Friday, June 30, 2017

Feeling Cranky—and more optimistic things

Do you ever feel cranky and not really know why or what’s going on? That was me last night. Definitely out of sorts. And that was the last thing I wanted to be. My oldest son, Colin, was here on business for two days, and I was so looking forward to visiting.

He didn’t get here until 10:30 Wednesday night, so we had a brief visit before we both went to sleep. He was up at 5:30—I managed to say good morning, and that was all, and he left for work at 7:30. A Fort Worth-based company has bought the one he works for—how lucky is that? —and he was here for meetings. Last night, we planned family dinner. I was going to make chicken in a creamy, sun-dried tomato sauce—doesn’t that sound yummy? A recipe I really want to try—but Christian had defrosted a post roast two days earlier, figured out no one would be around to eat it, and by Thursday said he had to cook it. So we had pot roast—a nice meal for a visiting son/brother/uncle.

Only Colin texted to say he had to go to dinner with a couple of guys from the office. He didn’t think he’d be late because he told them he wanted to hang out with his family. At nine he texted to say they’d just left the office for dinner, at a downtown Mexican restaurant he couldn’t name. (He’s a wonderful boy, but not always observant.) He got home at 10:30, and by then I was cranky and sleepy, for undiagnosed reasons. I sat and visited for a while, even managed to scold him for messing with my remote thermostat—a scolding he did not take gracefully. Then I went to bed, and left Colin to visit with his sister.

This morning, the world looked much brighter. About 6:30 I apologized to Colin, and he said he shouldn’t have been so sharp about the thermostat but he honestly did think he was capable of dealing with it. We both sat on the edge of my bed and had a good talk about family, faith, my recovery, when I can drive, all kinds of things. He is so good for my sanity…and for my soul.

A much better day. Jordan and I went to lunch with friend Subie, and Jordan enjoyed it, said she hoped we’d invite her again which we will. We had planned to go to the grocery, but she started her day off badly—strenuous workout on no breakfast and then the heat got her. She needed to come home and lie down. So that’s what we did. I feel like hanging a sign around my neck that says, “See how flexible I can be about groceries? Yay for me!”

Tonight I’m home still proofing that novel, but also playing with recipe ideas in my head. Instead of cooking, I cleaned out leftovers that needed to go, froze a bit of salmon loaf, and made a sandwich of last night’s roast. I love cold roast beef sandwiches, and this had great flavor—he cooked it with cream of mushroom soup and who knows what else.

Long weekend looms. Maybe it will all be great. Happy Fourth, everyone. I’m going to count my blessings and avoid crank moods.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Busy Day at the Cottage

I suspect some people think I lead the life of leisure here in the cottage. Work a little in the morning, maybe go out to lunch, nap in the afternoon, maybe go out to dinner. Today was a day to put such notions to rest.

The day began with the dog groomer, who arrived about 8:30. Because I can hardly get Sophie to the groomers and her thick coat, plus her impatient disposition, prevent me from doing a good job with that hybrid and thick fur, I use a service called Pet Staff—it used to be Whisker Washers, and I like that name a lot better. Sophie is so excited to jump into that little trailer, doesn’t mind the bath, the grooming, any of it, and loves the attention.

While she was in the trailer, workmen from the gas company wandered into the back yard and looked astonished when I asked if they would work there today. They’ve wandered in, looked the situation over, and left so many times I never know. Today, they were working. Two men spent long hours digging in the area Jordan had carefully mulched. When Sophie came back, I had to keep her inside, though she occasionally barked her displeasure at their presence.

In the afternoon, I looked out and they had a huge pile of dirt on the patio. I asked if they planned to leave it, and they said yes. Communication here is always a little difficult. I don’t know if they are reticent or don’t have much English. I explained that wouldn’t work, with three dogs, one of them sparkingly clean. I wasn’t sure the message got across, but when they left, the pile of dirt was gone, and the area where they’d dug at the corner of the cottage was neatly patched over. They worked quietly, except when I napped at which point they activated some machine that had a distractingly regular thump.

Meantime today was the day our neighbor, aged ten, was going to do a dry run to see if he could wheel their mower around the block from their house directly behind us to mow the back yard which will probably take ten minutes. With the groomer in the driveway and the men working, I didn’t think it was a good day for a trial. Sam will come tomorrow, but I fear the men will still be here. Yes, Jacob could mow, but we don’t own a mower, and Sam’s family does.

Meantime I was not idle. I was merging corrections from the editor and two readers into one, I hope, coherent manuscript. Today it mostly involved deleting and replacing punctuation, which is tedious at best. I spent roughly six hours at it, did twelve chapters, and told Betty tonight that I knew now how she feels when she’s practiced for hours. She’s a professional organist and plays for weddings these days, so she too puts in long tedious hours. I am almost done with the manuscript, after which I will have to read the whole thing again to see if it holds together. And then maybe read it again.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Squirrels and Mud—and a Lesson from the Lord

One of those days I’m not sorry to see end. First thing this morning, as usual, I turned on my computer. It told me it was shutting down, and proceeded to do so for an inordinate amount of time. Finally got past that, and it wouldn’t accept my password, although I knew it was the one I’ve been using for months. It gave me a helpful message about changing the password at a web site—but I couldn’t access the site to change it! This went on for about an hour and a half. I tried the web site on my iPad, but was told it couldn’t be found. Jordan said, “No you can do it that way.” Finally used the cell phone, changed the password, and got in.

Meanwhile, the TV went in and out, couldn’t decide what it wanted to do. Finally did come on. A friend came for coffee, and we visited for about an hour.

Sophie was having the time of her life, frantically chasing squirrels. I’m not sure if the squirrels were taunting her more or what was different about today, but she ran all over the yard all morning, serenading us with that shrill, excited bark, and occasionally coming in for water. When I trapped her inside at lunch time, I suddenly saw that there was mud all over the floor, rug, and my bedroom carpet. I deliberately let it dry, thinking it needs a stiff brush to loosen it and then a vacuum. I did mop the wood floor and probably need to do it again, but I’m waiting until someone—Jordan—vacuums. Neither scrubbing the dirt loose nor vacuuming are on the list of things my hip will let me do.

Of course, there was a muddy dog to deal with. Since it never did rain here, I think she came in to drink, pawed at the water, and then went out—making her own mud. I cleaned her paws as best I could and pulled up the covers so she wouldn’t crawl into my bed. When she slept on the couch, I looked away. She has a regularly scheduled bath tomorrow morning, thank goodness.

