Saturday Smile: Comin’ In White

I’m not sure this is really anything to smile about, but I admit to being amused by Colorado’s unpredictable weather. It was 90 degrees and sunny on Thursday. Yesterday, it was below freezing, and snow fell. Summer solstice is a mere month away. I’m enjoying it, however, because when we return to AZ on Wednesday for Bill’s oral surgery, it will be in the low 100s.

I’m dreaming of a White Memorial Day…..


Have a good weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love

When I was a child, I had a pen pal. I found her name in the back of a magazine sent to our house by one of the insurance companies used by my parents. In that magazine, there were postings for youngsters who wanted someone with whom they could correspond. I don’t remember the name of my pen pal. What I do remember, however, is how much fun I had writing those letters to a total stranger. And it was even more fun to open up the mailbox and see an envelope addressed to me in her lovely cursive handwriting.

That would have been in the late 1950s or early 1960s, right about the time that 27-year-old Joan Bergstrom sent a fan letter to 59-year-old Imogene Fortier in the book Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love, by Kim Fay. Joan is a single career woman who has just begun a career writing in the food section of a Los Angeles newspaper. She sends Ms. Fortier the letter because she has enjoyed reading the older woman’s simple missives about life on an island off the coast of Seattle in a Pacific northwest magazine.

The letter captures the attention of Imogene because Joan has included in the letter a sample of the spice saffron, something completely unfamiliar to her. It is the 1960s, where women were the cooks, and foodstuffs that we take for granted now were foreign in some parts of the country. Imogene had never tasted fresh garlic, so saffron was a completely unique experience.

That letter was the impetus for a relationship between two women who, despite their age difference, are drawn together by food and friendship, shared via letters. Through their correspondence, they become familiar not only with one another, but with their lives and their challenges and their loves and hates. Joan challenges Imogene to look at food a bit differently, and Imogene accepts the challenge with joy. Imogene’s joy is shared with her husband, a typical mid-20th century man who has never cooked a meal in his life, and who looks at his life as a predictable drudge. But he takes on the initial challenge of saffron, and his life is never the same. Pretty soon he’s preparing foods from other cultures and using ingredients that they have to work hard to find.

I really liked this book. I enjoyed the way their lives were presented to the readers via letters. The author allowed us to share in the excitement of cooking, and to learn how food can draw people together. Having grown up in the midwest, I was also amused to realize how different the cooking styles were then than they are today. It was the rare cook who left the safe lane of everyday cooking.

If you are a foodie, read this book. Imogene and Joan are a lot of fun, and a good example of true friendship.

Thursday Thoughts

Magic
I know I complain a lot about technology. It’s true that it often kicks my butt. Passwords allude me. Updates confuse me. Hackers alarm me. But, all in all, technology has improved my life. My technology gratitude stems completely from an experience this past Sunday. Our grandson Micah has taken piano lessons for a number of years. When we are together, he has demonstrated to Papa and me his musical skills. However, we haven’t ever seen him perform in a recital. Not surprising as he lives nearly 2,000 miles away in Montpelier, Vermont. His most recent recital was Sunday, and thanks to Zoom, Bill and I were able to watch him perform. He was, simply put, magnificent. He is 9 years old, and his name isn’t John Legend, so he wasn’t performing Beethoven or Mozart. In fact, I don’t know the name of the tune he played. I know two things: 1) He played the song flawlessly and with much confidence; and 2) He had the deepest and most professional bow of all of the recital participants. Thank you Micah and thank you Zoom inventors.

Passing in the Night
Jen arrived yesterday for an Arizona visit with her daughter and her grands, just a day before Bill and I leave to go back to Denver this morning. We had a chance to say hello last night at dinner. Similarly, Bill and I will return to AZ on Wednesday for his next mouth surgery, a day after Jen returns to Colorado. Like two thieves passing in the night.

