#Bloganuary Day 2

What is a road trip you would like to take?

I want to sit on a bale of hay in the bed of a 1950 Chevy pickup–

Scratch that–

I want to stand on the running board of an old Chevy pickup, which I never got to do because I was just a little kid and only the teenagers were trusted to hang on–

And ride so deep into a mesquite-filled, prickly-pear-dotted Texas York Creek pasture that only the Whiteface Herefords can find their way out.

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Image courtesy of morguefile.com

#Bloganuary Day 1

Advice to My Teenage Self

Take voice lessons. Don’t stop. Figure out how to pay for them.

Ride a horse as often as you can. When you can’t a horse, ride a bicycle. Swim.

Write down the stories you hear from old people. That includes your parents, even if they’re not old. Better yet, as soon as you can, get a recorder and tape them. You think you’ll never forget, but you will.

Ask questions. Don’t assume you know everything. Fill in the gaps.

Keep a diary. Tell the truth. Hide the diary.

You can write fiction without knowing the end of the story before you start writing. Just start writing.

Refuse to weigh in P.E. The scale says you weigh ten pounds more than the rest of the girls, but you’re the same size they are. You’re not fat. In thirty years you’ll look at old photographs and see that you looked like a shapely pencil. You and your mother will end up in the superintendent’s office and you’ll end up weighing in P.E. anyway, but you’ll have been right.

Dieting doesn’t make things better. It makes you gain weight.

You’re not messy, sloppy, disorganized, or any of their synonyms. You’re ADHD who hyperfocuses on scholarship but can’t find her shoes or anything else except her books and homework, and you don’t see the mess until it’s pointed out to you. You “lack executive function.” Unfortunately, ADHD won’t exist until later, so you can’t explain, and nobody knows.

People like you. Don’t withdraw because you decide they don’t.

Things change. You will change. Life gets both better and worse. You can’t control everything. Don’t try.

Perfection is overrated.

Tell people you love them. Show it.

Be happy.

Don’t waste time watching Bonanza. It’s a dumb show.

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I started Bloganuary just in time to get my January 1 post up. Since I made no formal resolutions–why bother?–this will serve. I hope to make all thirty-one days. But if I don’t–perfection is overrated.

 

 

 

“The Year Is Going, Let Him Go”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson published this poem, taken from his elegy In Memoriam A. A. H., in 1850. He could have written it for the end of 2021.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

–Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 

Below are two videos, the first a reading by Malcom Guite, who offers much more than just a reading. It was recorded on December 31, 2020, when England was under lockdown because of COVID and people couldn’t gather to hear the church bells ring.

Malcom Guite is “an English poet, singer-songwriter, Anglican priest, and academic. Born in Nigeria to British expatriate parents, Guite earned degrees from Cambridge and Durham universities. His research interests include the intersection of religion and the arts, and the examination of the works of J. R. R. TolkienC. S. LewisOwen Barfield, and British poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He was a Bye-Fellow and chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge and associate chaplain of St Edward King and Martyr in Cambridge. On several occasions, he has taught as visiting faculty at several colleges and universities in England and North America.

“Guite is the author of five books of poetry, including two chapbooks and three full-length collections, as well as several books on Christian faith and theology. Guite has a decisively simple, formalist style in poems, many of which are sonnets, and he stated that his aim is to “be profound without ceasing to be beautiful”. Guite performs as a singer and guitarist fronting the Cambridgeshire-based blues, rhythm and blues, and rock band “Mystery Train.’ — Wikipedia

Read more about him on his website and blog.

The second is a vocal recording by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

[Regarding Youtube: I’ve learned that if you click on a link and get an advertisement, go back a page and click on the desired link again. You may have to do it two or three times.]

 

 

Image by Henk Prenger from Pixabay

Letter from the North Pole

A little late, but I’m posting a precious memory for the second time.

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Lacking a fireplace, I mailed my letters to Santa Claus at the post office in downtown Fentress. My list of preferred gifts was always extensive. I knew I wouldn’t get everything I wanted, but there was no harm in asking.

One year Santa wrote back. As proof, I’m posting not only the letter he wrote, but the envelope as well. Judging from the postmark and the reference to Sputnik, I’d just turned six.

It takes a lot of stamps to get a letter from the North Pole to Texas.

It also helps when your Uncle Joe is the postmaster.

 

 

Santa, Dihydrogen Monoxide, and Showering at Annie and Dan’s

Merry Christmas, and a Happy Holiday Season to all.

