Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween, dinner parties, and breaking news

Didn’t get this finished last night, so it’s first on my morning agenda. There was a pumpkin carving party on the front porch last night. The kids were funny and squeamish about cleaning out the inside of the pumpkins, and, sad to say, no one thought about saving the seeds to toast. But the breeze came up and after the sun went down, it was cool. I didn’t last to see the finished jack-o-lanterns. Tonight is to be rainy and cool, so I think I’ll stay cozy in the cottage.

My cooking over the weekend was moderately successful, enough so that I’ll keep trying. But it was with a touch of sadness that I read a New York Times cooking column recently on giving dinner parties. I have no dinner table around which people can gather—only a wonderful coffee table made out of a cut-down old oak kitchen table. It’s hard to imagine people bending over a coffee table set with your finest china (I gave it all to the kids anyway) and crystal. So I’m reluctantly admitting that those days are over. No prime rib with au jus gravy, no whole roasted duck, not even a whole roasted chicken, let alone turkey.

And when we gather for family Thanksgiving, the girls banish me from the kitchen—except when it’s time to pull the liver and gizzard from the bird. They’re all too squeamish to do that. Some of my traditional dishes have been replaced by their versions, and no one will eat my cranberry sauce. The girls who married into the family cling to that shimmering jelly stuff sliced from a can. Jordan does make great mashed potatoes, and Megan’s apple pie is killer.

So I guess I’ll stick to happy hour entertaining, or dinners for two or three. And, hey, cooking for one is sometimes rewarding!

I didn’t get a lot done yesterday—who can pull their eyes from the television or their nose from Facebook? Fascinated, I watched and read about the unfolding scene caused by Mr. Mueller’s revelations and indictments and had the sense that I’m watching real history. I remember Watergate, of course, but I wasn’t as intense about politics then. I was more occupied with changing diapers and the like. Today as I remember my mom’s intense dislike of Nixon, I wonder if intensity doesn’t come with age, with a sense we’ve got to get this world right for our grandchildren. Now I’m waiting for the next shoe to fall, the next sealed indictment to be opened. But I have work to do. As my mentor always says, onward and upward!

Mr. Casual

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A literary visit and some progress

A most enjoyable coffee visit today with poet Cindy Huyser and author/publisher/marketing guru Deborah Winegarten (Katherine Stinson, Oveta Culp Hobby, and publisher of Almost a Minyan). I’ve known Debra two years or more through a small online writers group and met her once briefly, but I’d never met Cindy. They were in town for Cindy to receive a Will Rogers Medallion Award at the annual banquet last night for Bearing the Mask (Dos Gatos Press), the book of southwestern poetry she co-edited with Scott Wiggerman. The really neat thing about this award is that the judges told her the book didn’t fit their usual category—cowboy poetry—but they felt so strongly it deserved an award that they created a special category.

Our talk ranged through books and teaching young minds and books and caring for an elderly parent and books and Jewish food and politics and books—always there was the thread of books that holds us together. So often, with the people you know well and see daily, you don’t discuss the abstract, the different. You stick to semi-gossip and daily plans and the familiar. These two were like a breath of fresh air for me, and I’m grateful to them for squeezing me into their crowded weekend.

On another note, I am quite sure in any endeavor a little success encourages us to greater achievement—I know it’s true in writing, and I’m find it’s true in physical recovery. For a while this fall, I backslid on my exercises and my walking, discouraged by a brief hospitalization and a bit of irrational fear. But when I was about to decide I might never walk independently again, there came some glimmers of hope—a couple of new exercises that made sense to me, an improvement in my walking with someone to support me, the ability, just discovered, to rise form a chair without holding on (I do it ten times a day now), and the ability to move a little way from support, always touching something but without the death grip that characterized earlier attempts. I’m truly encouraged.

No Sunday family dinner tonight. The Burtons went to a fancy wedding reception, and Jacob and I had dinner, sort of. I had a lamb pattie and steamed carrots. He had broccoli. Turned down the sloppy Joe I had for him. He usually likes it but tonight took one look and said, “I’m not eating that.” So be it. Broccoli for dinner. No dessert.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Morning in the kitchen, afternoon with Bonanza

Spent the whole morning in the kitchen today and couldn’t help reflecting on the days when I casually cooked a meal for fifteen or twenty. Today it took all morning to fix a dinner for one—and it isn’t cooked yet, just prepped. And I have to say it’s not a complicated meal—lamb burgers with tzatziki sauce and some steamed vegetables.

But I wasn’t cooking the entire time. It took me a while to deal with the exploding ice maker in my freezer door. As I fixed a glass of ice water for the bedside table last night, it jammed so I just settled for less ice and more water and went on to bed. But this morning I opened the door and ice exploded all over the kitchen. And it was frozen into a solid lump in the chute that releases it. Every time I tried to push on that lump, it activated the water spigot and water poured out everywhere. On my lovely hardwood floor. I spent a lot of time mopping, ran for a towel (as much as you can run in a Rollator), swept up ice cubes, went back to mopping. Finally unstopped the icemaker, though I’m afraid to try it again.

I’m slow in the kitchen anyway. Not to whine, but it’s a whole different perspective to cook from a Rollator. Granted sometimes I can stand to get that oomph I need—the right angle on the lemon press or can opener for instance. But I’m not yet brave enough (or balanced enough) to take those two steps from work surface to cooking area or to sink. So chopping onion and parsley for the burgers, defrosting bread (no microwave—I just wait for it to air defrost) for crumbs, etc. took me a while. But I have four great burgers, will probably freeze three. The tzatziki didn’t take as long, and it smells so good.

Last night I made a tuna spread—possible happy hour guests today, though that didn’t work out. Anyway, I’m not sure I’m happy with it. I omitted the black olives, because I don’t like them, but that can’t be the problem. I may try more lemon and a little salt, but not tonight. I’m saving my appetite for that dinner. If a recipe isn’t quite right, it goes back in the folder for more experimentation or else is discarded. I won’t put anything in my someday cookbook that hasn’t worked out for me in the kitchen.

Got hooked on one of those links from Facebook about Bonanza. It purported to tell all the secrets Dan Blocker kept from the public. Of course, it didn’t, but it was an endless if interesting series of facts about the main actors and the show. I was hooked because a good family friend, now long gone but once my oldest son’s godmother, was Dan Blocker’s theater coach in college in Alpine, Texas. She was devastated when he died, and my then-husband drove her to East Texas for the funeral. If I recall, it was private and neither of them were admitted.

