Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mistress Mary, Quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With Silver Bells, And Cockle Shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

The familiar poem above is an old nursery rhyme that, unlike most of the nursery rhymes we Baby Boomers grew up listening to in our beds at night, doesn’t have anything to do with Bubonic Plague or the horrific destruction of London Bridge. It appears to simply be a verse about a garden.

Of course, there are potential other meanings. One theory is that it is a religious allegory of Catholicism, with Mary being the mother of Jesus and bells referring to the Sanctus bells. The problem with this theory is that no one can tell whether it’s pro- or anti-Catholic. Seeings as Mary is contrary, I suggest anti.

Another theory is that the poem referred to Queen Mary I of England and her lack of heirs (how does your garden grow, a taunt that seems simply mean. I’m thinking perhaps she was too busy hacking her enemies to little pieces — thereby earning her the nickname Bloody Mary — to worry about procreation).

At any rate, my garden — like Mary’s — is growing. And like Mary, I’m quite contrary most of the time. Especially when I get near the garden and see all of the weeds. Wait, maybe those aren’t weeds. Maybe those are cockle shells…..

I have mentioned in blog posts past that while I love the fresh vegetables of a garden, try as I might, I simply don’t like to garden. It’s the weeds, er, cockle shells. They appear out of nowhere. For a bit of time, they are too small to pull. Then suddenly they have taken over your garden.

This year, Emma planted my garden. She spent nearly a full day on her knees in the dirt, carefully placing argula seeds, green bean seeds, radish seeds, and carrot seeds into the ground. She also planted a tomato and a jalapeno. She then gently watered them and wished them well.

In a short period of time, I could practically hear the plants calling for her. Emma, please come back. Mary, Mary is killing us. 

But I did faithfully water the garden, though I rarely went to take a look at progress. Emma came over on Father’s Day, and went to look at her masterpiece. She came back, patted me on the back, and said, “Well, it looks good.” Since it didn’t, I suspect she was being nice.

Finally, yesterday afternoon, I was brave enough to peek at the garden. I even pulled out some weeds, er, cockle shells. I carefully looked at my radishes, and to my delight, they looked great! And ready to pull, trim, wash, and eat…..

With Radish Success under my belt, I returned to the garden to look at the arugula. Eureka! Or as Emma, who is from Paris, would say, “Voila!” I cut some of the beautiful leaves…..

When we spent our time in Italy, nearly every time we would order a pizza, Bill’s would include arugula. So I heated up our leftover pizza for dinner, but included freshly-cut arugula and a glass of red. Buon appetito!

I will tell you that I am a fearless gardener when it comes to gardening in pots…..

My big boy tomato plant even has some tomatoes…..

And why is it that I have such success in gardening in pots? Simple. No weeds, er, cockle shells.

In a month or so, I will be eating a homegrown sliced red tomato. And I won’t be contrary.

This post linked to Grand Social

Saturday Smile: Je fais avancer les choses

Dave and Jll and the kids joined some friends and family at an outdoor movie last week. The Secret Life of Pets was playing to an audience of 5,000 or so movie fans, all of whom sat on the grass enjoying a picnic as they watched. The movie, of course, was in English. One member of their group speaks French as the first language. So, while understanding English, movies and television programs are a bit easier to understand if there are subtitles.

Well, 10-year-old Dagny, being third-born, knows how to take matters into her own hands. She proceeded to walk over to the projectionist and ask him if he could add French subtitles to the movie.

Hmmm, the man pondered. Why not?

As a result, the 5,000 people watching The Secret Life of Pets that fine evening, did so with French subtitles…..

…..thanks to Miss Dagny, a third-born who makes things happen (Je fais avancer les choses) and who makes me smile.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: News of the World

For reasons I can’t quite explain, I am drawn to novels that take place in the Old West of the 1800s. I like to imagine what it was like to live in the days before electricity, iPads, Snapchat, and nightly news.

News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, had an interesting premise. The protagonist, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, served in – and was greatly impacted by – the Civil War. Now, however, he is just an elderly man who makes his money by traveling around northern Texas reading the news to people willing to give a dime or so to learn what’s happening in the world and who can’t read it for themselves. His wife is long dead, and his two daughters live far away. Still, while he’s a loner, he is satisfied with his life.

One day, he is offered a $50 in gold by the United States Army to return a 10-year-old orphan girl to her family in southern Texas. The child’s parents had been killed four years earlier by Kiowa Indians, who for unexplained reasons, took the child and raised her in the Kiowa tradition. The Army rescued her, and despite the fact that she was perfectly content in her new life, decided she needs to be returned to a distant aunt and uncle in San Antonio.

