Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Do you have a safe place?


Several days ago, I read a blog post by a writer show said that when she was stressed, she went for a drive on small country roads and found solace in familiar places. Easy enough for her to do—she lives in a small town in Maine. But for those of us who are city dwellers, such oases maybe hard to find. So, I close my eyes and go in my mind.

My longtime safe place is an outcrop about halfway up a tall dune in the Indiana States Dunes Park. When I was a child my family had a cabin at the top of that dune, up two very long flights of stairs from the beach. The cabin was primitive—no electricity, no running water. To the front of the living area, great windows looked out over Lake Michigan. The cabin was at the very foot of the lake, and I loved to watch storms roll down the lake and stir up the waters on our beach. My mom taught us to enjoy a storm, never to fear it, a habit I carry to this day (if there are no tornadoes). To the back of the house, windows looked out on a lovely, dense woods. The hitch was that the outhouse was down a small hill in those woods—a perilous journey in the night.

For refrigeration, we had a cold box on a pulley. Once a week, the iceman cometh—bringing a great block of ice which went down the hole first and then the box was lowered on top of it. Mom knew to put milk on the bottom shelf, closest to the ice. I can’t even remember what Mom cooked on before we got bottled gas. I do remember that she washed dishes in cistern water and then rinsed them in scalding water she’d boiled on some sort of stove. There was a pot-bellied stove in the living area for warmth. At night, we read by kerosene lamps, with Dad always warning us to turn the light down lest we burn the mantel. The dim light was hard to read by, and we went to bed early. I should also mention that the closest we could drive to the cabin was about a mile. We had to pack food and groceries in on our backs, often in old army duffle bags. You could go down the beach—and for the first trip when we arrived each summer, we sometimes had so much to carry we hired the park Jeep to drive that mile. But we preferred the woods—we parked at a shelter house, under a tree, and hiked in over a long bridge across the swamp and then up and down sandy paths. The woods were always cool.  That hike was also perilous at night, and at least once Dad stopped us while a skunk made its leisurely way across the path.

I usually took a friend with me when we went there. We thought it was heaven—days spent on the beach, hiking through the woods, playing Monopoly. Food tasted better there than anywhere else. We came back to Chicago tanned and healthy and happy.

My safe place, where I go now, was a crop-out on the path to friends’ cabin, below the second set of stairs. I can remember sitting there, staring out over the lake, my dog—a wild collie mix named Timmy—by my side. I could pull up a blade of dune grass and pull it through my teeth. There was usually at least a small breeze, though I always enjoyed the strong wind of a storm. I could angle my vision to the right and look across the lake at sunset to see Chicago with the setting sun behind it. The sun would be a bright orange globe, and the tall buildings of Chicago, not even toothpick size. Behind me, sometimes, my dad would be taking sunset pictures. When he died, he had a closet full of those old-fashioned slides, mostly sunsets or flowers from his gardens.

I have a new safe place, and it’s a fine one, though it doesn’t come with the same memories. My son Colin and his family live on either the smallest lake or biggest tank in Tomball, Texas. There is a patio, with benches and chairs looking out over the water and an arboretum overhead (that could easily drop bugs in your wine). We go there sometimes in the evening, with an after-dinner wine and sit in quiet peace.

So maybe it’s water that makes a safe place for me. I am not a swimmer, though I swam when young. Still I was never completely comfortable in the water. I’ve always said I do not want to be in it or on it, but I love to look at it.

How about your safe place?

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A sociable day—and a mind-boggling one


A gorgeous salmon filet ready for the oven.

My resolve to focus on the Helen Corbitt project went all to hell today. The day began with a brief trip to a medical laboratory for instructions on a test. Then home to make tuna salad for a lunch guest. I had jammed in some work before the 9:15 appointment, including checking corrections on the last pass of Finding Irene proofs. Home again, with an hour between the tuna salad and arrival of good friend Melinda for lunch, I wrote exactly one paragraph and then did odds and ends.

Melinda was as anxious as I was to watch the January 6 committee special hearing, so while we munched on tuna, we stared at the TV screen. So much for catching up with a friend I haven’t seen for six months. But we were both mesmerized, and she more reactive than I. When something extraordinary would come out, Melinda pumped her fist in the air and yelled, “Yes.” At one point, when it was revealed that trump wanted the magnetometers removed even though they were detecting scary arms among the protestors, Melinda said, “He’s toast.” I hope she’s right.

I did find the proceedings riveting and Cassy Hutchinson one of the most admirable young persons I’ve seen in many a year. I applaud her bravery, even in the face of death threats. And I am, like many Americans, appalled at the things that came out—like the former guy throwing a plate of food against the wall or attempting to strangle a security aide who wouldn’t follow his wishes. There’s been some fallout, but I am anxiously awaiting various news analyses to, I hope, confirm my reaction to today’s explosive revelations.

While watching the hearing, I was also trying to watch the memorial service for Bob Lyon, father of my friend Sue Springfield. Bob was a Canadian law enforcement officer, serving with the Provincial Police for over thirty-four years. He was also a genial man who enjoyed a glass of wine and loved to tell a good story. I thoroughly enjoyed his annual visits stateside, and I will miss knowing he is not among us.

Somehow, I snuck in a nap in mid-afternoon and then was up and ready when our regular Tuesday night happy hour neighbors arrived at five o’clock. Talk ranged from what children were doing to real estate and preparations for moving out of an older home, long loved. Then about six, my niece Jennifer arrived.

I haven’t seen Jenn, I don’t think, in over a year. She is a busy single mother of two daughters, fifteen and twelve—not quite driving and requiring a lot of chauffeuring for their various activities. We had a lovely visit—caught up on her, the girls, her dad (my brother), her stepmom—just sharing old times. I’m hopeful that this is the beginning of a renewed relationship. I have told her all along that I wanted her girls to know me, but her busy schedule didn’t allow for much leeway.

