Thursday Thoughts

I Can’t Find It Anywhere
One of the very many things I love about my Apple Watch is the function that allows me to easily find my phone. I seriously bet I use that function three or four times a day. The other day, I hit the button and heard the phone ding not far from where I was standing. I looked around the area for my phone, to no avail. I kept hitting the button and the phone kept binking. I walked from room to room, and I kept hearing the phone make its cheerful sound: Here I am! It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that no matter where I went, the phone always sounded close. Yes, friends, my phone was in my back pocket. I felt like the old people looking for their glasses that were sitting on top of their head.

And I’m Still Hungry
Bill and I recently went to the Original Pancake House for breakfast. We rarely go because it is always really busy, so when we do, Bill often orders his favorite thing: the apple pancake. It’s what he ordered that day…..

Do you think he had enough to eat?

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
Yesterday I went to the Hobby Lobby that’s a few miles south of my house. An old Hobby Lobby had closed down and moved into new gigantic space about a year ago. I had not yet visited that new store. I had a single purchase in mind: a size K crochet hook with a fat wooden handle that is comfortable for use by my fat arthritic fingers. The store was bursting with Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations, which surprised me not in the least. In fact, I purchased a few little items for Christmas presents.

Winter is Coming
And speaking of looking a lot like Christmas, tomorrow we are supposed to get our first snowfall. One never knows exactly what that means: a few flurries or 10 inches.The weather people are saying up to three inches in Denver. Since we are leaving very early Friday morning for Vermont, we decided to spend the night near the airport so that we aren’t dealing with icy and/or snowy roads early on Friday. It will actually be warmer in Vermont on Thursday than here, where the high is supposed to reach only 30 degrees. Brrr.

Ciao.

My Password is XrPP4&uKeb$04

When I was growing up, my parents owned a small business, a bakery in our Nebraska town of then-about-10,000 people. Things were very different in the 1950s and 1960s in small-town Nebraska than they probably are today. People weren’t terribly worried about locking the doors to their houses. And as for cars? I don’t remember ever locking a car door. There was probably some violent crime, but not enough to make our parents worry about us walking around the town after dark.

As I’m writing these words, I’m recalling an exception to this feel-free-to-walk-anywhere-in-the-dark mentality: When I was in high school, I walked over one night to a friend’s house. She lived about four or five blocks from our house. As usual, I took the short-cut, popping through the hedge in her backyard to make a bee-line to her back door. Except this night there was a man lurking in the bushes, startling me. He didn’t say a word, nor did I, and he didn’t do me a bit of harm, but it shook me up plenty.

Anyhoo, there was one bit of crime that I do recall. Every so often, we would get a call at the bakery from a neighboring business, warning us that there was a “quick-change artist” in town. The businesses had developed a way to warn others about these con men and/or women, that is, via a telephone chain. When we got the call, it was our duty to call the next business on the list to warn them of the bad guy in town. Mom would carefully explain to her staff (which included her three daughters) that these con artists were masterful at confusing cashiers and making off with excess change as a result. But you’d have to get up pretty early in the morning to confuse the Gloor’s Bakery crew. I don’t think we ever got slammed.

I was going down this Memory Lane yesterday, because I opened up my email and saw that there were items in my Spam Folder. Fifteen items to be precise. When I opened up to see what was happening, I saw that one of my passwords had been compromised, and all sorts of chaos was ensuing. The good news is that the password that had been compromised was one that I used many years ago, and now did not. But I spent the afternoon yesterday changing the very few websites for which I still used this password, thanking the good Lord that none of those websites were very important. Anyone who wants access to the Magnificat Catholic website can have at it. God forgive them.

Passwords, my friends, are the bane of my existence. If I make them too complicated, I will never remember them. So I keep a record, understanding the inherent risks in that action. If they are too simple, like the password that was compromised, bad guys can get access to my life.

Sigh. It seemed so simple when all you had to do was worry about a quick change artist. Now cashiers don’t even have the slightest idea how to make change at all!