Another link to the show. At a Western Writers convention in Carson City, NV we met David Dortort, producer. He and my Jewish husband (that was their link) struck up a friendship. One evening, David called from his room—a glass had broken in his mouth (never did figure that one out), and his tongue was bleeding. Joel went to the room while my brother, sister-in-law and I waited to hear what he’d do. When he returned, he said, “I put toilet paper on it,” and my brother commented, “So glad we sent him to medical school.” Dortort, who is probably gone now, sent me a script to use as a model, and I submitted a script for Little House on the Prairie. His rejection was kind and helpful—it dealt with extraneous characters and not the focus family. Good learning experience.

Anyway, all that probably explains why I spent a nostalgic chunk of the afternoon with Hoss and Lorne Greene and Michael Landon and, yes, even renegade Pernell Roberts, whom my kids once accused me of having a crush on—when he was in M*A*S*H or a related show.

Friday, October 27, 2017

A nice if uneventful day

Fridays are the days Jordan and I go to the grocery and do other errands. For several reasons, today was more fun than usual though it started out with a frustrating errand. We had a bunch of prescription drugs, left mostly from my surgery, and some of them controlled substances. Jordan packaged them all up, took them to a fire station and was told they didn’t take them. So she went to a local police station—they didn’t take them but gave her the central police address on Belknap.

And that’s where we went this morning. Found a great parking space, but I was a little taken aback when she got out of the car and announced, too loudly, that she had to go around the car to get the drugs. I had a vision of her being mugged before she got inside. Turns out they don’t take them either and gave her an address on the North Side. Fortunately, there is a drug turn-in at several locations tomorrow, and so she’ll do that. Frustrating though when you try to be a good citizen and it’s so difficult. Wish the powers-that-be would just get their act together and settle on one place to turn in such things.

Then we went to the relatively new Tom Thumb near downtown. I really like this one—aisles are wide enough that I drive the motorized cart without fear of crashing into dumps, vegetables and meat are fresh, aisles are clearly labelled. I didn’t seem to have as much to get as usual, so we sort of whizzed through there.

And went to Eatzi’s. If you’re not from Texas, you may not know about these stores. The one in Fort Worth is new, but I had been years ago to the one in Dallas, which I found overwhelming. A friend said tonight the one in Houston is even bigger. But our local one is a good size—I felt like I could easily get around, even on my walker, and see everything. It’s all prepared, take-out food—great for happy hour entertaining or a last-minute supper, much of it upscale gourmet stuff. We ended up with green chile pimiento cheese (superb), Thai beef salad, and, for me, a salmon croquette. I suggested some night when there was no dinner plan, we should go get the twice-baked potatoes—huge and yummy looking!

Tonight, a group of moms of eleven-year-olds turned up in the cottage, wine glasses in hand, and we had a great visit—one of them was a girl Jordan went to grade school with that I don’t see often. And a couple of dads joined us briefly. After they left, I sautéed some Dover sole—love the delicate taste of that fish, but I’ll be darned if I can get it out of the pan without sticking. Result was that my dinner was delicious (added fresh green beans) but the meat looked like fish hash. Win some, lose some.

A good day.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Why do I write mysteries?

I’ve always said I write mysteries because I love to read them. But I am also the child of parents with a strong Protestant work ethic that they passed on to me. I have this conviction that I must be doing something to contribute to the greater good of the world. Writing light fiction just didn’t seem to do it. Occasionally I was filled with guilt—I should be writing inspirational pieces or doing groundbreaking literary research. When I wrote children’s books, I could comfort myself that I was helping educate young minds. That didn’t work with mysteries.

Today, unbeknownst to her, my online writing pal, Texas author and marketing whirlwind Devorah Winegarten, gave me a great gift. Writing to another member of our small writing group who is enduring several serious illnesses in her family, Debra wrote:

When I was going through a completely horrible period of four years, grieving my mother, watching my older sister slowly die of chronic kidney failure, my therapist encouraged me to find a genre to read that cheered me up and allowed me to escape the day-to-day waking nightmares I was living. Maybe there's something wrong with me, but believe it or not, I chose murder mysteries, and those tomes often saved what little sanity I still had. 

So to those of you who write murder mysteries and think it can't possibly change the world or contribute anything positive, I'm here to tell you that there were days that the only thing that kept me on this side of heaven was curling up with a nice murder mystery where I could go into someone else's world for a little while and get a break from my own.

Debra nailed it with the line about going into someone else’s world. That’s what I love about fiction, particularly mysteries. If I can give readers that alternate world into which they can retreat, I’ve done some good. Lord knows, I’ve retreated into those mysterious worlds often enough myself.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Between projects—or being lazy

Writing this as Jacob practices his clarinet not ten feet from me, so please pardon any mistakes. Sometimes it’s mellow, but then there comes that sudden loud, high blast. He gets sent to the cottage because one of the house dogs doesn’t like the music (I use the term loosely). Neither does Sophie—she barks at him.

You know how unemployed people tell you they’re “between positions”? A nice euphemism. Well, I’m between projects. Revised a manuscript, got it to the point it’s ready for my beta reader, and sent it off on Monday. Not quite ready to jump into another manuscript, though I have a vague idea of where I’m going. So I’m being lazy—more time fiddling on Facebook, lots of reading, lots of odds and ends—like how many subscriptions to Kid Sports Illustrated were automatically renewed? Three grandsons read and enjoy it, but I only got one gift card from them. And do I still have vision insurance? Ah, the details of life. Maybe next week I’ll start on a rough outline of the next novel—it will be a Kelly O’Connell Mystery.

Meantime I’m also social. Lunch out Monday and Tuesday. Today, lunch with two friends I haven’t seen in forever. We ate at Bravo! And I ordered a light lunch—cream of mushroom soup and salad, expecting a cup of soup and a small side salad. I was served a soup plate full of rich and delicious soup—so good, but just more than I expected. But we three did some good catching up—they both were with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for years, so we talked journalism and writing and people in that field. Good and gossipy.

Tonight it was dinner at Fixture, where I have enjoyed many a lunch. I love some things on their menu, others not so much—too much kale. But I got a bit weary of it because they never changed the menu. I’ve decided that changing the menu from time to time is a plus for restaurants. When I checked online this morning, I discovered Fixture has a whole new dinner menu, with such lovelies as chicken and waffles, short ribs, shrimp and grits, and their classic spaetzle. So off Betty and I went. She can never resist shrimp, so she had that, while I settled for bruschetta with tenderloin, tomatoes, and greens. We had a really good chardonnay with it. Lovely meal. And lots of laughter.

