Saturday Smile: Tumbling

As the clock tick tocks its way to the day that we leave again for Denver, I’m trying to fit in a lot of things in the next few weeks. Mostly I want to see my great nieces and nephews participating in their sporting events. I have seen Carter and Kenzie playing soccer. I hope to see Austin play baseball. I would love to see Noah and Asher play basketnball and their sister Grace run track.

Yesterday I was able to watch Lilly in her tumbling class. She was really quite remarkable. I’m pretty sure that I have never been as flexible as is she. It is a very small and intimate class, and the teacher is wonderful and very patient.

It remains to be seen if Lilly is in the 2028 Olympics, but it made me smile…..

Lilly is closest to the camera, and, of course, the very best,

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Wife Upstairs

I first read Jane Eyre, By Charlotte Bronte, sometime in high school, and it has remained one of my favorite novels. It has everything a reader needs in a gothic thriller. There is a plain orphan who grows up and is hired by a handsome widower who lives in a mansion in the English countryside. You root for Jane — who runs into obstacles again and again — throughout the book. It has a happy, yet unexpected, ending.

Rachel Hawkins, author of The Wife Upstairs, gives away any surprises simply by comparing her novel to Jane Eyre, something she does in her foreward. She loved Jane Eyre just as I did. Hawkins took on the difficult task of writing a novel with a comparable storyline.

Hawkins’ Jane escapes her past by running away to Birmingham, Alabama. She barely makes a living by walking dogs in a neighborhood of made up of newly-rich 30-somethings. She subsidizes her salary by stealing their jewelry that she knows the bored housewives won’t ever miss. Jane looks at her employers with a mixture of loathing and envy.

That changes when she meets Eddie Rochester, a handsome widower whose wife died in a boating accident. The two of them hit it off, and before she can say McMansion, he has asked her to move in with him and make the house her home. But it’s hard to get past Eddie’s wife’s legacy. Bea was brilliant and beautiful and the owner and CEO of a popular line of home goods and jewelry. Still, his interest in her seems real, and, after all, he gave her free reign to use his credit card. And he has even proposed to her. She begins planning their wedding, when she discovers a big surprise.

Jane Eyre and The Wife Upstairs have similar stories. The difference, however, is that Charlotte Bronte’s Jane was a sympathetic — even loveable — character. The fiery Mr. Rochester was heartbreakingly sad and sexy. The best friends — Helen, in particular — were good women who endured tough lives.

On the other hand, Hawkins’ Jane is inherently unlikeable. Her so-called friends are shallow and back-stabbing. Even Hawkins’ Mr. Rochester is dull and uninteresting. Nevertheless, the author’s writing is very good, and the story — while predictable — still kept me interested.

I can’t enthusiastically proclaim it to be the best thriller I’ve read this year, but I would recommend it to those who like thrillers, even if it’s just to see how the Other Half lives.

Thursday Thoughts

Rust Valley
One time I wrote a blog about something I didn’t think anyone would guess about me. What was it? I liked NASCAR. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not glued to my television on Sundays watching cars making left hand turns over and over again. But I grew up watching stock car races in my hometown, and to this day I like the roar of engines racing one another on a dirt track. Or maybe an asphalt track. Having heard that (or more appropriately, read that), it may not surprise you that one of my favorite shows on Netflix is a program called Rust Valley Restorers. Rust Valley, I have learned, is an area in British Columbia where there is a preponderance of old car collectors. The reality show focuses on an car collector named Mark Hall, his BFF, and his son. I am completely hooked on Mark Hall, both from his Canadian accent, his love for his cars, and his matted dreadlocks. I can’t stop looking at them and imagining how filthy his hair must be to maintain those dreads. There are three seasons, and Bill and I have just finished Season One…..

By the way, I also enjoy coloring vehicles on my coloring app. Go figure.

Easter Bunny
Bill and I hosted the Erik, Josey, Kenzie, and Carter, my sister Bec, and my niece Brooke and her fiance Alexander for Easter dinner. I made a ham and three — count ’em — three racks of lamb. We had fun, despite the fact that we had to all squeeze into our two little tables to enjoy our feast. Luckily, we all get along. At one point, as I was grilling the lamb, Erik came into the house from the garage and said, “Aunt Kris, is it okay that the grill is really smoking right now?” It really wasn’t okay. I ran outside and opened the grill only to find flames that could have potentially brought the fire department. Luckily, the fridge with the cans of beer are right by the grill. I grabbed a can and doused the flames. The lamb was grilled perfectly, with the outside nice and brown and the inside pink. God helps those who need it! We had carrot cake and brownies and lemon cheesecake for dessert. The Lord is risen.

