speak to her about company manners.

But tonight I miss the company that used to come for happy hour and linger half the evening. It’s not all bad—I am making progress reading the unfinished manuscript of the sequel to The Perfect Coed and actually liking it. But I’m edgy.

I think cabin fever is yet another sign of healing. Okay, back to my manuscript.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Life Gets in the Way #456

My physical therapist came today and put me through paces I am now familiar and comfortable with. But she promises the game changes next week—we will work on balance and we will walk outside down the driveway with a cane. Has that woman ever looked as she came up the driveway at how cracked and uneven it is? We are also supposed to work on upper body strength—Lord only knows what that will entail.

This morning, since I still can’t bend to get my left shoe on, I asked her to help and explained that my major graduate school professor was coming for lunch. She was aghast and asked, “How old is he?” I guess she envisioned a feeble old man at least nearing ninety. “A year older than I am,” I replied. I went on to explain that in the years since I got my Ph.D., some forty-seven years now, Fred and I have stayed in touch and had lunch oh maybe once a month or so. Since my mobility went south, he brings me lunch because he doesn’t like to drive all the way up my driveway—backing down that 1920s skinny drive does him in, and so far I’m not about to walk down it to his car (see above—that may change). I promised to fix lunch next time, now that I’m cooking again. A challenge.

This was one of those days when life got in the way of writing. The PT visit takes 45 minutes; I have spent a gosh-awful amount of time searching for Christmas 2017 accommodations for my family—16 people isn’t easy. We now count eleven adults (two older girls will be 18 and 14 and are beyond a pallet on the floor dormitory-style with their younger cousins). Such large houses aren’t easy to come by and are expensive when you do find them. But I found what looks like a great property in Ruidoso (where there’s skiing but also enough for non-skiers to do), and today I finalized arrangements. I can get back to my life.

One exciting chore: listening to an audition tape for the audio version (to come from Auspicious Apparatus) of Skeleton in a Dead Space. I followed in the text and pretty much liked what I heard but I’m no judge. I am so glad to be dipping my toe in the audio market with someone else doing the production work. Not much profit, but it will get my name out there.

So the chores I planned to do? Finishing re-reading the second Susan Hogan book (to be called either The Mystery of the Women or The Perfect Dog, the latter since it’s a sequel to The Perfect Coed and if I can do it, I’d like to set “Perfect” titles as a model for that series). My other chore was to send the last title to be digitized—Murder at Tremont House is available on Amazon in digital form, but I need to get it to Draft2Digital which will put it on other platforms. Did I do any of that today? No, not much (does that sound like a ‘60s song to anyone but me?)

Tomorrow is another day but another busy one. That’s good.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Who are you?

The other day someone on Facebook asked when people knew what they wanted to do with the lives. I thought it sort of an existential question. I don’t think there was any one specific epiphany when I thought “Aha! That’s it!” My life and career gradually evolved, and I’m sure I was well along in adulthood before I realized that being a mom was my most important and satisfying role, following by being a writer and then a publisher.

Last night friends brought up an even more difficult existential question. As one friend used to put it, how do you know when you’re “at yourself?” As most of you know, I have been on a long journey with a broken ankle, a fractured hip that I walked on way too long, a difficult surgery, and what seems to me a slow recovery but probably isn’t. Somewhere along the way I apparently lost myself. On much of that journey I was in a great deal of pain and my life was complicated by hallucinations, induced by medication. I wasn’t myself, but I didn’t realize it.

Oh, I know pain makes you short-tempered, impatient, crabby. I tried to control that, particularly with daughter Jordan who was my primary caretaker and got the burden of all I couldn’t do. And yet we clashed, more than once. I regret that to this dayand will sing her praises forever. But I didn’t know that my friends found me different—not necessarily difficult, just not me.

Last night at dinner, three close friends said, in essence, “Welcome back. You’re you now, and we’re glad to have you.” I’m left wondering where the line is between me and not-me, what was different, how could they tell? Yet I feel an inkling of this because I have more energy, I’m much more interested in my writing and career, and I’m doing a lot of small things that used to make me throw up my hands and say, “I can’t do that.” They’re so trivial I’m embarrassed to share them and won’t.

But I think the upshot is that gradually, day by day, I’m becoming again the woman I was a year ago, and I must have reached some milestone in recent days. So thanks to those friends for alerting me, to family and loved ones for putting up with me. There’s a lesson in this for both caregivers and patients. Several books have been published about caregiving—I think someday I should do one about being the recipient.

Thanks, too, to readers who’ve stuck with me. My gratitude knows no bounds.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When Time Flies

My family, almost ten years ago
Babies and young adults
Things have changed

Facebooks “Memories” showed me a picture of five-year-old Jacob. Even in a baseball uniform, there was still a bit of baby about him. Today he’s ten, and the man he will be is showing. How did that happen?

My children are all in their forties, easing into middle age, and one is crowding fifty. Yesterday, you understand, they were carefree teenagers, and the day before that, youngsters noisily playing outside. Today they’re responsible citizens with good careers and families, raising their children much in the same mode as their childhood.

And the grandchildren? They’re still babies, except that one of those babies is going off to college in the fall and the youngest will be nine in a couple of weeks. The cuddly baby days are gone, and much as I love today’s grands, I miss those earlier days.

My brother is eighty-five, and I am edging up on eighty, the little old lady in a walker. Not at all how I picture myself even today. They say each of us has an age which is perpetually where we are mentally and emotionally. Mine is mid-thirties, with young children, even toddlers—the happiest days of my life except maybe for now. Once I told my youngest son I didn’t feel any different than the coeds on the TCU campus. It sent him into wild hysterics, and he immediately quoted me to his siblings.

