Friday, September 30, 2022

Politics, but maybe not as usual


Tonight was the only debate there will be between Texas gubernatorial candidates, Governor Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. Abbott decreed there would be only one debate and no audience, so questions came from three political journalists, plus a few call-in ones from across the state. There was some concern, at least on my part, that Beto’s temper might get the better of him, but he was good—calm, controlled, knowledgeable, sincere, and sharp. Sure, he responded a couple of times when it wasn’t his turn but nothing bad or obvious. Abbott was as he always is calm, cold. self-assured—and blaming everything on President Biden or accusing Beto of twisting the truth.

I could tell when Abbott was dodging, dissembling, and glossing over only because I’ve made a point of educating myself. He totally dodged a question about whether he had become extremely right-wing, and he blew it on abortion, saying Beto favored it up until the first breath. Clearly, Abbott doesn’t understand medical considerations or the Hippocratic Oath—doctors are bound by their oath and by law to do their best to save all patients. So they would resuscitate a baby about to take its first breath or one that survived an abortion procedure. I truly thought Beto came off much better, but I am prejudiced.

To put it in context: I had an interesting visitor tonight, a longtime friend (forty years or more) who I haven’t seen in several years. We caught up on families and old friends in common—mostly who had died, which is discouraging. But we have been estranged since 2015 over her support of trump. She apparently didn’t realize it and shrugged it off saying she had to vote with her late husband—but that’s another story. It came up easily in conversation, so I addressed the elephant in the room with us, and she asked me to explain my beliefs. So I talked about immigration and the unequal distribution of wealth under Republicans for the last forty years, among other topics. I thought maybe I had made a convert, but it turns out I flattered myself.

She asked how I knew all this, and I replied that I make it a point to be well informed. She said she has access to the New York Times and the Washington Post, but I couldn’t tell that she reads either. So I promised to send her some links. But as she left, she said, “I’m just not that interested in politics.” I replied that she should be because the future of our country is at stake, and she said, “I think the country’s doing just fine, no matter who’s in charge.” That, I thought, is it: voter apathy. I cannot tell you how discouraged I was. But now the debate has energized me again.

I’m anxious to read the analyses from political reporters. Guess I’ll go prowling on the web.

And that’s it for tonight, because my focus today was on the debate, though I will brag that I’ve written two thousand words in the last two days. And my puzzlement for the day: UPS has sent me a bill, with a return envelope, for three cents. I seriously thought of taping three pennies to the bill and returning it, but I’m not sure I could scrounge up three pennies—you never see them in circulation anymore. And I remember reading somewhere that it costs seven dollars to write and process a check. And they want me to write a check for three cents?

I did get rid of a bit of my corporate anger today. Cigna sent me a reminder that my six-month dental checkup is around the corner and in a separate email a reminder that my account was past due. This from the company that wrote me in September they had cancelled my insurance July 31? When I called, they said they still had an active account for me. I told them to cancel it because there was no way I would ever deal with Cigna again. Told them I had called simply because I thought they should know how poor their customer relations are but if they wanted to send me a gold-plated apology that, too, would be appropriate. I can’t remember which one of us hung up first, but they were profuse in their apologies.

And so the world goes on. Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling is the most troublesome thing I can think of tonight, and I am tempted to reread Faulkner’s 1950 Nobel Prize Speech: “I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail.” Putin has gone from claiming Ukraine was aggressive to blaming the western world, and one analyst has suggested we are already fighting World War III—on Ukrainian territory. That’s an awful thought to sign off on.

Live in the present moment: it’s fall, a time when life seems to pick up the pace again, another year begins with all its opportunities. I am tempted to quote the words with which the mother of a good friend from my childhood days used to waken us in the morning: “God has made another new day. Think! Shall we let it slip useless away?” Well, God has made another school year. We won’t let it slip useless away. Sweet dreams.


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

National Sons Day


Colin and Jamie
a marathon somewhere, sometime.

Losing my grip as a doting mother. First, I almost missed Daughters’ Day, and now I’m about to miss Sons’ Day. Who knew they came one on top of the other? But here they are, after a race though I'm not sure where. And a shout-out to sons-in-law Christian, who puts up with me daily, and Brandon, who shares my love of books. And to grands: Sawyer, Jacob, Ford, and Kegan.

I seem beset these days with AI—took me a while to figure that is artificial intelligence. But between ads online which seem to know every little detail of your life and automated conversations with service companies, I’ve about had it. Only the hardiest of us can resist those ads that broadcast an alarming health symptom and suggest something dire may be wrong. We read on. The one that caught my eye recently asked, “Do you wake at 3:00 a.m.?” Well of course I was hooked because I do wake at three. And at one and at five. But three is a dark hour, and I sometimes have to bat away negative thoughts at that time. I remember my brother talking about three-o’clock-in-the-morning thoughts, most of which led him to say, “Ooh. Wish I hadn’t done that one.”

Well this ad suggests you may have sleep apnea and I forget what other serious conditions, but if you read on, in small print, it says that wakefulness may be due to a list of other causes, among them drinking too much (either alcohol or non-alcoholic or even water) just before bed. I keep an insulated glass of water by the bed and sip frequently which means I wake frequently needing to pee. And finally, it says, we wake more often as we age. Sleep cycles for the elderly are about an hour and a half. Well, hello! That describes me perfectly. I don’t need ads suggesting I have sleep apnea, which seems to be a fashionable thing to have.

I have given up the hunt for my missing keys and moved on to the process of acquiring a new key fob. I recounted my long and fruitless chat with an ADT representative the other day, but the part I left out was my first chat. I told an automated chat person that I needed a new key fob because I lost mine, and she/it/whatever responded with directions for reactivating my key fob. How can I reactivate what I don’t have? Today I dealt with Protection One, the company that installed my system but was subsequently bought by ADT. Three representatives, each apparently with a specific duty. It took at least forty-five minutes, but they were all pleasant and sympathetic, and I got a discount for being a long-term customer. Still, nothing happens fast –a service tech will come out October 10. By serendipity, Jordan and Christian have a tech coming tomorrow, because their system was disarmed when they replaced the back door. Christian said he’d ask if they couldn’t do mine at the same time, but I am sure life is never that easy.

My good friend Melinda came and brought lunch today—chicken salad on croissants. Melinda was production manager when I was director at TCU Press, and we have remained close though we don’t talk often. Being both of the same strong political persuasion, we intended to watch the January 6 committee hearing, but it worked out just as well because we got to catch up on kids and grandkids and talk politics and have a lot of good laughs. I think the longer the committee waits, the more stuff that turns up. Timing is a delicate matter with that committee. I’m sure out of good manners they won’t announce anything until after the mid-terms, but surely people can figure out for themselves what happened. You think? On the other hand, my personal opinion is they need to make a final recommendation before trump truly launches a presidential bid.

