Groceries at Sea

I am not an economist. I don’t even keep a checkbook register any longer since I write about one check a year. Of course, there is money coming out of my checking account all the time since I autopay almost all of my bills. I’ve had a bank account of some sort since I was 14 years old. After 50-some years, I have decided to trust my bank that they are keeping accurate track of my millions. Well, hundreds. Well, the few linty pennies I find at the bottom of my purse.

Perhaps it’s because I’m not an economist that this whole dearth of goods is flummoxing me. Every night when I turn on the news, I hear that the fact that no one wants a job any more is the cause of random blank spaces on grocery shelves. Dems blame it on COVID, Republicans blame it on Dems. I don’t know who to blame, but I sure would like to buy cotton balls when I need cotton balls.

Cotton balls. That was the item a few weeks ago that I couldn’t find anywhere. It wasn’t from a lack of trying, I assure you. I tried King Soopers; I tried Walmart; I tried Target. The cotton balls had apparently gotten rotten and so they couldn’t pick a-very much cotton.

I use one cotton ball a day, so it’s not like I have the need for a plethora of cotton balls. A bag of 300 cotton balls lasts me almost a year. Well, 65 days short of a year except on a Leap Year in which I need one more cotton ball. I use a cotton ball to clean my face. When I get down to about 25 cotton balls remaining, I go to the grocery store and buy a 300-count bag of cotton balls. Except there were no cotton balls.

So I did what anyone with a brain and a smart phone would do: I went on Amazon. A bag of 300 cotton balls was $12. I wasn’t about to pay twelve bucks for cotton balls, so I decided I could use tissues until the cotton ball ship came in. And then I thought about Walmart online.

Eurika. They had cotton balls available online for $1.88 for a 300-count bag. They would ship to the store, so no cost of shipping. I put a bag of cotton balls in my shopping cart and got ready to click the order button. And then I decided I was too embarrassed to go to a Walmart store, give them my name, and have the clerk walk all the way to the back of the store, dig through the orders, and find that the nutcase up front ordered one bag of cotton balls. They might be so frustrated that they will quit their job and we will be one clerk shorter on the work front.

I ordered three.

Any given day, I am unprepared for what I can’t find. The other day I went to Trader Joe’s to buy cool Trader Joe’s stuff, most of which is frozen. Bill was at boxing, but it was not a big problem that I was buying frozen food because I would also buy one of their cool insulated bags to keep the food cold until we got home. Except when I got to the cashier and asked for one of their cool insulated bags, the woman sighed, looked forlornly at the spot where insulated bags would normally be kept, and told me dolefully that she had ordered insulated bags, but they were floating on a ship somewhere in the Pacific Ocean because there were no dockworkers to unload the Trader Joe’s bags (and likely other things).

Yesterday, I was at the grocery store, and the missing food item was chicken thighs. There were chicken breasts galore. There were drumsticks and wings. Alas, there wasn’t a thigh to be had. There was a gap where there should have been thighs. I don’t quite understand this phenomenon. Are there chickens who have drumsticks going directly to their breasts? Why are there breasts and legs, but no thighs?

I know that this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, I am going hoard cotton balls like they are toilet paper!

Tweeting, Circa 1955

Our Denver neighbors have lived in the same house since it was built in 1972. They may or may not have been newlyweds when they moved. I’ve never asked. They are roughly our age, give or take a few years. They have no children. What they do have, however, is birds.

Big birds. Parrots and Cockatiels and such. (Don’t worry; their big birds aren’t yellow and very tall and talk in a child’s voice.)Two or three big birds. They walk around the house with one of the birds on his or her shoulder and talk to it like a child. I don’t know if they would prefer a dog or cat but one or both are allergic? What I do know is that they treat their birds much like dog owners treat their dogs. I don’t question or begrudge their love for these birds. I just don’t share their emotion.

When I was in my formative years, we had birds. We had two parakeets — a blue one and a green one. Their names were Dobie and Zelda. If you — like me — were alive when the dinosaurs walked the earth, you might recognize that these two birds were named after lead characters in the 1950s comedy The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Dobie was a typical teenaged boy trying to find a girlfriend and Zelda was the unattractive Girl Next Door who wanted him to choose her.

