A Tree Grows in Jericho

Geocaching is one of my favorite activities with my grandkids. You will recall from earlier posts that geocaching is a virtual treasure hunt using a GPS system in which you are looking for tiny little containers that usually house nothing more than a piece of paper on which to sign your name.

The caches are generally located in fairly hard-to-find places, some that require, ahem, let’s say adventurous activities. Our geocaching quests have included Addie climbing along the side of a bridge over a creek (don’t tell her mom; I don’t think she knows about that one), walking through a tunnel that was owned by Denver Water (the bed upon which we walked was dry, and I prayed really hard the entire time that Denver Water wouldn’t decide to open up a valve and send water shooting through the tunnel while we were helplessly trudging through), and reaching under bushes or into holes that could (but didn’t) contain danger.

One such geocaching escapade in 2014 took Alastair and me into a well-populated park not far from our house. The description of the geocache fully disclosed that finding the cache would involve climbing a tree. Well, it certainly wasn’t going to be moi who would climb the tree. Alastair was 9 years old, an age at which climbing a tree seems fun. We located the tree, and before you could say Zacchaeus-the-tax-collector, Alastair proceeded to begin his journey up the tree, flip-flops and all…..

Zacchaeus, of course, was the evil tax collector from Jericho who was so excited to see Jesus speak to the crowds that he shimmied up the tree as fast as Alastair. His prize wasn’t a geocache. Instead, he not only earned the  chance to see Jesus in person despite his short stature, but he also received an invitation to join Jesus at dinner. This, of course, raised all sorts of Jewish eyebrows.  Jesus would rather eat with a sinner than someone as holy as us.

The thing is, Zacchaeus was as excited with his prize as Alastair was when he grabbed the geocache container that was hanging at the top of the tree. In fact, Zacchaeus was so excited that he immediately promised Jesus that he would pay back the money fourfold that he had collected under questionable means. Not only that, but he would give half his possessions to the poor.

I’m sure that Jesus was absolutely DELIGHTED that Zacchaeus not only had seen the evil of his ways, but was turning over a new leaf and instead of taking, would be giving from that point on. I, like Jesus, admire this man for turning greed into generosity, something I keep saying I’m going to do, yet somehow still look the other way at people holding signs.

But while I might have missed the point of the gospel story, I have to admit that I am equally impressed that this man could climb the tree so quickly, and apparently come down without breaking any important bones. Alastair made it up and down the tree pretty quickly too. But it would have been more difficult for Zacchaeus. After all, being a tax collector and all, he probably was older than 9, and he was likely wearing a long robe.

But he probably wasn’t wearing flip flops.

Bonding Over Murder

I believe that days go slow and years go fast,
And every breath’s a gift, the first one to the last. – Josh Kear, Eddie Hill, David Frasier

Yesterday, following an afternoon that included geocaching with Maggie Faith and watching three — count ’em — three episodes of Death in Paradise, I mentioned to her that I needed to get busy and write a blog for tomorrow. “What do you think I should write about?” I asked her, as she ate her onion rings and I slurped my limeade recently purchased from Sonic.

“Hmmm,” she said thoughtfully. “I think you should write about how we went geocaching and found two caches, and how we always go to Sonic after we geocache, and how that’s our tradition.”

I explained to her that while it was a very good suggestion, I had written so often about our geocaching experiences and our subsequent trips to Sonic that I thought people’s eyes would glaze over if I tried again. (Though I will mention offhandedly that we went two for two, and we each found one. It doesn’t get much better than that, geocachewise.)…..

Dagny and Maggie during one of our earlier geocaching escapades.

But having said that, it occurred to me that the importance of my yesterday is that I spent good, quality time with one of my grandkids. Actually, with two of my grandkids, because Addie is the one who reached out and called me mid-morning to begin with.

“Nana, I just got finished with Swim Team and I’m hungry,” she said. “Can we go have breakfast?” What? A chance to spend valuable time with my 16-year-old granddaughter AND eat? Why would I turn down that opportunity?

I have used the words with which I began this post more than any other quotation simply because they resonate with me every time I hear Luke Bryant sing that song. (The truth of the matter is that those words resonate with me far into the night, because it wins the award for the song most likely to be on an endless track from the time I crawl into bed until I finally throw in the towel and Luke and I get up the next morning.) While I’m not sure that most people are good, as the song claims, I am certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that we must enjoy every minute that we have with those we love. Because years go fast. And s**t happens.

I sent an email to a former colleague who also knew my friend Megan to let him know of her passing. While he’s not as rich and famous as Luke Bryant, his response was just as wise: Wow. Time is fleeting and life is too short.

