Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Overcoming Inertia

 
Once I told a colleague that I usually got food for the cat while swishing mouthwash around in my mouth because who wants to just stand there for sixty seconds. She howled with laughter. “You of all people would not want to waste sixty seconds.” And that’s been the pattern of my life—maybe a little shy of OCD but not much. I’ve always kept busy.

Lately I’ve been troubled by a lack of energy, an unwillingness to do simple chores around the house, though I’m perfectly content to follow odd leads, read long e-mails, etc. at my computer. Is it the much-dreaded computer addiction? Is inertia a sign of aging? What happened to my ambition? It’s been worse, of course, since my swollen foot. I’ve written enough about that to last a lifetime, but I will say it’s better today—not perfect, but I’m wearing shoes and making a conscious effort to walk normally.

This morning I decided my project would be to dig in to the reader’s “points to ponder” in “Murder at Peacock Mansion”—they were all valid points that added depth to the manuscript, like a reference to Miss Havisham or the subtle difference between using “handgun” and “pistol.” Ten minutes later I’d taken care of all of them, so I decided I would read through the manuscript one more time before sending it to the editor.

About noon, while I ate lunch, I took a break and turned to the novel I’m currently reading. Didn’t take me long to decide my own manuscript was more interesting—is that ego or what?—and go back to editing. It’s amazing what you find even though you’ve read the darn thing countless times. Today I found a woman had two children on one page, one a bit later, and then four. Now she only has one—a spoiled diva of a young woman. I found on my own places where I could add a little depth of character, a little more sense of place—and I was having fun doing it.

Tonight I’m through—my mysteries are fairly short—and pleased with the result. One place I need to go back and tweet and then it goes to the editor. So maybe I’m past inertia. I also did two loads of laundry, tried on a new shirt I’d ordered and decided to keep it (it lay on the bedroom chair for several days), and managed to keep up with the kitchen—not hard when I’m home alone all day and a friend brings supper. But I’m going to keep working on this inertia thing—there are always little things to be done: the dishwasher should be run—it smells musty which may signal the end of my not using the hot-dry cycle; there’s a blue canvas bag on the dining room floor that belongs to a friend but needs to be safely stored for her; a few clean clothes to hang in my closet. Little stuff like that I once would never have overlooked and now I do. I have decided to tackle a bit of it each day.

Sweet dreams, friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming inertia

 Once I told a colleague that I usually got food for the cat while swishing mouthwash around in my mouth because who wants to just stand there for sixty seconds. She howled with laughter. “You of all people would not want to waste sixty seconds.” And that’s been the pattern of my life—maybe a little shy of OCD but not much. I’ve always kept busy.
Lately I’ve been troubled by a lack of energy, an unwillingness to do simple chores around the house, though I’m perfectly content to follow odd leads, read long e-mails, etc. at my computer. Is it the much-dreaded computer addiction? Is inertia a sign of aging? What happened to my ambition? It’s been worse, of course, since my swollen foot. I’ve written enough about that to last a lifetime, but I will say it’s better today—not perfect, but I’m wearing shoes and making a conscious effort to walk normally.
This morning I decided my project would be to dig in to the reader’s “points to ponder” in “Murder at Peacock Mansion”—they were all valid points that added depth to the manuscript, like a reference to Miss Havisham or the subtle difference between using “handgun” and “pistol.” Ten minutes later I’d taken care of all of them, so I decided I would read through the manuscript one more time before sending it to the editor.
About noon, while I ate lunch, I took a break and turned to the novel I’m currently reading. Didn’t take me long to decide my own manuscript was more interesting—is that ego or what?—and go back to editing. It’s amazing what you find even though you’ve read the darn thing countless times. Today I found a woman had two children on one page, one a bit later, and then four. Now she only has one—a spoiled diva of a young woman. I found on my own places where I could add a little depth of character, a little more sense of place—and I was having fun doing it.
Tonight I’m through—my mysteries are fairly short—and pleased with the result. One place I need to go back and tweak and then it goes to the editor. So maybe I’m past inertia. I also did two loads of laundry, tried on a new shirt I’d ordered and decided to keep it (it lay on the bedroom chair for several days), and managed to keep up with the kitchen—not hard when I’m home alone all day and a friend brings supper. But I’m going to keep working on this inertia thing—there are always little things to be done: the dishwasher should be run—it smells musty which may signal the end of my not using the hot-dry cycle; there’s a blue canvas bag on the dining room floor that belongs to a friend but needs to be safely stored for her; a few clean clothes to hang in my closet. Little stuff like that I once would never have overlooked and now I do. I have decided to tackle a bit of it each day.
Sweet dreams, friends.