Finally after lunch I turned to my editing project. I’m sure the Lord was teaching me a lesson—I don’t have to get it all done right away just because it’s there. So today I’m more relaxed about it. What choice did I have? It’s tedious work, mostly correcting commas or so it seems to me. I’m trying to create one manuscript with corrections and suggestions from the editor and the two beta readers so I’m merging corrections. I’ve finally developed a method for working with two versions on the screen at once that works pretty well. But it’s slow. I’ve finished six chapters, hope to get two more done tonight.

Tomorrow is just bound to be a better day. Reminding myself that too many people have problems that are much more severe than muddy carpets.

Monday, June 26, 2017

 Work for the night is coming

One of my aunts, one that I adored, used to make fun of that hymn because it embodies an attitude in Christianity that she despised. But then, she was a preacher’s daughter who grew up living in near poverty in every small town in southern Ontario. I remember my dad taking us on trips through that country, and in each town he’d point out the parsonage. The memory of a child is unreliable, so I’m not sure if the houses looked dismal to me or if that’s the way I heard the story.

Life for Methodist preachers in Ontario in those days was grim. I’m sure they weren’t paid much, and they moved every two years. My grandmother had five children, one of whom died young. I’m sure feeding and raising the rest wasn’t easy, and Nana, whom I loved fiercely, was a fairly neurotic and pessimistic woman. I recognized that only from the perspective of adulthood but I think her life must have accounted for her attitude.

I remember her house in Oakville fondly—it had its own smell that welcomed me. I loved the chesterfield (that’s a British way of saying sofa) covered in chintz, and a huge sideboard in the dining room. That sideboard is now in my dining room—well not in the cottage, but in the main house It doesn’t look as big to me these days but it is a treasure.

One of my aunts lived with Nana. Doey developed rheumatoid arthritis as a young woman, a nurse, and was reduced to being a stringer for the Toronto Star. I suspect my grandmother did a lot of her work, because Doey’s hands and feet were terribly contorted and painful. In those days, probably the 1950s, they didn’t have the treatments they do today for RA.

All in all my father’s family were not a cheerful bunch, and I marvel that he came away and moved to Chicago—with a robust enjoyment of life. He brought with him many traits that I suspect were inheritances from his upbringing—a strict sense of right and wrong, a firm commitment to responsibility, a democratic sense of fairness to all people. Much of what I am today I owe to his influence. When I was fourteen I went to work in his office and eventually became his secretary. I was a darn good executive assistant and could be today. One thing that Dad hated was to call someone—he always dialed his own calls, none of that “Get so-and-so on the phone for me” nonsense—only to have a secretary say, “Please hold.”

Sorry. I got sidetracked and carried away, but I thought of the hymn and then my family background because today was a real workday for me. My work ethic came to the forefront even though I am my own boss these days. I had edits on a manuscript to do but didn’t want to lose momentum on the work-in-progress. The result was that I had my nose to the computer all day, except about two o’clock, usually my nap time, my brain said, “I need a rest” and I took a nap.

Friends came for happy hour, people I hadn’t visited with for a while, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But then I was back at my desk. Now it’s late, and I’m going to crawl into bed and read a good mystery.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Testing My Faith

Church this morning was a test of my faith. I attend an established, traditional church, a Disciples of Christ congregation. I like to think our theology is liberal, even if our congregation is fairly gray-haired, older, and conservative. This morning, we sat toward the front, in front of the pulpit. A young, Middle Eastern man slipped into the pew directly in front of us. He was cleanshaven but wildly curling black hair poked out from an unusual knitted wool cap that was a cross between a beret and a sac and totally inappropriate on a June day. Thin and a bit rumpled, he carried a backpack that he set on the floor and immediately rummaged in, pulling out what appeared to be a worn Bible. Was it my imagination or was he breathing hard? Was his cotton shirt sweat-soaked as it looked? My nose thought it answered the last question, but maybe he’d ridden a bike to church. When he turned a bit, I saw huge dark eyes, wide open.

I am not happy to confess that my radar went up. Throughout the service, he read his Bible, ignoring what was going on in worship. He didn’t pray; he didn’t take communion. Why was he amongst us?

A bigger question I asked myself was if I’d have had the same reaction were he blonde with pale skin. I think the answer is that I would still be concerned, but perhaps to a lesser degree. My thoughts raged from faith to instinctive caution. As a liberal progressive, I despise racial profiling and like to think I accept people individually based on who they are. But this young man set off something instinctive in me, a fear I could not deny. In our church, all are welcome at the table, and we believe God teaches us to love all his children, no matter skin color, clothing, whatever. And the other hand, as a woman, I’ve been carefully taught to pay attention to my instincts. If I sense something is wrong, I’m urged to take action to protect myself.

Nothing happened in church, of course. The young man may well have been lost, lonely, and afraid. When the hour of greeting arrived, I shook his hand and welcomed him, and he nodded appreciatively, those wild (honest, they were) eyes looking directly at me.

I’m left wondering what God thought of my dilemma, and, more importantly, what I think about it. Conscience or caution? I still don’t know the answer. I do know that for a moment there I was reminded of the first lines of a novel I just finished writing, “Susan Hogan thought she was going to meet her maker that March day. Her first thought was irreverent. ‘Really, God? In a grocery store in Oak Grove? Haven’t you got this wrong somehow?’” My thought was, “Really, God? In church on Sunday morning?” But I also felt strangely safe, as though I knew it would all be all right.. Perhaps our lives are going to be filled with that dichotomy in these fear-ridden, uncertain times. Fear certainly is a catching disease.

The day didn’t get immediately better. Washing dishes and my favorite cup, the one I drink tea from every morning, slipped out of my soapy hands; the handle broke off, so now it’s relegated to being a small vase. It was given to me by a close friend who has since died, so it has sentimental value, making the loss that much worse.

Dinner with friends tonight soothed my troubled soul. One of my wimpy friends and her gentleman friend ate on a patio, because it’s in the 80s with a nice breeze. Not sure I would have prevailed, but apparently, he gets cold easily too. Eggplant parmigiana that was delicious. And I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. Thanks to Kathie and Morris for a lovely evening.

I gave myself a holiday from writing today. Piddled at my desk with this, that and the other, even made notes for the novel, but didn’t actively work on it. Pleasant, but I didn’t get as much reading done as I expected. Tomorrow, back to work. And another week begins.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Storms and a Eureka Moment

I seem to be always celebrating one of my grandchildren, which just proves that they all take after their grandmother and are exceptional. This is my Tomball granddaughter Morgan Helene who just earned her black belt. She’s been studying karate long and hard for several years, and I’m proud of her accomplishment and her perseverance. Morgan will be 12 in August. Why are they all growing up so fast?