Some days and weeks, when work is hard, seem to go so slowly they’ll never end. I’m a clock watcher, and of a morning I’ll look at the clock and think, “Only ten. Two hours until lunch. Why is time crawling?” And yet as we all know, time doesn’t crawl—it flies. To quote Andrew Marvell, “But at my back I always hear/Times winged chariot hurrying near.”

Marvell’s poetry also emphasized the philosophy of carpe diem. I’m taking that as my mantra—“Seize the day!” Too much of my life has been wished away, watching the clock, anticipating the next big event. I’m trying these days to savor each moment…and appreciate each stage in the life of loved ones, to soak in their love and return it fully.

This morning I had another lesson walking with a cane. Very deliberately, I slowed down my usual fast pace. Guess what? I did much better, and I wasn’t nearly as afraid. For the first time I could see that I can conquer this too. Believe it or not, it’s all related to carpe diem.

And a p.s. to Amy Russell: thanks for the lecture. It made a difference. If you think I can do it, so do I.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A typical retirement day NOT

Retirement is so boring—at least that’s what I feared, though everyone said I’d be so busy I wouldn’t know what to do. Boy, were they right. Today was a whirlwind.

Doctor’s appointment mid-morning. I went on my walker which in itself is a big accomplishment. He praised my progress, relieved my worries about the hip buckling and a couple of other minor things and decreed I was doing so well he doesn’t need to see me for three months.

Home to fix lunch. Elizabeth, who lived in my garage apartment for a year, was coming. The world calls her Beth but I stubbornly call her Elizabeth because 20-some years ago, as a work-study student in my office, that’s how she introduced herself. She moved in several years ago for three weeks and it stretched into a year—we had a wonderful time. At one point she looked at me and asked, “What if I never again have this much fun in my life?” But she went off to be with the love of her life in Pennsylvania—yuck, snow and cold—and is perfectly happy but we look forward to visits on her trips to see her family and teach some yoga classes.

Today we had salad plates—I remember the things she likes—tuna salad, ham salad, cucumber slices, avocado slices, cherry tomatoes and tiny dill pickles plus Frango mints for dessert. So good! And such a good visit. I’m delighted to hear that her life is going so well. Jordan took her through the house which, in her day, had been my house, and they had a good visit.

By the time I did dishes, my nap was calling. Slept soundly with weird dreams. Then at 5:00 a TCU colleague came by—she’s dean of the library, and I had sent one of my books there. It’s still in transit but when we talked about it she said she’d come by, and she was full of praise for my new living quarters—inside and out. It was good to hear news of the library and the ever-changing academic scene, plus TCU Press which falls under her umbrella. We had wine and snacks on the patio—lovely tonight, though it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.

Rain is okay. I have lots of work on my desk to keep me busy. And it’s been another good day.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday, ah Sunday

Sundays are church days. That was firmly engrained in me as a child, and I harbor a bit of guilt when I don’t go. In the last six months or more, I’ve missed a lot of church because it was too painful to walk, drive, all that was necessary. Now I go when my family goes; when they don’t, I stay home, enjoy a lazy day, and ask the Lord to understand.

You wouldn’t think with the slow-paced life I lead I’d need a lazy day, but Sundays are still different for me. This morning, I got up just before eight and got to my desk to find out what was going on in the world. I had a sleeping ten-year-old on the couch, and a sleeping dog on the floor near him. The minute I tried to get a picture, Sophie leapt up and began barking furiously at some threat only she detected. She did that several times, but nothing disturbs Jacob when he’s sleeping. He woke up about 9:30, claiming he’d been awake an hour. Yeah, sure.

I spent the day at my desk, doing odds and ends—emails I should have written earlier, first edits on the last pages of my novella. Tomorrow I’ll write the new scenes I think it needs, and I’ve got to come up with a title. The novella will go in an anthology, and the editor is asking for titles. I’m baffled. It has to do with fear, but the right title hasn’t come to me. Fear, revenge ..  . some combination of those? I need help!

I also read a bit on a book I had started and was increasingly disinterested in. Today I decided for several reasons to abandon it. I’m tired of heroines who beat themselves up all the time with guilt for sins done or brave deeds undone. I really don’t need that kind of angst. So I started reading the mystery I wwwrote 44,000 words on some time ago and now want to finish. Believe me, Susan Hogan has no such guilt.

I almost regretted my stay-at-my-desk day when Jordan posted Facebook pictures from Joe T.’s with people whose company I really enjoy. When she earlier said they were going to brunch, I had just eaten a big breakfast—but by the time they got to brunch, I was eating the leftovers from last night’s salad for lunch. They operate on a different time schedule than I do.

Case in point: they shared Sunday night supper with me of sliders and corn. We ate at 7:30, whereas my stomach wants dinner at six. But Christian grills my hamburgers just the way I like them—crisp on the outside and pink on the inside. I absolutely won’t quarrel with his time schedule.

So far tonight, none of the predicted thunderstorms, though I thought I heard a rumble to the south and the sky has occasionally had that eerie blue-green color. But then patches of blue would appear. Go figure.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A gourmet meal for two

Me on the patio in my new shirt that says
We are All Wonder Woman
I believe it
A fun day, mostly cooking but also some work, and I finished the contest book I was raeding. An old friend (1970s) came for suppeer tonight and I fixed a semi-gourmet meal. Appetizers and dessert were strictly not homemade—a block of Irish cheese with crackers and some addictive sesame sticks that Jordan finds at Trader Joe’s. Dessert was Frango Mints, those signature chocolates of Marshall Field and Company that are sold by someone else now that Fields is no longer. They’re every bit as good as they ever were—order online  if you wnt them. Just search Frango Mints.