Say Ah
As I mentioned above, Bill has his implant surgery in Mesa on May 26, so we will return to AZ on May 25. For two people who don’t love plane travel, we sure have, and are going to, spent(d) a lot of time commuting between Denver and Mesa these few weeks. After his surgery, he will have his next surgery sometime in September. We will get a bit of a travel break.

Grateful
Thank you for the patience of my readers as I stumbled through the past week. Bill and I encountered some life difficulties which we have managed to survive, and, yes, learn from. Nana and her whimsies are back once again, and I appreciate your support. Oh, and your prayers.

Challenges

I have a very clear memory of the morning that our son Court’s father left for work following our baby’s birth. It was the first time I was left alone with my baby child. I remember the sound of the front door closing, and I recall that I looked down at Court’s sleeping face. As I gazed at him, I remember thinking, “What in the hell am I supposed to do now?” I had never been trained to be a mother. There were no lessons in caring for a newborn on television. The internet was 15 years away. Unlike adoptive parents — who go through a thorough and difficult vetting process before they are given adoptive rights — I plopped a human being out of my body into this world without any vetting at all. A hospital nurse wheeled Court and me out of the door, likely thinking you poor unsuspecting sucker, you have no idea what lies ahead.

And I really didn’t. My mother and father had spent a day with us, admiring their fourth grandchild, but left to go back home to Summit County that evening. I assume Mom figured I would be able to keep the child alive. After all, she had kept four children alive, and raised them to be pretty decent human beings. My babysitting experience wasn’t even with little babies. The youngest child I had ever taken care of was around 18 months. Shortly after that particular child’s parents walked out the door, leaving Little Richie with a 12-year-old neophyte, the baby pooped his pants. I am ashamed to say that Little Richie stayed in his poopy pants until the parents arrived home. Yes, following what was likely a romantic date night, Mommy and Daddy had to clean what was by then petrified poop from the baby’s butt.

And I’m in charge of a tiny baby boy. Go figure.

I think I can say I have similar feelings about growing old. No one is really prepared for all of the issues that come with aging. When you get married, you have a preconceived idea of how your life is going to unfold. There are lots of love and kisses and flowers and candy. Of course, there are lots of disagreements and life issues like overdrawn checkbooks or fender benders. But mostly, life is pretty simple.

What you don’t really prepare for, however, are the wrinkles in your face and forgetting where you put your keys that come as the years pass. And you certainly don’t prepare for things like bowel obstructions and Parkinson’s Disease.

Just like 42 years ago, when I looked down at Court’s beautiful face and wondered if I’m going to be able to keep him alive, I now look at Bill, and he looks at me, and we wonder if we are going to be able to care for one another as we grow old together.

Our marriage vows were to love one another for better and for worse, and we are both committed to keeping those vows. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Thursday Thoughts

Fun Times
Yesterday involved trips to the cardiologist in the morning and the dentist in the afternoon. Whoo-hoo. We really know how to have a good time. The cardiologist was for Bill, and I’m happy to say the doc gave him good news and he doesn’t have to come back for another six months. The dentist appointment was for me. I sat with my mouth open for a full hour as the dental hygienist scraped and poked and prodded until I thought my head would explode. I have been having some tooth sensitivity, and I think she decided the only way to solve the problem was to face it head on, and scrape the living hell out of my teeth. I was waiting for her to bring out a jackhammer. At one point when she gave me a bit of breathing room, I mentioned the jackhammer notion. Rather than laugh, I think she kind of gave it a thought. If I didn’t have sensitivity before the appointment, I sure did afterwards.

Bare Shelves
I made my first run to my favorite nursery on Monday, and was not terribly surprised to see that the shelves were mostly empty. Mother’s Day is a major vegetable and flower plants sales day. There wasn’t a single petunia to be found. I asked one of the staff, and she told me they had shelves full last week. She added that this year, for whatever reason, they weren’t that busy on Mother’s Day, but were exceptionally busy the Friday and Saturday before. I’m not too upset because Mother’s Day came quite early this year, and though the temps are supposed to stay warm, I’ve learned the hard way not to plant too early in Colorado. More plants were supposed to come in that afternoon, so I will make my way to the nursery again this afternoon.