 

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Happy Days are here again


This morning I had my first fit of temper since my foot swelled. I was tired of lurching around the house from furniture to furniture, making sure there was a cane handy, not being able to do anything or go anywhere. On the other hand, I was afraid of pushing my luck. So I had a pity party. After much trepidation, I took a French bath—worked better than I thought. Then an early lunch, a quick nap, and a good friend drove me to the doctor—something else I probably could have done but was afraid to.

Now I’m a new person. The doctor said it was probably venous insufficiency (which translates to old age in my mind)—a varicose vein probably burst. Apparently this would account for the pain that preceded the swelling and the swelling itself. It should, he said, resolve shortly. Best of all he advised removing the compression bandage because all it did was push the swelling into my toes. And he eliminated the ankle brace—“there’s nothing wrong with your ankle.” Such a relief. He did take lots of blood to rule out other things,

Left his office and salvaged a bit of my afternoon nap and then ran around the house like the energizer bunny, clearing off surfaces that were cluttered and bothering me, picking up this, that, and the other and putting them where they belonged, Even set out plates, napkins and flatware for friends who brought Tuesday night dinner to me.

Tonight, I admit I may have done too much—just a tad. But Jordan and Christian came in, and she was delighted to see me in shoes and walking well. It’s a whole new me, with a whole new attitude. I’m going to lay low for a couple of days before attempting much, but I’m a happy camper tonight.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The birthday fun continues

 
Sophie just had to get in the picture
with me, Carol on the left, and Kathie on the right
So far I haven’t had much time to feel sorry for myself with my foot elevated. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve had enough time to elevate it. But I continue to be spoiled by friends and family. Today Jean came for lunch, and we enjoyed leftover layered salad. Tonight Carol and I were supposed to go to Kathie’s in Arlington for a celebration of our shared birthdays. When I said I really didn’t think I could do that, Kathie packed up a delicious summer supper and brought it to my house. A main dish of layers of rice, black beans, cheese and vegetables, with salad dressing. So delicious. And a fruit tart for dessert. If nothing else my inactivity plus all these kind gestures of food are going to make me fat(ter).

I tried to keep my foot elevated as much as I could. Slept with a pillow under it. Got up about seven to let Sophie out and went back to bed for another hour. I figure this week all I really must do is blog and keep up with email. So about mid-morning I went to the sunroom, sat on the couch with my foot on a large stuffed white tiger, intending to read all the material they sent home with me from the ER. Instead I fell asleep. After lunch and a few more emails, I slept again—wakened only when Subie brought me leftovers from their refrigerator (they’re cleaning out for a remodeling). Then it was Jay, who watered my porch plants and put my new inspection sticker on the car; Jordan, who emptied the dishwasher, put a few new dishes in, and straightened the kitchen; then a friend of Jordan’s who was sweet enough to bring me a tiny Bundt cake. As usual, my house overflowed with happiness at happy hour. And for a while I lay on the couch with three pillows under my foot—Jay insisted it has to be higher than my heart. I couldn’t really take part in conversation from that position, so I finally settled for sitting with the foot on the coffee table again. And then my dinner guests were here. Jay left, outnumbered by women five to one. And Jordan and Chandry left soon after.

Carol, Kathie and I had our usual good time—old friends used to being together, knowing the ups and downs of each others’ lives. We chatted, caught up, Kathie and I told grandchildren stories, and we just had a good time.
Tomorrow I go to the doctor to hear what he says about my foot. It was much less swollen this morning but as I did what little I had to do on my feet, it began to swell more. I have iced it twice and hope for a miracle in the morning.

