Where Do I Go Next?

Bill and I live quiet lives. For the most part, our time is spent with grandkids and their parents and a few friends. We are mostly looking at one another’s mugs. Up until this past week, we left Denver for a trip to Estes Park for our wedding anniversary and Fort Collins for the Fourth. Otherwise our trips have pretty much been limited to grocery stores and cigar shops. Guess which one of us did which activity?

I did, however, have one thing to look forward to: months ago, my sister Jen called me to tell me that Michael Bublé was coming to Denver in July. I love me some Michael Bublé, and it was a bucket list item for Jen. Let’s go! we decided. Since Bec’s always game for an adventure, we invited her to make a quick trip to Colorado to join us for a sisters’ weekend.

Our granddaughter Mylee’s birthday is July 16, and her parents decided that her birthday party would be held the Sunday before her birthday. No problem from our end. Michael would be behind us by that point. In fact, I volunteered to make the monkey cupcakes that Mylee had requested since “I’m retired; I have all of the time in the world.”

And then I received an invitation to the Celebration of Life event that my friend Megan’s husband had postponed following her death so that family members from far away could attend. It’s going to be held July 13 the invitation told me. The same day as the concert.

But still no problem. Because there was no reason we couldn’t come to the celebration for a bit when it started at 12:30 p.m. even if it was being held an hour from our house in Fort Lupton. Of course, there were those cupcakes looming.

And then we got word that our cousin Bill had suddenly passed away. Bill was one of Bec’s best friends as well as a cousin. He was my godbrother. His family lived a block from ours in our formative years, so we spent lots of time together. Attending his funeral was a MUST.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. That’s what they say, and so that’s what we did.

First was Operation Monkey Cupcakes. I made the little fellows in a couple of hours, and, believe it or not, took not a single photo. But you will have to trust me that they were cute. Vanilla wafers for snout and ears, and all that jazz. Into the freezer they went.

Then we picked up Bec from the airport. Instead of flying in on Friday as she had planned, she came a few days early so that we could get into the car the next day and drive seven-and-a-half hours to Columbus, where the funeral was held. As is true of many family funerals, it was a mixture of joy and sadness, the joy being a reunion with a number of cousins who attended from far and near…..

It’s always good to get back to our roots in the Bread Basket of the United States…..

Then it was back in the car where we drove seven-and-a-half hours back to Denver so that we could arrive in time for Megan’s memorial gathering. Later that evening, we enjoyed the concert…..

…..and some drinks at a very hip and urban restaurant…..

By this time, we were moving slower and slower, but nevertheless, Bec, Bill and I made it to Mylee’s birthday party Sunday afternoon at Jungle Quest. Mylee and Cole challenged themselves on the balance beam….


Kaiya and her dad Court await permission to fly away on the zipline…..
And for the record, Bec and I did the zipline. Thank the good Lord there are no photos. As for Bill, who seems unaware that he has Parkinson’s disease, he kept up with the kids on all the activities without breaking a single bone. 

So, I’m not ashamed to say that after I dropped Bec off at the airport yesterday morning, I parked myself in front of the television and turned off my brain.

Now, I have to refrain from complaining about being bored.

Play Dates

 An Oldie, but Goodie. Originally posted in July 2016….

Like most Baby Boomers, from the time school let out at the beginning of summer until I trudged the seven blocks back to school after Labor Day with my shiny new school supplies and my book bag left over from the previous year or handed down from my sister, I played outside.

After a breakfast of Frosted Flakes with bananas on top (as a wink and a nod towards actual nutrition), I put on my pedal pushers and my sleeveless plaid blouse, considered – then rejected – my flip-flops (then called thongs), and ran outside barefoot to my back patio.

“Eee-ah-kee, Kathy,” I yelled at the top of my lungs. This was my way of contacting my best neighborhood friend and inviting her to come out and play.

“Eee-ah-kee,” she would respond, and be over at my house in a heartbeat.

