My Heart Belongs

He adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector. – Tom Wolfe

Bill has a wonderful memory of his dad. When Bill and his siblings were young, the family would drive nearly every Sunday from their home on the south side of Chicago to Hobert, Indiana, where his mother had grown up and his maternal grandparents still lived. The drive took about an hour each way. His grandmother always made fried chicken, so it was likely very worth the drive. After the meal, the family would sit around and talk, and his dad may have done a few fix-it jobs around his in-laws’ house. It would be late when they left, and the kids often fell asleep in the car. The memory Bill has is of his father lifting sleepy little Billy up in his arms and carrying him upstairs and putting him carefully into his bed.

Bill has frequently told me he would love to feel that way again, but I always tell him I wouldn’t be able to lift him. Still, that sense of total protection and safety is wonderful. My dad could bring that feeling to me too, and often did.

I was very close to my mother. A mama’s girl, really. In fact, as I said goodbye to Dagny and Maggie Faith as they left yesterday for summer camp, I explained that I would have been so sad to leave when I was a child. Why? Maggie asked me, because she was so excited to be leaving that she could hardly sit still during the Father’s Day lunch. Because I would have been sad to be without my mom for a week, I explained. I’m pretty sure she rolled her eyes.

But while my relationship with my mother was always in the forefront, I could count on my dad to be my guide. When I was going out on my very first date at age 14, I was terrified. I was dressed up in my fancy velvet and lace, but when the doorbell rang, I ran into the kitchen and hid behind the refrigerator, refusing to come out. It was my dad who came and coaxed me into leaving my hiding place and facing the music.

I still remember being 5 or 6 years old, and Dad running along with me as I rode my bike without training wheels for the first time. Don’t let go of me Dad, I yelled. He promised he wouldn’t. But then, of course, he did. I went off on my own with my dad looking on. It was not the last time I went off on my own with my dad looking on.

It was also my dad who — a few years later, when I was about to take my driver’s test — took me to the big parking lot at the Agricultural Park just east of town to teach me to drive. A few years after that, he helped me buy my first car.

When Bill decided to ask me to marry him, he asked my dad’s permission (despite the fact that I was in my mid-30s and had been married before). Mom and Dad had been to dinner with us, and on the way, they had witnessed a fight between Bill and me. I drove home in my car with Mom (still angry), and Bill drove home with Dad in his. Bill dove right in and told my dad that he wanted to ask me to marry him. Dad was quiet for a few beats, and then said, “Well, it’s fine with me, but I wouldn’t ask her tonight.”

People grow up successfully without dads or father-figures, but there can be no denying that having that kind of a protector figure in your life can set you on a good path. It’s nice to have someone who is always your champion. I, for one, could always count on my dad to be mine. I know he still champions me in heaven.

And cheers to the other fathers in my life…..


Saturday Smile: Size Matters

Cole and his sisters were at my house the other day. While both girls are on the small side of the doctor’s height/weight spectrum, Cole has always been tall. For a while, he was in the 90th percentile for height. This is particularly surprising as there are no tall people on either side of Court’s family. Alyx’s family is also on the small side. She has a vague recollection that one of her Cambodian grandfathers was tall, but wouldn’t swear on it. Nevertheless, Cole — while no longer in the 90th percentile — remains tall for his age.

While visiting, at one point, Cole went to the bathroom. After he was finished, he set about to wash his hands. “Nana,” I heard him holler, “I can’t reach the soap.”

Now, that was somewhat of a surprise, because I was pretty sure that he was able to reach all the way to the mirror, but I went in anyway. The soap dispenser was almost to the front, about five inches away from the edge.

“Cole,” I said, “you can reach the soap easily.”

“No I can’t, Nana,” he replied. “I’m not tall anymore.”

Methinks he’s a bit tired of hearing how TALL he is and wants to remind us every once in a while that he’s the BABY.

That boy makes me laugh…..
Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Only Woman in the Room

Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Austria with the advantage of being extremely beautiful. Her beauty, along with well-to-do parents, made life more comfortable — and safer — in the pre-World War II years when it was much better to keep her Jewish background a secret. Instead, she became a well-known actress with a Catholic background……

The Only Woman in the Room, an historical novel by Marie Benedict, tells the story of this woman who later became Hollywood leading lady Hedy Lamarr.

Her beauty and grace led her into the arms (and ultimately into marriage) of a high-level German arms seller with strong ties to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. She was convinced by her father that marrying such a man would keep the family safe. Though she originally loved him, it didn’t take long to see his jealous and controlling side. She began to quietly save money, and eventually escaped to Paris. The conversations she overheard as his wife, however, made her a valuable asset to the Allies.