Tomorrow I’ve got more odds and ends—my vote-by-mail ballot to fill out, two cooking magazines to browse, insurance to check on. I’m rather enjoying this vacation time.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sugar, not vinegar

My mother was fond of aphorisms, and one of her favorites was, “You catch more flies with a teaspoon of sugar than you do with a cup of vinegar.” I’ve tried to live my life with that in mind, though I admit sometimes I’ve failed abysmally. Still, I think it’s a terrific guiding principle, and I am pleased my children seem to have gotten that message.

One of the things I’ve tried to teach my grandchildren—all seven of them, I’m proud to say—is to eliminate the word “hate” from their vocabularies. It’s a pretty strong, vulgar word, and I don’t see any need for them to say it ever. One smart sophist amongst them asked me if it wasn’t all right to say, “I hate it when my collar is too tight.” He knew full well and good I wanted him to eliminate the word in reference to people—and probably all living beings, even creepy crawlers.

I am disturbed at the level of hate in this country. Perhaps the white supremacists are the most outstanding public example, but I am particularly disturbed by the vitriol on Facebook about the Clintons and the Obamas. There’s also a swelling chorus aimed at 45, though it hasn’t reached choir proportions yet.

One friend posed the question of why, whenever something negative is posted about 45, someone chimes in with an accusation about Hillary or Obama. Why indeed? That has nothing to do with the subject at hand. If you are talking about 45’s behavior or decisions or tweets, accusing Obama of something is totally irrelevant. But such is the level of blind, unthinking hatred.

I shared a classy picture of Michelle Obama with a line that reminded that she is the most educated First Lady ever, with two degrees from Harvard and Princeton. Immediately someone responded, “Why is she so stupid?” Requests from me and several others to explain why the sender though Michelle was stupid went unanswered, leading us to believe the person didn’t really exist or was a troll or a bot (whatever the heck that is). But it all indicates a level of hate that I can’t imagine.

The people who hate—those who claim that Hillary is a criminal and should be locked up, that Obama was the worst president ever and ruined the country, the man who sees 45 as the Lord’s warrior (really?)—have no substance to back up their arguments. They just throw these statements into the mix and then accuse me of being a blind liberal. I have learned the hard way that it is senseless to argue with them, because facts mean nothing in their world. But it worries me that there are many in this country who harbor, even nurture, such emotions.

As for the level of hate on our streets, that too scares me. I remember the fear I knew as a child on the South Side of Chicago, and today I keep thinking how I’d feel if I were a black woman, watching my son, eighteen or twenty-eight, go out the front door at night and wondering if he’d come home alive. Will he be shot by an over-zealous law enforcement officer? Will he be the target of racial violence? As a female and a mother, I can understand fear a lot more than I can hate.

I don’t want to live in a country, a world where hate has such a strong presence, but I have no idea how to combat it. Hate is blind, unreasoning, the last weapon of the underdog. I pray for our country.

Monday, October 23, 2017

No more shaggy

You know how good you feel when you get a fresh haircut? It makes you suddenly realize how shaggy you looked before. That’s what happened at the Alter/Burton compound today. We got the trees trimmed—and there are a lot of trees on the property, including some magnificent oaks, one that I’ve watched grow into maturity since I moved here. We also have a black walnut (that’s what I was told), a hackberry that probably isn’t long for this world, a big old elm out front that anchors the house and I worry and pray about a lot, and lots of trees that started life as bushes and, before my day, grew into trees.

After the trimming, light filtered down onto the driveway through the open trees. Jacob said it looked “weird,” but I thought it looked wonderful. Our neighbors, Jim and Katey Carmical, will be glad that now their crape myrtles will get enough sun that they might bloom next spring. Our neighbor on the other side had a specific limb he wanted trimmed off a tree that obviously started life as a volunteer—it’s in a strange place for a tree—and that’s done. The tree men even rescued the football that’s been on the roof, in the gutter, for two or three years.

The crew was polite, careful, and meticulous about cleaning up. A good experience all around. Maybe tomorrow in the daylight I’ll get some pictures.

Today I also finished the major revision of my new mystery, tentatively titled “Murder at the Bus Depot.” I really like “Dealing with Delia”—fits the story but not the pattern of titles for my Blue Plate Café mysteries. I’ll send it to my beta reader in a day or two and see how he votes on the titles. After his suggestions—he always has wonderful ones—I’ll go back and do another revision read-through. Amazing the typos you find each time. The book will be out sometime in the spring.

You may think if I just finished it, it should be out sooner, but there’s so much to be done between “The End” and publication—beta readers, editor, formatting, advance copies, guest blog posts, etc. If I were smart, I’d plan an entire marketing campaign, but I don’t seem to be good at that. I went all out with Pigface and the Perfect Dog—publicist, guest blogs and radio spots, advance copies, big signing party, etc., and it’s disappointed me. Only one review on Amazon, slow sales, though those who’ve read it assure me they liked it a lot. If you’ve read it, I’d be grateful for an Amazon review—two sentences is plenty (I think Amazon wants twenty words). Okay, enough whining.

Nice lunch today with my beta reader (and friend and advisor of over forty years plus—he shepherded me through graduate school), his wife, and a friend we only recently found we shared. Lunch at our favorite deli, good conversation a little about writing and a lot about travel. I am not an easy nor avid traveler, but I do have a bucket list. More about that another time.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Time for chili

There’s a definite fall tinge in the air, a touch of cool in the early morning and even by early evening. I’ve taken to shutting my patio door except in the middle of the day, and I’ve finally mastered turning on the heat so I can take the morning chill off. In the wee hours this morning, we had a storm with good rain and truly impressive thunder. It was okay, because I was protected by one small, black dog who first barked at the thunder to scare it away and then slept right by me to keep me safe.

As we say in Texas, it’s chili weather. Fitting that Christian fixed chili tonight—a recipe he cobbled together from this one and that. I gave him one from the New York Times that is really complicated. Billed as a combination of chili and gumbo—the combination made me curious. Christian said he didn’t have time to do it tonight, and he couldn’t find the one from my book he wanted to do. It’s Dan Hogan’s chili, and I swear it has everything in it but the proverbial kitchen sink. What Christian made, his cobbled together version, was good and hearty with just enough spice. He complained he couldn’t find his red pepper flakes; I told him I was just as glad.

