Friday, February 23, 2007

Twee?

DH and I got up early this morning so we’d have time to enjoy our new tea. Auntie turned us on to it by including a sample in her Christmas present to me; when we ran out, we ordered more over the Internet and it arrived yesterday. If you’re in the US and looking for English Breakfast tea that isn’t shockingly expensive (or disgusting in taste), then I highly recommend AllTea.com as a source.

It’s amazing to see my husband, a classic coffee-snob, not only drinking tea, but showing signs of tea-snobbery as well. I probably ought to warn him to be careful about that because tea-snobbery is uncommon in the US; it is seen as affected, and much more so than coffee-snobbery. In fact, it often seems to be viewed in the same light as affected American poseurs who use Briticisms to seem more … something…

Whatever the reasons, Americans who use Briticisms are often considered noxious, as this old quote by Ben Yagoda in The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 18, 2004 ) suggests:

“It's hard to pinpoint the cause of the use of all these Briticisms. Anglophilia hardly seems to be rampant at the moment. Perhaps the success of BBC America is a factor, or maybe the importation of British editors like Tina Brown and Anna Wintour a decade ago is finally trickling down. But I wouldn't underestimate the eternal appeal of sounding classy without seeming pretentious. The gathering storm of Briticisms would seem to provide a perfect opportunity.”

Mr. Yagoda’s point may be valid; Briticisms have become more popular in the US. I’m uncomfortable with his conclusions of pretension, however, because it hits too close to home. I don’t just mean that metaphorically; I mean some things that are considered Briticisms, I learned at home, and some others at school. In Arkansas. No kidding.

[Note: Blogger very helpfully kept me from accidental pretentiousness just now, by pointing out the error in my natural inclination to use "learnt" instead of "learned."]

My best friend is Australian, and I don’t deny that I’ve picked up the odd expression from her – “twee” being a notable example. But I wouldn’t normally say things like “in hospital” instead of “the hospital” or “on holiday” instead of “a holiday.” And no one would ever think I sound British when I speak; I don’t have a strong accent, but what’s left is Bill Clinton-variety southern. In fact, I like to listen to Clinton because his accent is so similar to my dad’s. Still, I can’t deny that I do use some apparent Briticisms. Dang! (That isn’t one of them.)

Of course, what stings is that one who is trying to “sound classy,” is one who is obviously failing to do so. I used to be quite self-conscious about this, but not so much now that I have a better understanding of where I come from. For one thing, although I’m from Arkansas, I’m from a place that’s exceptionally “Anglo,” as my Aussie friend noted when I took her to visit my family. In fact, some branches of my family have been in the general vicinity of this same area for nearly 200 years (before Arkansas was even a state); over a period of 100 years or so, different groups of English (and Scottish and Irish) ancestors following one of two routes (the National Road or the Natchez Trace) converged there. A concentrated Anglo community resulted -- for example, different branches of my family hail from places named Tull (for the English agriculture writer, not the band), Merry Green, and Old Belfast. These are not new affectations; they’ve been around for close to 150 years.

Although I spent my first few years in Tull, I didn’t live there for any great length of time. But I was raised by people who did (and do still) live there, and I go back whenever I can because I’m fascinated by the ways in which I was influenced by absorbing an older culture as I was growing up. Of course I had no idea I was doing this; I thought Tull and its environs were typical of the rural south. For example, I had no idea that “shaped note singing” wasn’t as common as ticks on a dog (how’s that for a southern-fried expression?). It was only a few years ago that I learned (thanks again, blogger) it wasn’t common; it was endangered at one time, but seems to be experiencing a resurgence. (Maybe Anna Wintour...?)

In case you haven’t heard of it, shaped-note singing (also called sacred harp, or fa-so-la) refers to music in which the notes are indicated by different shapes. There is a whole history to this, which I’ll spare you, but suffice to say that each year, on the third Sunday in May, far-flung branches of my family gather in the Ebenezer Church in Tull, Arkansas to sing from tattered photocopies of tattered photocopies of the “new” music books (purchased in the late 1800s to replace the old books that burned along with the old church). Though I haven’t gone recently, it happens every year like clockwork; once, DH and I, along with my mother and her sister, my cousin, and my grandmother even took a turn at leading a song up at the front of the church. Lest you think I’m kidding, well, have a look at these (the handwriting is my grandmother’s):





OK; enough with the nostalgia. My point is that many of my Briticisms (which, incidentally, used to delight a former boss who had a PhD in Linquistics) seem to have originated from my pretentious, tea-drinking, pseudo-Anglophile, redneck family. Making me what? A pretentious redneck?