First, let’s get the temperature out of the way. It’s 77 (F) degrees in Austin, Texas.

Big fat hairy deal.

I’ve been through Christmases so hot we had to run the air conditioner and Christmases so cold that water froze, in Houston, at the main, and we had to wait half a day for it to thaw. In Fentress, which we’d abandoned for the holiday, water froze in the toilet, necessitating the replacement of the whole thing and several days of showers at Annie and Dan’s, down the street. Plumbers were busy replacing a lot of toilets.

Today I’d planned to wear my red sweater with the cowl neck and three-quarter sleeves, not overly warm, but chose instead a long-sleeved silk blouse and khaki slacks. Later I switched to khaki shorts to do my knee exercises. I’m sitting here with a throw over my lap but may soon ditch it. I may also ditch the blouse for a tee-shirt. At some point, I might put on shoes and socks, but I might not.

As to the cats, William went slightly nuts over his new catnip fish, then lay beside it, then fell asleep on it. At the first sound of wrapping paper tearing, Ernest ran under the bed. That’s a change. We have pictures of him wandering through Christmas paper, but he’s taking a new direction.

I received some lovely gifts–David is a good gift-picker–among them an ultra-soft throw decorated and round like a tortilla. I’m not using the tortilla today because I refuse to spill something on it the first day it’s in the house.

I also got a tote bag based on old Simplicity patterns, some of which I remember. My mother said Simplicity instructions were easier to follow than McCalls’. I made a couple of Simplicity skirts myself, but none with pleats or gathers. I did, however make plaids match, one of the major accomplishments of my life. Note: I was not born with it, but it’s a nice sentiment.

And there’s a carrying case for my laptop with a quotation from Wordsworth.

 

And I received a thermos bottle for Dihydrogen Monoxide with many WARNINGS on the side, such as, “Take any precautions to avoid
mixing with combustibles. Potassium and other alkali metals can be fatal if ingested in large quantities.” The last warning reads, “If SWALLOWED: Swallow. DO NOT  induce vomiting.”

It took me only forty-five minutes to get it.

I was too busy remembering the day I’d been asked to keep an eye on the chemistry students from my biology classroom next door. On one eying mission I found two girls in the storage room pouring little bits of potassium into little pools of water and watching the potassium buzz across the counter top. I went bananas. As far as I was concerned, mixing potassium and water was an effective way to blow up the building, no matter how little was used. I got so wound up about the potassium that it didn’t occur to me the rest of the students might be in the lab pouring water into acid.

My gifts to David weren’t nearly so imaginative. One required reading instructions. A dirty trick. But on the theory that we have reached a certain age, and that the cats have reached a certain weight, and that we might need to evacuate the apartment quickly–I’m the type who sleeps in her clothes during tornado watches–I gave him two rolling cat carriers. They arrived in pieces. The manufacturer says if you leave them open, the cats will use them as beds and so will be happy to be stuffed inside and wheeled down the sidewalk. Yeah, right.

I also gave him an old print, restored, of a total solar eclipse. It commemorates our trip to Blue Springs, Missouri, to see the latest eclipse. On the edge of the path, it was supposed be at least a partial eclipse, but was more of a brief dimming. Nonetheless, I got to see my family, which was really the point.

The print required work: finding a stud to hang it. In all my years, I’ve never known anyone to care about studs–and my family hung a lot of heavy paintings–but better safe than sorry. The Sheetrock doesn’t belong to us.

In April 2024, there’ll be a total solar eclipse over Waco, Texas, and I am going to that. No matter how many of my knees are working, I’m going.

A young neighbor obviously received a dirt bike from Santa. David said there’s a trail through the wooded area behind our complex. The trail must begin on the sidewalk that runs by our patio. I didn’t know dirt bikes have motors, but I was thinking about mountain bikes. Seems to me a mountain bike would need a motor more than would a dirt bike.

Since I have no children, I can make a pronouncement: Santa would not bring a child of mine any means of transport until said child was at least twenty-three. Santa would bring things they would have to pedal and build muscle and cardiovascular health. I wouldn’t mind his bringing a reindeer, if we had a place to house it. Just getting into a saddle builds muscle all over the place.

We’re now waiting for David to start cooking steaks. When I cooked steak in the old apartment, the fire alarm always went off. So David became the steak cooker. In this apartment, even he makes the fire alarm go off, and he cooks them rare. Extremely rare. If it were human, the alarm would sleep in its clothes, too.

