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.

Friday Book Whimsy: Billy Summers

I liked two things about the novel Billy Summers: 1) I love the complexity of characters who do very bad things but are inherently good and likable; and 2) I’m never endingly impressed with the story telling abilities of author Stephen King.

Billy Summers is a hit man. A skilled sniper trained in the military, he kills for a living, and has ended the lives of many people. He has one rule, however. Strange as it might seem, Billy only kills people who have done very bad things.

Even with this rule, Billy is ready to hang up his assassin rifle and move onto a simpler life. He is coerced, however, into one more assignment — to kill an especially bad man while he is being transported from jail to the courtroom where he will be tried. Reluctantly, Bill agrees to this assignment because of the evilness of the man involved, not to mention the million dollars he would be able to carry off to his retirement somewhere where no one would find him.

He sets the stage by portraying a man working under deadline on a novel in an office with a clear shot to the courthouse exchange. Since he has time to kill (no one is certain as to when the trial will take place), Billy decides to actually try his hand on writing.

The result of all of this is a compelling story about a multifaceted man who tells the reader much of his story via the book he is writing. To make matters even more interesting, following the successful hit, Billy meets a young woman named Alice who was brutally raped by three men and dumped in front of the apartment where Billy is hiding out until the dust clears.

The relationship between Billy and this young woman is tender, despite the gritty nature of their life together. It is not romantic, but more of a uncle/niece type of relationship. Alice saves Billy and Billy saves Alice.

I love Stephen King’s writing, though I have no interest in his horror stories. His characters are realistic, and the stories are always unique. The book was slow reading in spots, and quite long, but overall, getting to know Billy Summers was worth some slogging.

I recommend the book.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Home Again, Finnegan
Bill and I arrived safely yesterday afternoon in Denver. It was a mostly uneventful trip, although I lost my phone at one point. You don’t realize how important the phone is in your life until you lose it. I’m very thankful that I hadn’t stepped away very far from the area in which I DROPPED IT ON THE FLOOR. Yikes. The very kind Frontier Airlines man who was pointing people in the right direction had picked it up, and handed it to me when I approached. I wanted to hug him, but I didn’t. For two old folks carrying back packs and each carrying a rolling suitcase, we did pretty well. Our Lyfts were both old people in beat up cars, but they got us where we needed to go.

Can You Smell That?
For the first time during domestic travel, we had a sniffer dog come check out all of the folks waiting to get onto our flight from Phoenix to Denver. A little funny, since the bulk of us were seniors, but nevertheless, we can be terrorists too. This particular dog was an English Pointer. He pretty much ignored Bill and I (who were carrying nothing more dangerous than M&Ms), but paid special attention to the middle-aged woman sitting across from us. She didn’t seem to upset, and the dog handler didn’t pursue the matter, but I think she was a secret member of a drug cartel who call themselves The Old Maids.

Take a Deep Breath
I guess I somehow missed the memo, but I was surprised when we walked into the airport and saw that nearly no one was wearing a mask. We weren’t required to wear a mask in the Lyft car — and didn’t. I knew some of the airlines had lifted the mask mandate, but I didn’t realize the federal mandate had been lifted. From what I could see, almost everyone was grateful to breathe easily, and forewent the masks.

Happy Birthday
Yesterday was our youngest grandchild’s birthday. He turned 8 years old. When I called to wish him happy birthday, he was busy opening presents. According to Mylee — who did take the time to talk to me — he had just gotten $100 in Roblox bucks, and was too excited to talk. He talked to me when he was 7. Just sayin…..

Ciao!

It’s a Pronghorn Deer, Stupid, Redux

As you read this, Bill and I are making our way back to our Denver home. Next time I write, we will be in Colorado! This post originally ran May 14, 2019, as we again were making our trip back to Denver. we were driving and stopped at Antelope Canyon on our way.

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play.
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day. – Dr. Brewster M. Higley

One of my major takeaways from our visit to Antelope Canyon was that songwriter Dr. Higley didn’t know an antelope from his Siamese cat. And neither did the white people who named Antelope Canyon. In fact, the young Navaho woman who guided Bill and me (along with 12 or 14 Japanese tourists) through the amazingly beautiful slot canyon could scarcely keep from rolling her eyes as she explained that antelopes are indigenous to Africa and parts of Asia ONLY. Not the United States. What the white folks who named the canyon saw, she explained with a sparkle in her eyes, were pronghorn deer.

I’d like to argue that they might just have thought that Pronghorn Deer Canyon didn’t have the same ring, but I’m pretty sure she is right. They were just boobs.