As we say in the south -- go figure.

By the way, if you're interested in shaped-note singing, "Awake My Soul" is a documentary about it. The website includes more detailed history and some clips of what it sounds like. I also had the recent good fortune to get my hands on a recording someone made of the 1979 Tull Singing. It's poor quality -- obviously done on a portable cassette player, but I'm pleased to have it since it's the real thing, as opposed to stuff by one of the new groups that have formed in order to teach others how to do it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Can't Make This Stuff Up

It seems everyone on the planet with the faintest interest in books is agog over the latest idiot scandal in the US. I'm not going to link to anything to do with it because I'm too damn tired of seeing stories about it to bother looking for another -- and you probably are as well. What am I talking about? It's this ridiculous brouhaha over the word "scrotum" being used in the Newbery award-winning childrens' book, The Higher Power of Lucky (Susan Patron).

Of course I'm not surprised that there are parents stupid enough to want to prevent their children learning the proper names for body parts, but they (and their kids) are to be pitied because they actually strive for ignorance. But librarians? Striving for ignorance? From the New York Times:
“This book included what I call a Howard Stern-type shock treatment just to see how far they could push the envelope, but they didn’t have the children in mind,” Dana Nilsson, a teacher and librarian in Durango, Colo., wrote on LM_Net, a mailing list that reaches more than 16,000 school librarians. “How very sad.”

The book has already been banned from school libraries in a handful of states in the South, the West and the Northeast, and librarians in other schools have indicated in the online debate that they may well follow suit. Indeed, the topic has dominated the discussion among librarians since the book was shipped to schools.

What I think is "sad" is that there are now librarians so eager to nip literacy in the bud. "Scrotum" is "Howard Stern-type shock treatment"? Really?

Wow. If that's not sad then nothing is.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Les Bon Temps

Today is Fat Tuesday; it's cold and grey and stormy outside; and I am really missing Louisiana. Lake Charles doesn't have the kind of insanity that goes down in New Orleans, but their version of Mardi Gras is seriously cool.

If I were there, I would be heading out to find a good spot for the first parade. Before Rita, that would have been in the space between the drive-through daiquiri stand and the corner. I don't know if they replaced that stand, but I hope so -- it surely was handy. Especially since we only lived a few blocks from the main parade route, so it was easy to get there on foot. It would have been a pain to have to carry an ice chest too.

But I digress; assuming the existence of the daiquiri stand, that's where I'd be going -- along with DH and a couple of lawn chairs (hey; you have to work for those throws; you need a place to rest between one parade and the next).

The Merchant's Parade was last Friday; that one is good for bizarre throws like little plastic hard hats with fleurs des lis and the names of oil companies on them. Today, however, will be the best for sheer delight because most people have the day off from work or school (most businesses and schools are closed), so nearly EVERYONE turns out for the Fat Tuesday parades.

I was totally stunned by my first Mardi Gras in Lake Charles because it's not a huge town and it's not famous, so I assumed it would be some chintzy little small-town thing with 5 or 6 floats. I couldn't have been more wrong though; there were hundreds of floats and thousands of people and Fat Tuesday culminates in an amazing street party. And the nicest thing of all is that after a while, you end up knowing quite a few of the people on the floats; some from the neighborhood; some from work; and some who just seem familiar.

You get throws by smiling, waving, jumping up and down, and occasionally shouting the traditional call, "Throw me something mister!" In other words, you do not have to flash. That, alone, makes Lake Charles Mardi Gras the world's best, in my opinion, because I'm too much of a prude to flash for beads and cheap plastic cups. Now a tee-shirt might be a different story...

Ah well, no tee-shirts or even beads this year, so I'll have to make do with ones I've saved from past years. I keep a cup of them on my desk, so to celebrate, I took a photo of them this morning. In a year or two, I'm certain I will be able to replenish them, but in the meantime,

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Winning Streak

My husband and I met exactly twenty years ago today -- February 13th; the day before Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday that year, which obviously means that we met on Friday the 13th.