Tiny Tears

One day Jen sent me a text message in which she asked Do you remember our two parakeets Dobie and Thelma? I texted her right back that I certainly remembered them, but that the female was not Thelma, but Zelda. Wow, she responded. I always thought her name was Thelma. I am certain Zelda didn’t mind being mislabeled because 1) We actually had no idea if Zelda was male or female; s/he might have been more confused than angry; and 2) Birds have very small brains and the likelihood of hurt feelings is negligible. As for Jen, she was only 6 years old when the Dobie Gillis television show went off the air, so she was probably more concerned about why her Tiny Tears dolls wasn’t properly shedding the tiny tears for which she was renowned.

Bill’s family, too, had pet birds at one time. Having bird pets must have been a post-World War II thing. Bill’s sister is a mere 15 months older than Bill, and he took every opportunity to torture her. She, for her part, never quite forgave him for being born. As a young girl, she developed a fear of birds — a medically recognized fear called ornithophobia. When they were in the neighborhood of 10 or so, Bill would take the bird out of its cage and chase his sister around the house with the bird. I’m not sure if that was a cause or an effect of her fear, but I have my suspicions.

The funniest pet bird story comes from my sister Bec’s family. When her kids were in their teenaged years, she and her husband had love birds. They loved those birds (again, a phenomenon I can’t quite understand). One weekend when they were out of town, their son Erik had a party. (A shocker, I know, that a teenager would have a party when the parents are out of town.) At some point, one of his friends let the birds out of the cage. (It must seem funnier when you’re 16 and drunk.) The birds flew around until such time as their cocker spaniel opened his mouth and snapped one of the love birds inside. Erik was frantic. You might be able to clean up a party mess, but it’s harder to convince your parents they’ve always only had one bird. Oh, plus his mom loved her birds. Erik chased down the dog, grabbed her by the neck and pried open her jaws. The bird flew out to safety. The story wasn’t told to his parents until many years later.

Loving your pet birds just shows what a connection we all have to nature. I’ll take a dog any day of the week. But I sure do enjoy watching the birds from our patio window.

Warriors

Saturday evening, Bill and I went to a fundraising dinner for Rock Steady Boxing Mesa, which is the boxing gym Bill attends when we’re here in AZ. Not being a social-type, I wasn’t looking forward to the event. Cold lasagna and boring talk with strangers is not the way I generally like to spend Saturday nights. Fuzzy slippers and a downloaded comedy film are more to my liking.

Still, Rock Steady Boxing is a nonprofit about which I can get excited. While it would be hyperbole to say that boxing has changed Bill’s life, it certainly is accurate to say that boxing has challenged Bill on many levels, and it has certainly helped him keep his symptoms under control.

Bill loves the boxing class for many reasons. He has always been a boxing fan, having grown up watching the Friday night fights with his dad every week. In addition to the boxing, however, Bill has loved being surrounded by a group of men and women, mostly his age, who face the same challenges as he does on a daily basis. If he — or one of his fellow boxers — takes a tumble, there is no need for embarrassment because they all fall at one time or another. One of the guys will walk over and give the man or woman a hand up and share a laugh.

As it turned out, it was neither boring nor a waste of my time. Instead, I found myself talking to people who either have PD or love someone who has PD. Do you know who I didn’t find myself talking to? People who feel sorry for themselves or think they drew the short straw in life. Down to the very last person to whom I interacted, I found cheerful, enthusiastic warriors.

The Mesa affiliate is run by a couple named Leanne and Tom. Leanne is the sister of Blaine, who founded Rocky Steady Boxing Mesa after he was diagnosed with the disease. He was diagnosed in 2002, and for over 10 years, he tried to find some kind of exercise program geared specifically to people with Parkinson’s. He began hearing about the benefits of boxing, largely due to the influence of the late Mohammad Ali, and began looking into opening a gym. For the first couple of years, a local boxing gym donated space to the group of boxers, but that required that three times a week, they had to haul in the boxing equipment, including the bags, and haul them back out at the end of the class.

Eventually, he found space in a strip mall in central Mesa, where the classes are still held today. No more hauling of equipment. They’ve moved from one class three times a week to four classes three times a week. Blaine and his wife have retired, but his sister and brother-in-law carry on the tradition. And the classes are full. The workout is a whopper, laughter is plentiful, and the love and support in the room is plentiful.

Most of all, these men and women are an inspiration to this blogger who admits that her glass is half empty. I am happy to say that I am the wife of a Parkinson’s Warrior.

