Saturday Smile: Step On Up

My very petite niece Jessie and her boyfriend recently bought a new house. Just like Mary Poppins, it’s practically perfect in every way, save for one. The countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms are abnormally high. Perhaps the original owners were very tall. Still, it’s a reach for Jessie…..

My brother took this photo of Jessie recently preparing a meal…..

First update: lower the countertops.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Thoughts

Thoughtless
Lo, and behold, it wasn’t until yesterday morning that I realized it was Thursday and I should have posted my Thursday Thoughts instead of a regular blog post. Apparently my brain isn’t thinking well these days. Still, I have as many thoughts on Friday as I do on Thursday, so here goes.

Checking it Out
This past Monday, Bill and I had dinner with a couple at one of the communities to which we are considering a move. The couple was very nice and very informative. As they were selected by community staff, it wasn’t surprising that they had very positive reviews. However, I had a lot of questions answered. As we were making our way to one of the restaurants located in the community (there are 10 in total!), we met a few people. We asked them all how they felt about where they were living. We got glowing reviews. Good to know.

Moving On
Preparing the house where we have lived for 30 years is a massive undertaking. I anticipated the worse, and wasn’t even close. Still, little by little, we are making progress. As I said in yesterday’s post, we got the garage attic emptied out, leaving only the massive cash register that was there when we moved in. Perhaps next I will tackle our regular attic, which contains mostly Christmas decorations. However, that’s what my sister Bec thought when she made her move to AZ. To her surprise, the attic was full of lots of other things that she had forgotten.

Fort Collins
I had a meeting yesterday afternoon, but after the meeting, we headed to Fort Collins. Later this morning, we will be meeting with our financial advisors. It is our most sincere hope that they don’t look at us when we tell them about our prospective move with shock on their faces and tell us that we are insane to think that move makes any sense.

Born to Be Wild

Bill and I had only been married a couple of years when he approached me.

“Hon,” he said sweetly. “What would you think about me buying a motorcycle?”

This question came out of left field as his questions often do. Not one time had I ever heard him express the desire for a motorcycle. I hadn’t heard any comments as one would speed by us, white-lining between cars.

I gave it a bit of thought before I answered him.

“Well, at the end of the day, I guess it’s your decision,” I started out. “But I will tell you that I really don’t like the idea at all. They seem expensive, and where would we store it?”

Here’s what Bill heard: “Well, at the end of the day, I guess it’s your decision, blah blah blah blah blah. I wonder if he even noticed that my lips were still moving as he began wondering what color he should buy.

The very next day, he showed up with a motorcycle. It was small, but since my head didn’t explode, it wasn’t long before he traded that in for a big Yamaha Roadstar and all of the accoutrements. To be honest, I never regretted the fact that he got a motorcycle. He took motorcycle safety classes right off the bat. He always wore a helmet, though Colorado law doesn’t require a helmet to be worn. He was always cautious and safety-conscious.

Over the years, he put 44,000 miles on that big bike. He traveled the length of Route 66. He took the motorcycle on several trips to visit his mother. He rode up into Upper Michigan with some motorcycle friends (who didn’t have prison tattoos on their backs). He rode it into Yellowstone Park, where he nearly encountered a grizzly bear. He rode to and from California.

In the past years since he was diagnosed, the motorcycle has sat in the front of our garage drawing dust and taking up room. While I know he enjoyed his adventures on his motorcycle, I don’t think giving it up is one of the things that he considers a sad result of the disease. He loved it when he had it and he’s ready to let it go.

So finally, after having talked about it for years, Bill and I drove (in a car) to a place that sells new and used motorcycles. Bill explained his situation, and the man who helped us promised to come on Friday to take a look at the bike. The man himself is 60 years old, and he completely understands how, as one gets older and older, it becomes more and more difficult to manage a two-wheeled monster. Lots of older folks in AZ have three-wheeled motorcycles, but Bill is ready to be done.