It's made for some great jokes over the years, and alas, massive family protests that made us back off our original idea of getting married on another Friday the 13th, but jokes aside, that really was my lucky day.

No really -- and I've had a lot of time to think about it. If I could only have won one thing in life, it's hard to believe there could have been a better prize than the one I got.

XXXOOO





Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tagged by Lady Tess

I have been tagged by Lady Tess. I've been rather idiotic about it too; as I read the tag post, but only realized later later that she'd tagged me! This is a fun one though, so here, delayed but not forgotten, is the meme:

1. Grab the book closest to you.

2. Open to page 123, look down to the 5th sentence.

3. Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog.

4. Include the title and the author's name.

5. Tag 3 people.

Oh dear. I have a stack of books on my desk. Is it the top one that counts as closest, or the bottom? I'm tempted to decide that the only one of the three that I'm looking forward to reading is closest, but in the sense of fairness, I'm going to do all three:

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
I must be exceptionally literal-minded today, because I'm compelled to note that the top line on page 123 is the second half of a sentence begun on page 122. I'm counting that as the first sentence.
"I'm responsible for their deaths. He's all but said it out loud. He won't help me."

The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears

"Believe me, I know what I'm talking about."

The conversation summed up much of his appeal for her. Alone of anybody she had ever met he allowed her room to breathe.

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick

I blogged about this book a few days ago; and dang it; I just discovered blogger has eaten my post! Suffice to say that this book is one I'm looking forward to so much that I want to be sure I have enough time to read it without distractions, which is why I haven't read it yet. Page 123 in this book also begins mid-way through a sentence. I'm counting that one too.
'Hatred comes as part of an Angevin king's birthright.' He sighed heavily and brushed crumbs from his tunic. 'If I was John I'd pen him in Brittany.'

It's funny; these tiny snippets of text have only reinforced my feeling that The Scarlet Lion is the only one of these books that I'll enjoy. Go figure...

I'm tagging Permanent Record, Bouncing Sputtering Wendy, and Even in a Little Thing.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Can It Be Made to Sound Stupid?

My best friend has informed me that what I posted yesterday was really snarky. She's an author, so I'm sure she sympathises with the queriers rather than the queree (or queryee?); she's probably going to have nightmares about evil editors dripping scornful snark over her own past queries. I'll admit that I wasn't particularly nice yesterday, but I want to note that what I posted about each query was the quick 3-second impression I got from reading it. What I'm trying to say, if rather badly, is that I didn't reveal anything about the actual queries or their authors; what I did was take a passing glance at each one, just long enough to form an impression, and then I wrote about my impressions.

Unless you're a potential querier yourself, the distinction probably doesn't matter. However, if you're planning to write a query letter, particularly one for an historical fiction or fantasy manuscript, you might want to consider that editors will have seen a LOT of queries and most of them will give yours the same passing-glance treatment that I gave the ones I posted about yesterday. They will pick out a few words and form an impression that may or may not have relevance to your book. The thing to keep in mind is that the relevance doesn't matter. What matters is whether or not your query can be made to sound stupid in ten words or less.

I'm not kidding. If you are planning to send a query to someone, you really need to consider how it will be perceived by an editor who is likely to give it little more than a brief glance before moving on to the next one. If you want the editor to linger over your query long enough to actually read it, you need to be very careful with the words you use to describe both the book and yourself. This is particularly true if your book has the potential to sound clich├ęd (as most do) because the more potential it has for this (e.g., anything to do with Richard III), the easier it is for the editor to form a negative impression of it.

I realise my comments probably seem vague and unhelpful, so to further illustrate what I mean, here are a few suggestions:
  • Do not use the word "epic" to describe your book. Why? Because it can instantly transform your query into one that sounds stupid. An editor or reader may use this word to describe your book, but you shouldn't. I see "epic" and I immediately think, "Oh God. Not another one. Is it an 'epic struggle' this time, or an 'epic journey'?" NEXT!