In a desperate attempt to not let this post become too maudlin, let me tell you that there is another reason that it’s good to spend time with a grandkid or two. Death in Paradise, a murder mystery that is set on a fictitious Caribbean island, is, well, not going to win any awards for creativity or meaningful writing. But it’s just plain fun to watch, all those ocean views and that reggae music as background and all. Still, it’s nice to tell Bill (as he heads outside to do some actual work) that I’m going to stay with Magnolia and watch this program in case anything comes up that seems inappropriate. Besides, watching a program like Death in Paradise with a very bright 11-year-old is a ton of fun. From the first scene, she begins finding clues and guessing potential murderers. Being a fan of the murder mystery genre myself, it makes my heart happy.

Life is short: might as well enjoy it with an 11-year-old on a desert island.

Thursday Thoughts

Getting Into the 80s Groove
One of the conversations Bec and I had while traveling to and from Nebraska last week was one in which I admitted to her that I didn’t understand a country song that is popular and played regularly right now on most country stations. The song is by Jake Owen, and it’s called I Was Jack (You Were Diane)Who in the heck are Jack and Diane? I asked her. She looked at me with barely-contained horror, and said it referred to that song by John Mellencamp. You know. THAT song. Well, I’m afraid I had never heard of that song. In 1982, John Mellencamp — who was then known as John Cougar — wrote and recorded a song called Jack & Diane. It’s considered by the Recording Industry Association of America to be one of the “songs of the century.” And I’d never heard of it. My apologies. I sort of missed that decade. In 1982, I was busy with a two-year-old, a full-time job, and an unhappy marriage. I barely remember Fleetwood Mac. But Bec issued a challenge in an email yesterday: Since you taught yourself to like whiskey, it’s now time to learn more about John Mellencamp. So I am setting out to learn all about John Mellencamp. I’ve already learned that he was also known as John Cougar, and I know that Keith Urban wrote a song about John Cougar. If I can learn to listen to John Mellencamp while drinking whiskey, that might be even better.

Stop Growing Up
My grandkids are growing up too darn fast. Yesterday Kaiya turned 10. T-E-N!!!!! How can she be getting older when I’m staying the same age?…..Found It
Before we left for Nebraska, I spent an hour or so with Dagny and Maggie Faith geocaching in our neighborhood. We were looking for a specific cache not far from our house. Alas, though we spent a full hour hunting, we were completely unable to locate the treasure. However, while sitting around our hotel room in Columbus last Friday, wondering what to do, I absent-mindedly began looking to see if there were any geocaches nearby. Lo, and behold! There were two within a half-mile walk. So I dragged Bec along with me and I am happy to say I found two out of two. I felt a bit vindicated…..

CAN’t Help Myself
Due to miscommunication, last week when Dagny and I made pies, both Jll and I bought packages of frozen cherries. We only used a couple of bags, so I had plenty left. Not being particular fans of cherries, I wasn’t sure what to do with the remaining cherries, but only knew that they were taking up precious space in my smallish freezer. Voila! I made cherry jam, which I took over to the McLains, who are lovers of All Things Cherry. I didn’t wait around to see if it was any good…..

Boom Boom Boom
As I am writing this blog post, a crew from Pella is installing new windows on the front of our house. We put in new windows in the back of our house a number of years ago, and finally decided to finish the job. Here is the before picture…..

The “after” picture is still to come.


Saturday Smiles: More Smiles!

This week has gone by in a flash, but here are a few things that made me smile while in Denver last weekend, if you can stand a few more photos of that trip.

My sister Jen came to visit on Sunday, and we had the opportunity to go geocaching. We greatly missed my geocaching buddies Maggie and Dagny, but still, ended up one for two in our search. Here is Jen uncovering a geocache that was stuck inside a log….

The spring flowers are blooming in Denver, though since we left town, they have had to bloom through a bit of snow. Here, though, is a particularly pretty tree of some sort that we came across while on our geocaching adventure….

I have mentioned on numerous occasions that our Zierk grands love Play Doh. Love, in fact, is not a strong enough word. There was a lot of creating going on, but perhaps this simple sculpture says it all.

What is it, you ask? According to its creator, Kaiya, it is unicorn poop. All it needs is eyes and a mouth, and it could be an emoji.

And finally, Alastair’s birthday was Wednesday, two days after we left. So he celebrated with us on Saturday. He turned a mighty 12!…..

Don’t you love my gift wrapping?

Have a great weekend.

