I’ve never been a particular fan of the Book of Revelation. I think it’s creepy, confusing, and often misinterpreted to meet particular goals. Goals like scaring the pants off of simpletons like me. Plus, it was written by John, who quite frankly annoys the heck out of me with his “the disciple whom Jesus loved” stuff, as if he was the only one. (Trust me, I am looking around for bolts of lightning as I write these words.)

Having said all of the above, I will tell you that these words from Revelation, 5:11-14, that were recited at this weekend’s Mass are among my favorite in the Bible. Not the least reason is because they are part of my favorite chorus in Handel’s Messiah.

So, I share them with you to start off your week. I think it teaches us how to pray….

I, John, looked and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.” Then I hear every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.”

The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Saints of Swallow Hill

It’s the middle of the Great Depression, and while the country is falling to pieces, the people who live in the forest areas of North Carolina have it better than many. The laborers work the trees to harvest the sap necessary to make turpentine, the resin that gave North Carolina the nickname the Tarheel State. Author Donna Everhart paints a clear picture of life in the 1930s’ turpentine camps in The Saints of Swallow Hill.

Rae Lynn Cobb hasn’t had the easiest of lives. She grew up in an orphanage and was never adopted. Still, she and her husband Warren have a small turpentine farm in North Carolina, and they make a living. That is, until Warren critically injures himself because of carelessness. Despite Rae Lynn’s desperate attempts to save him, Warren dies, leaving her not only homeless, but in danger of being arrested for murder.

In an effort to save herself, she cuts her hair and dons her husband’s overalls and flannel shirt. She drives Warren’s truck away from her home into Georgia, and keeps driving until she feels safe. Disguised as a man, she finds a job as a laborer at Swallow Hill, a turpentine farm in Georgia, herself Ray.

Though the camp is run by a decent enough fellow, her supervisor is mean and dangerously bitter about being forced to hire someone he considers a small weakling named Ray. Otis Riddle instills terror in all his employees, except for another new employee named Delwood Reese. Reese is escaping his own struggles, but is a strong and an independent thinker who can see through Otis’ evil behavior. He takes Ray under his wing.

Reese, Ray, and Otis’ abused wife Cornelia eventually learn that Ray is not a young boy, but is a woman. The three band together for support and friendship, and eventually make plans to get out of the camp and make it on their own.

I felt the story dragged a bit, but the characters were colorful and interesting. I learned a lot about turpentine, something I had never given a lot of thought. I like learning new things from novels.

I recommend the book.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

It’s Either Going to Be 101 or It Isn’t
All last weekend, the weather forecasters were telling us that yesterday — Wednesday — was going to be the warmest day thus far in 2022. In fact, the projected 101 temperature was going to be the earliest three digit temp in history. Apparently May 2 or 3 is generally when the temps reach three digits. However, were their faces red! Not only did the temps not hit three digits (missing it by only a few degrees at 97) but now they are predicting that the city’s temperature wouldn’t reach 100 until sometime later next week, and that will be one of the latest dates in AZ history that the temps surpassed 100. I’m pretty sure the forecasters just have a dart board to help them project our weather.

Pack It Up
One of the downfalls of flying home instead of driving is that we have to figure out how to get a bunch of stuff home that we would normally have thrown in the back of the car. This time, however, we are going to have to ship some items home. So Bill spent much of yesterday packing up a box to ship home and a suitcase to check at the airport. While he was an attorney by profession, he is the son of an engineer, and thinks like an engineer. He is a total master at strategic packing. The man can fit more into a small space than seems humanly possible. You should have seen the trunk of our car when we were on our European adventure. Somewhere I have a photo to prove it, but he probably packed it!

Hot Stuff
One restaurant that we have to visit at least once when we’re in AZ is called Los Dos Molinos. I have mentioned before that the Mexican food in AZ is very different from that in Colorado. Colorado’s is more like New Mexico’s food, using green chili to smother everything. Here they might put green chili inside a burrito, but not smothering it. Los Dos Molinos’ food is of the New Mexican variety. And it is HOT. You simply can’t order anything that won’t remind you of its heat the next morning. So, of course, we all love it. Yesterday Bec and her son Erik met Bill and I for lunch at Los Dos, and was it ever GOOD. I couldn’t eat their food on a regular basis, but I love it so much when I do. Burrito Adovado, and yum.