We had salmon for dinner—not unusual in this house. But the way I cooked it was different. Slow roasted, which I never thought of. I rubbed a 1.5 lb. filet with olive oil on the surface, skin side down, and then seasoned it with salt and pepper, minced parsley, and assorted herbs from my garden. Cooked it at 250 for twenty-five minutes. Perfectly cooked. No need for lemon or anything else. It was delicious. Christian made asparagus with Parmesan and smashed wee potatoes—and I do mean wee--to go with it. A good dinner. I hope Jenn didn’t get the idea that we eat that way every night.

Now it’s nine o’clock—not late, but later than I want to do any extensive writing or research, so I will probably read and prepare for what I hope will be a heavy workday tomorrow. Even without rain these cooler days have been a blessing. May they continue, although the weatherman tells us they will not.

Christian tells me everything in the garden is in survival mode because of the heat and the drought. I believe it because I too am in survival mode. Because of weather, the January 6 committee revelations, the ongoing outrageous decisions spewing out of SCOTUS. Some days, it’s hard to keep the faith, but I am trying. You try too, please.



Monday, June 27, 2022

Thoughts on pregnancy and motherhood


My family, albeit thirteen years ago.
Those babies are teens and older now.

It’s late, and I am tired. I was not going to post on my blog tonight because it’s been a long day. Long, but a good day. I actually began to come to grips with my new project—a biography of Helen Corbitt, doyenne of food service at Neiman Marcus. I hope to fit her into the dramatically changing foodways of America in the fifties and sixties, the years she was at Neiman’s. But writing such stuff is slow and hard going, and my brain is tired.

So, tonight I read a bit on a novel I’m currently intrigued by—more about that another time—and I scrolled through Facebook, partly because you can do that without truly engaging your brain, but also because I want to read everything I can about the decisions coming out of our rogue SCOTUS. I am alarmed that they dismissed charges against two physicians convicted of pushing opioids, that they upheld a coach’s right to pray at the sidelines in a decision which is being widely heralded as giving teachers the right to encourage students (Christian, of course) to pray in class, that the court will probably issue a decision limiting the EPA’s power to enforce environmental protections on the states. Are they rushing—for they do seem in a hurry—to destroy every facet of American life? Rumors are rife that they will next take on contraception and gay marriage. And of course, somewhere along the line, I’m sure they will enforce book banning and governmental dictation of school curriculum? Slavery? No, no, you can’t teach about that. The Greenwood Massacre? Never mention it.

But the abortion ruling is much on my mind. I have thought about what I have to contribute to the discussion, and I don’t know that it’s that much. But here I go. I am pro-life in that I am opposed to abortion, but I firmly believe that’s me, and I do not have the right to force that opinion on anyone else, not even my daughters. When I married, I had never given any thought to whether I would have children. But my then-husband, a physician, desperately wanted babies. After five years of marriage, endless tests, and more than a few embarrassing moments—the hospital nurses who asked, “When are you two going to put a baby in our nursery?”—it was clear that I wasn’t going to conceive. One completely unexpected miscarriage sealed that conclusion. I had been given fertility drugs, and I have always thought since that God knew what he was doing. That fetus was not meant to come into this world. But that experience speaks to me as I read of women accused of infanticide because they miscarried. And it also left me with the profound belief that being able to carry a pregnancy to term and deliver a healthy baby was a gift from God.

We adopted—four beautiful children. I, the one who wasn’t sure about parenthood, turned out to be the parent. My husband moved on, out of the marriage, and I, more than a little frightened, raised four babies by myself, from the time they were ages twelve to six. Today, they are four wonderful adults—good gravy, can you believe three of the four have passed fifty? They make me proud every day, they have given me seven beautiful grandchildren, and we are a huge, rowdy happy family.

If one of those girls—my two daughters and my two in-law daughters—had ever wanted to abort a pregnancy, barring a severe threat to their health, I would have been heartbroken. But I would have kept that to myself, and that never happened. We all rejoiced in the arrival of every baby. I often think that we live a life of privilege—and I sometimes ask God “Why me?” because I know the circumstances of my life could be so much harder. But we were blessed—each of my four were able to provide for their babies without hardship (yeah, there was a bit of careful budgeting early on) and they have been able to give their children comfortable and happy childhoods. (Ask me about family get-togethers sometime.)

So that’s where I am: pro-life and opposed to what I might call casual abortion, but a firm advocate of abortion in cases of rape, incest, danger to the mother, or a severely deformed infant. And an advocate of every woman's right of sovereignty over her own body. What I find frightening in the states’ trigger laws that the Dobbs decision enacted is the inflexibility, that “one size fits all” mentality, the refusal to listen to medical science but instead to follow what passes for scriptural law.

If anti-abortionists want to follow God’s word, they need to realize that the Talmud, that source of Jewish wisdom, advocates abortion in the case of the mother’s health. And the Bible, the ultimate source for so many Christians, never mentions it. What the Christian Bible emphasizes is love.

Whether saving babies or keeping women out of power is the real purpose is another subject for another time. But I am a worried woman tonight.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Sometimes it’s all about food


Jacob's going away dinner
Wonder what we'll get when he goes to college.

It seemed that way this weekend. Last night we had a big “celebration” dinner for Jacob’s last night at home before two weeks at Sky Ranch in Colorado. He’s been going to that camp since he was seven or so every summer—for years he went to the main camp near Van in East Texas, but last year and this year he goes to a remote site near Colorado Springs. Yep, he’ll be on a bus all night tonight. He loves it and was excited to go. So Christian cooked a really wonderful dinner—excellent filets and oven roasted potatoes, and Jordan fixed a blue cheese salad. And sneaky me had the last piece of chocolate mousse cake, from Jacob’s birthday, in my fridge (no, I wasn’t hogging—they have some inside, but I don’t think they are eating it).