Yesterday afternoon after we got back home, I texted our grandson Alastair, asking if he could come by, climb into our garage attic, and bring down his Papa’s motorcycle paraphernalia. He came shortly after, climbed into the attic, and began tossing down all manner of motorcycle and horseback riding accessories. As of now, we have two saddles, various reins and stirrups, three or four motorcycle helmets, raingear for both varieties of transportation, and lots more sitting in our garage. It is piled high, awaiting Mr. or Ms. Got Junk to become one of the many things at which we will point.

If anyone wants, of knows of somebody who wants, motorcycle or horseback riding gear, please let me know. Until then, we will wait for the man who will hand Bill a few bucks and relieve us of the motorcycle, making another big step in our house cleaning.

Kick the Bucket, Redux

Before I knew it, the day was over and I hadn’t written a blog. Please enjoy this post from June 2020. It’s always interesting to me to see what was catching my attention in the middle of the pandemic.

I don’t have a bucket list. In fact, nobody had a bucket list before 2007 when the movie The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman was released. Suddenly everybody has a bucket list.

But not me, because most of the things I would put on a bucket list are things I will never do in a million years. I might offhandedly say, “Wait, what? You’re going to safari in Africa? That’s on my bucket list.” The truth, however, is that I will never go to Africa. I’m not saying that with any kind of sadness; however, the way my life has laid itself out almost certainly precludes a trip to Africa.

Late last year, I watched a series on PBS about the development of country music. One of the episodes featured in the series focused on bluegrass music. I love bluegrass music. In that episode, they showed a number of people — mostly women — playing the dulcimer. I believe I said out loud to myself, “Learning to play the mountain dulcimer is on my bucket list.”

Learning to play the dulcimer, my friends, is another thing that I can’t actually put on a bucket list. I will never learn to play the mountain dulcimer, for a number of reasons. When I looked up dulcimer on Wikipedia, it described it as a fretted string instrument of the zither family. Well, I had no idea what the zither family is, so I looked that up on Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, the word zither has historically been applied to any instrument of the cittern family.

At that point, I stopped. I didn’t bother to investigate what in the hell the cittern family is. Especially when I read that the word guitar is derived from the word cittern. Huh?

Not knowing where to even find a mountain dulcimer, or someone who provides dulcimer lessons, sealed the deal. I will have to be satisfied with five years of piano lessons. I don’t think the piano is in either the cittern or the zither family.

Another activity that I believe I have thought might be on my bucket list is learning to water ski. Let’s analyze this bucket list item. I can’t swim. I can’t even tread water. My niece Jessie told me that her dog EDI can’t swim. Seriously, I thought all dogs could instinctively swim. Not EDI. Jessie says EDI isn’t buoyant and promptly sinks. EDI and I have that in common. I, too, promptly sink. It isn’t that people haven’t tried to convince me to learn to swim. Many have, and many have failed. I’m not buoyant.

Nevertheless, I think it would be fun to water ski. I tried once, when I was in high school. We had a cabin on a lake, and our neighbors had a speed boat. They spent weekends water skiing. One Sunday, they asked me if I wanted to learn to water ski. Inexplicably, I said yes. Even more inexplicably, my parents — both who knew I couldn’t swim — said, “Great idea! Have at it.”

The neighbors put a life jacket on me, dropped me in the water on a pair of water skis, and took off. It should come as no surprise that I fell within seconds. Unexpectedly, however, the life jacket slipped off of me immediately, and I began to sink, just like EDI. Thank you to God, who gave me the good sense to grab onto a ski which held me up until the neighbors swung around and picked me up.

“Want to try again?” they asked cheerfully. Oh. Hell. No. Mom and Dad didn’t even get up from their lawn chairs.

Perhaps if I ever decide to have a bucket list, it should contain activities at which I might actually succeed. Making the best whiskey sour. Baking the perfect loaf of bread. Making a lasagna without looking at a recipe.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

No Walk in the Park

It was 13 years ago — almost to the day — that Bill received his Parkinson’s diagnosis. It was a blow, there’s no question about it. But in the way that Bill has faced every obstacle in his life, he accepted his future and began learning how to manage it. Me too. Except not with as much grace as he did.

