Thursday Thoughts

images

Lon Chaney, Jr. stars as the werewolf in 1941 Wolf Man. He doesn’t use a laser hair removal system.

She-Wolf
As I drove to meet Court for lunch yesterday, I was listening to Christmas music on Denver’s easy listening radio station. An advertisement came on, and it was one of those testimonial commercials, this one from a woman. This particular commercial was for a laser hair removal system for women. The gist of it was something along these lines: Our lives are so busy what with getting kids to and from school and practices and performances, keeping up with house work, and doing our paid jobs. Our busy lives result in so much stress. So use this hair removal system to lessen the stress in your lives. And then, friends, she went on to enthusiastically proclaim, “Ladies, using this product has literally freed up at least a half hour every day.” I nearly drove off the road. Seriously? She spends 30 minutes a day shaving her legs and plucking her eyebrows? Is she a werewolf? I bet I don’t spend 30 minutes a MONTH on hair removal. And that’s counting haircuts!

Would You Like a Cherry on Top?
And speaking of Court, he told me a funny story at lunch. Night before last, Alyx was working (she drives Uber). Court said the kids had all had their baths and were in their jammies. They were making a batch of a cranberry/pomegranate salad with marshmallows and homemade whipped cream that the kids – and Kaiya in particular – like. They were all sitting on the countertop (well, actually, Court probably wasn’t), when suddenly Cole fell off of the counter onto their kitchen floor. He was unhurt, though it scared the daylights out of him. But the funny part was that he had been holding onto the bowl of whipped cream, and the cream ended up all over him as he lay on the ground crying. I asked Court if he had a picture. He didn’t because he was too busy comforting a crying 2-year-old and cleaning up a big whipped cream mess.  Priorities, Son. If he had had the good sense to record such an activity, it could have been a winner on You Tube. Another bath was in order.

Book Avalanche
I have mentioned that I read exclusively using my Kindle app on my iPad. I also rarely buy a book. Instead, I borrow e-books from the library. Since I am a member of two libraries – Mesa Public Library and Denver Public Library – there is rarely a book I can’t find as long as I’m willing to wait. There is almost always a wait list, especially for newer books. But I don’t mind because I’m retired and am generally not in a hurry. For a few months, however, I have been eagerly awaiting for my turn on quite a few books. In the meantime, I have had the need to purchase a couple of books until such time that it would become my turn. Which, of course, it did……and at the same time. For the past few weeks, nearly every day I have gotten a message that such-and-such a book was ready to be downloaded. I seriously currently have five books that I have downloaded, and one that is available but I haven’t yet downloaded. Denver Public Library allows borrowers to keep an e-book three weeks, but Mesa Public Library only allows two weeks. So I have been madly reading. I have had to lose a couple of books, because even being retired, I can only read so much. I need my beauty sleep and I have to cook meals once in a while.

Must See TV
So, I am absolutely HOOKED on This is Us, the truly wonderful drama that is on NBC on Tuesdays nights. If you haven’t watched it yet, please treat yourself and do so. (Admittedly, you should start at the beginning because it follows a sequence.) There isn’t an episode at which I haven’t shed a tear. And not really from sadness, but only from the beautiful family dynamics that take place. I really love all of the characters, but am most drawn to the dad in the flashback scenes. Fellow viewers: isn’t he just the most wonderful dad you could ever imagine? What beautiful writing, such lovely stories, and such tremendous acting. Such a welcome relief from programs such as How to Get Away With Murder, which has not one redeeming quality, truly evil characters, and such darkness. And yet, I can’t seem to stop watching it because Viola Davis is such an amazing actor. I have promised myself, however, that after I watch these last few episodes, I will not record it from now on. I don’t need such darkness in my life.

Ciao.

 

Can You Hear Me Now?

cole-kaiya-making-crepes

Cole and Kaiya making crepes. Probably after she couldn’t reach me on my iPad.