Antelope Canyon is located very near Page, AZ, located smack dab in the Navaho nation that makes up much of northeast AZ. The Navaho people call it Tsé bighánílíní, which means ‘the place where water runs through rocks’.

Antelope Canyon has long been on Bill’s bucket list, and for good reason. So we decided to make our way back to Denver via the famous canyon as opposed to our usual route.

Antelope Canyon is called a slot canyon because the canyon is made up of sandstone that has been eroded over the course of a very long time, creating very narrow passageways. In fact, the canyon continues to erode, ever-changing when the rains come. It never stays exactly the same. Because of the nature of the canyon and its particular geology, tourists are not allowed to wander through the canyon on their own. That privilege ended a number of years ago when an unexpected rainfall sent water roaring through the slot, killing a number of people. Now, tours are provided by the Navaho nation, upon whose land the canyon lies. And believe me, based on our experience, the tours are interesting and much better than going it alone.

I was surprised early on when our guide told us that we could touch the walls as much as we wanted, but (obviously) we couldn’t write on the wall. It didn’t take me long to realize that the reason we could put our hands on the wall was that the walls change all the time — every time it rains.

Our guide not only told us of the history of the canyon, but used our individual cameras to take spectacular photos that most of us would have bombed…..

There are numerous tours available, all offered by Navaho-owned companies. When Bill made the reservations, he sort of closed his eyes and picked one. It happened to be one that seemingly was geared towards visiting Japanese tourists, of which there were many. It worked fine for us, however, because they had their own interpreters, a good thing because our tour guide likely was no more able to speak Japanese than I.

The tours of Antelope Canyon are available year-round, as long as it isn’t the rainy season. The colors of the rocks and the light that filters through the scant openings changes based on time of day and time of year. The land is sacred to the Navaho tribe, which isn’t surprising at all.

Antelope Canyon is nature at its finest and God’s handiwork at its best…..

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Facing Reality

Our grandkids are all getting older. Our youngest grandchild turns 8 tomorrow. Yep, he’s a May the Fourth Be With You kid. I love watching them all grow up, but, on the other hand, it makes me sad to see them get too big to sit on my lap.

Apparently Pinterest knows that I am feeling this way, because lately it has been feeding me ideas on fun activities and interesting conversations to have with your grandkids. Of course, every time I poke one of these suggestions to see their ideas, the algorithm that has decided it’s time for me to spend more time with my grands gets stroked, resulting in more ideas. Frankly, my technology knows more about me than I know about myself.

Anyhoo, one day I was reading an article that suggested that homeowners shouldn’t mow or water their lawns in May so that weeds grow and attract the pollinating insects that are slowly vanishing. I don’t intend to do that because our homeowners association would place my head on a chopping block and my neighbors would begin to picket.

It did, however, turn on a lightbulb in my brain. I should plant a pollinators’ garden in my back yard. There is a perfect spot, back by the playhouse that all of our grandkids are too grown up to play in. It is an area that doesn’t get a lot of sun. I try every year to grow a couple of tomato plants, but they always end up spindly and nonproductive. It might help if I watered them, the needy little bastards.

And I knew exactly who would be in this adventure with me: my 11-year-old granddaughter Mylee. She is a scientist, and very serious about the problems facing the world. She is also funny, and a hard worker. She would be the perfect planting companion.

So I texted her. Here’s how the conversation went….

Me: I had a thought. As you probably know, bees are in danger because there aren’t enough flowers. Maybe you and I should plant a garden in that area back by the playhouse that has flowers that attract pollinating insects. It would be pretty and would help the environment.

I sat back and waited for her response. I knew it would be something like, “Nana, that it such a great idea. Count me in. I’m all for saving the environment and you are awesome to think of it.” Instead, this was her response…..

Mylee: We already tried that. Weeds started growing and bugs were eating them.

I have no recollection of planting flowers previously in that area, but I have no doubt what she said is true. Unfortunately, Pinterest hasn’t told me how to handle push back from the grandkids. As we all know, with social media, everything goes perfectly.

So, my response was…..

I don’t remember that, but I’m old and forget things. But I’m going to plant a butterfly garden back there, and I vow to keep up on weeding. We can use a natural insecticide to keep the bugs at bay.

I could totally picture in my mind the look on Mylee’s face when she read my response. I’m pretty sure there was some eye rolling and heavy sighing. Nevertheless, she generously threw me a thumbs up emoji back. It remains to be seen if a butterfly garden will happen.

What Pinterest doesn’t know won’t hurt them.