Thursday, August 31, 2017

My day didn't go as planned

No chatty blog post. I am in the hospital for observation. Prayers and good wishes appreciated. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Joel Osteen and fake news

A lovely, sunny day in North Texas, temperatures in the 80s, humidity blessedly low. Hard to think that rain is still falling in parts of southeast Texas, and water is still receding only slowly, if at all. So easy to breathe a sigh of relief, but that would be premature. And easy to be grateful Harvey has moved east, but that’s a bad kind of gratitude, since it just wishes the misery on others who are now suffering. Port Arthur is apparently under water, and I hear remnants of the weakening storm may make it up to western Kentucky. Harvey’s dubious place in American history is little consolation.

I did it. I fell for fake news about Joel Osteen and his luxury yacht. I shared a post that was fake, but let me hasten to add that I didn’t realize it was a share button until I hit it. And it was a reflexive action, based I admit on an unworthy but intense dislike of televangelists and the new megachurches. I have since personally apologized to my daughter-in-law, who corrected me and asked me to take the post down. I have done that. She pointed out, rightfully, that the last thing Houston needs right now is inflammatory fake news.

And Osteen has borne the brunt of a lot of fake news, claiming that he refused to open the doors of his megachurch to the homeless. Truth apparently is that the building was flooded and not safe for people. Osteen claims he has worked with the city of Houston which has a shelter nearby and asked his church to serve as a distribution center for supplies. Some people are disputing this, arguing that the sudden drying out of the church is suspicious. I’m not going to judge, but I’m not going to share any more posts about Osteen. I feel guilty, gullible that I fell for fake news, but I am still the opposite of whatever a believer in the megachurches is. Not what Jesus would do.

Wrote my thousand words today. Funny, but this morning by the time I had shampooed showered, and done my walking exercise, I felt I had conquered the day. I hadn’t of course. Walking was better today but it was less humid, and Teddy as usual reassured me. He pointed out that yesterday I had a lot of drainage from the dental appointment, and that was bound to affect my lungs. He didn’t have a stethoscope, but he “listened” to my lungs with his hands, took my pulse, and pronounced me in good health. I believe him and am almost ready to cancel tomorrow’s appointment, but Jordan thought I was wheezing this morning when I got out of the shower. She even cautioned Christian to “listen” to me. So I’m going to let someone with a stethoscope listen and reassure me.

Teddy had all these reasons for my shortness of breath—dentist, my lack of stamina, humidity. I told him there was yet another dimension, and he asked what. I couldn’t pull up the exact words I wanted, from author Babette Hale, but it’s enough to say that authors of fiction have great imaginations. Teddy collapsed in laughter. I once dated a guy who used to say to me, “Go on, bring that bridge right on up here, so you can jump it.” Function of the same thing—an overactive imagination.

Nice dinner tonight with Betty and Jacob. Well, Betty and I had a good time. Jacob was sunk in a corner of the booth, hat pulled over his head (he knows how I feel about hats at the dinner table), face in his iPhone. He managed to thank the waiter politely and respond to his Aunt Betty’s questions, but he was pretty much non-communicative. Just when I thought I’d seen budding signs of maturity. Be patient, Grandma Juju, be patient. It will come. He’s basically a sweet boy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The dentist, flood news, and good friends

KIds, big and little, are finding some joy in the midst of
closed schools and offices and even flood waters
Not my best day. Two hours at the dentist this morning. No gory details, but one tiny filling that I thought was no big deal took an hour and while not painful was hard on my nerves. Second hour was deep cleaning, and not as bad. As I suspected though, they didn’t get it all done, and I have to go back to have the left side of my mouth cleaned. Should be much easier. As a survivor of dentistry in the ‘40s, when I was young and had lots of cavities and techniques and the drill were pretty old-fashioned, I am a dental phobic. I thought I was pretty calm about hip surgery, but this morning I felt like my heart was going to pound right out of my chest.

Pretty day here, pleasant temperatures, but still humid. When I walked with Teddy, I was breathless. Teddy, always encouraging, said you can’t expect to be at your best after a long dental appointment. It saps your energy.

Not much work done today—again! After the dentist, I needed a nap; then walking. Then Subie and Phil came for happy hour. Sophie was so demanding that we locked her outside; of course, Phil's seeing-eye dog wanted to go too, but both dogs stood at the door, looking pitiful in exile.
Pitiful exiled dogs
When Subie and Phil left; they crossed paths with Mary Dulle who came for the second shift happy hour. She’s been gone much of the summer, so it was good to visit with her. I can’t complain about nobody visiting me in the cottage!

Still watching flood news with one eye. A family Colin and Lisa are close to was finally able to leave their house today and is safe. Various rumors about evacuations in Sugar Land, where Lisa’s parents are. Missed the news tonight, due to extreme sociability, so I’m not sure if it’s raining or not. Last I heard rain was heavy but moving slightly eastward.

It would be easy to sigh and think it’s over, the storm is moving on. But of course that’s foolish thinking. The storm will not be gone for those affected for months, years. I finally decided where to make my first donations—made modest contribution to the food bank here in North Texas, because Fort Worth is going to get a lot of evacuees, and sent a second donation to the animal shelter in Conroe, where my kids got their dog. I figure they were boots on the ground. The news is confusing—some posts list goods that are needed; others say, don’t send goods, send money. I think this weekend we’ll try to get together a care package. Christian’s office is collecting items needed at local shelters.

Sleep tight, stay dry and safe, and pray for those being evacuated, those still stranded, those whose lives have been shattered.

Living in the other part of Texas

For many of us living in North Texas, it’s easy to feel irrelevant these days. The nation’s attention, indeed the world’s attention, is rightfully focused on the monumental tragedy unfolding in southeast Texas—loss of life, devastation of entire towns, a disastrous economic future for an area heavy reliant on tourism, irreparable damage to the infrastructure. Most of us in North Texas have now convinced family and friends that we are not in danger, that Houston is a long way from the Metroplex. So we sit, watch TV, wring our hands, and wonder what we can do.

Donations are welcome by more agencies than we can count. Probably most are legitimate, but there are scams by people willing to turn a tragedy to their own personal profit. Pretty scary. We’re safe to go with the “biggies”—the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, but I am leery of what percentage of donations to the first actually go to help victims and, with the second, can you earmark the money for Houston? There are parts of the work of the Salvation Army I don’t particularly want to support.

Personally, I’m thinking of a donation to an animal rescue agency. One of the most pitiful pictures I saw was a dog that had been chained to a tree, ostensibly so it wouldn’t wander away. Only its head was above water and, given the steady rise, it would soon drown (that there was a photographer there means the dog was rescued).