But the entrée was something I’ve wanted to cook for a while: a mushroom ragout. My mom used to sauté mushrooms in butter and put on toast, a very British way of serving them which no doubt pleased my Anglophile father. This was sort of an upscale version of Mom's dish with shallots, garlic, rosemary, thyme, white wine, and chicken broth. All that made a rich gravy. The recipe was for four, and I halved it; halfway through I abandoned the direction and began to wing it with amounts. Two things I would change: less flour and less pepper. I could taste just a bit of the flour and that wasn’t good—you shouldn’t be aware of it. The pepper is an oft-made mistake of mine. It certainly didn’t ruin the dish, and some palates might prefer it, but I was looking forward to a more mellow mushroom taste. At first I thought the recipe intimidating but having once done it, it doesn’t ssseem so bad. I’ll do it again.

I laid out everything for dinner about mid-day—plates, napkiins, flatware, dishes for appetizer, salad bowl and makings, seasonings, you name it and it was ready. That’s how I always cooked when I entertained a crowd and it was a joy to do that prep again. It’s half the fun of cooking.

I’ve decided that cooking and writing are in the same category for me—I’m beginning to get my sea legs back. It's all part of my unusually long recovery.  I’ll get a little more ambitious each time I try it.
So what's for supper tomorrow?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lots of work and some insight

One of the good days. A nice rain, without the predicted thunder, lightning, and tornadoes, this morning. Sunshine, a slight breeze, and 70s this afternoon—happy hour on the patio was delightful. Jordan, her good friend Amy, and a surprise but welcome guest—Rae, our favorite of my caregivers. And three dogs. Much laughter, a few tears, and a wonderful sense of caring.

It had been a good day up until then anyway. I often fritter away the morning with emails and Facebook, and I did today, but my conscience got me, and I also edited another chapter of my novella and read a chunk of the book I’m reading to report to a competition. Usually by two my face is falling in my computer because I’m so sleepy but today I was so engaged by what I was doing that I didn’t even feel sleepy when I went to nap at a little after three. Made me think that maybe I’m back in the working groove. Hope so.

When son Jamie was here yesterday, we talked briefly about being introverts. Jamie is my natural salesman, never met anyone who didn’t prompt him to hold out his hand and say cheerfully, “Hi! I’m Jamie Alter.” His brother once said, “I don’t want to have to talk like Jamie.” Although Jame owns his own company selling toys on behalf of manufacturers, he is still primarily a salesman-and he’s wonderful at it.

When something came up about how loudly he talks on the phone, he said, ‘That’s my extravert personality. But I always feel there’s an introvert deep inside me.”

He got me to thinking. I think of myself as an introvert, but I realize I feed on people. I’m not a recluse. I need people in my life. Particularly when I was running TCU Press, I was outgoing and was praised for my people skills, my self-confidence in social situations, etc. I managed large parties, greeted authors, went to conventions, talked to groups, all with ease (well, mostly so) but I always knew I was playing a role. My position as press director was like a shield I hid behind. Put me alone in a cocktail party with no relation to my job, and I became a wallflower.

I realized though, talking to Jamie, that I miss the days of being an extrovert, being the center of attention, getting all that praise. Oh, sure, I have people around me, and I’m grateful for their company, continued presence, loyalty.

But those glory days are gone, a part of my past, just as my glory days of being a gourmet cook and entertaining large groups are over and done with. It’s part, I guess of growing older. And part of downsizing.

Someone said today that it’s good to plan for inevitable changes in our lives, and that’s what I did in downsizing and moving to the cottage. But it has its drawbacks and things that I miss.

I don’t mean this blog to be a downer Don’t get me wrong. I’m a happy camper, couldn’t be happier. Those are just some thoughts that came to mind with a slight twinge of regret. It really has, though, been a good day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Windy Day

The month of March forgot it’s on its way out today and acted like the lion it’s supposed to come in as. Son Jamie was in town for the day, and we had breakfast at Ol’ South so I could indulge my love of corned beef hash and he could have his Dutch Baby. But the wind was so strong it nearly slammed the car door back on my legs as I tried to get out, and I had to cling to my walker to make it inside. Corned beef hash and Jamie’s company were worth it

Tonight, friends Subie and Phil came for a glass of wine. I had announced earlier in the day that happy hour would be served on the patio. Towards five I thought the wind had calmed, but when we got outside, not so. Huge trees bent and danced as the wind tossed them, and I worried about the buffeting taken by the bougainvillea on the deck which has just thrown out its first profusion of blooms.

We’re due for storms tonight, or in the early morning hours, and I hope this wind isn’t a precursor of severe weather. My lunch date for tomorrow has cancelled in light of the weather, though I don’t think it will be that bad.

Jamie worked all day, so except for breakfast and briefly during the day I didn’t really get to visit with him It was lovely to know he was here, sitting across the room from me, but the atmosphere tightens when he’s working. He’s so intense and frequently utters comments about how frustrated and behind he is. He did fix the controls to my bed—re-synced them, however you do that, and checked my computer, though he could find no reason for its erratic behavior. He intends to pick out a new one for me to buy, but given his travel schedule it looks like at least mid-April before he can do that. I am praying my computer doesn’t stonewall me as it did last weekend. It had one blurp this morning, but I could fix that.

When I said I worried about the pressure he puts on himself, Jamie said, “This is the bed I made for myself for now.” As an ex-beau told me, “Once a mother always a mother.” Yes, I still worry.