Meanwhile, DeSantis, now trump’s rival, is in big trouble. We’ll see how he weathers the storm—and I mean that literally. The pictures coming out of Florida this evening are horrifying. God bless those with damaged homes and protect those stranded by flood waters. Seems even worse than Harvey. Until we reverse climate change, the storms are going to continue to worsen. I can’t wrap my mind around the idea. Nor the idea that people see the storms and fires and floods and still deny climate change.

Despite all the bad in our world today, do have sweet dreams. Seems an oxymoron.


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Booster, prayers, and a wry laugh


Finally got my new Covid booster today. I mentioned the other day I’d gotten the run-around trying to book an appointment for the Moderna booster at the only local place I could find that has it. We were early for the appointment, as requested. Walgreen’s was late, though when the woman finally gave me the shot, she was most pleasant and also skilled—a painless shot, and tonight my arm is tender but not really sore. But back to the wait at the pharmacy—we were there at least forty-five minutes. When we got to the pharmacy—why are they always in the far back corner of a humongous store?—I was ready to sit down, so Jordan checked me in. I can’t tell you what all occurred, but she was at the counter a long time. When she finally came to sit by me, she said, “They make it so difficult—no wonder a lot of people just won’t bother.”

Jordan herself has had difficulty. You can only make an appointment online or by telephone—and when you try by telephone, you get the dreaded automatic voice on the other end of the phone. Jordan tried online the other day and was told she is not eligible. I thought that was wrong, because this booster has been highly touted for everyone twelve and up. A neighbor said no, you must be over sixty-five or immune compromised. That didn’t sound right to me, so Jordan asked today. She is eligible, but they couldn’t make an appointment with a living, breathing person in front of them. I suppose the earlier verdict of ineligibility was a computer glitch, and if she tries again, it will go through. But she’s not inclined to try again right away, says it’s a busy week, and I should not bug her, so I am keeping quiet (do you have any idea how hard that is for me?).

At any rate, I think it’s bureaucracy gone amuck, and she’s right. The process needs to be streamlined. I know that’s easy for those of us on the consumer end to say, but I’d like to get the word to someone with clout. President Biden counts controlling the pandemic as one of his victories, as well he should, but he needs to have someone look into the delivery process. It’s sad to think people won’t inconvenience themselves, because the number of daily deaths is still high. We had a local case this week of a forty-year-old dad who died. I have no idea of his vaccination status.

The weather around the world seems to have gone amuck—mudslides, floods, typhoons in all corners of the world. Tonight, comes word that power is out to the entire island of Cuba, and Ian is expected to make landfall in Florida as a Category Three or Four hurricane on Wednesday afternoon. Two and a half million people in Florida—think of the enormity of that number! —have been asked to evacuate. Ferocious storms like Ian—and some notable earlier ones like Katrina, Harvey, and Maria—cause damage that is beyond comprehension for those of us who sit inland in safety and pray that maybe we’ll get some rain out of the storm. I remember driving in the Houston area with my daughter-in-law Lisa showing me the high-water marks on buildings. Astounding.

Please join with me in praying for the safety of all those in the path of Ian.

Nice to end the day with a laugh, although I’m sorry to say my laugh makes me sound political and biased once again, but Republicans are having a hard time these days. Dr. Oz said John Fetterman’s habit of wearing shorts and hoodies made it seem that he was attacking authority in the balls—and thereby gave Fetterman a wonderful slogan in a state where people would line up for blocks to attack authority. In Texas, the pretty obviously corrupt Attorney General Ken Paxton, who keeps sticking his nose into other states’ business, ran from his home to avoid a subpoena—literally almost ran. He was in a truck driven by his wife who is a state senator. Paxton has been under indictment for seven long years with no court date, because he keeps gaming the system. And now to think his wife is a state senator. No wonder Texas is a political mess.

But the saddest funny story of all is that trump and DeSantis are now calling each other names. The former guy calls DeSantis “fat, phony, and whiny” (terms that could apply to himself as well) while DeSantis calls his former sponsor “a moron who has no right running for the presidency” (that too could be a two-way street).  And these two adolescent bullies want a chance to run our country? I don’t think so.

So there you have it: a day to inspire prayers and laughter. Do get our booster. It’s worth the trouble.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Gardening and cooking



Picking seed pods off the
hyacinth bean vine.
Wish the blooms showed better.
Note the newly planted herb garden.

Used to be, when I was a kid, that gardening and cooking were womanly chores (except that my dad was a fantastic hobby gardener). In general, though, those were things that kept the little woman busy. Today, that attitude has done a complete turnabout, and women, lots of them, write and blog and talk about the sense of renewal they get from gardening and cooking. I’m probably guilty on the cooking part of that equation. But the gardening? Not so much.

As I hinted above, I grew up with a lush, beautiful garden. My dad bought the empty lot next to our Chicago house (a small feat in itself) and turned it into a garden. Every weekend found him, a college president and a physician, in the rattiest clothes you can imagine, on his hands and knees digging in the dirt. He wore those embarrassingly ugly knee pads that hitched his pants up to an unbecoming angle. Mom was always embarrassed if students came by and saw him that way, but it didn’t bother him. I thought every family had a dad that created a beautiful garden.

Grown and married, I found that wasn’t true. I also found that I love looking at the finished product, but I don’t get that spiritual energy, that sense of renewal, that whatever from gardening. I want someone else to do it, and I’ll enjoy it. But today I did the one bit of gardening I enjoy—planting herbs. My herb garden had cratered during the summer heat, except for a few stubborn onions. When I tried to pull them today, the bulbs refused to come out of the dirt, so I expect they’ll sprout again and eventually have to be dug out. But I planted the herbs Mary and I bought Saturday. If they only last a month or so until a frost wipes them out, that’s okay. I was really tired of looking at that bare earth in the wooden garden container. And just for good measure, Jordan and I picked a lot of seed pods off the driveway side of the hyacinth bean vine. It has been blooming profusely, but now its leaves are turning yellow. Tis the season, I guess.

The cooking part does renew me, as you well know if you read this blog often. Tonight I did pork chops and zucchini/feta salad, a recipe I found I don’t know where but thought sounded good. Christian does not eat zucchini or any squash, but I cooked this in chunks, not slices, until just lightly browned and crisp-tender. When he walked in, Jordan asked if he wanted zucchini, and he said “No, thank you.” I considered kicking her. I didn’t mean for her to ask but simply to serve it to him. I asked him to taste, and he said it was not one of his favorites, but this was the best he’d had. Of course it was—seasoned with oregano, lemon, garlic, shallot, salt and pepper. What could go wrong? The pork chops I ordered turned out to be thin cutlets, but I seasoned them with salt and pepper and lemon zest and quick-seared them. They were tasty and, best of all, not tough as pork chops can be. For an experiment, I thought it was a good meal. Didn’t ask Jacob, but we did discuss tonight what meals he likes, and I have a list.