If tragedy brings out the worst in a few of us, it brings out the best in most. Countless pictures show volunteers rescuing people. One video that particularly struck me showed a man crying as he helped rescue an elderly resident of Dickinson from waist-deep water in his home. The elderly man was so frail he had to be hoisted into the rescue truck.

I’ve heard of people hitching up their boats and heading to Houston to be part of the rescue effort, which is admirable but I’m not sure Houston authorities want or are ready for a lot of untrained volunteers. Who would coordinate? It’s the opposite of the evacuation problem—instead of getting people out of Houston, the rescue effort might add them.

Ah, evacuation. Lots of hindsight authorities want to know why a mass evacuation wasn’t ordered? Think of the logistics of emptying a city of two-and-a-half millionousthous

, and remember the exodus under the threat of Hurricane Rita. I believe over a hundred died on the road—accidents, heat exhaustion, stalled cars, etc. We trust that those in charge studied the situation and made the best decisions they couold.

Kudos to my daughter-in-law, Melanie in Frisco. She is organizing a work day for the entire staff of her company. They will sort and package supplies for shipment to the Houston area from a local shelter. That’s called putting your money where your mouth is.

This whole tragedy has one major positive element, just as the Charlottesville riot did: Americans have demonstrated that we are a caring, loving people, that we can come together when needed. A lot of forces are working to divide us into various groups usually motivated by hate. The tragedy of Harvey unites us because we very much care about our fellow man.

If, like me, you can do no more than send a check, please do it today and be as generous as you can.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A day of waiting and watching

Whatever else I’ve been doing today—and I’ve been busy—I have kept one eye on the TV and on my cell phone for text messages. My Tomball daughter-in-law is good about texting and posting notices, so I’ve seen videos of the creeping lake level at their house, notices of school closing for the coming week (Jacob will be so jealous), reports of assorted family in Houston.

Everyone seems safe, if not particularly comfortable. Lisa reports the rain just doesn’t quit. Her parents, in Sugar Land, have been fortunate so far. Her brother lives in a block where there have been helicopter evacuations, though his house, as of this morning, remained dry. A sort-of in-law called rescue with six inches of water in the house and was told to stay put. Rescue teams were focused on life-threatening emergencies.

The pictures of the whole area are devastating. Saddest one I saw showed nursing home residents in the badly hit town of Dickinson, sitting in waist-deep water as they waited for rescue, which apparently came shortly after the picture. FEMA authorities say they will be in the area for years. And it’s not over yet—rain at least through Wednesday. Think how dirty that flood water is. When I see pictures of people wading in it, I shudder, thinking of snakes and who knows what else. You could trip on a loose brick and plunge face-first into that nastiness.

Austin is also getting pounded. My son-in-law reported last night that after a day of normal rain the storm really hit last night, and Megan said this morning that the worst was yet to come. I haven’t heard from them all day and am waiting for a report. My nephew and his family were in El Paso to visit his grandfather, and their flight back was cancelled. They are apparently driving from El Paso to Austin. Not sure what kind of weather they’ll hit as they near Austin, but who would want to make that drive with four kids? I’m waiting to hear about them too.

Meanwhile in Fort Worth, we have drizzle, sprinkles, and sometimes a slow steady rain. The ground in our back yard is so saturated that water accumulates and moves on to the patio quickly. A good thing: it’s been a good weekend for reading and napping—I slept so hard this afternoon that it was hard for me to come back to reality.

We had a super special dinner tonight. Christian grilled really good steaks, and he knows how to grill it just the way I like it. Very pink in the middle. I saved half mine for lunch tomorrow—cold steak is one of life’s great treats to me. Tonight, we had potatoes and salad with the meat. A true luxury, and I’m full and sleepy again.

I have taken a two-day vacation from my novel in progress, so tomorrow I get back to it, plus I have guest blogs to send off. They’re written but need that final proofing and tweaking. So it’s back to work as usual. I’ve enjoyed the lazy weekend, but I’ll be glad to get back to my routine.

Hope everyone is dry and safe. Prayers for those who were caught by this monster storm.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Rain, food, and things I didn’t sign on for as a mother

One of those almost-rainy, dull Saturdays when you stay home alone all day and try not to feel sorry for yourself. My solution was to read, and I spent much of the day finishing The Velveteen Daughter, which I am to review for Story Circle Network. I even roughed out the review. But that historical novel is not light reading and didn’t do much to lighten my mood

My kids are in their forties, and I should not be worrying about them. But I am. One is periodically hiding in a closet with his family in Tomball because they get one tornado warning after another. Spinoffs from Hurricane Harvey. Another in Austin said this morning it’s just an ordinary rainstorm, but I’m afraid she’s in for a rude awakening. The third is with his family in Boulder, delivering the oldest daughter to college—surely a bittersweet moment for that close family. And the local one? She woke with a splitting sinus headache. I guess Harvey gets all of us one way or another, though we’ve had only one brief sprinkle of rain.

I did keep one eye on the TV (with the sound muted) for hurricane reports and watched the national news avidly. The devastation from landfall is awful, but they say the worst is yet to come—flooding over the next few days as Harvey lingers almost in place and dumps inches and inches of rain. I think of the Tomball kids again, with a stable next door that becomes a sea of mud, with a lot of horse poop in it. And the snakes that may come sliding out of their small lake. Of course, being a mother, my mind can go quickly to the worst-case scenario, for which Colin would scorn me.

Cooking always brightens my day, so I made myself a new recipe for supper. A baked egg on a bed of toast, spinach, crumbled bacon, and thin slices of cheese. Think of it--all the food groups at once. Drizzled a little cream over the top because the original recipe said to do that, but I’m not sure what good it did. With a single burner kitchen, I had to cook dinner in several steps—make the toast, sauté the bacon that I’d already diced rather than trying to crumble after it cooked—that doesn’t work well for me because bacon doesn’t cook evenly. Then I sautéed the spinach ever so quickly in a tiny bit of bacon grease, and assembled the whole thing in a ramekin. I had to finish with the hot plate before I could turn on the toaster-oven to heat 400, but that gave me time to do some dishes and put away food. When the oven was 400, I put my dinner in for 15 minutes—perfection! The egg white was set nicely but the yolk still runny.

If I ever do a cookbook I will emphasize that some of the recipes must be done with a love of cooking, because they are neither quick nor easy. But for me it was fun, and the result was scrumptious. I had found a recipe, but the cheese was my addition, as was the substitution of a half slice of sourdough toast, well buttered, for an English muffin. And I had to reduce the recipe to serve one instead of four, but by now that’s old hat.

