Wednesday, February 18, 2015

First Day of Lent

Today, those ashes from the burned palms will be placed on my forehead. Every year, Ash Wednesday is filled with good intentions of what I will sacrifice. Fasting, doing more good, being more helpful and daily mass are a few of the things that I would like to do. Maybe this year I will accomplish my eager intentions.

Growing up, I would give up chocolate and Easter Sunday was a chocolate gorging day! As I think about what I love that I could give up, one thought comes to mind. I do love to blog. I wonder if I can go forty days without blogging?  If my blog is silent for awhile, it is because I have decided to leave my blogging until Easter Sunday!

At mass this morning, the ashes were ready to be placed, in the shape of a cross, on everyone's forehead.

Father in Heaven,
protect us in our 
struggle against evil.
As we begin the
discipline of Lent,
make this season
holy by our self-denial.
Grant through our
Lord, Jesus Christ 
who reigns with you 
and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.

Honoring the Presidents Luncheon

The decorations at the luncheon were impressive and the food was delicious. Both were under the supervision of one super-like woman. Under her direction the tables had red,white and blue figures, American flags, and from the ceiling, large cardboard banners with pictures of the presidents, were hanging.

In the kitchen, she had watched over the making of the Kraut burgers and with the help of many volunteers presented Young at Heart with an attractive plate of good food. My plate had the Kraut burger, a mound of potato salad, a green lettuce leaf nestling a red jello square. The popular dessert tables were filled with pies, cookies, and cakes brought by members of the club.

The club's past president led everyone in saying a prayer before eating. The luncheon seemed to be enjoyed by everyone and I could hear a lot of chatter and laughter as I walked around photographing some of the people. The entertainment arrived; four men in turquoise jackets and mellow voices. The barber shop quartet is known as The Grace Notes and not only could they sing but they entertained us by their comical and clever jokes. I found out that the men are retired and have been together for about thirteen years. 

 Below are some of the YAH members enjoying the day!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Readers United

I belong to a book club. We meet every third Tuesday of the month. In discussing a book we have read we realize there are many subjects that can be discussed, not just the book or story. After reading the same book, our different views are interesting, informative and sometimes entertaining as we discuss the book.

Today it was The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner. An excellent story about a modern young girl who transcribes a diary written by another young girl, of the 1600's, who is accused of being a witch. What I found interesting was that there seemed to be three stories, running side by side, as the author writes about Lauren (a college student hired to transcribe the diary), Abigail (an 83 year old woman and owner of the diary) and Mercy (the accused witch.) Each life is full of conflicts.

Opinions of the group were that choices played an important role, that quick judgement because of stereotyping can cause pain and embarrassment, how friendship can grow, and that some people are selfish and some people may have an evil streak, while others are willing to die for love.

When we found out that the author would accept comments and photos of our club, I pulled out my camera and we had our picture taken. The picture will be sent to the author since she wants to hear from different book clubs.
Three of the members of the book club had dreams of either working in a library or owning a small  bookstore. Almost all readers can not bear to part with books in their collection. I figure that readers are basically the same; turn them loose in a bookstore and they will buy a book or two or more! Last week I purchased five books for my Kindle and now I have to find the time to read them.

Our next meeting in March, will be on Molokai by Alan Brennert. Happy reading readers!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Last Minute Decision

Every month, except during Lent, a casino trip is planned for members of Spirit of Christ Catholic Community. This is a very popular trip and fills up right away as soon as it is announced. The trip planned for today to the Mardi Gras Casino was to be another fun trip and I had a full bus of fifty-five persons. I also had a waiting list of twelve persons in case there would be any cancellations.

Cancellations because of  babysitting, lunch dates, doctor's appointments and travel began to come in until the original list of  "gamblers," had completely changed. All of the persons on the waiting list made it to the main list and with the bus full, it would be another fun trip. Then, the weather poked its cold head into our plans.

From the fifty-persons on my list it began to dwindle until it reached forty-two. Weather forecasters were scaring everyone with the 2-8 inches of snow that was to fall Sunday night and into Monday. I got up around six in the morning and looked outside. There was snow covering the ground but it did not look bad. I got on the Internet to see about the weather in Blackhawk. Couldn't find out much other than snow was predicted for most of the day. I received two more cancellations and now it was forty hearty souls prepared to weather the storm!

Around seven I looked out again and the snow was coming down in earnest. Big flakes were landing and covering my driveway with about two inches of snow. I knew I had a decision to make. I called the person who handles our group in Blackhawk and she told me it was snowing in Blackhawk also and that the roads were passable but slow. She told me that it was my decision whether I wanted to cancel or not. At that point, I decided to cancel the casino trip. I let her know that our group would not be going to Blackhawk this morning.

