I Am From

In September 2019, our grandson Joseph, who was then 10, had to write a poem for school. He is an amazing kid, and he wrote an amazing poem. So amazing, in fact, that I am publishing it again…..

Our grandson Joseph is 10 years old. He wrote this poem as a school assignment.

I Am From
By Joseph McLain

I am from my favorite cat Ellie
From puddles and trees during springtime in Montpelier.

I am from an old green house and a beautiful neighborhood
I am from overgrown hostas that always seem to be looking at me.

I am from hot chocolate and chapter books
From Hibbert and McLain.

I am from big celebrations and different cultures like Polish and Scottish.
From Taco Tuesday and Pride.

I am from Great Grandma Wilma, a Cookie Monster cake
And from my great grandparent singing to me.

From my youngest, but first to die cat.
I am from those moments, the sad ones, the hard ones and the happy ones
that is why life is so amazing.

I couldn’t be prouder of this boy.

Both Sides Now

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all.

Joni Mitchell

I first posted this on August 3, 2017. I think of the comment Grammie made about the music very often, as I’m thinking the same thing about the music listened to by my grands.

When I was in my early 20s and living with my parents in Leadville, Colorado (VERY early 20s and not for very long, so don’t start snickering), I recall one morning I was watching early morning television, probably the Today Show. That was back in the day when the Today Show actually was only a couple of hours long and they really did feature some news. Barbara Walters hosted, as I recall.

Anyway, I didn’t normally sit around idly watching morning television as I did have that thing called a J-O-B. But I turned it on that morning because one of my favorite musicians/singers of the time was going to perform – Judy Collins. She had recently come out with her Judith album, and I loved her voice and the music on that particular album. I liked a lot of that kind of music in those days – James TaylorCarole KingJessie Colin YoungCarly SimonCat Stevens. Oddly, not Joni Mitchell, though Both Sides Now is one of the songs I frequently attempt to sing (particularly when I’m with my grandkids looking at clouds) and always fail. Lots of highs and lows, I’m afraid. Much like Joni Mitchell’s life. But I digress.

Anyway, on this particular morning, my grandmother was watching television with me. Grammie mostly kept her opinions to herself, but when she felt strongly about something, she didn’t hesitate to comment. Judy Collins was performing Send in the Clowns, a song I particularly liked from the album Judith. Grammie listened for a little bit. Finally, I heard her sigh heavily, and she said to me in her strongly accented Swiss dialect, “Ehhhhhh, Krisily, is dat moosik?”

At that moment, I believe Grammie felt she was getting too old for the world. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time she felt that way. Nor was it likely the last, as she lived for quite a few years past the horrific Judy Collins moment that was probably etched in her mind forever. But she was born in 1896 and lived to be in her mid-80s, so she saw a lot of things change, come, and go, and come back again. Mostly she rolled with the punches, but in her mind, Judy Collins’ singing did not constitute music.

Now, as the years go by, I can relate. Oh, I still like Judy Collins okay, though admittedly when I listened to the song again as I wrote this blog post, I did find it somewhat annoying and a bit screechy. Perhaps in 10 years I would also question whether or not it was moosik. Nowadays, I’m much more liable to listen to Zac Brown Band or Luke Bryan, and bluegrass interests me more than folk music. Or whatever you would call the music I liked back in the mid-70s.

Interestingly, both of my sisters and I have become country music fans. There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have imagined listening to songs about drinking whiskey and beer and dancing in the back of a pick-up truck. But I like the songs of most of the contemporary country singers. In fact, I watched the recent CMA Music Festival on ABC, and was pleased to realize that I recognized every song and knew the words to most of them.

My brother, however, still takes a firm stand against country music. He’s only a baby of 57. It doesn’t hit until 60, so he has a few more years to listen to Top 40 hits (or whatever it is he listens to). Our children think it’s just another sign that we are steps away from assisted living.

But, while I cringe when I listen to the Top 40 hits that Maggie Faith plays while she cooks, I have – to date, anyway – refrained from asking her if this is moosik.

