Make the House Ready
Late tomorrow (like midnight!), Dave and Jll and the four kids arrive in AZ for a visit. YAY! We dangled the opening game of the Chicago Cubs Spring Training before their eyes, and they bit. Dave is a life-long Cubs fan, stemming from the fact that both his father and mother were born and reared in the Windy City, and Dave spent considerable time there visiting family. In fact, he was born in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago, though they moved to Denver when he was small. He had wanted to go to a game when the Cubs were in the World Series back in the fall, but it didn’t happen. But given the fact that we are already seeing people in Cubs garb here in Mesa, the Spring Training season should be fun. Bill and Dave are going to the Cubs opening game, and all of us will be going to games on Sunday and Tuesday. Go Cubs! By the way, if you want a reminder of just how much the kids like the Cubs, re-read this blog post from December…..
I talk all the time about the number of Midwesterners who come to AZ to spend the winter, getting relief from the below-freezing temperatures. The longer I’m here, the more I suspect that a major share of the so-called winter visitors are from the great state of Minnesota. Who can blame them? One of our priests – who himself is retired and hails from Minnesota – claims that the bishop of the Minneapolis Archdiocese actually holds his Christmas collection on July 25 because on that day, the state is full of visiting tourists intent on fishing the 10,000 lakes, while on December 25, the churches are empty because everyone’s in AZ! Bill and I were returning from somewhere the other day, and we were a mile or so from home. I said to Bill, “I’ll bet you that we spot a Minnesota license plate between here an home.” I wish I would have bet him after-dinner clean-up duties for a week, because sure enough, a few blocks from our house, a car with Minnesota plates drove past.
Would You Like that Wine in Paper or Plastic?
One of the featured appetizers at Bec’s annual Mardis Gras party are mini-muffulettas, those wonderful sandwiches featuring salami, mortadella, cheese and a delicious olive spread. It’s the olive spread that makes these sandwiches stand out. Each year, she has gotten her olive spread at Fry’s. But she called me a couple of days before the party to lament that her neighborhood Fry’s no longer carried the olive spread. I told her that I would check the two Fry’s that are near me here in Mesa to see if they still carried the spread. I was actually at my Fry’s unsuccessfully seeking the olive spread when my phone rang. It was Bec. “You won’t believe where I am,” she said. “I am at the fanciest Fry’s Market that I have ever in my life seen.” “Uh-huh,” I said, still searching for olive spread. “No, I’m serious,” she said. “It has a sushi bar. It has a salad bar. For heaven’s sake, it has a WINE BAR.” Wait, what? I was still smiling as I went to the self-check registers to ring up my groceries, which didn’t include olive spread because the fancy Fry’s of course, had an olive bar and so Bec had already bought the spread. The woman assisting at the self-check registers came over to see if she could help me with something because I was laughing. I explained about the telephone call from my sister, and she was not surprised. She told me that all of the new Fry’s were including all of those things, and that there was one not far from where I was standing right that very second. I quickly paid for my groceries and headed that way. It was true. It was just as Bec had described, down to the sushi bar and the wine and beer bar. When I say sushi bar, I don’t mean just plastic containers of sushi; I mean there are people making sushi to order and you sit at the bar (probably with a glass of wine from the wine bar) and enjoy your sushi. There was no one partaking at the wine bar that day, but I have gone a couple of times since, and both times there have been people drinking a beer and eating something from the deli. Maybe the reason this so astounds me is because they don’t sell wine or beer in grocery stores in Colorado. All I know is, I AM GOING TO GO HAVE A GLASS OF WINE ONE AFTERNOON WHILE I’M SHOPPING. Because I can.
Last Sunday Bill and I attended church services at Wellshire Presbyterian Church, where Dave and Jll and the kids worship. The church was having what was basically a carol worship service, and Addie sang in the youth choir and Dagny and Maggie Faith sang in the children’s choir. The church was packed to the gills.
Each week the church allows children to pick up a worship bag in the back of church that contains crafts for them to work on rather than being bored and whispering loudly, “How much longer, Mom?” Dagny and Maggie Faith each had one of the bags, and because the church was so full, they sat next to the rest of the family on the steps leading to the altar. As we listened to the carols and heard the word of God as well as those of the pastor, the girls diligently worked on their religious-themed crafts. Dagny was working very hard on a white board she had pulled out of the bag. I envisioned that she was writing a prayer with the blue and red markers she was using. Or maybe drawing a picture of the Holy Family. Finally, she held up the white board so that we could see what she had drawn. In red and blue letters, and extravagantly decorated, she had written…..
Let’s hope God is a Cubbies fan!
Have a great weekend.
Monday day I was at a Michael’s store in Mesa. The cashier was a young woman, dressed up like a cat as it was Halloween. There was a woman ahead of me, and I was next to pay. Try as I might, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation between the cashier and the woman ahead of me.
Cashier: Are you a member of our Rewards Club?
Customer: No. Is it easy to join?
Cashier: Yes. You just need to give me your email address and your phone number.
As this conversation was taking place, I was thinking that perhaps I should consider joining the Rewards Club since I buy so much yarn. The conversation continued….
Customer: Ok. My email address is J-U-L-I-E…..
Customer: No. It’s J-U-L-I-E….
By this time I was ready to yell at the cashier, “It’s Julie, for God’s sake. Julie.”
The customer patiently spelled it again, and the cashier finally got it. Then she started on the telephone number, with the same sort of result. By this time, I had decided that the Rewards Program was a no-go for me. If the cashier struggled with julie, the whole kzmclain thing would do her in.