In case you all didn’t know, I did a book on chili a few years back. Texas is Chili Country is a history of the dish—no, it’s not from Mexico, an attribution Mexicans consider an insult. It began in the cow camps of West Texas. And no, it doesn’t have beans (Christian’s had beans tonight, and truthfully, I like them).  A lengthy chapter discusses the two chili cookoffs, which are about to take place next weekend in Terlingua, along with the reason that remote spot was chosen. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the original chili cookoff, started as a publicity stunt by the legendary Frank Tolbert and his sidekick, Wick Fowler. It was more hijinks than serious, but these days chili is serious business—at least in the original cookoff. Not so much at the CASI cookoff. Chili cookoffs are not for amateurs—you have to win local contests to qualify. Anyway, you can read all about it.

And then you can prowl through pages and pages of chili recipes—seems everyone on the planet has their own recipe. These days you can cook fat free chili, vegetarian chili, chili with turkey and other meats alternate to the beef that started the whole thing. Fascinating what peple come up with. Shhh. Don’t say I said it, but chili is one of those dishes you can cook blindfolded without a recipe.

Pardon the sales pitch, but you can find the book on Amazon or from Texas Tech Press

Aside from the hearty chili and an interesting dinnertime discussion of childbirth with Jacob, it was a long Sunday. I so often have a much better social life during the week than on weekends, and sometimes long Sundays lull me into speaking out on Facebook among other things. I did today and found myself embroiled in several discussions. To my delight, my Megan chimed in a couple of times but once it was to second someone’s suggestion that I clear myself of haters. I think it’s a Facebook thing—people I know are not on my “Friends” list respond. Someone suggested they are bots—something else for me to learn about. At any rate, I continue to speak out because I think it’s important. Misused as the term is these days, I think speaking out about our government is patriotic (45 wouldn’t agree).

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Some experiments just don’t work out

Sporting Baylor's green and gold. Real school spirit
Quiet Saturday night. The Burtons are in Waco for the Baylor homecoming game, though they plan to make it home before the storms hit later tonight. Right now, it’s a lovely night. Patio doors open, and in the distance, I can hear faint music and cheering from the TCU homecoming. Of course, in my mind, Jordan, Jacob, and Christian have gone to the wrong game, but Christian is a dedicated Baylor fan and my efforts to convert Jacob to TCU have been fruitless. His cousin, Ford, however, is a dedicated TCU fan.

Perfect night for an experimental dinner. I’d found a recipe for eggs poached in red wine. Since I love poached eggs, it seemed to have my name on it. I added some sautéed mushrooms, and it was okay but not the score of ten I’d hoped for.  Best thing about it was the baguette slices browned in garlicky olive oil.
Eggs in the pan

The eggs looked beautiful in the pan, not so much so when I dished them up. It tasted okay but just not the outstanding and unusual dish I’d hoped for. I may work on it another time.
The final dish
Basting the eggs with wine gives them a funky color

A light supper was okay, because I had a hearty lunch. This morning I was working away when Jordan came out to announce that Christian had taken Jacob to a soccer game and did I want to go to lunch. So I showered and got ready. We chose Press Café where we could eat outdoors and enjoy the lovely day—temp in the 80s, slight breeze, comforting cloud cover. I had a cheeseburger—and I can’t believe I ate the whole thing! Usually I bring half home for a future meal, but this tasted really good although it was not quite cooked according to my request.

We drove around the new shops at Clearfork, Fort Worth’s new ultra ultra (and expensive) shopping center anchored by Neiman Marcus which alone tells you something about it.. There are restaurants there, but I will avoid many of them because the price is so high. I have my eye on one though that seems to have an interesting menu and reasonable prices. I had no idea there were so many shops back in there.

Came home and napped—that glass of wine with lunch! But I got a good thing accomplished today—the November neighborhood newsletter, the Poohbah, is ready to go to the printer as soon as I get answers to some questions I unearthed in the copy and approval of some bold changes I made in the minutes. Nice to have that out of the way.

A long email from a treasured and longtime friend who lives way too far away completed my day. She nailed it, said what drives us both is a northern European Protestant work ethic. Read that as we are two compulsives. Martha and I were in graduate school together in the sixties---shh! No comments about how long ago that was, please—and we gravitated to each other immediately. We were both in the English department and had another thing in common—our fathers were both presidents of osteopathic medical colleges. Ours is a friendship that has endured over long distance, with a few wonderful visits, for over fifty years. Such is rare and to be treasured.

A really good day. I think I’ve got my oomph back.

Friday, October 20, 2017

It’s all Facebook’s fault—and a tasty dinner

I’ve been absent from Judy’s Stew for at least a couple of days. I posted a whiney blog two nights ago but I’m not sure it made it on to Facebook, and I figure that’s how most of my readers get to the Stew. For some reason, Facebook would not let me post anything with a link. I was somewhat relieved to post that fact and find out that several others had the same problem. So last night I didn’t post because I didn’t think Facebook would let me link—and I didn’t have anything remarkable to report.

Not that I do tonight. This has been a week of doctor appointments and a little work and not much else. But today I was much more energized, although still didn’t get much of my work done. Jordan and I went to the grocery—always an outing I enjoy—and to Local Foods to pick up lunch stuff for me. I did odds and ends at my desk and did take care of several details that were nagging at me.

Ever since I was in the hospital, I’ve been bothered by a loss of appetite, sometimes severe, sometimes not so much so. Gradually, though I’ve felt it returning and, with it, my interest in discovering what I can cook in the cottage and what I can’t. We’ve worked out a routine—Jordan orders Fresh Home meals for two nights, and I cook for one night. The rest of the time we either eat out or catch as catch can. I am perfectly comfortable scrambling for leftovers in my freezer. Indeed, there are things in there I really need to cook—like a lb. of ground lamb that I want to do something creative with. Tomorrow night I will eat at home alone, and I am a bit excited about the dish I’m going to try—eggs poached in red wine and served with herbed crusty bread. Plus, I think I’ll cook some mushrooms in that red wine.

