Friday Book Whimsy: Finding Dorothy

When I was a little girl growing up in Nebraska, every year around Thanksgiving, one of the television stations would present The Wizard of Oz. Our whole family watched that movie, likely with varying degrees of enthusiasm. As for me, I was in wonderment throughout the film. When the movie went from the dreary black and white of Kansas to the technicolor splendor of Oz, well, I knew I wasn’t in Nebraska anymore.

I never got around to reading L. Frank Baum’s book because the movie provided all of the excitement that I needed to take the journey to Oz along with Dorothy and her friends. Perhaps it’s one of the books I should read before I die. But, so many books, so little time. Sigh.

I enjoyed reading Elizabeth Lett’s historical novel about the making of The Wizard of Oz, some years following Baum’s death. The only person left who remembers the wonderment and excitement and magic of the book when it was first written is Baum’s 77-year-old widow, Maud Gage Baum. Once she learns that this movie is to be made, she takes it upon herself to make sure that MGM captures the whimsy that her husband envisioned.

She maneuvers her way into the MGM studio just in time to hear the young actress selected to play Dorothy sing the iconic Over the Rainbow. She realizes that the character of Dorothy is in good hands. But what concerns her more is whether Judy Garland is in good hands.

The book looks back at Maud’s own life. She is the daughter of a well-known suffragette whose upbringing is very different from that of other Victorian-aged young women. Plenty of time is spent talking about her relationship with her husband, who never could quite find his niche in life until he used his vivid imagination to write one of the most well-known books of all time.

The author seems to take great liberties with the historical part of the book, especially when it comes to the period of time during the making of the movie. It is true, however, that Maud Baum spent some time with Judy Garland while the movie was being made…..

Judy Garland looking at the book with Maud Baum at MGM studios during the making of the movie.

Nonetheless, I found Finding Dorothy entirely enjoyable and interesting. Garland was a very talented woman who lived a very tragic life. Finding Dorothy gives the reader some insight into Garland’s sad journey.

I recommend the book very highly.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Mental Errors
I was ready last week to make a reservation at a nearby senior living place that offered memory care. I knew what day it was. I recognized my husband and could remember his name. However, I got on Target’s website to look at long-sleeved tops because cooler weather will come sooner or later and I’m low on appropriate clothing. I found one that I really liked, and so I ordered it. Later that morning, I went to my closet and noticed that I owned what appeared to be that very same top. I admitted my mental error to my sisters, who agreed we could room together at the Home. (I dibs bottom bunk!) But the top arrived yesterday, and to my surprise and delight, it is the same color, but an entirely different top. And I really like it. So cancel, well, at least postpone, the Home.

Cash Out
For years, Bill and I have put coins we got as change into a jar. When it got full — about once a year — i would take it to the coin machine at our credit union and cash it in and deposit it in my account. Because of COVID, I hadn’t been inside my bank for a year-and-a-half. Yesterday I poured the coins into a zipper bag and made my way into the bank. The coin machine stood proudly, a ray of light shining on it and the sound of angels singing in the background. When i finished, i had nearly $100 of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that I put back in our economy, which doesn’t really want it. What is cash money?

Kaiya is not the shortest girl on her team, but she comes by her petite size honestly. Her mother is petite, and her great grandmother (my mom) was tiny as can be. That makes me even prouder to see her fighting for rebounds. I took this picture because the size difference made me laugh….

Seasons Change
It’s been an unseasonably warm autumn thus far. I’m not complaining, though I would like to be able to use my big comforter a bit more than I do. The weather forecaster tells me that temperatures should drop next week, and, in fact, there is a chance for a rain/snow mix on Wednesday. We will be leaving at a good time.

The little girl that sits in front of us at church most Sundays, turned around to greet me this past weekend. “It’s my half birthday,” she said proudly. “I’m 5-1/2. We wished her a happy half birthday. Bill told her, “My birthday is coming soon, and I’ll be 79 years old. She gave him look that clearly said how is it that you are even still alive? As I always say, birthday celebrations are for kids.


Seven Foot, Two Inches

Nebraska — the land of my birth — is a football state. Based on the sorry past few years, young people can’t imagine that the University of Nebraska once was a powerhouse in the world of college football. In fact, the November 1971 matchup between University of Nebraska and University of Oklahoma was referred to by Sports Illustrated as the Game of the Century. Nebraska defeated its rival by four points, thanks to a late-game touchdown by the Cornhuskers. I was 17 years old, and I remember the game like it was yesterday. Indiana might have its basketball, but Nebraska was football All The Way.

