Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Of dogs and floors

Sophie would like her many friends to know that she had a perfectly awful day. From nine in the morning until four in the afternoon, she was locked in her crate. She got two potty breaks, but she was so distraught that all she did when let out was stand at the door with a quizzical look that clearly said, “Why are you doing this to me? What have I done wrong?” I slipped her tiny bits of cheese several times and tried to get her to drink water—she willingly took the cheese but did not want the water. When she was finally released, the first thing she did was go directly to her water dish, which had been returned to its usual place, and drink a pint of water. Then she made a brief trip outdoors but came in to lie on the floor. I think she is depressed.

The problem is that the floor guys were finally here. They were in and out a lot and didn’t need to watch out for a dog, not did they need her supervision while they worked. The only thing I could think of to do was get her crate out of the attic. Christian got it down Saturday so she would have a few days to get accustomed to it. We left the door open, and she voluntarily slept in it at night and some during the day. Being forced to stay in it was whole another thing.

In truth, for as rambunctious as she can be, she was really good today and spent much of her confinement sleeping. I tried to tell her how good she was—hope she got the message.

Who knew how noisy floor men can be? They have drills or something that sound like the devil’s invention, and then there’s the non-rhythmic tapping and the zing of what sounds like an electric stapler.  But the three men were pleasant, polite, and helpful.
My partially finished new bedroomfloor

The owner had been here over an hour when Jordan came out to look, and he immediately began to explain something to her that he had not mentioned to me. Perhaps I am over-sensitive, but I took it as age discrimination. I wanted to assert myself and inform him I’m the one who will be living with that threshold and I am the one paying for it. But I contented myself by pointing out a threshold he installed three years ago which is difficult for me on the walker. I hate it when people assume I am not responsible or capable and immediately begin talking to Jordan. It happens a lot in doctor’s offices.

I did better than I expected sleeping on the couch last night—good thing, because it’s looking like I have two more nights there. Both Jacob and Megan have complained it is too short, but I, taller than they are, could straighten my legs. Yes, it’s a little narrow but not bad. When I once got up in the night, Sophie jumped up there but listened to a stern, “No you don’t.”

All in all, it was a long day, but I got quite a bit of writing and research done and even got a nap on the couch—lulled to sleep (?) by the floor noises. Tonight, I’m looking forward to a visit from neighbor Mary, and we’ll feast on bowls of that good cold soup I made over the weekend.

Sometimes—frequently for me—anticipation is worse than the event, and that’s the way with the installation of the wood floor. I’m glad to have it started and to find out it’s not the ordeal I thought it would be.

Monday, July 29, 2019

I’m not blogging about this

We are all to some extent creatures of habit, me perhaps more than some and perhaps more so as I age. Today my routine was upset. Movers were due at nine o’clock this morning to take three pieces of furniture from my bedroom—a mahogany bed with a six-foot headboard and a four-foot footboard, a matching mahogany buffet with a marble top, and a sewing stand. The buffet is not so heavy, but the bed and buffet are. The plan is for the movers to store the furniture until the new floor is in.

I was not surprised that I woke up at four-thirty and could not go back to sleep. Anticipation. Worrying about those few last-minute things I had to move—a drawer to be emptied, the bed to be stripped. With the help of Jordan and Jacob, I had emptied drawers over a two-week period and moved chairs and gotten everything off the floor and much of it stored in the main house. But there was that nervous anticipation.

The movers arrived promptly, and all seemed well. But then they had trouble dismantling the bed frame, and that made me nervous. It’s the bed my parents slept in—probably the one in which I was conceived—and it’s a memory from childhood, the place I would go for comfort. I remember once having nightmares—the only time in my life—and going to sleep with my parents. And I remember as a tiny child being invited to cuddle in the mornings. No, I don’t want anything to happen to that bed. The buffet was always in our dining room. Now its marble is broken into two pieces, and I am never sure if it always was or if that happened in one of my moves since I’ve had it. The sewing stand, also a piece of childhood memory, is light and not a problem—and it makes a great bedside table. I love being surrounded by family antiques.

They got everything moved in fairly short order once they figured out how to deal with the bed. And Omigosh! The mess under the bed. And the difference in color in the carpet where it was trafficked from where it was under the bed. That carpet was a mistake from the beginning. W will leave it in the closet simply because clearing out the closet was too much to even contemplate. I took pictures of the mess, but even as I did, I heard Jordan’s words, “Don’t blog about this.” I am not sharing those pictures.

The floor people had said they’d be here “after lunch,” but time ticked away. By two I decided to take a nap on the couch, figuring I could hop right up if they arrived. They didn’t, and now I hear that they will be here at nine-thirty in the morning. I can sleep late, provided the couch lets me sleep soundly.

I was delighted that with all this today I got quite a bit of writing done and am headed in the right direction on research. But I sure will be glad to have my house back in order and to sleep in my own bed. Who knows when?

Sunday, July 28, 2019

A one-day vacation

Today I took a one-day vacation. I hadn’t intended to, but when the notion struck me, it seemed just right. Jordan announced last night that she and Jacob would go to Frisco this morning to pick up golf clubs from Jamie. Did I want to go? My first reaction—so typical—was no, thank you, I have work to do. But then I thought how I moan and groan because I don’t see much of Jamie, and he complains that it takes a chunk of time to come to Fort Worth. He was here the last two Saturdays in a row, and it seemed that if I had a chance for even a brief visit, I should go. And besides, what really would I have done that I could not do tomorrow.

So a little after ten we set out for Frisco. I enjoyed the drive. Because I’m so conscious these days of the need to plant trees to add oxygen to our environment, I realized how many thick patches of uncleared land there are even between here and Dallas, especially after you get on the George Bush and pass a road called Lower Tarrant County. Always makes me smile because it sounds like “Inferior Tarrant County,” some sort of slum.

We had a good if brief visit with Jamie, Mel, and Eden. Jacob got to ride some sort of power bike that his uncle had and came away convinced he must have one. We talked, drank tea, and were on the road home too quickly—Jacob had a golf date with his father. We stopped at Starbucks for lunch from the drive-through—remind me not to do that anymore. I do not want sandwiches with those puffy, pre-fab eggs ever again. And the only decaf tea (my doctor says I must) was passion fruit. I am not a fan of fruity teas and rode home in a semi-snit, which, fortunately, I managed to talk myself out of.

