Thursday Thoughts

Shingles: They’re Not Just On Roofs Anymore
The other evening, we had our friends John and Carol over for dinner. John came down with a case of shingles three or four weeks ago, and has been suffering greatly. Our dinner was one of the first times he had been out of their house for anything other than doctors’ appointments. We had a nice time with them, but it hurt my heart to see him in such pain. The next day, I called my doctor’s office to see about getting the new shingles vaccine. They told me their office was on back order, and suggested Walgreen’s. Bill and I hightailed it to our neighborhood Walgreen’s, where we both got the first of what will eventually be two shingles vaccines……

Bill is awaiting his shingles vaccine, part I. While he puts up with Parkinson’s disease with nary a complaint, shots are not his friend.

The shot hurt — as shots do — but shingles is worse. This vaccine is purported to be 90 percent effective, much better than the old vaccine. Over 50? Run, don’t walk, to get your shot!

My Dust Bowl
Last Sunday, I spent much of the day watching the Ken Burns episodes — two of them — about the Dust Bowl. Fascinating stuff. But I have been involved in my own dust bowl. For nearly the 25 years we have lived in this house, we have had book shelves in our bedroom. Bill installed them to house some of my literally hundreds of hardback and paperback books. Hardback and paperback books that I no longer read since I read exclusively on the Kindle on the iPad. And since we are preparing to have new carpeting installed, now seemed like a good time to remove them, thereby enlarging our bedroom significantly. The thing is, my housekeeping skills are more Erma Bombeck than Martha Stewart, so the shelves (and books) are extremely dusty. I have powered through, a little at a time, but I feel like my lungs are filled with dust. Perhaps I’m imagining this since I watched those Ken Burns episodes, but I think I might be coming down with dust pneumonia!…..

A little at a time., but I’m getting close!

Picture Not Perfect
And the biggest problem I’m running into is the photos. OMG! The pictures. The pictures. One whole shelf was full of photo albums ranging from college days to the time when we all stopped printing photos and inserting them into albums. What do I do with those photos? I have pictures of Court as a baby, Court as a pre-teen, Court as a teenager, Court in college, Bill and I at every stage of our life. I have photos of Mom and Dad ranging from the 1960s until their respective deaths. I seem unable to throw them away. So instead, I’m taking them out of frames (if they are framed), and putting them all in an envelope. When I die, Allen, David, Heather, and Court will all get together and perhaps they will take a gander at the photos. And one of them will say to the other, “Who in the hell is that woman with Mom (or Kris)?” Because they won’t know my college friends. Heck, I can’t remember most of their names. But see above. I am unable to throw them away. I love each and every picture of each and every grandchild I have. And, by the way, I seem to have more of our oldest — Addie — than anyone else. Go figure.

Kitchen Plates
And because I’ve been promising, here is my display of the plates I purchased while at The Mercantile in Pawhuska, OK, a couple of weeks ago. It’s hard to tell from the photo because I couldn’t take a long shot due to a light hanging in the way. But I will tell you that I am extremely pleased with the result. That wall — which has been bare for two years — finally looks complete…..

Happy Anniversary to Us
Bill and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary yesterday. I sent a text message to all of my bridesmaids apologizing once again for my dress choice for them. I believe they have all forgiven me…..

And here we are, 26 years later…..





Run Forest Run

Exercise is good for you. You should spend 30 minutes doing some kind of aerobic exercise at least five times a week. You should do core exercises or lift weights a couple times a week. Exercise can help prevent heart disease, lower your blood pressure, prevent broken bones, and keep your cholesterol under control.

Blah blah blobbity blah blah.

I know all those things are true, but I hate to exercise. I always have. I do now. I always will.

Much of my life, I have been able to set aside my dislike of exercise and have faithfully grunted myself into good health. I have run, walked, or biked. I have jumped around doing step aerobics. I have danced my butt off doing Jazzercise.  I belonged to Curves. For over a year, I faithfully walked on a Nordic Track in my basement every morning before work. Never once – not for one minute – did I enjoy what I was doing. I enjoy sitting in my recliner reading the latest C.J. Box mystery. I like plopping in front of the television and watching Chief Inspector Morse listen to opera while solving a complicated mystery. I do not like putting on my stretch pants and doing anything that makes me break out in a sweat, especially since yoga isn’t in my future and stretch pants aren’t my friend.

But I do it. Or at least I do it most of the time.

Walking is my current exercise of choice. I walk pretty faithfully every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I have added a twist to my walking regime – Nordic walking. In addition to making me look like an incredible fool, the walking poles are supposed to work the entire body more effectively because you apply pressure on the poles with each step. I can’t confirm or deny their effectiveness. But I can certainly confirm that I look quite silly…..