Baking Bread

This blog post was originally published on August 15, 2018. I love it because it reminds me of fun times with one of my grandkids. Dagny is now almost 15, and has many friends. Between work and friends, there is little time left for Nana. I appreciate that we had times like this….

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post that I was somewhat nervous about the prospect of making Aunt Lauren’s crescent rolls, bread-baking being something with which I struggle a bit. I was so nervous, in fact, that I stewed about it for some of the night. At one point, I had an epiphany. Jll had said that she was serving pulled pork for dinner. Why, these crescent rolls weren’t appropriate for pulled pork AT ALL.

Yesterday morning, I called Jll and said, “Why, these crescent rolls aren’t appropriate for pulled pork AT ALL!”

“Oh, that’s no problem,” she said. “I bought hamburger buns for the pulled pork. These rolls are simply because Dagny loves them so much and is so excited about baking them with you.”

She went on to tell me that if I wasn’t inclined to make the rolls, it was not a problem at all. Still, I just imagined Dagny’s big brown eyes looking at me, and her saying, “Why, Nana? Why?”…..

I am fully aware that the biggest problem I have making bread is a lack of patience. In the winter — when I am most likely to be making bread — my house is pretty chilly. As such, bread takes a very long time to rise. And if my recipe says let it rise until it’s doubled in bulk (about one hour), there I am in one hour frantically concerned that it hasn’t doubled in bulk. I am even liable to push ahead, ending up inevitably with a door stop, calling it a fail. In fact, if I could just talk myself into waiting until it is actually doubled in bulk, I would be fine.

A chilly house was not a problem yesterday as Dagny and I began our roll-making process. She proclaimed that she had watched her Aunt Lauren make these rolls many times, and she knew exactly what to do. And she was quite right.

My brother-the-baker tells me that when yeast won’t ferment, it is much more likely to be from water that’s too hot for the yeast than too cold. I always use a thermometer to make sure my water is in the neighborhood of 110 degrees, something that my brother would find amusing.

We mixed the yeast and the water and the eggs and the flour, and Dagny took over. “It’s just like mixing slime!” she proclaimed with delight…..

A bit different, I told her. I showed her how I learned to knead the  bread.

Once the bread was fully mixed, we put it in a bowl, and headed off to our next adventure: buying school clothes at Old Navy.

And can I tell you that I don’t know when I’ve had more fun. Despite having all of these granddaughters, I have never — not once — shopped for clothes with any of them. Dagny is 12, and has her own very defined taste in clothes. Comfort is her primary requirement. My kind of girl.

When we returned, some hour-and-a-half later, the bread was doubled in bulk and ready to be rolled. This was the point at which Dagny took control. She divieded the dough in half and rolled one half into a circle. Modeling her Aunt Lauren, she then cut the dough into triangles, and rolled the triangles into perfect crescent shapes…..

She then did the same with the other half. Once they were baked and cool enough to pick up without burning her fingers, she popped one in her mouth. “They taste just like Aunt Lauren’s!”…..

Yay. And phew.

Meeting Your Quota

This post was originally published on September 20, 2020. Not much has changed since then!

There is what is perhaps an urban myth that patrol officers write more traffic tickets at the beginning of the month and at the end of the month. The reasoning behind these beliefs is that in the case of the beginning of the month, cops want to get their “quota” met early; at the end of the month, they are playing catch-up so as to meet the “quota.” Police departments, of course, deny there are any quotas. I don’t know and frankly, I don’t care. I try not to speed for the most part.

But speaking of quotas, I wondered if another profession was trying to meet their month-end quota yesterday. I was sitting in the lobby while Bill was at his first physical therapy appointment. My phone dinged, indicating I had gotten a email message. Being quite bored, and afraid to pick up one of the PT’s magazines, I decided to check my messages. I admit that I looked longingly at the magazines because the Us Weekly featured a story about Ellen Degeneres who seems so nice but indications are that she might be more like the Wicked Witch of the West than the Good Witch of the North. Nothing is certain in 2020. Doctors’ offices and apparently physical therapy offices are the only places where I can catch up on the REAL news, like Ellen’s bad temper and photos of Nicki Minaj at nine months pregnant and nearly naked. But I stayed strong, knowing those magazines were covered in COVID germs.