At that same lunch, Erik brought along a few pictures he had found of his nana and poppo (my parents) when we were all much younger. It was fun to see the photos. But what I really enjoyed was the letters he shared that had been written by his nana to him when he was in college. They were very newsy and shared a time in her life that she was very happy. Seeing her very recognizable handwriting made me so happy that it brought tears to my eyes. I have been missing Mom and Dad very much lately.


Lima Beans and Saurkraut Casserole Anyone?

There’s a process I go through no matter which direction I’m heading between Arizona and Colorado. I clean out my refrigerator. I don’t mean just wiping down the drawers and the shelves, although I do that too. But I also mean getting rid of the food that I have collected over the past months.

I hate to waste. Having said that, I have to offer a caveat. Leftovers get one shot in this house. Frankly, if if was up to Bill, they wouldn’t even get that. But I will heat up leftovers one time, and if we don’t eat it all, it goes ba-bye. When I’m in Denver (where the city offers composting), I throw the leftovers in the green can, along with egg shells and pizza boxes. Here, the sad remaining food goes into the garbage.

I will also offer a bit of gossip. Both of my sisters (who are single) throw nothing away. There can be the littlest piece of pork chop left, or the smallest bit of leftover scalloped potatoes, and both Jen and Bec will wrap it up in a tiny piece of cellophane wrap and eat it the next day for lunch. I’m pretty sure we are sisters of a different mother.

Anyhoo, when we are preparing to leave, I start trying to use up things in my refrigerator and freezer. This results in things like sauerkraut and salmon with red sauce over six different kinds of pasta. Yum. Bill’s stopped asking what we are having for dinner, because the answer is always the same these days: Whatever is closest when I open the freezer door.

On a serious note, I’ve never made sauerkraut and salmon as part of one meal. But I did use a little bit of cheddar cheese in my lasagna. And I didn’t use the correct number of lasagna noodles because I was two noodles short. I did a lot of patching.

Last night, I dug around a bit and found a piece of salmon and a small filet mignon. I cooked them both inside to avoid having to “walk on the sun” to my grill. I used up the remaining Swiss cheese by making macaroni with Swiss cheese like my grandmother. I pulled out some (kinda) shriveled asparagus I found buried in my vegetable bin, and that was our vegetable.

I suspect there is a chicken noodle soup in our future as I found a package of frozen chicken thigh filets laying under the salmon and steak. I’m pretty sure I can find some celery and I’m fairly certain I have leftover carrots.

You aren’t surprised to hear that Bill will be glad to be settled someplace where the food was purchased more recently than four months ago.

Sayonara, Three Digits

It’s been a pretty spring in the Valley of the Sun. And now, alas, we are getting close to saying goodbye. None too soon, as it happens. Tomorrow the weather forecasters are predicting the first three-digit temperatures. In fact, as of yesterday, they were guessing 101. A few weeks earlier than what is typical, but these days, atypical weather is typical, eh?

I think I say this every year as we prepare to move back to Denver for the summer and fall: We are getting the heck out of Dodge just in the nick of time. Oh, we might have to put up with a few triple-digit days, but before you can say it’s a dry heat, we will be in the temperate Rocky Mountain weather. Or at least temperate until we get a May snow storm.

I’ve only been in AZ in the middle of summer a couple of times. The first was at a conference that was held at a very fahnsee hotel in Scottsdale that the conference planners got for a steel because 120-degree temperatures aren’t exactly what the Rich and Famous are looking for in July. That’s when they go to their Aspen homes. The second time was when we attended my nephew’s wedding, also in July. The wedding was in a church and the reception was inside a wedding venue, all air conditioned. Except they weren’t because halfway through the ceremony, the bride’s mother got word that the air conditioning at the reception venue had stopped working. It all worked out in the end, except for the fact that somewhere there is a video of me looking sweaty and raggedy, blowing down the front of my dress in an effort to cool off. True story.