Now what to do with the rest of my evening? Read, that’s what. When I was deep in the review book, which did call me back with a siren call, I occasionally felt I had to escape from that intense world to a cozy mystery. Now I’m free to read that cozy without interruption.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hurricanes and not much else

This is me, checking in to say I have nothing to say. A pleasant but not essentially outstanding day. We got our daily dose of rain this morning, but it was light and didn’t last long. Teddy and I walked, and since the weather was cooler, I did better, but everything makes me breathless. The cure of course is to keep doing it, until I build up my endurance again. After I took a shower this afternoon, Jordan asked why I was out of breath, and all I could say was exertion. I didn’t even realize I was a bit breathless. I don’t think the house exercises I do make me out of breath, but I’ll start paying more attention.

My most unusual accomplishment for the day: have you ever tried mopping a floor while seated in a Rollator (rolling walker, which you are not supposed to sit in while it’s moving, but I do). I can’t mop the floor with the wet Swiffer pads—they have chemicals not good for my wood floors. Felt very clever when I dampened paper towels, attached them to the Swiffer mop, and got up all those muddy paw prints. Half an hour later, there were more prints, not as pronounced, but still mud. With this rain, Sophie brings half the outdoors inside. My newly cleaned rug is filthy. Need to get that ground cover in place.

Nice lunch with friend Jean today. We wanted to go to Carshon’s but were running late and there was no parking by the time we got there—which meant the restaurant would be crowded and noisy. We went to Chadra and had salads—gyro for me and chicken for Jean. Both outstanding.

Tonight, Jordan and I walked again—nice breeze. And I have written my daily thousand words. Could have gone farther, but I’m finding it best to stop there. It’s respectable progress, and I have a review book to keep reading. I had occasion to be specific about forensic findings at the scene of a shooting, so I consulted Fred, who was helpful as always. You’d think I could keep .38 caliber weapons and the difference between automatic and semi-automatic in my head from book to book, but apparently not. I decided the forensic team found a wad of chewed up gum someone had spit out—phew!

Of course, tonight all eyes are on Harvey as the storm roars ashore around Aransas Pass and Rockport. Several kind friends from across the country have emailed to check on me, and I’m glad to tell them all we may get out of it is some rain, though we have been warned to gas up cars in case supply from Houston is compromised. Two of my kids are in the heavy rain and storm belt—Colin in Tomball, and Megan in Austin. I’m hoping they check in fairly frequently, though this storm is supposed to be around for a very long week. Praying for people in its path. It’s a monster.

But even in storms there’s levity. I saw something on Facebook that was so typically Texan it made me laugh out loud. It was a map of the expected landfall, with wording to the effect, ‘You think that eclipse was something? Here, hold my beer and watch this shit.” (Pardon the profanity, but I bet it made you laugh.)

My other favorite from Facebook for the week: a redneck saying, “You mean the moon is going to cover the sun? Thanks, Obama!”

Over and out. Happy Friday, everyone.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Radio star—not!, grocery store, and more rain

Clearly, I am not meant to be a star of talk radio. I had two interviews scheduled this week, and both fizzled. The first was with a station in Ocala, Florida, at 10:10 in the morning. I was to call in a little before that. I was geared up for it, watching the clock—and then I got an email from the publicist who arranged it. They were waiting for me, wondering what happened. I had forgotten about the time difference. I should have called at 9:10.

When I did call they kindly said they’d put me in the second half hour if I’d hold for a few minutes. Of course, I agreed. But when we got on the air, there was so much static at their end I couldn’t understand them. Most of the interview consisted of me saying, “Pardon me?” or “Would you repeat that?” It was an agonizingly long ten minutes, and I think maybe I got in one or two good answers.

This afternoon I was to have a two-hour interview with a host named Barbara. I’ve been on Barbara’s show before, and I kept trying to remember if she gave potty breaks or not. I was remembering a friend who was to have a two-and-a-half-hour video for a job interview and told me she had severely curtailed fluid intake that morning. There’d been an email a week ago from someone named Barbara cancelling a show, but PJ, the publicist, said that was a different deal. This one was still on. Minutes before the allotted time, I found out this is the one that cancelled. I was all geared up for nothing. PJ said it was the fourth radio interview she’d scheduled this week that fizzled, and we decided it was either the eclipse or a spot on the moon.

And it’s been a rainy day. Last night Jordan said if it was pouring rain this morning, she’d go to the grocery with my list and not try to get me out. So I prepared myself for not getting out, didn’t jump out of bed and wash my hair, lazed about breakfast. And it wasn’t raining. She came to say we’d go at nine. I decided I really wanted to go. Grocery shopping not only gets me out of the house, it allows me to choose my own groceries, and I love that. So, not looking my best, I went to the bank—what I wanted in the safe deposit wasn’t there—and the grocery and the lunch take-out place. High point of the day.And the high point of the day was that I walked into the grocery on Jordan's arm, walking like a normal person. I felt like my legs were working well. Now it's my breathing that I worry about, but I am assured that is conditioning, complicated by the humidity I just need to keep walking.

We had another thunderstorm late this afternoon, the kind I thoroughly enjoy except for that one clap of thunder that was directly overhead and set Sophie to barking furiously. Wish I knew went on in that little brain that she thinks barking at thunder is effective. I love storms (without tornadic winds, of course). As a child in the Indiana Dunes, I used to watch them roll down the whole long length of Lake Michigan, and I was reminded again today of my brother’s words that our mother actively encouraged us to like storms.

My own personal moral of the day: you can’t win them all.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dealing with the dog

Sophie, at her leisure, in what she
considers her rightful spot.
You think she might be spoiled?

Sophie, my sweet Sophie who only minds me when it suits her, has developed a new bad habit. She does not like people to visit with me, particularly at happy hour, though she was in fine fettle the other day when a friend came for lunch.

She barks incessantly, and the consensus is that she doesn’t want to share my attention. It probably is, as many have suggested, a case of being spoiled and wanting attention. Last night I tried everything—a treat quieted her until she finished it, and then she started again. Jeannie loved on her, even invited her up to her lap. I loved on her. She’d be quiet for a bit, and then she’d bark again, directly at me. I don’t believe in hitting dogs, but I smacked her lightly on the nose. No result. I tricked her into going outside and closed the door. She bounced against the door until I was afraid she’d bring down my magnetic screens. This is one determined dog. Jeannie suggested it’s the border collie in her—she was herding us, wanting us to do what she wanted.