Fire Up the Grill
Bill and I went to Bec’s last night for dinner. She grilled burgers. Why is it that someone else’s food tastes so much better than the food you cook yourself? We talked about travels from the past and wondered if/when we would be traveling again. It’s always nice to not have to cook, and we love spending time with my sister.

Moving Along
The other day, Bill and I went to an restaurant for dinner. It was with great surprise that we saw that the condiments were actually on the table…..

This is something we haven’t seen in a long time. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, but it signaled to me the possibility that we might — SOMEDAY — be back to normal. Viva la normal!

Good News

When I was in Journalism School at CU-Boulder, there was a continuing motto that our professors taught us: Dog bites man is not news; Man bites dog is news. That slogan was my mantra during the few years that I actually worked for a newspaper. Write what the people want to read; write the stuff that is interesting and worthy of going to the page 12 jump in the newspaper.

(If a teenager has accidentally stumbled on to a blog named Nanas Whimsies, they are now wondering two things: a) Why does and old person think their lives and thoughts are interesting enough to warrant a daily blog; and b) what in the hell is a newspaper.)

I miss newspapers. I loved getting to work in the morning, pouring myself a cup of fresh coffee (and it was fresh because I was always the first one at the office and I made it myself), and reading the Rocky Mountain News. The Rocky was a tabloid-styled newspaper. For a long time, Denver had a morning newspaper (the Rocky) and an evening newspaper (the Denver Post). I was sad when the Rocky folded, because I was fond of many of their reporters and I loved the tabloid style of the paper. I clipped many recipes from newspapers and followed many columnists who inspired me to write a blog (though they didn’t know about blogs in the days of newsprint). The Denver Post still exists, though they struggle in finding their place in this world of instant news.

Anyhoo, back to the fact that bad news sells newspapers. My sister Bec recently sent me an article she found in The New York Times — a newspaper that continues to do quite well despite our 24-hour news cycle. It was written by a columnist named David Leonhardt, and was titled Is Bad News the Only Kind?

The columnist cited Bruce Sacerdote, an economics professor from Dartmouth College, who noticed last year that the news that he followed on television was different from what he read in professional journals. The news was always negative, while the scientists were reporting positive data about COVID. When COVID cases were rising, the media seemed twitterpated to report the increase. (By the way, the Dartmouth professor didn’t use the word twitterpated. That would be Bambi’s description.) When the numbers began dropping, the news media pointed to the places in which numbers were still rising. When it began looking like a vaccine was going to be available in the near future, the media talked about all of the possible negative side effects.

Sacerdote didn’t just present his thoughts as facts; he actually researched his hunch. He used some sort of fancy-dancy social science technique that classifies language as positive, negative, or neutral. Lo, and behold, he found out that his hunch was, indeed, correct.

I am not a brilliant social scientist, but I too noticed this negative bias when it came to reporting about COVID. I’m not suggesting that all of the stories should have been positive. It was a terrible time in our lives, and certainly while in the throes of our quarantine months, there wasn’t a lot of good things to say. We were all terrified, and would have distrusted any news that downplayed what was happening. Still, even then, they could have thrown us a bone now and again. Even a story about a dog biting a man would have been better than the constant flow of sadness.

While things are better today, I still notice that there is a lot of emphasis on the difficulties of getting the vaccine, side effects of the vaccines, or stories about people who don’t want to get the vaccine. While most people are still wearing masks despite the governor’s lifting of the mandate, we hear about the ones who aren’t. Yesterday’s headline was that it appears that COVID case numbers might be rising, but no context — are the people still as sick or are the symptoms mostly like those of the flu. I don’t know the answer to that.

I will continue to do what I have done for the past year or so — feed myself news very carefully.

I See You

Bill dutifully — nay, eagerly — goes to his boxing class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I usually go along, but have little- to-no interest in staying for the whole class, especially since he likes to go 45 minutes early to do some basketball exercises with the others in the class. I generally drop him off and do something else.

I have taken to going to a nearby coffee shop that was recommended to me by my niece Josey. She and my sister Bec discovered it recently when Josey’s son Carter was playing soccer very close by. There is a section of central Mesa that is in the midst of being rejuvenated, and the coffee shop is in that area. It’s one of those areas that will soon be offering $25 hamburgers, but right now it requires one to look around carefully before walking from the car to the shop.