Friday night I fixed myself a bowl—hummus, cucumber, thinly sliced radish, and smoked salmon, seasoned by Everything But the Bagel. It was things I thought I would like but no one else would—a strange combination. I decided I liked all of it except the Everything But the Bagel (I’m not a fan of that seasoning anyway), and I wasn’t sure that the smoked salmon didn’t get lost. But my liking for hummus was reawakened and now I’m sorry I forot to order more with this week’s list.

Tonight Jean came for supper, and we had the rest of the package of smoked salmon, with rice crackers, for an appetizer. Then I fixed the imitation crab salad that I wrote about a few days ago—and speaking of seasonings, I think what distinguishes that salad is the Old Bay seasoning. So good! And I cooked my first Bok Choy—braised it in garlicky olive oil and then finished with lemon. Jean, who is more knowledgeable about that vegetable than I am, said it was perfectly cooked.

But Bok Choy is in a class of foods that a gastroenterologist told me I should avoid this week. I thought the stomach troubles were due to a return of my lactose intolerance, but he said dairy is only the main offender, and I should be wary of fruit (I really don’t eat much except bananas and occasional blueberries) and of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, etc. We eat a lot of broccoli because Jacob likes it, and I adore spinach, so those are hard for me. Kale I can easily do without. It occurs to me that I have eaten bananas without the Lactaid. Oops.

But the one thing I heard from the doctor is something I am really weary of hearing. It’s the phrase, “As we age ….” And you can imagine what follows. The gastroenterologist explained to me that as we age, we are more like to exhaust our supply of lact-whatever or other enzymes that help us digest foods. So that’s probably what has happened to me.

Not too long ago an ophthalmologist said to me, “As we age . . . .” explaining why one of my eyes leaks. I will be talking to someone in a perfectly normal, fine conversation, not emotional, and this big teardrop rolls down my left cheek. The doctor said as we age, the lower eye lid sags and releases more liquid. Thank you so much for that. Actually he was a nice and very competent physician—I trusted what he said. I just didn’t like it.

The good news is that I took Lactaid and then ate cottage cheese for the first time in weeks. I adore cottage cheese, and it tasted so good. I added some of the batch of marinated cucumber and sweet onion I made to keep in the fridge. Delicious. Honest, I don’t mind aging if I can eat cottage cheese—and keep my wits about me.

So now we’re headed into another week. Jordan and Christian tell me they will be home several nights for dinner, so I’ve got my thinking cap on. I feel we should eat the things Jacob wouldn’t like, while saving those he would for his return. So maybe chicken stir fry, and salmon one night, and poor boy sandwiches—oops the teenager loves those!

As I write I hear distant thunder teasing us into thinking we’ll get some rain. The forecast said “possible” and “early evening” so maybe we’ve aged out of any possible rain. It’s so hot and so dry. I mentioned that the flowers weren’t blooming, and Christian replied, “They are in survival mode.”

These days, I think that’s all of us. We’re in survival mode. Pulling our heads into our houses, like turtles, and hoping to keep evil away from ourselves and our families.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Feeling invisible


The Supreme Court ruling doing away with Roe v. Wade essentially made women second-class citizens, without the autonomy that men enjoy. For some reason that reminded me of a feeling that I have experienced lately especially with medical personnel. Because I no longer drive, Jordan accompanies me to most medical appointments, and too often, the doctor, nurse, whoever talks to Jordan about me, as if I were invisible or, at the least, addled. I’m not sure if it is the wheelchair (if a long walk is involved, we take my transport chair instead of the walker) or if it is just age.

One day last week, I had an appointment with a physician I’ve seen off and on for maybe thirty years. He talked directly to me. Jordan occasionally offered an opinion, and he acknowledged that. But his focus was on me. But when an aide came in with the follow-up paperwork, the aide completely ignored me and talked to Jordan. Some time ago, when I had a root canal, the oral surgeon explained carefully to Jordan what he had done, showing her illustrations. I was still in the dental chair, but he could have turned me around to see the illustration. He didn’t, and he told her in careful detail what post-op procedures I should follow. I was a second-class citizen. And now I am permanently—or until the ruling is reversed.

I’ve been wondering today about checks on the Supreme Court, because so much of what I’ve read indicates that was a flawed and heavily biased decision that follows personal agendas of the justices. Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett apparently lied under oath in their confirmation hearings, saying that Roe was established precedent and would not be touched. Justices Thomas and Barrett are obviously compromised and should have recused themselves, he because of his wife who was involved in plotting to overthrow our democracy, and she because she is associated with a restrictive organization from the religious right that does not promote women’s rights. Can they be impeached?

Scholars have been quick to point out problems with Justice Alito’s written decision, from his reliance on an eighteenth-century jurist who prosecuted witches to his focus on nineteenth-century thinking on abortion, influenced as it was by the status of women in the pre-Civil War days—they could not own property or vote and were essentially chattel owned by their husbands. Like the refusal to ban assault weapons, it applies historically out-of-date thinking to twenty-first century problems. Historian Heather Cox Richardson pointed out in her “Letter from an American” last night that Alito’s decision relies on inaccurate history. Other sources point out that the decision flies in the face of established precedent and is the first time the court, which usually grants rights, has taken away an established right. What the heck is going on?

And where is Justice Roberts in all of this? I read that he wanted a slower approach to the abortion problem (and problem it is!) but didn’t prevail. Exactly what are the responsibilities of a chief justice? What authority does he hold? He seems to be just letting the court run rogue without any direction. Should he resign?

Where does the will of the people come in? Quite obviously the majority of Americans want abortion laws relaxed, even if not entirely written out of the books. What if any is the court’s responsibility to the people of the U.S.?

And why are so many men pushing for rigid abortion laws? I understand the position of some Christians, ranging from orthodox to evangelical, that abortion is murder of a living being. But when it threatens the life of the mother or gives life to a badly deformed fetus, I don’t understand the rationale. I respect others’ beliefs, but I want them to respect mine, which is that an established life takes precedence over an unborn fetus when a choice is necessary. Interestingly enough, that is written into the Talmud where abortion is explicitly called for if the mother is in danger. Although the Bible, as Christians know it, praises God as the creator of life, it does not explicitly mention abortion.

