We Need a Little Christmas

Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Hasn’t snowed a single flurry, but Santa dear we’re in a hurry

Jerry Herman

A week or so ago, I shamefully admitted that I had started my Christmas earlier than usual. I’d put up my two Christmas trees, threw colored lights on my bushes outside, started playing Christmas carols.

Now, I must admit that I have Christmas decorated x 2…..

I just decided if I was going to be in Mesa for much of the Christmas season, I needed to have a few lights to enjoy. I bought a little flocked artificial tree in Denver at Home Depot, and Bill packed it in our car to haul to Arizona without even a single grumble.

When we were young, at some point our mother started buying a live flocked tree which she decorated with red candy canes. So this is tree is a rather pitiful salute to mom, with flocking and candy canes. Admittedly, the fake snow is sort of offkey when the weather is 85 degrees, but I love the tree anyway.

Yesterday Bill asked me if I wanted to drive to Home Depot with him. Of course I didn’t, but I went anyway because see above: he didn’t complain about stuffimg an artificial tree into our trunk. While he shopped, I don’t know, maybe plumbing supplies, I wandered around the Christmas section. Before I knew it, I was in line purchasing an outdoor lighting decoration.

I love my husband for many reasons, but this time of year, I love him especially for his willingness to be flexible when it comes to my crazy purchases. Rather than furrowing his brow, he immediately began fixing a spot to place the decoration. And his “fixing” involved digging a trench for the electric cord which had to run six feet or so into the garage, and then covering it with rocks…..

But isn’t it pretty? I turned it on at 4 o’clock, forgetting that it’s still light until nearly 6 o’clock here in the Valley of the Sun….

Well, suffice it to say that I’m done with Christmas decorations, mostly because I’m out of houses. But I think most people will agree that “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute!”

I Hope You Don’t Need a Wake-Up Call

Bill and I made a last-minute decision — based on weather — to leave for AZ on Friday instead of Saturday. I, frankly, am not sure what weather I was worried about. I think the Weather Channel app might have showed a snowflake somewhere in the United States over the weekend, and that’s enough to make me panic.

We left about 8:30 Friday morning. As expected, traffic was quite light, even though it was conceivably still rush hour. I imagine rush hours in general are much lighter than they were in, say, February 2020. But the general concern about COVID numbers going up country-wide is making people think twice about getting in their cars to drive somewhere they don’t really have to go.

I will tell you that a lot of thought went in to our decision to leave for AZ. We knew we wanted to spend the winter here. If we have to be quarantined, it just seems more pleasant to be able to be quarantined in 70 degree January weather than someplace involving shoveling snow. And we knew we had to get our car to AZ somehow. We could have shipped it, but instead we decided to take all the necessary safety measures and drive.

We reached our hotel in Albuquerque around 3:30. It was a very nice Hilton Hotel, part of their curio collection. The curio collection is a series of historic hotels that Hilton purchased and remodeled back to their original grandeur. I had high hopes. When I had called the day before to change the date of our stay, the person to whom I spoke assured me that the restaurant was open, and so was the cocktail lounge. No worries, she promised me.

Well, the woman who made these promises must have been someplace other than the hotel in which we stayed — like maybe St. Louis, MO –because everything was shut tight as a drum. There was, however, room service available. We weren’t fussy. Our plans were to get our overnight bag upstairs, sit down, and not touch anything.

I am very certain that they room had been properly sanitized. It smelled clean. Nevertheless, the first thing I did was pull out my little bottle of disinfectant spray and spray down the entire room — the sofa, the tables, the bed, the remote control. If it didn’t move, it got sprayed.

Having come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t going to go down to the cocktail lounge and order a martini to bring up to my room, I opened up my handy dandy martini case that my brother and sister-in-law very astutely gave me as a gift years ago. All I needed was ice.

I took a walk down the mostly-deserted hallway on the lookout for the ice machine. No such luck. So I called room service. It rang and rang and rang. Finally, I went downstairs to the front desk and asked how I could obtain ice. She assured me she would call room service and have some sent up.

Some minutes later, I answered a knock on the door. There was the front desk person with my ice. Thank you, I said, wondering who was answering the phone. You’re welcome, she answered, wondering why I needed ice so dadgummed much, knowing she should instead be downstairs answering the phone.

Later on, when I went downstairs to return the luggage cart we had borrowed, I saw that the young woman had gone for the day, and she had been replaced by a young man, who greeted me cheerfully.

Around 6 o’clock, I called room service, and the call was answered promptly. I ordered our food, and we awaited the knock on the door. It came in about 20 minutes, and you guessed it, it was the young man from the front desk.