The other day the skies were threatening rain. I was trying to talk myself into getting out for my walk early so that I could beat the rain. Suddenly I remembered that I belong to 24 Hour Fitness, thanks to Silver Sneakers. I know it sounds funny to point out that I had forgotten that I had a membership in a health club, but there you have it. It had been quite some time – several years, in fact – since I entered the doors of that club. Part of the reason is that we spend nearly half the year in AZ, where there are no 24 Hour Fitness Clubs. Being the best thing about growing older, Silver Sneakers actually pays for my membership at two clubs – 24 Hour Fitness here in Denver and LA Fitness in AZ.

So I walked confidently through the door and typed in my telephone number. I then dutifully rested my finger on the fingerprint identifier. See receptionist, it told me. I did, and she looked me up on her computer. I was no longer there.

She gave me a liar-liar-pants-on-fire look. “Has it been a while since you’ve been here?” the young woman asked me. I told her the truth, that it had been several years. I learned that even Silver Sneakers has its limits, and I had been purged. Never fear, however, as I was quickly reinstated, and on my merry way to a treadmill. Thanks again, Silver Sneakers.

Bill likes exercise about as much as I, which is to say not at all. The difference between he and I, however, is that – see above – I enjoy reading or watching PBS mysteries. He, on the other hand, doesn’t sit down from the time he finishes breakfast until dinnertime. He’s always working around the house or in the yard or on some sort of project. Still, he is never eager to go out and pursue an aerobic activity. Unfortunately, aerobic exercise is what his movement disorder doctor recommends.

I bought him a pair of walking poles, and if I am really, really persuasive, I can get him to walk with me, using his poles. He also has taken to riding his bike a bit. Oddly, bicycle riding has proven to be effective exercise for people with Parkinson’s.

I read recently that while exercise is critical to maintaining health, once you reach my age, exercise is not very effective at assisting in weight loss. Apparently you can’t out-exercise the food you put in your mouth.

All I can say, is exercise better be good for something, because I don’t do it for the fun of it. Seriously, do you?

Remember That?

One day last week, I prepared a key lime pie to serve as dessert that night to friends who were coming over for dinner. I whisked the egg yolks, I added the sweetened condensed milk and the Joe & Nellie’s key lime juice. I poured the mixture into a prepared graham cracker crust and put it in the preheated 350 degree oven. I set the timer for 15 minutes.

And then I promptly forgot about the pie in the oven and left for Walmart. I remembered it some 45 minutes later as I was driving home. As I raced down our 25 mph street at about 45 mph, I was envisioning the house in flames, or maybe even already burned to the ground. Hey, it’s my nightmare. I can envision the worst if I want.

My house wasn’t burned to the ground. In fact, despite the oven being at least 20 years old, it was smart enough to have shut itself off. It was flashing the words HOT HOT HOT. You see what I’m saying? My antiquated oven that positively SCREAMS 1992 is smarter than I…..

This stove is so old I’m surprised the time isn’t in Roman numerals.

I subsequently drove to the grocery store and purchased the necessary ingredients to remake the pie. I put it in the oven and sat at the table and stared at the timer as it counted down so as to not make the same mistake twice in one day. I like to dole out my stupidity slowly.

My sister Bec had kept one of her remote controllers in a pen holder in her kitchen for a long time. At some point she decided that was a silly place to keep the remote, so she put it in a sensible place. You see where I’m going, don’t you? Yep, she hasn’t seen the remote since.

I reckon everyone over the age of 50 starts to worry about dementia any time they forget where they put their remote.  Many of us – particularly Baby Boomers – have stories like the ones I just told. When I told Jen about my key lime pie stupidity, in very sisterly fashion, she comforted me. “You just have a lot going on right now,” she said. I nodded in agreement. And then it occurred to me that I have absolutely nothing going on in my life. I’m retired, so no worries about work. At the time the event took place, all of our kids and grandkids were not even in town, so I couldn’t use that as an excuse.

I wonder, however, if we Baby Boomers overthink our situation. According to an article in the April/May issue of the AARP magazine, the risk of dementia is actually 27 percent lower today than it was a mere 18 years ago. The drop is attributed to our healthier lifestyles.

By the way, the article goes on to say that there is some evidence that being a tad overweight actually protects the brain, at least after the age of 70. Since I’m 64, my being overweight simply means I’m eating too much. But in a mere six years, I can happily announce that eating endless amounts of chips and salsa is good for my brain!