Jamie had talked about going out to lunch but clearly, he didn’t have time. We ordered from Jimmy John’s, which I’ve never done. Tuna fish was good, and Jamie said he likes the consistent quality of the food. But no sooner had I swallowed the last bite than Facebook had a piece entitled, “Why you should never eat Jimmy Johns again.” It seems that Jimmy drops huge bundles of money buying exotic animals so he can hunt them for their horns or whatever. He “bought” the last female black rhino in an African game park and killed her. My food stuck in my throat, and I won’t order from there again. Jamie said he boycotted the chain for a year but it was so convenient and the quality so good, he went back to it. I don’t know—quality doesn’t make up for senseless cruelty, extreme vanity, and whatever else motivates that big white hunter.

I forgot about lunch and made tuna salad for dinner. It’s okay. I could eat it three times a day endlessly. Also made a cucumber/avocado salad—really good.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A mid-week, mid-day adventure

Who expects an adventure on a Wednesday, in the middle of the day? Not me, but I had one today. It began last week when a friend I’d not known well but had seen and visited with here and there over the years called and said she’d had a knee replacement in the fall, knew what being housebound was like, and she wanted to come take me to lunch. Thoughtful and kind, and I readily agreed, looking forward to a visit.

When she picked me up, she asked what kind of food I wanted. We settled on Mexican, and she asked if I was up for an adventure—lunch in a new place that was some distance away. Next thing I knew we were driving down a two-lane, curving country road surrounded by trees and brush—we were on Silver Creek Drive, on the far side of Lake Worth. I kept thinking surely a Mexican restaurant was not going to suddenly pop up on this stretch of road with few houses and nothing else. It didn’t.

By the time we reached our destination, we were in the suburb of Lakeside. LaChoza, in a small strip center, was surprisingly modern and well decorated We were early so service was prompt—I had spinach enchiladas and my host had a plate lunch. Good food, typical Tex-Mex but well done.

We visited, filling in gaps we never knew about each other—careers, husbands, children, all those details that flesh out the life of a person. She who had been one dimensional for me—a photographer at events and a friend at occasional chance happenings—took on several more dimension.

When she dropped me at home she said what fun it was and we’d do it again. But I’m not sure she’ll want to tackle my 1920s skinny driveway again!

An adventure of another sort that was less fun: I tried walking with a cane for the second time today. I thought it was a rank failure. I am awkward, uncertain, afraid, and in a hurry to get it over with. Ellen, the therapist, keeps telling me to slow down and that it will take time. I keep telling her that in recent years I was never confident walking, even with a cane, before my hip gave out. She will come for one more week, and then her assignment will run out.

I’m enough of a realist to know that without assistance and encouragement, I won’t practice with the cane—besides she says not to try it alone (she is a worrywart who is more terrified than I am of my falling—I guess she doesn’t want to undo all her work). Not sure what the next step is, but I know there is a next step. And I’ll take it, however reluctantly.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Is There A Gadget Guru in the House?

I’ve been plagued by electronic failures lately—computer, cell phone, bed controls, in-house camera. Clearly, I need a gadget guru. And here, I think, the difference comes in between sons and daughters—or at least mine.

I mentioned over the weekend that my computer developed a mind of its own and would not pay any attention to what I wanted it to do. I spent the morning hard booting, unplugging and plugging, all the fixes I’ve ever heard about. Nada. Colin came in about eleven, sat there for a few minutes, hit a few keys, and voila! (like the way I mix Spanish and French?). It worked, although I have not turned it off since, only put it in sleep mode.

The camera is one of two that my kids installed so they could check on me. It’s rather lie having Big Brother watching you—it reports to their cell phone, video and audio. They put one right by my desk and one in the bedroom. Fortunately I am past the age and place in life where bedroom privacy matters. The bedroom one quit working, and Jamie has taken it home to re-program.

I have a sleep numbers bed, which means I can use a remote to raise and lower both the head and the foot. The other night the remote quit in the middle of the night—with the foot in a raised position, (That has been a godsend—my “bad” foot was really swollen after surgery, and it’s still good to sleep with my feet higher than my heart.) Scrambling out of the bed with the foot elevated was not easy with my weak leg, but I figured I’d make it okay the rest of the night. After a few minutes the remote magically turned itself on, but today it gave me a low battery message. I changed the batteries, and it told me there was a connection failure

Jordan got on the floor, checked connections; I took the batteries out and put them in again, making sure they were all the way in and the right way. Nothing. The last time this happened, after she’d crawled around on the floor, Jamie fixed it by touching one button. He’s due here Thursday, so I’ll probably greet him remote in hand. At least, this time, the foot is flat and the head barely elevated.

The same night that remote quit, my cell phone got wonky. When I woke in the night, I checked to see who’d sent me mail—but it wouldn’t let me open the mail. Everything else worked fine. In the clear light of day, I rebooted the phone and felt proud of myself that it worked.

But that’s three—computer, bed control, and phone plus the camera which I put in a different category. Does that mean my jinx is over? I surely hope so, because clearly Jordan and I are not equipped to deal with such catastrophes. And when you’re as dependent as I am on electronics, such failures are truly catastrophic.

I spend all day every day at my computer. If it doesn’t work, I’m not sure what I’d do. I can only read for so long, and I’m not a TV watcher. Got to think this through.

Monday, March 20, 2017

First day of spring…and trivia

Things that struck me today: this is my parent’s 80th wedding anniversary. Sure wish they were here to celebrate

In a column of funny obituaries today, I found this: “Ding dong, the witch is dead, but the memory of our mother lives on.” Shh. Don’t tell my kids.

