Saturday Smile: And Now I’m Ready for Spring

When I was growing up in Columbus, there was a flower box on either side of the front steps of our family home, and another flower box that went the width of the living room picture window above the fitzer bushes. In the flower boxes on both sides of the front porch Mom put purple flox. In the window box beneath the picture window she put a variety of things. I remember that there were roses for a time, probably until she realized that roses were a pain. (Or maybe I’m externalizing my personal experience with roses.) But for many of the years we lived in that house, she planted geraniums in that box. Good ol’ red geraniums.

Our Columbus home many years after we moved away. The tree to the left was a linden tree when we lived there, and there wasn’t grass growing in the driveway or the sidewalk. In fact, there wasn’t even a sidewalk!

Even though the flower growing season in the mountain towns of Leadville and Dillon, Colorado, where they lived for the next 15 years or so, was short, she always had a pot or two of geraniums. Red geraniums.

And then when they finally really retired (instead of calling working an 8-hour day where you get a paycheck from someone else being retired) and moved to Fort Collins, there were always geraniums in the flower box next to the driveway. Red geraniums.

So it isn’t surprising that the one constant in my flower-growing experiences for the 37 years or so that I have been a home owner has been geraniums. Mostly red geraniums. Once in a while, when I’m at a garden store that offers a variety of geranium colors, I’m tempted. I have occasionally succombed. But in the end, my favorite geraniums are red.

I always, always — every single time — think of my mother when I plant my pots of geraniums. If they didn’t have geraniums in heaven before she arrived, I’m certain they do now. Mom could be quite convincing….

Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: An Available Man

I love a good romance novel as much as the next person, particularly if the romance is part of a really good story. But I must admit that I get a bit tired of being able to tell right from the get-go that a man will be the love interest because they are described as tall and broad-shouldered, with piercing blue eyes. No one falls in love with an average looking fellow with faded brown eyes and a small belly paunch.

Perhaps this is the biggest reason that I so enjoyed An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer. The main character of the novel is a man in his late 50s who is a high school science teacher. Edward Schuyler is still grieving the death of his beloved wife following her bout with cancer. He can’t seem to find joy in his life anymore, but despite the fact that he’s very lonely, he simply doesn’t seem to have a particular interest in trying to move on.

Without his knowledge, his adult stepchildren take it upon themselves to place an ad in a book review magazine seeking the company of a mature woman for their dad. Pretty soon the replies start pouring in and the children admit to what they had done. Resistant at first, Edward finally realizes that he really would like to have someone with whom to keep company. What follows are a series of sometimes sad, but mostly funny experiences as lonely women clamber to make his acquaintance.

The author writes with a deft hand and a quick wit. Wolitzer presents Edward as a charming, smart, likeable man who isn’t looking to replace his wife but just wants someone to share his life with. He may not be broad-shouldered, but he is kind and funny and deserves the happiness that awaits.

I found this to be a sweet story with an extremely satisfying ending.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Sacagawea
Kaiya was supposed to give her presentation for Night of the Notables at school last week, but she unfortunately got sick and missed the presentation. She got the opportunity to give a make-up performance earlier this week. Her presentation was on Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who helped pave the way for Lewis and Clark as they made their way through Indian territory. Or at least I think that’s what she did, since I was unable to attend the make-up presentation as my eyes were being peered at by my eye doctor at the time. Kaiya makes an amazing Sacagawea, though, doesn’t she?……

Vrrooom
I think I mentioned that Bill spent a lot of time last summer working on his Ferrari. It had been sitting in our garage like a very fancy paperweight for quite some time. Every day he would put on his grubby oil-stained clothes and tinker and prod and screw and unscrew in an attempt to get it up and running. He was underneath the car so much, in fact, that one day when Cole and I pulled into the garage and got out of my yellow bug, I told Cole, “Let’s go see Papa.” Cole immediately bent over and looked under the car. At any rate, it underwent its first test yesterday. The car started, and Bill took it over to get its emissions inspected. It failed, unfortunately, so a bit more tinkering is called for…..

Mary, Mary, Continued
In the meantime, I continued (and perhaps finished) my seasonal planting. While Kaiya had requested broccoli, I elected not to go that route as I had many people complain about broccoli drawing worms into the garden. Instead, I went with Swiss chard because it’s pretty and I like it….

In the meantime, I got a phone call from Jll telling me that the plants I had purchased from Addie back in February as part of a school fundraiser had arrived and she would deliver them. Of course, since I can barely remember yesterday, I had entirely forgotten that I had purchased a jalapeno plant and two tomato plants. In the meantime, I had purchased more plants which Emma put in the ground for me on Sunday. Since I have run out of room in my little garden, I planted them in pots. I will have plenty ‘o tomatoes and peppers provided the weather cooperates……

Long Stems
While shopping at Whole Foods the other day, I came across these artichokes with the long stems. I had never actually seen them before, though I knew about them. Allegedly, the stems continue the flavor and tenderness of the heart. While the artichokes were delicious, I was wholly unimpressed with the stems, which I found stringy…..