Spent too much time with corporate America today, this time ADT protection systems. Since I haven’t found my keys (and yes, I called the two places we went one more time today), I’ve lost my key fob that operates the house locks, and I need a new one. Did the “chat” function, but when I keyed in my address, the gentleman told me it was not in their system. Neither was the account number. He kept asking for “the correct address” as though I was deliberately giving him a fake, which makes no sense. I was beginning to lose my cool—all this took half an hour, and it was lunchtime, and I was hungry. Finally he asked if I am a Protection One customer, and I said yes (ADT bought up Protection One several years ago, and when you google Protection One you get ADT). Then he told me they have a separate service number. That should have been the first question he asked me. I was too worn out with it then to call the new number, so it’s on my list for tomorrow.

So is my covid booster shot.

And we’re off into a new week. I hope it’s a good one for everyone.


Sunday, September 25, 2022

What if?


After posting how much I enjoyed Nina Totenberg’s memoir, Dinners with Ruth, I was taken back a bit to read a critical review that maintained Totenberg should have put her obligations as a journalist above her friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In other words, as a reporter assigned to the Supreme Court, she should have reported on RBG’s obviously failing health. Instead, she shielded RBG, fed her the bouillabaisse she loved (one of the few things her failing body would tolerate), and turned a blind eye to justice. There’s certainly a lot of merit to that argument. I am among the many who think, dedicated as she was, RBG should have stepped down when Obama suggested it, so that he could appoint a liberal justice. No one knows for sure how the court would have played out—there would still be the sudden death of Justice Scalia and the suspicious sudden retirement of Justice Kennedy (we may never know that full story)—but we would have had one less extremist conservative on the court.

When a friend supported the criticism of Totenberg, I countered with the idea that life is a series of “What if?” moments. If Comey hadn’t brought up those emails at the last minute, Hilary probably would have won in 2016, and we would have been spared the tragedies and depravity of four years of trump. But Comey thought he was doing his job. And if McConnell had followed precedent, Merrick Garland would be on the court—we can’t excuse McConnell on the grounds he was doing his job. He knew better but was more interested in using his enormous power to the betterment of his party and the detriment of his country.

I’m not being fatalistic when I say I accept the uncertainty about life, the fact the “ought” doesn’t win. I think things happen the way they were meant to happen, but I also believe that karma will out. Perhaps it’s my faith as a member of a mainstream Protestant church—I will not ever try to give you an evangelistic argument that God is testing us, because I don’t believe in a cruel God. But I do believe that faith gives us strength when the “what if” moment goes awry. And, like Joe Biden, I believe in America and democracy and right now, I’m hopeful the pendulum is swinging back from an extreme edge.

That said, I am baffled by much of what is going on in this country. “The former guy” while not indicted has been clearly exposed as a criminal on several fronts, from tax fraud to tampering with elections to stealing national security documents. Governors Abbott and DeSantis have shown themselves to be heartless despots who use innocent and helpless people as political pawns and then abandon them. Congresspersons Boebbert and Marjorie Taylor Greene spout conspiracy theories, defend an extreme “Christian” nation, and are beyond comprehension. Herschel Walker produces word salad every time he opens his mouth. No sense even talking about poor, befuddled Louie Gohmert. They are willing pawns of people like trump, and what’s scary is that they promote his possible run in 2024. Why are these people anywhere near political power in this country?

Columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., offers a solid—and familiar—theory in an essay titled, “We believe Herschel Walker.” Contending Walker has shown us clearly who he is, Pitts suggests that his popularity is part of America’s historic tendency to equate ignorance with authenticity. We distrust leaders who seem “too smart.” Politicians spend a lot of time in shirtsleeves, eating hot dogs they don’t want, and saying things they clearly don’t believe, just to be one of the regular people. Instead, Pitts says, we should want our leaders to be a bit better, a bit smarter than we are. Not arrogant, but with knowledge and understanding of policy and international law.

On the positive side, President Biden has quietly been achieving a better life for most American workers—the infrastructure package, relief from the covid pandemic, improved health care for veterans, averting a catastrophic railroad strike, restoring our international standing, working to control climate change and save our environment, reduced unemployment. How would Boebbert, Greene, Walker, and Gohmert handle these issues? Do we want to give the indecisive and weak Kevin McCarthy power over the House? Why did things go south under trump? Don’t we need educated men and women, with some grasp of government, to lead us in these times?

I know I’m prejudiced. I see life—and politics—through a blue lens these days. But there are so many good candidates for Senate seats and governorships, good people running for the House to free us from all the conspiracy theorists. Can’t we have a little common sense?

What if we voted for the good of all the people rather than those who would force their will on us? What if we restored a unified America, a Congress that worked across the aisle? What if we elected people who, like Biden, want to make life better for Americans, rather than those who would wipe out a century of progress?

Rant over.


Saturday, September 24, 2022

A day of forgetfulness


Cheating: This is a picture of me and Mary
at last year's dinner.
No pictures this year--darn!

This morning, Mary picked me up for a trip to the nursery to restock my herb garden. During the horrible hot dry spell, everything had died. Recently a couple of stalwart green onions peeked their heads through the dirt, but my wonderful, raised garden was pretty much barren. We chose thyme and oregano and basil and parsley and a couple of other things. At checkout Mary handled the transactions for me since I was in the transport chair and couldn’t reach. That may be where my problem began.

Next we went to Trader Joe’s. I don’t get there often at all. In fact, Jean usually shops for things for me, like the bread I love for sandwiches. I went without a list and without really needing anything, so it was fun to browse. I saw many things I wished I needed—baby zucchini for one—but I refrained. Came away with two more herbs, a small container of chicken salad, and a wedge of cheese that blended three English cheeses—it will be nice for happy hour one day. Mary found a frozen, ready to eat dinner of scallops and mushrooms in a wine sauce. Sounded so good we each bought one and then agreed we would forego lunch plans to get the scallops home to the freezer.

When we first parked at the grocery, I asked Mary to go in and drive out one of their motorized carts. Pretty soon she came with a store employee driving the cart, and I wondered if Mary, who is never intimidated, was a bit unsure about the cart. Trader’s has nice wide aisles, and I did not hit any people, knock down any displays—I did skirt a big stack of large jugs of apple cider at a great distance. When I was settled back in the car, Mary drove the cart back inside, and I thought maybe she said to herself, “I can do this.” I think they’re fun to drive, though I’ve had some minor accidents.