A quick Jacob story: Jordan was talking to him from the ER, reassuring him I was okay. She handed me the phone.
Jacob: Hi, Juju. Do you have it?
Me: It what?
Jacob: You know, the sickness. My dad told me all about it this morning.
All I can figure is that Christian told him about blood clots, so I assured him I didn’t have one and would be okay. But I loved “the sickness”—sounded like TB or plague or some awful medieval disease.

Sleep well, my friends, and keep your feet elevated.

 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sometimes life throw you a curve


July 26, 2015
My guardian angel
Sometimes life throws you a curve, and it did me this morning. I woke up with my left foot twice the size of my right. I’d been having trouble with the foot for five nights—weird, acute but brief pain during the night. Yesterday via phone my brother confirmed my diagnosis of neuropathy. This morning, when I reported the swelling, he said “There goes the neuropathy diagnosis. Go to ER to be sure you don’t have a clot.” I called Jordan, and she was here in record time. We spent the next three hours in the ER, where by x-ray and ultrasound they ruled out a clot—the good news. Best diagnosis: an arthritic flare-up with possible gout. I’m off my feet for at least three or four days, except for what little moving about I must do.

Not my best picture--no makeup
sloppy clothes hastily grabbed
and an attitude
Here’s a paean to Jordan. She has been my absolute guardian angel all day (not that she doesn’t take good care of me every day). In the ER, she handed me everything from banana to green tea to my phone and the newspaper. She asked the questions I forgot to ask, and she kept her uncle and big brother up to date. The other two siblings were traveling, and she decided not to worry them.

Once we got home she went to the drugstore for a prescription and a compression sock, fixed lunch—Christian and Jacob had joined the party by then—and she and Christian made the salad I was supposed to make for supper tonight.

Because here’s the kicker—we had fifteen people to celebrate my birthday and that of Susan Halbower, my neighbor and close friend. A salad buffet—everyone brought a salad, and Jordan made a wonderful antipasto. Good meal for a summer evening. Jordan cleaned the kitchen and started my new dishwasher on its maiden run. My house is in almost perfect shape, my plants watered (thank to Jacob), my dog fed and happy.

It was a lovely evening, and I sat on the couch, with my ugly foot on a cushion on the coffee table, the entire time while people brought me food and drink. I know in 24 hours I’ll be itching to be on the go, but tonight I felt like a queen and was quite content. And now am very tired.

 

 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Who, me? Waste time on Facebook? You bet!

Since my writing projects are on hold, I decided to tackle Pinterest tonight. When I first discovered it. I spent too many hours scrolling through. I created duplicate boards. I mean, really, what’s the difference between Judy’s Bookshelf and My Bookshelf? Both became a mixture of my own books, other books I liked, and clever quotes about the world of books. But mostly I found recipes—oh, I pinned and copied like a mad fool. And then one day I decided this wasn’t at all an avenue for marketing my books, and I dropped it.

But I read about authors who created boards for each book, using Pinterest almost as a way of keeping notes. I envied their ambition and went on my way. There’s only so much one can do with social media, I told myself, a sentiment echoed by other authors on various lists.

Facebook? When others scorn it and rant because they keep changing the rules, I am an unabashed fan. Sure I use it to tell people when I have a new book, but it is so much more—I post my blogs on it, I comment on other people’s posts, I make observations of my own, sometimes political. My morning ritual consists of reading emails, followed by the newspaper on the days I take it, and then by Facebook. I can easily spend an hour on Facebook and then wonder where the morning went. But Facebook is often the place I learn about breaking news; it’s where I read a lot about politics and politicians—although some of my family will howl, I’m pretty judicious about what columnists, etc. I follow. And friends—I’ve made so many new friends, kept in better touch with acquaintances, reignited old friendships. If I’m going to spend time on social media, Facebook is it.

Twitter not so much, although once in a fit of creativity, I fixed it so my Facebook posts go to Twitter—I have a son-in-law who does it the opposite, so that his FB posts are usually incomprehensible to me. But other than occasionally retweeting, I don’t do it. Linked In is, to me, for people who want to advance their careers in the professional world, and I don’t know about Google+ though I always follow back. Same with Goodreads. Instagram? What’s that?