I began calling those on the list who thought they were going to gamble. A few persons asked if they could help by calling some of the people on my list. Thank God for kind and helpful people. Between three of us we got everyone on the list called by eight o'clock. I may be wrong but I thought I heard a sigh of relief from many of the persons I informed about the cancellation.

Now, all I have to do is get ready for our next trip which will be sometime in April. Surely, by then we will have nice spring weather!

Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

The saying that too many cooks spoil the broth is not true. On Sunday, about twenty persons gathered in the kitchen of Spirit of Christ Catholic Community to prepare food for the Young At Heart luncheon. Some cracked hard boiled eggs and cut them into small pieces, some chopped onions and celery, some made jello. I saw fruit being poured into the jello and potatoes being boiled for a potato salad. Many were involved in preparing the filling for the main dish of Kraut Burgers.

There were many hands crumbling seven pounds of ground beef, chopping ten pounds of cabbage, and cutting up onion to go into a large pan. Everything was fried together in the pan and this would become the filling for the Kraut Burgers.

Yeast dough was prepared and allowed to rise. When the dough had doubled in size, it was separated into two halves. Two tables had floured white cloths where the dough would be rolled into a large,thin rectangle. The rolled dough covered half of the long table. Once the dough was rolled it was cut into 4x4 squares.

Once the cabbage mixture was cool, a glob of the mixture would be put into the square and a pocket made.
The 250 pockets would be baked and ready for the luncheon. I had never seen so many hands working in a synchronized manner to prepare the food. Each person seemed to know their part whether it was peeling, cutting, mixing or rolling. The kitchen smelled good except for the hard boiled eggs!

I could not stay to see the finished product that the cooks would complete, but I will see every one's hard work and enjoy a delicious luncheon on Tuesday, February 17, 2015.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Burning of the Palms

Today, after the 12:15 mass, old palm fronds were burned to make ashes for Ash Wednesday. Ashes are used to make a cross on my forehead on Ash Wednesday and I had no idea it was from old and dried out blessed palms. I have a bag full of old palms but because I know they are blessed I keep them. Sometimes I think about throwing them out, but I can not bring myself to do it. Now, I know what I will do with my palms. For the past few weeks, our priest asked people to bring in the palms they received on Palm Sunday and they would be burned to make ashes for this year.

I liked that the statue of St. Francis of Assisi looked over the shoulder of the deacon as he prayed over the palms before setting them on fire. The Christian Formation director read a passage from the Bible as the dry palms burned. A few persons gathered around the fire to see the burning of the palms.

"Remember that you are dust
and to dust you shall return."
Genesis 3:19

A Single Yellow Flower

Yesterday, as I was leaving the house, I spotted a yellow bloom. In the corner of  what used to be a flower patch, I saw the small yellow crocus popping out of the dry ground. Seeing the one flower gave me a good feeling that spring would soon follow.

"Where flowers bloom, 
so does hope"  
Lady Bird Johnson

There was a time when the whole flower bed would be filled with different flowers and colors, but now it is a dry patch with dead leaves, twigs, and dirt. Yet, in all that dryness there is a solitary bloom. The dictionary describes Crocuses as:  Any of the small, bulbous plants of the genus Crocus, of the Iris family,
cultivated for their showy, solitary flowers, which are among the first to bloom in the spring"

"If we could see the miracle
of a single flower clearly, 
our whole life would change."

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Driving the Fast Lane

On Sunday, February 8, 2015 my granddaughters and I were invited to have lunch in Irvine, California with my son-in-law's parents.  They suggested meeting half-way in Irvine, a midpoint from where we were and from where they live. Even though I hate driving the California freeways, I thought it would be a fun thing to do even though I would be driving their new car and traveling unknown highways.

My seventeen year old granddaughter was my co-pilot and she did an excellent job of giving me directions.
Once we were on the 57, she said, "Keep moving to the left until you are on the far left lane." It took me awhile to scoot over and once there she said, "You will stay here for a while before having to move toward the exit to get on another freeway." I did not like hearing that there would be another freeway but I continued moving along at about 65 miles per hour. Cars kept passing me on my right and my granddaughter said, "Grandma, you are in the fast lane and you need to go about 75 but don't go over 80 because you could get a ticket."

I have never driven over 70 miles unless it was on the open highway. My hands began to sweat. I felt nervous as I stepped on the gas to about 76 miles an hour. When she said to begin moving to my right, my stomach tightened up, my heart began to beat faster and my hands were so wet I was afraid they would slide right off the steering wheel. God must have wondered why so many silent and  frantic prayers were coming from our car. California drivers whip by and around but luckily I was able to move over and ease unto another freeway which took us to the Jamboree exit.