When we got home, I had the gate opener but could not find my keys. We both remembered me locking the door, and the keys were not hanging in the door. We searched everywhere—each of us emptying my purse, Mary searching her car. Nothing. Neither Jordan nor Christian were home, so a lot of phone calls ensued (not all happy); Jacob came out with two keys that obviously didn’t fit; Christian told Jordan where there was a key, she relayed the information, Mary went into the main house to get it, and Jacob came out with the key. Sort of a circus, but I got into the cottage where Sophie was so glad to see us. I’ve called the nursery and Trader Joe’s, but so far, no keys.

Tonight was the adults-only dinner for our neighborhood, held in Mary and Joe’s spacious yard for the second year. A bit bittersweet since they plan to move during the winter (Joe has lived in that house fifty-one years). A nice event—about a hundred people, barbecue provided by a neighbor who’s an expert and gave us really good food. With a five-year gap in the late eighties and early nineties, I’ve lived in this neighborhood for forty years, and I have edited the newsletter for maybe ten or more. So I knew a few people. I was pleased that several came up to talk and some commented on how long it had been since they’d seen me. And sometimes I heard, “You look really good!” I may be oversensitive, but I think now that I need a walker and I don’t get out much, they must think I have shriveled into old age. Not so (I hope!).

Since Jordan and Christian had other plans tonight, Greg and Jaimie Smith took me. Jaimie, as social chair, had to be there early and stay late, but Greg picked me up, helped struggle me up the four stairs into the yard, and sat with me. We had a happy table of neighbors I very much like, but both Greg and I are a bit hearing challenged, and we often exchanged whispered asides. He’s good company, and it was fun.

So I got home without a problem—had the gate opener and the keys. Got settled, went to get my phone out of my purse, and it wasn’t there. I had it on the table during dinner and remembered thinking I must be sure to put it in my purse. But I didn’t remember actually doing it. So in a panic, I emailed Mary that I’d left it on the table—after all, I could neither text nor call.

As I was brushing my teeth, I thought I should take one more deep dive into that purse. I did—and there it was. I was red-faced over a false alarm, but I was also grateful. I really don’t want to be in the cottage alone, especially at night, without a way to call for help if I need it (which is most unlikely, except if I don’t have a phone which is when the odds go up dramatically). Email is not effective—who reads email at three in the morning?

So it was a lovely day, one I enjoyed a lot, glad to get out, but one in which I feared for a bit I was losing my mind. Not yet, I guess.

Sweet dreams, everyone. Keep you phones handy.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Covid, eggs for supper, and a new word


Alter eggs elegante
(tastes better than it looks)

Three longtime friends and I have a custom of celebrating birthdays with a restaurant dinner—a custom we sorely missed during quarantine. The birthday girl gets to choose the restaurant, and we treat her to dinner and bring small gifts. Tonight we were to have belatedly celebrated one (only almost a month late—they have busier schedules than I do), but one of them came home from a trip with covid and is not quite over it. So we rescheduled—another whole month. At this rate the celebrant will be another year older before she gets that dinner.

The Burtons are at a birthday party at a distillery—Jordan was vague about the location, but I am anxious to hear details. At any rate, I was on my own for dinner. Frequently, when I’m alone I just scramble a couple of eggs. Tonight I went all out and fixed what I decided to call Alter Eggs Elegante. If you go to Carshon’s deli in Fort Worth for breakfast your choices will include eggs and salami or eggs and lox. When I took daughter-in-law Lisa once, she ordered eggs with salami, expecting sliced salami as a side, and was astounded when the salami was chopped and scrambled into the eggs. And that’s how their eggs with lox are served—sometimes with onion.

Several years ago I decided to fancy them up. I added chopped green onion and chopped tomatoes. Taking a cue from my mom, I added a dollop of cottage cheese, which gives the eggs a lot of body (it does leave a liquid residue which you just have to pour off). So that’s what I ate tonight, with a green salad and a blue cheese/buttermilk dressing. Good eating!

But my friend’s covid plus a visit with my doctor spurred me to investigate getting the new booster. My doctor told us this week that since we have had all Moderna vaccines, we should stick with that. His office only had Pfizer. As I explored today, I found lots of places with Pfizer, not many with the new Moderna booster. The best bet seemed to be a Walgreen’s not too far from the house. But when I tried to pull up the website, I got the dreaded access denied message. This continued all day.

So this evening, I called the pharmacist directly. He told me to call Walgreen’s 1-800 number which I did—and got an automated woman who insisted on scheduling me for a Pfizer shot. No! Tried the website and behold! It was back up. I have an appointment for Tuesday morning.

The run-around with Walgreen’s—honest, it probably ate an hour and a half of my day—reminded me that I want to caution friends against Cigna dental insurance. I paid for insurance for six months, and each month they returned my check to the bank. Each month I called and was given a variety of suggested fixes, including that I had the wrong code and, finally, ridiculously, that I hadn’t put P.O. before the word Box on the envelope. In desperation, week before last, I asked my bank to call. They got the same run-around (all this from representatives who did not seem to have English at their first language). It occurred to me to ask my dentist’s office to check my insurance since I had an appointment the next week. They reported my insurance had been cancelled. And a few days later I received a letter—late September remember—telling me my insurance was cancelled July 31 for non-payment. I am left wondering if they ever looked at the record of my phone calls. It seems inexcusable to me that I was left two months without insurance but ignorant of that fact.

My resolve: business with small agencies and mom-and-pop businesses as much as possible. It’s hard, though. There’s a small, privately owned pharmacy down the street from my house where I send prescriptions as much as possible. Today they told me it would be at least a month before they got boosters, and I gathered they couldn’t assure me it would be Moderna.

My new word for the day: stoush. It means to fight with someone. So I have had a stoush with corporate America.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

How do you like your peanut butter and other food trivia


Mary's delicious leftovers

You may think food is always on my mind, and pretty much it is. But more so tonight as I think back on the last couple of days (my world was too hectic to blog last night, but that’s another story). My friend Mary Dulle teaches cooking classes, mostly online, but early this week she taught an in-person class at the Woman’s Club on Porch Party Tipples and Snacks—for tipples, she offered sangria. Tuesday night is our regular weekly happy hour, and we usually don’t have food, but Mary brought a bountiful feast—smoked trout-stuffed baguette slices and marinated goat cheese (I could so make a pig of myself on the latter!). We’ll always welcome her leftovers! Tuesday for TCU Silver Frogs she did another in-person class on breakfast pizzas. I’m not a pizza fan, but that sounds so good.

From fancy nibblers to the mundane: my mom taught me to eat peanut butter sandwiches with mayonnaise and a crisp leaf of lettuce. A childhood staple that I still occasionally crave, and now one of my sons likes it a lot. But the rest of the world looks at us like we’re crazy. There are lots of things to put with peanut butter, but mayonnaise? Turns out the sandwich was a staple during the Depression, especially across the South where peanuts are plentiful. It was a cheap but filling way to get some protein. Today’s afficionados insist that the sandwich must be on white bread, I guess preferably the kind that turns into cotton candy in your mouth and sticks to your teeth. But I’m pretty sure I grew up eating it on rye.