I don’t know what eee-ah-kee means or from whence it originated. We are not American Indian. It just became our cry for fellowship. There was, by the way, no need to holler, as my childhood friend was just a quick scamper past our garage and through Mrs. Benda’s garden. But holler, we did.

And play, we did. Games that called for imagination. Riding our bikes. Playing tag. Spying on the neighbors to the south. Playing with our Barbie dolls. Writing and performing plays in front of our patient mothers and neighbors. Occasionally stopping for a glass of Kool-Aid that was toxically loaded with red dye. Taking a break for a salami sandwich and milk. Finishing up quickly as I heard in the distance, “Eee-ah-kee, Kris.”

More call to play.

Baby Boomers everywhere recall these days with joyful nostalgia. Metal playground equipment that was scalding to the touch which didn’t stop us from using them. Merry-go-rounds that you took turns pushing as hard as you could. Mostly we stayed on, but sometimes someone fell off and required Mercurochrome and a band-aid. See? It wasn’t all sunshine and roses. We actually hurt ourselves. We had scabs to prove it. Mercurochrome, by the way, was banned by the FDA in 1998. It’s a wonder we’re still alive.

I often see postings on social media from fellow Baby Boomers recalling these simpler days. I know that our kids are safer now than we were. I don’t purport that we return to the days of riding bikes without helmets. But still, I don’t see scores of Baby Boomers wearing head gear caused by falling off a merry-go-round.

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook a link to an article from the reputable publication Psychology Today. This article, written by a smartypants as indicated by the fact that he has a Ph.D., reports that rates of depression and anxiety among young people are on the rise, and have been for several decades. He goes on to say that this psychological phenomenon appears to have nothing to do with the idea that our world is inherently more dangerous. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, World War II, and the ensuing years when we all thought we were going to be blasted to Kingdom Come by a nuclear bomb coming straight out of the Soviet Union, we were all still happy campers.

And the reason for the increase according to Dr. Peter Gray? Kids no longer have a sense of personal control over what is going to happen to them. The reason, he goes on to say, is that kids no longer play outside unwatched by any sort of parental figure. Instead, they have Play Dates. As a result, kids no longer solve their own problems. They don’t figure out how to fight their own battles. Instead, parents help their kids make decisions (when they’re not actually making the decisions for them). Parents are choosing their kids’ friends. Kids aren’t able to choose their own interests. Instead, they are put on soccer teams and into gymnastic classes. They must study, study, study because they have to get into the best schools and for heaven’s sake, they MUST go to college. As a result, they are spending more time than ever in school, and less time in free play with their friends.

I don’t know if Dr. Smartypants is right or not. My grandkids seem perfectly happy with their lives. But it does make me sort of sad that they haven’t the opportunity to experience summer in the same way that I did.

And, by the way, kids still drink red Kool-Aid, though I’m certain it’s made with safer coloring.

Here is a photo courtesy of a fellow grade school classmate who somehow had access to this permanent reminder of our youth. I am pretty sure I am the little girl with my back to the camera in the middle row, third from the right, uncharacteristically wearing my glasses. The top row features the women who served us every day at cafeteria. While they look wholly unpleasant (except for the woman on the far right who didn’t get the memo that she shouldn’t smile), I recall them actually being quite pleasant. Ah, sweet youth….

cafeteria line circa 1960 (2)

 

Saturday Smile: Gathering

Bill, Bec, and I attended the funeral of our cousin, Bill Micek, this past week. Funerals are all sad, and it’s particularly sad when it’s someone from our generation. Bill was much loved among all of his many cousins, as was indicated by the turnout he had from those on the Micek side.

While we are all sad to say goodbye to Bill, he would have enjoyed the gathering of the cousins as much as we did. In many ways, he was the one who tied us together. We will miss him. But we enjoyed the time we spent together…..

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Best Cook in the World

Former New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Braggs grew up in the Deep South. His family members weren’t aristocratic Charlestonians. He didn’t cut his teeth in fancy restaurants in Atlanta, GA. He grew up poor, with oil under his fingernails from fixing his own broken-down cars. His father was a ne’er do well who had almost no role in Braggs’ life except to give him his last name. But he was reared by a loving mother and her poor but kind family, who knew how to love and how to cook, perhaps in that order.

