Never Forget

Unless you are living deep in the woods without a television or a calendar, living off of wild mushrooms and greens for which you forage yourself, you know that Saturday was the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Around the world, we all remembered that sad, sad day 20 years ago. We know where we were when we first heard the news that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. We recall the fear deep within our guts that we felt when we heard that the second plane flew into the other tower. The United States was under attack.

Bill’s daughter Heather lived in New York City at that time. She didn’t work in the financial district, but she did work in lower downtown Manhattan. Thankfully, she let us know as soon as she could that she was safe. The world around her was crazy, but thank the good Lord, the worst thing that happened to her was that she had to walk home all the way from lower Manhattan to her apartment located about as far north as you could go and still be in Manhattan. Smoke and ash filled the city. So did fear and broken hearts.

We will always remember. Never forget. Words like that were bandied around aplenty on Saturday. And, God willing, we will never forget. Except for those below the age of 18 who were just coming into the world. The day our oldest grandchild was born, those of us who had been in the waiting room at the hospital (first grandchild; what can I say?) who finally were told the baby had come and we were invited in to see her began running towards the delivery room. As we ran past the television, the United States had just dropped its first bombs on Iraq, in retaliation for 9/11. While Addie might have cried that day, it wasn’t for the war in Iraq.

To those of us who remember that day as if it was yesterday, it’s hard to imagine that our kids and grandkids only know about it as an historical event about which they learn in their American History class. While they recognize that it was an awful day in our history, they look at it the same way I look at D-Day or Pearl Harbor, two other awful days in our history. They were both significant, but that’s all they are to me: an historical event.

Our grandkids are mostly unaware of many of the things that were lost that day. They are well aware of the loss of human life. They know that 9/11 led to two wars in which many people have died or been seriously — even permanently — injured. But do they know that there was a time when we could walk our loved ones all the way to the gates at the airport to say goodbye? Can they imagine that we got on an airplane without going through a thorough security check, often including patdowns? Sporting events and concerts and amusement parks were all accessible without someone going through your picnic basket to look for bombs. Can they even imagine a time when you wouldn’t give a second thought to a backpack sitting alone.

We lost a lot on 9/11, and we rightly continue to honor those who never got a chance to say goodbye to friends or family that day. We still pray for the living who were impacted by the terrorists. We really must never forget the terrorists attacks, but even more important, we must remember how we came together to honor many and fight our fears. And we need to try to teach our children what that day — and the ensuing days — were really like.

Saturday Smile: Bitchin’

I was over saying goodbye to Adelaide last week as she prepared to go back to Fort Collins where she is attending college. She and her mother Jll and I were chatting when Jll’s phone dinged, indicating a text message. It was from Addie’s sister Dagny, who was with friends. Here is how the message thread went:

Dagny: Hey mom if I find a homecoming dress today will you pay me back

Jll: Yes. Within reason. What is the price range?

Dagny: I don’t know yet.

(A bit of silence.)

Then, another ding. Jll’s eyes got big and she looked at Addie for assistance. Here’s why…..

Dagny: Can I get a bitch dress too

Addie and I spent the next few moments trying to think why our sweet little Dee would want a bitch dress (whatever that was).


Jll: Pardon?

Dagny: OMG. I meant church dress.

There was a great deal of relief in that room, let me tell you. And a great deal of laughter. Ya gotta love autocorrect.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Our Woman in Moscow

Remember the good ol’ days (at least the good ol’ literary and film days) when the Soviet Union and the Communists therein were our archenemies? We’ve tried to make the radical Muslims and the Chinese Communists our enemies in books and films, but it’s never been quite the same. Cold War spies on both sides of the Iron Curtain just make dandy enemies. And great stories.

Author Beatriz Williams offers readers a dandy look at the United States, Europe and the Soviet Union in the days following the end of WWII. The communist party has taken over the Soviet Union, and no one was to be trusted. They could be agents. They could be double agents. Secrets abounded.

Iris and her sister Ruth are living in Italy during the last days of the war. Iris meets and falls in love with Sasha Digby, a U.S. Embassy official with communist sympathies. Ruth and Iris have a falling out. Ruth returns to the U.S. Iris marries Sasha, and the two continue to live in Italy until they vanish.