My 8-year-old granddaughter Kaiya sent me an instant message Sunday morning. Unfortunately, I was out of the house for a bit, and didn’t get back until after lunch. What’s more, to her everlasting SHOCK, I don’t have an iPhone, so I can’t get the messages she texts me from her iPad unless I am next to my own iPad. Kaiya and Mylee are endlessly stunned that I sometimes don’t pick up when they Facetime, for the same reason.

Anyway, here is what she texted me: Nana, what does TTYL mean (with no question mark because I have learned that NOBODY hip ends text messages with punctuation, and Kaiya is nothing if not hip. It simply isn’t done, except by me, because I was educated in the Catholic school system and would have had to write out I must use proper punctuation. 500 times if I failed to punctuate properly).

Her question took me by surprise, partly because I actually knew the answer. But I wasn’t sure whether she was asking because she didn’t know or if it was simply a test. You know, a Hipness Test.

I’m actually going to go with the first option, because for whatever reason, Kaiya thinks I know a lot. I hope she never learns the truth.

Anyway, TTYL (for those of you who don’t have a 13-year-old granddaughter with her own cell phone) means Talk To You Later. It’s a convenient way to finally end that text message conversation that seems to never reach a conclusion.

I will admit that the first time 13-year-old Addie ended a text message conversation with TTYL, I had to look it up. I could tell that it was the finale, but I didn’t know why. Up until that point, my urban abbreviation lingo was limited to LOL.

Pretty funny, huh?  LOL.

So, literally hours after she had asked the question, I texted back the answer. I never heard another word, so she probably found out some other way. From someone with an iPhone.

For reasons I will never quite understand, my grandkids think I’m high-tech. The joke’s on them. I write a blog, but I have no idea what that word actually means. I own two iPads, but I got one for free when we signed up with Dish Network. What’s more, I generally only use my iPad to read or look at Pinterest or play Majong Solitaire (a game they all think is old-school, but look over my shoulder as I play it and poke the proper tiles without asking me).

Sometimes Bill will be telling me something about my iPad or computer, and I just look at him as if he is speaking Swahili, because he might as well be. Interface? Gigabyte? Peripheral devices? URL?

So see? Really not high tech.

But I guess being high-tech, just like anything else, is relative. I, for example, have a Facebook account while Kaiya’s maternal grandmother doesn’t. The McLains’ other grandmothers have Facebook accounts, but my iPads have Minecraft installed on both. High tech.

And probably most important, since I bought Bill a new iPad for his birthday, we own a total of four iPads. We own so many that we may start using iPads instead of concrete blocks to build bookshelves for our family room.

Not really. TTYL.

Pill Canisters and Other Contraband

imgresAfter spending a full week with our family in Vermont, Bill and I traveled with them to Montreal on Friday and flew back to Denver from there on Sunday. This pretty Canadian city is a short hour-and-a-half-or-so drive from Montpelier, and it feels like you are in a different country.

Oh, wait. You are in a different country. But it feels, well, really, really different. Like France, only with nice and friendly people who don’t get mad if you don’t speak French. It makes up for that whole mayonnaise-with-your-french-fries thingy.

Our trip home Sunday started as we flew on Air Canada from Montreal to Toronto. We

The offending pill canister.

The offending pill canister.

went through Customs in Toronto, where once again my pill canister caused a complete examination of my carry-on bag and considerable angst – by them, not me. This time I was prepared and things went a bit quicker. I saw her frantically rooting through my bag, and asked if she was by any chance looking for my silver pill canister. As an aside, I feel compelled to tell you I have carried this particular canister in my purse since Bill was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009, and it has never caused a bit of concern; never once has it raised any TSA or United States Custom agents’ eyebrows. I’m blaming Colin Kaepernick.

By the way, in Customs, the other thing that caused them concern was my bottle of Benefiber that was in my carry-on because it wouldn’t fit in the suitcase we checked. Lifting it high in the air, the agent hollered over to her co-worker who sat 20 feet away from her, “Don’t worry, it’s only fiber powder.” Thank you for sharing my constipation issues with my fellow travelers who were already concerned about the silver canister. Now they also had to worry about crankiness due to uncomfortable abdominal bloating.