  • Be careful with dwarves. LOL! (Sorry; just typing the word dwarves makes me laugh because the recent popularity of Tolkein means I have to wrestle with the dang things frequently.) OK. Back to business. I don't mean to suggest that you shouldn't HAVE dwarves (though frankly; they have been done to death of late), what I mean is that you shouldn't focus on the dwarf-ness of your dwarves. Treat your dwarves as characters. e.g., it would be better to tell me that your book is about Boo-Boo, a dwarf with a heart of gold (well not really, but you get the point), than to tell me you've written a generic book about dwarves. I should probably note that this also applies to elves, trolls, unicorns, and other miscellaneous "unusual" beings. Also, please keep in mind that dwarfism is a genetic disorder suffered by people and should not be taken lightly.

  • Go easy on the melodrama. Seriously. This is becoming my number one turn-off. When I see a query with too many over-the-top words (e.g., cataclysmic, devastating, terrifying, shocking, explosive, etc.), I perceive absurdity. More importantly, please don't heap these words on top of each other. That flood may be devastating. Or, it may be cataclysmic. But must it be devastatingly cataclysmic, or cataclysmically devastating? If you think so, then I respectfully suggest that it might be a good idea for you to sign up for a writing workshop or something. Seriously.

  • Try to avoid sounding narcissistic. If your background includes writing or other experience relevant to your book, then of course, editors will want to know about it and expressed properly, it will increase your chances of publication. But please, please don't tell me you are the next Dorothy Dunnett or (fill in name here). You may very well be that person, but please don't state it as a fact; let me make the call. I don't care what your teacher, your brother, or your co-workers think either. I'm sorry, but I really don't -- if you tell me what they think, I'm probably going to decide that they're stupid and so are you. By the way, Dorothy Dunnett is dead, but if I get a query from her, you can be sure the presses will be rolling tomorrow. *g*

  • Finally, here are a few other hackneyed expressions you might want to avoid: fast-paced, heart-strings, tragic love affair, visionary (particularly when used to describe yourself!), rebellious heroine, taming (particularly in a romantic context), and prize (in the context of virginity or marriage).
I think that's enough for now, but I hope it was helpful for elucidating yesterday's snark-fest...

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Real World

Now that I’ve nearly recovered from a fabulous trip and the resulting post-trip exhaustion, I’m in the mood for taking care of business.

The first thing on my to-do list was to take another look at a contract that I’ve been working on. Hmmm. It’s written in a language other than English, and poorly written at that. Why is it so damn hard to work out how to specify that I don’t have any interest in dolls based on the characters in a book we plan to publish? The first draft seemed to indicate that we would get everything and the author would get nothing from the aforesaid potential dolls. The second draft gave everything to the author, apparently up to and including the right to sue us if we created promotional bookmarks for the book. Yes; I know that would be stupid, but stranger things have happened. The only good thing about the legalese used in contracts is that it gives one an excuse for saying things like ‘Act of God’ and ‘force majeure’. If I could just claim force majeure caused me to take the contract outside, set it on fire, and jump up and down on it (while cackling madly) – then I would do just that. Since I can’t (alas), I have to put it aside for clarification.

The next item on my list is responding to queries. This never fails to give me a shudder of paranoia or two – how the heck do people figure out the Worst. Possible. Time. to send me a query? Do they choose the date by holding nasty little voodoo-doll editor-maumets over a calendar, sticking pins in them till they scream? By the look of my in-box, the answer to that is an unqualified Yes!

Ah, but wait – Four queries are from the same person. Right. They’re from the nut who thinks if only he asks enough times, I will somehow conceive a desire to publish a cartoon book about reindeer and electricity. Or is it beer? Drunken reindeer? Is there a Darwin award for authors? If so, I would like to nominate this guy. And not to leave anyone out, I’d also like to submit for consideration the name of the person who queried me on a novel featuring a brain transplant between, IIRC, a small African American child and a white middle-aged woman. Right. Thank God for the Delete key – we can also use that for the one about the Jewish boy with a crush on Hitler...

What’s next? Well, we have the 19th century feminist who ventures into the Wild West to fight for the rights of the oppressed Indians. Oh, and to escape from the prejudices against women Back East. Uh huh.

We also have a ‘light-hearted epic’ featuring ‘dwarves and dessert bandits’. I wonder if the major conflict in the story has anything to do with the bandits stealing the dwarves’ pie?

And what else lurks in this delicious bag of goodies?

We have something described as both ‘grisly' and 'literary’ that seems to involve a guy who gets plastic surgery to look like Dracula. He kills people. Or writes a book. Or something. Anyhoo…

Next, we have something in French that appears to involve Christmas at the beach, or possibly skiing in the mountains.