Tonight was Sunday supper. I had gotten salmon, but only a pound—for three of us. Guess I wasn’t thinking. Christian went back to Central Market, got more salmon and some shrimp for Jacob who doesn’t like salmon—or hasn’t tried it, I’m not sure which. Christian marinated it in the fresh pesto I made yesterday and then grilled it—absolutely sublime. He and I both had leftovers, which sort of proves that one pound would do, but I am grateful for lunch or dinner tomorrow.

The real treat of the day came as we sat around the table after dinner. I’m not sure how it started, but Christian, Jacob, and I got into a lengthy discussion of politics. I mean, we covered the whole gamut—from trump to abortion to racism to how our democracy works or currently doesn’t work, how trump was elected, what options are open now. Jacob asked a lot of questions but showed a good understanding of the subject. At times, we were all battling to be the one to speak.

The entire exchange was satisfying on several levels. I was delighted to have Jacob take an intelligent interest, when a lot of kids his age would have shrugged off the whole thing with a lack of interest. He was passionately engaged. In the past, Christian and I have not always agreed—he tended to think my activism was extreme—and yet tonight we were 95% in agreement. And finally, such discussions help me keep my mind sharp. I had complained tonight to Jordan about being thought of as “the old lady” until she said, “Don’t say that again. It’s not true, and I’m tired of hearing it.” Our discussion and my ability to articulate what I believe and support it with facts reassured me.

I will sleep happy tonight, though tomorrow will be difficult. The movers come at nine to take away my bedroom furniture, and the floor people come after lunch to begin stripping up the ruined carpet (a/c leak) and installing hardwoods. The cottage is already a mess, crowed with things we’ve taken out of the bedroom. Sophie’s crate is down from the attic, and she has slept in it last night and twice today. Tomorrow she’ll have to spend a lot of the day in it to be out of the workmen’s way. And tomorrow night, I will have to sleep on the couch. I will be so glad when this is over.

Even in my eighties, life is never dull, and I am so grateful.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Lost in the past…and wishing I was

I have been having so much fun lately reading the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Fort Worth Register from around 1900. You know, the kind of paper that reported the social news. Mrs. So and So entertained Mrs. A. B. Wharton at tea, and Mrs. Wharton honored her sister-in-law with a luncheon that was “delicious and delightful.” Of course, there are endless advertisements, but there’s an occasional lynching—two ranchers angry at a third rancher—and the lawyer who was surprised when his wife did not greet him at the train station when he arrived from a business trip. He went home and got to exploring—found a letter to her from her lover.

Articles about the early use of automobiles in Fort Worth are especially interesting to me. Did you know there was a racing park, sort of behind where the Montgomery Ward’s Plaza now is? Car races were all the thing, almost as popular as horse races, and A.B. Wharton once raced against legendary driver, Barney Oldfield. I remember my mom talked about Oldfield—if she thought someone was driving too fast, she’d ask, “Who do you think you are? Barney Oldfield?”

These old newspaper accounts are hard on the eyes but a joy to the mind. Sometimes I think I’d like to have lived back then, but of course I realize I’m reading about people of privilege. For large segments of our population—the poor, people of color, the ill—life back then was even harder than it is today.

I’ve had the thought lately that I’ve lived too long—not because I’m tired of life, but because I simply cannot believe what’s going on in our country. For much of my life, Russia was the great enemy to be terribly feared. Their government, if not their people, was bent on destroying America. I lived through the McCarthy era, though my memories of it are vague, and through the Cold War, where we were terrified that atomic bombs would rain down on us. School children hid under their desks or in hallways during raids, and William Faulkner assured us in his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature that mankind will not only endure, he will prevail.

And yet here we are today, with clear evidence that Russia manipulated our presidential elections, indeed was responsible for scooting a criminal into the presidency. Putin as much as said the goal was to turn Americans against their government. Mission successful. Yet the controlling political party does not bat an eyelash. No outrage, no anger. Chin up and eyes out the window—they act like nothing happened. Predictions from those who know are that meddling in our elections is continuing and will increase with the 2020 election—and yet the Senate vows to do nothing, rejects bills that might protect the process.

In another day, in another time there would have been outraged howls of treason and immediate action. What has happened to us as Americans?

I guess one of the things I do when stressed is to cook, because today I made pesto from the basil plant growing in a pot on my desk and made a big pot of the cold cucumber soup I love. For m supper I cooked scallops. Unless I’m going all out and making Coquille St. Jacques, I have a hard time with scallops. But tonight I sort of followed Ina Garten’s recipe for scallops Meuniere—dredged them in flour, browned quickly, then simmered briefly in white wine, and served with a dash of lemon. So good!

Sweet dreams everyone. I hope I dream tonight of scallops and cold cucumber soup and turn-of-the-century teas with “delicious and delightful” food—and not of Russians rigging our voting machines. And I really hope that Faulkner was right.

Friday, July 26, 2019


It’s happens to all of us. In fact, friends and I talked about it at dinner last night. Maybe that’s what jinxed me. More likely it was the fact that I went to bed much earlier than usual. Ten o’clock, and I slept soundly until one. But then there I was, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. One friend had said the worst thing you can do is think about things. But how do you turn your mind off? I have never been able to meditate or focus on my mantra—do I have one?—for that reason. My mind is a busy little critter that darts hither and yon.

I discovered last night that thinking about our country’s current political situation, with what I see as a huge move toward a police state—federal executions to resume, ICE can stop anyone anywhere and demand identification—is not a pathway to sleep. (That new ruling, expanding ICE powers, reminds me of a man I knew who grew up in Columbia, had lived in the States for many years, and was still terrified to leave his home without his identification—this long before trump’s insane deportation policies.)

So I thought about the manuscript I’m working on and the passage I hoped to write today. Medium good. But my thoughts drifted. I thought about the things I want to cook this weekend, and my grandson due home from camp tomorrow, and the dinner with friends I’d just had. I thought about a forthcoming trip to New Mexico and whether or not altitude would affect my A Fib, although two doctors’ offices have assured me it will not. As you can see, some of these are comforting subjects and some are not.