Today it occurred to me that she might have been hungry, because she did bark after Jeannie left. So tonight, I fed her early. She sniffed and turned away, with a look that clearly said, “You want me to eat now?” Tomorrow I think I’ll feed her just a bit in the morning and then cut her evening rations.

Of course, to test that, I need another happy hour guest. Any volunteers?

Rainy this morning, with thunder. Found myself in bed with a needy dog, and I lingered late again. When you don’t get up until eight, the morning isn’t very long. And the rain made me less anxious to get serious about work. I fiddled with email and Facebook and other distractions until Teddy came to walk and declared it too slippery to do the driveway. We walked the path to the gate twice, and I was out of breath—not winded, but out of breath.

Lunch fare of the day: Buffalo eggs. I pickled some eggs and then deviled them with a bit of blue cheese, parsley, celery, and mayonnaise. Since neither Jordan nor I are Tabasco fans, I left that out. Really good. That and the remnants of the pasta salad I made over the weekend added up to a good, light lunch.

After lunch I got serious and wrote my thousand words for the day. Plus in the afternoon I made progress on the book I’m reading to review.

Tonight, Betty and I went to Pacific Table and split trout almandine—so good.

Tomorrow, more rain. Who can believe. Outside tonight it’s already in the seventies. Not sure I’m in Texas.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Taking stock—how happy are you?

A three-a.m. spell of wakefulness inspired me to do a little self-inventory. The results surprised me, and you might find the same.

Where I live. Fort Worth gets a big thumbs-up sign from me. I’m over that conviction I was meant to live in Santa Fe, and I’m realist enough to know that life in a Scottish village is a pipe dream. Oh, I’d change Texas politics in a heartbeat, and I might modify the weather a bit. But there’s no place I’d rather live. Part of it of course has to do with proximity of family, but I love our city—and our state, for all its warts. The history still thrills me.

What do you do every day? So many of us work at jobs that are not our dream jobs. We labor for the paycheck, without the joy of doing something special. I am so fortunate that when I worked, for thirty years my job revolved around things I like best—books and writing. Now in retirement, I get to write every day, and I love it. I was thinking this morning that the happiest part of the day for me is when I turn on the computer, cup of hot tea at my elbow, and start the day with email. Do I want to be Joyce Carol Oates--too much angst. Danielle Steele--all hat and no cattle. A best-selling mystery novelist with a multiple-book contract with a major house? Nah. I’ve read enough about the pressure of deadlines and sales numbers and the like. I’ll bobble along at my own little low mid-list rate, with its occasional moments of high celebration (come to my signing party September 21—it will be a moment of high celebration or me).

What about living alone? In spite of frequent visits each day from Jordan and a few from Jacob (last night he convinced me to sign up for Instagram and now I have to figure out what to do with it), living alone is fine, but it’s not my first choice. My dream would be to share my days with the love of my life (heart partner is such an awkward term). There have been a couple of candidates over the years, and I miss those men yet, but for various reasons things didn’t work out. I’m fairly philosophical about it, certainly glad I didn’t settle for lesser alternatives. Maybe a life of bliss is just another pipe dream.

I do have Sophie, the perfect dog, for companionship, and she’s good at her job. Is she the perfect dog? Of course not. She’s willful and spoiled and sometimes crazy with excitement. But she’s perfect for me. (Couldn’t resist that sly plug for my new book, Pigface and the Perfect Dog.)

And then there’s family. I couldn’t, wouldn’t ask for a different family in any way. Oh sure, I wish they’d call and visit more often. I wish this one wasn’t so busy and that one wasn’t so driven and yet another didn’t have sensitive issues I blunder into unknowingly and…wait! They’re already trying to identify themselves, and I won’t go there. I am blessed with an almost perfect family, and I daily ask the Lord to wrap them in his arms and throw his white light of protection over them.

In sum, I’m a fairly happy person. I hope you are too. Here’s my wish for you: may your life be full of joy and laughter and just enough tears for balance. May you eat well and sleep soundly. And that old Gaelic blessing I love: may the road rise to meet you.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Was the eclipse a jinx?

Eclipse be darned. The important thing around here is that it was Jacob’s first day at middle school. Looks ready to take on the world to me.

The consensus in the Alter/Burton household is that, in Texas, the eclipse as pretty much a bust. Jacob and his classmates were issued glasses and ushered outside, appropriately during science class, but he said it was one of the most boring things he’s ever done—ah, young exaggeration. Jordan and friends went to a restaurant with a patio, and she said she should have stayed home and worked, but she’d have felt she missed something if she didn’t go look. A friend came for lunch with me, and we kept looking outside but really didn’t see much darkening. Apparently, Texas only had 70% whatever that means.

I’ve seen places in the central path where it got dark, and from reports of people who were in Oregon, Wyoming, Carbondale (IL), it was an awesome experience. All it meant here, far as I could tell, was a jinx. I had a lot of work on my desk, but everything I touched turned to mush. I was trying to put together the neighborhood newsletter, but files acted funny, others were formatted in ways that made them so difficult to deal with I threw my hands in the air.

I had to straighten out an insurance matter and none of the options on the automated menu covered it. The robot on the other end didn’t understand what I was saying. So I went online and tried the ”chat” option but when I tried to respond it froze. Finally, with help from the broker who arranged the insurance (through TCU) I got a real person at the insurance company. Of course, it turned out that I really did owe that overdue payment I was challenging.

Then I tackled the problem of an eye exam. My insurance doesn’t pay my doctor of 30 years because he’s an ophthalmologist—that comes under medical, so I have to go to an optometrist. It took literally a half hour on the phone to get the name of the area optometrist my doctor recommends.

Anybody want to calculate the amount of time I spent on the phone, mostly on hold? I don’t even want to think about it.

One bright spot: Teddy came and walked with me. I determined to be confident and to take it slow. Thought I did really well. Pleased with myself, and he, eternal cheerleader, was complimentary.

Tonight the world looks a bit better. I finished all of the newsletter I can do with what I have on hand—waiting for late submissions. I got the medical insurance straightened out, and a mammogram appointment made, with a note on the calendar to schedule an optometrist appointment (got to space those appointments out). I finished the mystery I was reading. No work on my own novel today, but that was pretty much a given.

Whoosh. I deserve wine and supper.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eating Humble Pie

We all know the internet is full of faulty information, but I hate being part of that. Having realized that some of my comments were based on incomplete knowledge, I want to set the record straight. So here I go, eating a couple of slices of humble pie.