The high school I attended offered three primary sports: football, basketball, and track. Three sports for BOYS, that is. There were, hmmm, let me think, NONE for girls. At least not back in the 1970s. Now I think the school offers girls AND boys many sport options.

I watched basketball in the winter when the Shamrocks basketball team (which included my high school boyfriend) played. I enjoyed watching the games, but see above: Nebraska was a football state.

It really wasn’t until Jen’s now-deceased husband Leroy entered our lives that we paid any attention at all to basketball. But to my surprise, when my son Court became old enough to hold a ball, basketball was his game of choice. Oh, he liked football and still does. But even to this day, he loves his Denver Nuggets.

One of my fondest memories of my mother was how pissed off she was at Court’s high school basketball coach when he was cut from the team. Court was a decent basketball player, but the Catholic high school he attended during his freshman year was as well-known for its sports teams as it was for its academics. That Court didn’t meet the coach’s expectations didn’t sit well with his grandmother. I won’t say what she called the coach, but the word includes an F. Court transferred schools the next year, and played basketball.

When Court was a youngster, I bought ticket packages for Nuggets games for a couple of years. We could attend something like seven games each season. We had so much fun. The Nuggets were a good team in those years, and very exciting to watch. Their center was Dikembe Mutombo, who was known for his blocking, rebounding, and finger wagging: Not in my house, he would say. When he was introduced at the beginning of the game, the announcer would say: And at center, standing 7 feet and 2 inches, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo, which his birth name from his birthplace, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The crowd would go wild!

This trip down Basketball Memory Lane is because the past two nights, I watched Court’s first-born — Kaiya — play basketball for her middle school. As I watched, I realized just how much I enjoy watching basketball. I like the sounds of squeaking rubber soles on the wooden floors. I like the spinning plays and the tosses of the ball resulting in a great assist. I love nothing-but-net.

Of course, when you’re watching eighth grade basketball, there isn’t a lot of nothing-but-net or three-point conversions. But I love how hard the girls work. And I love that Kaiya scored a couple of goals the first night, thanks to some tenacity under the basket, especially given her short stature. She made an extra point for her team on the second night, and had a great assist — something I find even prettier than a nothing-but-net basket.

I have tried watching basketball on television the past few years, as the Nuggets have once again emerged as a decent team. For me, however, it’s just not the same as being in a hot gym with the smell of sweat permeating the room. Plus, you never see the Nuggets center Nikola Jokic being hugged by his little brother in the middle of the game like this…..

Affectionately Yours

My brother Dave texted me the other day and asked me an interesting question. Was Dad close to Gramps? Gramps, of course, was our grandfather, my dad’s father. Gramps died in 1969 at the very young age of 69, and Dave had not even turned 10. His memories of Gramps are mostly limited to their interactions in the bakery.

The truth of the matter is that I was unable to answer the question. I have only one fact under my belt dealing with that question. Gramps had his first stroke a couple of years before he died. Grammie called Dad in the middle of the night, and he immediately got dressed and drove over to be with her as she waited for the ambulance. A few years later, he got another phone call from Grammie, and this time Gramps didn’t live. The next few hours and days went about as you would expect. But then one night, in the darkness of the early hours, I heard my dad crying behind their closed bedroom door. Sobbing, in a way I had never heard before. I could hear my mother softly comforting him.

Grammie and Gramps emigrated from Switzerland — the German part of Switzerland. I don’t think I’m overly generalizing when I say that Germanic people are not warm and fuzzy. I don’t think I ever hugged my grandfather. We shook hands when we greeted one another. That’s how he greeted all of his kids and grandkids as far as I know. So there was, of course, never a time when I witnessed my dad giving Gramps a great big hug hello, the way that Bill and I greet our kids. But I also remember Gramps playing a game with me as a small child in which he used his hand to imitate a bear getting closer and closer to my tummy, all the while saying ahuntabear ahuntabear, until the “bear” got me and tickled me.