Air Canada is nice, my friends. It’s true you still have to pay for an assigned seat if you aren’t interested in grabbing a vacant seat in the manner of a 5-year-old playing musical chairs. I pay for the seat because I always feel somewhat guilty when I shove aside the elderly Catholic nun to get an aisle seat. Her rosary beads slow her down. Aside from that, however, you get a full-sized tray, your seat reclines a full inch-and-a-half, you get a free pop (including the can – whoo hoo!), you have access to Wi-Fi on many planes, and there are television screens from which you can watch movies or television (well, except you have to pay them 3 Canadian dollars for the earphones that are specially designed and cannot be substituted with the earphones you are carrying with you on the plane). It doesn’t matter, because I mostly read anyway.

Which brings me to the other thing that happened to me on our trip back to Denver. As we made the approximately-one-hour-flight from Montreal to Toronto, I happily read my Kindle book from my trusty iPad. Upon landing, I placed it in my carry-on, and off we went in search of our connecting flight. As I mentioned above, this required going through Customs as we were flying from a foreign country. Aside from the pill canister/Benefiber issue, Customs went flawlessly, given the fact that we weren’t trying to bring home live animals or illegal drugs.

We had about an hour to kill, and I carried my bag with me as we found our gate, then plopped it down at my feet when we found a place to have lunch.

Oh, I have another digression here. At the Toronto airport – or at least in the post-Customs side of the Toronto airport – they don’t have very much regular seating at the gates. Instead, they have this very cool seating where you sit at a table with your own personal iPad. From that iPad station, you can catch up on the news, order your lunch, select an appropriate beverage, and charge up any of your own equipment. It was very cool except for the fact that a sandwich cost 20 Canadian dollars and the cheapest glass of wine was 17 Canadian dollars. Both which I purchased, of course. It was very high tech and Star Trekie, if quite expensive.

Anyway, we boarded our Air Canada plane in Toronto, and for some reason, it was a much smaller plane with no Wi-Fi. No problem, however, because see above. I read. Except after we were up in the air, I pulled out my iPad only to find that at some point in Toronto, the volume button had gotten smushed and was thoroughly jammed. My iPad would do absolutely nothing but show that little volume icon. Bill spent a good 30 minutes using his fingernails, a pen, and various other things to which we had access to try and unsmush it, but to no avail. It was nothing but a flat, useless, metal item taking up room in my bag.

I thought I had the answer because the Kindle software is also on my phone. Alas, I hadn’t downloaded the book I was reading, so though I could see the book, I wasn’t able to read it. And guess what? No Wi-Fi on this plane because of its small size. I’m blaming Colin Kaepernick.

So I sat for three hours as we made our way across the central US states to Denver. Time goes very slowly when you are staring at the flight map. Even I find it interesting that I was willing to pay 17 Canadian dollars for a glass of wine but wouldn’t fork over 3 Canadian dollars for headphones. Priorities, my friends. I’m not made of money.

The good news is that we made it home safe, and Bill – in true MacGyver-like fashion – has jerry-rigged my iPad to work, at least for a bit. Like its owner, it wouldn’t win any beauty contests.

Tomorrow I will tell you all about Montreal.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Book Worms

Columbus1915

My nephew Erik’s family has a game they often play at dinnertime. One of the kids will start the game by asking something like, “Mom, what’s your favorite television show?” or “Dad, what’s your favorite place you have ever visited?” They then go around the table, each answering the particular question. Then the next person asks a question. And so forth.

It is, I presume, under this circumstance that my great nephew Carter, who is 8 years old, recently asked his mom a question that tickled her so much that she posted it on Facebook.  “Mom, what is your favorite smell?” She answered that she liked the fragrance of cinnamon and vanilla candles. “What’s yours?” she asked him. “I love the smell of a new book,” he answered. “I just love that smell.”

