Friday Book Whimsy: Pretty as a Picture

Marissa Dahl is a talented movie editor. Her OCD personality and her devotion to motion pictures makes her particularly good at her job. She is asked to edit a movie being directed by a well-known and well-respected director who is also known to be difficult and extremely demanding. Still, the picture is being filmed on a small island off the coast of Delaware, which makes it intriguing but also frightening given her OCD personality.

I’m not a movie buff. I do, however, like movies. I have enjoyed going to the movies my whole life. And I’ve always been drawn to books that deal with the movie industry, particularly historical novels based on real actors. Pretty as a Picture, a new novel by Elizabeth Little, looks at the movie business from a bit of a different angle, namely the behind the camera aspect.

The film is based on an unsolved murder that took place on the island. Even more troubling is the fact that she is replacing a person who was fired by the demanding director for reasons unknown to her or anyone else.

When she arrives, she learns that things are not going well at the movie production studio and people are frightened. There have been strange accidents and many people besides her predecessor have been fired. She also learns that she is being guarded by a handsome former military man, and has no idea why she needs security.

Details are revealed as the book moves along, making readers wonder if the person responsible for the unsolved murder might still be around and unhappy that the film is being made.

I found the book amusing and interesting. Marissa’s character is cynical and sarcastic and funny and perhaps a bit autistic, making her an interesting character. She made me laugh out loud on several occasions. Also, throughout the book, she drops lines from famous movies, and it was fun for me to try and recall from which movie I had heard the line.

All-in-all, I found the book highly satisfying and readable.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

No Success
I sat down yesterday at my computer again yesterday to try and make an appointment to get the COVID vaccination. News sources told me there were still 10,000 openings at State Farm Stadium in Glendale (the Cardinals’ football stadium). That is very far away from our house, but to get the vaccine, I would drive many miles. Alas, I could not get an appointment, no matter how hard I tried. Again, I’m relying on the possibility of getting the vaccine when Bill gets his next week. Fingers crossed.

Painted Skies
Almost every morning when I’m at our home in Denver, I wake up to the most beautiful sunrises. It helps that my kitchen window faces east. Still, I have to give Colorado credit in the sunrise category. However, generally speaking, I have to do the same for Arizona sunsets. We are able to see the beautiful sunsets as we sit out in evening with our adult beverages, and marvel at God’s hand…..

Doggy Fun
The other day Jen and I were at our Fry’s buying some groceries for dinner. We split up, and she did her shopping and I did mine. I didn’t have much to get, but I enjoyed wandering around the store, as it’s one of the big stores with lots of interesting things. I stumbled into the dog toy aisle, and decided Jen’s dog Winston needed a new toy. I spent all of $3.99 on a toy that squeaked, as Jen said those are his favorites. I gave it to him when I got home, and he ran off with great excitement. A bit later, Jen went back to our den where she works and took Winston and his toy with her. Maybe a half hour later, she called to me, “Kris, come and see what you created.” …..

Bad doggy. Two pieces of good news: I didn’t have to clean it up and he sleeps with it every night…..

Let’s All Go to the Movies
Well, we can’t actually go the movies these days, but I’m grateful at least some of them are coming to us. We rented News of the World last night, and the three of us enjoyed it very much. I swear, Tom Hanks can play any role he wants. It was very good and I recommend it highly.


No Worries

Bill and I bought our home with Jen as our equal partner in 2010, when the housing market was tanking. We got a smokin’ deal, and haven’t regretted it a bit. Because Bill and I are both retired, we have been able to spend more time here than Jen, who is still working hard for her money. She never complains. She knows her time will come.

Because Bill and I were here by ourselves so much of the time, I set up the kitchen as I liked it. When Jen would come stay for a week or so, she would simply ask me, “Where is the skillet?” or “Where do you keep the can opener?” It worked, but it probably made her feel as though she was a stranger in her own home.

We bought a house that — though it’s small — has a split master bedroom. This way we each get our privacy. Bill and I have the master bedroom and Jen has a bedroom and bath away from ours. It is very private, and both Bill and I work hard to respect her privacy, as she does ours.

