Tingly Ears

Yesterday was the annual Youth Service at Wellshire Presbyterian Church — the church at which Dave and Jll and the kids worship. Alastair, Dagny, and Maggie Faith all had a role to play in the service. It made my heart very proud to watch them. It also made me aware that, in general, the protestant churches do a much better job of keeping their youth engaged in faith-based activities than does the Catholic Church. In some ways, it’s comparing apples and oranges. Because the basic foundation of the Catholic Church is its belief that the bread and wine is truly the body and blood of Jesus, along with the fact that it is a worldwide universal church, the Mass is very ceremonial and serious. Young people can, and do, play a role in the Mass. They are able to read the New Testament scriptures, but the Gospel is preached by either the deacon or the priest. Lay people must go through an extensive training to be mandated to give out the Eucharist. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Three teenagers preached at yesterday’s service: One on an Old Testament reading, one on a New Testament reading, and one on a gospel from St. Matthew. Our grandson Alastair was one of the teenagers who preached. He must have drawn the short straw, because he preached on the Old Testament reading, which was 1 Samuel, chapter 3. In this chapter, God calls to Samuel three times. Each time, Samuel thinks it’s Eli calling him, and tries to respond. Finally, Eli tells Samuel that it isn’t him, but God calling him. The next time, Samuel responds to God, who tells him See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 

I love that idea of being so excited about hearing the word of God that your ears tingle. If Alastair had to preach on an Old Testament reading, that was a good one. He did a superb job of talking about not just listening, but actually hearing God’s call.

The New Testament reading and the Gospel reading were both related to trusting in God. St. Matthew tells us that Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

One of the teenagers had the very difficult job of calling the little kids up to the altar to preach to them. Kids can smell blood, so they were particularly wiggly and naughty as the young lady spoke, despite how well she explained trusting in God at their appropriate level. They would likely have behaved better had the pastor been there to give the evil eye. Anyhoo, at the end of her talk about trusting in God, she asked the group, “So next time you are worried, will you turn your worry over to God?” Without hesitation, the little girl sitting right next to her answered emphatically, “Nope, I’m going to handle it myself.”

And there you have it folks. Therein lies the problem. That little girl could have been me!

Friday Book Whimsy: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man

I’m not a big fan of memoirs. I almost always wonder why the authors think they have a life interesting or important enough to document. Give me an objective biography anytime.

Occasionally, however, a memoir will capture my attention. As a Baby Boomer reader, an opportunity to learn more about the incredibly handsome, charismatic, and frankly, sexy actor Paul Newman was intriguing. I read the book. I was glad I did.

The idea for this memoir originated way back in 1986. Newman convinced a friend — screenwriter Stewart Stern — to work with him to create an oral history of his life. He convinced all manner of people from throughout his life to contribute stories and memories of the actor. His only provision was that they tell the truth, the good, the bad, and the ugly. He committed to do the same.

He and his friends worked on the project for five years, but the book wasn’t published until years after his death, at the insistence of his children. The result is a candid story of a very interesting life that included not only acting, but film directing, car racing, philanthropy, and politics. His marriage to actress Joanne Woodward is a love story of a lifetime. But it, like much of the actor’s life, wasn’t smooth sailing.

Newman was born to a wealthy Ohio family where he lived in a small, well-to-do community. His father owned a very successful hardware store, and spent much of his time working. His mother was more concerned about appearances than in taking any kind of immersive role in his life.

He served in the military, and his accounts of his time served display his candor about his drinking and carousing. I found his honesty to be refreshing, and a realistic picture of growing up in white upper-class America in the period between the two world wars.

I found myself researching his stories and watching his streaming his movies. While he apparently never considered himself to be a great actor — at least not as good as his wife — I certainly disagree. I think he was an outstanding actor, and the movies that I watched were tremendous. But what do I know.

If you enjoy memoirs that are honest and funny and self-deprecating, you will enjoy The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

There’s Chaos Ahead
I read an article the other day in the Denver Post that talked about food trends that will be rearing their ugly heads in 2023. Apparently some kind of fancy “tinned fish” will be showing up on appetizer menus. I’m pretty sure that it won’t be tuna fish, but I don’t really know what it will be. One of the upcoming trends is referred to as chaos cooking. Their definition is restaurants that serve different kinds of food, like perhaps Korean and Mexican. As for me, every time I make dinner, I could easily call it chaos cooking. I am the messiest, most disorganized cook in America. Perhaps the world. Every time I drop an egg on the floor when I’m baking, I say out loud, “Kris, you will never make it on Food Network. My sister Bec always reminds me that the television food chefs can edit out all of their mistakes.

