Saturday Smile: Twinkle

The other night after Bill and I ate dinner at a neighborhood restaurant, we decided to forgo driving straight home, instead driving around to look at holiday lighting displays. “Let’s go where the rich people live.”

So we drove around Cherry Hills Village to look at the lighting displays of people like Jake Jabs, who clearly spent more money on Christmas lighting than I will spend on my pretty red CR-V.

Still, the holiday lights made me smile and I’m glad they’re willing to spend their money for my pleasure. And a lot of other people’s pleasure judging by the number of cars circling the Village.

Have a good weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Lincoln Highway

Way back in 2018 B.C. (Before COVID), I read a book that I’ve never forgotten. It was called Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson. Read my book review here. It featured a quirky but brilliant child named Frank. I hesitated reading a book that featured a child as its main protagonist, but never regretted my decision.

I chose to read The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles, for a couple of reasons. First, I enjoy Towles’ writing. Second, I love the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway — which is state highway 30 most of the time — ran through the town in which I spent my formative years. The highway, in fact, runs from Times Square in New York City, to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. While I haven’t driven all of the Lincoln Highway, I know parts of it are brick because I drove on bricks outside of Omaha, Nebraska.

What I didn’t know about The Lincoln Highway is that it would feature Billy, another precocious, funny, earnest kid as a main character. I would re-read the book simply for Billy.

In June 1954, 18-year-old Emmett Watson, is released from the juvenile work farm where he served time for manslaughter for killing another teenager. He is released early due to the death of his father, leaving his 8-year-old brother Billy alone as his mother had left the family years before. The work farm’s warden drives him to his home in central Nebraska, where Emmett is determined to gather Billy and a few of their things and leave Nebraska and all its memories for anywhere else. He’s thinking Texas, but when he tells Billy of his plans, the determined boy convinces his bigger brother to go to San Francisco, where he is sure their mother now lives.

Trouble, however, awaits, as unbeknownst to the warden, two of Emmett’s jailmates have hidden in the trunk and escape when the warden is dropping Emmett off at his home. Duchess is Nothing But Trouble With a Heart of Gold. Woolly, is the direct opposite — quiet, kind, and gentle. While Emmett and Bill plan to take the Lincoln Highway to San Francisco, Duchess and his friend Woolly steal the car and head the opposite direction, heading towards New York City. When he learns of the car theft, he and Billy head east, determined to find them.

The Lincoln Highway, much like The Gentleman from Moscow, a novel by the same author, is almost a series of vignettes about the adventures of these fellows, told from different points of view. Hopping trains, sleeping under the stars, and meeting all sorts of interesting characters along the way, the four make their way to the Big Apple. Among the few things that Billy was allowed to bring is a book of tales about famous adventurers such as Lewis and Clark. That book becomes a centerpiece of the story, and the reason I loved the character of Billy as much as I did.

Billy is adorable and despite his age, he is really the one that keeps the travelers in line. He is also the character that makes the story the most interesting.

I loved this book and recommend it strongly.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Blue and Orange
When we are in AZ, the chair in which I sit every morning looks directly out our glass doors. I am able to watch the sun come up, and sometimes it is very pretty. When we’re in Denver, however, I sit at the kitchen table in the morning with my back to the window. Bill is a later sleeper than I, but yesterday morning he got up quite early. All of the sudden he said, “Kris, look out the window.” I did, and what I saw was spectacular…..

I always say it’s hard to beat AZ sunsets, but I will take a Colorado sunrise anytime. And just think, I would have missed it if my husband hadn’t gotten up early!

Angels and Monkeys
Cole and Mylee helped me decorate the angel tree on Tuesday. They both have their favorite ornaments and they always garner the best spots. I showed them the ornaments they each made last year from scratch, and it got Cole thinking that he needed to make another one this year. He carefully examined the ornament my stepmother made me a few years ago completely out of different kinds of pasta. He decided that’s what he wanted to make. Friday morning I went to the grocery store and bought the necessary types of pasta, namely bowtie for the wings, rigatoni for the body, and ditalani for the hair. I also stopped at Joann’s and picked up an ornament kit so that I would have something for the heads. As it turned out, Cole decided to make the ornament from the kit, and, not at all surprisingly, Mylee turned her pasta into a monkey…..

