Friday, October 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Rule of Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

International this and that

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Some thoughts on sexual harassment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

 A hick goes downtown

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Feeling a bit sad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Earthquakes, sewer lines, and oh, my!

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

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

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

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

A puzzling day to say the least.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

An unexpected day

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 09, 2017

Some chicken excitement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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