Movin’
One of my favorite days of the year is the day that Bill gets my scooter running for the first time. That happened on Tuesday. I haven’t had the opportunity to ride it yet, but once again, this afternoon is supposed to be sunny and warm. Perfect scooting weather. I’m still crazy about that thing, even after all of these years.

Bunnies
What I’m not too crazy about is the fact that we seem to have bunnies this year. I see two or three every morning grazing on our very dry grass. I think bunnies are very cute, but I also know that they love garden plants. This year, when the grass might not ever be to their liking because of the drought, they might enjoy my swiss chard a bit more then usual. They’d better just stay away from my petunias (assuming I actually am able to buy any petunias!).

Ciao.

Is That Music?

Sometimes I feel like I’m 100 years old. Social media is partly to blame, but no one forces me to check Instagram. However, I was in a doctor’s office recently, and the music that was playing overhead was enough to make my head explode. I couldn’t figure out what kind of music it was. It was very mournful, and it didn’t seem to have any rhythm. Likewise, the singers — every one of them — sounded so sad. I didn’t even need to understand the words (which was a good thing, because I couldn’t, even if my life depended on it) to know that their relationship with someone was ending or they just found out that they only had six weeks to live.

I was curious, so I secretly asked my watch — well, Siri, actually — to “name that tune.” She cheerfully provided me with the artist’s name, which I then googled. I don’t remember the woman’s name, but her genre was called indie pop. I’m glad to know that, because if I’m ever driving eight hours in a car with one of my grandkids, and they ask me if I want to listen to indie pop via their Spotify, I will know to give them a vehement HELL NO. I attended enough sporting events, dance recitals, school continuations, etc., that they owe it to me to let me listen to Chris Stapleton and Brothers Osborn for the eight hours. It won’t be accessed, however, via Spotify, because I haven’t the foggiest idea how that all works.

Here’s the extent of what I know about Spotify: for some period of time — perhaps even still — three of the four McLain grands were sharing a Spotify account. They shared expenses, but only one could be on the account at a time. Addie apparently payed the most. As such, she issued the edict that she had first dibs on listening to music on Spotify. So, when Alastair was mowing our lawn and listening to music with his headphones, he very possibly could get a phone call from his big sister ordering him to vacate because she was feeling musical at that moment. He would obey, because when Adelaide Grace issues an edict, one obeys. Remember, she’s the one who will be president some day.

At any rate, it makes me understand how my parents felt about the music of my generation. Imagine being used to listening to Bobby Vinton or Vic Damone, and suddenly this young man with an electric guitar and shaking his hips like someone dumped a cup of ice down his pants is The Big Thing. Or Ed Sullivan is introducing these four young men from England with goofy long hair and unusual harmonies, and the young women in the audience are losing their minds.

We are a musical family, and I’m happy that my grandkids like music. And truly, if anyone overhears me asking any of my grands the question my grandmother asked me: “Is that music?,” contact the nearest senior facility and make the arrangements.

Mama Mia

For a couple of decades, some variation of family members — with Bill, my sister Jen, and me as the core — met on Mother’s Day for brunch at the Greenbriar Inn just north of Boulder. Other than that one day a year, none of us has ever eaten a meal at the restaurant. We don’t even know what their menu looks like. But Mother’s Day brunch has been our family tradition for a large chunk of our adult life.

Of course, in May of 2020, the brunch didn’t happen. We were all still hunkered down, hiding from the COVID virus. Last year, we went to the Greenbriar, but they didn’t offer a buffet; instead, we ordered from a menu. Cie la vie, as my beautiful Parisian daughter-in-law would say. We ordered another glass of champagne and toasted our children.