It finally occurred to me that there were quite literally three people on staff at this quite large Hilton Hotel. There was a receptionist, who also took reservations, acted as concierge, answered room service, and met said room service needs. There was someone who prepared the food, and undoubtedly acted as his/her own sous chef, and washed dishes as well. And there was one housecleaning staff person who we saw early the next morning beginning her rounds.

I wasn’t a bit mad. We are all doing what we can during this difficult time. I’m sure that the hotel is trying to get along with as few staff as possible — both to save money, but probably more important, to keep most people safe. My takeaway was that I want to go back to that same hotel sometime when there is not a worldwide pandemic and see if I can call room service for ice and see someone other than the receptionist.

Saturday Smile: Sunrise, Sunset

Prior to her shoulder surgery, my sister Jen was getting up early in the morning to take her dog Winston on a walk. Consequently, she often saw an early-morning sunrise. She texted our brother one morning and said that, being a baker, he must see very many sunrises. He agreed that he saw a sunrise almost every morning. And then he told her something about our father that I never knew.

Apparently many mornings when the sun was rising, Dad would take a break from his baking, grab a cup of coffee, and step outside to watch the sun come up. Even as I write these words, my eyes tear up. I love learning things about my mom and dad that I never knew.

Colorado has some pretty sunrises Dad. I hope you see them in heaven.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Blacktop Wasteland

I waited a long time on the library ebook hold to finally get Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Cosby. I’m not even sure why I put it on hold. It must have come up in one of the reading blogs that I get each day. But then I noticed it was one of Goodreads’ finalists for best mystery/thriller book of the year and I became more interested.

Book reviewers call this book a thriller. I wouldn’t, however, want to put off people who aren’t into books that keep you up at night. Unless you want to be kept up at night reading this book. Because Blacktop Wasteland is so much more than an exciting thriller. It is the story of being Black and poor in the southern United States, and how difficult it is to reach the American Dream that we all hope for.

Beauregard Montage is known throughout the southeastern United States as the best getaway driver around. He knows everything about cars, and can drive like an Indie car driver, cleverly escaping cops.

But now he is married and has children and obligations. He wants to play it straight. He owns a car repair shop that is barely scraping by, and he is unable to keep up with his financial needs. His mother is in a nursing home. He has a family to feed. He wants to send his daughter to college and get her away from the abject poverty and racism they face each day in the small Mississippi town in which they live.

He gives in to the temptation offered by someone still in “the life.” He agrees to be the wheelman for one last robbery — that of a jewelry store getting a shipment of priceless diamonds.

Unfortunately, there are things that Beauregard doesn’t know about this store and this diamond shipment. The result is a complicated mess that changes his life altogether and makes him realize just how hard it is to go straight.

Blacktop Wasteland is dark and gritty. But Cosby’s story made me want to pick up the book to read even in the middle of the night. In the midst of what is happening today in the United States, it hits very close to home.

Blacktop Wasteland might end up being my favorite book of 2020.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier this week, my three Zierk grands helped me decorate my angel tree. The ornaments on my angel tree are, of course, all angels. I have collected them over the past nearly 30 years. Many were gifts; some I purchased while traveling; some are hand made. Though each and every one is some sort of angel, it might be a Santa Claus with angel wings, or a teddy bear with angel wings. The angels are made from tin and wood and ceramic and fabric. You name it; it’s probably on my tree. I even have one that is made entirely out of pasta. My stepmother made that by hand. One of my favorites, I will admit, is a chicken with angel wings. However, Miss Mylee — a lover of All Things Monkeys — was aghast that I didn’t have a monkey angel. I suggested she make one, and so she did. Modeled out of Play Doh, the monkey comes complete with a purple knapsack, purple angel wings, and a pink tail…..

More Angels
And speaking again of my angel tree, Cole asked me if he could put all of his favorites in one spot. I assured him that was perfectly fine. When the tree was finished, he showed me the area where he put his favorite ornaments, including one he also made by hand. I’m not entirely sure what his homemade ornament is. All I can tell you is that it involved toothpicks, a napkin, scotch tape, yarn, and lots of glue. You’ll be able to pick it out…..

COVID Plague
We talked to our Vermont family the other day, and commiserated about the fact that we won’t see each other until sometime next year. Normally, they travel to Colorado either for Thanksgiving or Christmas. They will be enjoying turkey and all the fixins’ by themselves this year. We did find a bright side about this pandemic. Back in the Middle Ages when the pandemic was the Black Plague, they ran out of places to bury the dead. As Heather said, “At least we don’t have to walk over dead bodies.” Glass half full.