Saturday Smile: …But Not Least

About two months ago, my niece Kacy gave birth to her fifth daughter. FIFTH. DAUGHTER. As you can imagine, that is a busy and fun household. Zoey’s father Joey is the lone man among a lot of estrogen. My brother (who, himself, has three sisters, three daughers (and a son), and seven granddaughers (and two grandsons) sent me this photo of Miss Zoey yesterday…..

It looks like Zoey is looking at her grandfather and pleading, “Please, Pops, get me out of this chaos.”

Zoey is a sweetie and she has already become part of the fun.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Damage

Rape is a horrific crime, and there are many mysteries and thrillers with a woman’s rape at the core of the story. The Damage, by Caitlin Wahrer, is the first book I’ve come across in which the rape victim is a man — a gay man. That twist alone made for an interesting story.

Tony and Nick are half brothers. Tony is considerably older than Nick, old enough, in fact, to be his father. The two brothers are very close, and in fact, Tony has played the role of father to Nick for Nick’s entire life. Their own parents, though living, have not been fit to parent for the brothers’ entire lives.

Tony is called to the hospital when his brother is brutally raped by another man, badly beaten, and left for dead in a hotel room. Nick will survive the ordeal, but he claims to have no memory of anything that happened after the man he met in a bar and with whom he left voluntarily entered a motel room. He was hit from behind, and when he regained consciousness, he was alone and had been brutally attacked.

Tony’s protective instinct kicks in, and he is determined to find out who did this terrible thing to his beloved brother, and make him pay. Tony’s wife Julia loves Nick as much as does Tony, but her reaction is a bit calmer. She is more apt to let the justice system play out, even after the police catch the rapist. He proclaims that the sex was consensual, and that Nick asked to be handled roughly.

While the story moved a bit slowly, and parts seemed unrealistic, I liked the bond that the people in this story had with each other. However, the author’s portrayal of Nick, battered both physically and emotionally, is poignant and seems like an accurate portrayal of a rape victim trying to move on with his life. I also liked that the portrayal of the police officer showed a deep sympathy for and understanding of the victim instead of the more cliched idea that men can’t be raped.

The ending was a surprise that the author cleverly left to nearly the last page of the novel.

The Damage wasn’t one of the best books of the year, but I nevertheless enjoyed it.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Balls
Bill and I like to watch our great nieces and great nephews participate in their various sports activities. As we sat and watched Jen’s grandson Austin play baseball Tuesday night, it occurred to me that apples don’t fall far from the tree. The three sports represented by our great nieces and nephews are basketball, baseball, and soccer. My nephew Christopher — who played basketball — has two sons and a daughter who play basketball. My nephew Erik — who played soccer (still does, in fact) — has a son and daughter who play soccer. My niece Maggie — whose husband Mark played baseball — has a son who plays baseball. At the game last night, Austin’s paternal grandparents were there to cheer him on. I wondered how many games of little league, junior high, and high school games they have watched in their lives. As for my grands, Kaiya is playing basketball like her dad. Another apple; another tree.

Sunrise/Sunset
Since we’ve been in AZ, I’ve found myself wide awake at 5 o’clock a.m. I don’t really mind a bit, because I enjoy my quiet mornings. I pour myself a cup of coffee, and go through my email. (By “go through” I mean delete, because it’s mostly junk). I always open the doors, because it’s the coolest time of the day. It’s still dark, but as the clock ticks, I watch the sky lighten and listen as the birds begin to sing. The other morning, I was reading my book. I happened to glance up, and saw the prettiest sunrise I’ve seen in some time…..

As usual, the photo doesn’t capture the true beauty. I jumped up from the chair, grabbed my cell phone, and ran outside to take a few pictures. As you know, nature moves quickly. It wasn’t 30 seconds later that the sky was completely blue and sunset was history. I always think that Arizona has the prettiest sunsets and Colorado has the prettiest sunrises. As proof, here was the sunset the other night…..

God loves the desert.

Bird Visits
And speaking of nature, yesterday afternoon, I was once again sitting in my chair reading. I glanced up and saw four quails on our fence…..

If you remember, last spring, we had a quail nest in our potted geranium plant. So, in my world, these are the babies that hatched. I might be right, because I think quails are known to stay close to home. Sort of like college graduates who can’t find a job.

Ciao!

