Saturday Smile: I Heart Vermont

Bill and I have nine grandchildren. Seven of them live near us in Denver, so we see one or more of them nearly every day. Two, however, live far away in Vermont. Though FaceTime brings us closer than we would be without technology, we still feel far away, especially on birthdays.

Our two Vermont boys couldn’t be more different in many ways, but you don’t have to be around them long to recognize they are brothers. It’s the love and the loyalty they feel for one another.

Joseph is 8, but is as smart as a kid twice his age. He told me the other night that he is now interested in Greek mythology. Good, I told him. You can teach me about it. But he went on to explain that he is actually interested in two things – Greek gods and Pokémon. Whew, I thought. Underneath all of that incredible intelligence, he is just a kid. He’s the kid who would get tears in his eyes if I told him I didn’t feel good.

Now Micah, well, he’s a spark plug. Plain and simple. He has a smile on his face all of the time, and is always on the go. He loves music – all kinds of music. He doesn’t hold still until he finds something that grabs his attention, and then he will be attentive. He’s always ready for a bike ride or a run with their dog Merlin.

And Micah had a birthday this week. He turned 5….

Happy birthday Micah!

Our Vermont boys make me smile.


Friday Book Whimsy: The Spider and the Fly

Before I review this book, I have to tell you a deep, dark secret. I sort of, kind of, like to read about real-life murder and real-life murderers. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t intend to embark upon a killing spree ala Natural Born Killer, a movie I’ve never even seen. And what’s more, though I may be unique in that I admit it, many people are interested in murder. (I wish I could say it like the British do: muuuurdah.)

Anyway, I know I’m not the only one because podcasts about murders and murderers are wildly popular these days. My Favorite Murder is one of the more popular podcasts out there nowadays. (I don’t recommend it for everyone. Language, people.)

Anyway, The Spider and the Fly, by journalist Claudia Rowe, showed up on Book Bub, recommended for those who like nonfiction books that read like novels. As I am not a huge fan of nonfiction, this caught my eye, and I looked at the list of books. This one appealed to me because in the publisher’s description, it highlights this letter from real-life serial murderer Kendall Francois to the author:

Well, well, Claudia. Can I call you Claudia? I’ll have to give it to you, when confronted at least you’re honest, as honest as any reporter….You want to go into the depths of my mind and into my past. I want a peek into yours. It is only fair, isn’t it?

Oh my heavens. Doesn’t that sound like Hannibal Lector of Silence of the Lambs fame? I was hooked, and got my hands on the book as soon as possible.

Kendall Francois was convicted of killing eight women in Poughkeepsie, New York, between 1996 and 1998. What’s more, he kept these eight women in the attic of the home he shared with his mother, father, and a sister, who took no offense at the putrid smell coming from the attic and the appearance of maggots on their ceiling. Seems odd, doesn’t it?

Francois eventually confessed to the inept police (who had also visited the home, and it hadn’t raised any concerns), pleaded guilty, and was sent to live out most of the rest of his life at Attica prison. He eventually died of cancer at another prison in his 40s.

It was shortly after his confession that Ms. Rowe became interested in the murder and Francois himself. What, she wondered, could make a person become a serial murderer.

The book, however, is as much about the author and her messed-up life as it is about Kendall Francois. So if you embark on this reading journey thinking you will gain an understanding of why a person murders, you will be disappointed. Rowe becomes obsessed with the murderer because she thinks it might give her some insight into her own weird life.

By the way, despite the fact that Francois was a real-life murderer, he wasn’t as scary as Hannibal Lector because who could be?

This book is certainly not for everyone. The details are disturbing, and the fact that it is real stuff makes you want to not go out at night. Still, I admit that I enjoyed reading this book, though I might stick to murder mysteries from here on.

Here is a link to the book.


Thursday Thoughts

Not Quite School Daze
I mentioned in a recent blog that all of my Denver grandkids are back in school, but I was wrong. I got a call Tuesday from Maggie Faith. “Can I come over for a little bit?” she asked. I told her of course, but I thought she was in school. Not until this upcoming Monday, she informed me. I was relieved she wasn’t playing hooky. When she arrived, she immediately asked me, “What do you want to do?” as she always does. “Let’s cook something,” she went on to say, and started rooting through my pantry. Maggie likes to take random ingredients she finds in the pantry and “create” a masterpiece. The so-called masterpiece might include pieces of beef jerky cut up into some peanut butter, add a few pepper flakes and a handful of marshmallows, bake for 10 minutes, and then consume. I wasn’t quite up for that, so I suggested instead that we check out Pinterest and find something to make using existing ingredients. We landed on some simple Danish rolls using canned crescent rolls. I actually didn’t have the rolls, so I made a quick run to the grocery store. When I returned, Maggie had persuaded Google Home to play top 40 hits. She was dancing around the kitchen, and had used instant lemonade, instant ice tea, and instant fruit punch (which I didn’t even know I had, so it must have been older than she) to make a punch. “Want some?” she asked. I declined. We set to work on our Danish, and just about the time we got the dough laid out and the cream cheese mixed with the sugar, she got a better offer. Her friend Molly wanted her to come out and play. “Bye Nana,” she said as she hopped on her bike and left me with a dozen-and-a-half almost-put-together Danish rolls. No worries. Papa Bill ate them……