That is a child after my own heart. There is nothing like the smell and the feel of a new book. A hard back book with its perfect cover that creaks as you open the book wide. A paperback book that is smooth and unblemished with a perfectly uncreased binding.

Having said that, I will remind you all that I have confessed that I no longer read paper books, opting instead for ebooks every time. There are pluses and minuses about reading books off of my iPad. In the plus category is the fact that I never have to worry about running out of books. When I finish a book, I always have another book available. I can, in fact, carry with me many, many books. Also, I have a book at hand even in the case of an unexpected circumstance requiring me to wait since I have my kindle software on my phone as well as my iPad. If I want a book, I can get it immediately by going to Amazon and buying the book. And these days there are many books available electronically through the library, though it often requires a wait period. But that is also true of paper books.

But the minuses of reading electronically is that you miss out on exactly what Carter said he likes – the smell and feel of a new book. And please understand this fact: for book lovers, reading is a tactile experience. I love – well, loved – the look and feel of a new book.

The other day I was talking with someone about occupations. Being old and forgetful, I don’t even remember who I was talking to and why we were talking about jobs.

“What would you do for a living if you had it to do over again?” asked Whoever-It-Was-With-Whom-I-Was-Having-This-Conversation.

That’s easy. I would be a librarian.

I would suck at the part about doing research. Research makes me impatient and cranky. And, I know, I know, that’s probably the largest part of the job. But I would excel – EXCEL, I TELL YOU – at the part about talking about books and shelving books and checking out books. Touching books. Because I love books.

All of the above thoughts popped into my head recently because I had cause to actually enter a library building, something I probably haven’t done for over a year. That’s remarkable, because I am one of the world’s biggest users of the library. I have been since I was a little girl. I remember what it felt like to walk up the concrete stairs of our old library in Columbus. The steps were actually somewhat concave from the hundreds  and hundreds of people who had climbed them over the years. I remember what the old, heavy wooden door felt like as I pushed it open. And yes, Carter, I remember exactly how it smelled.

But I have little need to actually enter a library these days because I do it all over the internet. I reserve books. I check out books. I download books. I read books. I return the books. All on my computer or my iPad.

The 21st century is convenient and easy in many ways, but there are many things that I miss as I move into a more and more modern society.

Thursday Thoughts

Tech-less Thursdays
You might recall that as part of my Lenten fasting, I am refraining from most technology each Thursday. Here’s what I used as my criteria for what I’m not using: If I was going to a cabin in the woods with no television, no wifi, no internet, but with a kitchen, I would bring along books, recipes, and my crocheting (along with my project patterns). So, I am allowing myself to use my iPad as my book (since all of my reading these days is done via ebooks), and for my existing crochet patterns and recipes that are on Pinterest. I don’t use my iPad for anything else, such as email, Facebook (except to post my blog in the morning), or Pinterest (except to access existing recipes or crochet patterns). I’ve tried to limit my use of my cell phone, but frankly haven’t been great about that. So here’s what I’ve discovered: the things I miss most are being able to walk over to my computer to check activity on my blog or to look at Facebook (during Lent, I turn off my computer once I’ve posted my blog in the morning), and television. Oh, television. I would have told you a month ago that not watching television one day a week would be a piece of cake. It really isn’t. I guess I just enjoy sitting in the evenings and watching TV with Bill. Instead, I go into the bedroom and crochet or read, and listen to the sound of faint music because Bill watches American Idol. All-in-all, I have discovered that it has been harder than I suspected it would.