But back to overthinking. It occurs to me that there were very many times when I was a young adult that I couldn’t figure out where something went. Many years ago, my mother put together a photo album for each of her kids that featured pictures of each of us as we were growing up. What a great idea! And I loved that photo album. And then I lost it. I have never been able to imagine where I would have put it. I have many other photo albums. I have pictures of me in college. I have countless photos of Court and all of his cousins throughout their growing-up years. But I don’t have the pictures of Bec and Jen and Dave and I sitting around our Christmas tree or feeding the chipmunks while on vacation. It’s up to my siblings — all who still have their photo albums — to share photos with me. Thanks Jen…..

At the end of my life, when I am facing St. Peter, I hope he asks me if I have any questions before he tells me where I’m going to land. Yep, I will say. Where is that photo album with all of my baby pictures?

His answer? It’s with your sister Bec’s remote.


I’m going to tell you something that I think will astound you.

Father’s Day wasn’t officially recognized until 1972, when President Richard Nixon (himself a father of two girls, if you’ll remember) signed a proclamation naming the third Sunday of June Father’s Day. Tricia and Julie Nixon probably groaned. Daddy, you just did this to get a present.

But seriously? All those years in my youth when I would gather my money and head down to the Rexall Drug Store to buy my father some Brut after shave, and it wasn’t even an official holiday. That money could have been better spent on wax lips and pixie sticks.

I remember that it used to annoy my father to no end that the priests (according to him) at Mass on Father’s Day would barely recognize them, while on Mother’s Day, they were applauded and honored with special prayers. He claimed, in fact, that one year the priest reminded them that they wouldn’t be fathers if it wasn’t for their wives being mothers. Little did he know that it was lucky he was getting any recognition (not to mention Brut) at all because Father’s Day was simply a word-of-mouth celebration.

Mother’s Day became a holiday early in the 20th century, after Anna Jarvis successfully lobbied Congress and the president to officially honor mothers with a special day. Apparently Catholics in Europe had been unofficially celebrating Father’s Day since the Middle Ages on March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph. But efforts to replicate this official honoring of fatherhood just never found legs, especially after Mother’s Day became so commercialized.

So leave it to Tricky Dick to finally make the whole thing official. I hope his daughters gave him a good present that year.

As for Bill, this year he had kind of a quiet Father’s Day, as half of his children are not around. Heather and her family live in Vermont, and Dave and his family are driving around in an RV. Court and his family returned yesterday morning from a week-long trip to Disney World. He stopped by on his way home from the airport to give Bill a hug, and Cole happily wished him a happy Father’s Day from the back seat, while his sisters slept. He got a Face Time call from Heather, and Father’s Day wishes from Joseph and Micah. Dave called to wish him a happy day as well.

Allen (Bill’s eldest) and Emma came over for dinner and a celebration featuring barbecued ribs, baked beans, southern-styled green beans and banana splits for dessert. You can’t get much more American than that, and Tricky Dick would have been proud. The highlight of the meal was watching everyone make their own banana splits…..

I offered vanilla ice cream with caramel, hot fudge, and strawberry toppings, in addition to bananas. On the side were maraschino cherries, nuts, and squirt whipped cream. As we made our banana splits, Allen asked Emma — who was born and lived most of her life in Paris, France — if she had ever had a banana split. She admitted there was something similar in France, but with only one scoop of ice cream rather than three. Welcome to the U. S. of A, where we would never have one when we could have three. And I must admit the squirt whipped cream threw her a bit, but not for long…..

As a Father’s Day gift from God, we got a nice rainfall in the afternoon. Bill and I spent a bit of time on our patio enjoying the cool weather following our week of temperatures in the upper 90s……

I think that Bill would call this a nice celebration of fatherhood. What more could a guy want than hugs, phone calls, and visits from all of your kids. Oh, and banana splits.

Saturday Smile: The Happiest Place on Earth (for some)

My daughter-in-law Alyx has a gift for being able to beautifully capture her kids’ personalities in photos. She told me recently that her success is because she takes about a thousand photos, and out of those thousand, one or two are good.

I’m sure she’s being too modest. There is certainly skill involved. That’s how she can capture moments such as this…..

While the Disney photographers are undoubtedly skilled, I would imagine they aren’t particularly patient. After all, there are scads of people waiting in line at any given moment. So while the photos taken of the Zierk family this past week during their visit to Disney World are wonderful, and flattering of everyone else, Cole seems determined to not give in to the happiest place on earth propaganda, at least in photos. There’s this…..

…..and this…..

…..and this…..

…..and this, where he’s tolerating the attention, barely…..

Despite evidence to the contrary, the entire family seems to be having a great time. I can’t wait to hear their stories.

And Cole always makes me smile.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Great American Read

I consider myself to be an avid reader. There’s never a time when I’m not in process of reading a book. When I used to commute for my job, I always listened to unabridged books on tape. So at that time, I always had at least two books going at all times.