Deer Hunters
Jen called me yesterday with a very funny story. The story is only funny, however, if you — like us — imagine that the episode ended on a good note. She was driving home from work at dusk when a deer ran across the road. There wasn’t a lot of traffic on her side of the road, and she escaped unscathed. The deer, however, was distraught. It leaped across the median and ran head-first into the side of a car. I can only imagine the driver of the car’s reaction to a deer seemingly flying from the sky into their side window. The person must have wondered if Rudolph was making an appearance. Though Jen couldn’t tell what happened next, in our world, the deer shook its head and flew back into the sky with nary a scratch. This is a perfect example of a deer hitting a car instead of a car hitting a deer.

Room For Dessert?
I haven’t said a word about Thanksgiving, and it was a wonderful day. The food was delicious and the company was even better. My friendly bagger about whom I wrote a few days ago would be thrilled to know that we all enjoyed the food offerings immensely. You can judge for yourself from this photo of the desserts alone…..

Ciao!

Keeping Track

Bill and I sat down yesterday morning to go over our calendars. We do this on a regular basis because, as I like to say, between the two of us, we have one working brain. This may or may not be true, because I’m not sure mine is ever working. Anyway, he can remind me of some things and I can remind him of others. Our goal is to end up together in the same place and at the right time.

At my sister Jen’s urging, I now keep a paper calendar. Her urging likely came from living with me for a couple of months in AZ last winter, and seeing how I struggle with technology. I like to call my paper calendar a day timer because that seems to make it sound like I’m a realtor instead of a technological nincompoop. I also keep a calendar on my laptop, on my iPad, and on my cell phone. These three pieces of technology are supposed to synch. Sometimes they do; often they don’t. The reasons they do or don’t are inexplicable to me. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is because I am doing something incorrectly. I likely — though inadvertently — set it up to only synch when there is a full moon.

Paper calendars don’t synch, but the information doesn’t mysteriously disappear either. Perhaps more important, when I go to a certain date in the calendar to find out the time of an appointment, it is always there. It isn’t impacted by daylight savings time. It worries not about synching with anything. And there might even be an inspirational quote at the top of the page.

As Bill and I began talking about our calendars, it became abundantly clear that social appointments were simply SMOTHERED by health-related appointments. This is true even if I include all friends’ and family members’ birthdays, something I do to both remind me and to fool myself into thinking I have a social life. Reality dictates that even if Great-Aunt Gladys is celebrating her 89th birthday, it doesn’t necessarily mean I will be celebrating with her. Still, it makes me feel better.

The truth, however, is that the first week in January, Bill has two surgical procedures and I have one surgical procedure. It appears 2022 is going to be a hit for the McLains. None of the procedures are serious, or even very interesting. Bill is starting the process to acquire dental implants and then moves south on his body to have a mole removed. I am moving even more south as I am having bunion surgery. His procedures won’t cause him much angst. I, on the other hand, will have to be non-weight-bearing for a minimum of six weeks. I’m looking at YOU, crutches.

Yuck.

Since I won’t be running the Phoenix Marathon, I might take the time to study technology. No I won’t. But I might do some doodling in my paper calendar.

A Wink and a Smile

Those Progressive Insurance commercials featuring the young people who have bought their first homes and are becoming their parents make me laugh. I don’t know where they come up with their ideas, but whoever that is must follow me around, because they have me NAILED.

I like the most recent versions dealing with shopping. I mean, the man who wants to buy a shirt exactly like the one he is wearing could be me. I have already admitted that I purchased a sweater online from Target that I realized I already owned.

I personally laugh/cringe at the commercial in which that same man and the man supposedly hired to intervene are grocery shopping. At the end, the man goes over to give positive feedback to the manager about the expertise of the man in produce. The first time I saw that commercial, I was laughing all the way through his foibles until he got to that last part, where he talked to the manager.

BECAUSE THAT IS ME. I DO EXACTLY THAT.

The other day, I was doing my first Last Big Shop for Thanksgiving. (There are always multiple Thanksgiving shopping adventures that you SWEAR will be your last.) I had a cartful of items, so I elected not to self-check. I also had forgotten my cloth bags, which required me to pay the requisite 10 cents a bag for plastic. It was my lucky day, however, because I snared a cashier who had someone bagging groceries for him. The cashier had been called off the floor where he was stocking canned pumpkin and chicken broth to help out up front at the check stands. That explains why he was pretty crabby. I worked at Safeway in a former life, and so I understood.

The teenaged bagger, however, was NOT crabby. In fact, he was darnright cheerful. “Wow!” he said as he put my groceries in their respective bags. “It looks like you’re going to cook a GREAT Thanksgiving meal!” (He spoke with exclamation points!) I explained that I was simply contributing to the dinner. “Well, I can tell you are a great cook!” he said. “Don’t you just LOVE Thanksgiving?” he went on. “It’s all about the great food!”