No Rest for the Wicked and the Righteous Don’t Need It

What has eight legs, four heads, eats twice its weight in food, moves nonstop, and cries or laughs in the blink of an eye? The answer? Four visiting grandkids….


On top of Microwave Mountain, not too far from our house. Addie is in back and Maggie, Dagny and Alastair are front and center.

Their parents, of course, were also visiting, and they each have a head and legs. They, however, aren’t always hungry and sit still once in a while.

Alas, they have returned to Denver, and now it will take a bit of getting used to the quiet and inaction of our real lives. If history is reliable, I will likely find a random sock or a drawing or two for the next few days, which will make me smile and be sad, all at the same time.

It was an action-packed few days that included three Cubs spring training games, two hikes, some geocaching, pizza, hamburgers, Italian beef sandwiches, a big box of donuts, and lots of soda pop, something that is quite restricted when they are NOT on vacation…..



And speaking of things that DON’T happen when they’re not on vacation…..


Dagny, with a donut almost as big as she!

The weather wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for, with temperatures that didn’t reach the high 60s. There was mostly sunshine, however, and the cooler temps didn’t stop the kids from swimming in their hotel pool. They are about the heartiest kids I’ve ever known. Monday night in particular, they left our house when it was dark and probably in the 50s, and yet they swam when they got back to the hotel. Jeez!….

Dagny, Addie, and Maggie Faith enjoy the pool, despite the chilly temps.

Dagny, Addie, and Maggie Faith enjoy the pool, despite the chilly temps.

I love to geocache, and I don’t often have the opportunity. I can do it alone, but it’s not that much fun without a partner. It’s much nicer to have four enthusiastic fellow hunters. It so happened that we went four finds for four searches, and EACH ONE OF THE KIDS FOUND A GEOCACHE! Yay.


Maggie found a very tricky geocache in which the little container was drilled into a rock!

Maggie found a very tricky geocache in which the little container was drilled into a rock!

When there are four of you, it is nice to find a little peace and quiet for yourself, even if it makes your grandfather a bit nervous….


Maggie sat on the fence with a rubber cricket toy she stumbled upon while geocaching and which she named Hank, and enjoyed the quiet and the view. A bit more daring, Dagny traversed the entire top of the fence on foot. Many times.

It was a wonderful visit, and came right about the time that I was starting to get very homesick for grandkids. Now they go back to their busy lives, while Bill and I return to our quiet lives.

Thursday Thoughts

Casual Day
Yesterday I made a trip to the bank to deposit a check. As I walked to the bank’s entrance, there was a 30-something woman walking ahead of me, and into the bank. I wouldn’t have noticed her except for the fact that SHE WAS WEARING HER PAJAMAS. I’m not mistaken. These were not just a t-shirt and those comfy flannel pants that I occasionally see people wear out in public that cause me to be slightly aghast. No my friends, these were full-out pajamas. They were lavender and had little teddy bears on them. Now, there have been a few times when I have caught myself just in the nick of time from leaving the house wearing my bedroom slippers. But it seems unlikely to me that she simply forgot she was wearing her pajamas. It must have taken her no time at all to get ready for bed last night.

Four Score and Seven Years Ago
After I finished my banking yesterday, I went to the nearby pho restaurant to eat my lunch. I believe I could eat pho three times a week and not get sick of it, and I’m not even Vietnamese. I frequently eat lunch there and read a book while slurping my noodles. I am currently reading the next in a series by Louise Penney featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The series is one of my favorites and I would like Gamache to be one of my friends. He is smart, kind, and extremely elegant. In the book, Gamache said that he hadn’t seen someone in over a fortnight. A fortnight. I want to use that word sometime in my real life. Like maybe when I’m getting a pedicure and I want to make an appointment for a couple of weeks down the road. I could say, “Do you have an opening available in a fortnight?” Or maybe not. It’s a good word, though, isn’t it? I would have to work on my British accent.

Hide and Seek
On Tuesday, Dagny and Maggie Faith and I went out geocaching, the high-tech hide and seek game that Jen and I are crazy about. I’m pleased that some of my grandchildren share my love for this particular hobby. They are game for anything and fairly efficient searchers. They are certainly dedicated. Unfortunately, my cell phone – which acts as my GPS and connects to the geocaching website – wasn’t working correctly. As a result, ISonic Slushes was unable to use it to help find the hidden treasures. It didn’t deter the girls one little bit. That’s probably because they don’t really understand how the caches get there anyway. It’s all a great mystery to them. I was able to determine that there was a cache located somewhere just inside a tunnel in a nearby park through which a tiny little stream was flowing. I’m calling it a tiny little stream in a valient attempt to convince myself that it wasn’t sewage. Anyway, we searched and searched to no avail. Dagny begged me – BEGGED ME – to let her walk through the long tunnel to the other side to see if it was there. I wouldn’t let her do that. “Why not?” she asked me with the most pitiful face imaginable. I explained that I didn’t really understand the purpose of the tunnel, and that I didn’t want her in the middle of it when some Denver water official decided to open up a spigot and the stream turned into a river. She was sad, but became less sad when I told them that one of my traditions of geocaching was going to Sonic afterwards and getting a slushy. In fact, the slushies turned into milkshakes, and they were both happy campers despite our geocaching failure.