Braggs pays tribute to his upbringing — and his mother in particular —  with this combination memoir/cookbook The Best Cook in the World: Tales From My Momma’s Table. Given my love for stories about the South, and my appetite for southern cooking, this book was a dream come true. Braggs writing makes me ashamed to refer to myself as a writer.

I was only a little ways into the library book when I knew I’d have to buy the book using CASH MONEY, something I rarely do these days. While the stories he tells about his extended family are funny and told with such love, it’s the recipes to which I will refer again and again. If it was a paper book I owned, the pages would be tattered.

I loved The Best Cook in the World. While I suspect many of us think those words could refer to our own mothers’ cooking, Braggs use of his mother’s very own words to describe the cooking method gives the reader such a picture of his mother that she could be our mother too.

Here is a link to the book.

 

Guest Posts: The City That Never Sleeps

By Rebecca Borman

After my great stay in Dupont Circle, it was on to the second part of my East Coast Swing, New York City.  This year’s visit would be made special by the fact that I was sharing it with my son Erik, his wife Josey, and their kids Mackenzie and Carter.

Our trip started at DC’s Union Station.  Mackenzie and Carter had never been on a train, so they were very excited when we all met up that morning…..

 We waited impatiently to learn which track our train would be on, and when the info popped up on the sign we, like everyone else, made a dash for the gate, with Carter in the lead.  Five of us dragging suitcases and other bags were quite a spectacle, I imagine.  When we got to the gate, an Amtrak employee noticed me and said: “Senior citizens have early boarding. All of you, come this way.”  Sometimes it pays to be old.  We enjoyed our train ride immensely, and the kids were very excited when we could see the NYC skyline.  Before long we were in the Big Apple.

Our accommodation was a VRBO in SoHo, which we thought would be a great location.  It was also a three-floor walk-up.  Yikes!  Once again dragging our suitcases, we made our ascent and stepped into a bright and very modern three-bedroom apartment.  It didn’t take long for us to set out for a walk to acquaint ourselves with the area and to find somewhere to have dinner.  We enjoyed our meal at what was clearly a local favorite restaurant, and on our way home bought a few groceries at a busy Whole Foods.

When we were planning the trip, we wondered how to choose what to do in our three-day visit.  We decided that each of us would pick one “must-do” activity, and we would add in other things as they fit into our days.  Mackenzie asked to see the Statue of Liberty and to visit the 911 Memorial and Museum.  Since it was rainy on our first morning, a museum seemed like a good idea, so off we went.  Our first job was to buy Metro cards.  We talked to the kids about riding the subway and came up with a plan that would ensure that there would always be an adult on their side of the turnstile.  Making sure we were heading in the right direction…Downtown…we were on our way.

I can’t say enough about the Memorial and Museum.  We spent hours inside the Museum and then walked around the Memorial, which is so peaceful.  A volunteer answered Erik’s questions about the symbolism of the design, and then gave us a quick personal tour.  It was a morning well spent……

And from there it was a short walk down to Battery Park, where we could see the Statue of Liberty.  We decided that, while we would love to visit the Statue and Ellis Island, that was for another trip.  Mackenzie and Carter were satisfied to see The Lady from a distance.

After a rest and change of clothes back in our apartment, we were heading Uptown.  Erik’s must-do activity was a Broadway show, and we’d chosen to see My Fair Lady.  Josey had the idea to have dinner before the show at Tavern on the Green, and what a fun meal that was.  And it was an easy walk to the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, where we enjoyed a wonderful show.  Day 1 was definitely a success!