Heading South
Bill and I are leaving Saturday morning to drive south to AZ. We gave it lots of thought, and decided that we needed to get our car to AZ at some point. We will stay in a nice hotel in Albuquerque where we will sit quietly and try not to touch anything. My sister Jen is recovering from shoulder replacement surgery, and it’s my turn to be her care partner. We will arrive Sunday, so there may or may not be a posting on Nana’s Whimsies on Monday. Never fear. I will be back.

Ace is the Place

Yesterday, as I drove around our neighborhood, it became clear to me that many people were putting Christmas lights on their outside trees. I can’t say I take singular credit for this early show of holiday enthusiasm. Yes, it’s true, that I was the first in our neighborhood to put up a Christmas tree; however, it’s also true that COVID-19 is making people crazy enough to need holiday lights to brighten their days.

So, I decided yesterday afternoon that I was going to put up my outside lights. For years now, we have put up colored lights in the form of nets. (Or is that lights of color?) I was feeling rather smug that last year when I took down our lights, I labeled the bags into which I placed the lights, indicating to which bush it belonged.

It wasn’t much help, however. Yesterday afternoon, I dumped the lights out on the floor of the living room, and proceeded to try to untangle the significant mess. I finally found the “male” plug, and put it into the socket. Half the lights lit up; the other half stayed dark. As I looked at the tangled mess, I thought, I should try and untangle this mess to see which string was working and which was not. And as I looked again at the tangle of lights, I literally said outloud, “F**k it.”

We are not paupers, I thought. I can spend the next hour untangling these lights, or I can go to Target, which is a three-minute drive from my house, and buy new sets of lights.

“Bill,” I said. “Would you like to go to Target with me and buy new sets of lights?”

We got the lights put on the trees. Easy peasy, because they were fresh out of the box, not tangled at all. I dismissed Bill and told him I would get them set up to the timers.

We have two bushes with lights on two separate timers. I did the first with no problem. It was already set from last year, so all I had to do was turn the nob to set the time.

I moved to bush number 2. Drat. It was a digital timer. I am a reasonably smart woman, but digital timers and I don’t get along. So I took it to Bill, who has a pretty good relationship with digital timers. Unfortunately, the instructions were the size of the Declaration of Independence if it was carved onto a wedding ring. No go.

I put on my strongest reading glasses and tried looking at the instructions. After about 30 seconds — and for the second time that day — I said out loud “F**k it.”

“I’ll be back shortly,” I told Bill, who by this time was wondering who was this woman with the potty mouth and where was the sweet bride he married.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Ace Hardware,” I responded as I walked out the door.

Ace is in the same shopping center as Target — a three-minute drive. I walked in, and immediately spotted a manual Christmas tree timer. I had looked for one this past weekend at Lowes, and it was no-go. Digital timers only.

So, no matter how politically incorrect it is these days to sing this jingle, I sang outloud: Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man. And my lights are twinkling outside.

Trend Setter

My son Court told me the other day that his place of employment — a major U.S. corporation — has indicated that it looks like their employees will keep working from home until mid-2021. They have a fancy-dancy office in downtown Denver, but they just deem it too risky to have employees working that closely together. Court wasn’t too surprised to hear that since the COVID numbers have been going up. Even if our prayers come true, by time a vaccine is goes through the approval process and is distributed, it will likely be mid-next-year.

He is bummed. Of all of the people I know who have been working from home since mid-March, he is in the top tier of disliking his current working conditions. Part of it is that his house doesn’t have a designated office space, so he has had to kind of be a wandering. He has to compete with his three kids who are now also attending school virtually. Talk about needing bandwidth!

To my surprise, Court’s biggest complaint, however, is that he isn’t around his coworkers. It is frustrating to not be able to walk down to the cubicle 300 steps away to ask a simple question. Or maybe talk about the score of the football game the past weekend.

When Bill left the Denver law firm in which he was a partner for many years to start his own private practice, he bucked the trend. After a brief stint with an office, he soon began working from home. I said above that he bucked the trend, because at that time it was really unusual for a person in a professional position to not have an office and a secretary. For one thing, it was the mid-1980s, and computers were the size of Rhode Island. The first personal computers were just being introduced, and Bill was one of the first in line.

After we were married and started looking for our house, one must-have for him was a home office. Nowadays, many homes — and probably most newly-built homes — have home offices. At that time, it wasn’t as common. Our house has an office.

He always loved having his office at home. When he lobbied, he was rarely home during the day. But even when the legislature wasn’t in session, he kept busy with legal work. He never found being at home distracting, mostly because he could — and would — work whenever the need struck. So if he was writing a brief, he might be in his pajamas working away until 11:30 or midnight.

I loved it because during the day, he would do the laundry or clean the house or load the dishwasher between phone calls. He never cooked a meal because Bill McLain doesn’t cook. But I would come home to an already-made cocktail, and that didn’t suck.

