Swampland for Sale

Bill and I returned to Denver yesterday afternoon from our trip back to AZ for Brooke’s wedding. Between packing, grocery shopping, and general housekeeping, there was no time for a blog post. Enjoy this one from a year ago…..

I read recently in an AARP publication, and then again on Next Door, that there are bad people who are taking advantage of us in new and inventive ways. I think scammers are kind of like the people who sell umbrellas in metropolitan areas like New York City and Rome. A few drops of rain, and within minutes, the streets are full of people offering umbrellas at a ridiculously high price.

Scammers, like umbrella salespeople, react quickly to whatever tragedy is happening in the world. As soon as the word PANDEMIC hit the air waves, people were apparently getting phone calls or email messages about the coronavirus. We have a cure. We have masks for sale. We have an herbal vaccine. We have toilet paper. I’m happy that I never got such a call. Not because I would have fallen for it, but because it would have made me so angry.

The ink wasn’t even dry on the legislation that created the economic stimulus package, whereby many Americans received loot to use to stimulate the economy, before the scammers were making phone calls again. Give us your account number and we’ll invest your money and make you a millionaire. Someone got your check instead of you, but we can fix it if you give us all of your personal banking information. I’ve got some swamp land in Florida I will sell you.

I am very careful about texts and emails that I get. In fact, I don’t answer my telephone if it’s a number I don’t recognize. I always figure if it’s legit, they will leave a message and I can call them back. Also, my email provider does a cracker jack job at recognizing spam. Oh, they get it wrong once in a while. Poor Café Rio can’t get a break from Comcast. But mostly they get it right.

I checked my spam folder yesterday, and learned that someone named Daniel Sullivan was alerting me to the fact that the government discovered they owe me $4.7 million dollars. What a boo-boo. Unfortunately for me, a woman named Annette Stillman was masquerading as me and trying to get my money. The nerve. However, Mr. Sullivan smelled a rat and was going to foil Ms. Stillman’s efforts. He wanted me to give him my bank information so that they can deposit my riches into my account leaving poor old Annette penniless.

Here was the first paragraph of the email, verbatim:

Dear Beneficiary,

We apologies for the delay of your payment and all the inconveniences we might put you through, while we were having some minor problems with our payment system which in all case not meeting up with fund beneficiary payments, we apologize once again.

Obviously, I was totally unconcerned about the fact that the sentence made no sense, nor did it contain any punctuation at all. Bankers, after all, are left-brained and worry about dollars and cents and not commas and correctly spelled words. Ha!

Seriously, these people are evil. But they are also stupid. I know there are, sadly, people who fall for these scams. But I am puzzled by anyone who can read the above paragraph and not stop and wonder.

I’m letting my $4.7 million go unclaimed.

Love is a Many Splendored Thing

We spent Friday afternoon and evening at one of the prettiest weddings I’ve ever seen. Our niece Brooke married Alex, her boyfriend of eight years. They seem almost magically happy, and Bill and I, of course, wish them both a very joyful life together.

At one point in the wedding reception, the DJ invited all married couples out onto the dance floor. To the tune of a very familiar 1970s song (that I now can’t remember), we began to dance. And then the DJ said, “Will anyone who has been married for less than two days please leave the floor.” Brooke and Alex left, but were, obviously, the only ones. He went on, “Will those who have been married less than two years please leave the floor.” A few couples left. The DJ went on and on, until he finally said, “Will those who have been married less than 18 years please leave the floor.”

I looked around and saw that Bill and I were the only couple left on the floor, something that didn’t surprise me at all given the people who had attended the wedding. We are ready to celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks.

The DJ then handed us the mic, and asked us to give the newlyweds a piece of advice. Bill suggested that they love each other with all of their hearts every day of their lives. Lovely. I was more practical, and advised them to pick their battles.

Because there will be battles. Life rarely runs as smoothly as one would hope. Shit happens.

Here’s an example: Amidst all of our joy for Brooke and Alex, something very sad took place. Jen’s ex-husband passed away very suddenly. Jen’s children — Maggie and B.J. — were devastated, as you would imagine. God, in his very familiar way, reminded us of the continuum of life. People die and children are born. People get sick and two people join their lives together. The joys and the sorrows are intermixed in all of our lives.

It’s pretty darn easy to stay in love during the joyful times. But real love is tested — and hopefully survives — during difficult times. Better or worse. Richer or poorer. In good times and in bad.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a marriage will fail. I, frankly, am astounded that any survive. When my siblings and I were young, we used to talk about how dysfunctional other families were, and that we were the only normal family of the people we knew. Ha! It wasn’t until I was a full-out adult that I figured out that our family was as dysfunctional as every other family. How can two people from different households, beliefs, likes, dislikes, goals, lifestyles get together and stay that way? It seems nearly impossible.

Yet, my parents did it. Bill’s parents did it. Many of my friends are doing it. Bill and I are doing it. We won the dance contest, didn’t we?