She made her way to Hollywood where she became famous working for Louis B. Mayer. Her fame was responsible for her success in raising money for the war effort. Eventually, however, she became aware that the newest technology — radio-controlled torpedoes — could be easily jammed. Working with a friend, they came up with an invention that would prevent the jamming. Unfortunately, the U.S. Navy never took the invention seriously. She was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Lamarr’s story is interesting, and while I found the book somewhat dull in parts, I admit I enjoyed the history lesson. I recommend the book.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Missing Magnolia
I was having lunch with a friend in downtown Denver yesterday. As I was getting off light rail, my phone rang and it was Jll. Thanks for being so good to Maggie this summer, she said to me. No problem, I responded. She sort of takes care of herself. Jll went on, Well, let me know when you want me to pick her up. Oh, oh, I thought to myself. I quickly explained that Maggie Faith was not with me; in fact, I was meeting a friend for lunch. Jll wasn’t concerned, figuring she was still at the pool following her swim team class. About an hour later, I got a text from Dagny: Is Maggie at your house? In my typical Kris fashion, I immediately went to THEY CAN’T FIND MAGGIE. OMG. SHE’S LOST SOMEWHERE IN DENVER. I envisioned that Jll was on the phone with the police and shouted at Dagny to begin texting grandparents. I texted Dagny back, telling her that Maggie wasn’t at our house. I quickly said a prayer, and continued with my lunch. As I walked back to light rail, I texted Dagny and asked her if Maggie had been found. Dagny responded: Nope, but she’s probably at the pool or in the basement. I gave up. That threw me for a moment until the light bulb went on: There had been no missing Maggie crisis. Dagny had just been wanting to come to my house and hoped Maggie was there. I’d like to say Crisis Averted except that there was no crisis except in my crazy mind. Jll later assured me that had Maggie really been missing, she wouldn’t have been sending out casual texts from Dagny.

Swimming Upstream
Since I no longer work downtown, I pay no attention to whether or not there is a day baseball game. It didn’t take too long to figure out that not only was there a one o’clock Rockies game, they were playing the Cubs! Yikes. When the Cubs are in town, there are usually as many Cubs fans as there are Rockies fans. And it was true that the light rail contained pretty equal numbers of fans wearing purple and fans wearing red, white, and blue. Since we were eating very near the ballpark, we felt like salmon swimming upstream amongst the crazed fans.

No Michaelangelo
The other day, Cole asked Kaiya to make him a dog out of Play Doh. She immediately went to work, carefully sculpting a dog using only her imagination. You might remember that last summer Cole asked me to make him a dog out of Play Doh. Can you guess who made which dog?…..

Yes, my friends, the dog on the right was made by Yours Truly. To be fair, it was a dog running. Kaiya’s dog was stationary. And quite adorable. Clearly, she got her talent from someone other than her Nana Kris.

Summer Weather
The afternoon-rain weather pattern has taken a break, for which I am very grateful. We finally had to turn on our sprinkler system. June 10 is the latest I can ever remember that the system went on. The pattern is supposed to return sometime in the next few days. It’s been a nice break.


Finance 101

A few of my Denver grandkids have had the opportunity to experience Ameritowne, a program originated by Colorado cable magnate Bill Daniels. The program works in conjunction with elementary schools and offers 4th, 5th, and 6th graders the opportunity to learn the complicated business of finance and investment. It is connected with Young Americans Bank, which teaches children and teenagers how to save and manage their money. I don’t really know much about the program, except that those grandkids who participated in the program loved it and left the experience feeling enthusiastic about the wonderful world of business and finance……

Kaiya recently participated in Ameritowne. She interviewed and was hired as a network news reporter. Who wouldn’t hire this professional looking young writer?

I could be the spoil-sport and tell them that the real world of finance isn’t nearly as simple as Ameritowne makes it seem; alas, they will likely learn that soon enough. But their experience got me to thinking about how I learned to manage my money.

I started working at my dad and mom’s bakery when I was 14 years old. Of course, I helped out at a far younger age, but at 14, I had a work schedule with specific hours. Even more important, I received a regular paycheck just like all of Dad’s other workers. The days of Mom pulling a few dollar bills out of the cash register and giving them to me to go buy my 45s or treat myself to an ice cream soda at Tooley’s Drug Store were over. I had my own money.

Almost immediately, Mom marched me down to the bank on the corner to open a savings account. I suspect I got a lecture on the importance of saving money all of the way down the block.

And I did, in fact, save my money. I’m not fibbing when I tell you that I have had — without a single break — a savings account since I was 14 years old. For whatever reason, that need to have money tucked away safely in a bank has stuck with me. Even now, when the interest I earn on my savings is quite literally mere pennies, if my savings account gets below a specific amount that I have set in my head, I am not comfortable until I have covered the difference.

I’ve never asked Bill his savings accounts experience. I know he has had his own savings account since we have been married. But I also know that he and I differ in one specific way when it comes to our finances. Bill is debt-averse. He will do whatever he can to pay off debt. It’s how and why we paid off our mortgage in nine years. Who does that? And I’m glad we did.

But we have had many conversations about whether or not we should use savings to pay off debts. He says yes; I say gulp.

He’s a product of his father, who refused to purchase a house until such time as he had the cash to buy it outright. I am a product of parent who walked me to the bank as soon as I had a cash-paying job so I could open a savings account.

We didn’t have Ameritowne to help us learn about business and finance. But we had our parents.

Taking a Walk

I’ve never been athletic. I’m not being modest; it’s God’s own truth. In elementary school, when we played baseball at recess, I was always the last one picked, and the team that was stuck with me tried their very best not to look too disappointed. It was a Catholic school, after all, and we were taught that we are all God’s precious children. Some can just get a bat to meet the ball better than others.