So why are these men so rabid on the subject? I hate to believe that greed for money and power would lead them to run roughshod over lives, but what else, besides a prurient interest in intimacy, could it be? Are they so threatened by the increasing power of women in business, the arts, and life in general that they must subjugate us, take us back in history instead of forward to the future?

I don’t think this is the last word, and it will be interesting to see it play out. Meantime, though, some women are caught in the moment. More than one clinic waiting room was full of patients with procedures scheduled for that day when the decision was announced. The would-be patients had to go home. And not many of them can afford to fly to California.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Momentous moments


My new driver. I hasten to add we were parked,
and, yes, he was checking his phone.

Heavy thoughts on my mind tonight because of a gun control bill that didn’t go far enough and an abortion bill that not only went too far, but never should have seen the light of day. And I’m doubly sad that all this comes on a day when I had good news to share. So let me start with the momentous moments.

Yesterday, I signed the contract with Texas Tech University Press for the study of Helen Corbitt. I’ve worked hard all week to clear my desk—written my own newsletter, finished the neighborhood newsletter, organized an update to my web page, and I will tonight finish the third pass on the final proof of the Irene in Chicago Mystery, Finding Florence. I really itch to get at that Corbitt project.

And yesterday too, I paid off the note that allowed us to convert a one-car garage and much-used, shabby guest quarters into the charming cottage I call home. I consider that a small triumph—or maybe a big one.

And as the picture above shows, I have a new driver. Jacob and I took off this morning for the first of the errands for which I have promised to hire him and pay what should be national minimum wage (not what is in Texas). We went to my cardiology check-up (all good) and to the grocery store where to Jacob’s mingled amusement and chagrin I took out not one but two displays. I’m sure it was not all my fault, because their aisles are narrow and they clog them with free-standing displays. Jacob was good about repairing the damage I caused. Plus, the mobility cart I was careening through the store in suddenly began to moan and groan, and we had to pause for store personnel to bring me a new one. All good though. We got the groceries, had some good visiting, and a few laughs (mostly at my expense). He is a good driver, better than I was with the cart,  and was careful both of me and his driving. A successful adventure.

I have a lot of thoughts on abortion, probably none of them original. We are being bombarded with news and opinions tonight. But the thing that most distresses me is the women who will lose their lives because of science denial. I read yesterday of a woman who was vacationing in Malta, where abortion is forbidden. She began to hemorrhage and had an incomplete spontaneous abortion—I’ll spare you the medical details—but the important thing is that if she didn’t get immediate surgery, she would develop a fatal infection. She was airlifted to a location where she had the life-saving surgery. The fetus, of course, was long since nonviable—so why not permit the abortion? These old white men who pass unreasonable laws refuse to listen to medical science. It’s ignorant on their part. There are so many cases where the mother’s life is at stake, or the infant is severely deformed and doomed to a vegetative state. One size does not fit all, and I am horrified at the callousness.

A smaller indignation: Sean Hannity has revealed that when President Biden spoke to the nation today, he had a note in his hand that told him where to go and what to do. Hannity’s inference of course is that Biden is mentally impaired. My daughter is not an instinctive cook, and even when she cooks a recipe she’s done many times, she wants the directions, printed, in her hand. Telling her won’t do. I’m sure Biden has many things on his mind—including the forceful words he was about to deliver—and was grateful for a reminder of the arrangements that had been made. He did deliver a powerful speech, but trust Hannity to distort. I wish I could say no one listens to him but, alas, the deplorables do (Yes, I like Hillary’s word these days).

And PS: take a look on the internet at Merrick Garland’s strong statement of condemnation of the ruling on behalf of the Department of Justice. Senator Cornyn expressed his dismay that Garland just didn’t say, “It’s the law of the land now.” I express my dismay that it is a flawed judgement from a rogue court, based on disproven and outdated concept (a discredited eighteenth-century scholar if I remember correctly), and flies in the face of precedent. Thanks, John, for once again standing up for the people.

The next days and weeks are going to be interesting, folks. Hang on to your hat and be sure to vote blue in the fall. This old world needs some humanity.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The crisis in pet care


Tonight I gave myself permission to reprint an article
I wrote for a neighborhood newsletter--since I am both
editor and author, I thought I could do that.

As a lifetime dog owner, I am concerned about the current pet explosion. (I am only talking dogs here because that is the subject I know best.) There are dogs everywhere—in homes, in kennels, in rescue facilities, on the streets. What we need is an educated pubic who understands the needs of dogs and the fact they have feelings just as we do—they know love, joy, fear, hunger, exhaustion. I for one could not live happily without a dog, but I know that my Sophie comes with responsibilities. I’m the one that must be sure she is safe, fed, in good health, and a happy camper. So this is a post for dog people.

Last week in Fort Worth, 98 dogs were euthanized; this week, 42 are scheduled to die. Our shelters are so overcrowded they can long longer maintain the “no kill” status we all want. Dogs are housed in crates in the hallways and outdoor kennels in the heat. Staff must euthanize to make room for new dogs. So dogs that have lingered in the shelters for a long period of time, without finding homes, must die. This is not easy on shelter workers, many of them volunteers—they are stressed and overworked and then must put their feelings of humanity aside to end lives.

Meanwhile, social media are full of notices of found dogs, dogs that need re-homing, and adorable puppies that need homes. But I just learned recently what’s behind some of those notices: the dogs needing re-homing may well be somebody’s stolen pet. Same for those strays, especially if people want a reward. And the puppies? The result of illegal, unlicensed breeding.

Rescue organizations are also full to the maximum, and many are forced to turn away animals needing foster or permanent care. Almost every day I see notice of a found dog, and my standard response is to suggest a rescue organization and, please, do not give the dog to the first person who says, “How cute. I’d like to take him or her home.” Too often, the response I get is that the finder has tried the rescue organization and been turned away.