But tonight, ah tonight. Red beans, sausage and rice. Christian asked me why I decided to cook that, and I told him it was because I thought he’d like it. A bit of a mix-up: I forgot to buy the beans at the store last week, so Jordan brought me canned beans. Wouldn’t do. Christian got dried last night, because you have to cook them from scratch to get that good pot likker. I followed a really easy recipe this afternoon, and we had a slightly spicy but really good dinner. Not hard to do, and a recipe that goes in my keeper file.

But it was a hectic evening. Neighbors came to sit on my patio and stayed till 7:30, at which point I was inside cooking the rice to go with the bens and sausage. Then Jordan had five little boys, including Jacob, to feed. We finally ate in shifts after 8:00. But that’s the kind of confusion I associate with happy family life, and I enjoyed it. Again, the cottage is a plus—I simply excused myself from the patio when I felt so inclined.

Jordan just brought me a chocolate chip cookie, still warm from the oven. What a nice way to end the day.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Rule of Three

Did you ever notice that if the dishwasher leaks and the toilet overflows, a third thing is bound to break down? Say it’s outside—a sprinkler head starts shooting like Old Faithful, the lawn mower stalls—just wait for it. Well, I found today the same is true of medical issues. And for me, 2017 has been the year of three, the year when my body suddenly aged all at once. I’m hoping my spirit stayed intact or, at least, resilient.

A year and a half ago, I was sailing through life pretty well, telling myself I was doing fine for a woman in her late seventies. But then, that back pain got worse and the hip pain—and then I couldn’t walk easily. In January 2017, as some of you know, I had a total hip revision—all that pain was finally, belatedly, diagnosed as a completely deteriorated hip.

I started off 2017 with extensive hip surgery on January 17. The surgeon essentially built me a new hip. Much of the following months went simply to recovery, rebuilding. At this writing I still cannot walk without a walker or a strong arm, but I am doing better each day. Lots of exercise and positive thinking. Writing again. In fact, I published two books since the surgery.

So I was sailing along again, patting myself on the back because I’d done so well with this rather difficult hip surgery. Went to the doctor one day in early September because I got so out of breath when I practiced walking. Next thing I knew I was in the ER and then the hospital for five days, with atrial fibrillation. Do not pass go, do not go home first. I sent a friend to get some things from the cottage, including my computer, and she said Sophie glared at her, her eyes saying, “You are not my mother. What did you do with my mother?”

Home again, and just recently getting my oomph back after adjusting to the idea of a cardiac problem and the new medications. Thought I was doing well, and in my ignorant bliss forgot about the rule of three. Wait for it.

Last week I developed some lines in one eye that I saw when I lay down or tilted my head back. Today an ophthalmologist confirmed what I wondered about—the implant lens in that eye, from long-ago cataract surgery, has moved out of place. Eye surgery in my immediate future, though we haven’t scheduled it yet. That happens next week.

So that’s it. That’s my three, and I’m done. Clear sailing and good health from now on. You may cross your fingers for me if you wish, just in case. Me? I’m knocking on wood.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

International this and that

Look what arrived in the mail the other day—my MacBain plaid lap blanket. This is not touristy Scottish stuff—it’s an authentic woolen blanket from Scotland with the clan plaid accurately depicted. It’s soft, warm, and wonderful, and I’m most proud of it.

I’m joking with this international title to this post, but I was laughing at my day in recent days. One day I ate lunch at P. F. Chang’s—crispy green beans with an addictive dipping sauce—and for supper I had barbecue. The next day, for lunch, I had leftover barbecue and crispy (not so crispy by then) green beans. For dinner that night? Chicken with an Italian sauce/mozzarella topping. Last night it was tacos with pineapple/poblano salsa, and today at lunch—braseola (the beef version of prosciutto) which surely counts as Italian.

I read recently a serious—and disturbing—article about how the U.S. international reputation is cratering, because our country has been pulled out of so many treaties and trade alliances by the governing people still in power. Just want to point out that I’m doing my part for multi-culturalism with my diet.

Our reputation as leader of the free world is not something to joke about, and I sometimes fear we’ve already lost the title, perhaps to Germany with Angela Merkel as such a strong head of state. It’s a subject John McCain addressed head-on in his acceptance speech for the Liberty Medal, conferred by the bipartisan National Constitution Center. If you haven’t heard his forthright talk about “spurious nationalism,” listen to it here: https://www.yahoo.com/news/john-mccain-slams-apos-half-091149075.html It’s well worth hearing and will, I hope, make you think.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Some thoughts on sexual harassment

The current and ongoing dialog about sexual harassment, somehow sparked by Harvey Weinstein who sounds like a sleazebag, is a conversation long overdue, and I heartily cheer it. I particularly applaud that growing public acknowledgement that harassment, like pregnancy, is not just a female problem. Harassment, in fact, is not even a shared problem like pregnancy: it’s solely a male problem. I shared a post on the use of passive voice—we should say men raped women, not women were raped; boys impregnated teens, not teen girls got pregnant. They didn’t do it all by themselves!

But I have an almost embarrassing confession: I have not ever been harassed. I shared this at dinner with my daughter and her husband, and when I said, oh sure, there was the professor who hugged all the girls a little too long and too tight, and the osteopathic physician, a lifetime friend, whose hands wandered a bit when he was treating me, but I don’t call that harassment. At that point, Jordan called for another glass of wine.  But to me, the term implies, “Sleep with me or lose your job,” and I’ve never been in that position. The worst I’ve felt is patronized, like the man who once said to me, “Dr.? Really?” Yes, I have a Ph.D., and yes, I can run an academic press. Oh and there’s the man who hired me for a good-paying job and then took me to dinner and explained how oversexed he was. I told him we weren’t going there because I was newly divorced and vulnerable, and that was the end of that.

In truth, the fact that I’ve never been seriously harassed makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with me as a female. Am I not attractive enough? Maybe it’s a compliment, and men saw strength. Whatever, that’s beside the point.

I am interested at how quickly the “Me, too” suggestion went viral on Facebook. The idea was to post that simple phrase if you’ve ever been harassed, and it’s spread like wildfire, which is good recognition for the enormity of the problem. I have special praise for a male friend who chimed in with “Me, too.” I’m sure it related back to his childhood, but brave of him to join the chorus.

I found myself today in the strange position of agreeing with Woody Allen, not one of my heroes, who said he was afraid the current revelations would ignite a new set of witch trials. I think though I’m not sure we saw that in cases like accusations against Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby—women came out of the woodwork with accusations, and I can’t help but wonder about the veracity of some of those charges.