Bundle Up
Our Denver weather forecasters have warned us that by Monday, the high will reach the teens. I’ve been enjoying the relatively warm weather, so I’m not looking forward to more icy cold temperatures. Generally, I don’t have to go out in the cold; however, Monday we have an appointment with our tax guy and Tuesday Bill is having two — count ’em — root canals. (Kids, take care of your teeth now.) Just as in yesterday’s post, we will just have to bundle up like this…..

Flying High
Bill has frequently told me that his dream as a kid was to be a fighter pilot when he grew up. Unfortunately, when he got old enough to enlist, his parents refused to sign the necessary paperwork that would have allowed him to train. It might have had something to do with Vietnam. Hmmm. Anyway, last night, we rewatched Top Gun: Maverick and enjoyed it nearly as much as we did when we originally saw it in the theater. Perhaps the sound effects weren’t quite as good given that we can’t turn up our television as loud as the theater. At one point, Bill said to me, “Of all of our grandkids, I think Dagny would make the best fighter pilot.” That made me laugh. When Adelaide was considering (and be considered for) the Air Force Academy, Bill tried to convince her to become a fighter pilot. She was completely uninterested, and told him that. Every time he mentioned it!

No More Christmas
As I mentioned, when we got home last weekend, I was faced with putting away Christmas. It went quite smoothly and I got most everything packed away. The problem is that we are still awaiting a storage unit to come available. We feel guilty wishing so hard that we would get that call, because, of course, there’s only one way that a unit becomes available. In the meantime, our Christmas tree boxes are being stored in the corner of our bedroom. Lovely.

Ciao.

Don’t Sell Us Short

I think — worldwide — one of the majority of Baby Boomers’ pep peeves would be when younger people call us Honey or Sweetie. Going hand-in-hand with this peeve would be a general discomfort with the common underestimation of senior citizens. While Baby Boomers would consider themselves genial, interesting, and empathetic, non-seniors (upperclassmen?) might say we are grouchy, boring, and nosy. Underestimating Baby Boomers is not only foolish, it could be downright dangerous. One of my favorite scenes out of all of the movies I have watched is in Fried Green Tomatoes. As Kathy Bates’ character awaits a parking spot about to be vacated, two obnoxious 20-womething women steal the spot before she can stop them. As they get out of the car, they are belittling her, calling her old and stupid. Her reply? Face it girls, I’m older, and I have more insurance, as she proceeds to smash her car into theirs.

All of the above is to illustrate just how much of a hypocrite I am. Here’s why I say that….

Yesterday morning, I looked at the list of activities being offered that day by the wonderful staff of WC.

Sure, yoga; right, aqua aerobics; ya, ya, ya, Ladies’ Poker. Then I saw that at 1 p.m. yesterday afternoon, there was going to be a meeting of the Happy Bookers. Ha. It was being held in the building right next to ours, so close that I wouldn’t even have to cross an indoor bridge. My biggest concern was whether a Summit Square resident would be received at a Quincy Point book club meeting.

And so it begins. Me judging people I’ve never met. Me having reconceived opinions, based on nothing but television’s presentation of elderly people.

Here’s what I assumed: There would be a bunch of Q-Tips sitting around the table, gossiping (did you see what Mary Louise wore to dinner last night?). No one will have read the book, which would have been something like Peyton Place or the Bible. Discussion would never get past complaints about the food or noisy televisions.

Here’s what I got: The members of the group that is called the Happy Bookers were (except for the choice of the name of their group) six or seven very intelligent women. All of them had read The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd, and all had a strong opinion about the book. What’s more, they all respected other people’s opinions as well. The group members take turns running the meeting. The woman who ran yesterday’s meeting had done a lot of research on the book, on other reviews, on the author herself. Despite not being able to participate because I had never read the book, I left the meeting feeling enriched and satisfied.

So much for preconceptions.









Wrap It Up

Yesterday afternoon, I went down the rabbit hole of looking at old photos. I’ve mentioned before that I lost a whole photo album of old photos of me that Mom put together for all of her kids many moons ago. Still, for reasons probably having mostly to do with technology now allowing us to download and share photos, I have my fair share of growing-up photos. I begin by looking at one, and pretty soon an hour has passed.

I came across this photo…..

The photo includes me, my sister Jen, and my brother Dave. I have no recollection as to why my mother spent what was probably a good chunk of her morning bundling the three of us up so that she could lean us against the wall of the back of our house and snap a photo. All I can say is that, from the looks of it, my brother was none too happy. I can’t say I blame him because he reminds me of Randy in A Christmas Story, who was bundled for the Indiana weather and couldn’t get up when he fell down. I also suspect that his hat was knitted by my grandmother and the boots were probably two sizes too big so he could grow into them. It’s probably why 15 years later he moved to Arizona and never looked back.

I love to write stories in my head for pictures, but I’m having trouble writing the story for this particular shot. We definitely weren’t just going out to play in the snow. Jen’s and my coats are too fancy. I’m not afraid to tell you that I wish I had that very coat today, because I think it’s adorable. Mom bought cute clothes for us when we were children.