Until this past week, I had never heard the term “antifa.” In fact, I had to look it up. Even then, I didn’t realize it was an actual movement, loosely organized, apparently without national structure or political connections, but still a movement. Members of Antifa don’t start the fight, but they believe violence must be met with violence, and when white supremacists are violent, Antifa is ready to fight back. Because they are so loosely organized and because communism has so many meanings (an actual party, a belief system of a group, a personal belief, an affiliation with a country, often a willingness to overthrow the current government), I think it is erroneous to call these people “Commies,” but they aren’t peace-loving followers of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. either. According to reports, statistically they represent much less of a threat than the Neo-Nazis who are better organized, often with ties to a major political party.

I don’t like their methods, and I still think it’s unfair to tar all counter-protestors when so many are passive, many of them with religious motivation, with the communist or anarchist label, but thanks to Steve Munday for educating me so I can be a bit more honest and on target.

If you read my blog, you know I have been opposed to the destruction of Confederate monuments. I have bemoaned the frenzy with which we are trying to destroy or rewrite history, and I have been harsh about the fact that these monuments offend some. That, to my mind, is the past. But friend and fellow author Cindy Bonner suggested that the monuments should be removed to battlefields and cemeteries, where they are more appropriate than in our city parks and streets. I would be all for that, if they are carefully dismantled and transported, under the supervision of some government authority. I believe that was done in New Orleans and perhaps elsewhere. The wanton destruction by a mob is still, to my mind, vandalism and against the law.

I am still opposed to the frenzy that saw Six Flags take down all its flags and replace them with one American flag. That, indeed, is to ignore history, and I hope that in this burst of political correctness we don’t start renaming parks and streets. I think we will regret that in a few years.

All this for some reason reminds me that we consistently choose the military over the intellectual, and maybe we are reaping the fruits of that now. I am reminded of Adlai Stevenson, Jr., once governor of Illinois, UN ambassador, and a failed presidential candidate, unfortunately best known for the hole in the sole of his shoe while he sat on a platform during a political rally. A man of rare intellect, he was soundly defeated by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike holds a special place in the hearts of Americans who remember that far back, but I grew up in a Stevenson household, and I’ve always been aware of the tension between soldier and thinker.

We see that today—violence vs. peaceful protest. Which do you choose?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Troubling thoughts

A lazy Saturday. That’s what I thought when I woke up this morning, and it was true for the day. I stayed in bed as long as Sophie would let me, dozing and thinking about what I’d do once I got up. Like fix myself corned beef hash—a favorite breakfast—and make the pasta salad I’ve been thinking about for a week. And, of course, write my thousand words for the day. I did all that and had a good, hard nap. I hadn’t slept well during the night, and I dreamt during my nap of my nephew and his kids and then of running a coffee house—my, how the sixties sometimes come back to haunt us. Or maybe the domestic violence of the sixties was talking to me.

Highlight of the day came when neighbors said they were coming for happy hour. They even brought the wine and some really good cheese, and we had a lovely visit, a happy hour that was truly happy.

But all day troubling thoughts were beneath the surface of my activities. While Europe suffers through terrorist attacks which unite countries in a determination not to be beaten, we are a divided country with Nazi sympathizers and white supremacists marching through our streets. And our president makes their hate okay to display in pubic. In seven short months, America has gone from being the leading world power to being dismissed as a joke….and a bad one at that.

What kind of animals honor the Third Reich? They must see the pictures of skeleton-like people, humiliated and demoralized to the point they lack humanity, lined up waiting to be shot. Of holocaust camp victims. I have read the theories about fears of white genocide, men feeling disenfranchised and wanting to return to the day “when blacks knew their place,” all the excuses for this current white supremacist behavior. None merit a moment’s thought.

Equally as bad to me are the people who claim the counter-protestors are anarchists and communists. Many are people of faith, religious leaders who fight violence by silent protest, and others, everyday citizens who, quaking with fear, feel called upon to do protest evil. Lord protest them.

I am troubled also by the frenzy to erase all signs of the Civil War. I’ve read those theories too—the symbols are offensive, they weren’t erected to honor Confederate heroes but to frighten blacks. When Six Flags amusement park forgets history and takes down not only the Confederate flag—it was the battle flag and not the official flag of the Confederacy—but also the flags of Spain, Mexico, France, and the revered Republic of Texas, the madness has gone too far.

What matters is not how things were in the past but how we treat people today—and we’re doing a damn poor job of that, with racism, immigration laws that tear families apart and target innocent citizens, gender bias that would govern our bathroom behavior, laws that cut funding for the least able among us.  There is an evil force at work, dividing us, making us less than we are.  Please. Let’s recognize evil and terrorism where they are, here today, on our streets and in our laws, and fight those forces, not tilt at statues that are no more than windmills.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What a day, what a week!

Today my local family came home from a four-day vacation at Lost Pines, a Hyatt resort property in Central Texas. They go every year with friends and look forward to it—water sports, lots of fishing for Jacob, general relaxation. I promised them a welcome-home dinner today and made family favorite Doris’ casserole. Imagine my disappointment when Jordan announced that Jacob, having just had his eleven-year-old check-up and gotten four shots, was on the couch and not joining us for dinner, and Christian was not feeling well. Christian did join us for dinner—said he thinks the pecans he ate backfired on him. It was a subdued meal, but the casserole was good, and we got good pictures which I will use for a blog I’m to do with a recipe attached.

This was a funny week. With my family gone, I scheduled myself heavily—lunch out two days, dinner out two evenings and happy hour guests the third, a dental appointment. In spite of all that, I got a lot of writing done and feel good about most of it. Plus took care of busy details of various kinds, kept up with my blog and with my email.

It was a great week for feedback on my writing—two posts as a guest blogger and one online review. Plus, today came unexpected news that six of my young-adult novels will be given new life as ebooks, beginning this month and one a month. I signed that contract a year ago, but with all the turmoil in my life I’d forgotten about it, so the news came as a great surprise. I approved cover art today for the first one. I’ll be sharing details on the blog, you can be sure.

It was a wet week too. We had a lot of rain, and yesterday’s storm blew down some small pieces of the big, old elm in front that I’m so protective of. Walking coach Teddy came and neatly stacked them. When we walked, we came up and across the front porch, and we both noticed a hanging plant that was really drooping from lack of water—too high for eleven-year-old Sam to reach as part of his watering chores. Teddy watered it.

Walking was hard of me today. Partly because I worried about the ache in my back, even sometimes at my computer. Teddy, with his usual calm manner, reassured me—yes, it’s probably spinal stenosis because almost every adult my age has it, but no, it’s not severe or I’d be feeling sharp pains. And my breathlessness today? High humidity. He said he was even breathless. I finished the walk in better style than I started it, simply because I felt reassured.