I’m also a fan of PBS, particularly their mysteries. I believe I’ve watched nearly all of the detectives solve hundreds of murders. Inspector Lynch. Inspector Morse. Inspector Lewis.  Inspector  Foyle. Every Agatha Christie from Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot.

And yet. AND YET. I knew nothing about the fact that PBS is sponsoring The Great American Read. Thank goodness for Facebook. It seems when they aren’t busy prying into our private lives, they actually can deliver some worthwhile information. A feed from which I learned about The Great American Read is an example of worthwhile information.

Kicked off late in May, PBS is giving readers the opportunity to vote for what they consider to be America’s Favorite Novel . There was a process out of which came a list of 100 novels. Readers are allowed to vote once each day through October 18, for a book from this list. Ultimately, readers will choose America’s Favorite Book. Ta da!

I enjoyed going down the list to see which books were selected as the top 100. I was surprised by some (50 Shades of Grey?) and nodded my approval of others (Rebecca, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Grapes of Wrath, Little Women). I wondered how certain books could not have been selected (Plainsong, The Good Earth, My Antonia).

Criteria included: only works of fiction, must have been published in English, and only one per author.

Perhaps my biggest surprise was the number of books on the list that I had NOT read. In fact, a quick count told me out of the 100 books, I have only read 37. And I read a lot. I was comforted somewhat by the fact that I had heard of all of the books, and most of the books I haven’t read were by choice. For example, while The Hunger Game series and the Twilight series are undoubtedly good, I have no interest. And Left Behind? Nope.

Take a gander at the links I have included, particularly the link to the 100 novels. How many have you read? I would love to hear your feedback on books chosen, books not chosen, and your personal favorites.

As for me, I have already put a couple of the books I haven’t read on hold at the library!

Thursday Thoughts

Can You Justify Cheating?
You’ve probably heard that some sore losers are accusing one of the other horses in last Saturday’s Belmont Stakes of being a bit of a bad sport by perhaps blocking the competition in Triple Crown winner Justify’s race for the crown. The horse being accused (and I recognize that I’m making it sound like the horse was making these decisions all by himself) is trained by the same man who trains Jusify, thereby giving the accusation some credence. While the amount that I know about horse racing could fit inside a thimble, I will say that I reckon there’s no rule against being in front of another horse during a race, even if you’re blocking him. Still, I told Bill before the race that I was not going to root for Justify because I believe that Triple Crown winners should be remarkable horses; I simply can’t put Justify in the same category as Secretariat. But see above: I know next to nothing about horse racing. After watching the race, however, I told Bill that I was happy Justify won because maybe he was remarkable after all. So I’m a bit disconcerted to read that perhaps he got a bit of help, putting him once more in the unremarkable category.

And They’re Just Teenagers
As I have reported previously, this year I went a new route on my tomato growing. I have grown tomatoes in pots on my patio before, but this year I went with a new fancy-dancy system that was recommended by an acquaintance. She proclaimed that last year, when she used the growing system, her plants were thiiiiiiiis high. So I gave them a try. As you can see, my plants are enormous and full of flowers. And there not even close to being full-grown. They’re only teenaged-size. I’m very optimistic that I am going to have a great crop of tomatoes this year. I planted roma and grape tomatoes. My mouth is watering already…..

Our 13-year-old grandson Alastair loves fish and seafood. If he goes to a burger joint, he is just as likely to get fish-and-chips as he is a burger. Maggie Faith is also a fan of most seafood. She seems particularly drawn to scallops. But even more so, she is game to try anything. The McLains (who, as you will recall, are traveling via RV around the western United States) have currently landed in Seattle. The other night, they all went to a seafood place, where they enjoyed calamari and crab cakes and shrimp. And oysters on the half shell. None of the kids had tried them before, but Alastair and Maggie were game. Alastair proclaimed them to be “interesting,” but he had a smile on his face as he slurped them down. Maggie seems to be enjoying them a great deal…..

As for Dagny, she has no interest in any kind of fish or seafood. In fact, according to her mother, she informed her that “I don’t eat anything from the sea.” So there. I’m sure there was some kind of meat on the menu, and undoubtedly, that’s what Dagny and her dad enjoyed.

Wall Plated
I finally got the plate hangers — a task not as easily accomplished as one would think. It took three Targets before I had the proper number of plate hangers. I was determined that this time we would use the metal holders, because we have used the decals that stick to the back of the plate before, and it was an epic fail. But Bill started hanging them, and I’m very happy at the way they look. I will post photos when we’re finished. That kitchen wall has been blank now for three or four years. Joanna Gaines, I’m not.