I am a devotee of Sam Sifton’s column in the New York Times, “What to Cook Today.” But he may have gone too far this morning in suggesting putting a pot of oatmeal on overnight in your rice cooker or whatever. Then in the morning stir in some syrup and a shot of Scotch whiskey What a way to start the day!

Wonderful lunch today—friend Carol convinced me she was craving fried chicken, so we went to Buttons, a restaurant that advertises food and music for the soul. It was indeed soul food—the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, along with mashed potatoes and gravy and seasoned green beans. Brought one piece of chicken and some green beans home for supper, just added a deviled egg.

Absolutely beautiful day in Fort Worth today-what spring should be like. We sat on the patio with wine and planned the garden. I want to plant onions and lettuce this week, if we’re not already too late, for spring salads. My mouth is watering as I remember my mom’s wilted lettuce.

It’s going to be a good spring. Hope everyone enjoys it!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A wonderful day—but where was my schedule?

Must be a sign of aging, but I find that even in retirement I live by a schedule—up by 7:30, lunch by noon, nap around two when my head starts falling into my keyboard, dinner around six, and to bed at ten. And I don’t adapt gracefully to changes. Lunch invitations for 12:30 leave me wondering what I can snack on, and I have a hard time on occasion adapting to the late dinner schedule of Jordan’s family.

That said, my schedule went all to pot today, and I loved it. Jamie came from Frisco bringing Mel and his two daughters, Maddie (about to go to college) and Eden—those beautiful girls are above I’m prejudiced but I think they’re lovely, and they are as sweet as they are lovely. Maddie completed training last year to be a Certified Nurses’ Assistant, and she was a big help to me and my walker today.

They got here just before 12:30 and it was 1:00 before we were settled on the porch at Bravo. We ordered drinks and appetizers; Mel was told they were out of Prosecco, and I just flat never got my glass of wine. Finally, after a word to the bartender, we both got our drinks but no food. At 1:50 Jamie gently mentioned our plight, and the manager for the day was on it. I think we had a very new waiter—but I worried about him losing a job, etc. Anyway after that things happened quickly, and we had appetizers and meal in rapid order, then lingered over dessert—tiramisu. Mel joked about spending all afternoon at lunch, and we almost did but I loved the company and the conversation. Great way to spend an afternoon.

After they left for Frisco, about 3:30, my day was off. Napped at 4:15, wasn’t hungry but finally had a sandwich at 7:00—may be ready to go back to bed early.

Burtons are home from skiing today, so my week of independence is over. I find I already have a Jordan list, but I really am working on independence. That aside, I’m glad to have them back—missed them.

Our front yard now sports a swarm of Lily B. signs The Spring Auction for Jacob’s school (right across the street—Lily B. Clayton) is coming up. As publicity, they developed all these bee signs (the bee is the school’s mascot) and a sign that says “You’ve been swarmed.” Glad to be part of it.

Lovely compliment on my Facebook page, one that thrills my heart. A friend who knows my devotion to my Scottish ancestry, wrote “Five thousand years of Scottish breeding shows.” Thanks, Ellen.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Gripes and Glories

The last couple of days have been filled with gripes and glories. My gripes first to get them out of the way:

Today got off to a horrible start. My computer developed a mind of its own and operated with willy-nilly regard to what I was asking or telling it to do. It would flip me out of programs, not accept type, insert rows of meaningless type on its own. I did everything I know to do, which isn’t a lot. But I hard-booted probably twenty times, disconnected from power, let it sit to “collect itself.” Nothing worked, and I grew increasingly frustrated.

Colin and family came through on their way home from ski slopes and he, God bless him, fixed it, though I don’t know what he did. I have asked so I can fix it another time, but I think I see a new computer in my future. Tonight, though, it’s working fine—knock on wood.

Sophie is the cause of my other gripe: yesterday she turned into a food thief. Friends brought me a sub for lunch, it was cut in half and so filling I decided to save the second half—but we all turned our backs for a minute, and Sophie had it on the floor.

Last night, friends brought a bountiful supper that included a round loaf of Irish soda bread. We ate a few slices, and I know they expected to take it home with them. But we turned our back again, and the next thing we knew Sophie was looking at us from the patio, with this half loaf of bread ridiculously clamped in her teeth. Color me embarrassed. Color her unrepentant, like “Why are you all making such a fuss?” We have to learn to do a better job of watching her with food on the coffee table, which is the only place I have to serve in the cottage.

The glories more than make up for the gripes. Joe and Mary Dulle brought Irish stew with stout last night. I know Mary labored over it for three days, in spite of her bad back, even roasted the bones for the gravy. And that gravy was rich and flavorful and wonderful, the meat tender as could be. A pleasant evening—great to visit with them and have that terrific meal to boot. For dessert, we had chocolate brownies with Irish whisky—I was so full last night I only tried one tonight

My other glory was the visit from Colin and family. They didn’t stay long—had one more stop to make in Fort Worth before heading to Tomball, and I know once headed home they were anxious to be there. But they were here long enough for him to fix my computer and Lisa to straighten my closet and, most important, for me to get to hug Moran and Kegan. I so long to see more of all my grandchildren. And bonus: the stopped to bring me a barbecue sandwich for lunch.

Tonight Jordan and family are due home but late. I fixed meatloaf (already prepared), fried potatoes and salad, and am once again over-served. Pleasant evening reading, with French doors open to the patio. Sophie comes and goes at will—but so do flies and those long-legged May bugs or whatever they are. Still, I’m enjoying it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Before. After, and … you judge

Sophie and I both had haircuts this week, so I thought I’d show before and after pictures. Plus I had a professional phototaken, and I need feedback on a couple of photos. So here goes.
Shaggy Sophie

After haircut

And me--with  long (for me) hair and shorter (with good friend Phil Green).