That was affection, wasn’t it? Dad did the same thing to his grandkids, and so do I. (Well, so DID I as I’m pretty sure even our youngest grandchild, 7-year-old Cole, would turn and run at the first huntabear.)

All this is to say that the fact that Dad and Gramps didn’t give each other hugs, or even high fives, doesn’t mean they weren’t close.

And as I’m thinking about it, really no one was as affectionate in the first half of the 20th century in the same way that we are now. Though COVID put a bit of a brake to it, Americans do more hugging than probably necessary. When did we start hugging people we first meet? And while you’re at it, get off my lawn.

Having said all of the above, I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall and listened to my dad and my grandfather as they worked together all of those years. My dad learned to bake just as my brother learned to bake — at the side of their fathers. My dad always told the story of the Great Depression, when my grandmother would try to be frugal by serving a sweet fruit salad for dinner. He and Gramps were not happy campers to be eating fruit cocktail and whipped cream after a hard day’s work.

“What’s Mom making for dinner tonight?” he would ask Gramps.

“You’re not going to be happy when I tell you what she has planned,” his father would respond.

“Someone should invent a restaurant that you can drive up to and order a hamburger to go,” my dad would say.

“Son, that will never happen,” Gramps would reply.

Do You Feel Lucky?

Bill and I have seen more movies at the theater than we ever saw in a short period of time, even before COVID. We’ve gone almost every week for the past month or so. I am reminded of when I was a child growing up in Columbus with its one-screen theater. At that point, the movie would change every week. The current system of rating movies didn’t go into effect until 1968, so we kind of had free range. The Catholic Legion of Mary had its own rating system, but fortunately for me, Mom wasn’t a member and paid little attention to their recommendations. As a result, I was frequently there in the middle of the theater, munching on popcorn, and watching Jerry Lewis or Doris Day overact and/or sing and dance. My brother Dave recently reminded me that I volunteered to take him to see 2001: A Space Odyssey, though I have no recollection of that act of kindness on my part. He added that he was so excited that his big sister was taking him to the movies that he was careful not to mention that his 9-year-old self didn’t understand a thing that was going on in the movie.

The movie theater was across the street from the bakery, so we had easy access. Sometimes Grammie would give us some money to go buy candy at the concession stand, without seeing a movie. Milk Duds was my favorite choice. Suck the chocolate off, then keep the candy in your mouth until the caramel got soft, a concept that Bill still can’t understand.

Our most recent movie adventure was seeing Cry Macho, the latest (and likely, last) movie featuring Clint Eastwood, who also produced and directed it. The movie has gotten mixed reviews, and I would lean towards the less positive reviews. Lean, not fall into. Because it’s Clint Eastwood playing the guy that Clint Eastwood plays. But older. But even old, he’s fun to watch.

Going in, I knew that the actor was 91 years old. No matter, because I expected him to ride up on a horse with a cheroot clamped between his snarling lips. To my surprise, it was an old man who shuffled up to the horse, and stunt doubles who did most of the riding.

It was a charming — if not terribly realistic or well-acted — story in which Eastwood plays a former rodeo star who is asked by a friend to drive to Mexico City and pick up his illegitimate son. The boy has been neglected by his mother and is running wild on the streets of Mexico City, spending most of his time entering his rooster — whose name is Macho — in illegal cockfights. As the story progresses, the predictably grouchy Eastwood’s heart softens towards the boy, who has a change of heart as well. There is even a love interest for Eastwood, though we are thankfully not provided a love scene.

It is a quiet and slow-moving movie, and I recommend it if you like Eastwood. I love the man. I was reminded that he once served as mayor of the town of Carmel, California, where his biggest accomplishment was changing the law that prohibited the consumption of ice cream cones on Carmel’s streets. He didn’t run for reelection, because how could he ever beat that accomplishment?

Do you feel lucky Punk? Well, do you? Shut up and eat your chocolate dip cone.

Saturday Smile: Boosted

The past week was a good one. But by far the best thing that happened to Bill and I was learning that we were eligible to get the booster shot, and doing just that. We fly to Phoenix on October 19, and by that time we will have been two weeks after receiving the booster. That makes me smile…..

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Tin Camp Road

Laurel Hill has lived in the upper peninsula of Michigan her whole life, and wants her daughter Skye to have the same sorts of experiences as she did growing up in this desolate but compelling part of the state. In fact, the two live in the very same town where she grew up, in a cozy house they both love. They are very happy despite the fact that Laurel has to scrape and save to take care of her child. The precocious Skye learns more from spending time with her mother than she does in her classroom of four children.