So tonight, I feel lazy. Going to spend the rest of the evening reading. Tomorrow is another day, and I can work then. May next week be as adventure-filled as this.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Rain in Texas, Tattoo in Scotland, and good friends

The rain in Spain may fall mainly on the plain, but in Texas this August it falls on everything and with unusual frequency. We had a good storm this afternoon. I heard the distant thunder but at first, it’s often not recognizable—could be the construction trucks from the never-ending gas pipe work or any other number of city noises. But then a great clap right overhead, and Sophie was on her feet barking defiantly. I hadn’t even realized that she’d crept up close to me. It blew harder than usual this afternoon, and I worried about the umbrella on the deck. A friend who came by to pick something up about five, reported we lost a small limb or two from the big elm tree in front—the “suffering” tree that I was so indignant about earlier. And the rain continued, slowing down but still coming for well over an hour. Now it’s less a question of watering things than it is to dump water out of flower pots so the plants don’t get root rot.

Elmer Kelton wrote the classic novel, The Time It Neve Rained, about the 1950s drought in the Southwest. But years later, he wrote an article, “The Time It Always Rained,” about the problems that beset sheep ranchers when there is too much rain. I don’t have enough ranch knowledge to enumerate those problems, but I was struck by the fact that too much rain is almost as bad as too little. There are those pests!

A social day. Margaret, a steadfast friend since we met as student wives in Missouri in the early sixties, took me to lunch to celebrate my birthday, almost a month after the fact. We had delicious blue cheese burgers and good slaw with cabbage, kale, and a nice, just-right dressing. Each of us brought half of our lunch home. Then Margaret, good soul that she is, took me grocery shopping. Having spent too many months sending people off with grocery lists and getting some questionable products back, I find grocery shopping for myself a pure delight. And now that I do the motorized carts, it’s even better. I’m not sure Margaret had as much fun as I did.

My list was short, but I promised to cook dinner for my family tomorrow night. Then an opportunity came up to include a recipe in a guest blog, so I decided to kill two whatevers with one meal. I will cook a family favorite for them and take pictures for the blog. But it’s not a last-minute meal, at least not for me, and I needed some supplies.

Tonight, neighbors Margaret and Dennis came for happy hour, joined by Teddy and Sue. Margaret and Dennis have just been to Scotland and knew I’d want to hear all about it. Among other things, they went to Tattoo, an enormous military celebration of Scottish music and entertainment. Warmed the cockles of my heart when Dennis said that mind-boggling spectacle was great but not the highlight of the trip. He was most impressed by the majestic landscape of the Highlands. Fun for me to listen and relive some of my trip to Scotland. They kindly brought me a program from Tattoo and a kilt pin for my clan, MacBean. Dennis said, “Your clan is shrinking,” and I told him it’s always been small—but proud.

A confession: I am so grateful for company and for those who get me out of the cottage, but all day today I was thinking, “When will I write my thousand words for today?” I wrote maybe 200 just before they arrived at five and wrote the rest before I did the dishes. Now that’s focus.

And I got bookmarks today for Pigface and the Perfect Dog. Excited to start passing them out.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Special Milestone

My oldest granddaughter is college-bound, and I had been fairly vocal about wanting a Maddie hug before she leaves the nest. She drove over from Frisco to have supper with me last night. It’s the first time she’s driven here by herself, and the first one-on-one visit we’ve had since the days I used to babysit with her when she was an only grandchild—now there are seven of them. When she walked in the door, I said I viewed the visit as a milestone, and she was all grins as she agreed.

I asked what she wanted for dinner, and she remembered the Italian restaurant where we’d had good food and an unfortunate waiter several months ago—no reflection on the restaurant and kudos to them for quickly correcting the situation. We went to Bravo, sat on the empty patio with the evening breeze just beginning to stir, and had a lovely time.

We talked about college. She’ll go to Colorado University where, according to her previously announced plan, she’ll major in psychology. This fall she’ll take psychology, philosophy, biology, and American history from 1875. I envy her the history course and reviewed in my mind the things she’d cover—Industrial Revolution, Columbian Exposition if she’s lucky (she would if I were teaching the course), world wars, Korea, Vietnam. She seemed unaware of WWI and WWII and high-fived me when I told her they’d surely be included.

Maddie is a certified nursing assistant, with an eye on an R.N. degree. She’s also young and strong—perfect person to help me with my walking. We walked down the driveway to the car and from the car across the parking lot, into the restaurant, and headed for the patio. We weren’t too far from our goal, when I had to stop and ask for the walker—my stamina had run out. But she said she was very impressed with the improvement I’ve made. I thrive on praise like that.

We talked about the family wedding where she was a flower girl, and I told her stories from her childhood, and we talked about her cousins and family fun. At the end of our meal, I thanked her for coming all the way to see me. She grinned and said, “I was glad to. You’re fun.” What better compliment can you get from an eighteen-year-old?

She’s one of the many blessings in my life.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Waiting all summer for this day

August 15, 2017

Today is the day I’ve been waiting all summer for—cover reveal of my new novel, Pigface and the Perfect Dog (an Oak Grove Mystery). It’s my first full-length novel in over a year, and the first time I have revisited the college town of Oak Grove since The Perfect Coed was published three years ago.

Kudos to Sherry Wachter for the great cover, which I think matches the cover of The Perfect Coed in style and color. I’ve itched to share it with you for weeks, but when you sign up for a cover reveal, you’re pretty much bound to that date. So today’s reveal can be found at

English professor Susan Hogan and her partner, Jake Phillips, chief of campus security, return in this cozy mystery with an edge. Susan thinks she’s about to meet her maker when she confronts a rifle-carrying man, who looks like a pig, in a grocery store. Jake investigates the body of a young college student, shot in the back and found in an empty pasture. Aunt Jenny showers love on the new puppy a young man from the grocery gave her, but she feels she must get rid of that heavy collar.

 Trouble in Oak Grove begins with open-carry protestors in the grocery store and leads to a shooting, breaking and entering, threats, a chase, an attempted kidnapping, and a clandestine trip to the woods late at night. Will Susan Hogan land in trouble…or the hospital…again? Will Susan and Jake survive this as a couple? Susan is still prickly but she learns some lessons about life, love, and herself in this second Oak Grove Mystery.

Reader reaction to The Perfect Coed thrilled me.

Susan is a prickly character, and she doesn’t put up with any guff from her male colleagues, the cops, or even Jake. Aunt Jenny is funny and a great cook. I have a feeling all these characters will be returning for a sequel, so you’ll want to pick this one up now before you get behind. You won’t regret it.