Rolling, rumbling thunder woke me about one o’clock this morning and went on off and on the rest of night, often but not always keeping me awake. In one of those awake spells I had a eureka moment about the new novel I’m working on. I have about 10,000 words written, but I have no idea who the murder victim is, nor the killer. Not sure about motivation. Last night I got bits and pieces that mean going back and planting some info, plus an overall idea about who did what why. I did something I never, ever do—got out of bed and made notes. Usually I rely on my memory, but this was really good stuff, and I was afraid to trust it to morning’s recollection. So first thing this morning I was transcribing those notes, hoping they made a modicum of sense. I’m still far away from putting much of that new information to use, but now I have a clearer picture of the road ahead. This rainy, dark day is a good one to spend at the computer.

My children used to have nanny/housekeeper who would say the weather was “fairing off.” That’s what it did, and as it brightened so once again did my disposition. Lovely to have it cool all day.

Dinner tonight at the lovely home of friends in Weatherford. They are collectors who actually own a small museum, but their house is also a museum. Being in it is a treat, as was the delicious dinner. But conversation was central to the evening. I like to think I have intellectual friends, but I don’t usually go to dinner parties where the conversation is this passionate, learned, and lively. Many opinion, some different. The topic was politics and current events and the mix of the two , and I found it fascinating. Another reason to feel fortunate.

Out past my bedtime. Night all.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Parties and birthdays and oh the fun!

Today is a happy birthday for the oldest of my boy grandchildren—Sawyer Hudgeons (if I could remember all four of his names, I’d use them). My Austin hard-rock kid is thirteen today. Sawyer definitely marches to his own drummer….er, guitar. He’s been going to the Austin School of Rock for at least two years now, and shows real talent both on the guitar and singing, performs easily and happily. Besides that, he’s a happy, sweet boy. I can hardly believe it’s thirteen years since we all rushed to Austin to celebrate his arrival.

And today was Jacob’s belated—adult—party. In truth, Jordan used his birthday as the occasion for her first big party in my house. The house has a happy party record and over the last twenty-five years has been the scene of cocktail parties, baby showers, humongous birthday celebrations, and most of all—tree trimming parties. In recent years, they’ve been strictly no-tree tree-trimming parties, but they were as full of laughter and love and food and wine as ever.

Jordan once again showed herself the mistress of party giving. Tonight was potluck, with some really good contributions. Jordan and Christian provided beer and wine—we’re stocked for months to come—along with meatballs. And a sheet cake. Everyone gathered round to sing happy birthday to Jacob, and I looked at the people—a happy mix of people of all ages. Two of Jordan’s friends who are special to me brought significant others I’d not met before and was glad to meet tonight, though they need to come back when it’s a little quieter and we can visit. One of those longtime friends, David, has been like family since he was fifteen. As he left the cottage tonight he said, “Tell the blog world hello for me.” So there you have his greetings.

Some people drifted out to the cottage, and I had a separate party there but went inside for the cake-cutting. Lots of fun. Now there’s a group on the patio outside my door, and I’ll join them in a few minutes.
A bit of trivia: I wrote Jacob a note and gave it to him this morning--long, funny story but my point here is that he handed me the note and said, "I can't read cursive, Juju." I had to read it to him. I am horrified--and a bit angry--that this child completed fifth grade without reading cursive. I vaguely remember they studied it, maybe third grade, and practiced but apparently not long enough nor hard enough. How will he function in the world? How will he sign a check. Someone pointed out to me that today they don't sign checks. Cursive is irrelevant, but I read somewhere learning cursive fine tunes the brain, just as music does. I'm on the prowl for workbooks with the Palmer method.

And an odd new imaginative exercise: designing niche literature courses. For some reason last night, in that twilight between sleep and full wakefulness, I was designing a lit course around the theme of old men. I decided to start with King Lear and include Tuesdays with Morrie. Didn’t get much further, but the idea has great possibilities. Is it an indication I want to teach again? No way. I love my retirement life and my writing life.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Live and Learn—a Cooking Failure

A dismal morning made it hard for me to get going. I was sluggish. No rain, and as the day slowly brightened, so did I.

I’m still in lost in Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year. Her description of a grilled cheese sandwich and how to do it is sublime, so I tried today at lunch. You butter the bread, grate the cheese and pile it on as thick as you can. Spread a thin layer of mayo on the outside of the sandwich to prevent scorching and press more grated cheese into the bread. In theory, that will give a crisp crust. I worried about keeping that grated cheese on the bread while I flipped.

Turned out that was the least of my worries. I settled the first side in the pan easily, but the cheese stuck to the pan, not the sandwich, and when I tried to take it up, I came away with a soggy sandwich and the crisp cheese crust remained in the pan. Flipping it did no good—now I had two soggy sides. The cheese did form that crisp crust in the pan, but I had to scrape it up and eat separately. I’m quite sure this is not what Reichl intended, and I have tweeted to ask for directions. Should you cook at high heat or low (I did low, envisioning a long, slow browning). Should you put oil or butter in the pan? I put olive oil, but maybe that was wrong.

Grilled cheese is always problematical to me. It’s like the little girl with the curl: when it is good, it’s so very good, and when it’s bad, it’s horrid. I too often burn the bread before the cheese melts. At least now I’ll always grate the cheese—makes it melt faster and better.

I tried to recover my cooking skills by making a layered salad for the Jacob adult birthday Jordan is having tomorrow night. Layered salads require a lot of chopping—eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, green onions, cutting up bacon, etc. While I chopped and cut, I kept thinking how much Ruth Reichl enjoys that part of cooking and wishing I enjoyed it half as much. The salad was a big problem in terms of a container too—I discovered the glass dish I’ve always used has gone to some child’s house, and I had no appropriate dish. Friend Subie finally came up with one that although not glass will work. And tonight Betty said of course she has a trifle dish! Aarghh!

Betty and I took Jacob out to dinner tonight while his parents went to some event connected to Christian’s work. Jacob declared he wasn’t hungry, picked at his mac and cheese, but ordered two root beers and left the second sitting on the table. Conspicuous consumption! Betty and I split miso salmon on a bed of spicy vinaigrette noodles—absolutely delicious.

So now I’m home, settled, and anticipating the first big party to be held in the house since we made the big move. I used to host parties a lot, particularly at Christmas when I had a no-tree tree-trimming party. When December came around last year, none of us had the energy or the will—it was a low point for me. So now I’m delighted to anticipate a party in the house and yard. Jordan has worked hard getting it all perfect.