As I moved through my school years, I never (ever) got a ball over the volleyball net in a serve in high school PE class. I was unsuccessful at dodging the dodgeball. I barely passed the golf class I chose as my mandatory PE selection in college, and I can thank my dad for my C- grade because he helped me fudge my scorecard in the final exam (which was a game of golf). I hope he didn’t get a few more years in purgatory as a result.

As an adult, for a while, I ran three miles a day, five days a week. I actually did that for a few years; however, I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t enjoy one single minute of one single run. I remember getting through the run by counting the steps by 50, knowing that each step I took was one step closer to being finished with that day’s run. I’m pretty sure I never felt that rush of adrenaline that everyone talks about getting about a mile or so into the run. For me, a mile or so into the run just had me sucking air.

I guess it’s safe to say that I just don’t like exercise.

And yet, I’m well aware that exercise is as important now as it was when I was 30 years old and pounding the pavement. I no longer exercise with any thought that it will help me lose weight. Since one’s metabolism slows down as one ages, I would have to run from Denver to Fort Collins to burn even a few calories. There are donut shops a lot closer than Fort Collins.

Yesterday morning, I gave myself a pep talk and managed to put on some yoga pants (that have never seen one yoga move), reached for my Nordic sticks, stuck my ear buds into my ears, cranked up Keith Urban, and walked two full miles. Woo-hoo. Still, it’s a start.

There is a trail in Denver that runs some 70 miles, meandering back and forth, winding around the metro area from Aurora to the north, down to somewhere in the neighborhoods of Highlands Ranch to the south. Parts of the trail are asphalt, parts of the trail are concrete, and parts of the trail are dirt. That’s where I walked this morning. The part of the trail on which I trod is dirt because, among its many uses, the rich people who live in Cherry Hills Village (the community through which this part of the trail winds) own horses. I’ve spent plenty of time on that part of the trail in my life, and I’ve never seen a single horse or even a single horse dropping, but it’s there just in case someone has the urge to trot Zorro to a polo match.

Every time I walk that trail, I am struck by how I can be literally in the middle of a major urban city, and yet it feels like I’m in the country. I took time from my rhythmic walking to John Cougar John Deere John 3:16 to shoot this photo…..

Not another soul — and certainly not a single horse — to be found on that beautiful spring morning.

Maybe that beautiful scenery will convince me to walk more regularly. But I assure you I still won’t like it.

Watch Out!

When we Baby Boomers were toddlers, at best, our parents put us in a car seat that hooked onto the front passenger seat facing forward. We were kept distracted by the little steering wheel on the seat, allowing us to pretend to drive the car. In the meantime, our sisters and brothers were wrestling, completely untethered, in the back seat. Or perhaps they were just standing on the seat in order to be able to get a good look at what was ahead of them. Like perhaps a tree or a stalled Buick the size of a Army tank into which they were about to careen.

Believe me when I tell you that I recognize that I can think back to those days with a nostalgic twinge simply because I lived to recall those days.  Every one of my grandkids wears a helmet when they ride their bicycles. They sit securely fastened in a car seat until such time as they outgrow the need for a seat. At that point they know to fasten their own seat belts. All of those safety measures make me a happy nana. I have no wish to return to those days when permanent brain damage was just an accidental-soccer-ball-being-kicked-into-the-street-requiring-a-sudden-stop away.

Still, there has to be a happy medium between keeping kids safe and making them scared. Bill and I disagree about it on occasion. He tends to overmanage the grandkids, while I’m a bit more willing to let them fall down. (Oops. I may just have lost my grandkid babysitting privileges.)

Last week I was driving home from one of my many trips to the grocery store. I noticed a very brightly-painted van parked in front of one of our neighborhood houses. The van was owned by a local business with which I was unfamiliar — home childproofing services. Apparently, millennials are willing to pay what I would presume is a hefty sum to have a so-called child-proofing expert come and childproof their home for them.

My reaction was a mixture of for the love of Pete, and admiration to those who are astute enough to look at a niche that they can be paid handily to fill: Classic millennial overprotection of their children. God loves a good entrepreneur.

I didn’t put plug protectors in my outlets to keep Court from being electrocuted when he was a little bambino. Instead, when he would begin to look interested, I would slap his hand (I hear collective gasps) and tell him NO. I will admit that I had one kid only, so it was easier to keep track of him than those with multiple children. Still, with my grandkids, I simply put masking tape over the outlets if I wasn’t going to be in the room with them, which was rare. I also always kept a baby gate on my stairway if we were upstairs to prevent tumbles down the stairs. I certainly didn’t need to pay a childproofing expert to advise me on this matter.

Other than protecting outlets, blocking stairs, and keeping knives and scissors out of reach, I’m not sure what else should be done. I’m sure there are all sorts of potential dangers that faced my child every day. There but for the grace of God…. I wonder what just how many near misses took place in his toddler days.

What I really I wonder is if I could come up with some ideas for teenager-proofing. Shark Tank, please await my call.