There’s a shrieking in the air, so I shall stop writing. I think I asked for Brussels sprouts, too, but I hope David forgets them.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

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The Road to Bethlehem

THE ROAD TO BETHLEHEM

If as Herod, we fill our lives with things and again things;
If we consider ourselves so important that we must fill
Every moment of our lives with action;
When will we have the time to make the long slow journey
Across the burning desert as did the Magi;
Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds;
Or to brood over the coming of the Child as did Mary?
For each one of us there is a desert to travel,
A star to discover,
And a being within ourselves to bring to life.

~ Author Unknown

Casper (name)

Journey of the Magi (1902) by James Tissot. Public domain. Via Wikipedia.

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“The Road to Bethlehem” appears on other websites, where it’s attributed to Anonymous. If you know who wrote it, please share the name and, if possible, other documentation, in a comment, so I can give the poet credit for his creation and can search for information about copyright. Until I know more, I will assume the poem is in the public domain. If it’s under copyright, I’ll delete it.

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Find “The Road to Bethlehem” on these pages:

http://macrina-underthesycamoretree.blogspot.com/2009/12/desert-star-emerging-life.html
http://blueeyedennis-siempre.blogspot.com/2010/11/advent-prayer-and-poems-i.html

Snaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!

 

A dove strolled across our patio last week. Soft brown, a graceful, gentle visitor.

Squirrels appear occasionally but finding no acorns, swish their tails and move on.

Last week, two chameleons crawled up the screen, prompting Ernest to move.

Ours is a quiet life.

Then one afternoon David said, “There’s a snake on the patio.”

He said it in the voice he uses to announce the arrival of the Amazon truck. Nothing to get excited about.

I went berserk. Grabbed the camera, ran to the window. But before memorializing the event, I checked the tail and the complexion. The tail was small and pointy, and the spots were spots, not diamonds. I relaxed.

But it was a snake nonetheless.

Please spare me the explanation that snakes are God’s creatures, that they eat rats and other things that aren’t good for us, that they merit respect and benevolence.

I know they’re God’s creatures, but so are sharks, and I don’t care to cozy up to them either.

I once held the rear end of a boa constrictor and know snakes are soft and silky and sweet when they’re not swallowing goats.

But I take the Biblical view—a snake is a serpent. If it stays in its tree where I can’t see it and doesn’t try to strike up a conversation or ooze down and bruise my heel or the heels of my pets or my livestock, then I won’t try to bruise its head.

But if it has rattles on its tail or venom in its fangs, or if it surprises me by its presence, then I’ll grab the nearest shotgun and try to blow it to kingdom come, although I know practically nothing about shotguns because the only time I got to shoot one my daddy made me aim it into the river.

I don’t want serpents on my patio, and I don’t want to wake up and find one in my bedroom, which is where this one was headed. It slithered up to the glass, looked in, then settled into the sliding door track and headed out looking for means of ingress.

David had already taken preventive measures against marauding humans. Not trusting the sliding door’s lock, he’d braced one of my never-used canes in the track inside. When the snake’s intent became obvious, David quickly stuffed a wad of paper towels in whatever space might have remained and replaced the cane.

Unable to enter, snake went along and went along. David got the big square meter stick, compliments of the Lockhart State Bank back in the ’60s, went outside, reached over the grille work, and flicked the snake off the patio. It took several flicks, but David was gentle. The snake looked surprised and a little disgusted at being launched into flight and landing on the rocks outside. But he showed no sign of pain.

I have admit to feeling a little sorry for the visitor. Temperatures are dropping, and if I lived outside, I’d seek warmer accommodations, too.

In fact, after spending six days without heat during the February Freeze of 2021, I’m tempted to go out and gather every mammal, every bird, every chameleon, and march them, two by two, inside for the winter.

But not snakes. Both the biting kind and the tempting kind belong as far away from me as I can keep them.

I gave away my dad’s shotgun, which is fortunate, because if I woke up and saw a snake, I’d probably blow myself up trying to shoot it.

But I’m going to put that Lockhart State Bank meter stick beside my bed. Just in case.

2 Meetings in December on Zoom

We’d love to have you join us at 15 Minutes of Fame Writing Practice. We meet on Zoom. We do timed writings and read aloud what we’ve written IF we want to read. No fee, no registration, no spelling or grammar checks, no critique, no judgment., just show up. No dress code either; you can wear your pajamas. For more info, read the post.