Most of my emails were from Crate & Barrel (who are my best friends since I bought my defective Kitchenaid mixer from them) and my friends at Next Door who are all up in arms about nighttime car racing. But one of them was a really friendly email:How are you? i need a favor from you.I need to get a PlayStation Gift Card for my nephew, it’s his birthday today and I totally forgot i can’t do this now because I’m currently on a short trip. Can you help grab one from any store around you? i’ll pay you as soon as i am back.kindly let me know if you can handle this.

It was signed by a man who’s name I will withhold. I thought it was so nice of him to ask how I was, since no one at either Crate & Barrel or Next Door seem to care. His lack of interest in capitalizing the letter “I” was somewhat disconcerting since his name was not e.e. cummings.

The biggest problem with the email was that it was a name totally unfamiliar to me. Knowing full well that this was a scam, and being crabby because I couldn’t read about Ellen, I came THIS CLOSE to responding with something along the lines of you can take your nephew’s gift card and shove it where the sun don’t shine. I really was very close.

And then I stopped myself because: a. That would be very mean; and b. I assume if I had responded, I would be put on some scary phishing list or my cell phone would blow up. It took great restraint.

But it wasn’t a half hour later that I got a text from my sister Bec, who said I just got a message saying if I don’t call and verify my Social Security number, they’re going to issue an arrest warrant and put me behind bars. So if you don’t hear from me…..

So that’s the reason I’m wondering if the Social Networking Bad Guys are also trying to meet a month-end quota, just like the cops. If their quota involves a “there’s a sucker born every minute” response, Bec and I were no help yesterday.

Saturday Smile: Stars and Stripes

The past week has been filled with lots of Olympic excitement. Many medals, including some gold. I loved seeing Lydia Jacoby take the gold for the 100m breast stroke, a swimming stroke that looks so awkward to me that I think you should get a medal just for making across the pool. Seeing the surprise on the teenager’s face when she realized she had won, and seeing the joy of the people watching from her hometown in Alaska, made me smile.

I have watched a number of medal ceremonies this week, and they all made me proud. Though I didn’t see a single athlete cry, I promise you (and them) that I cried at every single ceremony. Hearing the national anthem played so beautifully, and seeing the proud athlete standing tall with their hand over their hearts, makes my heart full of joy.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Surviving Savannah

During my formative years, I studied the history of a variety of ships that sank. The two most obvious, of course, were the Titanic, which ran into an iceberg, killing 1,500 souls, and the Lusitania, a British luxury ship that was sunk by the Germans, killing nearly 1,200 souls and contributing to the World War I tragedies. But I had never heard of the sinking of the Pulaski, a steam ship that sank to the bottom of the ocean as it made its way from Savannah, GA, to Baltimore, MD, killing 100 souls in 1838. While I might not have studied it, I’m pretty darn sure it made history class in Savannah. The ship’s boilers exploded the first night at sea, killing some of the wealthiest members of Savannah’s society who were heading to cooler climes for the summer.

Patti Callahan’s historical novel was written following the discovery at long last of the ship in 2018. Yes, friends, that ship stayed lost for 180 years. The discovery of the sunken ship after all these years solved one of the greatest mysteries of our time.

The author tells the story of the explosion, and the fight by some of the people who survived the disaster. Callahan mixes real-life people with fictitious characters to give the reader a taste of how hard people will work to save themselves and the ones they love. The characters are bold and brave. The descriptions of the long days they spent without food or water, baking in the hot sun, and how they survived, are riveting.

The book is part history and part mystery. It was interesting to read and provided me with a history lesson, proving that I still have plenty to learn, even in my dotage!

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

For the past couple of days, I’ve been experiencing some mouth pain. Nothing I couldn’t handle, but we are heading to Vermont on Monday and I don’t want the flight attendants to have to do an emergency dental procedure. I called my dentist to see if she could fit me in. Wouldn’t you know that this is the week she chose to close her office and take vacation? And wouldn’t you know that my toothache kicked into second gear yesterday afternoon? So I called an emergency dentist and made an appointment for this afternoon. I see a root canal in my near future.