Bill Crider, mystery author

Few mysteries open with a single paragraph of eye-popping intrigue, but The Perfect Coed is full of such moments and its introduction is apt warning that readers will rapidly become involved in something far from mundane or predictable: “Susan Hogan drove around Oak Grove, Texas for two days before she realized there was a dead body in the trunk of her car. And it was another three days before she knew that someone was trying to kill her.”

—D. Donovan, Senior eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Pigface, as I affectionately call this new novel, is available for pre-order on Amazon, in both paperback and ebook form. It will be available September 7.

For those in the Fort Worth area, there’ll be a launch party September 21, 5:00 -7:00 p.m., at the Wine Haus, 1628 Park Place Avenue. Cash bar, snacks will be offered, and fun will definitely be had. Ya’ll come celebrate with me, please. Many of you will get an evite soon; if you don’t hear by September 11, please let me know. Questions, comments? Write me at

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sanitizing the South

All across the South there’s a move to take down Confederate statues. They are symbols of a dark blot on our history—slavery, the plantation system, an era of extreme human bondage, cruelty to humans. I do not believe that these monuments were built to terrify blacks, as one editorial this morning claimed, but they were built to glorify men who today we do not consider heroes. That they have become rallying points for hate groups probably means that they should come down. But I view that destruction with sadness. It’s like trying to erase history.

The plantation system, with all its inequities and unbelievable cruelty, helped shape the South as we know it today—a region most of us recognize has a rich heritage of literature, music, art, food, and manners. The Civil War, fought to preserve slavery or that culture (depends on your point of view), shaped our country in ways we can never fully appreciate. It moved us beyond slavery to the land of equality our forefathers wanted. To remove those statues is to attempt to remove history, and we can neither erase nor rewrite history. Those men who fought for the Confederacy were part of the great war which molded us, albeit they were on the wrong side..

Let them stand today as reminders of the schism in our country, the positive outcome of the war, the progress we have made toward being civilized. The hate groups that rally around these statues (with tiki torches, no less—how inappropriate is that?) are beyond the understanding of most of us. But rather than spend money, effort, and time taking down statues, let us direct our energies to combatting hatred in our country. What can we do to reach out to those people, understand them (there probably is no understanding), help them change and rid themselves of anger? If I were convinced tearing down statues would help, I’d be for it. But I think it will only further enrage them—that is, of course, why they were in Charlottesville, to protest the scheduled teardown of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

If we sanitize the history of the South we might well begin to look at other parts of the country. The cowboy myth of the American West wasn’t particularly violent, but the clashes between settlers and native American were awash in cruelty on either side, unbelievable barbarianism and cruelty. Shall we destroy statues to pioneers and Native American leaders, besmirch Daniel Bowie and others? History has given us a re-interpretation of Custer’s Last Stand, one in which the general doesn’t come out well at all. Can we not apply that lesson to the South without destroying monuments?

And what about New England? Those Puritans could be extremely cruel and insensitive to those who didn’t think as they did. Shall we ban The Scarlet Letter from school reading lists?

When we try to rewrite or erase history, we start down a slippery slope. Surely, we can be more constructive. I am proud to be an American and proud of our heritage. I decry those who would pervert that heritage and use it for hatred. But, as a literature and history student, I want to preserve our history intact.

This was hard to write and didn’t come out the way I wanted at all, but I have done my best. Many of my colleagues and good friends will disagree vehemently, and I understand that.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hello, 3 a.m. – meet indigestion

Indigestion is not a word in my vocabulary. It doesn’t happen to me—at least not that I’m aware. But  three a.m. is no stranger. I rarely sleep the night through in one long sleep but rather two- or three-hour intervals. Last night the two came together.

I woke up about three-thirty with the feeling that everything in me was in turmoil, a great feeling of unease. If I sat up, I was less aware of it, so I sat up. I read phone messages, I planned a novel, I went to the bathroom too many times. But each time I lay down that scary feeling, located in the middle of my lower chest, was there.

We all know that everything is scarier at three in the morning. I thought of my friend Bobbie who died halfway out of her bed, apparently going for help. I thought of Don who, home alone, felt unwell and called 911. The parameds told him if he hadn’t called in the next three minutes, he’d be a dead man. I thought of the man I worked for who complained of back pain and it turned out to be a massive heart attack. I tried to remember what I knew if anything about silent heart attacks. I was cheered that I really didn’t think it was my heart—I had no sharp pain anywhere and I wasn’t aware of a rapid or louder heartbeat.

After an hour in which my imagination ran totally away with me, I called Jordan. Sweet, caring girl. She came out, diagnosed indigestion, and asked if I’d taken a Pepcid. “Never in my life,” I replied. She went inside for them, gave me one, and settled on the other side of my bed. The culprit she thought was that kielbasa we had for dinner plus two not-small helpings of German potato salad with it’s heavy vinegar component. I remembered the night Jordan, driving us home from Dallas, had her first-ever attack of heartburn (after barbecue sandwiches), so severe she kept threatening to pull off at the next motel.

Sophie totally puzzled by both of us in the same bed at the same time joined the party and went from one to the other, giving face licks.. I began to feel better, but it was one of those elusive things—I thought I’d feel better if I could just turn my mind off.

After about half an hour, Jordan went back to her own bed, and I finally slept. Woke a couple of times and finally got up about 8:45—late for me. I’ll be glad for a nap this afternoon, and I guess I should put some Pepcid in my medicine chest.

And kudos to Jordan for once again proving herself a good caretaker--and a loving daughter.

It’s a rainy day, good day to stay in my jammies and chill. Good plan.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Tangled thoughts and some happy notes

One mama who is happy to have her boy back
I tried to write a post tonight about white supremacy, Charlottesville, and Confederate statues, but my thoughts are too tangled to make it coherent. Anyone reading this knows how strongly I deplore white supremacy and today’s violence. Were I in Charlottesville I would have stayed hidden inside, partly because I fear violence and party because I think going out to protest the marchers gave them a certain credibility. I am, like everyone, devastated by the deaths and injuries.

It may surprise some that I don’t favor destroying Confederate monuments. The Confederacy and the Civil War are significant parts of our history, and we are foolish to try to either deny or rewrite history. Let the monuments remain not as objects of glory but as reminders that we are now better people, shaped by the fire of that war.

Hate has been legitimized in this country by a president who encouraged violence at his political rallies, mocked minorities and the disabled, banned certain nationalities from our shores, and still strives to build a wall to keep out an entire race of people. It is a sad day for a nation founded on the belief that all men are equal.