Pretty Girl
Following Addie’s performance in the play, I wasn’t quick enough to get her before she had changed out of her costume. But she looked so pretty that we couldn’t help but take a picture…..

Ciao.

All Hands on Deck

For a lot of Court’s elementary school years, I was a single parent. If I sound like I’m whining, then shame on me. Because while there certainly are single parents who have a lot about which to whine, I wasn’t one of them. Court’s dad was involved in our lives even after we signed the divorce papers. We shared custody, and he was generous with his time and pocketbook.

What’s more, I was lucky enough to have a boss who believed in the importance of family. As such, I never had to miss a school performance or a teacher conference. I could take my son to doctor’s appointments without having to use my own personal paid time off. I could volunteer in the lunchroom.

Nevertheless, after working all day, coming home and preparing dinner, helping with homework, and (when he was still young) getting him ready for bed, including books and prayers, I was very tired and ready for bed myself.

And I only had one child. One.

So I look at people – even two-parent households — who have two or three or four kids (I simply won’t let myself think about more children than that), and can’t even imagine how they manage. Even if there are two parents, and even if one of the parents doesn’t work outside the home, the simple physics involved in getting each child to the place where they’re supposed to be seems nearly impossible and must involve a spreadsheet. How else do you keep it all organized?

People have asked me if I volunteer now that I’m retired. At first I would say no. And then it occurred to me that the correct answer is that yes, I volunteer – with my grandkids. It’s one of the things I miss most when we are in AZ for the winter. Because trite as it may sound, it really does take a village.

Since we’ve been back – we returned to Denver just over a week ago – I have been to a birthday party….

….watched a field day, kept 3-year-old Cole for a day while his mommy volunteered….

….cheered at Addie’s volleyball game….

….watched Kaiya’s bridging ceremony (during which she actually walked across a little wooden bridge in a park near her house symbolizing her move from being a Brownie to being a Junior Girl Scout)….

….and watched Addie perform magnificently in a play…..

 

All this in addition to my own doctor’s appointment, x-ray appointment, and eye doctor appointment.  No wonder my days sometimes seemed long in AZ. Whew.

The other day, all of the grandparents got an email from Jll early in the morning. Calling all grandparents, she said, though not in those exact words. Something had come up that required her attendance that evening, and each of the four kids had an activity. And none in the same place. Can anyone help, she wondered.

And everyone that could, did. Not only did I attend the volleyball game, but I was the ride home. Bill might have taken Alastair to his baseball game, but it was rained out. Grandma Lynne handled Dagny’s dive practice and Maggie Faith’s school concert.

Whew.

I assure you that I’m not complaining. I love every minute that I spend with my grands. Even time in a car. And while Cole is very busy, he’s also very funny. My grandkids all make me laugh, and it’s good to laugh. And thankfully, Cole wears himself out, as indicated by his falling asleep in a nontraditional spot under the coffee table in our living room….

So children, keep me on speed dial when in need of help. It will help keep me young. Now if I could just figure out a way to use Star Trek technology and get myself to VT to help with the grandkids there!

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Guest Post: All that Jazz

By Rebecca Borman

One of my favorite cities in the world is New Orleans, and there’s no better time to visit than during the French Quarter Music Festival, which takes place in the spring, usually several weeks before the better-known Jazz Fest.  While Jazz Fest always boasts an all-star lineup of national musicians, FQF focuses on local talent, and, to me, that makes it more fun.  Oh, and the fact that on Saturday and Sunday, there are 23 stages to choose from and over 100 food offerings from “The World’s Largest Jazz Brunch.”

It had been five years since my last FQF, so this year I decided to make the trip.  I considered going by myself, because I’m familiar with New Orleans and the Festival; I knew I could navigate it with no problems.  But, it seemed like it would be more fun to have a group, so I decided to go with a Road Scholar group.  These were some very good decisions!

The tour would begin with a group meeting on the Wednesday afternoon before the start of the Festival.  Since I was coming across the country, I arrived a day earlier, in order to get there in time for the first meeting.  So I had almost a day to get reacquainted with the Big Easy.  I considered what I wanted to do for dinner the first evening; there are so many great options.  I decided to try the French 75 Bar in Arnaud’s, one of New Orleans’ most loved restaurants.  Of course I had a French 75, their signature drink; I also tried some delicious food (I hesitate to call it bar food!).  The next morning I made my way to Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait…no better way to begin a day.

I strolled around the French Quarter, did a little shopping, and enjoyed the feeling of this city, vibrant and laid back at the same time.  Lunch (yes, there was a lot of eating) was oysters and a shrimp po-boy at Acme Oyster Bar.