Still, we’re always learning. What we have learned over the years is that for every symptom of Parkinson’s, there is a way to handle it. Most often, you can’t make the symptom go away, but there are ways to manage things so that you can continue to live an active life.

Bill’s most recent symptom is one that is very common for people with Parkinson’s: freezing. I’m not talking about always being cold, though he is that too. I’m talking about the feeling that both of his feet are stuck to the ground and won’t move. The symptom is obviously annoying, but it can also be dangerous. As you try to move your feet to walk, you can instead fall down and break your crown.

We had Bill’s semiannual check-up with his movement specialist last week, and we mentioned his newest symptom. No problemo, she said. (Well, she actually didn’t say those exact words because I’m not sure I would want the medical professional treating my serious ailment using slang.) She scribbled on a sheet of paper and handed me a prescription for him to see a physical therapist who treats people with movement disorders. “She will help you learn what to do when you freeze.”

Yesterday was our appointment with the newest member of our Parkinson’s team, the physical therapist. She examined Bill’s movements and abilities and flexibility. Her determination: He is pretty amazing for having been diagnosed 13 years ago. She also told us something I had never known before. Parkinson’s Disease affects the part of your brain that handles automatic responses. So, things like blinking, and smiling, and walking are no longer entirely automatic. It’s why people with PD often have somewhat emotionless facial expressions. It’s also why many people are unable to stand up from a chair and begin walking.

Her examination and analysis took most of our hour, but she taught us one specific thing to help with his freezing. When he stands up, instead of trying to immediately walk, he should take a second and shift back and forth a bit, giving his brain time to work and giving him some momentum to take the first steps. From what little we have seen, it really seems to work.

In the future, she will be working on his flexibility, his gait, and his balance.

On a lighter note, yesterday was our 30th wedding anniversary!

Saturday Smile: Eating Meat

Yesterday I took Cole, Mylee, and Kaiya our for sushi lunch. I love to watch those three kids eat sushi. It’s worth every penny I spend to watch how quickly they can inhale a tray of salmon rolls or veggie rolls. Green mussels don’t last long either.

We had a bit of discussion about Kaiya’s unusual eating habits. She isn’t much of a meat eater, but likes two things: brats and McDonald’s hamburgers. Vegetarians would have been surprised to see her picking the asparagus out of her veggie rolls. “Basically, I’m a carbotarian,” she has told me in the past. On the other hand, Mylee and Cole are meat eaters.

Mylee summed it up when she told me, “The only time I’m a vegetarian is when I’m not eating.”

Boom.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Murder at Mallowan Hall

I’ve loved author Agatha Christie since i was 12 years old. I’ve read all of her mysteries, many more than once. Or twice. I am unfailingly impressed at how she weaves her stories, how she carefully tosses out her red herrings, and how she wraps the mystery up at the end of the book.

Murder at Mallowan Hall, by Colleen Cambridge, is the first in a new historical mystery series that takes place at Mallowan Hall, the fictional home of famed author Agatha Christie and her second husband, archeologist Max Mallowan. In real life, Christie and her husband remained happily married in their rural English estate until Christie’s death, though it was not called Mallowan Hall.

In the novel, Christie hires her personal friend to be their housekeeper and manage their estate. Phyllidia Bright and Christie are long-time friends, and Bright is hired because she has the author’s complete trust. For her part, Bright is protective of her friend and faithful as all get-out. Plus, she has a crush on Hercule Poirot.

Things are fine until one day, Bright is opening up the house, and stumbles upon a body in the library. She recognizes the person as a fellow who had shown up late the night before uninvited and a stranger. The Mallowans are having a house party that weekend, and no one wants to make a fuss. They allow the man to spend the night, but the good intentions have a tragic ending.

Bright does all the right things. She calls the police. She alerts her employers. She does what she does best: manages the crisis. However, when it becomes clear to her that the local police are inept at best, she begins working on solving the crime herself, with Christie giving her own advice and input. And when a second person is murdered — this time a member of the staff — Bright realizes the murderer must be someone attending the house party. Who could be next?