Goody Two Shoes

In Monday’s post, I revealed that when I was a teenager, I, along with a friend, went trick-or-treating. We covered ourselves with white sheets and pretended to be children so as to collect oodles of candy. We got busted by one of our neighbors, who, while not knowing who we were, could tell we were too old to trick-or-treat and sent us packing. Nowadays kids don’t have to tell lies to enjoy the holiday. They, like Nike, just do it.

My sister Jen comments on my blog every day. Part of it is that she enjoys my blog and likes to remark on its content. But the truth of the matter is that it is the secret way she checks in every day so that I know she didn’t die in her sleep. Yes, friends, this is how our minds work. My sister Bec “likes” my post on Facebook every day for the same reason. I have actually called both sisters at various times to make sure they were alive because they didn’t do their part. As for me, they count on Bill to let them know if it’s 10 o’clock and I haven’t yet awoken. I’m not sure that’s a failsafe, but whatever.

Anyway, on the day of my Halloween post, Jen commented as usual. Her comment was I think the year you went trick or treating as a teen may have been the naughtiest thing you did as an adolescent. Her comment made me laugh out loud. Why? Because as I think back, I believe she is absolutely correct. I didn’t get into trouble as a teenager. I gave my parents almost no reason to worry, at least during my high school years. In fact, the only time I can remember doing anything verging on naughty was the time that I missed my midnight curfew because my boyfriend and I were necking in his station wagon and lost track of time. Necking. Isn’t that craziest word to describe what we were doing? I think it might be the same as getting to second base.

Anyway, when I quietly snuck up to the front door to sneak into the house, it quickly came to my attention that Mom and Dad had locked the door. Since they NEVER locked the door, I didn’t have a key. (As I think back to the situation, I believe my parents were pioneers in the Tough Love method of parenting, though they didn’t know it had a name. )

So, I had a problem. There was no way to get into the house without alerting them that I had missed curfew. Yet, as the clock continued to tick, I needed to do something. So I had my boyfriend drive me down to the laundromat which I knew had a pay phone outside. (Kids, imagine not having cell phones.) I called our house telephone. It rang and rang, and then, finally, my dad answered the phone.

Luckily, there was one excuse that anyone who lived in Columbus, Nebraska, could use as an excuse for being late.

“I’m sorry Dad, but we got caught by a long train, and it made me late,” I lied through my teeth. “The door is locked. Could you unlock it and let me in?”

That’s exactly what happened. I’m not sure that either Mom or Dad believed my story about the train, but it couldn’t be proven or disproven. It was the perfect story.

It was the second naughty thing I did as a teenager. And I can’t think of any more. But as my siblings and I always said, “Mom knows and God knows.”

Family Heart

Everybody liked my dad. That’s not surprising because he was a very likable fellow. He was funny, and kind, and smart, and fair, and hard-working, among a lot of other nice attributes. His temper could be quick, but it was mostly short-lived and he was forgiving and forgivable.

One of my favorite stories about my dad was one that Shirley told. He was at McDonald’s, and had ordered a burger and fries. The restaurant was busy, and, unlike nowadays, lots of people were working behind the counter. It apparently seemed to my dad that every time a burger would be put out on the counter, one of the other workers would grab it. He finally turned to his cashier and told him, “Get in there and fight for me.” Patience was not among Dad’s attributes.

My stepmother Shirley passed away suddenly a week-and-a-half ago. Her death took everyone by surprise, but no one more than her own children. As you can imagine, they struggled to first, accept her passing, and then make arrangements for her burial. This, at the same time that they were having to pack up her clothes and personal items from the senior apartment in which she lived. They arranged the funeral service, but since her death was so sudden and unexpected, they had never asked her where she would like to be buried. (Kids, talk to your parents now.)

Since my sister Jen was the first among our family to learn of Shirley’s passing, it was up to her to call us all and break the sad news. While talking to me, we began discussing where she would be buried. Dad served his country in the Navy during World War II, and both he and our mother are buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver. His name and inscriptions are on the front of the stone and my mother’s information is on the back of the same stone…..

“Will Fort Logan allow more than one name on the back of the stone?” Jen asked.

I didn’t know the answer, but told her I reckoned they would. “Dad can’t be the only widower who remarried.”

Jen agreed to call Fort Logan and ask.

The next day, Jen FaceTimed me, and she was laughing.

“You won’t believe this,” she began. “When I called Fort Logan and explained my situation, the man on the phone looked up Dad’s name. He then then said, ‘Oh, did Shirley die?'”