But then the landlord unexpectedly explains that he is turning them out so that he can fix up the home and offer it as a vacation rental, a move that will make him lots more money, but leave Laurel and her daughter homeless.

Laurel does everything she can to continue making life normal for her daughter, but it becomes increasingly difficult as money diminishes and it becomes more difficult to find a place to live. Laurel can spend less time as a mother because she has to hold down several jobs. They are walking a tightrope until the rope breaks, almost bringing disaster.

Tin Camp Road’s author Ellen Airgood grew up and lives in Michigan herself, and clearly has a love for the area. Her descriptions of the landscape and the lake are so distinct and believable that the reader can almost see the sparkling Lake Superior and feel the need to put on a coat to prevent a chill. I can’t imagine living in such a place, but after reading the book, I can certainly see how it holds appeal to some.

The story is told with such love, and the relationship between mother and daughter is bound to make readers smile. I loved Laurel and Skye, and envied the way they interacted with each other.

Tin Camp Road is a story of the strength that comes from love and feeling a part of community. I enjoyed the book very much.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Getting a Boost
Bill and I had lunch yesterday with some friends we hadn’t seen in some time. During the course of lunch, they mentioned they had just gotten their COVID vaccine booster shot. “Whaaaat?” I said, because I knew she had gotten her original shots later than I. I thought there was an eight-month waiting period before getting the booster. Apparently not, because they had gotten theirs without any problem whatsoever. When we returned home from lunch, I got on Safeway’s COVID website, and quickly learned that both Bill and I were eligible. It seems the waiting period is only six months if you meet the criteria. And for Pfizer, one of the criterium is being 65 or older. Within literally minutes, I had an appointment for Bill and I to get our shot that very afternoon. When I think about the stress, time, and angst involved in getting our first shots compared to the ease of getting the booster, I am amazed…..

Though I can’t say much for my photography skills, here is proof of our vaccination status. Take THAT, COVID.

Autumn Leaves
Yesterday was the first really chilly day of the fall. It never reached 60 in our neck of the woods. At one point, it poured rain. I mean, the rain came down in sheets. I was on my way to retrieve our original vaccination cards to take with us, and drove through the downpour. I didn’t mind the rain, but certainly kept my fingers crossed that it didn’t start to hail. I would have been sad to see hail damage on my pretty red car. The trees are suddenly starting to change colors, so apparently fall is here to stay. Well, until it’s time for winter.

An Evening With Clint
I am very eager to see the new Clint Eastwood movie called Cry Macho. Though I don’t think it’s doing well at the box office, my sister Bec said it got a good review in the New York Times. The reviewer did say that it is quintessential Clint Eastwood, so if you’re not a fan, don’t bother. It so happens that Bill and I are fans. We are planning to see the movie in the next day or two. In the meantime, we watched Unforgiven last night to get in the mood. That really is one of my very favorite movies. His character tries so hard to be good, but the bad guys just won’t let him!

Du, Du Liebst Mir in Herzen
Last Saturday, we celebrated Bill’s son Dave’s birthday with dinner. It had to be a quick dinner, however, because Dave and Jll were heading off to a Oktoberfest party given by one of their friends. It was a costumed affair, and the two certainly looked like fresh-faced German mann und frau. Dave’s black eye, by the way, comes from opening his son Alastair’s thermos which contained food that was so old it had fermented and exploded in his face. True story…..

Ciao! (Or in this case, auf wiedersehen.)

Is That Music?

This past weekend, I felt like my grandmother. Old. Well, not like my grandmother now. She would be turning 124 in November. But old, like she must have felt as things around her rapidly changed.

This past weekend, Cole asked me to sit by him while he played a game. His fingers were flying on the keys and on the screen. I watched with amazement. Then he said, “Nana, can we listen to some music?”

“What kind of music?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he responded. “Something on Spotify.”

“I don’t have Spotify,” I told him.

His fingers stopped moving. He turned to me with a look of confusion on his face.

“Well, download it,” he said, almost certainly thinking something like and people like you are in charge of my Social Security.