Thus begins a 400-mile journey by an elderly man and a little girl who speaks only the Kiowa language. She is terrified at the beginning, but eventually senses the man’s gentle nature and eventually comes to call him Keh-Pun, the Kiowan word for grandfather. He, in turn, tries to teach her English so that she will be able to communicate with the family she doesn’t know.

While the duo has several adventures along the way south, the book turns out to not be a story about cowboys and Indians; instead, it is a story about love and kindness. The pace is slow, sort of matching the pace of the pair as they make their journey. There are funny scenes as the little girl Johannah tries to learn the ways of the white people.

The twist comes when Captain Kidd and Johannah finally reach San Antonio, only to find a couple who is interested only in using Johannah as an indentured servant. Captain Kidd makes a decision that changes his life, and the little girl’s, forever.

As I mentioned, this is not an action novel, but a novel about relationships, trust, and love. I enjoyed the book, though I found the pace a bit slow at times. Still, it is a very short book, just this side of a novella.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Better Not Be in a Hurry
My blog post yesterday in which I waxed eloquently about train travel might have been somewhat premature. When Bill checked the status of our train yesterday morning, he learned that it was going to be nearly four hours late getting into Glenwood. The good news is we weren’t in a hurry. We whiled away the day doing this and that. Looking at the flowers, for example…..


Our hotel – located directly across the street from the train station and, as such, used to working with stranded passengers — couldn’t have been nicer. They had to kick us out of our room, but they were helpful in every other way, providing water and use of bathrooms and comfortable places to sit and charge up our electronic equipment. We boarded at 4 o’clock and arrived Union Station in Denver at 11:30 p.m. instead of 6:38 as planned. We walked into our house at 12:30 this morning. Train travel doesn’t seem quite as romantic when you’re hours and hours late.

Flying High
One of the things we did to kill time was to take the tram up to the top of a mountain where there is a very fun Adventure Park….

Fun, that is, if you’re NUTS! There is a roller coaster up there that juts out over the canyon and a rocking swing that not only flies you into the air, but flies you into the air over the canyon. We watched but we’re not even remotely tempted…..

Brave Hearts
Our grandkids, however, are much braver than are we, as they actually did fly over Glenwood Canyon on those self same amusement park rides last year, and lived to tell about it. And I got an email from Kaiya while we were in Glenwood Springs after they returned from their California trip. She sent me this photo of Kaiya, Mylee, and her father on some sort of death defying ride at Sea World…..

I would no sooner choose this attraction than I would choose to feed the whales out of my hand. Have they all lost their minds?

Father’s Day
We had a kind of low key Father’s Day, but cooked burgers on the grill for Bill’s two sons and their families. The weather was perfect and the food tasted good. The kids were momentarily discombobulated when the sprinklers went on about 8 o’clock, but quickly recovered and were soon soaking wet but happy. Here is a photo of Bill with two of his three kids and four of his nine grandkids….



Travel By Train

When Bill and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary back in 2002, we had quite a big celebration. We renewed our vows at church. We had a great big party in our backyard where we served a fabulous seafood boil with friends and family. I think there were more people eating shrimp and sausage from paper plates that day than there were at our wedding.

And why not? Ten years of marriage was my personal best, I joked.

So as the years went by and we got closer and closer to our so-called Silver Anniversary, I began thinking about how to commemorate 25 years of marriage to the same fellow. I considered another big party, but realized that felt too contrived. Or maybe we should take a fancy vacation someplace really cool. Hawaii, maybe, or New York City. But deep in the throes of our house remodel and having only been home for a little over a month from our winter in AZ, that didn’t feel right either.

And then I had a brainstorm. A year-and-a-half or so ago, Bill and I took a train ride to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, with some friends, and we all had so much fun. Bill, let’s take the train to Glenwood and spent a couple of days!

He thought it was a good idea, and so our three day adventure began.

Let me tell you straight out of the gates that I LOVE train rides. Love them. In a way that is totally different than I feel about riding in a car or flying on an airplane, train rides put me in mind of the 1930s and Hercule Poirot. The gentle rocking of the car as it travels over the rails relaxes me. I feel no need to stay awake and alert in order to keep the train on the tracks like I do when I’m flying.

We traveled on many a train as we toured Europe over the years and have many stories to tell as a result. And none of them include Hercule Poirot or any other Agatha Christie character. As a matter of fact, as I visited what was quite an undesirable bathroom by the end of our train trip on Monday, I was reminded that Amtrack is not the Orient Express.

Still, take a look at our own silver anniversary celebration…..

We started our adventure early, eating breakfast at the Snooze Restaurant at Union Station at 6:30, when the birds were scarcely awake.

We took our seats and were ready for our new adventure. Still working on those selfies…..

Here is an example of the extraordinary scenery we saw from our window…..

Our pretty little room at the historic Hotel Denver, right across the way from the Historic Glenwood Mineral Pools.