Then, we have frustrated love, complete with marshals, mistresses, motherless children, and being punished for something or other.

We also have a captured magical boy who can’t speak the language of his kidnappers and who (the magic boy; not the kidnappers) founds Canada.

And we can’t forget this one about an elderly moonie who likes to look at naked boys. That one also has an African prince and a privileged white person. Sounds like a winner, no?

And what’s this? A Richard Lionheart vs. Saladin epic struggle? If I felt like touching that with a ten-foot pole, the query is actually pretty well-done – although the quote about the author’s brilliance may just a bit over the top. C’est la vie…

Moving right along… we have a Bonnie Prince Charlie men-in-skirts-and-the-women-who-love-them thingy that appears to include a lot of Ochs! and Ayes! and My Bonnie Lairds! Weeel … sorry. I think not, laddie.

Oh, and I mustn’t forget to mention the “how to” book that purports to teach one how to swindle others.

Or the one about the Scottish person … who is French?

Or the one about the epic battle between Islam and Christianity. I really hate to pass on this one…

Or the one about racial prejudice in 20th century America by an author who says she writes ‘humorously’.

And finally, we have an altar boy, sexually abused by a priest. Imagine that.

Doesn’t my cup just runneth over? Moonies, dessert thieves, Texas marshals, Dracula-faced authors, men in skirts, prejudice, and epic battles – my in-box has brought me an embarrassment of riches.

Where the hell did I put that contract?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Amazing Grace

I just returned from a wonderful trip. The first part, in Houston, included an exceptionally productive day spent with a couple of people with whom I love working. Few things are as satisfying as the feeling of accomplishment that comes from creating something really good. That part of the trip also included dinner with some old friends from France who recently moved to Houston. It is their third stint in the US, and their second in Houston, but we met them in Chicago, in their first stint, and we have kept in touch through their subsequent moves. It was so cool to see the newborn who was taken everywhere in a little basket; now, he’s a teenager getting ready to apply for a driving license!

The second part of the trip was a visit home to Arkansas – for my grandmother’s birthday. It was lovely to see everyone, but the really lovely thing is that my grandmother is here to have a birthday at all.

It’s been nearly three years since Mama, my grandmother, was diagnosed with end stage renal disease – i.e., kidney failure. At that time, her doctors said she had less than 15% function left in one of her kidneys and that without dialysis, she had approximately two months to live. It’s doubtful that Mama would have told me about this because we have often discussed the off-putting tendency my mother’s family have for recounting a litany of woes whenever you see them (Mama is my father’s mother; she and my other grandmother could not be more different.). However, Mama lives with Auntie (Daddy’s sister), and Auntie knew I would want to see Mama at least one more time, so she told me.

I was terribly sad about Mama's prognosis because although she was over 90, it was only her age that had changed; the rest of her was still the same witty intelligent woman who I spent every summer with from the time I was eight, until I was about to graduate from high school. When I made that visit, I thought I was probably saying goodbye. Mama hung in there, however, and I had the chance to say goodbye again at Christmas that year. By then, four months after her diagnosis, she had outlived her doctors’ projected life expectancy by two months. In the spring of that year, though Mama was still hanging on, I told my co-workers that my grandmother was dying and that I might need to leave suddenly, either to see her one last time, or to attend her funeral.

About a year after Mama’s diagnosis, she and Auntie moved to a new house, and Mama, who is blind from severe macular degeneration, tripped on the unfamiliar front steps, fell, and broke her jaw. I was sure, then, that it was the beginning of the end. A broken jaw is not only incredibly painful, it can also cause nutrition problems. In anyone else, it probably would have been the beginning of the end. But it wasn’t for Mama because she has a secret weapon: Auntie.

To illustrate the extent of Auntie’s feat, consider a few statistics:

According to a recent press release press release for a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine:
The Number of Very Elderly Beginning Dialysis Increased Greatly in Last Decade But Only 46 Percent Were Alive One Year Later

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the NIH:
If you withdraw from dialysis treatments or refuse to begin them, you may live for a few days or for several weeks, depending on your health and your remaining kidney function.