Apparently, unbeknownst to all of us (and that includes Shirley’s children), Dad had taken care of making every arrangement necessary so that Shirley could be buried with our parents. Except, he didn’t tell anyone that he had done such a thing. Had we not looked into the matter, none of us would have had the slightest idea of his plans.

But far from being annoyed at our dad, his four children — and most assuredly, Shirley’s three children — are reminded about Reinie’s big heart. He made the arrangements early in their marriage, determined that he would care for his second wife even beyond her death. I tear up even as I write those words. What kindness.

Of course, his children’s first thought was what Mom would have to say about the situation. We have concluded that we’re pretty sure there is no anger or jealousy in heaven, and Shirley was welcomed with open arms by our mom. After all, she took care of Dad during his illness, and Mom would have loved her for that alone.

Tricks

When I was at Catholic elementary school, October 31 wasn’t considered Halloween by the nuns. It was All Souls’ Day. I don’t think that Halloween was considered evil, and we certainly weren’t forbidden to go out trick-or-treating. But October 31 was the day that we were supposed to pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. In other words, pray for the dead. No wonder Halloween became so creepy. I blame it on Mexico.

Catholics believe in purgatory. Well, perhaps I need to amend that statement. The Catholic Church believes in purgatory. I can’t speak for all Catholics. Though my non-Catholic friends will disagree, I believe in purgatory. I don’t believe it’s Hell Lite as we were taught in grade school. Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have stated that purgatory is not a place but a state of existence. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I think it confirms my belief. We have been saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection, but unless we have the heart and soul of Mother Theresa, after we die, we have (in Ricky Ricardo’s words) some ‘splainin’ to do. And in my grandmother’s words, we have to “make things right.”

I, of course, know no more than anyone else about what happens after we die. Still, it’s why I believe in the existence of what we call ghosts. It’s also why I’m convinced that shortly following my mother’s death, she came back as a small bird to tell Dad and the rest of us that she was okay. I’m serious. It happened.

But back to Halloween. I don’t know at what age kids stop trick-or-treating. My 14-year-old nephew Carter announced this year that he wasn’t going to trick-or-treat. His older sister Kenzie was flabbergasted. “No one loves candy more than you,” she told Carter. “THIS IS THE HOLIDAY AT WHICH YOU RECEIVE LOTS OF CANDY.” As of this writing, it remains unknown as to whether he will trick-or-treat.

In my formative years, there was definitely a cut-off date for going from house to house asking for candy. It wasn’t set in stone, but you were given dirty looks if you were any larger than a normal 10-year-old. I know this because one year my friend and I decided to go trick-or-treating despite the fact that we were 15 years old. We cut holes in sheets and called ourselves ghosts. We rang the doorbell, then got on our knees and used “small child” voices that fooled no one and said trick-or-treat. We got a bit of candy, but gave up when one person announced that we were much too old to trick-or-treat and we should go home. So we did.

Since reaching adulthood, I have dressed up for Halloween exactly one time. I attended a party for which I dressed up as a doctor, using my mother-in-law’s medical clothes (she was a nurses’ assistant). I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. It’s much easier to watch the kiddies trick-or-treat while drinking a martini, and finagle some candy from great nieces and nephews.

Which is what I’m going to do.

Saturday Smile: Plaid is In

If you read my Wednesday post, you know that as I was driving down a major Mesa street, I saw a man walking along wearing plaid pajamas. He had on regular shoes and was carrying a small backpack, and he was entirely clothed in plaid pajamas.

The morning my blog posted, my brother sent me this photo…..

While this particular man is not wearing pajamas, the plaid of his, um, suit is the same as that of the man’s pajamas. The picture made me laugh, and it also made me wonder if this was a new plaid. I hope not, because I still haven’t gotten used to men wearing skinny suit pants.

That afternoon, my brother telephoned me.

“What’s wrong?” I answered me telephone, as I always does when he calls.

“You won’t believe what I just saw,” he said, laughing. “I saw the man you talked about in your blog this morning. He was walking down the street near Crisman and University.”

(That was, by the way, a considerable distance from where I had seen him the day before.)

We agreed that it had to be the same man. If not, it has become a fashion fad, which will not make me smile at all. As I’ve said many times, things are different here in the Valley of the Sun.

Have a great weekend.