We fly to Denver on May 4. We may or may not be required to wear masks on the airplane. To tell you the truth, no matter what, I might be wearing a mask when I fly until I go to heaven. It would just be nice if I could do it voluntarily. We fly on Frontier, and they are one of the airlines that announced that they wouldn’t be requiring masks before the ink was dry on the Federal Judge’s mask ruling. The truth is, if I’m going to catch COVID (or any other virus) while flying from one city to another, it is more likely that I will catch the bug while walking through the airport or drinking my morning $16 Bloody Mary than on the plane. Whatever.

Until the day we leave, we will be rounding up all of the things we need to bring with us. Since we aren’t driving back and forth any more, our options are more limited. Over the past 12 years that we have owned the AZ house, I have tried very hard to buy the things here that I need so that I don’t have to carry back and forth.

Now I just wish I could fit my brother and sister, and all of my nieces and nephews in my carry-on bags.

This year we might actually have to venture back to AZ this summer. The day before we leave for Denver, Bill has an appointment with the specialist who will be putting in his teeth implants. We will find out that day when the oral surgery will happen. My sister Bec always says that being outside in AZ in the summer is like walking on the sun. We might be able to verify.

Lots of Ribbing, Redux

I posted this blog in the midst of the COVID-19 quarantine, on June 30, 2020. It’s amazing that we’re still talking about this virus. But it’s so much better now, isn’t it? Enjoy this reprint.

Last night, Bill and I decided to watch an old favorite movie — Back to the Future. As most of you know, unless you were born after 1995 or have lived in a cave below the earth for the past 30 years, Back to the Future is the movie in which Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) time travels backwards to 1955 from 1985.

As an aside, 1985 was a banner year for having advertising built into a movie. I saw more cans of Diet Pepsi and Budweiser, signs for Texaco, and other brands that allegedly would make us go out to the lobby to buy a can of Pepsi and stop at Texaco on the way home. It must not have worked that great, because you don’t see it anymore.

Anyhoo, the movie is terrific, even though we know exactly what’s going to happen during the entire movie. Michael J. Fox is awesome, and Lea Thompson (who plays his mother, both as an adult and as a teenager), is funny as heck. And speaking of funny, it is comical to see what passed as fancy dancy technology back in 1985.

We made our movie choice before deciding what to do for dinner. I had planned on cooking, but for a number of reasons, that didn’t pan out. Plus, I had been reading on Next Door that many neighborhood restaurants are closing their doors for good. Thanks COVID-19. So we elected to do our part and order food to eat while we watched the movie. Here was our order from a nearby barbecue place called Burnt Ends: Bill – two meat special (burnt ends and hot links) with baked beans and cole slaw; Kris – one meat special (1/2 rack ribs) with baked beans and tomato/cucumber salad. They don’t deliver, but it isn’t far, so we decided to order online and run over and pick it up. I did the online ordering.

Bill ran in to get the food, and came out very quickly with a bag. We drove home, opened the bag, and here’s what we got: an entire rack of ribs, a basket of burnt ends, an order of potato salad, and an order of macaroni and cheese. Hmmmm.

I wasn’t about to go back, but I also was interested to see if they owed me money. So I called.

Good evening, Burnt Ends, how may I help you? the young woman answered the phone.

We just came and picked up an order, and it’s all wrong, I said.

What’s your name? she asked me.

McLain, I told her.

Ah ha, she said.

It so happens that when Bill said our name, she thought he said McCallen. In fact, there was an order for McCallen, which she gave him. The sad news is that Mr. McCallen came just as we left to pick up his order. He probably was dreaming of the barbecued rib rack and the macaroni and cheese that, unbeknownst to him, was driving past him.

How does this tie in to Back to the Future? Apparently my brain is still in 1985, because while I typed in the order, I apparently didn’t hit GO. The really sad thing is that it never occurred to me that I didn’t get any kind of confirmation. That makes sense because I have only ordered food online about a million times since quarantine began in March.