Carter’s must-do was the Empire State Building.  He had also hoped to have a really good New York bagel, so those were our goals for the second day.  Erik did some research and identified what was supposed to be the best bagels in Manhattan, just blocks away from the Empire State Building.  We rode the subway, going Uptown this time, and a short walk took us to Ess-a-Bagel, and the bagels were, indeed, amazingly good.  We were content and ready for our visit to the Empire State Building.  Express passes got us to the Observation Deck in no time, and we were amazed by the view and the perspective of the city…..

Whether it’s your first time or your fifth, it’s always a spectacular experience.  Good picks, Carter!  Our morning had been so efficient that we had time for other adventures, so we continued father Uptown to Rockefeller Center and FAO Schwartz.  On the way, we passed the NYC Public Library and made a stop there, as well.  On our way back to SoHo we stopped at Eataly for a slice and a look at all the wonderful offerings of meat, seafood, produce, pasta, and more.

That evening’s activity was my must-do, dinner at Becco, a restaurant I love not only for its fun ambience and good food, but also because I’ve shared meals there with people I love.  I wanted Erik, Josey, Mackenzie and Carter to be part of that memory.  The restaurant was busy and hectic, but we were shown to a fairly quiet table and had a good time.  After dinner, we walked to the subway through Times Square, which was anything but quiet, of course…..

We enjoyed seeing the flashy neon signs, but 30 minutes was all we needed.  It had been another active, successful day.  My phone app said 7 miles and 19! flights of stairs.

We’d saved Josey’s must-do for our last day…walking the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan.  It’s one of my favorite New York activities, and she and I were especially excited…..

Mackenzie and Carter weren’t so sure about it, but after only a few minutes they got why it was so special.  It’s only a mile, and the walk seemed easy to all of us, even though the walkway was crowded.  The bridge itself is beautiful, of course, and so is the view of the skyline across the bridge.  Before we knew it, we were on the other side, with lots of day left.  Carter was hoping for an authentic New York slice, and that seemed like a good idea for our lunch.  Google research pointed us to Scarro’s, so off we went.  The subway dropped us off on the edge of Chinatown and we wound our way through the streets to find lunch.  Scarro’s was everything it promised.  We all loved our pizza in this tiny shop tucked in between Chinatown and Little Italy.  And since we were so close to Little Italy, it seemed a no-brainer to walk there for what ended up being the best gelato ever.  And, to my surprise, we were only an 8-minute walk from our apartment!…..

On our last evening we had dinner in the neighborhood, at Katz Deli, a New York institution.  Speaking for myself, it’s the best pastrami I’ve ever tasted, and Josey particularly enjoyed her potato latkes and matzo ball soup.  Good pick!  After dinner Josey and Erik set off to find a bar listed as one of the top 25 in the country, and Mackenzie, Carter and I went to eat what Food and Wine magazine called the best cupcakes in the world.

It isn’t easy to please five people of vastly different ages, but we did it.  Each of our five must-do activities was enjoyed by all of us, and we were completely satisfied with what we had accomplished.  Mackenzie and Carter loved the city as much as we adults do, and all of us hope to visit again often.

Another wonderful East Coast Swing is in the books!

 

Guest Post: Living in the Neighborhood

By Rebecca Borman

I never actually lived in Washington, D.C., but I lived in a Virginia suburb for more than twenty-five years.  And, as often as I could, especially in the summer, I would make my way into the city.  I enjoyed the theaters, the museums, the Mall and monuments, and the neighborhoods.  For some reason, I gravitated to the Dupont Circle area.  So, for my trip this year I decided that instead of renting a room in a hotel, I would try out the concept of a VRBO in that neighborhood.

It didn’t begin particularly well.  Just as my Lyft was pulling up to the curb, the skies opened up.  The owner had told me that the keys were in an envelope in the utility closet down the stairs, which sounded easy enough.  But it was dark and raining.  I finally found the keys, and the kind Lyft driver helped me get my suitcase up the steps and into the hallway.  By then, I was soaked to the skin, and I wasn’t in a good frame of mind.  However, the next morning, when the sun was out and I was rested, I looked around the room and then the neighborhood and decided it was going to be just fine…..