Thus far I have visited the coffee shop three times. Two out of the three times, a young woman — maybe early- to mid-20s — has been the barista. I’m an easy customer for any barista, as I want a simple cup of coffee, sometimes iced, sometimes hot. No half-cafs or double squirts or skinny anything. Just a cuppa Joe.

People my age are used to slowly becoming invisible as they age. I live with being nearly invisible. The more people are looking at their phones, the less likely it is that they will notice anyone, much less a nondescript 67-year-old woman who orders a simple cup of coffee.

The barista is an exception to the rule, however. The first day I walked in to the empty shop, she quickly put on her mask when she saw that I was wearing a mask. I ordered my coffee, and she prepared the delicious brew over ice. By that time, I was seated at a table with my iPad set up before me. I told her thank you, and she walked to the end of the bar where she worked on what I’m thinking was her college homework. Who knows? I invent stories about people.

When I was getting ready to leave, she asked me, “Are you reading from your iPad, or just looking at social media?” I told her I was reading. She asked me what book I was reading, and for a bit of time, she and I discussed books. It was such a pleasant feeling to be noticed by a 20-something woman.

Yesterday, she was once again working. I ordered my coffee, this time hot. She made it, brought it to me, and took her place once again at the end of the bar. She and I were both quiet for a while. We were the only two in the place. Finally, she said to me, “I did the stupidest thing yesterday. I was curling my hair with a curling iron, and I set it down right on my leg. It really hurts.”

I have no room for second-guessing how she could have done such a thing, because I do silly things several times a day. I nodded in sympathy.

“What do you think I should do?” she said. “My mom’s a nurse, and I have been trying to reach her, but she’s not answering her telephone.”

I looked around, hoping she was asking someone else because I really suck at anything related to ouchies. Alas, I was still the only one in the room.

“Well,” I said, “I would just clean it really well and bandage it.” (Hell, that sounded reasonable.)

She told me she is from west Texas, and came out here by herself. “I’m doing pretty well,” she said. “But at times like this, I really want my mom.”

I told her that my son had called me during his first semester of college, a few weeks after school had started. He had the stomach flu, and asked me what he should do. Mostly, he admitted, he just wanted to talk to me. Everyone wants their mommy when they don’t feel good.

Her phone rang just then, and she looked at me with a smile. “It’s my mom!”

A few minutes later, she sat down at the end of the bar again. I asked her what her mom had suggested she do about her burn.

“She said to clean it really well, put Neosporin on it, and cover it with a bandage,” the young woman said with a smile. Damn. I forgot the Neosporin.

As I got up to leave, she gave me a cheerful goodbye. “See you in a couple of days,” she said.

I left with a smile as well.

Easter Greetings

We celebrated the Risen Lord with great joy yesterday. The Bormans joined Bill and me, as well as my niece Brooke and her fiance Alex. I prepared a ham, and three legs of lamb. The table was crowded but full of food and love.

I hope you all had as good an Easter as did I. I will resume my blog tomorrow.

Saturday Smile: No Cares

This week, Bill and I had the opportunity to see a part of the Phoenix metro area that we hadn’t seen before. Carefree, AZ, is north of Mesa. Way, way north. It was an hour’s drive from our house to Carefree, a mostly pretty desert drive. Pretty at least when you got off the Loop 101. Our reason for visiting was to have dinner with Jll, Adelaide, and Jll’s sister Julie, who were spending the week at a spa and resort…..

Carefree is a total Western town experience, as long as you can overlook the mansions that perch on the hills above the town. Tombstone for the upper crust.

It was fun to see the three women and enjoy a delicious Italian feast. Bill and I plan to return to Carefree soon when we can take a little more time.

Have a great weekend and a happy and blessed Easter.

Friday Book Whimsy: Better Luck Next Time

Julia Claiborne Johnson wrote one of my favorite books of all time: Be Frank With Me. My fondness for that book made it an easy decision to read Better Luck Next Time, the author’s latest novel.

It’s 1938, and it’s not as easy to get a divorce as it is nowadays. So rich women with cheating or abusive husbands came to a dude ranch in Reno, Nevada, where they spend the necessary six weeks to become a Nevada resident at which time they can easily divorce their husbands. The dude ranch — the Flying Leap — provideed women with a pleasurable experience while they waited out the six weeks. The ranch catered exclusively to these women.

Ward came to work at the ranch after his family lost all of their money in the stock market crash. He is handsome, fun, and knows how to keep a secret. And these women have lots of secrets to keep. He became particularly close to Nina — whose time at the dude ranch wasn’t her first. Nina not only befriends Ward, but also young Emily, who has left her abusive husband in San Francisco, and a teenage daughter who is taking her father’s side.