15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame
meets on Zoom!

Saturday, December 11, 2021

and

Saturday, December 18, 2021

10:00 a.m – noon

For the Zoom link and other information,
email kathywaller1 (at) gmail (dot) com

Free, no pre-registration, and all are welcome

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What We Do

Timed writings,
no critique,
no judgment,

no required topics–
we just write.

When time is up,
we read aloud what we’ve written–
but only if we want to read.                                                   

Then we do it again.

Just have pen and paper or laptop and
enter the Zoom meeting.
If you’re late–no big deal.

If you have trouble getting into the meeting,
email the address above. 
(The host sometimes has trouble, too,
so please be patient.
We’ll all get there.)

Images © David Davis,

View original post 2 more words

Too Old to Dream

 

I just returned from physical therapy and then walked 866 steps from the car to the recliner (it might have been 766 steps because I lost count of 100s, but it felt like 866) and my brain is fried, so I won’t try to write another episode in the Saga of the Knee.

I know that disappoints readers, but I’ll get back to it later.

I shall instead write about the song running through my head when I woke this morning.

I awaken every morning with a song. Like knee surgery, it’s not as much fun as it sounds.

For too long, it was, “Deck the Halls,” no matter the season. The song was especially irritating because I insist on putting in extra Fa-la-las, going up on each FA in a little chromatic interlude: FA-la-al-la-FA-la-la-la-FA-la-la-la-FA-la-la-la-‘Tis the season . . . every time the FA-la-las come along. That gets tiring pretty fast.

Often it’s “O Worship the King,” one of my favorite hymns. I like it because of the imagery.

O worship the King,
all glorious above!
O gratefully sing
his power and his love!  . . .

His chariots of wrath
the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path
on the wings of the storm. . . .

Sir Robert Graves, via Wikipedia PD

It’s uncommon to sing of the wrath of God these days, but the lines, “His chariots of wrath/The deep thunderclouds form,/and dark is his path/on the wings of the storm” make such a stunning image that I can’t object. After all, the hymn was published by Sir Robert Graves in 1833 and reflects the views of the time.

I like the hymn so much that I taught myself to play it by doubling the bass, which makes quite a sound on the Methodist’s upright grand. It used to be the Presbyterian’s upright grand but was moved down the street to the Methodists when Presbyterian members sort of aged out. Some of us know it as Aunt Jessie’s piano because my father’s aunt played it for the Presbyterians for a million years.

My piano teacher had told me I should double the bass on all hymns and play the tenor part with the right hand. I was eleven and thought, I’ll never play the piano at church. Oh, silly me. I never learned to play the tenor with the right hand–soprano and alto were enough of a challenge–but on that one hymn, and on that piano, double base made a magnificent sound. Just like chariots of wrath.

Oscar Hammerstein II, via Wikipedia PD

But back to this morning. I woke with a song I hadn’t thought about since high school: “When I Grow Too Old to Dream.” I don’t remember the choir’s singing it, but we girls thought it the loveliest thing we’d ever heard. I don’t know how my brain came up with it, but I’m glad it did, because the memory is welcome.’

According to Wikipedia, it’s a “popular song with music by Sigmund Romberg and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II,

Years ago, I read that Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein II heard someone say that musician Jerome Kern had written Showboat’s “Old Man River.” She responded, “Jerome Kern wrote ‘dum dum dum dum.’ My husband wrote “Old Man River.” And he did.

So for the following lyrics, I give Hammerstein top billing.

The song has been recorded by numerous artists, including Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and Linda Ronstadt. Some jazz it up. It should not be jazzed up.

Nelson Eddy, via Wikipedia PD

I’ve included two clips from Youtube. The first is by Nelson Eddy, the singer probably most identified with the song. He does a whale of a job with it.

The second is by Vera Lynn, singing it as a tribute to members of the Royal Air Force, “the few who defended Great Britain in its finest hour.”

Here are the lyrics of “When I Grow Too Old to Dream.

 

We have been gay, going our way
Life has been beautiful, we have been young
After you’ve gone, life will go on
Like an old song we have sung

When I grow too old to dream
I’ll have you to remember
When I grow too old to dream
Your love will live in my heart

So kiss me, my sweet
And so let us part
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart

And when I grow to old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart

So kiss me, my sweet
And so let us part
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart

Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Music by Sigmund Romberg

Dame Vera Lynn by Allan Warren, CC BY-SA-3.0 via Wikipedia

 

Nelson Eddy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu-PwwDlizk

Vera Lynn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1vXsbqZnK4

The link to “Old Man River,” above, is a clip of Paul Robeson singing the song.