By the way, when the pleasant young woman from Burnt Ends and I figured out what happened, she very generously took the blame. No charge, she insisted. Knowing full well that the error was on my part, I conversely insisted on paying for the food that we were about to eat. Our compromise was that I payed for the rack of ribs. Smokin’ deal on my end. No pun intended.

There is a moral to this ridiculous story: Kids, don’t have a glass of whiskey before ordering food online.

Saturday Smile: Teacher’s Pet

My sister Bec was a teacher for all of her adult life, up until she retired. I always knew she was an excellent, inspiring teacher. Something happened this week that reinforced that truth. She received a Facebook message from a former student — one from very long ago. This student told her that she was working with two of her children on their homework, and used a book that Bec had as required reading. She went on to say how much she appreciated having had her as a teacher.

I think that teaching is one of the only occupations that can inspire a person for the rest of their life. I still remember some of the best teachers I had. I know that my sister was an inspiration for more people than she can imagine, and that makes me smile.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Maid

Any time that I’ve spent a night or two at a hotel, I have appreciated the housekeeping help. At the same time, I have been so glad that wasn’t a job I had to do. I tip heavily.

The Maid, by Nita Prose, offers readers a character that they can’t help but like. Molly Gray is a maid at a hotel, a job she has held for many years. Though she lacks any social skills and is clearly on the spectrum, she does her job with efficiency and, well, joy. She was brought up by her grandmother who helped guide her through life, but who passed away a few months earlier. Now Molly has to manage on her own. She gives it all she can, and is one of the best employees in the hotel.

One day she enters the room of one of the hotel’s frequent visitors — a wealthy man who has a nasty way about him — and finds him dead in his bed. She knows that people are going to believe it was his wife who killed him, but Molly doesn’t think that is possible. Nonetheless, Molly is thrown right in the middle of the investigation, even being one of the suspects.

The story line is clever, but what makes Prose’s novel so delightful and so readable is Molly Gray. The way she looks at life is straightforward, somewhat naive and refreshing as can be. While she has few friends, the ones she has surround her with love and support. The story shows the reader what is important in life.

Molly Gray is a quirky protagonist that I won’t soon forget. The Maid is a wonderful book. It will be one of my favorite reads in 2022.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Fast and Furious
Yesterday the temperature was warm, in the mid-90s. Bill has been painting our patio, but by time he got home from boxing, it was already too hot for him to be outside with the sun beating down upon him. He is not one to sit quietly and read, so I thought I would try to distract him with a movie. What would keep him awake and interested? The Fast and the Furious fit the bill perfectly. If you have never watched the original, or any of the 200 sequels, it is about a group of young men who race their jacked up cars on the streets of Los Angeles. I blame the movies for all of the street racing that goes on every night near both of our houses. At any rate, he was very happy with the movie. And if anyone wants to give Bill a special treat, he would be so happy to have a collection of all of the F&F movies. All 200 of them.

I Hear a Train ‘Comin….
Yesterday was our daughter-in-law Lauren’s birthday. We called her to give her our best wishes. They were in their car, coming back from having enjoyed a nice meal at a local Montpelier restaurant. Their kids Joseph and Micah were in the back seat. At some point, Joseph — who will turn 13 in June — said something to me, and I will tell you I about fell over. Since the last time I spoke to him (which wasn’t that long ago), his voice had changed. He sounded like Johnny Cash. I’m happy that he still has the face of a sweet angel. You can’t stop time!

Leftover Ham
After our delicious Easter dinner, I ended up with the ham bone. I spent a couple of days trying to figure out how to use it. Should I make green beans and ham? What about navy bean soup with ham? I finally landed on pinto beans prepared in the crock pot with the ham bone which was still heavily loaded with meat. After eight hours, there was a delicious pot of beans. I removed the ham bone and picked off all of the meat. Unfortunately, a couple of pieces of bone escaped. Even more unfortunately, one of them ended up in Bill’s bowl of beans. He chomped down on it with his poor, miserable mouth. That was the end of the beans for Bill. That’s okay. More for me.