Mom used to occasionally add bacon to the sandwich, which was a good treat, but I’ve read recently that people also put grated cheddar, pickles, onion, sliced egg, sliced apple, and even salami. Of course, if you add some of those things, you defeat the inexpensive aspect of the sandwich. Me? I’ll stick with lettuce.

But guess what Ernest Hemingway’s favorite sandwich was—peanut butter with onion. I’m on a big, sweet onion kick, so I’m hoping it was sweet onion—or had they grown those yet when he was walking among us? Apparently, the peanut butter softens the bite of the onion, but the onion adds a nice crispness to the bite. He drank red wine with it.

Gastro Obscura, an online newsletter I read, brings up all kinds of food oddities. This week, it was a class in how to cook with crickets and cricket power. Those have been staples in some Asian countries, principally Japan I think, for years but the article points out that in the interest of sustainable food sources, we should really consider insects. There really is an Edible Insect Movement. Gastro Obscura sponsors exotic and unusual food trips but I think this was an online class.

Another memory from my childhood: Mom canning fruits and vegetables. I distinctly remember we ate her canned tomatoes and applesauce all winter, but I think she also did green beans and peaches and figs (Mom loved figs!). Home canning of course was big during WWII when certain foods were scarce, and Victory Gardens were encouraged. Today’s edition of The Food Historian talks about the dangers, and I well remember that when Mom was ready to take jars out of the oven, she made me leave the kitchen for fear they might explode. According to The Food Historian, that was a very real danger.

Water bath canning is what the name implies—immersing jars of food in boiling water. But it is a complicated process with many steps ensuring sanitation and proper cooking. Only high acid foods can be safely canned in a water bath—fruit jams, pickles, etc. Low-acid foods need to be cooked in a pressure cooker before canning. You can find complete, details directions online, but truthfully, I think Del Monte or Hunt do a better job than Mom. Shhh! Don’t let her hear me say that because in all else she was a terrific cook who gently taught me to love being in the kitchen. Just not for canning.

So, what’s on your menu this week?

Monday, September 19, 2022

Thoughts about the Queen’s funeral


I’m not sure why I feel a bit defensive about being absolutely enthralled by the pageantry of today’s ceremonies, but I do. Perhaps it’s because the Queen’s death has sparked anew the criticism of the British monarchy which, over the last 400 years, has a pretty bloody history of subjugation (akin to slavery in America). Perhaps it’s because some see the monarch today as an anachronism, unnecessary in this modern day. Maybe because all that pomp and circumstance must have cost ten fortunes—I read somewhere that the cost of the funeral, which Elizabeth herself planned to a large degree, may throw Britain into a recession. I sincerely hope not.

What I think today demonstrated, among many things, was that the Brits loved their queen, and, to a great extent, they love the monarchy. It’s the symbol of their country, the glue that holds them together and strengthens their sense of identity and community. The monarchy today is symbolic, with no effective political power, but the royal family does much for the country and for many charities throughout what remains of the Commonwealth. Whether the Queen influenced politics or not is a question—in her subtle way, I suspect she guided prime ministers from Winston Churchill on. Churchill apparently denounced her as a child when she was crowned but came to like and respect her. Although we denied the monarch a couple of centuries ago, we in this country could use such a unifying force.

Today I was enthralled by everything from the solemn tread of the marchers and the clip-clop of the horses to the high, clear voices of the boy sopranos at the committal service. It was grand, glorious, and colorful, pageantry at its best. And no, it wasn’t an anachronism. It was history, tradition, ritual—repeating ceremonies which have long been in place. As I watched, I thought that we may never again see such pageantry. There’s much speculation about the future of the monarchy. Charles III, now king, talks of slimming down the monarchy, and I wondered if that wouldn’t mean slimming down the ceremonial aspect. Maybe not so many Beefeaters, not so many foot soldiers?

On the other hand, I’ve heard more than once today that the day’s ceremonies had a twofold purpose: to honor the Queen who served so long and well and was so beloved not only by Brits but across the world, but also to cement the idea of the monarchy, to guarantee that it will continue.

A few days ago, I saw an article entitled, “Mourn the Queen, but not her Monarchy.” Even those harsh critics of history must admit that the Queen set a very different tone, and that she was beloved by her subjects. People thronging the streets wept as her coffin passed. I studied the faces of the young men who carried the coffin up those treacherous steps to St. George Chapel and thought what stories they will tell their grandchildren about the glorious day when they carried the Queen’s coffin. She was a remarkable woman—dedicated, intelligent, gracious, courteous, astute.

Since her death we have also seen more of the personal side of the Queen—the woman who was mother to four sometimes troublesome offspring, and grandmother to many who adored her. That priceless clip of Princess Charlotte advising Prince George to bow, King Charles almost weeping as he stood at the head of the coffin, the beloved horse and corgis who waited to be there when the coffin passed—this was a woman who was not just a figurehead but a real living, breathing, kind and caring human who was much loved by those close to her.

A personal note: watching today connected me to my late father. As I’ve mentioned before he was Canadian born, Scottish by descent, and a confirmed Anglophile. He introduced me to the monarchy early, in 1947 when he wakened me in the wee hours to listen to Elizabeth’s coronation. Today I could imagine him sitting by me, wiping a tear occasionally, as did I, and saying, “Isn’t it grand?”

Two inconsequential notes: I was taken back by the use of the words “trespasses” and “those who trespass against us” in the Lord’s Prayer. That’s how I learned the prayer, but it’s been years since I’ve heard that. “Trespass” has been replaced by “debts.” I liked the old way.

And where in heaven’s name did the word “coronate” come from? Charles will be crowned, people, not coronated! Even Lester Holt used it tonight on the news.

I guess now we will get back to the everyday world, but I hope the Queen will not fade from our minds. The world today could use more formal ceremony, more gracious manners, more reminders of our history and the people we can be. May Elizabeth Regina rest in peace, and may God Save the King.


Sunday, September 18, 2022

A Sunday miscellany

The first thing I do in the morning is check my email on my phone—even before I brush my teeth, make my tea, and put away last night’s dishes. This morning, there was no email in either of my accounts. That never happens, so I checked the phone—no Wifi connection. If my computer still worked, that wouldn’t be a problem. So by-passing teeth and tea, I booted the computer. No connection. This upset me because I am totally incommunicado (or so I thought—Christian told me tonight I could still have used the phone, which I didn’t realize). It worries me because I fear falling, as so many my age do, and not being able to either get up or call for help.

So, this morning, I wanted some way to tell Jordan I needed help reconnecting the router. I put SOS on a piece of paper and taped it to the window by my desk. But then I saw her come out with the dogs, so I called to her. She was one minute out of bed, not inclined to deal with a problem she didn’t understand, and not amused by my sign. Her advice: Read a book. After she disappeared, I thought if I could call her back, I’d ask for her phone and call Colin. But I had no way of doing that—or so I thought.