Nina teaches Emily about life, fun, and friendship. With Ward’s help, Emily experiences life in a way she never thought possible.

The author develops likeable characters with interesting lives. I was rooting for the band of women who are leaving their comfortable lives with their wealthy families and learning how to live on their own.

I enjoyed the novel very much.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

In My Easter Bonnet
Sunday is, of course, Easter. I’m not sure why, but it really snuck up on me this time. It would seem like last year would have been the year that I forget the Easter bunny is planning his route right now. After all, last year every day seemed like the last. It’s fairly worrisome that I have forgotten it because I’m hosting Bec and her family. Let’s hope they don’t show up at my doorstep, and I have forgotten they were coming. Pizza for Easter dinner!

Trotting the Globe
Bill likes to go to his boxing class early. Before the class begins, the early-comers toss a basketball around. For reasons about which I’m not entirely clear, Bill absolutely LOVES this time. He’s become quite proficient at ball handling. In fact, he purchased a basketball that he keeps at home. His goal is to be able to spin the basketball on one finger. He googled the Harlem Globetrotters to see how they do it. You think I’m kidding. He can already dribble the ball about two inches from the ground. “I’m the only one in the class that can do it,” he brags.

Cuppa Joe
Since he likes to go early to boxing, I have taken to dropping him off and going to a nearby coffee shop that my sister Bec and her daughter-in-law Josey discovered one day while waiting for a soccer game to start at a nearby field. The city of Mesa is doing a lot to upgrade and popularize their Old Town. That’s where Buddah Coffee is located. The coffee is delicious, and the owners are so very nice. I buy my iced coffee and read for an hour. That way I can still get to see a bit of boxing. The coffee shop shares space with a tattoo shop, so if I am ever so inclined….

Work Those Glutes
Addie, her mom and her aunt are in the Phoenix metro area this week, which is Spring Break for the Denver Public Schools. They are way up north in Carefree at a spa and resort. Jll, Adelaide, and Jll’s sister Julie get up every morning and do pilates and/or yoga. They spend the rest of the day doing spa-type activities. Sounds heavenly, except for the yoga and pilates. Bill and I joined them last night for dinner and a tour of the spa.


Generation What?

I recently read something that challenged me to think about what generation I would like to come from if I could pick a generation. I began thinking about the question.

I have no interest in the 19th Century. The Roaring Twenties look like fun, but I prefer my gin comes from a green bottle instead of a bathtub. And there is that really bad day in 1929 that I would choose not to experience. Watching people jumping out of windows as they learned that their fortunes were long gone would not appeal to me.

The thirties and forties are also a no-go because of the war and all. Admittedly, I love a lot of the movies that were made in the mid- to-late 1940s, and the cars were pretty cool…..

The fifties are interesting, and not just because that is, in fact, the generation from which I come. Go Baby Boomers! The joy of the World Wars being behind us was offset by the new war: the Cold War. Still, President Eisenhower was pretty non-controversial. Perfect 1950s — faded into the background, in fact. He was a great general and a great golfer, and a decent president. And his wife Mamie was the hair bangs model for women and little girls all around the country. The clothes in the 1950s were awesome. If you don’t believe me, watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I would kill for one of her coats and its matching hat. And her pageboy hairstyle…..

The sixties and seventies were a lot of fun, and a lot of stuff happened. Civil rights, women’s rights, Indians’ rights. Wait, aren’t we still working on all of those?

Frankly, the years between the 80s and 2008 are a bit of a blur. I got married. I graduated from college. I had a child. I got divorced. I got a new job. I got married. I graduated from college. I retired. It all sort of runs together. Especially since I can’t remember things as well as I used to. See yesterday’s blog post.

I’m perfectly happy being from the Baby Boomer generation. After all, as Saturday Night Live pointed out last weekend, Boomers got the vax! But if there is any period of my adult life that I would choose to relive, it would be my forties. I was a pretty hot mess in my twenties and thirties. But my forties rocked. I was happily married. My son was in junior high and high school, and I was blissfully unaware of how naughty he was actually being. (And Son, I still don’t want to know.) I had a brand new (well, new to me) house that I loved. We were both healthy. Neither Parkinson’s or bowel issues had yet reared their ugly heads. I liked my job and Bill liked his.

The truth is, however, that I am perfectly content at my current point in life. I love having grandkids. Our kids are awesome — successful, good people, good parents, and they all honor their mother and their father.

I wouldn’t go back in time or change anything. Well, I might not have chased Jen with the butcher knives when I was 10 and she was 6.