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.

Can I Help You?

For the first 67 years of my life, years were just years. I mean, things happened in years. Things we will never forget. President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The first men walked on the moon in 1969. In 1980, a movie star was elected president. On January 1, 2000, the world was expected to end because it was anticipated that every computer — including those controlling our nuclear weapons — might screw up, resulting in the end of the world.

However, 2020 will always be known as the year of the pandemic. An entire year where the world was held captive by a virus. A whole year. In 2021, all we heard was about the pro-vaccine people versus the anti-vaccine people. The vaxxers versus the nonvaxxers. Turn on the news, that’s what we heard. Every day. Every news hour. Inflation was the word-of-the-day for 2022. Eggs at seven bucks a dozen. Twelve dollars for a pound of bacon. Two things happened: either the price of something went through the moon or the size of the product became so minimal that you wondered why you bothered paying anything at all. Filling your tank with gas rivaling the cost of a month’s rent. It was the opening story of every news cast.

I haven’t heard this on the news, but in this humble blogger’s opinion, 2023 is going to be known as the year that customer service became nonexistent. Out the window. We stopped dealing with humans.

It’s not really that it’s anything new. It’s just being finely honed to an art form. Recently I had a reason to try and reach someone in Xcel Energy’s customer service department. I was being charged for electricity at the our home on Olive Street which we no longer own. I wasn’t worried because I had an email from Xcel telling me that they received my request to stop providing electricity to me. No problemo. Except they kept charging me.

I called, and, to no one’s surprised, got a recording. Press one if something. Press two if something else. I dutifully followed all of the prompts until I realized I was going around in circles. I kept getting back to the same original recording. I am not proud to say that at one point I was literally yelling — yelling — into the phone, “REPRESENTATIVE. REPRESENTATIVE. REPRESENATIVE. All to no avail. There I was again: Press one if you are a new customer. Press two if you are an existing customer. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

As I write this post, I am reluctant to tell you that nothing has as yet been resolved. I’m looking for any suggestions.

The lack of human customer service is certainly not limited to Xcel Energy. The option of talking to a human is nearly nonexistent. And if you get to a human, the possibility that they will speak clear English is dubious.

As it gets more and more difficult, as well as more and more expensive, to hire humans, this problem is not going to get any better. Maybe it’s only Baby Boomers who get disgruntled by this lack of human contact. Perhaps Generation X, Y, and Zers have no expectations of talking to a human. Still, I think back with nostalgic envy at those times when you would dial a telephone number and a human voice would say, “Thank you for calling Blah, Blah Company. How can I direct your call?”

Friday Book Whimsy: The Recovery Agent

Author Janet Evanovich is a prolific author. She is perhaps best known for her Stephanie Plum novels. The first Plum book came out in the early 90s, and she has written many books since then

Evanovich’s newest character is Gabriela Rose, a hard-nosed and clever detective who is paid to find things for people, mostly billionaires. All sorts of things. In this first novel, The Recovery Agent, Rose’s task is closer to home. Her parents are about to lose everything. Based on family legend, Rose sets off to the jungles of Peru to find the Ring of Solomon which is connected to an a lost treasure.

The first problem Rose faces is obtaining the map that will lead her to the treasure. To find the map, she must go through her sexy ex-husband Rafer, who has the map. He insists on joining her on her mission to Peru, and Gabriela reluctantly agrees.

The two encounter several formidable obstacles, including a crazy man who is also on the hunt for the Ring.

I enjoyed the first book of Envanovich’s newest series. Gabriela is strong and smart and completely prepared for the adventure. The relationship between Rafer and Gabriela — which still sizzles with chemistry — is a fun side note to the story. Like her Stephanie Plum books, the side characters are quirky and likeable and add humor to the main story.

At the end of the day, The Recovery Agent has the same feel as the Stephanie Plum books, which felt a little competitive. Evanovich, however, can write a good detective story that will make you laugh out loud at times. Overall, I give the book a thumbs up, and will read the next book in the series when it is released.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

The Lemon
I tried my very best to not get sucked into the Lululemon world. True story: A few weeks ago, I picked up our grandson Cole from school. As I waited for his class to be dismissed, I watched the parents begin gathering to pick up their darlings. What struck me was that every single one of the women — except for two — was wearing leggings. It must be the new uniform for suburban moms. Anyhoo, everyone who’s anyone is buying Lululemon clothing, but I simply couldn’t get past the price tag. A hundred bucks for a pair of spandex pants? But everyone I know who owns a pair of these very expensive clothing items tells me they are worth every penny because they are so comfortable. So, I decided to use part of the gift card that Bill gave me for Christmas at Lululemon. Bec and I went shopping yesterday and I bought a pair. I immediately put them on when I got home. My verdict? Worth every penny. It’s like not having any pants on at all. They feel as soft as butter. I’m not getting paid a penny by Lulu or anyone else.

Glitchy
Yesterday morning, Bill was reading his Google news. He looked up and told me that all of the U.S. flights had been canceled the night before because of a computer problem. I looked up from my own Google news about the naughty faces that Prince Louis was making to Princess Charlotte, who couldn’t cry because she’s a princess and princesses don’t cry. And doesn’t Kate look pretty in navy blue? Anyway, I could hardly believe what he was telling me. Apparently, because of the computer error, pilots weren’t being informed about planes careening towards them in their air space or snow plows on the runway. Poor Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Prior to being named Transportation Secretary, his biggest problem was that no one could pronounce his name. Now we see his face on the news more often than our president. I suspect the first advice that he gave after hearing the news was that they should try shutting off the computer, waiting two minutes, and turning it back on.