Finally about five o’clock I drifted into a restless sleep and dreamt that my youngest son had misbehaved badly. Poor thing—as far as I know he’s been a model of good behavior. Well, most of the time.

A 6:45 Sophie wanted to go out, and after she came in, I thought about trying to sleep but I knew it was useless. Jordan had said we’d go to the grocery at 8:30, and I needed to be ready. When she came out, she took one look at me and asked, “What’s wrong?” It’s bad enough to feel out of kilter but knowing it’s obvious to someone who knows you well only makes it worse.

You know that saying often associated with Hillary Clinton? “But nonetheless, she persisted”? Well, that’s what I did. I soldiered on. Went to the grocery. Spent too long on the phone with the public library trying to sort out a web access problem, less time but still too much trying to sort out a Central Market order—I have to say in both cases the people on the other end of the line were charming, helpful, and kind. Wrote the passage stored in my mind, tried to make pesto and figured out my counter-size processor won’t do it, poached chicken breasts because I’ve decided that’s easier than de-boning a rotisseries chicken, ate a salmon pattie for dinner and wondered when I would remember that the ones I make at home are much better than the ones I get even from a sophisticated take-out counter.

Yeah, It wasn’t a bad day, but I sure would like to sleep soundly tonight. I hope each and every one of you sleep hard and have pleasant dreams tonight.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Recovery and trivia

I’ve spent the last two days recovering from my birthday. Yesterday I was on fire. By noon, I had been to a doctor’s appointment, written a thousand words, finished the novel I was reading, and, best of all, eaten my Christmas dinner leftovers. Today not so much fire.

It was a day to keep the TV on, even though I was working. I’m no good at focusing on the TV alone, so I was working with one eye on it. I saw a man who is methodical, soft-spoken, controlled, and absolutely thorough. I think some of my persuasion wanted sudden fire and brimstone, dramatics and passion, but that’s not who Mueller is, was, or ever will be. Nitpickers can call dementia and slipping and vague and all the other things I read on Facebook today, but I think he delivered what we need. People also expect instant results, but it will take a few days—or much longer—for this to shake out. But I believe we are on the road to outing a corrupt administration and an equally corrupt political party. And this country owes Robert Mueller a huge debt of gratitude for speaking honestly without fear. Would that others would do that.

So I did a bit of research on my current project, got involved in answering editorial queries on the Alamo book, and yes, keeping up with the social niceties—answering messages to friends, sending notes where I should—a thank you for fresh tomatoes, a note of support where there is illness in the family. A thoroughly satisfying day.

The weather has been so mild for July that I’ve worked with the French doors open. Last night friends of Jordan’s came by for happy hour, and we considered the patio but thought it a pain to transport Jordan’s wonderful array of snacks, so we visited with the door open.

Tonight Betty and I went back to the Tavern for supper. We liked what we had so much last week that we had it all over again--sole piccata or meuniere (whichever—I think they are about the same) with good, buttery mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach.

Some trivia that I like;

Jordan’s brother-from-another-mother brought me a delightful birthday card. It had a definition of ‘Framily”—friends who are more like family. That’s definitely what David Barnes is to the Alters.

A billboard outside a church: “Too hot to change the billboard. Sin bad, Jesus good. Details inside.”

There’s your laugh for the day. May all your days be filled with laughter and joy, and your troubles few and far between.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Christmas in July

The Christmas in July table
I intended on this my eighty-first birthday to wax eloquent about how blessed I am with memories. There are many things I can no longer do, many occasions and friendships that enriched my life but will not come around again. But the thing I am so grateful for is all the wonderful memories I have. I have become one of those tiresome old ladies who says, “Let me tell you about the time….” and launches into tale after endless tale.

But all such thoughts have flown away in the face of what a wonderful day I had. Because I requested turkey dinner with all the trimmings, Jordan went all out and set the table with the Christmas Spode china, the sparkling red goblets, red roses, and red chargers. It was a true holiday table, and I loved it.

We were joined for dinner by Jordan’s brother-from-another-mother, David, who has been family for thirty years or more, and his wife, a new addition we all adore. Lots of talk and laughter, mostly about trips everywhere from the Caribbean to skiing in Colorado.

Dinner met with success—it was a makeshift turkey and dressing, because do you know how hard it is to find a turkey or a turkey breast in July? Talk about a seasonal market! But I came up with a substitute turkey and dressing dish—no, it was not faux turkey—that met with approval and everyone ate heartily. Jordan fixed the traditional green been casserole and her signature mashed potatoes. You know what? Even turkey gravy from a packet tastes good in those situations.

We topped it off with the richest chocolate cake I’ve had forever—mousses and ganache with a bit of cake in between. A lovely evening.

My day was also blest by the wonderful messages from so many people—from my kids, of course, who called throughout the day, and my brother, and a niece and nephew I don’t hear from often. Plus email messages from several dear friends from the writing world, neighbors, and people I met through TCU, plus countless Facebook greetings from a wide variety of people—friends from daily life, members of Sisters in Crime, people I’ve met on Facebook who share my political views. I am overwhelmed and feel appreciated and noticed—and when it comes down to it, what more do any of us want?

A good birthday in that I’ve done all the things I like—cooked (part of my own dinner—more about that in Thursday’s food blog), worked, read, napped, loved on my dog, and most of all felt the love of family and a wide network of friends. Many thanks to you all
Eighty-one and feeling happy

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Lazy Sunday, sort of

The northern-style bread-stuffing I made today
Jordan and Christian are off to take Jacob to Sky Ranch, and I have the “compound” to myself. When Jacob came out to tell me goodbye, I discovered his education has been severely lacking. I found a wishbone I’d tucked away to dry and held it out to him, thinking we would each make a wish before he left. He looked blank and asked, ‘What is that? What am I supposed to do with ii?” I crooked my finger around one end and indicated he should do the same. This was sort of difficult because it was from a rotisserie chicken and was tiny. As soon as he got his finger around it, he pulled, and it flew out of my hand. So I explained, we made silent wishes, and pulled. He won, and I really hope his wish comes true.