Spring Gardening
Not surprisingly, the gardening schedule is different here in AZ than it is in Denver, and most other parts of the country. While non-Arizonans dutifully plant their vegetable seeds and small plants in the spring and harvest in the summer and fall, that schedule doesn’t work in the desert. Remember, in July, when the green tomatoes on my plants in Denver are just beginning to turn red, it is 110 degrees during the day at our AZ home, and only getting down to the upper 80s or low 90s at night. Only the hardiest plants, i.e. cacti and succulents, can survive the brutal heat. So much of the vegetable planting is done in late fall and early winter, and harvesting is completed by May. For the most part, I am unable to garden very much here, as we only visit for a short time in the fall and tomatoes don’t have time to grow, sprout fruit, and ripen in the time we are here in the winter. But I do plant some things. This year I planted herbs in pots (parsley, thyme, and basil). When we first purchased our house here in 2010, Jen and I put in a little teeny tiny rosemary plant that we got at the grocery store in a 2-in pot. We put that in the ground as we knew it was able to withstand the weather conditions. Here is what it looks like today…..

Rosemary 2016

And here is a photo of my beautiful romaine lettuce in a pot, after several cuttings, I might add……

Lettuce

…and All I Got Was This Crappy T-Shirt
Bill had pretty significant dental surgery on Friday. It required general anesthesia. Everything went fine, and except for the fact that he can’t chew on the right side of his mouth for four months (whaaaaat?), he is recovering nicely. We had seriously not been home for 15 minutes when our doorbell rang. “Who’s that?” Bill asks, as he always asks when the doorbell rings as though I am psychic or have x-ray vision and can see through the door. I’ll give him a break this time because he was only an hour out of general anesthesia. Anyway, it was someone delivering flowers. It being way past Valentine’s Day and way before my birthday, I couldn’t imagine why Bill was sending me flowers. Well, the flowers weren’t for me at all. They were for Bill from his dentist and his oral surgeon. Get well soon, the card said. A very nice thought, though I’m fully aware that a $50 expenditure on flowers is only a pittance of the thousands of dollars they will receive from the dental work. Still……

Bill's flowers

This Wine Tastes Like Cardboard
Bill and I have, well, let’s call it simple taste in wine. Quite frankly, we’re cheapskates. But the other day I was at our big, nice liquor store and decided to get a bottle of wine to share that evening with Bec, who was coming for dinner. I was going all out and gave myself permission to spend upwards to $15 on a bottle of wine. CRAZY! Anyway, I went to the area where they have their nicest wines and began perusing the bottom shelf where the prices are more affordable. I ended up buying a bottle of an Argentine Malbec that was only $9.99. I was willing to pay more, but they description amused me……

wine description

Inky and concentrated with robust flavors of black fruit, cigar box, and chocolate. Cigar box? Really? The dinner never happened and so the wine has yet to be opened. Until then, I will just sniff Bill’s cigar boxes.

Ciao.

40 Days

I have barely put away the Christmas wrapping paper. I mean that. Just the other day I put the last roll of wrapping paper bearing the images of reindeer and Santa into my bedroom closet (which is the Place Where Everything That Doesn’t Belong in the Garage Goes to Live).

And here it is – Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. The first of 40 days and 40 nights (or so) of sacrifice and prayer in preparation for Christ’s death and resurrection. Put away my Christmas stuff, give a brief shout-out to Valentine’s Day, and start crocheting bunnies, all within about a two week period.

Every year (as you know if you’ve been reading my blog since the beginning) I give great thought to how I’m going to live my Lent. From the time I was a little girl of 7 (the so-called Age of Reason in the Catholic Church), I have “given up” something to show God how deeply appreciative I am of Christ’s sacrifice. Because not eating chocolate and dying a painful death on the cross are so much alike.

As a little girl, I always gave up desserts. That actually wasn’t that much of a sacrifice since Mom rarely made us dessert and we always gave ourselves Sundays off. As Charlie Sheen would say, “Wow. Winning.” But that wasn’t as bad as the year that Court, probably about 10 at the time, announced he was giving up chicken for Lent. He didn’t like chicken then and isn’t a big fan now. I put the nix on that idea very quickly. That was probably the beginning of Court’s spiritual plunge.

I love the gospel of St. Matthew read at Ash Wednesday Mass.

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door. And pray to your Father in secret. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance so that they may appear to others to be fasting. When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that you may not appear to be fasting.

imagesIt gives me pause, and the reason is that I always wonder if I’m being a hypocrite when I start talking about what Big Thing I’m going to do for Lent. Perhaps I should just keep it to myself.