Paul Robeson, via Wikipedia, PD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bolster from H-E-Double Toothpicks

In my previous post, I said having a total knee replacement isn’t as much fun as it sounds.

A month after surgery, my opinion hasn’t changed.

I did spend two weeks in inpatient rehab, a topic I shall write about later. Today I take a different path.

Before surgery, I bought a bolster, The little booklet about exercise said I would need one, and that I could fashion one out of a pillow and some blankets. I tried that and it proved a disaster, so I turned to Amazon.

In the hospital, a physical therapist said it’s important to use it, as the little exercise book instructed, to stretch the ligaments in my new-knee leg. I should use it for as much as an hour at a stretch.

At the inpatient facility, I used it, put my heels on it, lay down, and let my knees hang down without support.

I didn’t like it. It hurt. My knees already hyperextend—I was forty before I learned other people didn’t lock their knees when standing—and a physical therapist at the inpatient place told me not to extend the ligaments. He said I would have to learn to walk with the knees slightly bent. The demonstration looked like a chimpanzee, and I had no confidence that I could learn to walk differently at my age (which I’m sure is fifteen, except for the elderly knees), but I happily set the bolster aside.

A couple of days later, I saw the surgeon and told him what the PT had said. He said he goes with the patient’s natural anatomy, which in my case is hyperextension, so extend those ligaments.

Darn.

Anyway, a several nights ago I got out the bolster, got in bed, turned out the light, and vowed to stretch my ligaments for twenty minutes. It hurt like you-know-what and then some. I made it for fifteen minutes before I cratered. Removing my feet from the bolster hurt more than hanging my legs from it. The whole thing hurt worse than the pain I experienced after surgery.

The next night I got out the bolster, put my heels on it, and as one of my aunts used to say, writhed in excruciating pain. Then I had an idea: when I have a CT scan, I mentally recite John Milton’s sonnet “On His Blindness.” It makes holding my breath while sliding back and forth in a tube easy, because I always get hung up on line ten and spend a lot of time trying to remember it and make it scan and rhyme. Thinking about that takes my mind off holding my breath for what seems like thirty minutes at a time.

Maybe poetry would dull the pain of hanging my knees over a chasm. Tired of Milton, I opted for Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat.”

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey, and plenty of money
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,
   What a beautiful Pussy you are,
            You are,
            You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

  Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl,
   How charmingly sweet you sing!
Oh! let us be married; too long we have tarried,
   But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the bong-tree grows;
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
   With a ring at the end of his nose,
            His nose,
            His nose,
   With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
   Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
   By the turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince and slices of quince,
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
   They danced by the light of the moon,
            The moon,
            The moon,
   They danced by the light of the moon.

I could recite that poem from memory when I was two years old. People don’t believe that, but I have a tape recorder in my head, and I heard it read so many times that it stuck. It’s not a poem I would choose to memorize as an adult.

Anyway, I recited it over and over, and it did distract me from the pain, until David suggested I recite Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” instead. I started it and was horrified to find that I’ve forgotten some of the words. I remember “chortle” and “frumious bandersnatch” and “vorpal”, but some words have escaped.

So I moved on to “The Walrus and the Carpenter” and was simply crushed when I remembered only the first five verses, and later research showed I’d left out verse three. And I used to know the whole thing. My cousin Linda, who lived in California but spent summers in Texas, and I walked up and down the concourse at the San Antonio airport every August, reciting the poem together while waiting for her plane to arrive. Continental was always late.

We had memorized the poem independently, neither knowing the other was learning it. We were odd teenagers. I won’t comment on our current conditions.

Not long after memorizing the poem, I was delighted to find a political cartoon with Lyndon Johnson portrayed as the Carpenter and Everett Dirksen portrayed as the Walrus. The caption read, “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things; of cloture votes and civil rights and Martin Luther Kings.”

If I hadn’t paid close attention to the poem, that cartoon would have gone right over my head. So there’s another reason to study literature.

By the time I’d recited more bits I did remember, sort of—

O Oysters, come and walk with us!’   
The Walrus did beseech.
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.’