I found the plot to be clever and fun, or at least as fun as a murder mystery can be. I liked the fact that it wasn’t Agatha Christie who solved the murder, but instead, her intelligent and faithful friend.

Murder at Mallowan Hall is purported to be the first in a series, and I’m looking forward to book number 2.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

The Last Pizza
Last night, Bill and I met Court and his family at Bonnie Brae Pizza. That particular pizza joint has been in their current location for 80 years, and they announced that they were closing their doors forever at the end of the month. Bonnie Brae is an old-school restaurant with turquoise booths and friendly servers. The pizza is delicious. The restaurant is very near where Court and I lived prior to my marriage to Bill. In fact, I would walk over and pick up an unbaked pizza and bake it in our oven. It wasn’t quite as good as if they baked it in their pizza oven, but it was still very tasty. It makes me very sad to see them go. Apparently, a high-rise apartment building will take its place. Just what we need. More apartments…..

In the Nick of Time
We met Court and his family early, at 5 o’clock. I knew the restaurant would be busy because the story of their closing had been in the Denver Post yesterday morning. But I thought that 5 o’clock was early enough to beat the crowd. It wasn’t. But I was pleased to see that Court had arrived early and put in our name, so we only waited a few minutes. The restaurant had been smart enough to turn their four-person booths into six- or seven-person tables, because there were very few patrons that weren’t with their families. We had pizza, and wings. Cole had a burger and Kaiya had mozzarella sticks. Shortly before we left, I pointed out that the numbers of people waiting had dwindled to zero. “Guess we were part of the rush,” I said. However, as we left (about 6:30), we noticed this sign on the door…..

Shoe Fly
Yesterday I underwent the task of going through my shoes. I filled an entire garbage bag with shoes that I haven’t worn since I quit working, or even before. Apparently at one time, square toes must have been the THING, because I sure had a lot of those. A friend told me that DSW accepts shoe donations and sends them overseas, so I might try that first before Goodwill. I know one thing: I wouldn’t buy a pair of used shoes. Especially MY shoes!

Dining Room
I finally filled the bird feeder the other day. It took a few days, but finally yesterday afternoon, I noticed that the feeder was half empty. I don’t know if it was birds or squirrels. I’m telling myself it doesn’t matter. But as you know, it gets on my last nerve when I see the squirrels on my bird feeders. Maybe I just shouldn’t look outside.

Ciao.

A Coat of Many Feelings

When I was a little girl growing up in central Nebraska, my mother had a special coat. In those days, men and women dressed up for church. Mom had one particular coat that she wore only when it was very cold and she was feeling very fancy. The coat was made from fur, and it was as soft as a kitten.

I loved to sit next to my mom at church when she wore that coat. I would lay my head on her and pet the fur as though it was alive. It was so soft, and smelled so nice, a combination of nature and her perfume. She looked so pretty. She probably felt pretty too, because that’s what wearing fur did to women back in the days before fur coats became a pallet for red paint. They made women feel pretty and fancy.

Somewhere along the line, I recalled her telling me the coat was made from muskrat fur. I’ve always doubted my memory on that account because muskrats always seemed ugly to me. I’m not a big fan of rodents. I recently double-checked my memory. Were muskrats pelts used to make coats?

The answer is yes. According to Wikipedia, the really expensive fur coats that were popular in the 1960s were made from the fur of leopards, jaguars, panthers, foxes, and, of course, minks. Less expensive furs were made from pelts of wolves and muskrats.

That Mom’s coat was made from muskrat fur suddenly made sense to me. My Dad loved my mother from the moment he met her (according to him) until the day she died. He would have showered her with all the gifts he could afford. He, however, wasn’t a well-paid businessman; instead, he was a hard-working, small business owner and baker. So, muskrat fur it was.

All of that didn’t matter to me then or now. I loved when she wore that coat. She looked beautiful, with her hair curled and her lips painted a pretty shade of red.