I had been feeling a bit overwhelmed and grouchy when I walked up to the checkout stand, but by time I left, I was smiling broadly. That bagger changed my mood completely.

As I was heading out towards the exit, I noticed a man wearing a tie with a name badge that indicated he was the store manager. I mean, he was WALKING RIGHT TOWARDS ME. What could I do? I tried to stop myself. He looks busy, I told myself. He might not actually be the manager, I told myself. He’s seen the Progressive commercials, I told myself.

But I couldn’t help it. “Sir, are you the manager?” I asked. His brows furrowed as he prepared for the bitch he was expecting. “Yes,” he said tentatively. But he didn’t have to be nervous because I pointed to the young man and said that he was one of the most pleasant service people I had ever encountered and what a great job he was doing.

“Well, that’s wonderful to hear,” the manager said with a smile. “You know, today is his first day here. He arrived two hours early.”

And there you go. That young man changed my mood that day. It reminded me that I, too, can change people’s days by smiling and being friendly. I hope that young man has a wonderful future ahead of him.

Cheers!

Why Do I Do That Thing That I Hate?

People frequently ask me how I can write a blog nearly every day. Don’t you hate having to write that often?

The answer is no. I love to write. What makes it difficult is coming up with something interesting to say six days a week. I live a pretty quiet and uninteresting life. Sometimes I will come up with a idea in the middle of the night. Or maybe something will catch my eye at the grocery store. I like to tell myself that when I sit down that afternoon to write, I will quickly recall the idea and the words will flow from my fingers like ketchup from a bottle. What happens in real life is that I sit down and can’t for the life of me recall my brilliant idea.

So I recently decided I would write down my idea in a notebook even when I’m certain I will remember it. Because as much as the truth hurts, I don’t remember things like I used to. Or really at all. As I’ve aged, my brain is apparently beginning to look like Swiss cheese, except for my childhood telephone numbers.

So, when I got ready to write this blog, I recalled that I had written down a great idea I had for a post. I happily opened my notebook, and here is what I had written down:

Why do I do that thing that I hate?

What the hell, I thought to myself. What thing do I hate? I hate hypocrisy. I hate arrogance. I hate winter. I hate eggplant. I hate war. I hate the Las Vegas Raiders, but not as much as I used to when they were in Oakland.

But what exactly was it that I was thinking about when I suggested that idea to myself? I remember clearly writing down the idea. But I have no recollection to what I was referring. Clever ideas aren’t clever when you don’t remember what the clever idea was.

I thought about this recently when I decided I needed to sharpen one of my well-used and well-loved knives. I have a small knife sharpener that I have kept in the same place in the pantry for 10 years or more. I walked to where I have kept that sharpener all these years, and it wasn’t there. And then I remember thinking last summer that it really wasn’t in a great place, and I should move it to __________ because that would make much more sense. Except I can’t remember where __________ is. Therefore, my knife sharpener is missing in action.

I’m not the only one in my family who has made this type of tactical error. Many years ago, my sister Bec had a little remote control that she kept in a pencil container alongside her pencils. One day, she decided that was a silly place to keep the remote control. Like me, she put the remote control in a much more “sensible” spot. Except the remote control has been missing since that very moment because she can’t for the life of her remember where she put it.

It’s her very own version of why do I do the thing that I hate.

Smell the Roses

I spent yesterday getting ready for today. My stepmother — who passed away suddenly a few weeks ago — is being interred at Fort Logan National Cemetery this morning. I offered to host a luncheon following the service, something I am happy to do. However, I learned that the week of Thanksgiving is not necessarily the week to plan an additional gathering. The grocery store was crazy yesterday morning, but I got enough ingredients for my lunch, plus some ingredients for my Thanksgiving responsibilities. I had pretty good luck finding things, except for Jimmy Dean sausage. I managed to grab a couple of the store brand breakfast sausages for my mother’s famous dressing, one of my contributions.

I spent the remainder of the day cleaning and preparing the house for guests. I will admit that I also did a bit of Christmas decorating, including putting up a teeny-tiny tree in my kitchen…..

After all, we need a little Christmas.

Now I come to the time when I explain the title of the blog: I am taking the remainder of the week off to prepare for, and enjoy, Thanksgiving. Smell the roses, so to speak. I will return on Monday.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family and other readers.

Holly and Turkey

Today I am determined to bring my two Christmas trees up from the basement and set them up. Typically, I — along with whatever grandkids are available — decorate the trees the day after Thanksgiving. While others are frantically shopping Black Friday specials, I am creating Christmas.