But four young Oysters hurried up,
      All ___________________:
Their _____ were brushed, their _____ ______,
      Their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd, because, you know,
      They hadn’t any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
      And yet another four;
And ________________________________,
      And more, and more, and more —
All _______ through the ______ waves,
      And scrambling to the shore.
—twenty minutes had passed. I eased my feet off the bolster, moaning with every move. David put the bolster away. I pulled the covers over my feet. Sometimes when I get tangled up in poetry, it keeps running through my head and I can’t sleep. Since I’d already done ankle pumps, leg lifts, and heel slides, however, I was tired enough to forget Owls, Pussy-Cats, Jabberwocks, Walruses, Carpenters, Oysters, Lyndon Johnson, and Everett Dirksen. I passed out.
The next day I had my first outpatient appointment with a physical therapist. I gave him a rundown on my naturally hyperextended knees, the surgery, the many PTs I’d met, the instruction to learn to walk like a chimpanzee, what the surgeon said, and the bolster from hell. I also mentioned the knee sometimes threatens to hyperextend now more than I think it should.
He said he was between the chimpanzee and the surgeon and thought I’d lengthened the ligaments enough, so I should stop using the bolster.
I decided we’re going to get along just fine.
***
Images were taken from Wikipedia. They’re all in the public domain.
***
In case anyone doesn’t know, I have published stories in Austin Mystery Writers’ anthologies Murder on Wheels and Lone Star Lawless and in Kaye George’s Day of the Dark. I also have a very short story in the online magazine Mysterical-E. In addition, I have a novella, Stabbed, written with co-author Manning Wolfe. The books are available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. To find the story on Mysterical-E, click on the link.

True Review: The Plunge by Nancy G. West (and a Few Examples of Truth, Mainly)

I had a total knee replacement two days ago. It isn’t as much fun as it sounds.

Lying in bed at Ascension Seton is delightful. Nurses are wonderful. The cafeteria is too good for my good.

But physical therapists won’t leave me alone. They keep showing up and wanting me to get out of bed and walk.

The one who came in the morning after surgery asked if I was ready to get up and move. I said I never wanted to get up and move again. That was the wrong answer.

The afternoon PT had me walk halfway to El Paso. And back. He taught me–or tried to teach–me to use the two-wheeled walker (as opposed to the four-wheeler I’ve been using). (In British literature, two-wheeled walkers are referred to by the brand name, Zimmer frames. The phrase sounds so sophisticated that I may adopt it.)

This morning I walked to Santa Fe. The pain people had awakened me at eight and I said I had no pain. After the walk, I told the nurse to tell them I’d changed my mind. She gave me something to go with the something I’d already had. They’re free with the pain meds, which I appreciate.

I hope to go to inpatient rehab. Doctors are on board. I’m convinced going straight home would be a recipe for a fall, considering I have to have someone with me every time I stand and walk. And for transport home, they’ll have to tie me to the top of the car. The knee bends a bit but on a good day it doesn’t like to get in and out of the car.

But enough of my griping. I’m fine.

Because I have a killer painkiller–a new book. A book book, paper and everything.

I won it in a drawing from Nightstand Book Reviews.

Nightstand Book Reviews is, in its own words,

a site devoted to reviews of books that are great reads. Under this umbrella are books written by bestselling authors as well as by debut novelists in both ebook and paper format. Some are traditionally published authors and some are indies.

It’s for recommendations, not rants.

Now to my new book. It’s The Plunge by Nancy G. West, author of the Aggie Mundeen mysteries. Aggie and her good (very good) friend, Sam Vanderhoven, live in San Antonio, where Sam is a detective with the police force. Aggie’s penchant for helping Sam with his cases sometimes gets in his way–at least he thinks so–but that doesn’t discourage Aggie. She’s willing to stay out of his business, but when she thinks she can help . . . and she’s impulsive . . . and when she has the opportunity to check out a new acquaintance’s medicine cabinet . . . impulsive or not, she’s a pretty good amateur detective.

The Plunge takes Aggie in a new direction–away from San Antonio, east about thirty miles to the Guadalupe River in Central Texas. When the Guadalupe floods, the effects can be disastrous, especially for people living nearby. And when there’s so much rain that surrounding creeks, and sometimes even the San Antonio River, overflow, results are devastating for miles around. That happened in 1998.

It’s in October of 1998 that Aggie and Sam plan a getaway at the home of Sam’s friend on Lake Placid, one of the river’s several lakes, ostensibly for pleasure but really so Sam can quietly investigate the disappearance of his friend’s boat. Even a little rain won’t ruin the retreat. But the pleasure weekend quickly turns into a rapid–critical–evacuation. Sam has left Aggie at the cottage to start his investigation and must reach her before the water does. Car motors stall, and at one time Aggie is looking for trees to climb.