Won’t Be Buying a Private Jet
Bill and I once again purchased tickets for the Mega Lottery drawing. We didn’t win, but at least this time I knew where our lottery ticket was. You should have seen Bill and I buying the tickets from the vending machine. We looked like aliens from a different planet trying to figure out how to order an Uber. We finally purchased our tickets, but alas, to no avail. I had to call and cancel our order for the private jet. Probably a good thing, because it seems to be more and more difficult to fly anywhere these days,

Ciao!

Sleepytime

Among all of the indignities that the more mature members of society must endure, changes in sleep habit ranks among the top 10. It’s definitely less troublesome than losing bladder control or developing bone weakness so pronounced that one can break a hip with a hearty sneeze. Still, the fact that seniors can fall asleep in their La-Z-Boys at 2 o’clock in the afternoon but lie wide awake at 2 o’clock in the morning is a tough nut to swallow.

I’ve always been a light sleeper, at least as an adult. When my son was a baby, I don’t think he ever turned over in his crib without me awakening, listening for his breathing like a cactus wren listening for the hoot of an owl, warning of impending doom. For the cactus wren, it is the danger of being the owl’s dinner. For me, it was the danger of Court’s inconsolable nighttime crying.

Bill is a sound sleeper. This, despite the fact that he has two reasons he shouldn’t sleep well: He’s 80 years old and he has PD. Nevertheless, he falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. Even a before-bedtime-argument — something that will keep me awake all night — doesn’t change things. He sleeps like a baby. He wakes up somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:30 or 4 in the morning to go to the bathroom. In the same way that I would hear Court roll over in his crib, I never fail to hear Bill get up to go to the bathroom. In fact, I think I hear his eyelids opening. The trouble is that I am an early riser, so when I wake up with Bill at 4 o’clock, I’m generally down for the count.

We all know that things seem much worse at night. However, even being fully aware of that fact, I am virtually unable to stop myself from mentally latching on to every horrible possible thing that is/was/might soon be happening to me. Or maybe not to me. I awoke the other night and began thinking of just how mean Harry and Meghan are being to Will and Kate. So he’s a spare. Get a grip Harry. It’s not Will’s fault he was born first. Stop your whining.

I’m happy to say that I only spent 10 or 15 minutes worrying on behalf of Will and Megan. I spent the rest of the two hours wondering where I put the lottery ticket that I bought. True story.

Ah well. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter how well I sleep. I’m not going to be performing brain surgery the next day. In fact, if I want to (and I often do), I can return to bed after my morning coffee.

Miracles

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.

-Unknown (often misattributed to Albert Einstein)

I’ve been feeling somewhat punk from a cold the past couple of days. Though I know it’s not COVID, I still felt it was prudent to stay home from church Sunday morning given that the mean age of the parishioners of our Mesa church is probably 75 years old. A germ or two could knock someone down for the count.

During the COVID quarantine, my family got in the habit of watching Sunday Mass on St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC online. Nearly every Sunday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan says the Mass. He is an extraordinary priest, as evidenced that he has made it all the way to Cardinal. But I watch him because he is an extraordinary homilist. Every homily I have ever heard him preach has made me stop to think, or shed a tear or two, or make me so very happy to be a believer in Jesus. So it was back to St. Patrick’s I went on Sunday.

His homily, as usual, was wonderful. But my sister Jen told me suggested to me that I listen to his Christmas Day homily, and so I did. He spoke about miracles. It is a compelling topic, particularly on Christmas Day when we celebrate the miracle of Christ’s birth. After all, he was born to a virgin, announced to the world by angels, and received a visit from three kings thanks to a star that led them to the stable.

Lots of miracles.

I believe in miracles, and I lean towards the everything-is-a-miracle camp. (See quote above) I recognize that those who are in the nothing-is-a-miracle camp can explain almost everything through science. (But really? A Big Bang?) Anyhoo, for me, the very fact that I was able to watch Cardinal Dolan’s homily via YouTube several weeks after Christmas is a miracle. The fact that my cell phone, which measures somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 x 5 inches, is basically a computer is a miracle. The reality that I was able to get a couple of new pillows overnight via Amazon after ours suffered an accident involving coffee and blood (and DON’T ask me to explain that one) is a miracle. Doctors bringing Damar Hamlin back to life on a football field is a miracle. The fact that my sisters have — between them — two new hips, two new knees, and a new shoulder, and are able to take brisk walks and travel and keep up with their grandkids is a miracle. Every time I watch the sunset in my backyard here in Mesa, I think that the blue and orange sky is miraculous. Every morning when the sun reappears, I am in awe.

When Bill was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I prayed every day for a miracle. Please cure him of this incurable disease. Though he hasn’t been cured, it is a miracle to me that his progression has been slow enough that nearly 14 years after being diagnosed, he is still active. Not active like 14 years ago. But the miracle is that he has progressed slowly enough so that we both can handle the changes. My prayers were answered.

What is a miracle but the hand of God?