There are two malls on either side of Jamboree and one is in Tustin and the other one is in Irvine. The Lazy Dog Cafe where we were meeting is on the Irvine side and once we found the restaurant and I parked the car, I was both relieved and thankful.

We were early and I decided to take some pictures of the beautiful area. It is a mecca for eaters because there must have been twenty or more fancy restaurants all in a row.

I saw people with dogs on a leash and wondered why there were so many dogs at the restaurant. I was told that on Sunday, dog owners can bring their dogs for a doggie brunch. I was happy to hear that the dogs are served outside in the patio.

There were six of us and each one ordered something different. My Kung Pao Chicken was excellent and from the clean plates I figured everyone also enjoyed their lunch. As we left I got a mint in the shape of a doggie bone which I thought was clever in keeping with the name of the restaurant!

After parting ways, even though I was dreading the drive home, we got on the freeway and stayed on the slower right lanes of 65-70 miles an hour. Much more my speed!

Happy Valentine To My Friends

Yesterday I was at the grocery store and saw rows and rows of flowers in preparation for the holiday of Valentine's Day. I saw stuffed red and white animals. I saw red boxes filled with candy. I looked at the rack of cards. It appears that Valentine's Day has become a big money maker!  I recalled how it used to be in my youth.

"I need 34 Valentines," I told my Mother.
"That's a lot of cards," my Mother responded.
"Yes, but I have to get a card for everyone in my class."
"I thought you would just buy a card for those you find special."
"No, the teacher doesn't want any one to have hurt feelings. She said that there might be one child who would not receive a card and that child would feel slighted."
"Okay, we'll go to Woolworths and buy you the cards."

All through grade school it was basically the same conversation every year. Looking at all the cards at either Kress or Woolworth seemed so difficult because there were so many Valentines in the displays. When we purchased the cards, I would sit at the kitchen table writing from and my name on the back and putting my classmate's names, from the list the teacher had given me, on the envelope.

The teacher would have a red and white box decorated with construction paper or crepe paper with a slot on the top. Each student would drop their bundle of cards into the slot. At some point during class the teacher would read the names and we each went up to get our Valentines. It was fun to come home and look at the Valentines with hearts, cute animals, Disney characters, cupids and arrows. 

Later, in Junior and High School, I might get a Valentine or two from special friends. I hated to get one with "from your mystery friend," because I could never figure out who had given it to me. I knew who I wished it had come from but I was never sure.

The Valentine's received while I was dating or from a special friend gave me a feeling of being loved. As I was cleaning out a box I found Valentines from my husband, from friends, or from my children. Flowers were always appreciated and a heart shaped box filled with chocolate was my favorite! Going out to dinner became a tradition on February 14. It seems that  the holiday has become one, big commercial sales day!

A young man told me, "I am so glad I do not have a girl friend on
Valentine's Day because it is an expensive day with flowers, candy, cards, drinks and dinner!"

Now I get e-mails or a wish on Facebook and that is plenty for me! This morning I received a couple of  texts from Mexico, texts from local friends and a few e-mails. My, how times have changed!

"Roses are red
Violets are blue
Sugar is sweet
and so are you!"

Friday, February 13, 2015

Close Encounter With A Hummingbird

The day was perfect. Warm, a slight breeze, sun on my shoulders, birds chirping, and above my head I heard a rustle of softly clicking wings. A large moth, I thought. I turned my my head and over my left shoulder a humming bird hovered about a foot away from my head. It moved over until it was at about the eleven o'clock position. Its tiny wings were moving fast as it moved in front of me. I could see its eyes and long pointed beak. It slowly moved to about the one o'clock position and I wished I had my camera. I had never seen a hummingbird stop in mid air and stare at me! Other than its blurry wings, the tiny bird did not move. It was suspended in front of me looking at me. It floated over to my right shoulder and then it disappeared.

How exciting to see nature so close. Never had I been so close to a humming bird, in fact, they always seem to fly away if I get too close. This one was as if it also wanted to get a good look at me.

I ran inside to tell my daughter and she said, "It must have been Uncle David." The thought that it was someone I knew never entered my mind. Yet, maybe she was right. If those that have gone before us visit in in form of birds, fish or animals, I wish it could have been my Mother. I could see its dark eyes as it hovered and I know, if it was my Mother, she got a good look at me as she circled me! It gave me a good feeling.

Telling a friend about my hummingbird experience, she told me that there was a time when she had hummingbirds in her yard, and that they would sometimes, depending on whether she had on a bright color, would fly around her. I guess it is not such a big deal, but for me it was quite an experience to have the tiny bird so close to my head. All I could think of was that next time I would make sure I had my camera.
After that day, even though I sat in the patio for five more days, I never saw another hummingbird.
The hummingbird photo was taken by my daughter in her back yard. Maybe it was the same bird that fluttered around me.