Clearly, the pet care community is in crisis. It is, however, a crisis in which we all can help. If you want a dog to complete your family, consider a rescue. If you want to buy a puppy, make sure you buy from a breeder licensed by the state. There are people indiscriminately breeding animals for profit; licensed breeders study genetics and mate dogs carefully. If you are able, foster a dog; every dog fostered opens a slot in a shelter for another dog.

If you own a dog, law requires that it be vaccinated and spayed or neutered, unless a special permit is issued. Veterinarian appointments are hard to get because of this pet explosion, but the Humane Society of North Texas offers low-cost procedures and there are several low-cost vaccination clinics in the area every weekend.

If you are interested in a dog that needs re-homing, investigate thoroughly. Pet owners generally do not re-home their animals—it’s like giving away a member of the family. Ask the reason for re-homing—and there are legitimate reasons, such as the death of the owner, owner moving to a care facility, etc. I’d be a little leery of, “We just don’t have time,” and I’d be downright suspicious of, “We just don’t want a dog right now.” Ask for veterinarian records, check with the vet, ask for photos—legitimate pet owners will have a backlog of photos. I know I do.

If you find a stray, it is against the law to re-home it within the first three days. The law requires you to register the dog with Fort Worth Animal Control. They will let you foster if you care to, but they are the first place an owner goes to look for a lost dog. Try to register through a rescue agency because they know how to check out prospective owners. There are cruel people out there, including those who enjoy a dog fight. And there are too many people who are indifferent.

I heard recently of a dog whose owner was in a hurry to re-home her, so he gave to an Uber driver. The Uber driver apparently changed his mind about dog ownership and dumped her. Luckily, Daisy was found and now has a happy forever home. Too many dogs are not as lucky as Daisy.

Spay, neuter, and chip so all dogs live the good life. And then next time there’s room in your home and your heart, try a rescue.



A significant birthday


Tulips is a lovely delicate pink shading,
a gift from friends that
brightens my desk

This was to be posted last night. Somehow, that didn't get done. So sorry.

No, it wasn’t my birthday. I will grow another year older soon enough. But yesterday was Jacob Burton’s sixteenth birthday. My bad that I didn’t get this posted last night, but I think he had a full and happy day. It began with that ritual for teenagers, the driving license test. Jacob passed with a score of ninety (parallel parking a suburban cost him a bit), but the way things work these days he has to wait until tomorrow for an appointment at the DPS to get his license. I’m not sure how the rest of his day went—I was home buried in my computer screen—but apparently, he and his parents went to lunch and then he “hung out” with some buddies.

But last night the four of us had dinner at Joe T.’s. Yes, it was hot, but pleasant enough on the patio with a slight breeze. Dinner was as always huge and a big heavy meal for hot weather. Joe T.’s was Jacob’s choice, and I am always glad to go sit on the patio. We sat right near the large fountain which if it didn’t actually cool us, was a source of cooling thoughts.

Then it was back to the cottage for cake and my presents—a check of course. For years I ranted that I did not want to give the grands money or gift cards—I wanted something they could hold in their hands and say, “My grandmother gave me this.” I have given up that battle and, gosh!, does it make Christmas easier with seven grands. But I did give Jacob two books. It’s a joke in the family that I always give books, and by some, like son-in-law Brandon, books are a welcome gift, even the old and unusual ones I find for him. Jacob is not a reader, never has been, but I gave him two books on golf, and he actually seemed interested. One was Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book of Golf, co-authored by the late Bud Shrake, which I understand is a classic that every serious golfer should have and read, and the other was a book on the business of golf. We had that wonderful chocolate mousse cake from Central Market, but I was the only one who ate any. And I’ll eat it again tonight!

Tonight Mary came for happy hour, and I actually put out food—hummus, carrots, snap peas, and crackers. That’s mostly because my friends who were here for the Van Cliburn Competition stayed in an Air BnB and brought me their leftovers which included hummus and a ton of carrots. Leftover chicken queso casserole and a fresh green salad for supper—so good.

I am still finalizing details for the Juy 5th launch of Finding Florence, and every day I think I will clear my desk and be able to get to the Helen Corbitt digital files that I now have and the start I have on a manuscript. A stack of Helen Corbitt cookbooks stares at me from my coffee table—I haven’t gotten to straightening up the bookcase so that I can fit them in where I can conveniently get to them as I write, but I figure the cookbook section is a ways off. I think once I can focus on that project, it will go easily (am I feeling myself?) and will be lots of fun (I know that will be true).

I admit that politics distracts me these days. With regret, I missed today’s January 6 Committee hearing, though I hear it was pretty damning for trump. A doctor’s appointment kept me from it, but tonight I’ll internet prowl and see what I can find about it. It’s scary times we live in with extremists ready to threaten citizens and take up arms for their cause. But I have a great deal of faith that democracy will triumph. I just hope it’s in my lifespan.

So, goodnight, sweet dreams, keep up with the news, and pray for our country.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

What the Texas Republican Party wants for our state

The 2022 platform of the Texas Republican Party has been released following their convention. It is, to my mind, Draconian and appalling, and I decided I wanted to counter their denial of facts and lack of logic point by point. I am, as many of you know, an opinionated liberal and not an expert, so if I get something wrong, please feel free to chime in. Here goes (with thanks to Heather Cox Richardson for posting the platform's planks):

The first plank rejects “the certified results of the 2020 Presidential election, and [holds] that acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected by the people of the United States”; have they not followed the January 6 Committee hearings? Do they not know of the credible and vast information indicating trump’s involvement in not only the insurrection but the complex web of planning that led up to it? The many ways trump supporters planned to overthrow the results of the election?  How out of touch are these people?