Jumpity, Aren’t You?
Despite some tooth pain, I took Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole out to lunch yesterday. We followed that with a trip to a trampoline park. Let me tell you, those three kids can put away some sushi. I always get hand rolls so I can stay ahead of them. At Sky Zone, they jumped and jumped and jumped, working off any energy provided by the sushi. I think Cole jumped into the foam blocks 3,287 times. We enjoyed our time at the trampoline park, and celebrated with Sonic afterwards.

My sister Bec arrives this afternoon for her annual Colorado visit. She will spend a few days here (probably nursing me through a root canal) and then head to Fort Collins. She is renting a cottage near Old Town Fort Collins for a few weeks. I hope to see a lot of her after we return from Vermont. We might even work a trip to Estes Park into our time together.

Speaking of Vermont, I will not be posting a blog next week while we are vacationing. My plan is to repost some old posts. I will return again the next Monday, refreshed and ready to go.


Pull the Plug

My phone didn’t ring in the middle of the night. Simone Biles made her decision to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics without consulting this fan. It’s probably good that she didn’t try because I make it a firm practice to not answer calls that aren’t in my contact list. She would just have gotten my voice mail and I wouldn’t have gotten the message until it was too late.

Not only that, but I would probably have given her bad advice.

As Bill was reading the news yesterday morning, he audibly gasped and his eyebrows shot up.

“What’s up?” I asked him. “Have they cured COVID?”

“I can’t tell you because you told me not to spill any beans in advance about the Olympics,” he answered. “You’ve never forgiven me for spilling the beans about Matthew’s death in Season 3 of Downton Abbey,” he added. “I don’t want to take the chance.”

But of course I would have had to live on Gilligan’s Island to not hear the news about Simone Biles during the day yesterday. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Professor on Gilligan’s Island would have rigged up a radio using a coconut and a bird’s beak and already heard the news.

The reason I would have given her bad advice is that my initial reaction to the news was negative. What are you? Some kind of poor sport who is so full of herself that she can’t bear to not look good? (See why I would make a good coxswain?)

But after I read a bit more about her announcement and listened to the news conference, and pretty much stopped getting my Simone Biles News from the gentleman with the eyebrows across the breakfast table, I understood. I guess, in her way, she actually WAS being a good sport. She was admitting she was stinking it up like Pepe Le Pew and was going to bring her entire team down with her.

Of course, she couched it a bit differently, saying her mind wasn’t in the right place to participate in the Olympics. I’m not going to touch on that not even a little bit. What I am going to say is that I think most athletes would overstay their welcome before they would admit that they are being a hindrance to their team instead of helping them win. I’m looking at you, Brett Favre (who also didn’t call me to get my thoughts on whether he should retire).

I have never been an athlete. In fact, the closest I’ve gotten to competitive sports was a few mean games of miniature golf with my family. Having said that, I can say with absolute certainty that had we been playing miniature golf in teams — and had I sent the golf ball flying into the street every time I hit it instead of into the alligator’s mouth — I would have resigned from our team.

So, good on Simone for knowing when to pull the plug. And most important, good on having the team spirit to not run and hide, but to stay and help and cheer your teammates on.

Don’t be afraid to call me next time.

Call the Ambulance

I had lunch the other day with our eldest grandchild Adelaide. She, as you know (since I’ve been whining about this for six months), is leaving for college in a few weeks. After a long, well-thought-out process, she has elected to attend Colorado State University as part of its Honors Program. I’m happy with her decision, because it means she will be close enough to see often. She is going to ABSOLUTELY LOVE when her nana and papa show up every weekend to make sure she’s going to class and take her out for lunch. J/K Addie! It will also mean that she and I will be wearing different colors one Saturday early in football season when CSU loses to plays CU in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Go Buffs.

Anyhoo, she and I went out for (shockingly) sushi the other day. I wanted to buy bratwursts from a place that sells real Sheboygan brats, you know, like from Wisconsin. The brats are worth a drive, but it really is quite a drive for some sausages. I checked its location and noticed that there was a sushi restaurant in the same shopping center. I’m not too proud to bribe. It worked. Addie agreed to drive me there if I bought her sushi.