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye
As I was out on my morning walk the other day, I observed two women standing in front of a car with the back opened. The car was packed to the gills with suitcases and other travel paraphernalia. They were tearfully hugging one another, and I teared up myself. I remember the days when my sister Bec and her family would travel from the East Coast, or my brother Dave and his family would travel to Denver from AZ. We would always have such fun while they were here, and it was so sad to say goodbye. We would all cry.  Say what you will about technology, but with all its flaws, it certainly has made the world smaller and communication easier. What with email and Facetime, I never feel very far away from my family and friends. I hope the woman has a safe trip to wherever she is going.

More Beesness
I telephoned Dagny yesterday to try and ascertain the status of the beehive. You might recall that my last update told you that the queen bee had died and the two apiarists had purchased a new queen. That queen was in a little box that they set inside the hive, the idea being that the drones and workers would get used to her before letting her loose in the hive. According to Dagny, that queen escaped her little box on her own. Apparently it was a bad decision, because she was quickly killed by the worker bees. But alas, all is not yet lost. There is a glimmer of hope. Dagny said that when she and her father checked the other day, it looked like there might have been some eggs that had been laid recently, indicating the existence of another queen. It would be one that the other bees chose, I guess. Or, said Dagny sadly, it might just be the glare of the sun and not eggs at all. Time will tell. I believe Camilla Parker-Bowles Windsor is watching carefully to see how one becomes queen when one is tired of waiting.

Twinkly Citrus
I crocheted these adorable citrus scrubbies this week, and posted them on my Etsy page. They worked up really quickly, and I think they are cute and cheerful-looking. Kaiya was surprised when she checked them out. “I like the way these feel,” she said. Check them out on my Etsy page (link above).

When Mylee was over at my house the other day, for the first time in a very long time, she didn’t have her hair in pony tails or in a bun. In fact, it was completely loose. I was taken aback at just how long her hair is….


No Magic Tricks

I honestly don’t know what happens to my time. I’m retired. I don’t volunteer (except with my grandkids). I belong to virtually no clubs or organizations that take up my time. And yet, the days go by and I find I haven’t done a single one of the things that I have committed to myself that I would do. For example, two weeks ago, I ran into a friend whom I haven’t seen for a while, and promised her with great confidence that I would call her in a few days to arrange for us to have lunch or coffee. Haven’t done it. Nope.  Sure haven’t.

Unfortunately, the same is true of my prayer life. Or perhaps I should say my so-called prayer life, as it is one of the things that gets pushed aside way more than it should. I know you’re all thinking right now, for heaven’s sake, the woman is constantly talking about her prayer life and how it should be better. Poop, or get off the pot. (That is what my dad would have said, although he wouldn’t have used the word poop in the sentence. In fact, he probably never used the word poop in his life.)

Praying kind of confuses me, I will admit that freely. I will ask God for something, and then I am unsure if I should ask again. I remind myself about the gospel reading in which Jesus says that we should nag God (my words, not his) like the woman who nagged the judge for the favor. I wonder why God should listen to me when others might be praying for the exact opposite. I used to wonder about this when I was in high school and we would pray for a victory in the football game. Was God a Scotus Shamrock fan?

The fact is I’m probably overthinking the whole thing. While miracles do happen, most of the time when we ask for something specific – winning the lottery or curing an illness – there isn’t a flash of light and subsequent wealth or health. I guess that’s because prayer isn’t a magic trick. It’s a conversation with God. And good conversations take time and develop slowly. They also require both talking and listening.

Yesterday, our Mass celebrant told us something that resonated with me. So much so, in fact, that I dug around to find a pencil and write what he said in the margin of my prayer book. He said when you find yourself distracted from listening to, say, his sermon, perhaps that distraction is God talking to you. Pay attention to your distractions, he told us.

I gave that a lot of thought after he said that, during which time I was distracted from his homily, I’m afraid. Maybe that was God’s wish, however. Maybe thinking about a conversation with God was more important that listening to the sermon.

I tend to obsess about things, especially when they are things that relate to my family. While I don’t think God wants me to obsess about things over which I have no control, maybe my distractions and worries are just God’s way of reminding me that he is not only listening, but actually is handling things, thank you very much.

Just like when Peter was comfortably walking on the water, following Jesus’ example in St. Matthew’s gospel, but started overthinking it all (like I tend to do) and began to sink. Save me Lord, he said, and Jesus reached out his hand.

Perhaps that should be the prayer I say, not once, but over and over every day: Save me Lord. Maybe that’s the way to start my conversation with God.