One thing that used to niggle in the back of my mind (because GOD KNOWS I can’t go for any length of time where I’m not worrying about something) is how we all will get along when she, too, is retired and spending her winters here. In particular, I simply couldn’t imagine how we would make cooking work for us. Would I buy groceries? Would she buy groceries? Would we set aside a grocery budget? And how would the cooking part go? Would I cook for Bill and me and let Jen fend for herself? That seemed unwieldy and a waste of time. Would one of us cook and the other clean?

Wow. And Biden thinks HE has things to worry about.

As it turns out, Jen has spent the bulk of the past two winters (this one included) here in AZ because she is working on becoming a robot (or so her grandson Austin tells her). She had a knee replaced in January 2020 and a shoulder replaced in November 2020. We call her the Tin Man. If she only had a heart.

Guess what? My worries have been for nothing. We simply fell into a routine. She buys groceries sometimes and I buy groceries sometimes. We take turns cooking. Whoever doesn’t cook that day cleans up the kitchen. We each decide on what we’re going to cook, and mostly agree.

We worked out any differences we had on Festivus during the Feats of Strength. (By the way, I kicked butt since she was still healing from her shoulder surgery.)

Every year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to not worry about things over which I have no control. It never lasts for more than a week, because worrying is what I do. I even worry about how much worrying is affecting my health.

The good thing about worrying is that when it turns out that I had nothing to worry about, I’m so glad.

Sunny Side Up

As you will recall, we came to the desert in November to escape the climbing COVID numbers in Colorado. We subsequently got stuck here as the numbers in Arizona began to skyrocket and the numbers in Colorado began to even off, and even go down. We were simply afraid to travel. Perhaps it was bad planning, but I prefer to think that it was the hand of the Holy Ghost.

Neither Bill nor I are fond of winter. Cold and dreary weather literally brings on some depression in me. Of course, the good news about Colorado is that the weather rarely stays dreary for long. Having said that, Bill is not a fan of cold weather, and Colorado can be cold even when the sun is shining. Despite having grown up in Chicago, he has always disliked the cold. Now his Parkinson’s intensifies his reaction. As soon as the temperatures drop, his hands are cold enough to chill my martini. The warm weather is good for both of us.

I thought about this as I planted my herb garden here yesterday. I planted chives, thyme, dill, and Italian parsley. Those are the herbs I use the most. I occasionally use rosemary, and we have a very large rosemary bush just outside our back door. I will do the same thing in Denver of course, but that won’t be possible until May, and the weather can be below freezing even as late as May. Springtime in the Rockies.

The temperature hovered in the mid- to-high 70s today. The weather folks are predicting cooler temperatures by the end of the week, “plunging” to low- to mid-60s. The good news is that the cooler weather might bring some much-needed rain. Even desert plants need some moisture.

Speaking of moisture, the other day I noticed that a blooming bush in our front yard was not only not blooming, but the leaves were turning yellow. Since our watering is done with a very quiet drip system, I began to wonder if perhaps it was being a bit TOO quiet. Bill checked, and sure enough, the water hasn’t been on at all since we got here. We’re blaming it on a mischievous roadrunner who visits our yard nearly every day. We had a roadrunner last winter as well. There is, of course, no way of knowing if it is the same fellow, but word travels quickly in the roadrunner world. Our first sighting was last week, when Bill was working on his car in the garage with the door open. He looked up from his work to see Mr. Roadrunner sashay into the garage. Here is a terrible photo of him on our neighbor’s roof…..

As you can see, there is neither an anvil or a coyote. Nor have we heard a single meep meep.

By the way, here is a great photo of one of Arizona’s ironies…..

I still have my poinsettia as well as my herbs. All sitting on our outdoor bar where we can enjoy our afternoon cocktails.


Friday Book Whimsy: Top Five of 2020

Like many others, I did a lot of reading in 2020. I would find my interests going back and forth. Sometimes I would feel like a murder mystery. Sometimes a ghost story appealed to me. I read many good books and a couple of duds. After careful thought, here is a list of my five favorite books of this past year.

The Thursday Murder Club This quirky novel by Richard Osman is the story of a group of senior citizens living in a retirement community who help the police solve a murder. Wonderful characters that I hope return as a series.