Looking at these, I'm not sure there's not that much difference, either for Sophie or me. But in person, it's big, believe me.

Neighborhood photographer Polly Hooper was practicing her portrait shots, asked for volunteers, and I jumped at the opportunity. My last head shot, also taken by Polly, was at least six or seven years ago, and I am amazed at the difference. I believe it's called aging! But here are the three shots Polly and I liked--including the one on the left above.

 I had terrible problems formatting this as maybe you can
tell, so I won't be chatty. Just give me your opinon, 1, 2 or 3.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Pet Peeve

I know there are a lot more weighty things on Americans’ minds these days, but I want to start a movement to abolish automated phone systems. I settled at my desk this morning thinking I had just one or two small matters to take care of and then I could revise, revise, revise. Not so. Between the bank, the United States Postal Service, and a fabric outlet, I spent almost all my morning on the phone, being shuttled from one option to another, put on hold, assured it would be just a minute, and put on hold again. To say I was frustrated would be an enormous understatement.

In the midst of all this, the upholsterer I had called came to pick up my wing chair. He had one helper with him but I could tell immediately his was a single-person shop. He asked, “How did you hear about me?” Not how did I hear about his company or anything, but him. To my embarrassment all I could say was that he was recommended by someone whose taste I trusted but now (several months later) I couldn’t remember who.

He had a nice sense of humor and a gentle way of telling me I hadn’t ordered enough fabric—I’d ordered the 8 yards he told me, but he meant 64” wide and what I got was 48” Back to the drawing board. But because I instinctively liked and trusted him, he left with not one but two chairs. We decided later by phone to wait until next week when the fabric was due to be in stock again, order more, and order a separate fabric for the second chair—a barrel chair. He explained that the original fabric—a horizontal pattern—wouldn’t work on the barrel chair because he would have to cut on the bias. That personal, individual explanation, kindly and even humorously delivered, was worth its weight in gold.

Whenever I can, I deal with mom-and-pop businesses, and I vow now to deal with businesses where, like the upholsterer, a real live, speaking human answers the phone.

Oh, to go back to the good old days—at least that aspect of them.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Gourmet vs. Gourmand

The young doctor who lives next door brought me this rose
from his garden; it opened so much lovelier than
a lot of florist roses. Note my bud vase--a LaCroix can.
Happy Ides of March, everyone. Unlike Caesar, we do not (probably) need to fear the Ides, but some of us old folks remember when this was the day taxes were due.

Are you a gourmet or a gourmand? I worked with an editor once who refused to apply the word “gourmand” to a person. I think it conjured in her mind a picture of fat old men with huge bellies who sat around swilling ale after a huge dinner—someone from Dickens or perhaps Samuel Johnson himself.

Truth be told, a gourmand is defined as one who enjoys eating—and sometimes eats too much. I have been a gourmand lately. Last night at the Old Neighborhood Grill I had a breaded pork cutlet, mashed potatoes, and green beans—all preceded by a generous helping of artichoke/jalapeno dip. Today for lunch a friend served me a wonderful (and beautiful) salad plate topped by a large piece of salmon—and preceded by far too much pimiento cheese. I ate every bite of my lunch. Tonight, I could hardly face supper and brought home potatoes Dauphinoise and marinated asparagus for lunch tomorrow. Also a large Hello Dolly bar which I have not touched and won’t tonight.

I am hungry at lot lately, particularly just before meals. I’ve tried eating breakfast later to get past the pre-lunch hunger, but it doesn’t seem to work. In the late afternoon, I drink a cup of tea sweetened with honey—better than starting on the wine too early. But none of it really helps. I watch the clock, waiting for it to be a decent hour to eat. I’m not sure if this hunger is an effort to make up the weight I lost in recent months (I don’t really want to weigh that much again) or it’s a symptom of boredom with my writing. If the latter, I’m in trouble.

To switch subjects, growing up on Lake Michigan I loved looking at the water. But I was never much for being in it or on it. I think early training in the dangers of getting in over your head or rip tides had a lifelong influence on me. Today, at my friends’ house for lunch, I was struck by how central to their lives a body of water is. They are both waterbugs, as she said (she is a native of Florida) and they live on Lake Worth, with a view of the water that would mesmerize me all day. But their life in part revolves around boats—sailboats and others. Me? I found it delightful to eat that great lunch while staring at the water and seeing baby geese swimming by the dock.

But I came home gratefully to my cottage. Nice to be so happy with where you live. Home, they say, is where your heart is...or maybe where your dog is.

I am surrounded by good and caring neighbors
Daffodils from one; fresh from Florida oranges from another
I have no idea what these letters below are but I can't make them go away. Sorry.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Daylight Savings Time…and winter temperatures

Waiting for six o’clock dinner guests and wondering why it wasn’t dark yet. Duh, forgot about DST. When I realized that, I had a happy little sigh. I love DST and don’t understand the people who complain about it. Yes, one time would be nice, but I’d want it to be daylight savings, and I always heard that farmers, etc., want early morning light. Looked up a bit of history and found farmers had nothing to do with it. Daylight savings time began as a fuel-saving measure way be in WWI—the first to experiment with it were Germans. So much for thinking America invent everything.

But to many of us,, summer is vacation and picnics and beaches and all kind of good things that are done in the late afternoon, especially here in Texas where mid-day is too hot. Dark closing in at six o’clock would be depressing in the summer. This argument has been waged for years without any change, so I don’t expect action. Just putting my two cents in.