And speaking of the pools, we spent a morning at the pool, soaking our aching joints, something unnecessary at our 10-year celebration…

Another selfie. Practice makes perfect…

We celebrated our anniversary at Colorado Ranch House with steaks and old fashioned drinks….

Yum. Well just yum.

We return to Denver today, and it’s back to the real world. But we enjoyed our getaway as much as we would have enjoyed a trip to Hawaii. At the end of the day, we are simple people.

To Thee I Wed

Twenty-five years ago today, Bill and I were married. Second weddings are not like first weddings — in many respects. Our wedding was small, mostly family and a few friends. We were married at St. Vincent Catholic Church, presided over by Fr. Quang, at that time a fairly new priest, and now a monsignor. (I’m pretty sure Bill and I had something to do with that.) Court was just a kid of 12, but I chose him to walk me down the aisle. In all respects, our wedding was what I’d hoped for…..

June 20, 1992. The whole wedding party comprises the people you read about in my blog so often. Just younger.

I’m not going to get all gushy and say that I married my best friend, and it’s like we were married yesterday, and I would do it all again. All of those things are true, but they dismiss the reality that marriage is HARD. I won’t lie and tell you that we never had a fight in 25 years, or that we never went to bed angry. I’m pretty sure I went to bed angry about two weeks ago.

But since we were both divorced, we knew — beyond a shadow of a doubt — that we weren’t going to do that again. So even if we took the risk of going to bed angry (and don’t misunderstand; I don’t recommend that), we always managed to straighten things out in the end. It used to take longer because we took things more personally, I guess. Now we are both old enough to recognize that while there are a lot of things about which we disagree, life is short and you’d better pick your battles. So we do.

At the end of the day, the reality is I married a really good man. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, but when it came to picking out the man with whom I would spend the majority of my life, I done good.

So, happy anniversary to my good husband. What’s say we try for 25 more years!


When a man walks in integrity and justice, happy are his children after him. – Proverbs 20:7

When we were little, I remember Dad getting annoyed every year on Father’s Day. Why? Because he was convinced that at the Father’s Day celebration of Mass, dads were given short shrift by the priest as compared to moms on Mother’s Day. In particular, he was pretty cranky about a certain Father’s Day sermon in which the priest said that fathers should be mindful of, and thankful for, their wives because without the wives they wouldn’t be fathers. I can’t rightly say whether or not that’s what the priest said as I was probably not listening but instead planning what antics my Barbie doll was going to be up to when I got home. But Dad talked about that sermon the rest of his life.

I don’t know if any of that is true, but if perception is reality, then it was certainly true for Dad. It wasn’t true at our Mass yesterday, however, because the priest recognized and blessed the fathers three or four times throughout the Mass, as he should.

What’s more important – at least to me – is that not once did the priest ask the dads to stand. I hate when they do that on Mother’s Day. While it’s true that I can stand, I look around at the women who are unable to stand proudly for any number of reasons. How sad many of them must feel. Perhaps childless men don’t feel the same way.

Dad was on my mind all day yesterday. I could hear the sound of his voice. I saw in my mind’s eye the twinkle of his blue eyes. At one point as I was preparing dinner for family, I found myself starting one job before I finished the previous job. “You’re just like a tsetse fly,” I recalled my dad would have said to me. I don’t know why he said that, as tsetse flies are biting insects from Africa which probably don’t flit around like I was, but that’s what he would have said, because he often did.

I’ll bet if you asked each of his four kids to tell you about Dad, we would all tell a different story because of our age difference. For example, Bec, being the first-born, was featured on a Christmas card Dad sent friends and customers.  She was dressed in bakery whites with a chef’s hat sitting crookedly (and adorably) on her head. No Christmas cards featuring any of the rest of us kids. Just sayin’….

But every one of us would say that Dad was a remarkable man. He taught us all to work hard. He modeled honesty and fairness. He loved his family, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Denver Broncos, the Colorado Rockies, music, and baking. He was sociable and funny, and fiercely loyal to those he called friends. As a kid, he had a very good friend who had an accident that resulted in his losing both arms. Dad became his arms for everything. And they were friends until the day Dad died.

He wasn’t afraid of being adventuresome. His fearlessness was demonstrated by his willingness to give up everything in Columbus and move to Leadville, nearly sight unseen, to run a bakery in the mountains. He made the best of everything, as evidenced by the fact that he not only bought a bakery, but a horse as well! When in Rome…

And I think he showed us how to parent. He wasn’t particularly demonstrative, at least as a young father. I think he became more openly affectionate later in his life. But as the son of Swiss parents, kissing and hugging weren’t the norm. Still, none of his kids doubted his love. Never.

I hope all the fathers who have stumbled upon this blog had a great Father’s Day. And I hope that you can all play as important a role in your children’s lives as did our dad, who walked in integrity as did no other!