Can You Justify?

I’m not a big fan of horses. While from afar, I find them powerful and beautiful animals, that’s just about where I want them – afar. They’re just a little too snorty and unpredictable for my taste.

Hidden deeply in a box in the back of someone’s closet, there is photographic documentation of a rather unfortunate decision made by my father regarding a vacation activity. My dad loved vacations, and he would do just about anything to create more fun times for Mom and their four children when it came to vacation fun. However, one year when we were vacationing in our favorite spot – Estes Park, Colorado – he decided it would be great fun to sign up the family for an early morning horseback trail ride. I don’t know how he talked Mom into this idea. Despite the fact that she grew up on a farm, Mom was not a farm girl. She thought, for example, that chickens were the stupidest animals on earth. If ever any of her children appeared to be lacking enthusiasm or energy, we were put in our place with her stern words: you look like a chicken with coccidiosis. For years I thought she invented that term. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that chickens were, in fact, susceptible to an intestinal disease called coccidiosis with symptoms that included listlessness.

Anyhoo, Dad arranged this morning breakfast ride, which turned out to be a dismal failure. While Mom thought chickens were stupid, she thought horses were terrifying. And guess what? So did her children. Well, that’s not exactly true. For whatever reason, Bec is the member of our family who is (as Mary Poppins might say) practically fearless in every way. She likes horses and enjoys riding them. Go figure. But the rest of us were miserable, as the aforementioned photo documented. I was maybe 10 years old, which would have made Bec 15, Jen 6, and Dave 4. As you could predict, we did not get the perkiest horses in the stable. In fact, I believe they might have been sent off to the glue factory shortly after our ride. But that was fine with us. If the horse hadn’t moved an inch, we all (except Bec) would have been very happy. The other people who were on our trail ride, however, were eagerly anticipating breakfast. So the cowboy with the unfortunate job of handling the Gloors handed Mom a switch from a tree. “Here you go, Ma’am,” he said cheerfully. “If the horse doesn’t want to walk, give him a wack on his haunches and he will start to move.”

Needless to say, there was no wacking on the haunches of any of our horses. However, we somehow made it to the end of the trail and to breakfast. Dave, being so young, rode with Dad, sitting in front of him. He cried the entire way. Not sniffled, mind you – cried, with tears rolling down his cheek. It wasn’t until we arrived at breakfast that Dad figured out that Dave was riding on the saddle horn the entire way, thereby enduring a painful journey. I feel no need to explain.

I also feel no need to explain why Dave, Jen, and Mom rode back to the stable in a wagon following breakfast.

Having said all of the above, I will tell you that there is a month-and-a-half out of the year when I love horses, and that is during the Triple Crown races. Every first Saturday of May, I get a text from my brother asking for my Kentucky Derby prediction. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that my brother was not totally scarred for life by his disturbing horseback-riding experience, and actually likes horse racing. Unlike me, he does not select his horse by whether or not it’s pretty or the colors worn by the jockey are striking. He actually studies the horses, the stables, the trainers, the jockeys. The one exception to what I just said is 2012, the year that I’ll Have Another raced. He picked the horse 100 percent because of his name. Too bad he didn’t bet the ranch, however, because I’ll Have Another went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. He might have gone on to win Belmont Stakes, but he had an ouchie and couldn’t race. He, in fact, never raced again.

When Bill and I were first married, he was the proud owner of a gorgeous palomino horse named Champion Chip, called simply Chip. Even I had to admit to his sheer beauty. He was some 16 hands high, and spirited as all get-out. Bill had to break him, and did such a good job that he was able to ride Chip in parades along with other horses as part of a horseback riding group to which he belonged. To give you an idea of how large 16 hands is, the magnificent 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat – known for his size and power – was 16-and-1/2 hands high when he won those races.

While they didn’t win the Kentucky Derby, Bill and Chip looked amazing with the Sangre di Cristo mountains in the background…..

Suffice it to say that I never – not even once – got on Chip’s back. I’m pretty sure I never even touched him. One horseback ride was enough. It’s only a matter of time before one gets stomped by a horse…..

Spring is Bustin’ Out

March went out like a lion
Awakin’ up the water in the bay;
Then April cried and stepped aside,
And along came pretty little May! – Rogers and Hammerstein, from Carousel

I have lived in Colorado since 1973, and in Denver since 1975. I have seen countless snowstorms in May, one as recently as last year. The snows are generally very wet and not the kind that paralyze the city. The next day the snow is mostly melted and the green grass is peeking through what’s left. But the nighttime temperatures – even when it doesn’t snow – often get down near freezing. However, it’s the daytime temperatures that get me every time.

The rule of thumb is NO PLANTING BEFORE MOTHERS’ DAY. It’s fine to put in your carrot or radish seeds. Lettuce seeds can withstand cold soil. But don’t be lulled into thinking this time – THIS TIME – it will be different. Even if the temperature is 75 degrees and the sky is blue.

I’ve learned the lesson the hard way. I have spent several hundred dollars on garden plants and put them in the ground on a lovely May afternoon, pre-Mothers’ Day, only to watch a cold snap take them all. So, while I’ve learned my lesson, I still find myself jonesing to put some plants in the ground when the weather is as nice as it’s been the past few days.