It’s possible we were about to walk to school. Like Ralphie and Randy in the aforementioned movie, we walked the seven blocks to school. I’m guessing our ages, and I’m putting me at about 9, Jen at about 5, and Dave at about 3. That, too, could have caused the frown on his face. His little 3-year-old brain might be thinking, “I’m too young for school. I was perfectly content laying in front of the television set watching Captain Kangaroo before I was needlessly put in this humiliating position.”

Nebraska winters were/are cold. You can see in the photo the pile of snow in the background. What you can’t see are the icicles that were undoubtedly hanging from the gutters of the house and the garage, waiting to fall off and hit one of us. Bring on the tears.

I wish that Mom was here to tell me her memories of that picture taken so long ago.

Living Small

I was in the car with our granddaughter Kaiya the other day. Cole and Mylee were in the backseat, but they were busy playing some sort of Roblox game that involved a lot of chatter between two of them. Out of the blue, Kaiya asked me, “Nana, do you like where you’re living now?”

I thought it was sweet of her to ask, and I said that we were happy.

“Does it feel too small for you? It’s so much smaller than the house you lived in before,” she said. She was talking about moving from a house that was almost 3,000 square feet if you don’t include the basement to an apartment that is 1,200 square feet.

She was very surprised when I answered enthusiastically, “We really love the size of the apartment.”

“You do?” she said. “Why do you like it so much?”

“Because let’s say I accidentally leave my reading glasses next to my bed and I want to check my emails in the living room,” I said. “I only have to take 20 steps or so to get to my glasses instead of having to walk up a flight of stairs, and take many more steps.”

Bill and I would not have been as content if we had lived in a 1,200 square foot apartment when we first got married. Court was still a kid, and Bill’s kids were still a busy part of our lives. We relished the four bedrooms, the big kitchen (at least it felt big to us at that time), and a basement to store things. (Yes, all of those things that made us crazy as we packed up our house 30 years later.)

Apartments of 1,200 square feet are ideally for young people or old people. I am fully aware that many people with families live in small spaces, especially as housing becomes increasingly unaffordable. Still, I’m talking perfect worlds.

Our contentment was very apparent when we walked into our apartment on Friday, following a long day of travel. (Sure, it’s only an hour-and-a-half flight, but we are old and arrive early. You never know.) Anyhoo, despite the fact that I was greeted by three Christmas trees still fully decorated, and an empty refrigerator, it felt good to return to our new little home. It also felt good to walk over to a nearby restaurant (without having to go outside) where they would serve me a glass of wine and a good meal.

Living in a small space requires small possessions. We have downsized most everything. We have become very aware of where things will be stored. Definitely not doing as much Costco shopping. However, I purchased a twelve-pack of toilet paper at the grocery store when we first moved here, I purposely bought the most expensive brand. Nevertheless, the toilet paper rolls are about three inches wide. We’ll use what we have, but it’s Costco toilet paper from here on out. I’ll find a place to store it rather than see those sad little rolls on my toilet paper holder.

Saturday Smile

I should probably be more embarrassed about this than amused, but ever since we landed safely in Denver yesterday, I’ve been laughing at myself.

Bill and I were near the front of the plane, and among the first to board our Southwest flight. As I watched the other people coming onto the plane, I noticed that the group of men boarding at one point were tall. Exceptionally tall, in fact. Then I noticed they were wearing college letter jackets. Aha, I thought. It’s a college basketball team heading too or from an away game.

Suddenly I began recalling the stories I’ve heard in the past about plane crashes where the victims included entire sports teams.

This is it, I thought. We’re doomed to certain death. All we need is a nun playing a guitar.

Since we didn’t die, I can laugh at myself.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Daisy Darker

Though Alice Feeney has written other books, Daisy Darker is the first that I’ve ever read. Given that I have already admitted to my readers that I am drawn to books by their title and their covers, I don’t hesitate to admit that it was the title of this book that drew me. How can one avoid a purported thriller with the name “Darker” in the title.

I should have resisted.

Daisy Darker was born with a heart defect. All her life, she has been told she was born with a broken heart. So broken, in fact, that she has died and been brought to life on several occasions. Now, her family — her mom, her dad, her beloved grandmother, two crazy sisters, a sweet niece, and a dear friend have gathered on the island on which her grandmother’s gothic mansion is located. At sundown, the tide goes out, and anyone left on said island are forced to remain until the next morning when the tide comes back in.

Thus sets the stage for a locked door mystery ala Agatha Christies reknown And Then There Were None.

Only it’s nearly a crime to even begin to compare Daisy Darker to And Then There Were None. In the latter, there was suspense and mystery and romance. In Daisy Darker, there are only a series of murders about which there is about five minutes of angst, and then they throw the body into a closet until the tide comes back in.

