Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer, Do

When I was a senior at the Catholic high school I attended, my class went to a religious retreat somewhere. I don’t remember any of the specifics about the retreat as far as any spiritual benefits. Remember, I was in high school so I was more concerned about my make-up being applied perfectly than I was about saving my soul.

I have two memories of that retreat: The first is that the priest who led the retreat was a young man and when he said Mass, he passed around a loaf of bread from which each of us tore a piece. Given the Catholic belief about bread and wine, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to do that, but its impact on me has lasted 45 years. The second thing I remember is that there was an exercise in which we broke into small groups, and were asked to match a type of flower to each person in the group. I’m not sure of the purpose of that exercise. But I remember 45 years later that the flower name attributed to me was the daisy. The group proclaimed that the daisy matched my sunny personality…..

Fast forward 30-some years to 2003, when I bought my yellow Volkswagen bug. I knew I wanted a bright color, and I had it narrowed down to red or yellow. I eventually went with yellow because somewhere I had heard that cops stop more red cars than any other color. My guess would be that cops are less likely to stop a Volkswagen bug than any other car, but I have no data to prove that theory. Anyway, the first time I drove the car to my office, I parked it in the garage. As I got out, the director of Human Resources happened to be in the garage. She complimented me on my new car, and went on to say that she has never seen a car match a person’s personality like that yellow bug matched mine. I was surprised, and asked her why. You’re so cheerful, she told me.

I am amused when I think back to those two experiences, because I feel so far removed from joyful these days. It’s not that my life isn’t a great one full of wonderful people and experiences and blessings. It’s about my personal outlook, which often isn’t very optimistic. It seems like fear has replaced joy in my palate of emotions. I’m more cheerful than Eyore but less cheerful than Big Bird…..

St. Paul tells us that no matter what we are doing in our life, we should do everything for the glory of God. It only makes sense that if you live your life giving glory to God, you will be filled with joy. And if you’re filled with joy, you will please others by your optimistic spirit. It’s hard to be joyful and unkind at the same time.

Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday, which falls on Valentine’s Day this year. Instead of “giving up” something, this year I’m going to concentrate on two things in particular. First, I’m going to remove myself from as much social media as I can. Specifically, I’m giving up Facebook, Instagram, and (gulp) Pinterest. I don’t have to give up Twitter because I haven’t quite figured out why people like it to begin with. I’m going to post my blog on Facebook every day, but not look at any posts. So don’t alert me to a disaster via Facebook. I’m not only giving up social media because it will be a sacrifice, but also to give my mind some quiet time in which I hope to be able to hear God speak to me.

Second, I’m going to try to approach life with joy each day. I’m going to attempt to avoid the negative approach to situations which I seem to have developed. I’m going to remember all of the good parts of my life and with Bill as my model, enjoy my half-full glass instead of my half-empty glass. Especially if it’s half-full of gin and tonic.

Beginning Wednesday, I’m going to go back to being a daisy who drives a yellow bug.

Saturday Smile: Dinner With My Dad

On a whim, last night Bill and I did something pretty random. We went to dinner at a German restaurant that we have been wanting to try.

We walked into Zur Kate Restaurant in east Mesa, took one look at the menu, and I time-traveled back to dinner with my dad. The Friday night special was Rouladen, which is thinly-sliced beef rolled around onions, bacon (or speck as my grandmother called it) and a dill pickle……

But it wasn’t the rouladen that reminded me of my dad. It was the knackwurst and the sauerkraut. And since I couldn’t decide, I had them both……

I don’t remember my grandmother making a whole lot of German food. I suspect she did, but not necessarily when she was cooking for me. However, I do remember her cooking a lot — A LOT — of sausage. Bratwurst, knackwurst, landjager (which was my favorite).

I also remember my grandfather waking up from his afternoon nap and playing his accordian, and I remember a lot of German polkas. My dad learned to play also, and I have memories of him playing also. So when this started up……

….it made me smile. Dinner with my dad.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: A Drop in the Ocean

A Drop in the Ocean’s protagonist Anna Fergusson is a Boston research scientist who studies Huntington’s Disease. Or at least she did until she lost her grant money. She is 49 years old and needs to make big changes in her life. She learns about an opportunity to manage a campground on a small island off of Australia for a year. Despite the fact that it is completely out of her comfort zone, Anna accepts the challenge and moves to the island.

There she lives a life that most of us dream about. The temperature is almost always warm, there are beautiful ocean views and breezes and smells. The people are friendly and the job is easy.

Anna becomes involved almost immediately with a man who studies the turtles that make their home on the island. She helps him with his work and is almost blissfully happy.