I had a few things I wanted to do while I was in the city, but I didn’t really have a schedule.  So, the first morning I wandered around the area, identifying a near-by Safeway, a great little coffee shop, and several promising restaurants.  I also verified that it was an easy walk to the Dupont Circle Metro Station.  Yes, this is what I had wanted…to have the feel of being a resident, if only for a few days.

The rest of the week was a lovely combination of revisiting some of my favorite DC places and catching up with old friends.  On the first afternoon, I spent several hours at the National Gallery of Art, one of many free Smithsonian Museums on the Mall.  I admired the permanent Impressionist Exhibit, one of the best in the world,…..

and was delighted to discover that there was a large exhibit of one of my favorite Italian Renaissance painters……

On my morning walk, I’d noticed a sign advertising an exhibition on “The Queens of Egypt” at the National Geographic Museum, so I spent several hours there another day.  It was fantastic!  There’s so much to choose from in this city of museums and historical sites.

But even more, I enjoyed the chance to visit with friends, all of whom I’d taught with.  We reminisced with fondness about our days at Bishop Ireton High School.  And of course we talked about our current lives. Some are still working and rearing children and others, like me, are staying busy during retirement.  We enjoy common interests, and one of my evenings included three of us seeing a play at my favorite theater. I sometimes forget how wonderful it is to have long-time friends, women who knew me when I was a younger person……

And what tied it all together was my pleasure in staying on a quiet street, where I watched people going to and from work, walking their dogs, or carrying bags of groceries from the Safeway down the block.  For just a few days I could start my day like a local, in a coffee shop observing neighbors sharing their news and opinions.  One night I walked a mile to what is known as the U Street Corridor and had a chili dog at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl.  And, when I wanted, I did as city people do and rode the subway to pretty much anywhere in the city.

Living in a DC neighborhood was a good start to my East Coast Swing.

(continued tomorrow)

Summertime Fun

In her own inimitable way, my mother always greeted her kids on the 4th of July with Well, summer is half over….. . I don’t know how that landed on my siblings, but for me, it was like Death had walked into my door…..

Kaiya asked me the other day why my kitchen clock ticked. I explained that it had a minute hand, which I used for cooking and baking purposes. That’s often what makes a clock tick. When my mother would proclaim the summer half over, I began to hear that imaginary clock tick, like life had a minute hand.

The fact of the matter is that for my grandkids, the 4th of July means summer is about two/thirds over. They go back to school sometime in the middle of August. We never went back to school before Labor Day.

So, we are trying to find ways to enjoy what’s remaining of their summer. This weekend’s sleepover by Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole was one of the heading-towards-school activities. They enjoyed such Nana delights as breakfast-for-dinner, eating an entire watermelon…..

…..and having a Fat Boy ice cream sandwich for breakfast…..

What can I say? He saw Papa eating a Fat Boy as he was headed to bed the night before and wanted one at that time. I told him he had already brushed his teeth, but that he could have one in the morning. Hey! I’m the grandmother. It’s up to someone else to make the rules and pay the dental bills. I was only a little surprised that he didn’t forget my promise.

I was beginning to think that summer would be over and I still wouldn’t have a bed. However, yesterday our new king-sized bed was delivered. I washed all of my new bed linens and put them on our new bed. We moved our old bed to one of our guest rooms. Bill was putting on the new headboard when he realized he needed some smaller-sized help. He called in the Big Guns. Or should I say the Small Guns…..

How many McLains does it take to put together a bed?

Dagny and Maggie Faith were visiting Nana and Papa, and were happy to help. The truth of the matter is they were visiting Nana and Papa’s Netflix, because we learned recently that Death in Paradise was going to go off Netflix at the end of July. Yikes. We have a lot of episodes to watch before the end of this month. Priorities People.

Bill and I will be gone the remainder of the week visiting my home town of Columbus to attend a funeral of a beloved cousin. It’s not quite a quintessential summertime activity, but LIFE.

The good news is we will return in time to watch the remaining episodes of Death in Paradise and to enjoy our new bed.