Will the same thing happen again? If I, as, I hope, a reasonably attractive, accomplished woman, at one time a divorcee and a single mom, have never been harassed, surely there are others. The numbers of victims is epidemic, and I recognize that with sorrow in my heart and anger in my brain, but I fervently hope that a lot of neglected women don’t see this as a way to draw attention to themselves.

Harvey Weinstein is going to suffer the just rewards of his long and unpleasant career and, probably, many more men are going to join him in punishment, financial or otherwise. But I hope it doesn’t get out of control. Remember the McCarthy era, those of you who are old enough. And teach that lesson to our younger sisters. Let truth ring out, but let’s not the rest of us try to ride on its coattails.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

 A hick goes downtown

In spite of my complaining about cabin fever and a solitary existence, I do get out fairly often to have lunch or dinner with friends. We seem to be in a rut, though. There are many wonderful choices in restaurants in West and Southwest Fort Worth, and we have our favorites, plus looking for new places. What we don’t do, sad to say, is visit downtown Fort Worth.

Today I had lunch with an old friend with whom I’ve recently reconnected. She lived smack in the middle of downtown for thirteen years and now lives on the fringes. Downtown is her stomping grounds, and she knows the one-way streets, the parking opportunities, and, especially, the restaurants.

We parked in one of the many valet stations around Sundance Square and had lunch at P. F. Chang’s. People ate at outdoor tables, though we elected to sit inside. Still, I could stare at the buildings and marvel at all the restaurants she mentioned—many I’d heard of but never visited and a few I’d never heard of.

It was Saturday, so the streets weren’t exactly bustling, but there was a sense of life. As we stood waiting for the car, I thought that one thing Fort Worth has done very well is to blend new architecture with old. New buildings don’t shout out at you in contrast to the venerable old—they blend and complement. The valet stations and Sundance Square itself are other things the city has done well. Valet stations are located so that you seldom have to walk more than a block to your destination.

Sundance Square is located in the midst of the north end of downtown, an open plaza with tables, chairs, and fountains which spray from the ground occasionally, offering youngsters a great chance to run in the sprinklers. Many restaurants have outdoor seating opening onto the square, although new office buildings face on the other side. It’s almost always bustling with people.

Downtown Fort Worth is electric, alive, a wonderful place—but then so is the whole city. I love living in Fort Worth, safe and secure in my little corner and yet with that whole world of opportunity available to me if I’ll just venture past my secure, known neighborhoods. I love living in Fort Worth, and I resolve to see more of it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Feeling a bit sad

Not sure why I feel sad tonight. Maybe it’s because no one is in the house tonight, and I feel a bit isolated. But I often—usually—spend the evening without seeing them. I guess it’s a comfort to know they’re there. Besides, I’m expecting a certain eleven-year-old home soon, and he always cheers me. He’s been to Cotillion, so I’ll know that he’ll have tales to tell, including about the latest love of his life.

Maybe it’s because of an eye problem which I suddenly took seriously, although in retrospect it’s been coming on for some time. But I scared myself today—and exasperated an admissions person at the doctor’s clinic. I know just enough about a lot of medical matters to be dangerous—and today it was detached retina. The admissions clerk scolded me on several counts, until I finally told her she sounded antagonistic. “No, not at all,” she said and seemed to forgive me requesting a new appt. so I could see the doctor I have seen for 30 years instead of one I didn’t know. We old folks don’t change easily. But I did talk to one of his colleagues who said it didn’t sound like a detachment, and he’ll see me next week. Now to figure out someone to take me.

I don’t even think it’s that. I think it’s the rash moves the sitting president has made in the last couple of days. Threatening Puerto Rico, cancelling the Iran nuclear agreement, slashing the ACA—how many people will die before we get that straightened out? His zeal for erasing President Obama’s accomplishments, regardless of damage to our country, is purely appalling. And while he’s made these bold public moves, without Congressional support, serious things are going unnoticed: a bill to end the EPA, another to end the Dept. of Education (the only good I can see there is that is gets rid of Betsy de Vos). It’s like a slash and burn campaign, and it scares me.

I have no doubt Trumpf will not serve out his full term, but it will take so long to undo the damage he’s done. How many people will die? How much public land will be sold and exploited? How much irreversible damage will be done to the already-fragile environment? I somehow can’t wrap my mind around all that without wanting to weep.

I read a statement by Trumpf today on the release of an American family held by the Taliban in Pakistan. Apparently, negotiations for their release have been ongoing for some time, but Trumpf took it as a personal victory. Trumpf went on and on about how the Pakistant were at last respecting us. The emphasis on the term “respect” scared me. It was like he equates it with fearing us.

This man-child makes me sad—for our country, for me, for my grandchildren and yours. How long will it take before the Cabinet invokes the 25th Amendment about an impaired president, or congressional Republicans develop some backbone? Privately, they are worried about him, from what I read, but publicly they are cowering in their shoes.

A bright note in the day: the upholsterer delivered a throw pillow he’d been working on. It’s needlepoint, done by a dear friend probably at least 30-40 years ago. It had gotten beaten down over the years—four kids, seven grandchildren, and who can count how many dogs?—and he gave it new life. The design is from the classic story found on Blue Willow china. I grew up eating off that china, and will use my mom's daily A most meaningful pillow for me.

And another high point: Jordan and I, having done luxury shopping yesterday, did staples shopping today—don’t ask how much I spent—and I again demonstrated my prowess with automated shopping cart. This one worked fine, and I didn’t hit anything, not even Jordan, though I backed into her cart once.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Another day to be grateful for friends. If I don’t get out much, I still don’t lack for friends. They come to me, and I am so thankful. Today, Jean came for coffee, but she had remembered a doctor’s appointment that cut her visit short. Still she bought the perfect small plant to replace one that died from lack of water while I was in the hospital a month or so ago. Jordan and I had searched for the perfect small, low plant until she finally threw her hands up in defeat. But Jean knew exactly what I was talking about and where to get it.

After she left, Jordan, who is a wonderful friend as well as a good daughter, called, said she was headed to Central Market and would get me in five minutes if I wanted to go. Of course, I did, though it was one time I didn’t have a Central Market wish list. Just on the principle of it I got smoked salmon, sourdough bread, chocolate, and some good Irish cheddar. Major discovery: Central market does have motorized shopping carts. They’re hidden away in a corner in the entryway but they are available. I got one today that needed some loving attention—the only way to start it was to put it in reverse and then back to neutral, at which point it would take off without my giving it any power. But it wouldn’t stop, and even though it was going slow that was a problem. The only way to stop it—and keep from booting Jordan from behind—was to turn it off.