I’m still cleaning drawers in preparation for having the furniture moved out of my bedroom while they put new floors in. Amazing the things you find that you have no place for and yet don’t want to get rid of. A small oil of an ocean/wave scene, done in shades of brown instead of blue—it has a small three-corner tear in the beige sky that I never had repaired, but I always loved the painting. It’s signed, but I don’t know a thing about the artist. A dish towel with various places in Scotland shown on it. A bunch of half slips—ladies, remember when we wore those? (I did get rid of them.) Lots of winter-weight pants and jeans—now I have to inventory the closet and decide which to keep, which to donate. I do not need five pairs of jeans! Found my wool beret, scarf, and leather-palmed gloves, just in case we have sleet and snow ever again.

The summer issue of my “only occasional” newsletter went out Friday, and it’s had an unexpected side benefit—I’ve heard from several old friends in reaction to it, including a former boss at the university who said something unfortunate about my age bracket. I know he meant it as a compliment, but it caught me up short for a moment. Two local friends that I lost touch with responded, and I am hoping we can have lunch one day soon.

I’ve asked for turkey for my birthday dinner, because my mom always fixed it when I was a kid—served cold with potato salad—and because we’re always gone for turkey holidays and never get leftovers. We will not serve it cold but will make a casserole of my invention. Wish me luck.

So this morning I made old-fashioned, northern-style bread dressing. It was a by-guess and by-gosh process, because I couldn’t really find a recipe on line—some called for sausage, others for eggs, the one I used as a sort of guide called for eight stalks of celery which I thought excessive. And not a one told you how much bread in usable terms—a loaf didn’t help when I was using odd bits of baguettes in the freezer. I tried to remember how my mom did it, and I imagined her looking over my shoulder, making suggestions—that’s how I learned to cook. The taste I tried was pretty good, but we will serve this to people used to cornbread stuffing. We’ll see.

It’s late afternoon, and I plan to devote the rest of the day to reading a novel. With a big salad and a glass of wine for dinner—and a piece of the mousse cake we cut into last night. Might as well spoil myself.

Lessons from a teenager

Jacob and I survived five days and nights on our own. Nothing bad happened, and I think we’re still friends—you’d have to check with him for sure, and then you’d get that classic teenage answer,  “It’s okay.”

Jordan had won two three-night packages at resorts, one in St. Martin’s and one in Anguilla, so they were off for a Caribbean vacation. Jacob didn’t really like to look at the pictures they sent because deep down he thought he should be with them and not sleeping on his grandmother’s couch in a cottage.

He had chores—one reason that he was here and not with his Coppell grandparents where he gets to sleep late and fish and go shopping and to the movies. Nope, he was stuck with me who does none of those things and prodded him out of bed at nine every morning to let the dogs out and feed them. He was also responsible for watering, front and back, and he had certain rules to follow. Bless him, he really tried hard to do it right.

He was okay to be in the house until bedtime but then he was to come to the cottage. I’d forgotten how teens will bargain and negotiate. We worked it so I called him ten minutes before I wanted to go to bed—this wasn’t exactly a hardship. I’ve been staying up until eleven or beyond. But one night, it was, “Just ten minutes, Juju. This program will be over in ten minutes.” Of course it wasn’t, and several calls later, it was after midnight before we went to bed.

Jacob is notorious, at least in my mind, for not liking my cooking. All those people who wax eloquent about memories of Grandma’s cooking? That will not be Jacob unless he changes. I had stocked up on several things I thought he’d eat—even that culinary abomination, chicken nuggets. I had enough canned green beans left for a company-sized casserole. Along with the chicken nuggets, baked beans, hot dogs, etc. I opened can of chili for my lunch today (Wolf Brand, of course.) He fixed himself breakfast and sometimes lunch, and when I’d ask if he wanted something, guess what he said? “I’m okay.”

Two days before his parents got home, Jacob did go to his other grandparents. You’d think I’d be relieved, but I wasn’t—I missed having him on my couch at night. Sophie has gone back to sleeping on the couch, but it’s not quite the same. While Jacob occupied her favorite spot, she slept at the foot of my bed, as though she were protecting me. From Jacob?

What I learned from those five days was to lower my expectations. My visions of happy outings to dinner and elsewhere did not fit his vision of staying with his grandmother. We each made it work. He got in some golf and fishing; I got to do some work and some cooking, even if he didn’t eat it.

Jacob’s welcome home day was long unpleasant for him, his dad, and his grandparents. Christian’s car died at the meet-up point in Grand Prairie, and they sat forever waiting for AAA and then for the tow truck.  They were exhausted when they finally made it to Fort Worth. The senior Burtons couldn’t be persuaded to join us for dinner, but we had a pre-birthday dinner for me, with the Frisco Alters, at Tokyo Café. We “hung out” in the afternoon with lots of cell phone time and cultural exchanges (I used that term lightly) that I didn’t understand—but now I know about Area 51 and Naruto running. The things an old lady learns! Lovely sushi dinner and lots of laughter and fun. So grateful to the Frisco family for making the trek over to Fort Worth.

Today Jacob goes to Sky Ranch for a week, so we’ll be missing him again.
Jordan was obviously happy to see her boy after ten days

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Three o’clock in the morning

Three o’clock in the morning is a wicked hour. Something wakes you from a sound sleep—you don’t know what—and you lie there, sleepless, restless, too hot, too cold, miserable. Everything looks worse at that dark hour—the scary is scarier, the worrisome now a real burden, an impending problem, a catastrophe.

That’s where I was last night, my mind racing from one problem to another. Somehow, I harnessed all that energy and came up with semi-satisfactory solutions to the problems on my mind.

First, there was a friend who lost her husband, a man I liked a lot though I didn’t know him well. She lives in Weatherford, so I can’t exactly pop in with the proverbial casserole and a hug. I needed to write, but those words are so hard to come by. Finally in the night I put together words that I thought would come close to expressing my concern and sorrow for her without being maudlin. Then, of course, I had to write the note in my mind a dozen times to be sure I didn’t forget it in the morning. No, heaven forbid that I should get up and write it down. Then I’d be awake until tomorrow night.