requiring students “to learn about the dignity of the preborn human,” including that life begins at fertilization; This anti-abortion plank defies all medical advice and could cost hundreds of women their lives. It apparently makes no exception for medical emergency, rape, and incest. The jury is still out on when life begins, but many scientists decry the ‘heartbeat” rule, pointing out that what is called a heartbeat at six weeks is merely electrical impulses in an unorganized clump of cells. It seems certain life does not begin at conception—and how would you monitor that? Many of the anti-abortion activists will tell you they are good Christians—they apparently skipped the part of the Bible that says life begins with the first breath.

treating homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice”; again, they ignore science and psychology experts who after study maintain that homosexuality is not a deliberate choice but a recognition of who a person was meant to be; by condemning homosexuality, the Republicans will cause a great increase in teen suicides. Studies show that homosexual teens who have support are far less likely to harm themselves.

locking the number of Supreme Court justices at 9; obviously, they want to keep the nine they have, and just as obviously the majority of those nine are making judgements based less on constitutional law than personal belief and party affiliation.

getting rid of the constitutional power to levy income taxes; how do they expect to run the country, to fund the government and all the government benefits we enjoy. These ultra-conservatives are fond of ranting about socialism, without recognizing that we live in a social democracy. The government funds first responder services—police, fire, and medical; postal service; garbage collection; maintenance of roads and highways and bridges; social security (yes, they condemn it but watch them squirm if they lost their monthly payments); medical services (except in Texas which has turned away Federal funding), and a host of other things.

abolishing the Federal Reserve; got me here. I don’t know enough to comment.

rejecting the Equal Rights Amendment; why? So they have more power over women? So women are once again barefoot and in the kitchen? They are afraid of the increasing power of women in government, business, art, all walks of life. The glass ceiling has already broken, and their thinking is yesterday. It’s too late to repair that ceiling.

returning Christianity to schools and government; Conservatives are all about defending the Constitution, as in the Second Amendment, but they overlook the fact that the Founding Fathers deliberately called for separation of church and state (Thomas Jefferson, 1802). We are not a Christian nation. We have a diversity of religions within our population, and we are a democracy. No one religion can dictate to all people.

ending all gun safety measures; this rests on a misinterpretation of the Second Amendment, which called for a “well-regulated militia.” Having individuals wandering around with everything from assault weapons to handguns does not qualify, At the time the amendment was written, guns were single-shot muzzle loaders, which required lengthy and complicated reloading after each shot The Founding Fathers in their wisdom could not conceive of assault weapons nor a society so bent on killing each other. I recently read a suggestion tha we allow muzzle loaders and ban all other weapons.

defending capital punishment; this is an ongoing debate and not a hot-button issue right now, though I will add that conservatives given to a punitive turn of mind, overlook some facts: mistakes are made and innocent people executed (see the Innocence Project); it costs more to execute than to keep a prisoner for life; those Christians calling for capital punishment, might remember the commandment, “Thou shall not kill,” and the words of the Judaic deity, “Vengeance is mine.”

dictating the ways in which the events at the Alamo are remembered; John Wayne was wrong; read, Forget the Alamo.

protecting Confederate monuments; I’m actually in on this one. Confederate monuments honor a horrific period in our history—and the horrific practice of slavery—but they are history, and some are works of art.

ending gay marriage; Why? How does it hurt anyone else? Why should one group of people be able to decree who can marry who? See objections to the homosexuality clause above.

withdrawing from the United Nations and the World Health Organization; Ukraine proved the folly of this one and thank God for Biden who united the free world to fight tyranny.

and calling for a vote “for the people of Texas to determine whether or not the State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation.” This is so patently ridiculous as to call forth laughter. Have they thought about what running an independent country entails—all those government services would go away; the state would need its own army, navy, air force, education program (forget that, it’s not a priority), postal service, infrastructure maintenance program, retirement system. It would need to establish independent international relations which would not be easy given the renegade status.

I’d love to hear what you think, and how we can protect Texas and make it once again the state it was. Texas has a proud and strong history, with a few bleeps, but we’ve lost it in recent years. Let’s vote it back in. Sorry this is long.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

A nostalgia-filled day


Jacob on the left, and his buddies at the pool

Jacob Burton will be sixteen on Monday—yes, driver’s license and all that goes with that significant birthday. Today was his “party,”—swimming at the neighbor’s pool, with three of his buddies and a very few of Jordan and Christian’s friends who have been close to him as he grew. Christian grilled hamburgers—and sent one home to me—and I gather they all had a good time. One of Jordan’s friends presented Jacob with a clever gift—a picture frame into which she inserted her own material. The heading was something like, “In case of ….” And then there were a variety of suggestions of troubles each accompanied by a couple of twenties. At the bottom it said “Break glass.” The giver, a girl I’m fond of, requested a picture of Jacob and me with the plaque or whatever you would call it.

I was not invited to the pool party. I’m quite sure that is because I would not have gone—can’t get into a pool anymore, never liked lying out in the sun (why do they all say laying out—so wrong!). So while they were swimming, I had a long visit with Carole Tayman, Bill Sheridan, and my goddaughter Kate. My Tex-Mex casserole was a hit, but it wasn’t enough to lure them to retirement in Fort Worth. Carole said if the weather was not so beastly hot this week, they probably would have considered it. My protests that this is unusual fell on deaf ears. They are not coming to Fort Worth, even though one of Carole’s friends this week urged her by saying, “We need your vote.”

And yes, we talked politics. We have all long since been on the same page. Back when they lived here, Roe v. Wade was also under attack, and Carole was a big proponent of the single-issue vote. Even though we agreed today, we brought different viewpoints and bits of knowledge to the table, so it was an interesting discussion.

And Carole had a long list of people she remembered from the eighties and nineties—she wanted to know what happened to them. As I retold the stories, we all realized how many people from those days are gone now. I shed a few tears and laughed a lot. She told a funny story about my Jamie, in high school, staging the house so his friends would be impressed. And it turns out thanks to Kate they had discovered a wonderful, off-the-beaten-track taco restaurant they visited twice. None other than Jamie’s longtime favorite, Ernesto’s.