But I write a blog, and I’m certain you are all interested.

I recently read something on Facebook which said something like could you live in a cabin in the woods for 30 days with no access to your phone, your computer, your television, your iPad, or any other type of technology.

Pfff, I thought. Of course I could. As long as I can read a book, er, on my iPad. And as long as I can check Facebook every day (well, a few times a day). And as long as I don’t have to miss Downton Abbey or American Idol.

Ok, so maybe I couldn’t do it for 30 days, but maybe I could do it for one day. One day a week. One day a week for five weeks.

So, that’s my challenge. I am giving up all technology one day a week for Lent. I will post my blog on the Day of No Technology, but will then shut off my computer until the next morning. And my phone. And my iPad (except to read since all my books are ebooks).

And no sweets, every day, even on Sundays. For old times’ sake.

Yikes.

IWWIWWIWI

I am the vine; you are the branches....

I am the vine; you are the branches….

In years past, it used to be ASAP. Now in the day of instant gratification, ASAP has turned into IWWIWWIWI. I want what I want when I want it.

I Want What I Want When I Want It is actually the name of a song written back in – believe it or not – 1905. The song’s author – ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Victor Herbert – couldn’t possibly have imagined just what wanting something when you wanted it would mean in the 21st century.

Both Bill and I practically live with our IPads or our Smart Phones next to us or in our purse or pocket. Via one of these devices or the other, we can –and do – access information at the touch of a button. It’s hard to even envision a day when you had to look at an encyclopedia or dictionary to glean information.

It wasn’t that long ago that if you decided to purchase something, you had to wait until the stores opened. Life without Amazon is almost unimaginable. These days, when I want to buy something, I pick up my IPad, click on Amazon, find what I want, put it in my shopping cart, select Amazon Prime’s two-day free shipping, and the package is sitting at my doorstep in 48 hours. Soon it will be delivered by a drone. Someday I might only have to use the chip in my brain to place my order.

I occasionally forget to grab my cell phone when I leave the house. I remember it in a panic. What if someone is trying to reach me? What if I need to talk to someone right away? What if I need directions? I have to talk myself off the ledge and remind myself that there was a time – and not that long ago – when you had to talk on the telephone at your house. Sometimes the telephone receiver was even attached to the phone itself by a cord. And if I needed directions, I would look at a map. Or make a phone call before I left the house to get directions.

I remember fighting with my sisters when I was young for use of our one telephone, attached to the wall in our red linoleum-tiled kitchen. Heck. I remember having to wait until the neighbor lady was finished with her phone call because we were on a party line. (Look up party line on Wikipedia, Kids.)

And speaking of Wikipedia, I am perhaps Wikipedia’s best customer. I probably click on Wikipedia 10 to 15 times a day for one thing or another. And inevitably, while reading about whatever it is I felt I needed to know immediately, I get distracted and click on to a related topic, which leads me to another related matter. Before you know it, an hour has passed, and I can’t even remember what I was originally looking up.

I want what I want when I want it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go back to the days of party lines and reference librarians. I am all about FaceTime and Amazon and Google Maps. I like knowing that if my car breaks down I can call AAA using my cell phone. It just struck me funny that way back in 1905, there was discussion of any kind about wanting what I wanted when I wanted it.

Of course, upon looking into the lyrics, I learned that the song was all about the benefits of being a bachelor. Still and all…..

Believe it or not, I learned about the song from Sunday’s homily. Father Larry used I Want What I Want When I Want It as a launching point to talk about prayer. Remember last week when I talked about how difficult it is to reference God’s will when asking for his blessing? That’s because we want what we want when we want it.

Jesus told his disciples he was the vine and we are his branches. But Jesus went on to say, “IF you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” The if is very important. In other words, ask for what you want and know that you can trust that God will do what’s best for you.

Excuse me. I want to go look up Victor Herbert on Wikipedia.