After about fifteen minutes, the connection was magically restored. Well, not magic at all. Apparently, there’s a wire that goes under the sill at the back door, and if you step just right, it cuts the connection. Go back and step again, and it restarts it. Makes me a bit nervous, and I think an electrician should be called. Meantime, I guess the answer is for me to just call and say, “Please go step on the back door sill.” It’s kind of like the mornings my TV tells me there are too many TVs on. I have to call and ask them to turn one off, so mine will turn on. Somehow in this day of modern technology, I don’t think we should be having these problems.

Connection restored and computer up and running, I went to church online this morning. The sermon was about disagreement—I won’t quote text, but essentially the message I got was that even people of the same faith can see things differently. Russ used the example of two people reading the same book and coming away with such vastly different interpretations that it’s a wonder they read the same book. We each see things through the filter not only of our faith but of our life experiences. The final message I got--see how tentative I’m being here because someone else may have gotten a totally different message—is that it’s okay to disagree because we are all children of God and he loves all of us.

That’s a message I hear frequently from the pulpit at University Christian Church, and each time I hear it a mental picture of Donald trump flashes into my mind, and I want to question, “Really?” I know the Milton theology (better than biblical unfortunately) about angels turning away from God, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that God loves a man so obviously corrupt, selfish, dishonest—well, you name the adjectives. According to Milton, God never creates fallen angels—they are the ones that turn away from God.

Sometimes there are reassuring signs that evil is not rampant in our world, and we certainly saw one from Martha’s Vineyard in the last few days. The way that community turned out to care for the sudden, unannounced arrival of migrants was nothing short of a miracle and certainly proof that there are a lot of good people in this world. The migrants now have been moved to a military facility on the mainland that has been used before to house people suddenly in need of shelter. Tucker Carlson says that transporting the migrants from the island just demonstrates the hypocrisy of liberals who really don’t want to have to deal with people in need. Makes me so angry, because he’s supposed to be a journalist. If he were worth half a penny, he’d know that the Martha’s Vineyard community simply didn’t have the facilities to help so many immigrants for more than an overnight stay.

Meantime, in my mind—your filter may be different—I think DeSantis lost this one bigtime and came off looking not only inhumane but a bit stupid in his misunderstanding of immigration policies past and present. He joins Gregg Abbott and apparently Ducey of Arizona.

There are good people in our world. May their numbers increase, and may karma strike some of the others, even if God loves them. As I write this, I’m hearing in my mind the ritual response to the Scripture reading in my church: “Thanks be to God.” Others may have a different filter, and that’s okay. We’re still friends.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Learning about the past


When I first saw the title, Dinners with Ruth, I was all excited because I thought it would be a book about fabulous menus at dinners with Ruth Reichl. Alas, the Ruth of the title is not Reichl but Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They say perseverance is the key, and I persevered—and was hooked.

This is mostly a memoir by award-winning NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg, and her life is interesting enough to keep me reading without RBG. I’m halfway through the book as of this evening, and RBG is there like a thread woven into the text. One of the things that has always stymied me about memoir is that I think it needs a peg to hang it on. You can’t just write, “This is my life” and expect to attract readers, no matter how thrilling, adventuresome, exotic your life has been. There needs to be that theme, that idea that holds it all together. For Totenberg, it was her friendship with RBG through many professional ups and downs, marriage, widowhood, the whole gambit of life. It might well have been Cokie Roberts, whose comforting, efficient presence hovers over this book like the housemother/big sister/aunt every woman wishes for.

But it is RBG who holds Totenberg’s attention. They connected by telephone in the sixties and became friends in the seventies. Those were still the days when women could not own property, open a bank account, apply for a credit card. The general opinion was that a woman needed a man to care for her, and her job was to keep the home fires, raise the children, cook the meals. None of that appealed to Totenberg, who was single, and RBG who was married and had a child. They fought their way, almost literally, into careers in journalism and the judiciary—places where women were not welcome.

I remember those days because, on a much smaller scale, I fought that battle. I was working on a Ph.D. in English in the late sixties and held an NDEA (National Defense Education Act) fellowship by which my tuition and fees were paid plus a stipend for living expenses. In return, I taught one class of freshman English each semester. There was a hue and cry in the department that another girl and I should not have fellowships because we had husbands to support us. Her husband was a fellow graduate student, also on a fellowship if I remember correctly, and they had two daughters. My then-husband was a surgical resident, and I brought home $30 a month more than he did. Our combined monthly income was something like $730, and I remember yet his indignation when he had to pay his first income taxes--$7.77.

So far, Totenberg’s story plays out against the background of politics in the last quarter of the twentieth century, particularly the politics of judicial appointments. I’m learning a lot about events that I remember but didn’t understand at the time. For instance, I remember the hearings about the appointment of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, a nomination which ultimately failed. I knew there were people aligned against him, but I didn’t understand what an arch conservative he was in a time of legislative cordiality nor how smugly confident he was.

Totenberg is a good writer who pulls her audience into the story and makes us feel that we are there with her—in the courtroom at Timothy McVeigh’s trial, in the hospital room with her dying husband, at the opera with RBG who is distracting her from tragedy. She makes me think of the power of good writing, and the ability of words to sway, persuade, inform. Totenberg is pretty straightforward.

The other thing she makes me realize is how complicated political life in D.C. is, what a complex understructure holds it together, how politicians, the judiciary, and associated personnel can call in a debt or pull a string or ferret out a bit of needed information. I can’t decide if I am reassured or frightened by that, but I think Totenberg has a good grasp of what goes on and is a honest journalist, striving for distance from her subjects and yet making them come alive.

Much to my surprise I am enjoying this book. I suspect the last half will have more about RBG.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Sushi, Sophie, Agatha, and bureaucracy


Spicy tuna tower, with sushi rolls
Pretty food

Been a busy couple of days. Jean and Jeannie picked me up last night for sushi supper at Tokyo CafĂ©, one of my favorite places. We went early but still waited almost an hour for our dinner—as the server explained, sushi slows everything down, and the kitchen was behind. I had salmon crudo which was good but not enough to eat; Jeannie had some kind of roll—and tried Kirin, a Japanese beer, which she said was terrific; Jean had the prettiest dish of all—a spicy tuna tower. She said it was both spicy and good. Fun to get out for dinner.