So I downloaded it. And I’m not a complete idiot because I know how Spotify works. I know you give it a suggestion, and Spotify builds on your suggestion. What I didn’t know was what to suggest. You see, as much as Cole loves me, he doesn’t want to listen to Keith Urban or Thomas Rhett. I did what any normal grandmother would do. I asked his older sister, Kaiya.

“Hmmm,” she said. “Try Beach Bunny.

I, of course, had never heard of Beach Bunny, but I gave that suggestion to Spotify. And that’s the moment I felt old. Because I’m here to tell you that the music that was coming out of Spotify was horrific. There was no melody. There was no rhythm. I couldn’t understand the words, though this was probably a good thing. I looked at Cole to see if he hated the music. Nope. His fingers just kept flying over the screen and he was perfectly content with my musical choice. I would even say his head bopped to the music, except see above: no rhythm.

I immediately recalled the time Grammie watched Judy Collins with me on the Today Show. She listened for a bit, and then said, “Ehhh, is that music?” That’s why I felt like my grandmother. I was so tempted to ask Cole that very question.

The other day, our granddaughter Dagny called to see if I could give her a ride to volleyball practice. No problemo, I told her, and picked her up 10 minutes later.

“What kind of music do you like?” I asked her. She looked at me like it was a trick question.

“I like all kinds of music,” she said, taking the safe route. Dagny is no dummy. She doesn’t want to shake up the person who is driving the car. There was still a chance I could turn the car around and she would have to look elsewhere for a ride.

“Have you ever heard of Beach Bunny?” I asked her. I held my breath.

“No,” she said. “Who is Beach Bunny?”

Now, she might have been suspecting she was potentially walking into a mine field and took the easy way out, but I don’t think so. I think she didn’t know who Beach Bunny was. I’m pretty sure if I had asked her if she’s ever heard of Keith Urban, she would have said yes. That’s why we call her Delightful D.

I will stick to the safety of country music. Now, if I could just figure out what eyebrow threading is….

Down Under

My grandkids are afraid to go down to our basement. It’s not dark, dank, and scary. It’s just messy. It scares me almost as much as it does the grands. Every five years or so, Bill and I straighten up the basement. It doesn’t take long, however, before it’s once again a mess. Basements are such convenient places to throw all of that stuff you don’t want anyone to see. And throw stuff, we do.

There are two storage areas in our basement — one with mostly Bill’s things and one with mostly my things. Bill’s things include old television sets, boxes and boxes of old legal files, many vacuum cleaners, most that either don’t work or are missing so many pieces that they are useless, and coolers.

I can’t complain about his area, however, because my storage area contains the most ridiculous things you could imagine. There are many things that I used 25 years ago when we first moved into this house. We did something then that we rarely do these days. We entertained. So I have old centerpieces and tea sets and punch bowls.

I have two — count ’em — two ice cream makers. One makes a quart of ice cream and the other makes two pints of ice cream. To be perfectly honest, I have two of the aforementioned two-pinter. I lost a critical piece, so I bought another ice cream maker that was exactly the same. As I put it away, I found the missing piece. Sigh.

I have two dumpling steamers that I have used exactly once. I have a popover pan that I have used exactly once. I have a Fry Daddy that I used on a couple of occasions, but decided it was too much of a mess to clean up, and thus, it gathers dust. I have Christmas dinnerware and Easter dinnerware. I have picnic baskets and plastic dinnerware to take on our picnic. If we actually ever went on a picnic.

But none of that is what scares the grandkids and keeps them from going downstairs by themselves. What we also have in our basement are spiders. Don’t get me wrong. Our basement doesn’t look like a movie set for a horror film about spiders. There are almost certainly no more spiders in our basement than in anyone else’s basement.

What ours does have, however, is a sticky spider pad. Unfortunately, Bill hasn’t changed the pad for a number of years. There are very many spiders on that pad. None of them looks dangerous. There are no black widows or tarantulas, just regular basement spiders. But let’s get realistic. Spiders are scary. They just are. The spider catcher is back in a corner where it isn’t easily seen, but the kids know it’s there. Thus, Cole refuses to go downstairs, even if it’s just to get a toy, without being accompanied by Nana.

To be perfectly honest, that’s why I don’t go downstairs and clean out my storage area. There, I’ve said it. Even if it isn’t true, it’s a helluva good excuse, don’t you think?