With all the lovely evening sunlight, it was too cool for the patio. Neighbors Jaimie, Greg and Jay came for supper. Jay brought spinach crostini rich with garlic, and I had made a marinara sauce and salad. Found out I had to ask Jay to cook the supper—I cannot fill a pan with water and transfer to my one-burner stove while in a wheelchair, and I’m not good enough at walking to do it without the chair. So he ended up doing it all. Everyone said it was a good dinner; I would have preferred more sauce in proportion to the pasta.

Earlier in the day I had brunch with a friend at Press Café—we got there right after it opened at 11:00 and still it was crowded We found bar seats, where I discovered I can hear better than across the table from someone. Had a breakfast sandwich—ham, egg, cheese, tomato, greens, sauce on a brioche bun. Good but it required a knife and fork. Next time: chicken salad with gorgonzola.

Mid-afternoon a friend who is practicing her portrait skills came to take my picture. I especially like two shots—kids all liked one, my dinner guests another. Dilemma!

A full and delightfully crowded day—no writing, no reading. But hey, it’s spring break. That’s okay!

What about you? Special plans for this week?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

This, that, and hey—it’s Saturday!

Ah, Texas my Texas—after more than fifty years here, the state can still surprise this Chicago girl. Case in point: this weekend there is a rattlesnake roundup in Sweetwater and a Wild Hog Festival in LaSalle County. Like all ranchers, my brother fights the scourge of wild hogs that ruin his pastures. He shoots them, without apology to animal-rights person me or the hogs, and I can see his point. I don’t dispute the necessity, though I’m not wild about seeing pictures of dead hogs. But I think next year, with a little advance notice, he should go to the festival—they apparently serve a lot of wild hog meat. Sounds like eating roadkill to me.

My brother once thought we tangled because I question the sanity of a law allowing shooting the hogs from airplanes. I had to make clear I wasn’t concerned about the hogs—I was worried that people would be shot by some trigger-happy yahoo in a plane.

This wild hog business is serious. There’s an association of Texas Wild Hog Hunters I recently read that they are opposed to the use of warfarin against the hogs. In case you forgot, warfarin is the stuff most rat baits used until recent years when some of the rodent population seemed to become immune. It’s a blood thinner, known as coumadin and commonly used to treat humans. It prevents clotting, etc.

One problem already existent with warfarin is that birds and other populations feed on rats and absorb it. It enters the food chain and could easily make its way to humans. I see this as a danger in introducing into ranchlands—not only pollution of hog carcasses but perhaps water and crop supplies.

Wait! How did a this-and-that blog turn into a lecture on wild hogs and coumadin? Still, I admit to the danger and threat posed by wild hogs—they multiply at a ferocious rate. To hear ranchers talk, they may soon take over the world—or at least Texas.

On a much more pleasant note, I had a lunch visit today from son Colin, his wife Lisa, and children Morgan and Kegan—on their way to the Colorado ski slopes. I don’t see enough of that family and was delighted to see them. Kids grow so fast. They brought lunch from Carshon’s deli, and I just enjoyed the last half of a brownie after my dinner tonight. Colin grew up going to Carshon’s, and I swear if he had to choose between the deli and my house on a Fort Worth visit, he’d choose the deli. He wanted to rearrange my living area tonight—wait! This was a quick stopover!—and was a bit displeased (understatement) when Lisa and I didn’t think it was a good idea. He promised to put it all back after he saw what it looked like, but I was worried about all the breakables on it and in it. Hated to have a spat when he was here so briefly.
My Tomball Alters four years ago
I need a new group picture!

I put tomato sauce on to simmer this morning and let it cook all day—no, not spaghetti sauce, but plain marinara sauce. Discovered the wonders of San Marzano canned tomatoes—but most cooks already know that. I will report tomorrow on the success of my sauce experiment—and then give credit for the recipe if it turned out all right.

My neighbor Margaret Johnson gifted me with a large tuna/noodle casserole—she makes them during Lent. I love tuna/noodle any time and have pigged out on it two nights in a row Tonight I made freezer bundles since there’s no way I could eat that whole thing by myself.

I’ve been lazy today, but now it’s time to get busy and write just a bit. Don’t forget to change your clocks tonight. My kids, bound for mountain time, figured out it would be a wash—they’ll lose an hour but gain it back going into Colorado. Next week, when they return, they’ll have to face up to the loss of an hour.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Sleepy the dwarf        

I did hardly any constructive work today, a fact which weighs on my incurably puritanical conscience. Yes, I had things to do. Even woke up with a scene in my mind and wanted to write it immediately. But life gets in the way. I always start the morning with email and Facebook. This morning by the time I did that, got myself ready for the day—hair washed, teeth brushed, dressed, etc.—it was time for the physical therapist to come. By the time she left, it was almost time for an early lunch date.

Betty and I didn’t get our usual dinner out this week so we compromised on lunch today. We both love the Swiss Pastry Shop, so off we went. A triumph for me—I went on the walker, not in the wheelchair, and felt fine about it, a little more secure than the chair. I had been longing for a certain meal all week--bratwurst, kraut and potato salad. Betty had a Reuben, and we were both most happy with our meals.

Came home ready to write that scene but a strange malady overcame me, as it has almost every day for months. I get so sleepy I doze off at my computer. Usually I can work until 2:00 but today at 1:00 I was falling asleep and realized I was nearly falling out of my chair. Struck me as dangerous, so I crawled into bed and stayed there until almost three when the bathroom called. Checked email and was still so sleepy I went back to bed. Only got up because a neighbor came to call at 4:00.. And tonight? Yep, I’m yawning but not quite falling asleep.