To my hot-blooded friends who couldn’t sit outside: I sat on the patio tonight for a long time and loved it. Just perfect.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dinner with wimpy friends    

Every month or so, I have dinner with three ladies I’ve known a long time. Tonight, we had reservations at a restaurant that has a lovely, shaded patio with lots of fans. I love patio dining and had lobbied for that tonight. I lost. One has bad allergies and doesn’t like the heat; another is adamant to the extreme about heat (I think 70 is her cutoff); the third agreed the temperature on the patio was fine but the whirring of the fans bothered her. Honestly, ladies! Really?

We ate inside, but the patio was a great joke. I had emailed them earlier to suggest that I am as uncomfortable in air conditioning as some of them are in heat. They sort of got the message, enough that when I ostentatiously draped a wrap around my shoulder they laughed. And made jokes about patio dining and the like. Finally, one said, “I can tell we’re going to end up in the blog tonight.” So here you are my wimpy friends. Note that I am kind enough to omit your names.

Inside/outside controversies aside, we had a lovely evening. They are interesting ladies—two are docents and one is knowledgeable about museum quality art, which sometimes leaves me in the dust in the conversation. I went armed tonight with a report on the Netherlands art investigator who thinks he can solve the Gardner Museum thefts and return the art work undamaged. Never had a chance to throw my knowledge into the discussion, but we talked about cruises—one had just been on a cruise and was at best medium enthusiastic; the other is getting ready to go and taking lots of books. I, who have never cruised and hope not to, recommended sitting on her private deck or patio, watching the ocean go by, and reading. Of course, I’d have my computer with me.

Lunch today was a different story but equally lovely. One of the joys of my work at TCU Press was that I often made friends with authors. Chloe Webb is one of those. Her book, The Sacred Harp Legacy, was one that touched my soul, and she and I became good friends, occasionally going to lunch at the deli where we both ordered egg salad sandwiches. Chloe’s husband is in iffy health, though doing well right now. But she has suffered a great loss and been in a dark tunnel of her own, probably darker than the one I’ve just emerged from. I hadn’t seen her in a while so it was good to connect when she came to the cottage for lunch today. I had lunch at the deli earlier in the week and brought home egg salad for her as a surprise. With sliced fruit and a pickle (odd combination but it worked), it made a delightful lunch. And the conversation was interesting, reassuring, thoughtful. We share a strong faith that has carried us through our tunnels.

So tonight I am grateful for friends who sustain me—old friends and new, those who share my tribulations and my joys. Thanks, y’all.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Jacob is Eleven   

I think we all have a tendency on a child’s birthday to think back on the life, however short, calling up those golden memories. Today I remembered the first time in the hospital when I held Jacob. And the way we used to put him, in his Bumbo or whatever that early seat was, in the middle of the dining table as a centerpiece. He was always so happy, it made for happy dinner hours.

He walked early but didn’t talk for a while. Not that he didn’t have anything to say. He spoke volumes in gibberish. I used to talk back to him as though we were carrying on a conversation. His Aunt Betty thought it was hysterical when we’d go to dinner because Jacob got all the inflections of conversation right, just not the words. In Houston once, a distant cousin asked me seriously if Jacob spoke Chinese. Of course, the day came when we couldn’t shut him up.

The nights he slept on his bed in the family room, got scared, and came to sleep with me. Or the night, when he was about three, when he crawled into my bed and said, “My bed is wet.” Eventually he gave up his bed and slept with me. These days he wouldn’t dream of sleeping with me, and I miss that closeness.

There was the time he made up a tune and sang to me, “I’m uphappy today.” He broke the chorus with, “Juju made a booboo.” I had gotten hummus on something I shouldn’t have, and he thought it was so funny he worked it into his song. I still treasure the video, a selfie he did.

He and I shared many happy days—a New Year’s Eve when we toasted in the coming year with kid wine. Jordan worried that I’d post the picture, and people would think I’d given him wine. The nights when he used to think it was fun to go to dinner with Betty and me. Now he thinks we’re boring.

He came out to the cottage this this morning to open his gift—a new grip for his putter—and asked plaintively if we’d have family supper tonight. We did—but we three adults were at the dining table, and he and his overnight guest ate in the family room. Such togetherness. A childhood friend is spending the night, a girl a head taller than he is. She couldn’t go to the swimming party today because it was all boys. Right now, they’re giggling on my couch, fishing for something they’ve apparently dropped, and I’m suspicious.

Jordan had a trying day—16 boys playing basketball and then swimming. I meantime had a peaceful day working in the cottage and by evening was craving company. And so the day ends. Happy birthday, Jacob.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cooking, Cookbooks, and Writing

I am a firm believer that the Lord works in mysterious ways to make his will known. I’m beginning to believe he wants my writing to turn more toward food writing, just when I have several mysteries in mind to write.

My reading choices make me think this for one thing. I am reading Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes, that Saved My Life. It’s a chronicle of her life the year after Gourmet Magazine, of which she was editor, abruptly went out of publication. When your career is pretty much the source of your identity, as hers was, that’s one of life’s major blows. She dealt with it by cooking. Only Ruth Reichl can get away with prose recipes, but she does and makes them so appealing and generally simple that the reader is drawn in, as though to a novel.

Next on my list is Give a Girl a Knife! by cookbook author and James Beard winner Amy Thielen. It starts with her life in the kitchens of upscale New York restaurants, with dishes I’ve never imagined let alone heard of, and follows her move back to the basic food of her Midwestern roots. I’m looking forward to reading it.

And then there’s the fact that I’ve been cooking more and more lately, sometimes for myself—scallops for supper last night the way I like them, sautéed in butter, nothing fancy—and figs stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in prosciutto for company. I’ve made Welsh Rarebit, fettucine with smoked salmon, guacamole with feta, southwestern tuna with cumin and chilies, beans on toast (an old dish now elevated to trendy status and new to me), lamb chops with garlic, capers and anchovy, from scratch tomato sauces, orzo with spinach and feta, a new cucumber and avocado salad with a tang to it (and the feta I added), stuffed zucchini, a sardine pate,

The list of things I want to cook is as long as that of the dishes I’ve made in recent weeks. So maybe the Lord is telling me something about that memoir I keep talking about writing. Maybe food, along with writing and child-rearing, has been a staple of my life. Witness Judy’s Stew which was designed to be a mix of writing, cooking, and grandmothering—and that was eleven years ago.

I’ve done one memoir cooking, Cooking My Way Through Life With Kids and Books, but that was eight years ago. Perhaps today I would bring more depth and insight to such a project, making it less a chronicle of what happened when and more a memoir that explores, if you’ll pardon a dramatic phrase, the depths of my soul. I have lots of new recipes from those eight years to share.