After Mass yesterday, Bill stopped at an Ace Hardware near our church. It so happens that this particular Ace Hardware has a fantastic plant nursery attached to it. I told Bill I would wander around the nursery while he got his tool.

Next thing I knew, somehow my cart contained a grape tomato plant, a Roma tomato plant, some Swiss chard, a jalapeno plant, a beautiful basil plant, some radish and carrot seeds, and a partridge in a pear tree. Well, not the partridge (though it looks like our pear tree will bear fruit this year), but the rest is true.

Bill gave me the eye when he caught up with me a bit later. I’m not going to put these in the ground yet, I assured him. Which, of course, will mean that I have to nurture the little devils through the next week or so by taking them out in the morning and bringing them back at night. I think it is safe for me to plant the radishes and the carrots, but the rest will have to wait…..

“I simply can’t not buy garden plants in the spring when the weather gets nice,” I told him. His response? I think that’s a double negative, Miss Smarty Grammar Pants. Well, he didn’t exactly call me Miss Smarty Grammar Pants, and he was, in fact, right. What I meant was I’m incapable of deferring purchase of garden plants until a more appropriate time when the weather is screaming SPRING.

But the other things that I hear screaming are the weeds in our yard. We are back in Denver a bit earlier this year than we have the past couple of years. As a result, while we are not completely ahead of the weeds, we are definitely in a better position than in years past. So I spent Friday pulling weeds, weeds, and more weeds. The disheartening fact of the matter, however, is that when it comes to weeds, there are always more weeds. Despite a morning of weeding and cleaning up last summer’s perennials, the yard still looks, well, weedy……

But perhaps it’s nothing that a little mulch can’t help. And we dangled the idea of paying cash money in front of our grandson Alastair in exchange for a little help next week. He agreed to help his papa buy bags and bags of bark that he will then spread onto our fountain garden and Papa will supervise. Grandkids = Cheap Labor…..

But I did take some time off from outdoor cleanup to watch the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. While I didn’t drink a mint julip, I did have a couple of fingers of a nice bourbon while cheering on my chosen horse, Vino Rosso. I’m glad I didn’t bet our entire fortune as I’m pretty sure he came in dead last….

Happy Spring!

That’s a Wrap

imagesThe pastor at the church with which we are affiliated in Denver doesn’t have much of a sense of humor, I’m afraid. He’s pretty important, at least within our archdiocese. He’s a monsignor, and told us Sunday that he had been appointed by Pope Francis to be some kind of muckity muck for our archdiocese during the pope’s Year of Mercy. But he doesn’t seem to laugh much. To his credit, when he does laugh, it’s usually at himself.

Nevertheless, he started his homily Sunday (on which we celebrated Christ’s ascension into heaven) by saying that Jesus could have shortened his remarks to the apostles prior to his ascending to heaven by simply saying, “And that’s a wrap.”

I’m not sure why, but that tickled me.

That’s a wrap. I’m all finished with everything. I successfully did all the stuff my Father asked me to do. I came; I saw; I conquered.

And it wouldn’t have been a wrap at all if he hadn’t ascended into heaven, because that, like the rest of his human life, is a model for our own lives. We are born. We live a good life. We die. And through the grace of God, we go to heaven. At the end of the day, just as Jesus, we are only here for a short time. And though we feel as though we are in control of the world, the world belongs to God, and we are only in the world, not of the world. We are really of God.

We flew home from Chicago on Saturday after spending a few days with Bill’s mom. We knew the weather in Colorado was going to be iffy, but the plane left on time and we kept our fingers crossed.

A few hours later, the pilot came on the intercom with words to this effect: Good afternoon. This is your pilot speaking. The good news is that we are only 80 miles away from Denver. The bad news is that the airport is socked in with a severe thunderstorm and DIA is closed until the storm passes. So we are going to fly around Colorado until it reopens or they send us elsewhere. It’s going to be bumpy, so suck it up.

Seriously?

I began my usual panic.

What if the plane runs out of fuel? What if we run into one of the other planes that is flying around Colorado awaiting the reopening of the airport? What if the turbulence is so strong that one of the wings falls off? Does this mean I’m going to miss watching the Kentucky Derby?

Poor Bill has his hands full.

But behind us was a mother traveling with three children. One was a babe in arms who slept through the entire thing. The other two were maybe early elementary school, and found the whole thing to be very exciting rather than scary. Oh, to be a child again.

At some point they began to entertain themselves by singing, in rounds, a song that they must have learned at church or maybe from a Christian school.

Praise be the Lord, we sing hallelujah. Praise be the Lord, we sing hallelujah. Praise be the Lord, we sing hallelujah.

That was it. There might have been other words, but those were the only ones they sang, over and over and over.

At first I thought, “Oh no. They’re going to drive me crazy because I’m already stressed.”

But suddenly I realized what they were saying, and I realized it was a prayer, whether they knew that or not. So I began singing it quietly to myself.

Praise be the Lord, we sing hallelujah.

We made it down safely. The plane had enough fuel. The wings remained firmly attached. I didn’t see a single other plane.  I missed the Kentucky Derby, but so what. We lived.

He is risen and is back with his Father awaiting all of us.

Praise be the Lord, we sing hallelujah.

This post linked to the GRAND Social