Some time later, Ruth receives a cryptic message from Iris, indicating that she and Sasha are in Moscow, she is about to deliver a baby, and she wants out of the Soviet Union. Despite her feelings about Iris and Sasha, Ruth agrees to go undercover with an American counterintelligence agent posing as her husband in an effort to return Iris to safety. But there is a spy in their mix, and no one is sure who it is and what side the spy is on.

Our Woman in Moscow is a terrific spy thriller with a unexpected ending.

I like all of Beatriz Williams’ books, and particularly like that she ties characters and storylines together. Even in this novel, Aunt Violet makes an appearance.

I highly recommend this book.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Talking in Code
This past Monday, our niece Jessie and her boyfriend Rob joined Bill and Jen and I at my house for a Labor Day barbecue. At some point in the afternoon, Jessie and Jen began talking in what appeared to be some sort of code. I kept hearing the letters PSL with lots of smiles. I finally admitted my ignorance, and they explained that the letters stood for pumpkin spice latte. As you probably know, Starbucks has begun offering the beverage, to most everyone’s delight. I haven’t yet done my annual pumpkin spice rant, and probably won’t do so this year. As I have explained, I’m not particularly anti-pumpkin; I simply don’t know why we can’t get just as excited about apples this time of year. I will tell you that they all seemed to enjoy my apple cake, and there wasn’t a single complaint about the lack of pumpkin pie.

Traitor to the Cause
I have to admit something at this point. The other day, while I was waiting for Bill to finish his boxing class, I wandered over to the grocery store and noticed the ubiquitous Starbucks. They were advertising something called a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew. It looked very good. I was hot, and had only had a single cup of coffee that morning at breakfast. Friends, I succumbed to the temptation, and ordered a pumpkin cream cold brew, one pump of pumpkin flavor only. I must reluctantly admit that it was delicious. So good, in fact, that I believe I will order another today, only this time a size up….

But They Go Too Far
Despite my apparent tolerance for All Things Pumpkin Spice, I must admit that the pumpkin spice lobby doesn’t fail to always go one step too far. As an example…..

Among the British mysteries that I watch, my favorites almost always take place in the 20s and 30s. I love to see the elegant women in their glittery gowns with their long gloves pulled up over their elbows and their cigarettes dangling in the long holder. Martinis are always their adult beverage of choice, and I particularly like when they serve them in coupe glasses, which seem more realistic for the times. So I was delighted when I spotted these coupe martini glasses recently, and for only $3.20 a stem. A smoking bargain. I’m pretty sure I look like Zelda Fitzgerald when I am drinking my martini out of this glass. Minus the cigarette, of course…..

The Truth Hurts
The other day, I was following a trailer, and noticed the sign on the back of the vehicle. The message might be a little strong, but only a little. The truth hurts…..


Something in the Air

Last night we were watching the news, and a story came on that caught my attention. There was an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City on which there was a passenger who went nuts. Seriously. As passengers were asked to make sure their seatbelts were fastened and their tray tables were up, the Nut stood up and began shouting , “You can’t hold us.” He refused to sit down.

The fact of the matter is that they could, indeed, hold him because they were some-20,000 feet in the air. Unless he wanted to jump out of the plane ala Harrison Ford in Air Force One (a movie Bill and I recently watched, vowing never to fly again), he was stuck on the plane until it landed. Unfortunately, the other hundred-some people on the plane were stuck listening to the man go insane. He apparently sat down and began moving his mask up and down, up and down, up and down his face, while growling wildly.

They decided the man was intoxicated. I’m guessing his problem was more than three or four Jack and Cokes. But what do I know?

Poor flight attendants. The things they clearly have to deal with on a daily basis. The person delivering the news of this crazy man went on to say that situations such as this are frighteningly common these days, and more often than not, they start with someone not wanting to wear a mask.

As for me, I would happily wear a mask (and do) if I could only have a bit of breathing room between rows and seats. I don’t think I will ever go so far as to stand up and yell, “You can’t hold us,” but I will admit to being quite crabby on flights longer than an hour-and-a-half.