Next, I got to thinking about Representative Green and the motion for impeachment that he filed late yesterday. Talk about something that looms as a disaster in the middle of the night! This could be a brilliant move or a terrible one. It could expose the president’s crimes and treason (and the blatant racism he denies but even the courts have confirmed) or it could result in voters flocking to his defense as he plays the pitiful card. He has been distracting us with concentration camps, deportations, racial slurs on Congresswomen, much of it one suspects to deflect from any involvement in Epstein’s sordid crimes. But if faced with impeachment, to what drastic distractions would he resort? I have seen reports from members of the American Psychiatric Association, and they are not reassuring. In the dark of the night, I wondered if the 25th  Amendment might not have been a better approach. I decided I can’t solve this one and must leave it to the Lord. Still I resolved to find as positive a spin as I can and to encourage others to do so.

The ruined carpet in my bedroom, stained and torn from an a/c leak, will be replaced with hardwoods the week of the 29th. That means I must have movers take and store two heavy pieces of furniture—a mahogany bed frame and a marble-topped buffet—and that means I have to empty drawers. As I tossed and turned I saw ways that I could do that bit by bit. And this morning I actually emptied two sock drawers in the sewing stand which serves as a bedside table.

But having workmen also means I have to find something to do with Sophie. I contemplated taking my computer into the house and keeping her there. But taking the computer back and forth a lot is a pain, since I require help to do it. I sort of convinced myself that I will get her crate from the attic and keep it by my desk. She really likes her crate, and I think she’ll be reassured if she can see me. And I’ll placate her with frequent treats.

Having solved all those problems, I did fall asleep and dreamt I was cleaning up an unusually messy kitchen. That’s not an unusual dream for me, but I sometimes wonder about the psychological meaning of it. Do I go through life cleaning up messes? In reality, I’m one of those cooks who cleans as I go.

So what do you worry about at three o’clock in the morning?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


If yesterday was my day of gratitude, today was my day of efficiency. Within half an hour of getting out of bed, I had washed my hair and baked a batch of biscuits, so that Jacob and I could have sausage biscuit sandwiches for breakfast, cleared the kitchen after last night’s supper, and settled down at my desk. I felt so efficient I almost thought I deserved to go back to bed.

But that efficiency got me off to a good start on the day, and I worked steadily all morning, taking copious notes from a resource I’d found and then adding almost nine hundred words to my manuscript. That seems to be my daily goal with this manuscript. It’s funny, but after a certain time, I run out of steam and the words become wooden. Then I know it’s time to quit.

When I reach that point, I read emails, do more research, read Facebook. I am, as you can imagine, if you’ve read this blog much, keenly interested in what is going on in our country these days, and I’m following the current uproar closely. But for me, reading Facebook is more than politics—over the years I’ve made many friends, people I’ll probably never meet but whose opinions and daily activities interest me. And I find everything from inspiration to humor. In fact some memes make me laugh out loud, which is surely good for the soul.

Yesterday I saw a picture of four comedians—Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Norman Lear. All four are in their nineties and looked hale and hearty and full of life. It struck me that laughter must be good not just for the soul but for health and longevity. Who wants to live that long if you’re unhappy and critical of the world and people around you? I have always appreciated a positive attitude—and I strive to have one myself. But this picture really struck home with me. Okay, I’ve also always been a big Dick Van Dyke fan.

By contrast, I thought of many people we see and meet daily who are consumed with anger and resentment. Specifically, I thought of politicians, many of whom are shown on Facebook, making the most angry, contorted faces. What can that intense negative emotion be doing to heir health? Yes, I though specifically of the man who occupies the White House these days.

If laughter is good for the soul, I had lots tonight. Two friends—Marj and Amye—came for happy hour, and Marj brought supper from a place in Keller, where she works. Turns out Chicken Salad Chick is a chain with ninety-five restaurants across the country. Specialty is obviously chicken salad—probably ten varieties. I chose classic, and asked Jacob what he wanted.

Jacob: what’s chicken salad?

Me: chicken mixed with mayonnaise and other things.

Jacob: I’ll think about it. I’m going to sleep

This morning, me: What did you decide about the chicken salad?

Jacob: Explain it to me again.

I did, and he said he’d try it, so I emailed Marj to get him any variety without onion. But she also emailed him, and he chose a turkey pesto sandwich. So frustrating! I really wanted him to try the chicken salad. Obviously, it’s not something his parents eat often, if at all, But I adore all those meat salads—chicken, tuna, ham. I hope a Chicken Salad Chick franchise opens in our part of town.

We had a jolly evening, with lots of laughter. Jacob is sometimes monosyllabic with me, but he carried on fluent conversations with these two friends of his mom. Marj, a teacher now in administration, was able to explain some things to him when he complained about school or a teacher. Lots of talk about summer camp, because Marj’s daughter and Jacob both head off to camp this weekend.  A delightful evening.

Now to sleep, so I can get up and do it all over again tomorrow.
Sophie and Marj, having a little lovefest

Monday, July 15, 2019


I had a friend who started a habit of posting one statement of gratitude each day. She always found something she was grateful for. I thought that was a terrific idea and tried to follow it, but I didn’t do so well. Some days I forgot, and some days the only things I could come up with were pretty trite. I mean, how many days can I tell you that I’m grateful for my kids, my grandkids, my dog?

But tonight, my heart is full of gratitude. First, for all of you who rejoiced with me on the news of my new book contracts. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that friends share your joy and are happy for you. Some of the messages I got praised my record as an author and said this was due recognition. Made my heart sing.

Today with a great feeling of happiness, I went to the post office and slipped that fat envelope of contracts into the remote slot. Pray God it doesn’t get lost in the mail.

I am also grateful for generous neighbors, who have been gifting me with food. One was leaving on vacation and brought me a bounty of strawberries (with real home-made whipping cream—what a treat!), blueberries, and half a cantaloupe. I’m always a bit wary of cantaloupe—it’s either sweet and good or tasteless, but this was just right. When Jamie was here, I told him I had whipped cream, knowing he loves it. He replied, “Naw, I like the kind in the squirt can.” What am I to do with a grown child like that?