It was a good visit. Was it yesterday in the blog that I quoted someone who said one of the dangers of retirement is feeling like you don’t matter? These are people who make me feel that I matter—and they mean a great deal to me.

After they left to go to the final session of the competition, I tidied the kitchen—I’m a speed master at that—and worked for a couple of hours, then a long, satisfying nap. And for supper tonight, the cheeseburgers from Jacob’s party You can see it flung on my desk in a baggie in the picture with Jacob. When I said, “I guess it comes with no trimmings,” Jacob laughed. I “trimmed” it with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, and left it on the cutting board for just a minute. Turned just in time to see Sophie reach for it and miss. I scolded long and hard, and she’s been sort of hangdog ever since. But I was really looking forward to that burger and would have been sorely disappointed if she got it. It was really good.

Finished a project tonight, so I’m feeling a bit smug. May read the rest of the evening.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, single dads, adopted dads, almost-dads, next-door dads, wherever you are!

Friday, June 17, 2022

The dull week that wasn’t


Last night, when I complained about a dull week, I gave short shrift to a string of visitors to the cottage. There has been someone here for happy hour every night, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the company and the talk.

Two nights, my visitors have not been regulars. While I adore everyone in my circle and am so grateful for their company, it’s stimulating to talk to people you don’t see often. New ideas, new viewpoints. It makes for lively discussion—and sometimes some deep thinking.

Monday night, as I wrote earlier, I had bookish guests—Steve and Nancy Mosher. We talked long about the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and about Texas literature. Jean was here, and I think both she and I were fascinated by Steve’s account of his career as an engineer which eventually morphed into doing patent advisory work for Tandy Corporation and then to law school. He is today a patent attorney with one of the downtown large law firms. Of particular interest to me, since I cook on an induction hot plate, is that he was involved in the first of that technology.

He and Nancy, both from small towns in Iowa, met at either the University of Iowa or Iowa State—having gone to a small college in Iowa, I still mix up those two “big ones.” Nancy talked some about her long career in the crafts business, which she is just now downsizing, and more about her love of cozy mysteries. We had a couple of favorite authors in common, but she suggested some new ones for me, and I did the same for her. Fascinating evening.

Two nights later, the dean of the TCU libraries came for happy hour. She and I have been friends ever since she came to TCU fifteen years ago but of late our meetings have been infrequent. I called her about a matter that concerned me (but was truthfully none of my business), we chatted, and I said it was time she came for a glass of wine. She did, we had a great visit, and I caught up on a lot of TCU news, good and bad. Such a delight to know that the neglected bond of friendship is still strong.

Tuesday night was our regular neighbors’ night, though we missed Mary. Prudence came, however, and we had a great visit. Jordan and Pru sometimes make me feel like the old lady who is listening to talk and concerns from a generation long gone from my mind. They are sweetly tolerant of my sometimes-old-fashioned views on life. And tonight, the former dean of the humanities college, AddRan, at TCU came for wine, and I served a light salad supper. Crab salad, made with imitation crab, and much better than I expected. In fact, that recipe goes on my favorites list, and readers of my Gourmet on a Hot Plate blog may see more about it next week. As for talk, her field is political science, so you can imagine where the talk went.

Sophie stole the show by grabbing not just one baguette slice out of the basket on the coffee table but taking the entire basket full. She gulped them down before we could stop her. No ill effects though thank goodness.

Meantime, my week of sociability wasn’t over. Sue, my Canadian daughter, and her Teddy came by tonight. Sue lost her father last week, and they will be going to Canada for a memorial service. I am overdue in giving her a hug and listening to her. I still remember the day I first saw Bob Lyon in the shared driveway to our houses. I asked if he was my new neighbor, and he said no, he was my new neighbor’s father. We’ve all been friends ever since.

Tomorrow, longtime friends Carole Tayman and Bill Sheridan, who moved to the DC area years ago, are coming for lunch and bringing my goddaughter, Kate. They are in town for the Van Cliburn. We did that usual hassle—they would bring lunch, no, I would cook lunch. I won because I figure they’ve been gone a while and they need some Tex-Mex. So I’m fixing a queso chicken casserole and with guacamole on the side—and bean dip and tortilla chips for an appetizer. Think that will convince them they should retire to Fort Worth?

This social whirl is wonderful, but I really have a pot full of work on my desk. I read today that the biggest challenge in retirement is not feeling valued, discounted with nothing meaningful to do with your day. Believe me, that’s not my problem. Every morning I think I’ll get on to Helen Corbit, but I’ll just clean up this or that small project—publicity for Finding Florence, the neighborhood newsletter, a proposal I promised to read for the Sisters in Crime Fantasy Agent project. And every day I’m busy until late into the night, but I don’t get to poor Helen. That will have to change soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Cooking and writing make Judy a dull girl


Our quiche
with the obviously store-bought crust
Sorry about that.

Well, not really—at least I hope not. But it seems this week that’s all I’ve been doing —cooking and writing. And it doesn’t make for scintillating blogs. But as I look back at midweek, I realize it’s been a pretty interesting week. And cooking has been a large part of it.

Monday I had company for happy hour (my crowded happy hour schedule this week is a whole other topic, a good one), and Christian was cooking—so it was late before we ate supper. But we had chicken roll-ups with cheese and pesto. So good. Tuesday night I experimented and made a quiche—bacon and cheddar. Yummy, and it made a great breakfast this morning.

For about a week I’ve had a whole chicken in the freezer but cooking it in the oven means spatchcocking it (fits in my toaster oven much better), which in turn means defrosting it far enough in advance to be able to do that. So we finally got our act together, and yesterday I defrosted the chicken. Except that I forgot until about noon and was afraid it would not be defrosted in time for Christian to spatchcock it this morning. It was defrosted, but Christian didn’t get my message until mid-day today by which time I had struggled through and done it myself. Except it didn’t look like the ones he has fixed for me. I panicked and thought maybe I’d cut through the wrong side of the chicken, but I kept telling myself that wasn’t possible. I turned that silly chicken every which way before I cut.