Complicating things is that while on the water, in the dark, they see something–a drowning? Or a murder? Now there’s more than a missing boat to investigate.

As they say in fourth-grade book reports, if you want to know how the story ends, you’ll have to read the book. It’s a good one.

The Plunge touches me personally because I drove across the Guadalupe River near Lake Placid nearly every working day for twenty-eight years. I worked with people who lost everything, one whose house floated off its foundation. Another, who lived west near San Antonio, watched a car almost wash away on Interstate 10; her son raced to pull it out with a tractor, and the tractor floated. Even where I lived, thirty miles east of the Guadalupe on a smaller, quieter river, houses flooded, and several people were airlifted out.

Using this setting, Nancy G. West combines a first-rate mystery with the urgency and personal toll of the ’98 flood. The Plunge makes for a suspenseful read.

***

In fairness–and to avoid lying–I admit that the physical therapists are not modern-day Torquemadas. They’re smiling, friendly, and encouraging, and if you look like you’re going to tip over, they grab you. They’re also great at what they do. I have nothing but admiration and gratitude for them.

***

Disclaimer: As I said, I won my copy of The Plunge from Nightstand Book Reviews. I didn’t buy it, but Nightstand Book Reviews didn’t pay for the review either. We don’t do that. The gift had no influence on my views.

I also said Nany G. West is a friend. We’ve been on a writers’ retreat together (where I don’t think anyone wrote a word, but we went to a lovely tea room). We’ve been to Malice Domestic, where we met at the Guppies Breakfast. She allowed me to take a snapshot of her. She didn’t pay me to say nice things about her book or in any way influence my review.

Patti Phillips of Nightstand Book Reviews has been a dedicated reader all her life. When not reading or writing about books, she now writes a blog in the voice of Detective Charlie Kerrian. Follow his adventures at www.kerriansnotebook.com,

Contact Patti at on Facebook (facebook.com/paphillips20) and Twitter (@pattiphillips) or by email at patti.nightstandbookreviews@gmail.com.

***

Kathy Waller is co-author of the novella Stabbed, written with Manning Wolfe. Her short stories appear in anthologies Murder on Wheels, Lone Star Lawless, and Day of the Dark, and online at Mysterical-E. She’s working on a novel set in small-town Texas She lives in Austin with two cats and one husband..

 

Image of X-ray by Dr. Manuel González Reyes from Pixabay

Image of book cover by Kathy Waller

Image of Guadalupe Rver at mouth by KenB, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Image of Stabbed cover from Amazon

We’re All Mad Here

 

I wear masks. Disposable. Cotton print. Functional. Boring.

When I ordered them, I thought the plague, and thus the mode of dress, would be temporary.

Seeing no end to the madness, however, I’ve decided to dress in style.

To an English major, style looks like like this.

 

Shakespeare knew about plagues. He lived through them.

The article ‘He Didn’t Flee’: Shakespeare And The Plague begins this way:

During the 16th century, a young couple in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, lost two of their children to the bubonic plague.

The pair barricaded themselves inside to protect their 3-month-old son — William Shakespeare. . . . 

Waves of the bubonic plague killed at least a third of the European population across centuries. A year or so before Shakespeare wrote “Romeo and Juliet,” a powerful plague struck London in 1593.

Theatres closed for 14 months and 10,000 Londoners died, says Columbia University professor and author James Shapiro.

The writer reminds us that the ending of Romeo and Juliet turns on the plague: Friar Lawrence sends a message to Romeo in Mantua that Juliet isn’t really dead. But his emissary, Friar John, is suspected of lodging in an infected house and is quarantined–and so Romeo never gets the message. And believing Juliet is dead, he kills himself; seeing him dead, Juliet kills herself. . . .

Shakespeare lived because his parents quarantined themselves. Two of his characters died because a third was quarantined by the authorities.

I’ve been mostly barricaded in my home for twenty months, leaving to go only to medical appointments. The same for my husband; he picks up groceries at curbside. We get a lot of meds through the mail.

I’m grateful I’m in a position to stay home. I’m grateful for workers who make it possible for me to have food and other necessities.

I’m grateful for vaccines and boosters, for scientists who develop them and people who take them.

I’m grateful for masks and people who wear them.

Shakespeare was right about so many things. I wish he were right about this: We shall every One be mask’d. 