Another neighbor sent a message that she had made too much cucumber soup for the two of them and did I like it? I love it and answered accordingly, although I declined the shrimp she said she served on it. Being allergic to shrimp is a real pain. But I had delicious bowls of cold cucumber soup two days for lunch and loved it. One day I had the soup, a deviled egg, and strawberries and cream. What better summer meal could one ask for?

Also I am grateful to whatever writing gods here may be. I have been stuck at a certain point in the manuscript I am working on. There was a thought there, a connection, that just wasn’t coming clear to me, and the result was a mild form of writer’s block. So today, I skipped the place where that elusive thought should go and went on with the part of the story I knew should come next. So it was a really productive day—I sent a summer newsletter to my webmaster and I wrote almost  thousand words.

Finally, I got drafts of the cover for So Far from Paradise. I really like the basic idea, but it needs a bit of tweaking. I’ll share when it’s in final form.

So to all of you who have brightened my days, a deep and grateful thank you.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

My good news

Sunday night seems a good time to share good news. This past week I signed contracts with Globe Pequot Publishers for a new book—and five reprints. The new book is a study of one mega-ranching family in North Texas and Fort Worth, with a feminist approach to the subject, looking at the role of the women in the family. It’s interesting stuff, and I’ve been working on it for some time. Slow going but satisfying.

In addition, Globe Pequot will reprint five of my historical novels in 2021 and 2022. I had known for a couple of weeks that they would do four—Jessie, Libbie, Cherokee Rose, and Sundance, Butch and Me. But the surprise was the addition of Mattie to the list. Mattie was my first adult novel—I had written three novels which were marketed to young-adult readers, though I did not sit down and consciously think that I was writing a young-adult story.

With Mattie, I told the story from the viewpoint of an elderly woman looking back on her life. It’s a trope I’ve since used in novels and short stories, a way of telling someone’s story that makes me comfortable. I settle into the character and live her life with her. Mattie is based on the life of Dr. Georgia Arbuckle Fix who was a pioneer physician on the empty plains of western Nebraska in the late nineteenth century. This novel won a Spur Award as the Best Western Novel in 1988 from Western Writers of America.

That Mattie won the award in 1988 shows you that I’ve been writing a long time. But now, with these new contracts, I feel that my career is taking off—at the age of eighty. Certain bit of irony there. I can’t really complain about my career. I’ve written a lot of books and gotten some nice awards for some of them. It’s just that it’s all been sort of hardscrabble, and now, to have all this happen at once, is a bit overwhelming. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the late Debra Winegarten, who asked me to finish her Alamo book when she became ill. That work introduced me to Globe Pequot. I said something to a fellow author about feeling uncomfortable about riding on Debra’s coattails, but she put it nicely: Debra cracked the door for me, but I opened it when I turned in a strong Alamo manuscript. I hope Deb is smiling down at me. She was always one to boost other writers.

The reprints will get new covers (which they need) and will, I think, be hardback. And there’s more: in 1986, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram commissioned me to write a novel about Texas to be serialized in the newspaper in recognition of the Texas Sesquicentennial (Texans will remember how hard it was to learn to pronounce that!). I wrote a novel titled So Far from Paradise, loosely based on the founding of one ranch. Much of my current research retraces material I explored back then. The newspaper has given me permission to reprint the novel in ebook form. It is with an editor now, and an artist is working on a cover. It will come out sometime this fall—wonderful thing about being your own publisher is that the only deadlines are those you set yourself.

Of course, I’ll shout it from the rooftops when So Far from Paradise is available, as well as the other books, but I’m delighted to share my good news with you now. Not sure my feet have touched the ground in several days.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A nice break

With Jamie and Eden
Fun day today. My son Jamie and granddaughter Eden—a relatively new driver—came from Frisco for the day—well, Jamie’s definition of the day, because they didn’t get here until three in the afternoon. Jordan and Christian were busy elsewhere, so Jamie took Eden and Jacob to Top Golf—imagine that! I turned down an invitation to accompany them in favor of taking a nap. They went from golf to go-karts, a first for Jacob who complained he got a defective kart that had no speed. His uncle and cousin lapped him twice.

We went to Chadra for supper. My first ride in Eden’s car—a Mini Cooper. She’s a good
driver, confident, but careful, and she came close to mastering backing out of our driveway—a test that several adults I know failed and refuse to try again. At dinner Jamie proceeded to give Jacob a lesson in extracting meat from crab legs—our picky eater loves shellfish. Crab was on the buffet, and I’m afraid my boys really got their money’s worth out of that buffet tonight. Eden, who’s vegetarian, had the penne with vodka, and I had an eggplant and ground sirloin dish that was delicious. Eden and I both came home with leftovers, so I will have a good lunch tomorrow.

Jamie brought his dog, Kosmo. I’m still getting used to Kosmo, because for years Jamie had a wonderful big chocolate lab named Mosby. When they lost Mosby to age, he got a Pomeranian—and I was astounded, because I thought Jamie was a big dog person. He, who had cats all his growing up years, explained that the Pom was as close as he could get to a cat. The last couple of cats he had frustrated him because their bathroom manners weren’t perfect, and Jamie got tired of litter boxes. So Kosmo is his compromise. It amuses me, because a lot of people are either dog people (me, for sure)

or cat people—Jamie is trying to land somewhere in the middle.

Kosmo, who is just over a year old, was nervous in new surroundings, but he gradually adjusted to Sophie—enough that he ate some of her food, and she, a good hostess, let him. Jamie has a soft-sided carrier, probably meant to be a cat carrier, that he uses to take Kosmo most places he goes. We could have taken Kosmo tonight to dinner if we were willing to sit on the not air-conditioned porch. We weren’t, so Kosmo stayed behind in his carrier, safely shut in my bedroom so Sophie couldn’t mess with him.