I wonder what the DJ would have said if he knew that a mere year into our marriage, I got so mad at Bill for something I don’t even now remember that I threw my Taco Bell burrito right at him from across the room. Yep. Truth. Two good things came out of it: 1) He indicated to me how quick his response time is by ducking just in time; and 2) We had to make up because the burrito had gone underneath the refrigerator and so we had to work together to move the fridge and retrieve the burrito.

What I’ve learned over the years is that marriage is hard work. Sometimes the work is too hard, and the marriage doesn’t pan out. But as the years go by, you get more mellow and more forgiving. You realize that you should never waste a good burrito on something trivial. You can apologize without thinking you’re giving in. And most of all, you realize how quickly time flies and you better not waste time on small things.

Best wishes to the bride and groom. I know they will do what Bill suggested and love each other with all their hearts every day of the rest of their lives…

Saturday Smile: Wedding Bells

Last night, our youngest niece Brooke married the love of her life, Alexander. My brother proudly walked his youngest down the aisle. We are all so happy for the newly married couple. The celebration made me smile…..

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: This Close to Okay

Tallis Clark is a family therapist. One evening when driving home from her office, she spots a man standing at the edge of a bridge looking for all the world like he’s about to jump into the water. Before she can change her mind, she pulls over and literally talks him off the ledge.

Tallis uses her training as a counselor to convince him to join her for a cup of coffee at a nearby cafe. While he won’t tell her why he is prepared to kill himself, he does respond to her kindness. Still convinced that he can’t be trusted to be left alone, she invites him to her house. She doesn’t tell him that she is a therapist by training and profession, justifying her action by telling herself as long as she doesn’t tell him, he isn’t her client and there are no ethical issues. Her intentions are honorable, though, because she just wants to keep him from going back to the bridge. He ends up spending several days with her.

This Lose to Okay, by Leesa Cross-Smith, is a well-told story, if somewhat unconvincing in parts. The two main characters — Tallis and Emmett — are realistic and likable, both troubled by their past, but both unwilling to share their whole stories with one another. Though I’m not terribly familiar with the practice of family therapy, I find it hard to believe that it wouldn’t be unethical to be coaching life practices like she did without admitting that she does this for a living.

Nevertheless, it is a story of friendship and understanding and trust. The author keeps us guessing about Emmett’s story until nearly the end. I found her continuing connection to her ex-husband to be somewhat tiresome. And Emmett’s role in continuing the connection was darnright unbelievable.

Still, I liked the book — and the author’s ability to tell a good story — very much.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

It’s a Dry Heat
Last night at 7:30 as we drove home from eating dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant, I glanced at the thermometer in the car. It was a pleasant 101 degrees. At 7:30 p.m. On June 2. We are so happy to be able to spend our winters here in the desert, and equally happy to live in Colorado in the summer, where we complain when it reaches 90. It might be a dry heat, but you could still fry an egg on the hood of a car.

Not our little family.

You followed along with my stories about the quail who laid egg in my geranium pot here in AZ. One of the first things I did when we came back for the wedding was to go outside and check on the status. I knew that they would have hatched by the end of May, but I didn’t know if any survived the nesting period. Out of five eggs that had been laid, I saw that three eggs had hatched and two eggs were unhatched and had probably died. I was happy that three had apparently made it, at least in my mind. Yesterday evening, Jen and I were outside waiting for Bill so we could drive to the restaurant, and Jen said, “Look at the quail family.” Sure enough, there was what appeared to be Mommy and Daddy Quail, and two tiny little quail following close behind. I, of course, have no way of knowing if they were our little family, but in my world, they definitely were. And I think I’m right. Those little guys were as cute as can be. I felt like a grandmother once again…..

Yesterday morning, the three aunties had coffee with two of our nieces, both who are bridesmaids in the upcoming wedding. They squeezed us in between group manicures/pedicures and hair appointments. The bride herself was busily picking up people at the airport and preparing for her big day. We had such fun chatting and laughing and anticipating the upcoming event. I can’t wait.

Climate Opposites
While the temperatures have been in the high 90s, and sneaking into the 100s, here in AZ, the temperature in Denver was in the mid-50s yesterday. Our neighbor is keeping an eye on our outdoor plants, but I sort of put God in charge as well. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they make it a few more days. See you on Monday, Plants!


I Ain’t Your Typical Princess

When my 40-year-old son was a child, I dutifully took him to the movies. We watched the Transformers and the Smurfs and He-Man and She-Ra all fight crime on the big screen. They were ridiculous stories that kids the age of Court loved, and parents accompanying the kids slept through.

Nowadays, kids movies are no longer rated G, but most often are rated PG. The rating is because the movie makers actually make the movies secretly funny to the parents, and yet interesting and exciting for the kids. Boy, that wasn’t true of movies in the 80s. If I never had to see another big rig turn into a super hero, it would be too soon.

And there were the Disney princess movies, which started when I was a kid. Snow White and Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty come to mind. When Court was older, there were movies such as Princess and the Frog, which introduced white kids to the fact that not all princesses were white and not all princesses lived in Never Neverland. Still, the princess was always beautiful and at the end, she found her Prince Charming.