Truly, the characters are unlikeable, the plot is thin, the ending is unexpected, but, frankly, unwanted.

It’s seriously a shame to even begin to think that this novel should be compared with other locked-door mysteries, particularly any penned by Dame Christie. The only reason I finished the novel was to see how the author was going to get all of the despicable characters who remained alive off the island. It wouldn’t have broken my heart if none of them had been lucky.

Daisy Darker is a hard pass in this reader’s opinion. And I’m not sure I will be exploring the author any further.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Come Rain or Come Snow
El Nino or La Nina or whomever it is is rearing his or her ugly head and causing lots of difficult weather. My Colorado grands were home from school on Wednesday because of a snowstorm (and I guess I should say ANOTHER snowstorm. Since we’ve been here, I think we have missed three or four snowstorms. As I understand it, the weather forecasters rather blew it on this most recent storm, predicting a jolly-old amount of snow, and only getting half that much. So much for the accuracy of technology. In the end, it’s God who decides.

As For the Rain
Here in the Valley of the Sun, there often isn’t any. Januarys are tricky here. We leave Colorado wanting to get away from the cold and snow, wishing desperately for 75 degree weather. It generally doesn’t reach the 70s until February. This year has been peculiar in that it has rained significantly more than this Winter Visitor is used to. The other night, it started raining. For a few minutes, it was raining so hard that I seriously worried that the roof was going to cave in. It didn’t. However, the little depressions they have all around our neighborhood (and throughout the city) to hold the water (it takes awhile for the clay ground to absorb moisture) are full to the brim.

Heading to the Rockies
Bill and I leave tomorrow to fly back to our Colorado home. We generally stay in AZ all winter, but this year a number of doctor appointments is creating the need to go back early. At least I hope we go back, because we are flying Southwest Airlines, and as you know, well, actually NEVER know. Do you feel lucky, Punk? We’re set to leave Friday at noonish.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
And when we walk into our apartment, what will greet us will be looking a lot like Christmas. I didn’t get around to taking down any of my decorations, including the two trees. That task will face me Saturday morning. We’re probably the talk of Wind Crest because the little shelf outside my door still holds two raindeer and a huge Christmas tree. I’m sure the rest of the place has moved on to Valentine’s Day.

Ciao.

Coddling is For Eggs

At last weekend’s Mass, our celebrant was one of our retired priests. Our parish here in Mesa is large, and consists of a large number of retired people — many who are winter visitors coming from the Midwest states. In fact, in addition to our pastor and his assistant, we have five retired priests who help out the full-time priests. Out of the five, three are from Minnesota who moved to AZ for the same reason other retired people have — to leave the icy cold and snowy climes behind them. Given our huge parish, I’m sure our pastor thanks God daily for the help of these elderly priests.

The priest who said Mass is a monsignor, which is a step above a priest, and a step below a bishop. He’s one of the priests that comes from Minnesota. He began his homily with the words, “I come from a family of four, and our mother wasn’t an affectionate person. I didn’t get a lot of hugs or kisses from my mother.”

He had my attention, because he could have been talking about our family.

He went on to explain that his mother was one of 13 children, and she was born on a farm in Missouri. That, too, struck me because my mother was the youngest of 14 children. She, too, was born on a farm in Boone County, Nebraska.

Parallel universes, no?

The gospel was from St. John, and he told the story of John the Baptist. John was baptizing folks in the Jordan River and prophesizing about the coming of the Messiah. Many thought he was the Messiah, but while he could have taken credit, John was very clear to those who followed him that he was the one who prophets had indicated would come first and introduce the world to the Savior for whom they had all been awaiting.

I was curious to find out how (or if) Monsignor was going to tie the story of his mother back to St. John, and he did. He went on to explain that his mother, while not affectionate, took wonderful care of his family. Like my mother, his mother taught humility. At his ordination, one of his mother’s friends asked his mother, “It is so wonderful to have a priest in the family. Aren’t you so very proud of him?” to which his mother replied, “I’m proud of ALL of my children.”

It reminded me of when my mother would tell me, “Remember, no one is better than you, and you are no better than any one else.”

Humility.

In yesterday’s blog post, I complained that customer service was becoming a thing of the past. I’m also inclined to think that parents are not as apt to preach humility to their children as I’ll bet most Baby Boomers will claim their parents did. I have absolutely no scientific research on which to base that idea. As a blogger, I claim literary license!

Later that day, I told Bill that when Monsignor began describing his mother, I thought about my mother.

“For that matter,” I said to him, “he could have been describing your mother.”

Bill agreed, as Wilma — who I loved with all of my heart — was not warm and fuzzy.

Bill added, “I think many people our age would say the same thing.”

We were loved, but not coddled.