Sophie is coughing again. Poor dear started with a few coughs a couple of days go, but I am alert to that sound now and vowed not to let the problem develop. Jordan took her for an allergy shot yesterday, but she’s still had some coughing spells. I think though the steroid did to her what steroids often do to people—hyped her up. She woke me at 4:15, dancing in a manner that says she’s desperate to go out. You always hate to refuse in case she really does need to go, so I got up—and watched her disappear into a far and dark corner of the yard where I cannot see a black dog. She finally came back and lay on the patio, as if ready to begin the day—I enticed her in with treats which she then refused. Five-thirty came too quickly, and she had to go out again. This time I dished up her breakfast, and she reluctantly came in but was not interested in eating. At 6:45 we made one more trip; after that I refused, loved on her, and gently told her to go take a nap. It was nine o’clock before I woke up. Tonight she ate her breakfast, asked for more, doesn’t seem to be coughing. It will be a watchful weekend.

Yesterday was National Cozy Mystery Day, in case you missed it—a day in honor of Agatha Christie’s birthday. Confession: I am not especially a Christie fan; in fact, I’m not a fan of British mysteries, as are so many of my friends. I have enjoyed the two books about Christie’s mysterious temporary disappearance, but I’m not much schooled in her actual mysteries. It makes me feel a bit guilty, as though I am masquerading by calling myself a mystery writer when I don’t have the right credentials. Like those people who fake their academic degrees. Oh, I’ve read some of the books, but a long time ago. I need to buckle down and re-read. Jean particularly recommended the one in which Poirot dies—wonder which book that is?

I rarely diss on businesses or companies, but I’d like to issue a warning here: do not deal with Cigna insurance. Six months ago, when TCU cancelled their dental insurance for retirees, I took out a policy with Cigna. I paid each month, and each month they returned the check to my bank. SO each month I called to find out what was wrong and was given a variety of fixes, like a code on my check, none of which worked. And each month I would get an overdue email statement. This week my bank called and was told I need to put P.O. before Box on the envelope—is not the lamest thing ever? But this week, when both the bank and I talked to Cigna, the representative acted as though I had an active account. A note on my account on the website made me nervous, and I asked my dental office to call. Cigna had cancelled the insurance as of July 1 without notifying me either through a website message or email. Upshot: I have cancelled my dental appointment for next week and applied for new insurance. In retrospect, I think the problem was that I didn’t let Cigna automatically debit my bank account, but I am leery of having many automatic debits. I want to be in control of what happens with my banking.

Now waiting for Jordan to arrive with supper—for me, veal caprese from Macaluso’s just down the street. It was a hectic day, with Jacob playing 36 holes in a golf tournament, and nobody thought about dinner until too late to defrost anything. And Jacob will be in a hurry to get to the Paschal homecoming game. Meantime, I’m hungry!

Happy weekend everyone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Books and cooks


My troublesome quiche.

I cannot figure out where these caps came from. They aren't in the preview.
But I am unable to change them. So sorry, folks. Really, I don't mean to shout.

I’m in search of the next book for my late-night reading. When I do that, I often check reader-friendly sites. One of those is Shelf Awareness, an online newsletter for booksellers. I glance at it daily, often clicking away without noting much of anything, but sometimes I find interesting tidbits. The other day two book titles, both for young audiences, caught my attention. The first was
Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement, a picture book by Angela Joy and Janelle Washington. Who knew that Till-Mobley became an activist after her son’s death, and it was her advocacy for justice that roused national indignation over the brutal murder of a fourteen-year-old boy. She once told a reporter that young Emmett had a speech difficulty, and she taught him to whistle while he collected himself. It was that whistle that got him killed.

Attack of the Black Rectangles, by A. S. King, is the other title that intrigued me. Sixth-grader Mac opens his copy of Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic only to find words inked out in black rectangles. When he protests, his father cautions him not to get involved, but his mother and grandfather have taught him to call out things that are wrong. Mac gathers some friends, and they go to the principal, but she doesn’t take them seriously either. No spoilers here, but this is a book that’s seems so timely in this day of redacted government documents and a call for governmental transparency. Plus I love the title.

Last night was quiche night in the cottage. I made a Quiche Lorraine, but with little room and no enthusiasm for making my own pie dough, I asked Jordan to buy a pre-made pie shell—and learned a big lesson. The recipe I was following came from Taste of Home, a source I usually find reliable. I gradually realized that the pre-made pie shell and the pie dish Jordan brought me from her kitchen (once my pie dish) were totally different sizes. The shell I had was much smaller. So I piled crumbled bacon in—actually I find it easiest to dice raw, slightly frozen bacon rather than cook it whole and crumble it. Then I added strips of Swiss cheese. I had thought I was getting a block but when it came it was slices, so I sliced the slices.

When I poured in the egg/milk mixture, the inevitable happened. I was careful not to let the liquid go over the rim, but when I lifted the pie shell to place it on a pan (so it wouldn’t run all over my toaster oven), it ran all over the butcher block I use as a work surface. The cottage has just a slight downward tilt toward the north, and the liquid headed north, under the wooden bowl that holds fruit and is so heavy I had to have Jordan hold it up while I wiped the bottom and the space where it had sat. And it dribbled onto my clean pants. And Sophie got a lick of two. What a mess.

But the quiche was a success—browned, beautiful, and delicious.

I relish leftovers. My neighbor, who grew up in a family of seven and said he ate enough leftovers to last a lifetime, won’t touch them. But I was ecstatic to have chicken casserole for lunch yesterday and quiche today. Guess what? Neither was as good as when fresh, particularly the quiche. I think that’s another argument for ether learning to make my own pie dough or hiring neighbor Mary to make it for me. Mary teaches online pie-making classes, so she’s an expert. I’m not.

But here’s a quick cooking hack that worked out well. I’m on my own for supper tonight, so I made tuna salad. I’d read a recipe that I didn’t like as well as the way I always do it, but it had two great ideas for tuna salad sandwiches. The first was to drizzle a bit of olive oil over it. I wasn’t sure that made a difference, but the tuna was really good. The other trick was to put potato chips on top of the tuna before you add the second slice of bread. And that was great. Adds a terrific crunchiness to the sandwich. Try it, you’ll like it.

Be sure to check my Gourmet on a Hot Plate blog tomorrow. I think I’ll talk about the sudden popularity of an old tradition—the charcuterie board.




Monday, September 12, 2022

The joy of being compulsive


My first cookbook.
Now I'm part of a larger project.

I’m writing the foreword to a recipe collection from Story Circle Network. It’s going to be a neat book—each recipe is accompanied by a backstory from the writer who submitted it, and most of the stories are fascinating. Plus many recipes seemed to call my name. The collection will be called Kitchen Table Stories II and will be available in November.

I had roughed out a foreword and was waiting for the text of the stories and recipes. Yesterday I received an email with all that, and last night I read through it with a a great deal of enjoyment. But the manuscript came with a request to have the finished essay in by the end of the week. Nothing I like better than a deadline-not. I made notes as I read and by the time I went to bed (midnight) I pretty much knew what I wanted to say.