There isn’t really a whole lot more plot about which to speak, but somehow it works out fine. Author Jenni Ogden has written a story that just moves pleasantly from one place to another without a driving story to tell. There is some drama when Anna learns a dark secret about Tom that changes their relationship.  For the most part, however, the stories are about the life on a beautiful tropical island. There is a bit of a backstory regarding Anna’s father, but it really is sort of random and completely unconnected to the main plot.

A Drop in the Ocean is truly a light read when you are looking for a pleasant distraction that involves romance, a desert island, and maybe a pina colada in your hand.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

I’m Alive
I’m finally feeling somewhat like I’m back in the land of the living. It was nothing more than a cold, but this one kicked my butt like I was a skinny kid wearing high-water pants on a playground. I’m 95 percent myself, but I coughed with such force that I hurt my back, and that’s what’s been giving me the most grief the past few days. I’m going to do you all a favor and not post the photo of me sick again. That never needs to come out of archives.

Four Eyes
Yesterday I got a text message from my granddaughter Kaiya shortly after she got home from school. Guess what? she asked me. I’m getting glasses!!!!!!! She was very excited, and so I was excited for her. I asked her what kind of glasses she got. Here are her exact words: They are black, and on the top of the frame, it has like neon green and purple and stuff. It made me happy that she seems delighted to be getting glasses, because I recall just how much I hated hearing that news when I was in third grade and cat-eyed glasses were the thing. I guess even at 8 years old, I knew cat-eyed glasses were ugly. Kaiya is the third of my nine grandkids to get glasses.

Dagny was first…..

Then it was Micah’s turn…..

Kaiya is next…..

After she finishes her flexibility exercises. They all look so cute.

Another Cookie?
And speaking of granddaughters, Kaiya and Mylee are both Girl Scouts. What does that mean for this nana? Boxes of Girl Scout cookies to stick in my freezer. Or eat. Bill is partial to the Samoas; I, myself, think the Savannah Smiles are addicting. And then, of course, there are Thin Mints, frozen and delicious. I stepped out of the grocery store last weekend and was greeted by smiling Girl Scout faces. No can do, I told them. I have two granddaughters who will smell disloyalty.

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler
Lent is coming quickly, so I’d better get all of my decadence out of my system in the next few days. Bec will help, as she is having her annual Mardi Gras party on Sunday. I’m bringing the red beans and rice. We always have lots of fun, and there is always a lot of excitement about who stumbles upon the baby in the King Cake.


Guest Post: Loving Frank

By Rebecca Borman

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright is renowned for designing beautiful homes and buildings that blend into the natural environment. Many of them are in the Midwest, including a great number in Chicago. Wright designed homes in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York, and even Oklahoma. And one of his winter homes was right here in Arizona. Taliesin West is located in Scottsdale – about 30 miles from my home, and it was Wright’s winter home and studio complex. As was true for all his structures, Wright’s design was greatly influenced by the natural surroundings, in this case desert and mountains.  Recently, I got my first look at this beautiful place.

The visit came about because I volunteer with someone who is intimately familiar with Taliesin.  She wondered aloud if any of us would be interested in a behind-the-scenes tour with her.  A half dozen of us said yes, and she set it up.  Most everyone who visits there takes a tour, because many areas are not otherwise open to the public.  We visited all those places.  But because our guide had lived and worked at Taliesan West from the time she was young, our tour was enhanced by her personal stories and insights.  For instance, as we walked through the living room, she reminisced about cocktail parties held in that room.  When shown the bedrooms that had been occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Wright, our guide explained that her bedroom, when she lived and worked here, was very similar.  The rooms had permanent walls on three sides, but one side was open, with views of the desert and the mountains.  Then and now, canvas “doors” could be closed for privacy but still let in some air.

The architecture blends into the natural environment.

As she showed us the theater that had entertained many guests, she explained that those lucky enough to work there had done a little of everything.  Her job was in the office, but she also sang and played the violin for evening entertainments.  In between her office work and her performances, she would quickly change into an evening gown, help prep dinner, serve, and sometimes clear up.  Then it was time to sing and/or play her instrument with the chorus and orchestra.  She told us, “We were busy!  Sometimes our gowns were spotted with stains from the food we had served, but no one seemed to care.”

Taliesin West office and main studio

After we had seen the public areas, she took us up to the private sun deck, where we enjoyed the spectacular view and met her sister, who works and lives there now.  It was fun to imagine how often Wright and his apprentices sat up there and discussed a million things about architecture and life in general.

And speaking of apprentices, young men and women still study at Taliesin, which currently houses an architectural school.  There is no undergraduate program, but someone with a Bachelor’s degree can earn a Master’s degree.  And, others come to study as enrichment, but don’t have to enroll in an institutional program.  We met one of the Master’s students, a young man who is in his fifth year there.  He sounded regretful when he said he would probably graduate in the spring.  I believe he would like to stay there indefinitely.  And, he showed us what was, for me, the most interesting part of the tour, and something the public tours never see — the student residences.