Now, it’s late, and I’m sleepy, but it sure was nice to have a break in routine. And I even got some work done today—finished the page proofs for the Alamo book, though I will give them one more run-through. And I also finished sorting, as best I could, the voluminous research material I inherited for that project. I will return it to Debra Winegarten’s partner—Debra was the author/friend who willed the project to me when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Someday all those papers and books will be in the Debra Winegarten archive in the Woman’s Collection at Texas Woman’s University. Somehow that gives me a nice sense of being part of history. I hope Debra was reading proof over my shoulder and smiling. The Second Battle of the Alamo was her project, and I am honored to have finished it for her.
Jacob and the reluctant go-kart

Friday, July 12, 2019

Sick at heart

My sleeping shirt this week is a U. S. Border Patrol T-shirt given me years ago by a friend of my son who had just joined the BP. He was, incidentally, a native of Columbia who was a U.S. citizen. He handed ashirt to everyone in the family and said, “Don’t wear this in the Miami airport.” Today, I wouldn’t wear it outside the privacy of my bedroom, but it is much-washed, soft, loose and comfortable. So I sleep in it. And tonight I fear it will bring me bad dreams.

I’m afraid I conflate ICE and the Border Patrol, but I have it figured out. The Border Patrol deals with newly arrived immigrants—and, oh boy, do I have thoughts on that, but they’re for another post. ICE, of the two the most malignant, goes after immigrants—brown skin only, please note—who are living amongst us. I’m not sure I can express tonight my outrage over the sweeping raids promised for this weekend in targeted cities. Nor am I sure why trump has given so much warning about when and where, but I hope it has given targeted individuals time to get a game plan and, if possible, hide away from their homes. I also hope that they know they do not have to open the door to ICE.

Targeted individuals are apparently those who have missed asylum hearings. Could we have a little compassion here? Many of these people speak little or no English and have little understanding of our judicial system. They are probably terrified to show up at official proceedings. And I have heard stories of people who regularly turned up at their annual meeting, only to be grabbed and deported. 

ICE waits like vultures to pounce on these people, tear their families apart, traumatize their children. I read a case history this week of a couple who were apprehended on their way to work. They have young children and jobs and a house they’re paying a mortgage on. They pay their taxes—did you know illegal immigrants paid billions in taxes last year while trump paid zero, squat, nothing? This couple has asylum petitions that have been pending for years. They have gone to all hearings, done everything required—and they’re picked up.

A neighbor who told the story said it was like they had disappeared from the face of the earth. ICE denied any record of them, then forbad anyone to see them. And this weekend ICE will add an estimated 2,000 families to this proud record. What kind of a nation are we?

Most immigrants, even illegal, have built honest lives as citizens who contribute to their communities, pay their taxes, raise their families. And our government is hounding and terrorizing them. Statistics time and again show that, contrary to trump’s outrageous claims, very few are criminals—and none are animals. They are honest people who want a better life for their children and are willing o work for it.

The Houston chief of police, scornful of the promised raids, said they should catch crooks, not cooks. A great line.

If these people are illegal, they are not getting the benefits of citizenship, no matter what the alt-right says. They have the obligations--taxes, etc., but they do not get welfare, social security, Medicaid or Medicare, child care benefits—none of it.

And trump’s program, which causes him to gloat unbecomingly, is not as he claims an extension of what went on under Clinton and Obama—notice he skipped Bush, who did, like Obama, have a minimal deportation program for crminals. Clinton’s presidency is almost irrelevant to this issue, and under Obama only hardened criminals were targeted for deportation. The few cases in which children were detained separately involved such serious crimes as drugs, trafficking, etc.

Today, it is a whole new ball game, and come Monday your neighbor or mine may well have disappeared. I weep for them, their children, and our country.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A new medical school—shall we rejoice?

I am a child of osteopathic medicine. My father was president of an osteopathic college and administrator of the associated hospital. When my brother and I were young, we could count eighteen D.O.s in the family. My ex-husband was a D.O. Today, my brother (retired) and one nephew and one niece represent the family in the profession. I went to work in an osteopathic hospital at the age of fourteen and worked in D.O. institutions off and on until the early 1980s, doing secretarial and then marketing work. To say I am thoroughly steeped in the osteopathic philosophy is probably an understatement.

To me, ever a lay person, it boils down to one simple contrast. Osteopathic medicine teaches that health is the body’s natural way of life and that dis-ease of any one part of the body affects the entire body. Allopathic medicine—traditional or mainstream western medicine—focuses on the dis-ease and curing it. (Allopathic is a term mostly used by proponents of alternative forms of medicine—like me).

My own health history provides an example. Before my hip surgery, a bone that had gone amuck was protruding through the cap of the hip joint and into the abdominal cavity. In addition to pain, I had wild gastrointestinal and urinary symptoms. I asked my M.D. surgeon (who I pretty much think walks on water) about it, and he said no relation because the offending femur was to the left of the abdomen. Well, sorry, I don’t believe that. I think it caused an imbalance and uproar in the entire system. Now that I am well past surgery, those side effects are gone.

D.O. physicians also believe in minimal use of medication, and as a survivor of an unneeded prescription of digitalis, I can testify to that. It made me so nauseous I could barely function, and to my astonishment, the doctor’s office said, “Just quit taking it.” If it wasn’t crucial why was I taking it in the first place?

But I am not writing to discuss my health history. Since 1966, Fort Worth has been home to the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, a school that has grown from very humble beginnings and an entering class of twenty to a multiple-building campus that now graduates at least a hundred physicians annually (sorry I don’t have accurate statistics). It sends over half its graduates to rural areas where physicians are so badly needed.

For years I heard rumors of applying to grant an M.D. degree, but I discounted them. Now it has come to pass. TCU and the UNT Health Sciences Center (umbrella institution for TCOM) have joined forces to enter their first class of M.D. students this month. Shall we rejoice?

I think not, but that’s just my uneducated perspective. Most new M.D.s, after the residencies required today, specialize; they don’t become the family physicians that osteopathic institutions send to underserved communities. I have heard the justification that the M.D. program was needed to secure research grant money—far as I know, way back even in the days when I worked at TCOM there was an active and respected research program. And the college had become an important community participant; for example, it hosts the coroner’s office and labs.

My neighbor, a new young family practice M.D., tells me now that residency is required of all graduates—only internship was required in my day—there are not enough residency slots for new graduates. The new school will only increase that problem. Perhaps the overall health care problem is to create more post-graduate slots rather than more graduates. Maybe those so anxious for a new medical program didn’t think of that. There were already eight M.D. schools in Texas.