Tonight, I expected Sue for happy hour but Jean also called and was at loose ends for an hour. Turns out Sue and Jean knew each other at church long before I ever introduced them. And I thought I was friendship central! We feasted on good Irish cheddar and smoked salmon and had a most pleasant evening.

I have for some reason been reluctant to work on my novel-in-progress. I finished the first draft last night—with a whimper, not a bang. Did a little revision on one part I knew I wanted to change, but have been drawn more and more into reading other mysteries and ignoring mine. I guess that’s okay for a while, if it doesn’t become a permanent habit. It may be relief at reaching the end, no matter how much work remains to be done on that new project—and, believe me, it’s a lot. And maybe it’s a bit of disappointment that Pigface isn’t flying off the shelves and garnering tons of Amazon reviews. But I know those risks only too well. I suppose I could go on analyzing and excusing forever without learning much. Instead, this weekend, I’m really going to dig in on revisions.

I’ve been reading the Molly Murphy series by Rhys Bowen, about a young Irish immigrant girl in New York Century at the turn of the last century. I started these once and don’t remember being enthralled, but I am now. Bowen has done extensive research on historical events, the character of the city, living and working conditions. So far Molly, as a fictional character, has been on the edges of the shooting of President McKinley and involved in a shirtwaist factory fire that, fortunately, has a happier ending than the Triangle fire. Fascinating stuff, but there are at least ten or twelve books in the series and, having read three, I need to pull my nose out of New York and read other things. Then again, my new reading addiction proves a point I like to make about series: if readers like the characters, they’ll read all the books in a series. I’m already thinking about the next adventure of Kelly O’Connell, even though I’m still working on a Blue Plate Café mystery with Kate Chambers. Such is life, and I’m enjoying it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Earthquakes, sewer lines, and oh, my!

I came home today from a delightful lunch to find workmen ringing the front doorbell. They explained they were from the gas company, needed to run a camera down the sewer to make sure it wasn’t damaged during the move of the gas meter. Turns out though they couldn’t find the sewer trap or whatever it is. One said they’d go up on the roof, which puzzled me a bit, but okay. But pretty soon there were three men with impressive equipment prowling around the back yard. I called our contractor who told me where the trap was. They found it and said the line had collapsed, due to age.

I know I have a suspicious mind, but they were checking for their damage, found it collapsed, and it was due to age? I was doubtful, but just then Jordan came out to the back yard, curious to find three men there when she got home. She’s good at holding her own in situations like that, so I bowed out. Our schedules haven’t meshed, so I don’t know what they concluded, what she found out, etc. Contractor asked if we were having troubles with drains or toilet, but the answer is no. I’ll wait to talk to Jordan before calling the plumber who knows this house well.

This evening, I was waiting for Betty and Jeannie. We were going to have a glass of wine and catch up before Betty and I went to dinner and Jeannie went home to care for her husband, whose health is not good. But Jacob came out saying he was really freaked. Things in the house were shaking, and he heard footsteps. He grabbed two paring knives, after I assured him a bread knife was not a good weapon and went back in to get his homework. This time, he felt a sudden breeze and heard a voice say, “Leave.” He came running out, carrying both knives point up—yes, my heart was in my throat. He was convinced my old house has ghosts. When Betty came, she went in with him, declaring that she was excellent at detecting ghosts. By gosh, she came out and reported that items on the kitchen counter were dancing. She said earthquake, but I could hardly believe that when I felt nothing in the cottage. But there was an eleven-year-old boy and a seventy-something-year-old woman telling me earnestly there was an earthquake. Still waiting for a rational explanation.

Jeannie cancelled, and I told Betty I had planned to put out smoked salmon and cream cheese. Upshot was we had a delicious dinner of open-face sandwiches of cream cheese, tomato, diced scallion and smoked salmon—plus a thick slice each of Braunschweiger, because I know she likes it. Yeah, they don’t go together, but it was good, and certainly all I needed for supper after a large lunch. Thanks to Sharon Corcoran for taking me to Aventino’s where I had lasagna, intending to bring half home for lunch. Yep, I ate the whole thing.

A puzzling day to say the least.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

An unexpected day

June Bug, on the right
No writing. A day of the unexpected. Today got off to a hectic start at the Alter/Burton compound. We left at 8:20, dropped Jacob and a buddy at school, took June Bug to the vet, and made it only five minutes late to my cardiologist’s appt. Of course, we got lost in the hospital parking lot and had a couple of testy moments, but it all worked out. I worried bigtime over being late—doctors’ children are taught never to be late to a medical appointment. But it finally dawned on me that Jordan is also a doctor’s daughter, and she wasn’t nearly as upset about it as I was.

After all that worry which raised my blood pressure, we probably waited 45 minutes to see the doctor. Good appointment. The doctor seems to think I’m doing fine, explained a few things, reassured me. And as we left, the vet called and June Bug was ready to go home. It was almost eleven by the time we got home, and I spent the next hours catching up on email, etc.

About 2:30 I crawled into bed for a nap. Just closed my eyes when the phone rang. An old friend, a woman whose friendship I really value, was in town briefly and could she come now for a visit. I jumped up, made the bed, dressed—and waited 45 minutes for her to arrive. We had a great visit, lots of laughter, lots of worrying about the state of the nation. Now we’re Facebook friends, and I hope for an annual visit.

She was gone about 30 minutes when another dear friend arrived—I knew she was coming. She’s troubled and wanted to talk, a service I’m always glad to provide, though with a lot of self-doubt. We had a glass of wine and then she went to get us hamburgers from the Neighborhood Grill. Another good visit. Not sure how much help I was, but I tried…and she laughed a few times.

What this day has taught me is that I’m blessed with good friends, lasting friendships. That’s worth getting a day behind in writing any time. But, it has been a long day that began early and was without the nap time that I am almost addicted to. I’m sleepy tonight, and it’s chilly—supposed to go into the 40s. Not sure I’ll survive winter with grace. But for now, I have on wooly socks and flannel pjs and am considering wrapping the prayer shawl around my shoulders. Quite sure I’ll wake in the night too hot, but for now I’m cozy—and going to sleep early.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Some chicken excitement

The neighbors behind me have a couple of chickens. They had three but one day they let them out on the grass, not realizing their gate was open. Another neighbor’s dog came charging across the lawn, and before they could stop him, he got one of the chickens. The two survivors are still traumatized and rarely come out of their coop. I watch out the window when I can, because I like to see them.