The idea is rolling around in my mind. I had intended to write about my year out of life, due to deteriorating physical and mental things, but maybe one of the most significant things is that I didn’t cook during that year. And now I’m cooking again—with gusto.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father’s Day

In addition to the good looking boy and his dad,
note the colorful and beautiful altar cloths
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. My own father has been gone over forty years. He walks on in my dreams and lives in my heart, a proud Scot. I wish I had a digital picture. I am now just a month shy of the age he was when he died of heart failure a couple of days after surgery. Weird thought. But I owe him for many things—faith, a work ethic, a tin ear, the love of reading, and that Scottish heritage of which I’m so proud. As I age I look more and more like him and his sisters. Were she living, one of his sisters would tell you that’s not a good thing.

In recent years, I’ve enjoyed watching my sons and sons-in-law grow into their roles as fathers. Each has his own style and parents in his own way, but they are kind and loving and are raising great kids. I’m a big fan of fathers.

We celebrated Father’s Day by going to early church because Jacob was an acolyte. I’d forgotten how few people attend the nine o’clock in the summer. The church was still empty, so I stood to see if I could spot Betty and her family in the back. To my astonishment, the acolytes were coming down the aisle to start the service. I quickly sat back down—wouldn’t do to embarrass Jacob.

I carried a can of corned beef in my purse to church. No, I didn’t expect a hunger crisis. I adore corned beef hash (it’s a great vehicle for ketchup), so I asked Jordan to bring some from the grocery. She couldn’t find it, brought canned corn beef which came in a can suspiciously shaped like the cans of Spam from my childhood. I took it to church to put in one of the bins of donated food, but we never saw one. Long story short, I came home with my corned beef which takes up precious space in my pantry drawer. That’s right—a deep drawer is the only pantry I have.

We celebrated Christian with brunch at The Tavern, a favorite of all of us. Jacob likes the mac and cheese. I had migas because I’ve never in my life had them and thought I should try. Won’t try again—I’m not that fond of corn tortillas. It was okay—I had peanut butter toast when I woke up (at 6:30 thank you) this morning.

Busy week ahead. I want to keep writing my thousand words a day; have lunch and happy hour plans tomorrow—for the latter, Subie and I are running away from home, just the two of us. Dinner plans two nights, a lunch guest one day, and Jacob’s birthday. The actual birthday is Tuesday, and Jordan will oversee a party that will include baseball or basketball in the school yard across the street, followed by swimming and, I think, pizza. Friday night there will be a potluck for adults in Jacob’s social circle—don’t laugh. It’s a bunch of people.

So blessed to have such a full life.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Skiing—and this Business of Walking

I bought some new skis. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never skied in my life and am not likely to start at this age and in my current physical state. For one thing, I’m the opposite of naturally athletic; for another, I’m afraid of height. I cannot imagine myself at the top of a mountain slope, preparing to take off downward on a couple of pieces of wood with poles that would probably be useless in my terrified hands.

No, I bought skis for the back legs of my walker. Previously I had to move the walker ahead by lifting it slightly after a couple of steps because while the front legs rolled, the back were plain and either balked or squawked. Now it glides, even going easily from one surface to another, and enables me to walk normally, one foot after the other, without unnatural pauses, I think ultimately the skis will help me improve my walking strength.

Monday will be five months since my surgery, and I’m still not walking unassisted. I do great on my walker and can go lots of places, which has allowed me to resume a semi-normal life going to church, shopping a bit, out to lunch and dinner. About a month ago a neighbor with whom I had lunch and who had hip surgery about three months before I did, emphasized that I was making progress and full function comes at different times for different folk. She was back-pedaling from her statement that by four months post-op she had given up her walker. And I have a neighbor close by who has had two hips operated and; his wife tells me he was off the walker quickly, and I remember him offering to do a dance at supper one night. I feel slow, retarded, lazy, inadequate—you name it.

And I fear I’ll never walk again. My brother brought me a brochure yesterday about a fancy, very stable, very expensive walker he thought I should consider. When I said I hoped not to need a walker forever, he warned that I might not but I will probably never have much stamina again. I didn’t tell him, but I was crushed. In my dreams, I walk freely and confidently.

My surgeon warned against comparing myself to anyone else because he said he’d never seen a hip in the shape mine was in. (I’ll spare you the gory details.) But don’t each of us think our situation is the most dramatic, the most extreme? For me, the comparisons are inevitable. I see both him and my family doctor next month, and I’m anxious to hear what they have to say.

Meantime, grateful for every invitation, I get out as often a I can—my goal is once daily either to go out or have someone in. I do my leg and shoulder exercises almost daily, and I walk, with help, down the driveway or in the backyard. And I dream of driving my cute VW convertible, doing my own grocery shopping, and running free again.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Cooking, Working Day

Figs before cooking
I forgot to take the after cooking picture

Boy, I was a busy beaver today. Wrote 1250 words on my new novel, answered emails, read Facebook, did a lot of busy work at my desk. But my big accomplishment was cooking. Thanks to Paige Pritchett for bringing me figs from her mother’s tree—and roundabout thanks to Ann Chappell. Tonight, for happy hour I stuffed the figs with blue cheese and wrapped them in prosciutto. Technically they should be grilled, but I had no option except the toaster oven, and mine is so tiny I had to do ten figs in two batches. But they were delicious—rich, but delicious Christian wasn’t sure about figs but since he loves blue cheese and likes prosciutto, he tried them—and I think liked them. When we weren’t looking, Sophie snatched one off Phil’s plate. She scarfed down the cheese and prosciutto but spent a long time licking the fig before she finally decided to eat it.

I haven’t always been a fig fan, though my parents loved them. When they retired in North Carolina, they had a huge row of tall fig bushes lining the driveway. When Colin was maybe five, we’d put him on top of the van we then drove to pick figs. Mom cooked them for figs and cream—how British for my Anglophile father—and they ate them straight from the bush I don’t remember eating them.

In recent years, figs have become trendy and I confess it’s a time when I succumbed to fashion. I thought if they were so popular I ought to try them…and I did. And liked them a lot. But then as a kid I always liked Fig Newtons—who didn’t? I remember my kids ate those cookies happily.

My other cooking accomplishment tonight was stuffed zucchini. I parboiled it, sliced it in half, and scooped out the insides to mix with bread crumbs (good use for leftover artisan bread from the freezer), chopped celery, scallions, and a tad of red onion. Sautéed all that in butter and olive oil. Seasoned it with salt and pepper and loaded it back into the zucchini halves. When I was ready for supper tonight, I topped one half with grated cheese—I have had grated gruyere in the fridge for some time and used that. Baked it—again my only option. That and a half ear of corn made a satisfying supper, especially after the rich figs.