The scene I was going to write? I sort of wrote it but only got 700 words instead of the 1,000 that is my daily goal. Gave up and turned to reading, but I find when I read fiction new ideas for my own work pop into my mind. Friend and well-known author Susan Wittig Albert keeps telling me reading is work for authors, and I’m beginning to believe her. And she passed on a quote from Stephen King to the effect that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.

‘Night. I’m going back to my book.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

A day of small disappointments and large pleasures

A breath of spring in the cottage
Gift from a friend
A Day without Women totally got by me, but then I don’t know how I could have boycotted, etc. I don’t go to work, don’t care for children or a husband. I’m responsible only for me…which is maybe the point. Anyway I applaud the women who took time and trouble to broadcast the sorry state of women, even today.

My day started with hurry up and wait. Jordan and I were going shopping at ten, but a young woman had an accident right in front of our house, hit a car owned by a PTA mother Jordan has known since they were both in middle school. Jordan went out and found the young woman—pregnant and frightened—sitting in a smoking car, waiting for her husband, ambulance, fire dept., police, whoever. With great authority Jordan said, “I need you to get out of the car.” She took the woman to our porch got her water and waited with her.  I am so proud of her and wouldn’t have wanted her to do anything else but not knowing the circumstances, I was out in the cottage frustrated and waiting.

My other disappointment, frustration came from the phone. I am so weary of calls from institutions where I must punch one for English, punch in my address, phone, last four digits, age, birthdate—only to be put on hold and eventually find that the call is totally unimportant. Or get an operator with such a heavy accent I can’t understand. Bank of America today wanted to verify my information, but when they got me on the phone they found out it was already verified. I’d love to ignore these calls but I’m always afraid it has something to do with my credit or whatever.

Big pleasures: Jordan and I went to Trader Joe’s, with my list. I had never been, had a skewed idea about it, and absolutely loved it. We went at an off-hour, so parking was easy and the store was blessedly empty. I saw so many things I wanted, from snacks to frozen entrees. Had butternut squash with creamed spinach tonight. I want to go back there.

Home for lunch, and then to Central Market. I haven’t been in a grocery store in months, and this was a real treat. In this case, my list was made out in order of where things were because that store is familiar to me. Jordan kept piling things into the basket on my lap, until I could barely see over the top. I was delighted when one of the butchers recognized me, and a cheese man had a good laugh about me and my piled-high basket. I love that store, but it frustrates Jordan. We’ll have to educate each other—she can teach me Trader’s, and I’ll defuse her frustration with Central Market.

Because of these shopping forays, I have provisions enough for a long time.

To top off the day, Jordan took Sophie to the vet. Sophie (not Jordan) has snuffled with allergies, and I’ve been treating her with Benadryl. But yesterday she sneezed a fine spray of blood twice but then normal sneezes. I called the vet hoping he’d phone diagnose but he wanted to see her, so off they went. A vet bill and some drops later, Sophie seems just fine.

No writing today Just dealing with life as it came along. But it was a good day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Birthday Brother

Happy Birthday to my big brother, who downplays his birthdays and said he wasn’t going to celebrate, but my sister-in-law might cook something special. He was, he said, amazed, surprised and very grateful to find himself 85 years old. His voice cracked this morning but he said that was because he hadn’t talked much yet and he was, as a matter of fact, feeling exceptionally healthy. It should happen to all of us at that age. And good gravy—if he’s that old, I can’t be too far behind. (Six-and-a-half years)

John was the big brother I adored as a child, the one who fought my battles for me. Once a neighbor boy teased me—John pantsed him (took his pants off and left him to go home without them—if I remember the story correctly). He was always my hero growing up. In elementary school, he was sent to private school, leaving me adrift in public school. In high school, he was sent to military school. I remember from those years that the few times he came home were thrilling experiences for me. And I connect dogs with his visits—one was my English cocker who apparently hated uniforms and lunged at him; another, earlier dog was one John got I know not where. I’ll ask, and he’ll say, “Gee, sis, I don’t remember.”

One incident became a family classic. He was trying to teach me to dance, but he yowled and complained loudly to Mom that I stepped on his foot. “He put his foot where I was going to step,” I said indignantly.

When I was in college in Iowa, he was in the Navy in California, I think, and would drive through my college town on his way home to Chicago. He took me to the local café, and I was so excited I had the shakes. He kept asking if I was cold—how do you explain that excitement to your brother when you’re trying to feel cool? Later on that trip, he needed to renew his drivers’ license so I went with him to the license office where they asked if a license drive brought him, and he said, “No, my sister brought me.” For some detail, he was denied the license and complained bitterly that the government trusted him to fly a plane but not to drive a car.

Even in those years, he looked out for me. I transferred from Iowa to the university at home and after I graduated I showed no signs of leaving the nest. John, by then married and with two stepchildren, announced that I was had to move on, so I followed his family to Kirksville, Missouri and enrolled in Kirksville State Teachers College (now Truman University) to work on a M.Ed. in English. That move determined much of the course of my life to come. John and my future husband were students at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.

As adults, both divorced, John and I led different lives, our styles and concerns divergent, though we always remained close for holidays. In my recent years, he happily married and me happily single, we have been closer than ever, a bond strengthened by the closeness of our six children and, between us, thirteen grandchildren.

We have traveled a long and twisting road together, and we are both now nostalgic about our past, our families. We compare memories, and we share a love of many things learned as children. It’s a rich heritage, and I am so glad to share him to share it with. I do not like to hear his talk about aging and being fragile—I want my Bubba to be here as long as I am.

Happy Birthday, John, and thanks for being all that you are for me, including titular head of the family.