Here's the compulsive part: I was awake from four to six-thirty in the morning, writing and rewriting that essay in my head. I’d try to focus on something else, but my mind would go right back to kuchen and pierogi and wartime rarebit, radish sandwiches and Hungarian baked cauliflower. Finally just before six-thirty, Sophie woke up. Letting her out and feeding her broke the cycle, and I went back to bed and slept soundly for another two hours.

Those early morning hours are my witching hours. That’s when my brain gets stuck in a cycle, and I rethink and rethink the same problem or idea. Sort of good for writing—I was able to write the foreword easily this morning—but not good for peace of mind or sleep. Someone sent me a link to the National Geographic special on 9/11, and I want to watch it tonight, but does that mean I’ll re-live that day over and over in the early hours of tomorrow?

Mary V. came for supper tonight, and we had a good catch-up visit, talking about everything from food and restaurants to the Queen’s death and politics from national to state. Mary being a political scientist, she always gives me new information and new insight. I’m able to update her on restaurant news, but I don’t think she’s much on cooking, so I don’t offer to share recipes. She’s getting ready to go on a National Geographic trip to the Galapagos, and her travel consultant—that would be Jordan—just happened to be here, so that was fortuitous. Mary had some kind of problem (I tuned out) that Jordan promised to take care of it tomorrow.

I fixed a chicken casserole. It’s always nice when company likes your cooking, so I hope Mary won’t mind if I say that she had three helpings. She really liked it, and so did I though I contented myself with two servings. Served with small green salads as a side on the plate. Mary doesn’t do sweets and always turns down desserts, but I surprised her with fortune cookies tonight. Her fortune was better than mine, which was something to the effect that adversity is good for you. I guess that helps now because I feel I have plenty of adversity. Good to know that it’s working to some good end.

The saturation of all things royal continues on TV, and I have gotten so I only keep one eye on the set. I was glad though to see Harry and William walk out at Balmoral with their wives—not reconciliation but maybe a first step. I am still upset by criticism of the Queen. One woman wrote that the Queen had lived off the spoils of colonialism, even if she hadn’t fostered it. Since Elizabeth was the only royal ever to volunteer for military service, I thought that specious—she repaired military vehicles during WWII. And running the monarchy is not exactly eating bon bons and reading Silver Screen all day, but I shall give up that argument. Most people are genuinely mourning Her Majesty and praising all things good about her. To the critics, I repeat: separate the Queen from the 400-year-history of the Monarchy and see her as an individual.

King Charles is off to a good start, according to an article I read today. He has already been much more public—and touchable (literally)—than his “beloved Mama.” He is expected to travel between now and the state funeral—I didn’t quite understand if he will visit former colonies or what, but I have read several times that several colonies, tied to the empire by loyalty to the Queen, are now considering status as republics. I wonder if that isn’t part of what Charles had in mind when he talked of a slimmed down monarchy. We certainly live in interesting times.

And if I’m going to mention interesting times, I cannot omit the Ukrainian victories on the battlefield. It’s like David and Goliath, except that the Ukrainians have paid an awful price in human lives and destruction of the infrastructure for these victories . God love their spirit and determination.

My ideal outcome: Donald J. Trump in prison for life for treason (okay, no firing squads anymore) and Vladmir Putin tried in the Hague for crimes against humanity.

Not problems we have to solve tonight. Sweet dreams, everyone.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Mixed-up Sunday dinner and thoughts on the Queen


A beautiful piece of salmon,
but huge for two people.

Usually Sunday dinner is family dinner around here. Other nights, different people have different activities, and Jordan and I try to plan menus around who will be here which night. For instance, I’m having a dinner guest tomorrow, so they are on their own. Tuesday, Jordan has business meetings until seven, and I have happy hour guests until six, but I’ll whip up a quiche and have it ready for a late supper (I hope). But Sundays all four of us are here, and we cook something special. Often Christian grills or cooks us an Asian dish

Roast salmon dinner
Tonight, though, we got it all mixed up. Christian and Jacob had to go to Coppell to help Poppy move a refrigerator, and I thought it a waste to cook that huge piece of salmon for Jordan and me. I tried to tell Jordan that last night and she simply said, “Cook the salmon.” Today, about noon, she said, “Christian won’t be here for dinner after all.” Duh. Somehow, we miscommunicated. Upshot, Jordan and I had a lovely dinner—slow-roasted salmon with pickled onions and marinated cucumbers with sour cream and dill for a salad.

Dinner over and done with and dishes done, I’m still chewing on the people who find themselves unable to mourn the Queen because of British colonialism. I read an article that helped me organize my thoughts, and the similarities in history occurred to me. Slavery is a huge blot on American history, despite book banning and revisionists who would have us believe slaves were happy and masters were benevolent. Now many states are forbidding teachers, librarians, etc. to talk about it lest it make poor white kids feel guilty.

Somewhat the same is true of British colonialism: it is a blot on the country’s history, and like slavery, colonialism (which involved a lot of slavery) was the product of greed and capitalism. British colonialism began at least 400 years ago; Elizabeth II took the throne in 1953. She could do nothing to change the history, but she did preside over the dissolution of much of the empire. Two facts stand out: a commentator said she is guilty for the centuries of atrocities by her family, which fails to take into account her family did not inherit the throne until 1901 when colonialism was well established and perhaps already fading. And she never declared war on any country—the last monarch to do so was her father who declared war on Nazi Germany. Furthermore, Elizabeth was a figurehead—granted a powerful one, whose opinions mattered, but she was incapable of ordering the conflicts and atrocities that survived into the twentieth century. Her mission seemed to be to ensure peace in her empire

I can understand the bitterness of descendants of people who suffered immeasurably under colonialism, but attributing it to Elizabeth, instead of to history, is misplaced anger. Some countries that kept their ties to England because of the Queen are now talking about republic status—that’s a good thing and perhaps right in line with the slimmed-down monarchy that Charles talks about.

Interesting though that some countries stayed close to Britain because of the Queen. I read an article that suggested had she, as heir to the throne, been a male, her reign would have been totally different. As Queen, Elizabeth never tried to be equal with the old white men who surrounded her. She was a thoroughly feminine woman with a lot of charm and grace, and she used those qualities daily. She was iron-willed enough, with great knowledge of public and international affairs and a quick wit, but it in no way diminishes her to say that she was quite feminine. There’s perhaps a lesson there for the belligerently angry feminists we sometimes see today. As it was, she inspired loyalty.

So I’m back where I started: Criticize America’s history of slavery and Britain’s colonialism, but don’t lay it all at the feet of the late Queen. Celebrate her for what she was—a wonderful woman and diplomat, the inspiration for hundreds of thousands. A unifying figure, not only in Britain but throughout much of the world.

Charles has big shoes to fill, but it appears he will take the monarchy in a different direction in whatever time is given to him. God Save the King!