“What am I going to do without my Addie?” I asked her grandfather as I waited for her to pick me up.

“I’m pretty sure she’ll come home every weekend to have sushi with her nana,” Bill said unconvincingly.

Addie — who, as you have often heard me say — will run the world some day. For the time being, she runs our family. She is the go-to girl for nearly everything. Here’s an example. My readers know that I unfortunately go into the hospital every so often because of stomach issues. What readers may not know is that I often deal with the bowel obstructions without going into the hospital. I can do nearly everything they have me do while in the hospital at home. So I stop eating and drinking, I take something for the pain, and I wait. More often than not, it resolves. The other evening, my stomach started hurting. I texted Addie and told her my situation. I asked if she could be available later that night to take me to the hospital if necessary.

I didn’t hear back for awhile, but then she phoned to let me know she would be available. My stomach had literally stopped hurting mere minutes before she called. “I’m glad you’re better Nana,” she said. “But it would be lots better if you could go into the hospital during the day than in the middle of the night.”

Yes, it would indeed. I’ll talk to my stomach and see if it could be a bit more cooperative. I learned later that she was just a tad cranky because she had just gotten back from picking up her other grandmother who had spent a couple of days in the hospital, taken there by You-Know-Who.

Addie’s Ambulance Service: Payment one sushi lunch per trip

The Games Have Begun

As I anticipated, I am enjoying the Olympics. I have even enjoyed watching the badminton — a word I have apparently never pronounced correctly in my life since I was unaware of the “n”. Spellcheck and I were in quite a battle for a bit as I tried to figure out how to spell the word. Spellcheck won. As for the game of badminton, my brother told me he played a lot of badminton in high school P.E., and their sole goal was to hit the birdie hard enough against the back of a person’s neck to leave a mark. I’m not sure that isn’t the goal of the badminton Olympians from all appearances. And, by the way, those high schoolers would have really been amused if they knew the correct term for the birdie was a shuttlecock. Tee-hees all around from the 15-year-olds.

I tried to watch bicycle racing, but decided it was simply too dull. Watching paint dry. I would rather have watched ribbon twirling, but I haven’t seen it in any of the Olympic events on television. Perhaps it’s a winter Olympics event. Do they do it on ice skates? And, by the way, it’s not called ribbon twirling. It’s called rhythmic gymnastics. That appears to be a bit of a stretch, but it probably makes the participants feel better. It’s hard to feel talented in a sport that contains the word “ribbon.”

I’m having trouble figuring out if I’m watching live or pre-recorded. I guess my rule of thumb should be if I look outside and it’s dark, it’s probably live. And I should probably get to bed. Yesterday morning I was looking at my news feed, and it told me the results of the women’s gymnastics. I FREAKED OUT. How on earth did I miss the women’s gymnastics, I said. And then I calmed down and realized that the women gymnasts had been performing while I was deep in REM sleep and that I would watch it last night. I vowed to no longer look at news feeds about the Olympics so that I don’t know the outcomes. By the time you read this post, you will know that the women’s gymnastics team looked like they were from one of those little islands off of Africa instead of the world’s Gymnastic Powerhouse. You let Russia beat you. I feel like I’m back in the Cold War. I’m pretty sure Simone Biles had a sore pinky toe. Better luck next time Ladies.

Synchronized swimming is fascinating to me. The Chinese women synchronized swimmers are creepily precise. I don’t know how they do it. I think they might all have been conjoined twins separated at birth. Bill and I have trouble walking together at the same pace.

Saturday morning, I stumbled on to women’s crewing. This is the sport where women who have shoulders larger than most men make rowing down a body of water look easy. In my next life, I’m going to be part of the U.S.A. Crew Team. My shoulders will be a normal size, because I’m going to be the coxswain. That is the person who sits in the back of the boat facing the rest of the team who yells at them. Work harder you big babies. What are you, a bunch of wimps? Pull, dammit. Pull, dammit. You look like weinies. Don’t let those Canadians bully you!

I wonder if you have to try out to be the coxswain on a crewing team. I’m sure I could do a great job. Bill could be my reference for how bossy I can be.