This story caught my attention, because on Monday, Bill’s daughter Heather and our 12-year-old grandson Joseph flew home from Denver to their home in Vermont. That evening, I sent Heather a text asking how their flight went. It was a polite question, and I expected a simple It was a good flight response. Instead, she immediately texted back this information:

The flight was really crazy. The guy in the seat across the aisle from Joseph seemed to overdose and stopped breathing. They had to get on the PA to ask if there was a doctor on board. There were a few people who helped and they revived him. It was very scary and stressful…..One of the medical people switched seats so she could sit next to him and keep an eye on him. Anyway, Joseph was really freaked out we were glad to get off the plane.

The flight was four hours long, and they still had another hour-and-a-half to go. I spoke to Heather and Joseph yesterday, and Joseph had settled down. “I was really scared, Nana,” he told me. He showed me how he huddled into his mom for the rest of the flight. The man had fallen into the aisle right next to the poor kid.

Joseph told me he saw the man go into the bathroom shortly before all of the drama began. The man apparently took (or shot) something, ODing shortly after.

I will stick with my Bloody Mary before flights, and promise to stay in my seat for the entire flight.

Here’s Your Change

I was reading something somewhere for some reason that posed this question: What did you learn from your very first job?

My first job, of course, was for my father at Gloor’s Bakery in Columbus, Nebraska. My father was the owner and proprietor. Every one of his kids would answer the same way. Our first jobs were all working at the bakery.

I think I was about 14 years old when I began getting paid for working at the bakery. All of us worked for Dad in some respect from the time we could walk. But at age 14, I began having set hours, set job tasks, and received a paycheck. I can’t remember what I was paid, but I’m guessing it was probably minimum wage. Minimum wage in 1967 — the year I turned 14 — was $1.40. I checked. I also checked to see what that buck forty would mean in 2021 dollars. The answer is $11.08. I didn’t complain about my pay because, well, he was my dad. More important, I had virtually no expenses except for the occasional album or 45 record.

One of the first things I did when I became a working stiff was to walk down to First National Bank of Columbus and open a savings account. As I recall, we got paid once a week, on Saturday. The following Monday, I would walk downtown after school and deposit my check in my savings account. So then, in answer to that initial question about what I learned from my first job, one of the things I learned is my need to have money in savings. Money put away — even if it’s not a lot — is important to me to this day.

Another practical thing I learned as Mom trained me to accept money-for-donuts-and-bread was that bills ALWAYS FACE THE SAME DIRECTION. She was a stickler about that. Again, to this day, the bills in my billfold all face the same direction. They are, however, rarely handed to me in the same direction, even by bank tellers. It takes a bit of time and work to get the bills ready to tuck into my billfold slot.

Unlike today, people actually paid in cash nearly all the time. Oh, a large purchase such as a birthday cake might involve a check, but cash was king in those days. As a cashier, I learned how to make change. Yes kids. There was a time when your cash register didn’t tell you how much change the customer receives. If a purchase was $6.17 and the customer gave you a ten dollar bill, you quickly slid out three pennies, a nickel, three quarters and three dollars from the cash drawer. You then counted the money out into the customer’s hand. I never made a mistake. I still wouldn’t.

I learned how to safely handle dangerous equipment like the bread slicer. Not a single injury. I filled bismarcks the correct way: slowly pulling back on the donut as you fill it so that not all of the filling is at the end of the bismarck. Because, of course, I also learned that you take the first bite of the bismarck at the spot of the hole.

Don’t get me wrong. I also learned a lot of things like responsibility and hard work. My years working for my parents helped me be a better worker throughout my life.

Friday Book Whimsy: Malibu Rising

From its title, Malibu Rising sounds a bit like a beach read. I have nothing against beach reads, but I haven’t even been in the vicinity of a beach this summer. In fact, aside from a trip to Vermont, I mostly haven’t been outside of my back yard. Still, author Taylor Jenkins Reid wrote two of my favorite books of all time: Daisy Jones & the Six, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I was ready to give this book a try.