If everyone were, maybe we could stop being masked sooner.

The next stylish mask I’m going to order quotes the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll‘s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

We’re all mad here.

***

As always, I’m delighted when readers comment. But comments claiming that wearing masks or refusing vaccination limits freedom, or anything of that ilk, will be deleted. Too many people have died, too many are behaving responsibly in an attempt to stay alive and to keep others alive. Feel free to disagree with me, but do it on your own blog. 

***

Illustration by John Tenniel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Maybe I Will Be Home Before Long

A letter my dad wrote to my cousins Wray, Mary Veazey, and Lynn Worden in Dallas while he was stationed in Europe during World War II. He’d been away from home since November 1942.

 

Belgium
9 May 1945

Dear Wray, Veazey, and Lynn,

Well, I don’t believe I know any thing to write you children about today. I think of you all the time. Maybe I will be home to see you before long.

Say, Crystal sent me some pictures of you the other day. You had grown so much that I hardly knew you. Why you are nearly as big as Betty. How about sending me some more pictures sometime.

Say you take this five dollars and make your mother or Crystal buy you three children something. I guess your mother will take you, won’t she?

Well I guess that’s about all I know. It’s about time to go to bed.

Be sure you phone Crystal that you got a letter from me and that I am feeling fine. Tell her that I still love her.

Lots of love, Uncle Billie

***

The last six months or so of World War II, my father was an ambulatory patient in Paris. He’d gone deaf from bomb concussion. For as long as possible, he hid the disability from his superiors. His fellow soldiers, however, amused themselves by running for foxholes, then laughing when Daddy jumped in. One day, Major Yarborough, for whom he drove, saw them. He took Daddy out of combat and sent him from Germany to a hospital in Paris. What happened to the others for tricking him into thinking bombs were falling, I don’t know, but I understand it wasn’t pretty.

I presume he was in Belgium on the way to Paris. He was slated to leave for the States asap but didn’t get to Dallas, where Mother was living, until October 23, 1945, the day before their third wedding anniversary.

My father was supposed to be released from service in San Antonio, so my mother had gone there, where she stayed with her aunt, uncle, and grandmother, and made cake after cake. When she got word Daddy would be coming to Dallas instead, she cried. Sam, her uncle, patted her head and told her to pack her suitcase and he would take her to the bus station.

The last time my dad had been home, the family had been living in San Antonio, where my mother and grandmother worked in Army Civil Service. When the Army moved to Dallas, they moved, too. So my father knew only the address. My grandmother and her younger daughters, Barbara and Betty, lived in the main house. My mom lived in a little  house in the back yard.

On the way through my grandmother’s house, my dad handed her his hearing aids and sad, “Don’t let Crystal know about these.” My grandmother, of course, told my mother as soon as possible.

After several days of shouting, Mother mentioned the hearing aids and said she thought he ought to wear them. He was embarrassed, and remained so for several years. One ear was so far gone he didn’t bother with the aid. He finally made peace with the other one and told small children who asked that it was his telephone.  When he took it off at night, he was sensitive to vibration but otherwise was gone. To make him hear her, Mother had to put her mouth next to his “good” ear and shout. Twenty-plus years later, a surgery to treat his kind of hearing loss was being taught by the doctor who developed it at the VA hospital in Houston. My dad, considered a good candidate, had the surgery, and his conversational hearing was restored. He said the only negative was that for a time the chirping of birds nearly drove him crazy.

When my cousins heard Uncle Billie was home, they declared a school holiday and hit my grandmother’s doorstep. Mary Veazey was seven and Wray was six. I don’t know whether they remembered him or had heard enough to think they did. I’ll add that they wrote to him, too, even though in the early years, Wray’s letters were scribbled. Lynn, the youngest, was born after he shipped out for the East Coast.

The remark about their being nearly as big as Betty was a joke of sorts. She was my mother’s youngest sister, only eight years older than Mary Veazey, and as an adult was five feet tall. It didn’t take long for any of her nieces and nephews to grow as tall as Betty. Even I got there.

***

The photos of my cousins were taken at Christmas in 1957, twelve years after they received the letter

***

 

Packing for our recent move, I came across the cigar holder a Belgian farmer gave my father when he passed through after the Normandy Invasion. It’s a valued keepsake.

 

 

 

 

 

***

Thanks to my cousin Denise Worden Allegri for retrieving this letter from her father’s files and sharing it with her aunt Mary Veazey, who shared it with me.