Can’t Get Enough
So Bill and I are now absolutely HOOKED on biscotti. We can’t seem to get enough. Yesterday afternoon I made a batch, but decided to shake it up a bit by adapting a recipe I’d seen on Pinterest for Cinnamon Biscotti. I used the recipe I posted on Wednesday for Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti, but instead of adding the dried cranberries and chopped pistachios, I formed the loaf and basted it with a beaten egg, then sprinkled it heavily with cinnamon sugar. After I cut the individual cookies, I sprinkled them also with cinnamon sugar. They are delicious. They taste like a hard, dunkable snickerdoodle. Yum.


Cinnamon Biscotti


Show Me the Cache

Four or five years ago, I got a telephone call from my sister Jen.

“I have a perfect hobby for us,” she stated, as though I had been looking to pursue a new interest. “It’s called geocaching.”

As my 5-year-old granddaughter Kaiya would say, “What the…..?” (I’m only hoping Kaiya never finishes the question. To date, she has not.)

It turns out geocaching, according to their own website geocaching.com, is a “real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the container hidden at that location.”

I didn’t really understand any of that, except for the TREASURE HUNT!!!!!!

Tell me more, I said to my sister. She proceeded to explain to me that she had learned about geocaching from a husband and wife who were clients of hers. “I can’t really explain it myself, but it sounds like fun and I think we should look into it,” she said.

So we did. And it is. Fun, I mean.

Apparently up until 2000, GPS systems were restricted to only really important people, like those who needed to know the location of nuclear devices. In 2000, President Clinton decided all of us should have access to GPS technology (probably because he correctly determined we wouldn’t be able to figure out how to find nuclear devices anyway, but we sure could find tiny little containers holding random gadgets and a log to sign with a SECRET CODE NAME. Thus, the beginning of the game called geocaching.

Seriously, geocaches are simply a variety of little containers that generally hold nothing more than a log that the finders sign using a geocaching code name. They are hidden by other geocachers who then register the cache with a website. There are geocaches all over the world. Thousands of hidden treasures. Once a geocacher finds the container using GPS coordinates, he or she signs the log. Did I mention you sign using a SECRET CODE NAME?

I have even got some of my grandchildren interested in the activity. Addie, Alastair, Dagny, Maggie, and I find a park that I know has a geocache (from checking the website), and we proceed to hunt for it. We are generally successful, but usually no thanks to me. I have very smart grandchildren, who are good at following a compass even if they are only 10, 8, 7, and 5!

Yesterday Jen and I spent a couple of hours geocaching in a couple of areas of Phoenix. For the most part, we are hit-and-miss geocachers. Yesterday we were AWESOME! Five finds out of five searches. Three in one park and two in another.

One geocache was big enough to fit a pair of shoes.

One geocache was so tiny it barely fit a signing log. It was magnetic, and we found it under a metal bench. It’s the little metal case next to the cell phone.

One hung from a tree, hidden in plain sight.

One was in a pill bottle tucked into a fence post. Jen was the one who figured out the top of the fence post came off.

The one that took us the longest was also hidden inside a fence post. Jen had tried to remove the top when we first approached the area, but it appeared to not be removable. We looked and looked and were about to give up when Jen once again gave the fence post a twist. Voila, there was the geocache.

One of the things we like best about geocaching is that it gives us a chance to see parts of a community that we might not see otherwise. Beautiful parks; beautiful views, like the one at the beginning of this post. We have occasionally been asked what in the world we were doing, but for the most part, surprisingly, people leave us alone. You would think two grandmothers crawling around looking under bushes might cause some confusion, but apparently not enough confusion to ask what we’re up to. Only on one occasion was I stopped by a police officer and asked what I was doing looking around the base of a light post in a Walmart parking lot. I think having a one-year-old baby with me (my nephew Austin) made me look less sinister.

Of course, he didn’t even know I had a SECRET CODE NAME.