And this week, I PROMISE I’m going to give my friend a call.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Saturday Smile: He’s a Player

Cole, age 3, is our youngest grandchild. He is smart as a whip, but his language skills have been a bit slow to develop. Doctors finally figured out that his ears were not draining properly, and he therefore was unable to hear. He recently had surgery to insert tubes into his ears, thereby allowing the ears to drain propertly, and more important, to allow Cole to hear. Since then, his language skills have been improving rapidly.

Thursday was his first day at preschool. When I went to visit them on Thursday evening, he barely slowed down from his busy activities to even say hello. As he raced by, I asked him if he liked his first day of preschool. Yes, he said, as he raced by me. Then his dad asked him if he had a girlfriend. Without even slowing down, he replied, not yet.

Even at 3, the boy’s a playah! And he constantly makes me smile…..

Have a good weekend.

Thursday Thoughts

Sad Beesness
As you will recall, my granddaughter Dagny and her father have become apiarists. They began their beekeeping activities in April of this year. You can read about their beekeeping in this blog. But don’t get too excited about the prospect of honey this year. Unfortunately, there was a death in their bee family. And even more unfortunate is the fact that the death was the queen. Neither of the apiarists are certain when or why this happened. They did their routine check last weekend and there was no sign of the queen. It happens, they told me sadly. So they ordered a new queen. She comes in a little box, which arrived day before yesterday. For the first few days, she lives in her little box in the hive, hoping that her drones will get used to her. Sometime in the next few days, the two apiarists will open the box and cross their fingers. It can get ugly, my friends. D’s Bees Honey may have to wait awhile.

Birthday Happenings
We got back from Nebraska just in time to celebrate Dagny’s 11th birthday. It seems practically impossible that she can be 11, and going into middle school, but I’m afraid it’s true. We gathered together and shared her favorite food – a steak, medium rare. Not one, but two, ice cream cakes…..

She blew out her candles and opened her gifts. From us, a climbing helmet and climbing gloves, in preparation for her first outdoor climb on September 10…..

Pucker Up
I complained about my garden yesterday, but the truth is that my beans have done quite well. Not all of the bean seeds sprouted, but the ones that did have been quite productive. Since you will recall that Emma was the one who actually planted my garden, I used some of the beans to make dilly beans, and will give her a jar. The beans look scrumptious. Unfortunately, you are supposed to let them sit unopened for a month so that the beans can actually get sour. I wonder if I’ll make it that long…..

Woe is Me
My niece Maggie sent me this photo of her daughter Lilly at the grocery store the other day. It’s apparently one of those stores that lets children have their own little carts. The two of them were waiting in line, and Maggie laughed to see Lilly wearily leaning on her cart like the others in the line. If you look carefully, you will see that Lilly, however, has her face painted pink and blue. I don’t think the senior citizens in line could say the same…..

Last night we got the chance to see Allen and Emma’s new apartment, and I couldn’t be happier for them. They are located in the heart of where it’s all happening in Denver these days. The apartment is nice and the location is amazing…..

View from their rooftop.


Tick Tock Goes the Summer Clock

Every August, the same thing happens. I begin to grow weary of certain things about summer. By the end of July, all of the plants that I so patiently planted and potted and watered at the beginning of the summer begin to turn yellow and produce less.  So the tomatoes that once looked like this…..

… look like this…..

Even the squirrels don’t want them anymore.

My mother always said that summer was half over on July 4. Technically, that’s probably true. But it is around August that I start losing my will to garden. My petunias — once spectacular — are now sad and overgrown. I threw away two of my potted flowering plants yesterday because they just had simply had it. They’d lost their will to live.

August is also the month that most of our grandkids start heading back to school. That shouldn’t actually impact me much, but nevertheless, I am sad about their return to a life where they’re not at my beck and call. Let me tell you, however, that my grandkids aren’t sad about school starting. They don’t take after me in that regard. I was always sad about the return of school daze, both when I was school-aged and when Court was in school.

I watched the weather news the other night, and the 20-year-old weather expert warned me that August was going to be rainy and chilly. I have been complaining to anyone that would listen (which basically means Bill, who is trapped at the breakfast table with me every morning and has mastered the art of looking like he’s listening when actually he’s reading about how to install pocket doors) that we have had such a dry summer and how much I wish it would rain.

And so it has been raining, and what am I doing? Complaining about the rain. Just call me Eeyore.

Monday night, it was so chilly that I put an afghan over me to sleep. That, by the way, is not a complaint. In my perfect world, the days would be warm and the nights would cool down to about 50, allowing me to leave the windows open to let in the cool night air and use a comforter to stay warm. Bliss.

Mylee — who is currently obsessed with heaven — would say that’s the way I will sleep in heaven. I hope she’s right.

Following the previous cool night, I awoke yesterday and put on jeans and a sweatshirt. I bought the fixings for meat loaf for dinner. Around noon, I met a friend for lunch, and noticed two things: 1) the temperature was around 80 degrees and I was hot; and 2) meat loaf didn’t sound that good. Nevertheless, meat loaf it was last night.

The moral of my story — as it is later summer every year — is that I am apparently not easily satisfied when it comes to weather. But I am happy that football is just around the corner.

Go Broncos.