Once the “tour” started, we had a great schedule.  Every morning after breakfast in our hotel, we were entertained and educated by musicians.  For instance, on Thursday morning we heard the Lee Benoit Cajun Family Band.  They played great music, of course, but we also learned a lot about Cajun music.  I learned the difference between Cajun and Zydeco and, like everyone else, I was amazed by the talent of the musicians.  In fact, after that first presentation I thought the organizers had erred by putting the best group first.  Who could meet our expectations after that?

As it turned out, every other presentation!  The next day we heard Doreen Ketchens and her jazz band, who play every day in the same place on Royal Street.  How cool is that?  As you might guess, Doreen was earthy and laid-back.  Friday, we saw Michael White and his Quartet.  Dr. White is a music professor, whose presentation was tightly organized and fascinating.  Could it get better?  Yes!  Sunday morning Richard (Piano) Scott and his group played for us.  At one point, someone in our group asked for a ragtime piece; these are notoriously challenging.  Richard asked the other musicians if they were game to play something he’d written but they had never heard.  They said if he would play a few bars of the refrain, they would do it.  And, they did!  I thought I knew a lot about music and about New Orleans, but I learned a lot more during these sessions. After our morning activities, and except for an excellent lunch or dinner in one of New Orleans’ amazing restaurants each day, our afternoons and evenings were our own.  We were free to enjoy the French Quarter Festival.  Sometimes by myself, sometimes with another group member, I wandered around the Festival, enjoying the music, eating some of my favorite New Orleans food, like grilled chicken livers with sweet hot pepper jelly from Praline Connection’s food booth.  Since Road Scholar made portable chairs available to us, I would walk until I found a stage that grabbed me and then I made myself comfortable for an hour or so.  I spent a lot of time at the Zydeco Stage because I love that music, and there is always an entertaining crowd with lots of people dancing.

The combination of free time and organized activities was perfect, and the Road Scholar tour was a great way to enjoy the Festival.  The other travelers were interesting and intelligent, and it was really fun to share my love of New Orleans and its music with others of like mind.

  Although it was my first trip with Road Scholar, it won’t be my last.  And I’ll definitely make another trip to New Orleans for its wonderful French Quarter Music Festival.

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

We got back to Denver last Tuesday, and by the time we got everything unpacked and got adjusted to the hour time change, it was snowing…..

May is a tough time in Colorado for people who are eager to garden. The problem is that there is inevitably really nice weather late in April and early in May. The weather’s so nice, in fact, that it lulls one into thinking that our local meteorologist Kathy Sabine will no longer feel a need to warn us that there is cold weather on the horizon. She has put away her fur-lined parka for the spring and summer and is bringing out her umbrella.

I’m pretty good about waiting until after Mother’s Day to put my garden plants and seeds in the ground. I learned the hard way. Shortly after we moved into this house, the weather outside convinced me it would be safe to plant. So I went to my favorite garden store and purchased several hundred dollars worth of plants: petunias and geraniums and tomatoes and peppers and all manner of things that don’t do well in cold. I cheerfully planted.  And then, of course, it got cold and everything died.

You must never plant until after Mother’s Day, everyone told me. And from that time on, I always spent Mother’s Day at my favorite garden store, along with every other would-be gardener in Denver. This year I was still in AZ on Mother’s Day because of my niece’s graduation. And it’s a good thing, too. Because I assure you I would have spent the afternoon of Mother’s Day planting and regretting the decision a few days later.

But Saturday night during her weather report, Kathy Sabine assured me that the freezing temperatures are over for the winter. She thinks.

So I spent a lot of Sunday planting. And when I say “I” I really mean Allen’s girlfriend Emma. Bill and I were out Saturday pulling weeds and looking forlornly at my garden that was so desperately in need of tending when she came out of the house and said, “I would be happy to help you plant your garden tomorrow.” I swear. She really did say this. And she meant it, because when we got home from church yesterday late morning, she was in her gardening clothes and eager to start. I was doing her a favor, really. Really, I was.

And as Emma planted, Bill built fence, just like a rancher….

And so now Emma’s garden, er, my garden has a beautiful fence around it, sturdy enough to keep the foxes out. She, er, I planted a tomato plant, a jalapeno plant, some green beans, carrots, radishes, thyme, parsley, and basil. I also put in petunias, though I will still need to put in more so that my garden can be full of color in a month or so. And, by the way, it really was me who planted the petunias…..

Kaiya has requested a broccoli plant, and I will comply once I can find a broccoli seedling to plant. Because here is the conversation between a clerk at my friendly neighborhood Home Depot and me. “Hello, Ma’am,” she said. “Can I help you find something?” “Yes,” I replied. “I’m looking for a broccoli plant.” “Okay,” she said. “There’s some over there somewhere,” and she flitted her hand in a northwesternly direction, and walked away. I’m not fibbing.

Okay then. Needless to say, I was unable to find it over there somewhere, so I will go to my friendly neighborhood garden store and see if they can be a bit more helpful.

But at least it’s not snowing.