Now I read that Pinterest is second only to Facebook in terms of traffic generation and way ahead of Twitter or Google+. So that’s why my concentration on Pinterest tonight. I did post a couple of new book covers but the main thing I got was a recipe for smoked salmon dip with bacon and jalapeno. I posted it to Potluck with Judy.

I don’t think I’ll ever master social media, but who really does?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Time on My Hands

I read today somewhere that readers aren’t interested in blogs about writing—those only appeal to other writers, and few of them at that. But I thought you should know that much of the writing life consists of waiting. At least, that’s where I am now. I’ve sent off the proposal for the Chicago novel and this week, nudged the publisher by following up with a marvelous endorsement from a major Chicago author. Waiting to hear.

At the first of the week—or was it the last of the previous week?—I gave the mystery manuscript, “Murder at the Peacock Mansion,” to a reader. He promised to return before the end of the month, so I’m waiting. After all, that’s not so long.

The editor of the chili book wrote yesterday with three questions, which she swore were the last. So until it’s time to promote, there’s little for me to do. And Texas Tech seems to be such an efficient press, that I’m sure they’ll guide me through promotion. And so I wait.

This week, there was suddenly some renewed interested in a children’s history of Fort Worth, a project I’ve been trying to push one way or another for thirty years and in the last ten years Carol Roark and I have collaborated on—she will do image research to accompany my text, which is drafted. So I sent the manuscript off to the interested publisher…and we wait.

Most people who are as OCD as I am would promptly get busy on another project and, indeed, I have one awaiting my attention. I have 30,000 words drafted on the second Oak Grove Mystery (following Susan Hogan in The Perfect Coed). It’s timely in our era of gun violence because it deals with open carry. But I’m reluctant to get into the middle of that when other things might call me away.

I’m well aware that a month from today school starts, and I will give up long, lazy lunches with friends followed by long lazy naps. I should enjoy this time while I have it, and to a great extent I am. For one thing I’m reading mysteries that I have let backpile—Julie Hyzy’s Grace Calls Uncle, which I reviewed on this blog recently. Now I’m reading Terrie Moran’s Caught Read-Handed, the excellent sequel to her Well Read, Then Dead. But reading is always a luxury to me…and I suffer from the itchy feeling I should be doing something more productive.

I suspect this uncomfortable waiting periods come to most writers, though many probably handle them better than I do. Meantime, I know this too shall pass. And I have a bit of cooking to do.

 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Judy's Stew--Writing, Grandmothering, and a Dash of Texas


As I begin this year of dedicated blogging, I thought it appropriate to reprint the first post I ever wrote. A lot has changed: I've been retired since July 2010; I have seven grandchildren; I have published nine mysteries, with plans for many more.  My world keeps moving on. But this is where I was nine years ago...and how Judy's Stew came about.
July 1, 2006
When Melanie, long known as my fifth child though she’s married to my third child, suggested I needed a blog, I scoffed. I knew little about blogs and, as I told her, had nothing to contribute. “Jude,” she exploded, “you have lots to write about.” So I began to explore, the idea intriguing me more and more. There are things I want to talk about, things on which I’d like feedback, things I wish I could talk over with someone who shares the same outlook and frustrations as a writer. And then she came with that wonderful title that reflects all the things that fill my life--writing, my grandchildren, cooking, and Texas history. So this is for Melanie . . . and for me.
I am just shy of sixty-eight, the grandmother of five and a half children, the mother of four. Those are my most important roles, but I’m also the author of about sixty published books, though I always demur and add the qualifier that the majority were slim books written for third- or fourth-graders on assignment. Still they took research and work. And I've written fiction for adults and young adults, articles, essays, book reviews. Right now I do a monthly column on Texas Writers for the Dallas Morning New. In 2005, Western Writers of America honored me with their Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement, so the writing life has been good for me.