It’s Puzzling

Sometime around the middle of July, I was shopping — at all places — at Ace Hardware. I think that Bill had sent me to the hardware store with specific instructions — maybe even a note — with exactly what he wanted me to buy. At any rate, in the course of looking for whatever it was I was looking for, I realized that ACE HARDWARE SOLD SPRINGBOK PUZZLES.

I dare say that most any puzzler will tell you that Springbok puzzles are the best. (By the way, I have no idea if people who put together puzzles are called  puzzlers, but that’s what I’m calling us because it sounds really cool, sort of like a spy.) They are mostly available at Hallmark stores, their own website, or Amazon. I have never seen them sold at a hardware store. But heck, if True Value Hardware in Estes Park can sell women’s underwear, then Ace Hardware in southeast Denver can sell Springbok puzzles.

I had been thinking that I needed to begin doing things that kept my mind sharp, but instead, found myself binge watching Downton Abbey. But Jen gave me a puzzle that she had worked on with her grands during their recent visit in July, and I had enjoyed putting it together. So, I made the quick decision right there in the Ace Hardware store that putting together puzzles was a brain challenge. The thing is, Bill and I had gone through a period a couple of years ago where we were working on lots of puzzles. But the puzzles went from providing hours of fun to making me want to sweep all of the pieces onto the floor in frustration.

As I pondered the situation (undoubtedly blocking the aisle for people desperately needing the necessary equipment to stop a toilet from overflowing), I realized that the frustration came from the number of pieces in the puzzle. Our earlier puzzles had all been 1,000 pieces — apparently the most popular puzzle size. Quite frankly, 1,000-piece puzzles make me want to kill myself. There is no place to go with the 950 pieces not being worked on at the time. The answer was simple: 500 pieces!

As I perused the 500-piece puzzles, I quickly realized that all of the really cool puzzles were 1,000 pieces. Most of the 500-piece puzzles were of trains. That’s when I realized another thing about myself: I need to have a reasonable connection to the picture in the puzzle in order to enjoy it. Food: yes. Trains: no.

So, I dug around amongst the train puzzles and finally found a puzzle featuring a variety of birds. While not my first choice, I connect with birds in a way that I don’t with trains. They, after all, are pretty and chirp in a most agreeable manner.

Thus, my puzzling summer began.

While I pride myself on not having an addictive personality, I have realized that addictions come in many forms. Here are the puzzles I have purchased since July 19, 2019…..

That, my friends, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 worth of puzzles. Think of the number of bowls of soup for homeless men and women that would finance. By the way, you might notice that the top box is only 300 pieces. It turns out that one of the very few things Kaiya and Mylee inherited from me is a love for puzzles. Mylee in particular has spent a lot of time helping me with my 500-piece puzzles, so I bought her an even simpler one, which she and Kaiya and Bill and I put together in a few hours one Saturday…..

The unfortunate truth is that the best puzzles come with 1,000 pieces. It is more difficult to find interesting 500-piece puzzles, but I’ll keep my eye open until such time as I am without fear and ready to face 1,000 pieces…..

Bill helped me with this one. He spent some time telling me which of the treats he has eaten in the past. Like last week.

My name is Kris, and I’m a puzzle addict.

Life Lessons

Saturday late morning, I got the hankering for a juicy hamburger.  Bad Daddy’s seemed to be calling my name. As you might imagine, it didn’t take a lot of coaxing to get Bill to agree to a burger for lunch. A big, bad Bad Daddy’s burger. As I contemplated my burger, the idea of a few of the grands coming along with us appealed to me. So I texted Jll and asked if anyone in their neck of the woods would like to join Bill and me for lunch.

Well, they are a Bad Daddy’s family, and within a minute, I had a text back telling me that Dagny and Maggie Faith would LOVE to join us. But there was a caveat. Jll said she wanted to teach them a life lesson, so she wanted them to pay for lunch.

Well, if it didn’t take a lot of coaxing to get Bill to join me for lunch, it took even less coaxing to get me to agree to let those two girls handle the finances. I’m all for life lessons! And Dagny had, after all, just recently earned over $400 in honey sales.