On another note. It’s been quiet around the Alter/Burton homestead lately, but today we welcomed Jacob home from camp where he had, in his words, a blast. He went for two weeks; one week in, he wanted to come home. Now he says he wants to go back next year for four weeks. He’s tanned and healthy and happy and grew two feet, I’m sure. I’m glad he’s back. To celebrate, we fixed Polish sausage for dinner—a favorite of his, but I found I didn’t buy enough. Double that order next time.

And on a personal happy note: I wrote two thousand words today on the novel I’m working on. My daily goal is a thousand words, but yesterday if I was lucky I wrote three hundred. The words wouldn’t come. The late Jerry Flemmons, who gave me lots of good advice and counsel, always said when writer’s block hits the thing to do is put your butt in the chair and write, no matter how meaningless the words. I tried yesterday, honest I did, but I stared at a blank screen and finally resorted to Facebook. Today with everyone gone, I wrote twice my daily goal and made a lot of notes for tomorrow’s writing.

I would say all’s well and the world is in its place, but clearly it’s not. Not with Kim Jung-Un and Trumpf rattling sabers and not with the tragic events of Charlottesville. But when I’m discouraged I remember William Faulkner’s Nobel speech—“I believe man will not only endure, he will prevail.” Call me Pollyanna.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Indignation over a tree

            The landmark that distinguishes my house is a wonderful old elm tree in front. The house was built in 1922, and I suspect the elm dates back that far. For twenty-five years, I have lived in feat that a Texas storm would bring it crashing down. Part of the fear, of course, was that it would land on my roof, but the greater fear was losing the tree. It somehow gives majesty to the property; without it, my house would be bare, exposed, just sitting there. A couple of years ago, I asked the city to check some dead branches at the top—it’s their tree, since it’s in the boulevard. The forester who came out said the dead was because trees were stressed by the drought we’d been having, but the tree was healthy. When I said I was so afraid he’d say it had to come down, he said, “No ma’am. We’re in the business of saving trees, not cutting them down.”

So today comes a letter from someone working with city planning. They want to install a ramp on my property and establish a new crossover to the school across the street. The letter writer said they would take out my “struggling” tree and replace it with a young tree of my choice. I’m afraid my answer was a bit sarcastic, but I was insulted by his use of struggling. I pointed out that losing the tree would diminish my property values, and no young tree will grow to that majestic height during my lifetime. I’m sorry, but what dolt wrote that letter? I told him firmly no and do not expect the matter to be pursued. There is a ramp and a crossing with a guard half a block down, and folks can use it. As for the planning person, he should talk to the forestry department.

This plays into my current concern about trees. I edit our neighborhood newsletter and am grateful to Linda Simmons, who advocates the city’s tree replacement program and has done an article about the importance of trees to a neighborhood. This flies in the face of our Texas governor who wants to pass some silly law permitting cities to cut down trees willy-nilly. I’m not a fan of the governor—that probably goes without saying—but this vendetta about trees is ridiculous. He was crippled by a tree falling on him, sued whoever (the city of Austin?), and received a settlement that apparently set him up for life (he has since pushed legislation which limits the amount of liability settlements). Then he tangled with the city over a huge old tree that stood where he wanted to build his house, as I hear the story, and he lost. So he’s angry at trees, and apparently not educated enough to recognize their aesthetic value nor environmental purpose. My Austin kids had a tree literally growing into their house—when they remodeled, the contractor cut it down, without a permit, and got a fine. But nobody hates trees because of that. What a petty world Texas government is. Yes, I am sorry about the governor’s injury, but I don’t think he’s handled any of this with grace.

Lovely unexpected rain tonight. I went in the house for happy hour with friends. Coming out, poor Jordan and friend Marge tried valiantly to help me walk, carry my wine, and hold an umbrella. No small trick. Such good girls.

When you live alone, you are innovative about meals. I particularly like a brand of marinated tuna, Tonnino’s—in olive oil and oregano. Found it in the store today, so tonight I cooked some orzo and added green peas and leftover corn at the last minute. Drained it, and stirred in tuna with some of its oil. So good. I had doubts about the corn with tuna, but it was great. One more leftover banished!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Walking goals and a pleasant visit

Teddy walked me the length of the driveway today, but the gas people were replacing sidewalk, so we couldn’t go to the stairs. I suggested we do a toe touch to the street instead, which we did. But this meant I didn’t have stairs to get back up the incline. He warned me to lean into it and use my body to help me go up, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be. Teddy’s wisdom: going down the incline is a psychological problem; going up, is a physical problem. Apparently, I used new muscles or at least those unused for a long time. By the time we got back to the cottage, I was winded…and hot!

But now I have two goals: to walk with a walking stick (not a cane) and to make it to the end of the driveway to meet friends who can’t drive up—and then back down—my skinny 1920s driveway. Teddy says at least two or three weeks before we try the walking stick, and that’s fine—I view it as a step toward walking independently. I could make it to the end of the driveway today with the walker, but that incline remains a psychological barrier.

My good, longtime friend Fred came for lunch today. He was my major professor in graduate school and has remained a friend ever since—that’s a lot of years. He reads and critiques everything I write, and I always feel like he’s a cheerleader. We lunch about once a month, discussing everything but politics (we agree, but it’s pointless) and mostly we talk about our writing projects. A true scholar, he is writing articles and reworking a manuscript on pioneer women in aviation. He is also one who does not handle my driveway well, and I won’t ask him to do that

So today I made turkey burgers and a wilted lettuce salad. Did your mom make wilted lettuce? Mine did. She’d take fresh leaf lettuce from the garden, douse it with a bit of vinegar and then pour warm bacon grease over it. Of course, crumbled bacon went into it too. It doesn’t wilt the lettuce but simply coats it with deliciousness. The first time I mentioned it to Christian he said, “I’ll pass,” but when I fixed it he said it was delicious. Turkey burgers not so much—I really like them at the Old Neighborhood Grill but have not been pleased with my two at-home attempts.

We topped lunch off with frozen peach custard—a sweet end to a meal. And we had a most enjoyable visit. Having had to stand me up for lunch two or three times, Fred tells me he’ll take me anywhere I want to go. So that’s my goal—to walk the driveway to his car so he can take me to lunch.

Goals are great. So far, I’m doing well with my thousand words a day goal, in spite of other things going on in my life. Christian paid me a great compliment the other night, and I wish I could remember the way he worded it. But he essentially said I have the best of both worlds—the world of the mind, because I work at my computer every day pretty much alone, and the world of a social life, because I love being with people. I am lucky, and I know it.