I topped it off with Frango mints. If you don’t know about them, I urge you to look them up on Amazon. Originally made and sold by Marshall Field and Company, these rich minty and creamy chocolate candies—small bites, really—are a taste from my childhood. My mom used to get them for me. In recent years, daughter Megan has gotten them. Last year she ordered two boxes for my July birthday but with the Texas summer heat they arrived melted into one large, unappealing hunk of chocolate. When the weather cooled, she ordered new boxes. I ran out of them a couple of months ago, but Amazon listed them out of stock. When they notified me they were again available, I ordered a box. Megan worried about the temperature, but they arrived melted at one corner but otherwise fine.

Another happy day.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Leftovers for lunch, dogs and Neanderthals

Leftovers may be the best lunch. Today I had half a turkey burger (minus the bottom half of the bun which I somehow left in the restaurant last night), a small bit of egg salad, some green beans, and some shaved Brussel sprouts in Caesar dressing—thanks, but I’d rather have romaine with my Caesar dressing.But it was a good lunch—better if I hadn’t followed it with a chocolate bar or at least a good portion of one. Help! I need self-discipline.

If you want a mixed-bag experience, take two eleven-year-old boys for dinner. They’re buried in their phones and iPads. We went to the Star Café, which friend Betty and her husband own. Boys ordered fries, didn’t eat them; dessert—one ate his, the other said he doesn’t like spiced apples. Why did he order apple pie? They wanted to wander around the Stockyards, which I wasn’t comfortable with. But when prompted they were good with please and thank you.

Why I sometimes don't make my bed
Sorry for the fuzzy picture, but she's so cute
I read somewhere that your dog is the mirror of your soul. Since my Sophie is sweet, lovable, loyal, sometimes cuddly, I like that idea. But except for a rare instance or two when my children were tiny, I’ve never had the unquenchable urge to run away and explore the world that besets her. Indeed, I’m known as an anomaly among my friends because I don’t really care to travel just for travel’s sake. There are places I want to go—the cities where my children live, Scotland of course, maybe Alaska—but it’s the destination, not the journey. Sophie on the other hand wants to take of willy-nilly and see the wide, wide world. And I’ve never barked at the toaster.

Since 23andme told me I have a high number of Neanderthal markers, I decided I should look into Neanderthals. My thought was that perhaps they’ve gotten a bad rap. Indeed, they have! The best site I found on the net was titled, “Neanderthals are People.” Thanks to popular literature and comics, we envision them as short, stocky, beastly caricatures with lots of hair and dark complexions. They may have looked ape-like but evidence of intelligent behavior has been uncovered by scientists.

Neanderthals lived in families, took care of the sick and elderly, buried their dead. They controlled fire and had primitive tools such as axes, picks and cleavers. Yes, they frequently lived in caves, but they had rituals, made jewelry, and mixed paints for their faces and bodies—actions which indicate a world view beyond their immediate knowledge. Although not demonstrated conclusively, it’s possible they had language and some constructed sea-worthy boats.

So, to the gentleman who posted on my wall that he knew all along liberals were Neanderthals, I’ll claim the label. It’s not an insult.

My Neanderthal ancestors account for only four percent of my overall DNA but they may be the cause of my straight hair and relatively sparse hair on the back of my head. Do you suppose I could blame them for my tendency to weigh seven percent more than normal?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A day of violence and tragedy

In the words of one survivor, the London apartment fire was horrific, with a high number of dead and injured; the UPS shooting in San Francisco was equally horrific—four dead, including the shooter. Tragically, our country is so deadened to daily shootings we almost take no notice, unless it affects someone we know or love or unless it’s right in our backyard.

Some resent that the baseball field shooting in Virginia got so much more attention than the other tragic events of the day and, indeed, the other shootings that have become all too common. But this was different—a shooting apparently politically motivated and aimed at members of our government. Party is irrelevant in a situation like that. It was a blatant attack on our government, and on all that America stands for. We weep together as a nation and thank God that no lives, except the shooter, were lost.

It is shameful to politicize such a tragedy, but I cannot help but view it in terms of what goes around comes around. The most prominent congressional victim, Congressman Scalise, ironically is the one who introduced a bill that weakened gun control laws and made it possible for the mentally unstable to get weapons, not that this shooter has been proven to be mentally unstable. Gun rights advocates are already using this as an argument for guns for self-protection, but it is unlikely that baseball players, if gun owners, would have carried their guns onto the field with them. The armed guards who were on duty did a heroic job of preventing further injury and loss of life. They are true heroes of the day. But even they couldn’t completely prevent the attack. I see this violence as an argument for making guns less accessible, particularly assault weapons, though I’m not sure what kind of fire power the shooter carried.

Several studies have analyzed the increasing violence and anger in our country since Mr. Trump began campaigning and calling for violence against detractors at his rallies. I think he and those of his party who support him, for all they talk about unity and praise God there was little loss of life, need to take a long, hard look at themselves and their policies.

Millions are about to lose their health insurance; many of the poor and underprivileged have already lost needed benefits. Veterans have either lost long-promised benefits or will. The poor, the young, the old, the chronically ill will lose health care in the cruelest bill to be proposed, let alone rushed through the Senate with undue haste and secrecy. But tax cuts are in store for the ultra-rich. The environment is encroached upon daily; education is treated as an elitist privilege; social security is threatened, even though it is not the government’s money; international relations are in the tank, and suspicions about Russian collusion run high; the list of outrages grows daily. It makes a lot of people angry, and it apparently was enough to push Mr. Hopkinson, a dedicated progressive, over the edge to violence. It may push others too, but there’s a dark message there if the administration and Congress will listen.

Tonight, as I pray for the victims and their families, I pray also for those who angered the shooter in Virginia, that they may be touched by human compassion and reach out in a positive way to those they were elected to serve and protect. Most profess to be Christian, and as a practicing Christian myself, I hope they can remember the teachings of Jesus. Hate and greed were not in his vocabulary. I pray too for those devastated by the tragedies in San Francisco and London. Who knows if London’s fire was preventable—I’ve heard complaints about poorly done renovations—but the tragedy in San Francisco might well not have occurred were the national mood different.

Please pray with me, in the way of your choice. And then reach out and hug someone.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My internal clock and a lazy day

How’s your internal clock? Mine is a pain. Woke me at six this morning, because I knew I wanted to be ready to go at 8:15, which meant having hair washed and pretty much dried (I don’t use a dryer these days). I was up a bit before 6:30, rarin’ to go. A nap in the afternoon didn’t forestall the sleepiness that I feel tonight.