Blacktop Wasteland S.A. Cosby’s book, touted as a thriller, is so much more. Beauregard Montage is a black man who is trying to make it outside of his former criminal career. The book is a great example of the problem poor people, and especially poor Black people, often face under difficult circumstances.

One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow I think Olivia Hawker’s book about two women in the mid-1880s in rural Wyoming was my very favorite of the year. I loved the rural setting and reading about how these two women managed to keep their families safe and fed during difficult times. More than that, however, it was about forging friendships and letting go of anger.

Daisy Jones & the Six This novel, written by Taylor Jenkins Reid, reads like an oral biography. The format is so unique and so realistic that I found myself googling to determine if the band actually existed. It didn’t, though I’m sure it models other bands that were popular in the 1970s. I was worried that the format might throw me, but I ended up loving the book very much.

The Book of Longings Sue Kidd Monk writes a novel about the human life of Jesus and those who loved him. The emphasis, however, is not on Jesus, but on his wife Ana. Obviously the author takes great liberty in telling this story, but she tells the story very well. I was left with a much clearer appreciation of the difficult role of women in ancient times. Well written and very interesting.

I’m looking forward to some good offerings in 2021.

Thursday Thoughts

Birds Do It
Yesterday was a spectacular day, sunny and near 70 in the afternoon. I was expecting a quiet day at home working on a puzzle or watching a British mystery. But instead, I got a better offer. My sister Bec called and invited me to take a walk with her at the Riparian Bird Sanctuary in nearby Gilbert. I accepted the offer immediately. We had the nicest time — beautiful scenery, great company, and interesting conversation. Win. Win. Win…..

Baby It’s Cold Outside
The beautiful weather we have been having has its down side. While Bill, Jen, and I love the warm weather, the lack of freezing temps has been keeping the unfriendly critters alive. But longtime Arizona residents think the morning temperatures are COLD. Here is proof. We stopped by a soccer game that Bec’s 13-year-old grandson Carter was refereeing (his very first), and his father Erik was dressed as though he was in the Russian tundra…..

For reference, the temperature was in the low 60s and the sun was shining.

A week or so ago, I woke up with a sore throat and a feeling of fatigue. That was it. No fever, no loss of taste or smell. Just a sore throat. I tried staying calm, but I will admit to worrying about the chance of COVID. When I didn’t feel better the next day, I convinced Bill to go with me to get a COVID test. While we awaited the results, we stayed out in our house. Three days later we received our results, which were negative. We were greatly relieved and happily, I felt a bit better. Still, it was an interesting three days as we waited to hear the news. It gave me a greater understanding of everybody’s fear.

Mr. Bainter the Painter
Since we took the big step of getting a brand new king-sized bed (in which we are sleeping wonderfully, thank you very much), we have decided on painting our bedroom walls. Well, we have decided to hire someone to paint our bedroom walls, given our lofted ceiling. Our neighbor is a professional painter, and he has agreed to paint for a fair price. Next step, choose a color. Anything but the desert colors with which we are surrounded. This afternoon, Bill has agreed to shop for paint colors. I’m sure he’s very excited.


Just a Spoonful of Sugar

It’s 1951. You’re 7 years old and you come home from school feeling punk. You have a sore throat. Your tummy hurts a bit. Your mother rests her cheek against your forehead and you hear her take a sharp breath. You have a fever, she says out loud. You can hear the tension in her voice though you’re just a child.

Your mom tells you to lay down on your bed and keep your distance from your siblings. You are wondering if this, by chance, will get you out of doing homework, and maybe school tomorrow. In the meantime, your mother is calling your family doctor. He or she likely tells your mom to bring down the fever with baby aspirin and a cold cloth and call him later if the fever doesn’t break.

This is a scenario that took place time and time again in the first part of the 20th Century. Of course, Baby Boomers have already figured out that Mom was worried that her child had polio. Polio is a now-mostly-eradicated contagious disease that plagued the world in the first half of the century. I’m sure it existed prior to that, but our parents battled with it in the 40s and 50s. The disease struck mostly young children, and like COVID, had a lot of different symptoms that matched those of the common cold. Still, my sister Bec tells me that our parents were terrified every time one of their kids had the sniffles.