When the Saints Come Marching In
My favorite priest at our church in Mesa – All Saints Catholic Parish – is Father O’Neill. He is elderly, one of three priests from somewhere cold who retired in AZ, and work at our parish. He is probably 80-something, and speaks in a deceptively gruff voice. I say deceptively, because he has a wonderful outlook on life, and gives joyful homilies that never fail to feed me spiritually. November 1 is the Feast of All Saints, and is dedicated to all of those holy people who are models to us of how we should live our life. Or at least that’s how I always looked at it. Fr. O’Neill reminded us that we all have the potential to be saints while we’re here on earth. At the beginning of all masses at which he is the presider, he greets the congregation with a cheerful, “Greetings People of God.” On Tuesday, the Feast of All Saints, he greeted us instead with, “Greetings Saints-in-Training!”
Go Cubs Go
I babysat for Austin and Lilly last night because Mark was out of town on business and Maggie had to work. As you know (unless you are a hermit living deep in the woods somewhere in northern Canada), last night was Game 7 of the World Series. The Jensens are serious Cubs fans, as Mark spent his formative years growing up in Chicago. As is typical, he has passed his love of the team on to his wife and kids. Six-year-old Austin’s bedroom’s focal point is the W flag on his wall. His bedspread and pillows boast the familiar red, white, and blue Cubs logo. At some point prior to the game’s start, Austin brought out the cast-off telephone he uses for games and music, and turned on the Go Cubs Go song. It’s quite jazzy, and he knows every word. And he has choreographed quite an exciting dance to the whole thing. We watched the game together, but at 8 o’clock, I put him to bed. The Cubs were winning handily at that point. Maggie came home a few minutes later, and happily went upstairs to see if he wanted to watch the end of the game with her. After all, the Cubs were about to make history. Except then they weren’t. He finally went back to bed after the score was tied and the Cubs seemed destined to lose. But, at the bottom of the 10th inning — yes, I said the 10TH INNING — they pulled out a win and made many of my family members very happy. The Curse of the Billy Goat is over.
I’ve only attended a handful of spring training games in my life. Well, to be perfectly frank, depending on your definition of handful, I have perhaps only attended a handful of professional baseball games of any type in my life.
Nebraska wasn’t big on baseball when I grew up. At least not Columbus, Nebraska. The only baseball games I attended when growing up in Columbus were those in which my brother played. For the record, during the course of his Little League baseball career, he didn’t take a single swing at a ball. Not one. I vividly recall my father BEGGING him to take a swing. We don’t care if you miss, my dad told him again and again. We don’t care if you strike out, he would add. Just take a swing. But here’s how my brother’s 6- or 7-year-old brain apparently rationalized his strategy. If I swing, I will likely strike out and humiliate myself. If I get on base via walks, I am fast enough that it is likely I will score. There you have it. It’s simple, really.
The Cactus League, of course, is located in Arizona. In fact, eight different communities in the Phoenix metro area have a baseball park devoted to one or two different teams from around the west and midwest. The teams include the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago White Sox, the Cincinnati Reds, the Cleveland Indians, the Colorado Rockies, the Kansas City Royals, the LA Angels, the LA Dodgers, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Oakland A’s, the San Diego Padres, the San Francisco Giants, the Seattle Mariners, and the Texas Rangers. A few teams share a ball park – Arizona and Colorado, the White Sox and the Dodgers, the Indians and the Reds, and the Royals and the Rangers. The others have their own. As you can imagine, the teams and their followers provide quite a boost to the cities’ economies.
This year Bill and I attended the opening Cubs game at Sloan Park in Mesa. As you can imagine, the fans were in a downright FRENZY of ADORATION for their beloved Cubbies who came thiiiiiiis close to going to the World Series. The stadium was packed, and if you didn’t get your tickets weeks in advance (which we did), you were out of luck. I don’t even remember who won the game (or even who they played), but it was a lot of fun.
Yesterday we attended what will be one of the final spring games for the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Field in Scottsdale. They played the White Sox, and unlike the Cubs’ game, the stands were far from full. Having not attended another Rockies game this spring, I don’t know if that is typical, or if the fans have simply run out of steam. The weather was overcast and delightfully cool. But given the weather and the only halfway-full park, the beer venders were begging for sales. Even the man with the hat that makes it look like there’s an arrow going through his head and wearing peanut earrings was desperate to sell a beer or two.
I noticed that there were a variety of fans representing many teams in attendance. Of course there were Rockies and White Sox hats and shirts. I also saw a lot of people wearing shirts with Diamondbacks, Cubs, and Angels logos. And, of course, very many Giants hats and shirts. 2015 World Champions and all….
They were also happy to hit home runs too. In fact, I quit counting after a total of seven home runs. Three were hit by Rockies players, and they were one after another – three in a row. Imagine the pressure on the fourth man up. He handled it like my brother. He didn’t take a swing and managed a walk. That’s one way to beat the pressure.
Maybe 10 minutes before the National Anthem, I noticed some hubbub down on the field near the Rockies dugout. There was a man spraying what appeared to be bug spray into the corner near where the man who would sing the National Anthem would soon sit. The apparent bug-sprayer man seemed to be quite concerned, and several other Rockies officials also came to check out how things were going. I never was able to figure out what it was they were spraying, and frankly, don’t want to think about it too hard, it being the Arizona desert and all.
And Bill said to me after the game – as he does after every game – we should go to more baseball games this year.