Tonight I found out the problem—I only cut on one side of the backbone—believe me that was enough hard work. But you’re supposed to cut on both sides and lift the backbone out. My chicken had a definite tilt to it, and the kids said it looked like a drunken chicken. But I used a Greek recipe—olive oil, lemon, and lots of oregano—and it was delicious, with lots of good, crisp skin. With leftovers for salad tomorrow.

My tipsy Greek chicken.
Oh, those onions were so good!

My efficiency discovery for the day: Jordan’s work has been so busy—lots of people traveling these days--that she is hard put to get to the grocery store. She said she’d go to Albertson’s tomorrow, and I could order from Central Market for pick-up. Well, I fooled her. There were a lot of non-grocery items on my Albertson’s list—mouthwash, eye drops, Tylenol and the like. I ordered them all from Amazon. I told Christian tonight I regretted all the packaging, but the convenience was worth it. He said since we recycle religiously, the packing was okay. So now my grocery order for the week is set—and I’ve already thought of something I didn’t list. Oh me!

I have truly been writing, but with Finding Florence debuting next month, I’ve been mostly writing marketing stuff, like a newsletter. If you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, please send an email to I call it my only occasional newsletter, but it usually ends up being quarterly, more or less. I announce new publications, rehash what I’m working on, offer a recipe I like and some tips about what I’ve been reading. And this time I’ll give away three copies of Saving Irene, the first Irene in Chicago Culinary Mystery, for those who haven’t met Irene and her storyteller, Henny. I’m also writing blogs, posting on Facebook, and trying to get the word out. A high-powered marketing person I am not.

My new word for the day: clairaudience. You know clairvoyance, the ability to see things in the future? Well, clairaudience folks hear voices that the rest of us don’t. And it turns out there’s a word for extrasensory perception dealing with each of our senses: clairsentience is for feeling; claircognizance for knowing; and clairgustience for smelling what others cannot. The latter could be helpful in many situations. A writer’s online group I belong to had an informative post today from a certified psychic. She urged us to avoid stereotypical thinking about psychics: admittedly there are many fakes in the business, but there are also genuine psychics. Often, they have taken courses and been certified. No, psychics cannot predict the future and it would be unethical for them to do that, particularly predicting the time and manner of  your death; psychics do not live in dark rooms in Victorian mansions, have twenty cats and a crystal ball; psychics do not know what everyone in a room is thinking at every moment; and not all psychics receive the same signals, as indicated by the new words I heard today. Some receive visual signals, some hear voices, etc.

All this was particularly interesting to me because Irene, in Finding Florence, has suddenly given greater credibility to the voices she’s always heard. And Henny has no idea what to believe.

It was a good day. I cooked a good chicken, soothed out a bit of household stress, even caught a glass in mid-air as it was about to crash on the tile counter. Life is good. Hope it is for you too.



Monday, June 13, 2022

A bookish day


At 103, it’s a day to stay inside with a book. I talked with a friend in Omaha today, and it’s even 103 up there. Told her she might as well be in Texas. Seems like there’s no escape, though a friend in the Pacific Northwest reports cool temperatures.

This morning I read an article about gender reading. It seems women read books written by both men and women, but men rarely read books by women. Some enterprising group compiled a list of ten books by women that men should read. No surprise that Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale led the list. I confess that I recognized only five of the ten and have read only two. Those two are The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which I thought should have ended a hundred pages before it did, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which remains high on my list of all-time favorite, right along with Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. The three I haven’t read are Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (elsewhere this morning I read a good summary of Frankenstein in a Maureen Dowd column titled “Our American Monster”), The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and Atwood’s novel that is so much talked of these days. Confessing to the lapses in my literary background reminds me of a graduate school instructor I had years ago who claimed no one could consider themselves educated if they haven’t read Dante’s Inferno. The fact that I hadn’t read it sparked this pronouncement, but I still haven’t read it. I seem to have done all right even with that gap in my education.

And if you want to curl up in cool air-conditioning and read a book, there’s now the perfect outfit for you (oops! I’m making a gender assumption)—perfect, that is, if you’re a girl. The nap dress is the latest fashion rage for women and girls—loose and flowing enough for lounging or sleeping but structured enough to go to the grocery or the bank. The bodice is often shirred and elasticized, eliminating the need for constricting underwear. Those tops remind me of the hand-smocking that decorated some of my clothes when I was a child—wish I had just one today as a keepsake.

Tonight, friends from church came for happy hour. I wanted to talk to Steve Mosher because he has just been named to the Board of Judges for the Texas Literary Hall of Fame which was developed by the Friends of the Fort Worth Library and is now under the umbrella of the TCU’s Mary Couts Burnett Library. I’ve known Steve casually for years through our mutual church but it turns out I didn’t know him well. He’s a knowledgeable and well-read aficionado of Texas literature—and a guy with a wide-reaching network of friends in the Texas literary world. Plus someone who laughs easily and often. Good company.

We talked books and authors and award and theories, and oh my, it was a delightful evening. I sometimes get to talk books with people, but I don’t often get to talk about Texas literature and its outstanding names. Tonight was a real treat. Steve says the book that started him, an Iowa boy, on the road to Texas reading was John Graves’ Goodbye to a River. Who can quarrel with that? We talked of Elmer Kelton and Katharine Anne Porter and the history of the Hall of Fame, and we each madly name-dropped about who were our friends. Steve’s wife, Nancy, is a devotee of the cozy mystery and her conversation introduced me to several names I haven’t read and need to explore.

We all talked longer than we meant to—from 5:30 until almost eight o’clock—but to top off the evening, Jordan called as soon as my guests left and said, “Cook the asparagus. We’ll cook the chicken.” Christian had made pesto chicken, and I quick stir-fried some asparagus. I keep reading a lot about the need to peel asparagus—darned if I can figure out how to do that.

All in all, a good day. Hope yours was too