Memories flooded back to me the other day when I opened the closet in our guest room to begin cleaning it out and sending its contents to Goodwill. The coat hung between two dresses that have been particularly meaningful in my life — my wedding dress and the dress I wore to Court’s wedding. All three of the garments seemed to be looking at me and saying, “And just what in the hell are you going to do with US, my friend?”

The fur coat is a prime example of the truth I’m going to be facing every day: I have shit that no one wants. Seriously, who among my family wants a fur coat? No one wears fur these days. A large number of my family members live in AZ where it is unbearably hot for much of the year. Wearing fur is a no go and has been since the mid-1980s. I’m not sure Goodwill even wants a fur coat. And could I really bear the thought that my mother’s much-loved coat will go to a teenager for $11.95 to wear as a Halloween costume?

Night before last, I made a surprise visit to my niece Jessie to see the house she and her boyfriend recently purchased. I also took them a pretty pot of plants (I’m telling you that so that I can use alliteration in my blog, making me look smart.) In the course of our tour, I told her about the fur coat, and how it was going to probably end up at Goodwill.

Without hesitation, she told me, “Aunt, I will take the coat.”

I practically started to cry at that point. I know there is no way Jessie will ever wear the coat. But of all of my mother’s grandkids, Jessie is the one who reminds me most of Mom. She’s petite like Mom. She’s small, but powerful, like Mom. She has strong opinions like Mom. I am so happy to have the coat hang in her closet.

I think the part that convinced her was when I explained that the coat had her nana’s initials embroidered inside…..

Now, will anyone step forth and offer to take my wedding dress?

Paper or Technology

For many years, I kept my calendar on my cell phone and/or my iPad via my BFF Google. I wasn’t really very good at it. I have never learned the skill of typing words using my two thumbs. I’m a pointer finger all the way. It’s slow, but it’s what I can handle. I type text messages the same way.

But it wasn’t the speed at which I put appointments into my calendar that made me rethink my position on calendars. It was the fact that I live in two cities that are in different time zones for six months of the year. The problem was that I would put an appointment into my calendar for, say, 3:30 in one city. Google would then change it to 4:30 if I happened to change time zones. It had no way of knowing that I really meant 3:30 in that second time zone.

I know. I know. There is probably a way to fix this. I addressed the problem for several years by writing out the time in the notes section of my cell phone calendar. So, if the appointment was at 3:30, I would write out three thirty.

At some point in mid-2021, I said, “The hell with it!” Or something like that. I went out and purchased an old-school paper calendar. It had the dates. It had room for notes on the side. It was decorated with pretty pink flowers. I loved it. I love it.

Yesterday morning, Bill and I were driving to an appointment with his neurologist that was scheduled for 10:30. I remember making the appointment this past December, shortly after I had purchased my new paper calendar. I took the calendar with me to the December appointment. And when it came time to schedule our next appointment in six months, I pulled the calendar diary out of my purse, sort of like Captain Kangaroo pulling things out of his big pockets. The scheduler gave me a date and time, and I wrote it into my calendar.

So, I lacked no confidence in thinking, no, KNOWING, that our appointment was at 10:30. Except when we arrived at 10: 25, we were told that we were late for our 10 o’clock appointment.

“No, we most certainly are not late, because the appointment was for 10:30,” I said firmly. I took my calendar out of my purse and showed her. She was clearly horrified that I had a paper calendar diary with pink flowers. And since she is a millennial, she was unable to read my cursive anyway. She sent me to speak with the scheduler.

“I know our appointment was at 10:30, because I wrote it down in my calendar,” I said, pointing to the scribblings in my diary. She looked equally horrified, and I knew I would never convince them that they had gotten the date wrong on their nifty scheduling program on their nifty computer.

The scheduler was smarter than the receptionist, however. She blamed it on the previous scheduler who was no longer with the medical practice.

“Well,” I thought to myself. “She shouldn’t be with the practice if she can’t handle technology.”

We’ll never know who’s fault it was, but it’s always nice to have a scapegoat.