But the big loser to me is that the osteopathic program. I fear it will be diminished and disappear. Increasingly there is less difference between the two philosophies. Younger D.O.s rarely use manipulation, once a hall mark of the profession. Now that is left to chiropractic medicine, which is incidentally an offshoot of osteopathic technique.

I don’t know what to say about why an osteopathic institution would not defend its integrity, and I may be proven wrong. Perhaps the D.O. program will flourish, but I am not wildly hopeful. I would like not to believe that the Health Sciences Center saw this as an opportunity to become one of the “big” or “regular” guys (over half the students are female, by the by) and I would like not to believe that TCU saw it as an opportunity to add the prestige of a medical school. Now that a donor has underwritten the tuition for the entering class for the first year, TCU can use that figure to boost its fund-raising stats.

No, I’m not rejoicing, and I’m looking a bit askance at those who hail this as a great advance. May I be proven totally wrong—it would make me happy—as long as the osteopathic component is preserved. And if it flourishes, I’ll really rejoice.

Monday, July 08, 2019

RAICES, a bit of trivia—and a wonderful neighbors’ potluck supper

Our Geerman dinner
This weekend, independent bookstores across the country raised something like $30,000 by donating a small percentage of their sales to RAICES—Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, an organization that strives to help immigrants from South and Central America now stuck in our appalling detention camps for asylum seekers. In my horror at conditions in those camps, here’s a fact I didn’t think of: the U. S. policy not only disrupted stable governments in Central American countries as far back as the 1960s, helping to install dictators, but we have more recently been actively deporting hardened criminals back to their country of origin. Which means that we have sent a lot of criminals to countries like Venezuela, where the governments are not stable enough to deal with them. The trauma these criminals inflict on native populations is beyond horrible. There’s another answer to the question of why they persist in coming here. No, they can’t stay and make their own countries better—they are powerless victims. Perhaps we should recite Emma Lazarus’ poem again together in unison—"Give me your huddled masses, yearning to be free.” If you want to donate to RAICES, you can find them online.

Trivia for the day is a new word I just learned: sewist, a combination of the words “sew” and “artist” but definitely not a seamstress, who sews for practical uses and for profit. I think this means fabric artists, which includes artists who create clothes, wall hangings, banners, etc. Sure sounds hard to pronounce to me, and internet definitions are at pains to distinguish the word from sewer which has nothing to do with beauty or sewing.

For some time now Tuesday night happy hour with neighbor Mary Dulle has become a cottage tradition. She brings her own cocktail, knowing I only have wine, and we both provide snacks. A couple of years ago Tuesday night was neighbors’ dinner at a neighborhood grill, but that gradually fell apart, and Mary started coming here. Jordan usually joins us, and conversation ranges over politics and health care but often settles on food. Mary and I both like to cook, though she is much more accomplished and dedicated than I am. Turns out we are both of German ancestry and love German food. So we decided to have a German potluck supper.

Last night was the night. Mary and her husband, Joe, joined us for supper. She brought the makings for Wienerschnitzel, which she cooked on the spot, and I provided hot potato salad, herring salad, and red cabbage. Needless to say Jordan, Christian, and Jacob would not touch the herring salad (which will probably turn up on my Gourmet on a Hot Plate blog) or the red cabbage, but the hot potato salad is one of Christian’s favorite dishes. We had a lovely time at dinner, talking about old friends in common (some ears should have been burning), politics, food, and whatever. Lots of laugher and lots of good food. Chocolate cake with ice cream for dessert. One of the most stimulating dinner conversations I’ve had in a long time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Really blessed to have such good neighbors.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The customer is always right—sometimes

Two back-to-back retail experiences yesterday have left me shaking my head in puzzlement. Friday, I called in my weekend order to Central Market, and Christian kindly picked it up for me. I had ordered a jar of pickled herring and specified in the note that I wanted herring in wine but not the dill marinated that was online. I got the dill marinated. Not the end of the world, but I mentioned it when I filled out the usual market survey.

Let me preface this by saying the people who staff the Central Market curbside pickup may well be the nicest people I have ever dealt with—polite, accommodating, cheerful. It’s a joy to do business with them. Yesterday someone from that department called to apologize about the herring and let me know that they were refunding the cost of the item plus my service fee. Once again, proof that it pays to be a regular customer. They certainly didn’t have to do that, but I much appreciated the gesture.

Jordan and I ran errands Saturday morning and stopped by a store where I needed one item. It too is a store I frequent often and have for many years. And the one item was something I use frequently. For a single thing, it didn’t seem worth unloading the walker and me, so I told Jordan what I wanted, and she even made a note on her phone to be sure she had it right. The store carries two similar things, but I cannot use the one and rely on the other product. When I got home, I found I had the one I had specifically said not to get. Jordan was angry because she clearly told them what she wanted and got the opposite.

I’ve always been told you catch more flies with a teaspoon of sugar than a cup of vinegar, so when I called, I was prepared to be sweet. That attitude changed quickly. The salesperson who answered said, “Oh, you can always bring it back,” so I explained about the walker and that it was difficult. She went on to assure me that she wasn’t in the store when Jordan was, and it was clearly not her fault. I finally told her I was waiting for her to say, “Sorry.” Oh well, of course she was sorry, but it wasn’t her fault. I said I’d try to get it Monday and would call first, so she assured me she wouldn’t be in Monday, to which I said good, maybe someone more helpful would be.

A few minutes later, the person who had waited on Jordan called. (I am pretty sure I would recognize her from frequent trips to the store if I saw her in person.) Her take on it was that they had two similar products—I told her I was well aware of that since I’d used the one for years. “Well, your daughter wasn’t sure which one you wanted.” I was rude. I interrupted and said quite firmly, “She knew perfectly well which one I wanted. She even wrote it down.” The salesperson (who do I remember that called them shop girls?) tried again, “She wasn’t sure,” and I said “Yes, she was.” She did finally agree to give me curbside service for a swap on Monday

They were both so busy telling me it wasn't their fault that I wanted to tell them they needed some of Stanley Marcus’ philosophy—‘The customer is always right”—or Marshall Field’s, whose motto was, “Give the lady what she wants.”