Through my grandkids, (the first born in 2003), I watched Ariel and Repunzel and Belle and Jasmine and Cinderella, all of whom had their trials and tribulations, and all who found their Prince Charming in the end.

Recently, my granddaughter Mylee asked me who my favorite Disney princess was. Hmmmm, I said. Maybe Belle, because she loved a beast before he was a prince. And then I asked her who her was her favorite Disney princess. Without skipping a beat, she said Raya! I was caught off guard because I wasn’t even vaguely familiar with a princess named Raya.

“Who’s Raya?” I asked Mylee.

“She’s Cambodian,” said my half-Cambodian granddaughter Mylee. “She’s awesome, and she’s my favorite Disney princess.

Since then, I have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to watch Raya and the Last Dragon, a Disney 2020 film that features a main character that I wouldn’t classify as a princess, but who is southeast Asian. The story takes place in a fictional country of Kumandra, which is a combination of the southeastern Asian countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, and others.

The main character, Raya, is not your typical princess. There is, for example, not a prince in sight. She, along with the last remaining dragon, saves her country from destruction through trust, friendship, and love. But it isn’t all roses and hearts. That girl can fight. The main female characters are tough and strong and independent, very unlike Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. I was happy that Mylee chose her as her favorite Disney character.

And, by the way, Raya looked just like my granddaughter Kaiya. That added to my enjoyment.

I will always love the original Disney princesses like Snow White and Cinderella. But I have to admit that it made me happy to see a role model for girls who was strong and independent. I watched it with my great-niece Lilly, who played along with the Kung-Fu scenes and looked strong and independent herself.

That’s a good thing.

Summertime, and the Living Is Easy

When I went over to the grocery store yesterday afternoon (somewhere in the neighborhood of 4:30), it was like a ghost town. It was quiet, except for the background Muzak music of Janis Joplin singing Piece of My Heart. And, by the way, did THAT make me feel old. Janis Joplin is now grocery store background music. Nothing says canned tomatoes like 60s rock-and-roll. I wonder how she would feel about that.

I reckoned everyone had already done their shopping, and they were now preparing their burgers and hot dogs to throw on the grill in good ol’ God Bless America fashion. As for me, I frankly forgot that it was even a holiday until my sister Bec reminded me I wouldn’t be able to lay flowers on our parents’ grave this year, seeings as I’m 800 miles away in AZ for my niece’s wedding.

Despite this year’s forgetfulness, I’ve always been a fan of Memorial Day. I guess I’m lucky in that I don’t know a single person who died while serving this country as part of the military. I know plenty who served, including my father, my husband, several cousins, and my brother-in-law. I’m grateful that they lived to tell their own stories.

When Bill and I took our trip to Europe, one of the most powerful days was when we visited Normandy, France. Seeing that beach, and just how far it was to run from the boat to some cover on D-Day, literally moved us to silence.

Anyhoo, one of the reasons I am fond of Memorial Day is historically, it means the end of the school year. In recent years, our Denver grandkids haven’t had their last day of school until mid-June. This year, however, they were all finished last Friday. I’m guessing the earlier year-end is because there was no need for snow days given that they learned from home much of the year. Well, attempted to learn from home anyway. As for our Vermont grands, they have another couple of weeks.

When I was in elementary school, Memorial Day was the end of the school year. Man, I can remember those days like it was yesterday. I can remember emptying my desk, and leaving crumbs of crayons and broken pencil leads and shards of eraser behind. My notebooks were tattered. I carried dumb art work under my arm for Mom to promptly throw away when I got home. I looked forward to taking off my school clothes and putting on the shorts and sleeveless shirts that I would wear for the next three months. I tossed my school shoes in the back of the closet and got out my flip-flops (which we called thongs at that time).

Now it’s our grandkids’ turn. I think they’re all happy to see school ending for the year. Not surprisingly, they would all say that the 2020-2021 school term was difficult. One for the books, but a book they would never want to read again.

I’m looking forward to spending more time with them now that school’s out and we will be back in Denver. Our Vermont family comes for a visit soon, so that’s something to look forward to.

In Memory

For the first time in a number of years, none of us was in Denver to put flowers on our parents’ gravesite. Still, we remembered them in our thoughts and prayers this weekend…..

We also say a prayer of thanksgiving for those brave men and women who gave up their lives to keep us free and safe. God bless America.

Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday Smile: Class of 2021

As much as I can barely believe it, our eldest grandchild — Adelaide Grace McLain — graduated this week from Thomas Jefferson High School. Not only did she graduate, but she was fifth in her entire class. Her papa and I couldn’t be more proud of this amazing young woman…..

And a shout-out to her parents, Dave and Jll, who attended concerts and plays and continuations, and who schlepped her to swim lessons and piano lessons and camps and sporting events for the past 18 years. One down, three to go…..

This young woman will do great things.

Have a wonderful weekend.