This year, for the first time ever, none of our children was present at our brunch. There comes a time when our children want to spend time with their children on days like Mother’s or Father’s Day. It comes with the territory. And because the inflation rate is hovering in the neighborhood of 8.5 percent with no sign of leveling off much less decreasing, it came as no surprise to us that the buffet had almost doubled in price. Even more shocking, if we wanted a glass of champagne (and who wouldn’t when you are at a brunch?) we had to fork over nine bucks a glass because it was no longer included in the price of the brunch. We, of course, forked over the nine bucks. Except for Bill, who forked over $18 for two glasses. And he isn’t even a mother.

Being a mother was the most difficult — and most rewarding — job of my entire life. Cardinal Timothy Dolan from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC recently went to the Ukraine area to offer prayer and support to the people in that war-torn part of the world. He told his parishioners Sunday that he was struck by the fact that most of the people he saw were women and children, undoubtedly because the men are off fighting for their country. He also was struck at how the mothers gathered their children around them, and how the children hovered around their mothers, because that’s what mothers and their children do. I understand that fathers also play a strong role in a child’s life. I believe it can’t be argued, however, that the bond between mothers and their children has a unique feel. Sure, part of it is because we carried those children in our bellies for nine months and gave birth to them at great cost. I believe, however, even adoptive mothers have unique relationships with their children.

Just you wait. Come Father’s Day and I will be singing the joys of fatherhood. But I won’t be eating brunch at the Greenbriar Inn.

Nevah, Nevah, Nevah Give Up

If there was ever a sporting event exemplifying tenacity, it is the race run by the gallant horse Rich Strike, who beat 80-1 odds in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby to win the roses. Both Rich Strike and the man who sat on his back — Sonny Leon (whose name sounds more like a mob consigliere than a jockey) — took Winston Churchill’s famous words to heart. They nevah, nevah, nevah gave up. Though the horse was in 17th place as the two athletes rounded the last turn, they snuck from behind to win the whole shebang. The sound you heard was that of jaws dropping.

Oh, and joyous cheering from that one guy who bet on Rich Strike, but only because it was his neighbor’s cousin’s best friend’s horse.

I should use Rich Strike as my role model. Look up throw in the towel in the dictionary and you will see my face. Well, actually you probably wouldn’t find the phrase throw in the towel in the dictionary, but you get my meaning. I am guilty of giving up without even a serious try.

Bill, of course, is the total opposite of me in this regard (and many other regards). He and Rich Strike are twin sons of different mothers. (Admittedly, Rich Strike is tired of Bill saying “why the long face?” at family dinners.) Bill is patient, determined, tenacious. He will continue to work on something until either he gets it right or it becomes inarguably apparent that it isn’t going to work or he isn’t going to be able to figure it out. Even more shocking, he almost always does so without a single cuss word. Long after I have begun my ranting that he should just give it up, he is patiently continuing to work.

This determination made him very good at his job of lobbying the Colorado State Legislature. He would try an argument for or against a bill, and if it didn’t work, he didn’t give up. He just went back to the drawing board and thought of a new tactic. That’s basically what Rich Strike and Sonny Leon did to win the race. Even when it appeared they didn’t have chance in hell to win (after all, they wouldn’t even have been in the race if another horse hadn’t scratched the day before), they saw an opportunity in the last part of the race to cut inside. After that, it was bye-bye to the favorites and hello to the ring of roses.

Determination wins the race. It also can get you pretty far in life if you give it a chance.

Saturday Smile: Spring

The weather warmed up yesterday, and I got a chance for a close-up look at the spring flowers that are budding on our bushes and trees…..

This is some kind of a holly bush that neither Bill nor I can ever remember blooming before. However, it is providing a spot of color in our yard.
This year our three apple trees are all in bloom. They bloomed last year, but the apples never appeared. Fingers crossed we will get a harvest this year. Remind me of this hope this fall when I’m complaining about all of the apples on the ground.
Here is my own special spot of color. Yesterday I was able to spend the day with our youngest grandchild Cole, who turned 8 on Wednesday. He’s my very own spot of color.

Have a great weekend.