"Hummingbird darts lightly through the world,
spreading its message of joy and beauty, 
and teaching us to appreciate the wonder
and magic of every day existence. 
Hummingbirds bring the gift of joy.
Learn to laugh and be happy."
Author unknown.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Serendipity or Synchronicity

While I was visiting my family in California, my son-in-law asked me if I knew anything about Vivian Maier. I told him I didn't. He told me that there was a documentary about an eccentric woman who was a photographer. She was a hoarder and had many boxes and suitcases filled with undeveloped film and negatives. Something like 100,000 negatives.

That evening, we decided to watch the documentary about the lady who was known as a nanny and who always had a camera around her neck. The documentary is in black and white and begins when a young man purchased a suitcase at an estate auction in Chicago. The suitcase was filled with negatives. Somehow, he ended up buying many of her items like the floppy hats she wore, her camera (A Rolleiflex), and many, many rolls of undeveloped canisters of film.  She was a nanny for forty years and there is a segment where she has photos of a young Phil Donahue during the time she took care of his children. 

As we watched the film, we kept yawning and at one point I dozed off. I decided to go to bed without seeing the rest of the film. I would be returning to Colorado the next day and my thought was to rent the documentary from Netflix when I arrived home because I wanted to watch the rest of the interesting story.

After I was home, I turned on the television and to my surprise, Finding Vivian Maier was on the screen.
 Is that strange or what? I watched the documentary which I found to be fascinating, not only because of the great photographs she took, but how she lived.

The movie explained that even though she had a French accent and people called her the French Lady, she was born in New York and lived in Chicago. She traveled in the United States plus Canada, South America, Manila, Bangkok, Shanghai, Beijing, India, Syria, Egypt, Italy and France. She took beautiful pictures of her travels. She was very secretive and spelled her name different ways: Meyer, Maier, Mayer, Myer, etc. and nobody knows why.

Sometimes, she would take the children she was watching to inappropriate places because she wanted to take photographs. One young woman recalls being taken to a rendering plant where she saw dead sheep. Maier was a hoarder and saved newspapers and when one entered her room there was only a narrow path between the towers of papers.

She died in 2009 and when her rolls of film were developed and the quality of work exposed, galleries showed her work. It would have been nice to know where and why she acquired her love of photography, why she never showed her photos to anyone and why she saved everything.

To me, it was strange that within two days, without planning it, I saw the documentary Finding Vivian
Maier. The only explanation to that phenomenon is that it is either serendipity or synchronicity.

Picture above is from the internet. A self-photo way before selfies!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Black Rose

In my daughter's cactus garden, there is a large plant, about four feet tall, with dark purple leaves that almost look black. She called it her Black Rose plant. This year, for the first time in years, she told me that a bloom had appeared. The bloom, to me, looks like a  small Christmas tree and it sits on the top of the black plant. It has tiny yellow blooms in among the lime green leaves.What a contrast that the bloom is so green when the body of the cactus is so dark!

In researching the plant I found out the the name of the plant is Aeonium Arboreum, Black Rose or Zwartzkop. Once it blooms it dies and I will have to text my daughter to let her know that her beautiful large plant may have seen its best days! "The Zwartzkop is a winter blooming succulent and will bloom yellow flowers in winter," came from an article on the Internet. With such nice and warm daily weather in California, I wonder how the plant knows it is winter?

To think that I was satisfied seeing the black leaves and did not realize that I would see the Black Rose bloom in February. I consider myself lucky to have experienced seeing the yellow blooms on the black plant!

Winter Blossoms


I remember when I would travel to California to babysit with my granddaughters and now I go to babysit with Luna, their dog! As I was pulled through the neighborhood by Luna, I marveled at the beautiful flowers. I took pictures of some of them and even though Luna was not happy when I stopped to take a picture, I was! Such beauty on our walks and the weather was perfect! I know I got more exercise than I get in Colorado even though on one day I got lost in the neighborhood. I know it sounds impossible, but somehow I had no idea where I was or how far I was from the house.

My mistake was crossing a bridge over a golf course and ending up far away from the house. I thought it would just be a matter of a few blocks and I'd be back to where I started. How wrong I was! When I finally saw a park that I recognized I knew where I was but still quite a distance from the house.  Luna seemed in good spirits but I was tired, thirsty and hot.

Two hours later, we made it home. I don't know how far we had walked yet it was far enough to make my ankle give me some pain. After we both drank some water, she stretched out on the cool floor and I fell into bed for a nap.

Even though the walk took a long time, the blooming flowers gave me some consolation as I trudged along on that long, tiring walk!