So. Mama’s chances of being alive with dialysis would have been less than 50%, probably significantly less since none of the patients in the above mentioned study were over 90. With no dialysis, her prognosis was “a few days or weeks”.

To survive beyond a few weeks, Mama’s little remaining kidney function had to be preserved. That’s where Auntie comes in. She sorted through all the useless advice she received about diet, and targeted the thing that matters most (though she does many many others as well). Mama had high blood pressure, in spite of multiple medications, and high blood pressure inflicts kidney damage (among other things), so Auntie's target was sodium (salt).

When I say Auntie “targeted” sodium, I don’t mean she followed the standard generic “avoid salting your food” advice. Auntie went way beyond that meaningless yadda yadda yadda crap to preserve what was left of my grandmother’s kidney function. She pressed the doctor who told her to limit Mama’s diet to foods containing less than 50 mgs of sodium per serving until he gave her specifics -- she felt that if sodium was important, then she needed to know the true limit and the optimum. Apparently, he was reluctant to tell her because it is restrictive (and possibly depressing) and few patients will do it. I suppose it’s understandable he would feel this way – until he met Auntie and Mama. His views have been altered; he wants Auntie to write up some of her methods so he can use them with his other patients, and he recently said he’s thinking of writing up Mama’s case for a journal.

Here is a rough outline of Auntie and Mama’s methods. If you or someone you love suffers from high blood pressure and/or kidney damage and you’d like more information, feel free to leave a request in the comments.
  1. Get over it.

    This is critical to success with Auntie and Mama’s methods. If it is tough to decide between life and eating some specific food, then you should eat the food and enjoy it because that’s what’s important to you. Mama’s quality of life is good, so the decision isn’t hard. That’s not to say she doesn’t miss some things, but rather that the decision to forgo them was easy. In fact, I think Mama is glad to have had the opportunity to make the decision: she has no litany of woes about what she can no longer have because what she can have is a longer life. That’s a pretty nice trade-off for skipping the olives.

  2. Learn about it.

    This is not as easy as it seems because there is so much misleading information about sodium/salt. For example, the most common piece of advice seems to be to “avoid processed foods”. Well, yes; processed foods probably do contain the highest proportions of sodium. However, if you need to sharply restrict sodium to avoid death, but your only actions are to avoid the salt shaker and processed foods, then you are probably still going to die. To live, you have to learn how much sodium is in the foods you eat, including the natural foods (and these may be surprising).

    The typical advice for a low sodium diet is to restrict sodium to 2300 mgs per day. In comparison, the upper limit for Mama’s daily sodium intake is 500 mgs. The doctor was right; that is restrictive – especially when you consider that she has never been a fan of processed foods, nor did she use much salt for seasoning. That meant there were no easy targets for elimination, so to limit Mama’s sodium, Auntie had to become a detective.

    Approximate sodium content for a few foods:

    1 cup (247 grams / 8 fl. Oz) of whole milk = 100 mgs
    1 cup of skim milk = 130 mgs
    1 teaspoon of baking soda = 1,000 mgs
    1 teaspoon of baking powder = 500 mgs
    1 egg = 60 mgs
    1 oz of cheese = 200-500 mgs (depends on type; cheddar has most)
    1 stalk of celery = 70 mgs
    1 tablespoon of ketchup = 150/200 mgs
    1 cup of cooked peas = 140 mgs
    1 cup cooked spinach = 126 mgs

    Auntie has worked out alternative recipes for all the important things like baked goods. For example, she made a delicious low sodium banana cake for Mama’s birthday (with mascarpone instead of cream cheese in the frosting), and DH made his famous biscotti for Mama on Saturday, using Auntie’s work-arounds for reducing baking soda/baking powder – and they were good!

  3. Live with it.

    The list above gives just a few examples, but the difficulty of the diet is obvious. Mama and Auntie’s strategy here is to embrace the positives and to never ever fixate on the foods Mama can’t have. Mama doesn’t indulge in “woe is me; I’m miserable because I can’t have this or that.” She’s far more likely to say, “that tastes good, but why would I want to eat something that will kill me?” High-end chocolate, by the way, has very little, if any, sodium, proving not only that there is a God, but that s/he isn’t cruel.
Mama may die any day now, just as any of us may, but this extra time with her is beyond compare. As for Auntie … well, Auntie will go to heaven; I am absolutely certain of it.