But writing doesn't support nor did it provide for raising four children as a single parent. For almost twenty years I've been the director of TCU (Texas Christian University) Press, a small academic press in Fort Worth, Texas--it's work that I love and so far, I refuse to really retire, though I've cut back. I also like to entertain and cook for guests (usually an experiment), and I'm a homeowner with a garden, a cat, and a dog, a churchgoer and a volunteer, and fortunate enough to have many many good friends.
So what are my concerns? How to be a good grandparent, how to be a good in-law, what to do about my writing career (which I'm always sure has stalled), what to do about global warming, how to improve the United States’ image abroad—a wide variety of things. And I love trading cooking tips and recipes. Sometimes I may show you pictures of my grandchildren (when I figure that out) and sometimes I may try out a prospective writing project. Who knows? Sometimes I may rant, but this is not an in-your-face blog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Year's Worth of Judy's Stew

Today I am seventy-seven years old or, as my father would have said, entering my seventy-eighth year. I am blessed with good health, a wonderful and close family, a comfortable life and home, complete with a faithful dog. I still have a career—writing—and an avocation—cooking. Still, I feel about thirty-five, and it amazes me to think of my age. And, yes, scares me a bit too.

I’ve been blogging almost daily for nine years, and I have a fairly good following. From time to time, someone suggests a book of my blogs—a publisher gave me free rein on organization (writing, my life, cooking, etc.) and my brother wants me to pull out family-related blogs. Both would be great projects, but I didn’t keep Word files—just wrote on the blog—and it’s a mess to retrieve.

So I decided to keep Word files of my posts for a year, and my birthday seems a good place to start. I don’t want to creep into my new year; I want to stride confidently. Maybe with that thought in mind, I’ll come up with enough meaningful posts.

Yes, there’ll be some blatant self-promotion, some cooking, some posts about family. Jacob starts fourth grade this year, and I’m hoping it will go more smoothly than third, which has had its rough spots. There may be some book reviews, if I read books that not everyone else has read. I may even recycle some posts I’ve written about my own work for other blogs. I won’t avoid politics. If you read my blog at all regularly, you know that I’m a liberal or progressive. This should be an interesting year, with a crowd of candidates on the Republican side and some interesting debates shaping up on the Democratic. If I feel moved to comment, I won’t mince words. Sometimes I’ll simply post my observations on life around me. If it’s a truly dull day, and all I could post was “I did this, and then I did that,” I’ll simply skip—but I hope there won’t be many of those.

I’ll try to include pictures as often as I can. Need to get in the habit of taking a photo of most meals.

Anyway there it is. At the end of a year, I’ll publish, probably though Create Space. If nobody wants a book, so be it. Maybe my children will each buy one.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Yoga again

This is so not me!
I probably haven't done yoga for four months. Physical therapy threw me off track--it was a shock to my self confidence to think that I needed it, and much as I appreciated the program, it threw me to realize I was in a balance program for the elderly--hate that term, though with a birthday fast upon me, it applies. I cannot say enough about what the program did for me--main thing is now I walk, not shuffle. I didn't realize I was shuffling, but several people have pointed out that improvement in my walking. And I am bolder about where I walk. I assume my self-confidence will gradually return.
But meantime therapy so occupied me that I put yoga out of my mind.
I don't know if the two are related or not, but my brother noticed that I have gained weight--and he was right. His words, "Don't talk to me about carbohydrates and diets. It's all a matter of intake and output. You need to move more." The physical therapy exercises weren't doing that.
So yesterday I did my yoga routine for the first time in forever or so it seems. I was pleased at what I could still do--and dismayed by what I couldn't do. Plus I forgot some of the major poses as I went through the routine--omitted Warrior, which would stretch the leg muscle that's been giving me grief.
Jordan is already discouraged that I didn't do it again today, but the day went by--a doctor's appt, followed by a desk full of small chores, birthday lunch with a good friend which included wine and sent me straight to a long and lovely nap. Dinner with neighbors at the Grill and now getting Jacob to bed--he has showered and memorized his Bible verse for tomorrow, so I feel pretty efficient.
My immediate goal: yoga three times a week. More if it works, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it. And I am eating less--couldn't finish a good chicken salad at lunch and brought home a piece of meatloaf tonight for lunch tomorrow. I know we older folks don't need as much food and do need movement. Working on it, but not going to let it dominate my life.
What I really think I need to work on is the meditative, calming aspect of yoga--training my mind to go blank and recharge. It is always to busy, jumping ahead to the next thing I need to do. I'm working on it.
 To repeat my new motto: I am who I am.