This year, however, I am joining the multitudes who have already started singing Christmas carols and decking the halls with boughs of holly despite the fact that the turkey isn’t even thawed. It started when I was still in AZ, because I wanted to walk into our home on Christmas Day and have a holiday tree to light. It felt early, but I enjoyed the lights on our little Christmas tree each night until we left.

Yesterday I noticed that people in our neighborhood were stringing lights around their houses and trees. Bill and I went to see the movie King Richard (which, by the way, I recommend), and when we got out of the theater it was dark, but joyfully lit up with sparkling white lights that the outdoor shopping area had recently installed…..

I made the decision to join the fun. I wonder, however, why people, including me, have decided to start celebrating Christmas when they still have pumpkin spice latte foam on their upper lips. I think, like nearly everything else, we can blame it on COVID.

We all suffer from COVID weariness. Will it ever end? I am fully immunized and boosted, yet I still feel uncomfortable when I shop without a mask. Will that ever change? I’m so tired of wondering whether I am being exposed to COVID every time I hear a person cough or sneeze. Given my frequent hospital visits, I am terrified every time I have a little tweak in my tummy. Will I have to go to the hospital and sleep in a bed located in the hallway because all rooms are taken?

So instead of spending any more time worrying, we are all bringing beauty unto ourselves via Christmas lights and holiday music. My current favorite Christmas album comes from a women’s trio called Pistol Annie’s. The album is called Hell of a Holiday, and the group includes country music singers Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley. I almost didn’t even listen to the album because I’m still mad at Miranda Lambert for breaking Blake Shelton’s heart. My sister Jen reminded me that Christmas is a time for forgiving, and suggested perhaps Blake could take some of the blame. Besides, he is now happily remarried, and probably already has decorated his tree. Anyway, I’m glad for my forgiving ways because I love the holiday music.

So, by the end of today, I hope to have my angel tree filled with ornaments and providing Christmas cheer to all who pass by my window.

Saturday Smile: Hideout

My sister Jen FaceTimed me the other day with Winston on her lap. “He got groomed today,” she said. I commented on how beautiful he was, and how fluffy his ears were. “He really doesn’t like going to the groomer,” Jen pointed out.

The next day, she sent me this photo…..

She found Winston hiding under the bed in one of the guest rooms.

“He hid about the same time that we left for the groomer yesterday,” Jen explained.

I’m pretty sure Winston is smarter than me. And his ears really are fluffy.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Nature of Fragile Things

San Francisco has a history of earthquakes, but perhaps the most famous of all happened in 1906, before building codes and a scientific understanding of the San Andreas Fault. The 1906 earthquake was one of the worst to hit northern Colorado, and it destroyed 80 percent of the city of San Francisco, and killed some-3,000 people.

The earthquake and its destructive aftermath is the stage for much of Susan Meissner’s interesting novel, The Nature of Fragile Things. The story starts off mysteriously, with what is clearly a hearing in which the main character, Sophie Whalen, is testifying.

Sophie left Ireland under mysterious circumstances, and lands in a New York City tenement where she is surrounded by filth and crime, hunger and loneliness. She is so desperate to escape her circumstances that she answers an ad placed in one of the NYC newspapers from a San Francisco man seeking a wife and mother for his 5-year-old child. The arrangement is made, and Sophie makes the long trip to San Francisco, knowing virtually nothing about her soon-to-husband.

He meets her at the station, and they immediately go to the justice of the peace to be married. He then takes her home to meet his little girl, Kat, who hasn’t spoken since her mother died. While Sophie wants to make her new arrangement work, it is clear that things aren’t what they should be. Martin Hocking is handsome and generous, and has bought a beautiful home in which the three can live. He travels extensively for his job, being gone weeks at a time. When he’s home, he has little to do with either his wife or his child.

Sophie comes to love Kat like she is her own child, and intends to make the best of things. That is, until one day, while Martin is out of town, Sophie gets a surprise visitor that changes everything. It so happens that is the day before the earthquake hits.

Sophie, Kat, and her visitor are left homeless following the earthquake, and struggle to make their way to someplace safe. They watch the city crumble around them and begin to burn. They fight to find safety.

The Nature of Fragile Things is a story about courage and resilience and friendship. The author offers realistic descriptions of a city under great duress, and the kindness — and lack of kindness — displayed by others in crisis.

The story took many twists and turns, leading to a surprise ending.

I enjoyed The Nature of Fragile Things very much.

Here is a link to the book.