Breakfast with the Book Ladies, my group of women whose life work mostly has involved books—librarians, writers, booksellers, and the like. A few dedicated readers are in there too. Lots of talk about the movie Wonder Woman and how significant it is in this day when women’s status is once again threatened by a conservative (that’s putting it mildly) Federal and, in Texas, state government. But there was an upside for me: a good friend said she read my novella, The Color of Fear, and "wanted more." Someone else in the group had read The Gilded Cage and was interested enough to do some research about Potter and Cissy Palmer. She unearthed the fact that Potter’s will contained a strange codicil: to his wife’s second husband, should she remarry, he bequeathed a generous sum of money, with the explanation that the man “would need it.” Cissy Palmer never remarried.

I gave myself a vacation day today. Sorted through some clothing catalogs that had piled up on my desk and didn’t find anything I couldn’t live without, though I did find two choices for serviceable white pants for summer, something I need. Should I get loose and flowing or tight like leggings? Also went page-by-page through the most recent copy of Bon Appetit which had been sitting on my desk for some time. Found several recipes for my growing file.

I did odds and ends—finished a blog, did a couple of small things related to the next manuscript, but mostly I read—and had that nice long nap. I finished the novel I had up on my Kindle—Scheduled to Death by Mary Feliz. Enjoyed it—suspense picked up as I got into it and I was really hooked by the end. I have several titles in my online library yet to read—a plethora of blessings.

Tonight, a shower and then to read. Tomorrow I must get back to work again.

Monday, June 12, 2017

My Kind of Happy Monday

No makeup, no shampoo, jeans and a T-shirt, fruit and chocolate cake for breakfast (I read somewhere that is healthy), leftover tuna for lunch. What more could one expect from a Monday?

It was also a productive day. I wrapped up the final draft of my next Oak Grove Mystery and sent it off to the printer to get hard copy for my beta reader and to the editor. Still a couple of details to finish, but it’s done, always a good feeling. One plot element I feel I left dangling but didn’t know what to do about—waiting for other eyes and minds. Roughed out a guest blog post on exercising from a wheelchair (just reminded myself to do my exercises for the day) and walked a bit in the driveway, holding on to Jordan. Every day it gets a little better.

Ready to start work on a new novel and already have the idea in mind. But I think I will give myself a couple of days to be lazy—to read, prowl through recipes, and the like. It’s hard to transition from the world and people of one novel to another.

This afternoon a dear friend of many years (notice how adroitly I avoided calling her an ‘old friend’ with the implication that we are both old) came by. She lives in a small town about an hour away, so our visits are special treats. We caught up over cups of tea and then went to Local Foods Kitchen to get our supper and bring it home—she had marinated shrimp, which she said was delicious (I’m allergic and can only look on with envy), and I had beef shepherd’s pie We shared vegetables—a Caesar Brussel sprouts salad, which I liked better than Linda did. She wanted the sprouts softened a bit by cooking; orange and beet salad, always delicious; and marinated cucumbers. I brought home egg salad for my lunch this week. It will do at least two days.

My rant for the day: I am enough of a snowflake, tree-hugger, yellow-dog Democrat, whatever term you want, that these days I cannot ever imagine marking my ballot for a Republican. But I get so frustrated with the Democrats and their “woe is me” attitude. I think particularly of Jon Osoff’s campaign in Georgia, one where his victory would send a strong message. But every plea for money that his team sends out is defeatist—his number are plummeting, his opponent is raising more money, the sky is falling. In truth, last I knew, he had a slim lead. I’d like to see a positive campaign that said, “We’re winning. Please get on our bandwagon and support Jon.” I’ve given to him, but I might be inclined to give more to a positive campaign. I don’t know a thing about Osoff, what his platform is, what his priorities are. All I know is he’s desperate for my money. Most discouraging. Rant over.

Hope yours was a happy Monday too.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Losing my starch

Wonderful brunch today with good friends and some visitors. Sixteen of us all very jovial, great food—everybody contributed but the hostess prepared a cheese/chorizo/chilies strata for the main dish. Had a great time, practiced my walking and received a lot of “Look at you!” compliments. But wine and heavy food at mid-day took the starch right out of me. Came home and slept for an hour and a half.

I had to leave for brunch in the middle of editing the last chapter of my work-in-progress, and I did finish going through it when I got home. I still have to fix two minor problems for plot and character consistency. One is that I introduced a cool new character and then couldn’t figure out how to get her back in the action. I think she’ll be prominent in a future book, but I’m at a loss as to what to do with her in this one. I did bring her back for a brief appearance, but I need to insert her again toward the end, and she doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. Maybe my beta reader will help.

I also have to add a title page and copyright page to the front and an author’s bio at the back. Housekeeping chores that I can easily do tomorrow before I send it to beta reader (via a print shop) and editor. Not going to tackle them tonight, because, you know—that starch that I lost.

I laughed at myself, because even in the midst of enjoying the company at brunch I had the feeling I couldn’t wait to get back to the book. And then I had to remind myself that I wrote it, so I know what’s going to happen. It isn’t as though I haven’t read it a half dozen times. Someone suggested to me my feeling of being caught up in it is a good thing, bodes well for other readers.

The book’s title has been problematic too—I’ve settled on Pigface and the Perfect Dog. My small online writers group approves though one person pointed out that it could easily be a y/a title, which it isn’t. I explained the cover art would have to carry the burden of making the genre clear. That and the blurb—oh, dear, blurb. Something else I forgot. When you think you’re through with a novel, you’re not!

I think it’s time to sit on the patio and chill, enjoying the evening. Supper? No, thank you I couldn’t.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Braces, scrapes and some cooking


t’s been a rough two days for Jacob. Yesterday, at the age of almost-eleven, he got braces. I worried, but he was perfectly happy when he came home from the dentist, said it didn’t hurt at all. By last night, his mouth was sore and he requested oatmeal. Tonight, he turned down strawberries, said he couldn’t eat them because they’re too rough.

Today he was playing with friends in the schoolyard across the street, fell, and got a royal scrap across a good section of his thigh. The doctor next door put something on it—antibiotic? Steroid? I don’t know—and wrapped it. Jacob limped, but thought he would recover. I won’t post a picture, because it was fairly bloody.

Meantime I had a cooking day. Spent the morning making southwestern tuna salad—not your usual tuna, this has chilies, cumin, and chili powder. I haven’t made it in years but liked it a lot. Then I made a chocolate Bundt cake for a brunch tomorrow. I had put the ingredients out on the cooking area last night—cake mix and pudding mix—but this morning found the pudding mix still in my pantry drawer. A second look confirmed I had put sardines out with the cake mix—a weird combination. Of course, then nothing would do but that I find a recipe for a sardine spread sort of like the one I remember from years ago and make that for my lunch,

But I did get the cake put together and into a prepared pan. Problem: I have no oven, so had to rely on Jordan to bake it. She was for a while the queen of Bundt cakes, had several recipes she used with great success. But this morning, she sounded vague about how long and what temperature to bake it. So, being a worrier, I worried. First that there was too long a gap between getting the cake made and then getting it into the oven. Then I worried she didn’t understand the crucial nature of letting it cool five minutes—no less, no longer—and taking it out. She assured me this evening it’s perfect.