I know there was a difference, because he worked for himself. He had no employees, no wondering if everybody was being as productive as he. There was no such thing as FaceTime or Zoom, so he could really stay in his sweat pants all day. And there wasn’t a pandemic, so he could meet friends for lunch any time he wanted to get out of the house. A bit different than today’s Workers from Home.

I have been thinking about how once again, Bill was a trend setter. He embraced technology early and often, and it made working at home easier. Still, it is my firm hope that all of the at-home workers get back to their offices soon.

Celebrate Early and Often

I think everyone in the whole entire world (as my granddaughter Mylee would say) would agree that there has been nothing normal about 2020. Well, let me amend that statement a bit. There’s been nothing normal since mid-March of 2020.

I hear people say all the time that they can’t wait until they see the end of 2020. Heck, I myself blame 2020 for anything that goes awry. Alas, we all know that when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2021, nothing will magically change. COVID will still drive our lives. We will still be wearing masks. Our kids and grandkids will likely be looking at their teacher on the screen of a computer. If they are lucky enough to be in live school, they will still be wearing masks as they work on their math problems.

It’s no surprise , then, that many of us are looking at a holiday season that will be quite different from what we are used to. Our holidays have always been predictable. We spend Thanksgiving with our kids. For a long time, Bill and I hosted. When Jll and Dave redid their house, making it very conducive to entertaining, they took over as hosts.

I put up my Christmas trees on the day after Thanksgiving. Any or all of my grandkids help me decorate my angel tree. The lights go on our trees outside and my house is made festive inside. We celebrate Christmas with our Denver kids/grandkids the days before December 25, and fly to AZ for the winter/spring on Christmas Day.

This is what we’ve done for many years, but it’s not what we’re going to do this year.

For the first time ever, we will be in AZ for Thanksgiving. We have generally driven to AZ in October, and flown home before Thanksgiving. This year, however, our kids will be elsewhere for Thanksgiving. Not wanting to be alone, we decided to leave this upcoming Saturday, and drive to our AZ home. We will spend Thanksgiving with Bec’s son and daughter-in-law and their kids. We will fly home a week or so before Christmas, and then fly back Christmas Day.

I am at peace with our decision. But I had been feeling sad that I was going to miss out on our traditional Christmas activities, i.e., decorating my angel tree. Saturday morning, as I awaited the arrival of Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole, with whom I was spending the day, I had a lightbulb thought. Why not decorate the tree with the three grands that very day? Who says you have to wait until the day after Thanksgiving?

And that’s what we did…..

I thought about sending an email to my neighbors, justifying my early Christmas lights. But then I figured this would be the least of their surprises for 2020. And much to my surprise, as I drove the grands home that evening, I spotted a remarkable number of Christmas lights.

It’s 2020. What can I say?

Saturday Smile: She’ll Be Back in the Saddle

For about a year now, my sister Jennifer has been suffering from shoulder pain. In the last six months, the pain has gotten nearly unbearable. She rarely complained, because with everything else going on, what’s the point. Nevertheless, she elected to have shoulder replacement surgery. It made sense to do it this year, because she had knee replacement surgery in January. Therefore, her copayment has been met.

She had the surgery done yesterday. It took a full three hours to reconfigure a new shoulder. She came through like a champ. She has some tough days ahead of her, but she’ll meet them like a fighter. We all have a lot of our mom and dad in us!

Let’s hope 2021 doesn’t see her with another joint replacement. She’ll barely get through TSA as it is! The thought of a painless sister makes me smile.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Boy From the Woods

Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors. I particularly like his Myron Bolitar books, as it intrigued me to have the protagonist be a sports agent. I enjoy mystery books where the main character(s) is/are not typical detectives.

The protagonists in The Boy From the Woods are certainly not typical mystery-solvers. Wilde was found some 30 years ago in the woods, where he had lived for an unknown period of time. He was just a child, and had no memory of his past. Now an adult, he is most comfortable in his home in the woods where he lives by himself. He still has no memory of his past.

Still, he is friendly with the foster family who cared for him, and is friends with criminal attorney/television star Hester Crimstein, who is the mother of his best friend, who died in a car accident. It is Hester who draws Wilde into helping find a missing girl.

Naomi Pine was seriously bullied at school, and so it isn’t a great surprise when she goes missing. At first it is assumed she ran away from home, but soon people learn about her miserable school days and questions begin to arise.

Hester and Wilde work together to find this girl, and another boy who soon goes missing as well. They make a terrific team, and I liked both characters very much.

The novel ends with a lot of unanswered questions, which seems to scream to this reader that a series is in the works. I hope so, because I enjoyed this book, and want the answers to a lot of questions.

Here is a link to the book.