Since the time of Frank Lloyd Wright and continuing today, students at Taliesin stay there, and build their own housing.  Taliesin West is built on a large acreage, and students build or rebuild a site in the surrounding desert, in which they live while in residence.  These are essentially tented constructions on slabs……

Naturally, students are encouraged to be creative in their designs, and every structure is different.  Some are very simple; some are quite elaborate.  They are small, containing a bed and a fireplace, and perhaps a small table, but no closets.  All are open, with a roof of some sort.  They are either raised above ground or are surrounded by a short wall, to keep out wildlife.  We were shown one that was large enough to house a family, and our friend said it was exactly the type of construction their family lived in when her father apprenticed there.  I took many photos of the designs that dot the desert around the house.  I wondered what it would be like to walk in the dark through the desert to your bedroom.

Frank Lloyd Wright was, by many accounts, a difficult man.  But his creativity, not only in his designs but also in his way of viewing the world, had a tremendous impact.  It’s apparent that those who really knew him looked beyond his foibles to the talent and energy of a man who took the architectural world by storm.  Now, I feel that I know him a bit better myself.

Nightshades Kill

This past Saturday morning – the day before Super Bowl LII – I think Tom Brady and his wife Gisele greeted each other in the kitchen where she was making them a hearty breakfast shake consisting of protein powder, non-dairy milk, and one blueberry. The Brady’s conversation went something like this:

Tom: Hey, Gisele, what do you think we should do this weekend?

Gisele: Don’t you have that thing this Sunday, Tom?

Tom: Oh, dang. I keep forgetting about that. And then there’s the stupid victory celebration afterwards, where BKraft takes us to a steak house. They never have avocado ice cream at Morton’s.

But then Sunday night after the Patriot’s defeat by the underdog Philadelphia Eagles, after Gisele had finished her glass of white wine in the owner’s box, and after Tom had gotten his massage and showered and dressed and made sure his hair was perfectly coiffed, they met up.

Tom: Tough night, Gisele. I don’t care what you say. I’m saying SCREW IT.  I am going to have me some NIGHTSHADES tonight. You’re not the boss of me.

Gisele: Look at me, Tom. Yes I am.

As I layed forlornly in my Lazyboy recliner covered from head to toe with an afghan despite the fact that the temperature was 80 degrees, I watched some of the pre-SuperBowl fluff. One of the things I watched was an interview with Tom Brady, during which he talked about his mother. He loves his mother. Tom talked about how much it means to him that she was there to watch him play that day. My heart softened. I, too, am a mother.

As I watched, I lazily looked at news that Google has decided I’m interested in on my iPad. One of the stories that appeared as I meandered through the information being fed me was an article in which it stated that Tom Brady has never eaten a strawberry nor drank a cup of coffee in his life.

And just like that – poof — Tom Brady annoyed me once again. I’m really glad he loves his mother, but you can’t trust a human being who has never started the morning with a cup of joe. Has the man never, EVER had a hangover?

Never mind that I’ve been sick for three days with an unending cough, chills, and aches and pains in areas I didn’t even know I had. Don’t try to make me drink a cup of green tea with rose hips and flax seeds for breakfast. And I don’t just want a strawberry. I want many strawberries served over pancakes and covered with real maple syrup. And then maybe some canned whipped cream sprayed on top for good measure. And then some more sprayed directly into my mouth.

It’s hard to argue health with a man who is 40 and still plays football like a college quarterback, and who looks like he’s ready to go through rush at the University of Michigan. Let’s face it: he looks like this…..

…..and I look like this…..

Maybe a bit better on a good day.

Okay, I’ll go along with his meat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and flour-free diet. It’s not for me, but I’ll throw him that bone. (Oh, wait, he can’t eat bones either.) But no nightshades? I had to look up what a nightshade was. Here are some nightshade fruits and vegetables: ashwagandha, capsicums, cayenne pepper, curry spice, goji berries, kutjera, tomatillos, all peppers, and most tomatoes.

Tom Brady’s health might be enviable given the fact that he and his Patriot teammates have participated in so many Super Bowls that my 8-year-old grandson Joseph – who lives with his family in Vermont – thinks Super Bowls are just the normal last game of a really long season. But you will have to rip that jalapeno pepper out of my hand before I’ll give it up. Ashwagandha and goji berries, maybe. Mexican food, never.

Down For the Count

There will be no Nana’s Whimsies today. This has been Nana for the past three days….


Despite dutifully getting a flu shot, I have been down for the count with coughing, sneezing, aches and pains.

I hope to return to the land of the living today, and return to the blogosphere tomorrow.