I have been thinking about polio for the past few days as I’ve been working on arranging Bill’s vaccination. I was interested in learning how long it took to finally get a vaccine — the vaccine that all of us Baby Boomers received. Research on a vaccine began in the mid-1930s. After years of work, American scientist Jonas Salk finally had his vaccine approved for use by the general public in 1955. It took 20 years from beginning to public availability. That sort of put the whole COVID fast tracked vaccine in perspective for me.

Salk’s vaccine required a shot in the arm. In general, people don’t like shots in the arm or anywhere else. And since kids were the primary victims and carriers, they were the most likely to receive that loooooooog needle. But the parents were so relieved to have the vaccine, they didn’t give a hoot about their kids’ sadness and/or anger.

Then in 1961, along comes Albert Sabin, a scientist from what is now Russia but was then Poland (I tell you that in order to push back a bit on the Polish jokes that annoyed my own mother), who invented an oral vaccine. That meant no more shots in the arm for our poor kiddies.

I’m sure most Baby Boomers remember receiving the Sabin vaccine. Our family trekked to the local public high school gymnasium in 1961 (along with every other person in our 10,000-person town. There we received our vaccine, in the form of a sugar cube. Ain’t science great? Truly, a spoonful of sugar changed our lives.

Polio went the way of the dinosaur, or at least in this country. Both Salk and Sabin became part of the history books, as they should. Still, while they made history, I’m thinking creating a vaccine for a worldwide pandemic in one year is historic. I hope I live long enough to read about this time in our lives in my great grandkids’ history books.

A Shot in the Dark

As promised in yesterday’s blog, I awoke even before the birds so as to be among the first to make an appointment for the vaccine. The appointment is not for me; Bill meets the age criterium for the second phase, which began yesterday in AZ. I carefully made my way through the dark to find Bill’s wallet in which he carries his insurance card, which I needed to make his reservation. I quietly unplugged my laptop and tiptoed out into the kitchen to begin the process. It was 5:07.

I went on to the Maricopa Health Department’s web site and quickly learned that registration didn’t begin until 6 a.m. I imagined hundreds of senior citizens like myself with their fingers hovering over the key to hit REGISTER at 6 a.m. on the dot. I felt like I was trying to get in the A group on a Southwest Airlines nonstop flight to New York City.

Like hundreds of others, at 6 o’clock, I logged onto the website as instructed. I saw an explanation of who is eligible, but no registration button. I went to get a cup of coffee and say a prayer for the intervention of the patron saint of infectious diseases, namely St. Roch. At least, he is the patron saint of the plague, and I think that’s close enough.

Coffee in hand, I went back to my computer. (By the way, instructions said laptop or desktop computers were mandatory. Also, the registrant’s email should end in .com and not .edu, .net., etc. Done and done.) This time there was a registration button. Boom. I filled out Bill’s information, got to the box where you choose the date, and discovered that all appointments were filled until January 29. Apparently hundreds of old folks have faster fingers than does this blogger. Or perhaps they elected to disregard their morning coffee.

Finally, with the help of Jen, who had barely poured herself a cup of coffee when my vocal rantings convinced her I needed help or my head would explode, we got an appointment at 9:02 (I’m not kidding) on January 29. Except when I hit confirm, it didn’t. And when I retried, the “thinking” loop began turning. And turning. And turning.

Jen, who -works on a computer every day and deals with tech folks more than she would like, gave me the age-old advice: turn off the computer, wait two minutes, and turn it on again. This I did, with much skepticism. Turn off the computer indeed. Hrmpf. But VOILA! Bill is signed up for an appointment on January 27 at 10:42 (I’m not kidding). That’s 49 hours and forty minutes earlier than my first try. Thanks Jen. Thanks St. Roch.

By the way, despite having to get up early and having to endure a bit of chaos on the website, I continue to be enormously grateful to everyone who has worked or is working to research, create, test, supply, distribute, and innoculate, I’m still in awe that we have a vaccine available to us not even a year after COVID reached our shores. Someone way smarter than I created the website on which I scheduled an appointment. Should rollout of the website have gone flawlessly, I would be astounded. I have trouble remembering my password for my email!

Look for Bill and his band-aid on January 27 at 10: 45.