Friends Subie and Phil came for happy hour before they kindly “carried” me to an engagement party tonight—for the doctors next door. Since we were uncertain about the food to be served, I gave them fruit and the tuna salad I’d made. I don’t eat fresh fruit often and yet when I do I’m overwhelmed by how good it is. That happened tonight, but now I have fruit left in the fridge, so maybe I’ll be good about eating it.

The party, for our neighbors, was at the wine bar down the street. The party room is up a steep flight of stairs that Susan, my neighbor and the hostess, described as climbing Mt. something or other. No way I could have made it, and I think Phil, who has little sight, would have had a hard time. So we sat downstairs and a few of the party came to us.

It turns out there was sumptuous food—lollipop lamb chops, dates stuffed with blue cheese, hummus, and other goodies. I am well fed and content tonight. Ready to go to bed with my book. And I’ve cooked a lot in the past week. May give it up for a while. Then again, there’s that pasta carbonara I may make for my supper tomorrow.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Forgotten Loves, Some Not Forgotten, and a Dusty Storeroom

A random dream about a youthful romance last night was so pleasant, that I promptly went back to sleep and dreamt about other young loves, including the first man to steal my heart. We parted, with real regret on both sides, after two wonderful years. Many years later, we corresponded briefly and found that we both still cared. I was divorced, he was married, and that was that. But out of curiosity and spurred by my dream, I looked him up this morning on the internet. He is still living, at 84, but I didn’t go so far as to enroll and pay the fee for the program that would give me full contact information. I’d like him to know that all these years he has had a small part of my heart. Maybe it was first love but I like to think it was something deeper. When I have a moment of wishing our lives had turned out differently, I remind myself I wouldn’t have the four wonderful children and seven grandchildren that I do, and I am content. But much as I’d like him to know that, I’ll never contact him again. It wouldn’t be fair.
A few other romances, mostly brief and inconsequential, passed quickly through my dream, but brought to mind some men I’d totally forgotten about. Once again, I’m reminded that I’ve had an interesting life. I wouldn’t want you to think I went from man to man all my life. Like any young woman and then fairly young divorcee, I dated, and a few caught my fancy but not for long. After my divorce, as a single parent, I was occupied raising my children, and I feared no man would love them as I did. As for the present, I do believe romance can happen to seniors, but I’m not expecting it, wouldn’t know what to do if it arrived. I’m happy as I am—in my cottage, with my family and my work. I’ve said before that someday if I want to write a memoir I’ll have to come to grips with the fading of that dream of “Grow old along with me/The best is yet to be/ The last of life/For which the first was made.” But not now.
As for that dusty storeroom, it was at the university and connected to my position at the university press. Awake, I realized no such room ever existed. But in my dream, I had a crew from maintenance helping me—a whole crew! —and we hauled out overflowing ashtrays and cheap crockery coffee cups with solidified coffee in them. Where was the housekeeping service?  But I hauled out two huge hassocks, although even in my dream I was acutely aware I have neither need nor room for them in the cottage. And I found small figurines done sort of in the style of Giacometti. There were other treasures, but I was relieved to waken and find it was all a dream.
I woke to loud, rolling thunder and a steady dripping rain. It was predicted to rain off and on all morning, and I enjoyed it. For a while, it was dark as dusk, appropriate for a rainy day. Another happy day in my cottage.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Comey Hearings and Other Distractions

I seem to have lost my ambition somewhere. If you find it, please return. I’m supposed to be doing a final edit on a manuscript. My accomplishment so far today? One chapter.

Instead, like many Americans, I spent the morning glued to the TV and James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. At first, it was for me a chicken and the egg situation—which came first. I wasn’t sure if I watched because I didn’t want to work, or I didn’t want to work because I wanted to watch what turned out to be a significant even in American political history. Once I watched, I was mesmerized, mostly by Comey’s performance.

He was calm, professional, unemotional, a consummate picture of integrity. If he didn’t know the answer, he said so; if he felt it was sensitive, he said he couldn’t answer in open forum; occasionally, he said, “That’s a good question.” He admitted to being stunned by Trump’s suggestion he quash the investigation of Mike Flynn, and he seemed equally at a loss to respond to Trump’s demand for loyalty. He simply replied that he would always give the president honesty. He was knowledgeable and prepared. The naysayers have already begun with accusations and slanders, but I think he’s strong and will hold firm.

I turned off the hearing with a couple of other heroes, so far pretty much unsung. One is Angus King, independent from Maine who injected a lot of common sense and a bit of both humor and literary knowledge into the hearings. And Kamala Harris, senator from California who is like a dog with a bone in its teeth. Being chastised in her questioning of a witness yesterday by an old white man didn’t slow her down a bit. She focused her questions today on Jeff Session, questions she knew Comey couldn’t answer in a public forum, but now they’re out there in the public mind. I suspect Sessions is toast—and I’m not weeping.

Several Republicans looked like blithering idiots. One critic said Tom Cotton kept asking questions that exploded in his face, but Cotton has never acquitted himself well publicly, and I fail to understand how he’s been elected. It was sad though to listen to John McCain stumble through nonsensical questions. I had great policy differences with McCain but always admired him as a man and a war hero. I think it’s time for him to gracefully retire.

And then there’s John Cornyn, Texas’ pride and joy, who kept asking questions about the Clintons. Excuse me, but what were the hearings about? Dirty, underhanded politics and public relations, Johnny boy. I got to thinking about him—he’s hitched his star to a falling wagon, the Republican party, and he remains loyal to the party line to the point that he apparently hasn’t an independent thought in his brain. Sure, he’s a senior senator with some clout, but, an ambitious man, he’s going nowhere else. It’s way too late to leave the Republicans. So there he is, being dragged down with them. Couldn’t happen to a nicer fellow.

And that pretty much was my day—interesting, stimulating, even reassuring. I felt today that the good guys will win though Lord knows opinions on social media are all over the place.

Took a break and cooked myself a good dinner—sautéed zucchini, chicken slices with a sour cream/blue cheese sauce, and wilted lettuce. Okay, I burned the bacon for the lettuce and it didn’t leave enough grease so I had to augment with olive oil. Not my finest effort—the other day when I did that salad for Jordan I got it just perfect. Now I’ve used up all the home-grown lettuce until fall.

Anticipating more cooking this weekend.