What I like best about this author is that she doesn’t tackle books in a traditional way. Daisy Jones & the Six is presented as an oral history, making it unique and extremely readable. I hoped for the best from Malibu Rising, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Every year, Nina and her siblings (Jay, Hud, and Kit) hold a summer-ending party. Nineteen eighty-three was no exception. Except this party changed many lives completely.

These four are the children of a famous singer who knows how to entertain but doesn’t know how to be a faithful husband or a good father. He leaves his family when the children are young. His wife tries her best, but sadness and the stress of raising four kids alone drives her to drink herself to death when Nina — the eldest — is only 16 years old. She reaches out to her father, but doesn’t hear back from him. She quits high school to take care of her siblings the best that she can.

While the bulk of the story takes place in a single day, flashbacks tell the story of how the four cope with their unusual family situation. Once she turns 18, Nina takes over the restaurant that her mother’s family always ran. Jay becomes a professional surfer, while the youngest — Kit — tries to figure out where she fits into the family.

They author’s description of the party are vivid and crazy. There are no invitations, if you hear about the party, you can come. Alcohol and drugs are plentiful. Famous people mix with blue-collar workers. Nina’s siblings look forward to the party every year. This year, Nina — in the midst of getting a divorce from her famous husband — is not as enthusiastic.

Normally back-and-forth stories are troublesome to me. I sometimes find them confusing. The author’s telling of this story is, however, seamless. The characters are interesting and realistic. Most important, though they could be obnoxious, they are likable. Well, at least the main characters are likable.

Malibu Rising is a story of survival and figuring out who you are amidst chaos and confusion. The ending was satisfying, except for the fact that I wasn’t ready to be done reading. Yes, it was that good.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

No Laughs
For some inexplicable reason (well, it’s probably explicable to him), Bill has been jonesing to see the movie Stillwater, starring Matt Damon, ever since he first heard about it. The movie is about a man from Oklahoma (Damon) whose daughter has been arrested for murder in Marseille, France. She says she is innocent, so he goes to France to see her and try and get the courts to reconsider her sentence. Matt Damon does an amazing acting job portraying the father who did nothing but break promises to his daughter as she was growing up who now wants to make up for his mistakes. The movie is good, EVER SO SAD. So sad, in fact, that I would think twice about recommending it to someone unless they were pure movie buffs who watch movies for the acting only. I don’t know why Hollywood filmmakers and actors insist on movies being “realistic” and depressing. Throw us a bone, won’t you? Can’t you just give us a couple of well-acted movies with a happy ending? Has anyone else seen it? What did you think?

She May Not Look Tough
I talk about my niece Jessie a lot, mostly because she is funny and reminds me so much of my mother. She is under five feet tall and probably doesn’t hit 100 pounds. But she is tough as nails. She is an civil engineer, and leads a team of mostly men. By now, they must know that they can’t win a fight with her, and they’d BETTER NOT take her for granted. My brother sent me this photo of Jessie running a meeting of her staff, and it made me laugh. Jessie’s the one with the computer. I bet she’s sitting on a phone book…..

What’s the Buzz?
A follow-up to my story about the bee stinging situation. I called a bee removal company (and when I say company, I mean one man named Gregg whose mission is to save the bees when he can). He came the next day, and his price was very reasonable. I watched him walk to the back where the two guys were attacked. He looked for about 30 seconds and headed back to the door. “Not bees,” he said. “They are Western Yellow Jackets.” HA! I’m not one to say I told you so, but didn’t I tell both fellas that they weren’t attacked by bees? Gregg used carbon dioxide to kill the yellow jackets, and gave me a guarantee. He even left me with a jar of honey. I was happy about that, because it doesn’t look like Dagny’s bees gave her any honey this year.

Hot Diggity
I accomplished another first this past week. You might recall that I recently met the challenge of successfully making hamburger buns from scratch. This last week, I got hungry once again for brats, but I didn’t have any buns. So I looked up a recipe and realized I had all of the ingredients and all of the time to make hot dog buns from scratch. They turned out perfectly, and they were delicious…..