But today, when I let Sophie out in the afternoon, she had a conniption fit at that corner of the yard. Through the window, I could see the plants and bushes shake, and her deep guttural sounds, unlike squirrel barks, alarmed me. I went to the door once, and it looked like she was stymied in getting to whatever she wanted. And then I saw the neighbor in his yard, so I figured he would take care of it. Stern orders to Sophie to come inside went unheeded. She did come in once, very excited, and barked at me a couple of times as if to say, “If only you knew how exciting this is.”

The neighbor’s wife called. There’s a thin strip between the fence and my cottage. Some years ago, when I had a dog that was an escape artist, I had it blocked off with a wire gate, because I couldn’t see the dog and always worried he’d get away when he was out of sight. It seems today one of the chickens somehow ended up in that strip, and Jason, the neighbor, was on his way to get it. I called Christian to say there was a crisis and would he come out and help—my principle concern being to get Sophie away before she broke down that unsubstantial wire gate. But I woke Christian from a deep sleep, and he was befuddled, wanted to talk about it when I wanted action.

All is well. Jason returned the chicken to its own yard, and everyone went about their business. I can’t really blame Sophie for her uncontrollable behavior. She is, after all, a Bordoodle—half border collie, bred to look after barn and farm critters. I’d like to believe if she got to the chicken all she would do is herd it, but I’m not at all sure of that. She does sometimes try to herd the other dogs in the family.

By coincidence, I had just been to the web page of the kennel where I got her. Best I can figure is that they were experimenting with poodle/border collie crosses, and she was of an early litter, perhaps their second. Today they offer three sizes of bordoodles—petite, miniature, and standard. Sophie is a miniature, the product of a border collie bitch with a miniature poodle dog. She is 30 lbs. and sturdy. At first glance you’d think she is a poodle, but I work hard to prevent grooming from making her look like a poodle.

I’ve always felt a bit of guilt that I paid a lot of good money for Sophie, when perhaps I should have rescued a shelter dog. To my amazement, the fee I paid for her six years ago is now a drop in the bucket. The price has at least doubled. Still, she’s worth every penny.
The day we chose her

She is one of the best dogs I’ve ever hard—why do I feel disloyal to others in saying that? She is sweet, affectionate, well-trained, healthy—and stubborn, headstrong, and spoiled. When she’s worried about me, she sleeps on my bed or right next to it. When I’m in the main house, she wants to come back out and guard the cottage. She knows that’s where we live, although she spent several years in the house. She takes her responsibilities most seriously, but also her rights, like a treat after dinner and dinner on time when she’s hungry, please. If she doesn’t get her way, she’ll bark until she does. If pushed too far, she’ll growl, though the one night she growled at me, she was so remorseful she spent the rest of the evening at my feet, looking deep into my eyes as if to ask if I still loved her.

At six, she has lost none of her puppy enthusiasm for chasing squirrels or greeting visitors. And in those circumstances, she is deaf to my commands. But otherwise, she is well trained—no accidents in the house, sleeps by my side during the day unless a squirrel calls, comes when called, knows sit stay, down.

In short, she’s like a lot of people I know—not perfect, but darn close. Okay I admit it. I adore her.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sunday dinner and other food matters

Jordan and Christian have subscribed on a temporary basis to one of those food delivery services that sends you meat, spices, recipes, etc.—everything you need. The one they chose is HelloFresh, and I’m wondering if it’s the one that is Fort Worth-based.

Tonight, we had meat loaf, oven-roasted sliced sweet potatoes, and fresh green beans. Delicious. Sunday night dinner is a tradition in my family, as much as I can make it continue, and the Burtons help me cling to it. Jordan, I think, appreciates the tradition, and Christian likes the opportunity to cook.

I had toyed with the idea of these delivery services—one daughter-in-law has tried one, and another has become a rep for a company that sends recipes and spices, while you provide the meat and other fresh ingredients. I was stopped by two things: I really like to cook, follow (or deviate from) recipes, and a food delivery service is a bit much for one person. So it was fun to experience the meal tonight. Jordan tells me pork chops are next up, after Christian cooks the roast he’s had in the freezer forever. Problem there: I wanted to cook it with my recipe—red wine, onion soup mix, and mushroom soup. Another time.
 After dinner, Jordan and I sat out on the deck, and when I mentioned that I wanted her to take a picture of the bougainvillea, she said she'd take it with me in front of it. I don't look so great, but that is the most gorgeous potted plant I've ever seen. It doesn't measure up to those that grow free on rooftops in California, but in a pot, in Texas, it's pretty spectacular. It would show up better in daylight. With the patio at my door I don't sit on the deck much and this too was a treat--with Sophie at my feet.

Grocery shopping has been a problem for me lately. Getting used to new medications has been an ongoing process, and I frequently had no appetite or interest in exploring new recipes. When I did find something I wanted to cook, I’d buy the ingredients and then something would come up—Jordan would fix a family meal, leftovers demanded to be eaten, dinner invitations came, etc. I’d buy ingredients for something I wanted to fix, and then life would interfere, and the ingredients would sit in my fridge. Right now, I have a really good ham slice meant for chicken and ham croquettes, which sounded good to me at one time but when I reread the recipe, it was too much trouble and required cooking capabilities I don’t have. I threw it out and decided to make ham salad tomorrow. But now I have leftover meatloaf—life’s dilemmas.

And sometimes I find something I want to cook right then—I don’t have the ingredients. Were I mobile, with a car, I’d just go get it—used to do that a lot. But I can hardly ask Jordan to take me to the store for one ingredient. As she says to me frequently, we need a better system.

Meantime, with cabin fever threatening, I am making a concerted effort to get out more and have people in more often. Grateful for the friends who have stuck by me during my bouts of less- than-ideal health and for new friends I’ve made in the last year.

Which reminds me. A post in Facebook this morning sent my mind to thinking again about how many good, kind, caring people there are in the world and in this country. Specifically, it was about a plane-load of truck drivers who heard the call that help was needed in Puerto Rico and, as one said, made an instant decision to join and fly down there to do whatever they could. I can’t help wondering how, in a country with so many wonderful people, we turned our government over to a bunch of selfish, ambitious, egocentric men.