A bit later we picked them up and drove to the nearby restaurant. I decided that since they were paying, they could take over all of the restaurant-related duties. So when the hostess asked how many, I looked for the girls to answer.

Four, said 11-year-old Maggie. The hostess asked if a booth would be okay. Yes, said 13-year-old Dagny. We were led to a booth.

We soon learned that while they would be paying for lunch, it wasn’t their own money they had to spend. Their mother just wanted them to learn how to handle all of the duties when it came to paying for food at a restaurant. That made me feel a tad less guilty. Dagny had the money tucked into her phone case, which she had tucked into her back pocket.

After perusing the menu, we all ordered our burgers and sides — homemade tater tots for Dagny, homemade potato chips for me, and French fries for Maggie and her papa. As we awaited the delivery of the food, we talked about all sorts of things, including Maggie’s upcoming trip to visit her Aunt Julie in Montana, school activities, and gossip about their sister Adelaide. This is a reminder to all that when you’re not there to defend yourself, you WILL get talked about by your siblings. It still happens to us, even though we are adults.

At the end of the meal, the server began handing the meal ticket to Bill. Nope, we told her. The girls are paying for the meal today. So if you get stiffed by the tip, don’t blame us, I told our surprised server.

Maggie and Dagny glanced at the check, and began doing the necessary math in their heads for the tip……

Sixty divided by two, move the decimal point, carry the one….

First you have to move the decimal point, Maggie said. (I didn’t necessarily understand the need to move the decimal point to figure the tip, but hey! maybe it’s the new math.) Snippity snap, before we knew it, they had paid the bill and left a generous tip. I tried to explain that you tip based on the kind of service you get, but since it was their mom’s money, she would have gotten 20 percent even if she had dumped the burgers on their heads. Heck! They even rounded up. As it happens, she was a very good server and deserved every penny they gave her.

It was fun being part of the life lesson with two of our favorite life lesson students….

Are you sure you’re figuring it out correctly?

Saturday Smile: Open Your Mouth and Say Ahhh

My sister Jen flew to Phoenix yesterday morning to spend a week with her daughter Maggie and her family. Unexpectedly, there was a nurse as part of the airport welcoming team…..

Flying is tough these days, and you just never know when you will need medical attention upon arrival. Generally, however, they wear shoes, but apparently Nurse Lilly doesn’t feel the need.

Have a great weekend.

 

Friday Book Whimsy: The Secrets We Kept

Between the end of World War II and President Ronald Reagan’s stern warning to the Soviet Union —  Mr. Gorbochev, tear down this wall — was a period of fear of communism and secrets about weapons and rocket ships and likely a lot of misunderstanding, not only by the people in power, but by the common folk like you and me. This frightening environment was no more obvious than in the 1950s, when the so-called Red Scare was at its most pronounced.

The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott, is the story of plain ol’ ordinary women who by both chance and circumstance became spies. Or, if not spies, at least secret-keepers. After all, while the men in power dictated the memos, they were the ones who typed them.

But another thing that transpired in the early 1950s was that a man named Boris Pasternak finished the novel on which he had been working for many years. It was called  Dr. Zhivago. And it was the bane of the Soviet Unions leadership’s existence. They would do almost anything to prevent this so-called subversive propaganda from being released.

It is this scenario which resulted in Irina — a quiet, nondescript woman whose mother came from Russia, and Sally — a beautiful if disarming and strong-willed woman, being pulled from the clerical pool to assist in secretly bringing this novel to the United States to be published.

At the same time, Pasterak’s long-time mistress Olga, the model for Lara in Dr. Zhivago, fights her own battle to help with the cause, including many long years in a Soviet prison.

The Secrets We Kept  is a novel of espionage, but it is also a novel of 1950s sexism, love, friendship, and the power of the written word. Based on a true story, the author’s descriptions of this time in our history, and the role the book played, is powerful. I loved the book.

Here is a link to the book.