Saturday, February 27, 2010

BYU International Folk Dance Ensemble Comes to Town

My friend Sherrie sent me an email to let me know the BYU International Folk Dance team was coming to several cities in Colorado. I emailed back quickly to let her know we had already ordered tickets. It went over my head that her niece, Erin, whom I had met several times, and really enjoyed, was part of the Mountain Strings band accompanying them.

What a great performance. John and I were truly entertained. Now, I love music and dance. My tastes are eclectic, and my iPod has some varied (some would say strange) offerings. I'd wager Sherrie's going to make a comment on that. She loves to poke me about my music. Nobody knows my music, or something like that. Anyway, John loves music as long as it's country, and dance as long as it's somewhere else. I can't believe he agreed to go. Maybe it was the way I worded it? (Wow, John! Guess who's going to be at the Fine Arts Plaza in Fort Collins? I'm going a week from Saturday at 3 o'clock. Do you want to come with me, or should I just go by myself? Order two tickets? Will do!) Call it priorities or pick your battles. I wasn't going to miss this one.

He not only enjoyed it, his foot kept rhythm during the entire performance. He wouldn't let me take the accordion player home, though. (Gee, John... I just wanted to play with him.)

It was so good to see Erin afterwards, too. She's got a smile that lights up a room, and seemed stunned to see us there—rather like when you see your banker in the grocery store and can't figure out where you know her from? She never knew we had left California. To have me hail her from the aisle in Colorado after the show was somewhere between an out of body and an out of mind experience, I guess.

I do wish I had been up on the stage with the musicians, though. That's the only thing that would have improved the show for me. Watch the show a couple of times, then jam with the musicians. I could play the guitar. I could play the accordion. I'm learning banjo (very very slowly) and could sure use a jamming partner there. We could just have a grand old time. Then I'd cook for everyone. I think the whole band could fit in our basement. Let's see. Two fiddles, one bass, banjo/accordion, mandolin (Erin), guitar, and percussion... don't think I missed anyone. And the substitute (me). Yep. We'd all fit.

Can you imagine them getting back to the college and going to the Dean (or whatever) and saying, "So sorry, sir, but we seem to have lost the band in Colorado." It's just too bad that Schmath isn't still with them, playing her bass.

Wake up, John. Can we go to Longmont for their next stop on 7:30 on Tuesday night? Please?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What Happened to February?

Every February is unusually busy because of annual doctor's appointments, but this one has just rushed past. I looked at the calendar this morning and thought I had forgotten to switch the month from January, since it couldn't possibly be the 25th already. I think the Olympics have put me in another realm of consciousness. If I'm watching the Olympics, time doesn't count or something.

I guess that's as pathetic as the athletes from the countries (you know which ones they are) who know that if they don't get the gold, their countries will consider them a failure. Wow. I watch some of these people give every bit of strength they have and then pull out a little more, and I realize I'm breathing hard just sitting in my armchair. They might be from Poland or Turkey or America. They astound me.

Some of the stories are great, too. The U. S. snowboarder who was in a training accident in Utah and is now recovering from a severe brain injury really put things in perspective. Some of them put everything on the line. I guess most of them do—their life styles, if not their very lives. I'm a watcher. I'm an appreciative audience, but I fulfill that role exceptionally well. Judicious use of the DVR ensures that if the hockey game is in the final period and I have to take care of something urgent, I can pause it. And if I fall asleep at midnight and it's not over yet, I can hold the rest for morning.

Whoever would have thought I'd watch cross country skiing? Curling? There's actually quite a bit of finesse going on there. No, I'm sure you're just going to have to take my word for it. Well, I could continue this, but the ice skating is getting reading to start back up. I can do that. In my dreams. Of course, I can fly in my dreams, too.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mapping My Readers

For the first long while after I started blogging, I thought I was writing into a black hole. My friend Sherrie and my son Ben and his wife Ruth were reading it. They said they were and seemed to know what was happening in our lives when they called, so I believed them. I figured I had three readers. Even my husband didn't read it. I thought about giving up, but then I thought, "What will my grandchildren say someday when they find out that I didn't save all the funny stories about their parents and uncles and grandparents (and greats-) and so forth, for posterity?

Still, it's hard writing for an audience of three and me. I saw a map on somebody else's blog. I'm really fond of reading other people's blogs. (Today on my son and daughter in law's blog I found out, for instance, that my three year old granddaughter has learned what a wedgie is, and she doesn't like them AT ALL!) She's so funny. I love that Ruth shares this stuff...

I added the map. It was free. Anyway, the map was good for awhile. It showed about a day's worth of dots, and they covered about a fifth of a state. If you were somewhere in California, I could tell roughly where you were. Twelve hours later you were gone. At least I knew I had some people, so it gave me hope. Then one day, and I don't remember why, I was checking Google to look into bigger maps. Better maps. Maps that would tell me more. I wanted to know how long they stayed, and how many pages they looked at. I wanted to know how they found me.

I found Counter Central. I got it free for a month. Now it costs $7, but I love it. You see my map? It's big. It's the whole world. It has as many dots as I want, from the last 50 to the last 1000. I think I have it set at 500. You're the red dot, unless you're me. I don't show up. That's my choice. If you're reading this as a subscriber through Google Reader, you don't show up either. That's your choice. But if you actually come to the blog (which you don't on the reader or RSS feeder services) you'll show up as a dot on my map.

I can open a little window that tells me a bit of other information. It's everything I dreamed of, but not enough to worry you. It doesn't tell me who you are or how to find you. It does tell me if you've been there before (unless you clear your cookies after each visit), and how you found me. If you searched Google or Bing or, it'll tell me what words you used.

Did you find me looking for bison chili? Or maybe The Ringling 5? I've had a lot of people find me looking for If Jesus Was a Norwegian. That's incredibly popular. My pecan pie crust and lemon custard pie recipes are still getting requests, too. Lately I've had more than 100 hits on my blog about the Jeopardy contestant, Rebecca Dixon. That surprised me. They came from all over the world, including Canada, Singapore, Cambridge, four Canadian provinces, and nearly every State in the union, including the District of Columbia. No Alaska, though.

I've had more people than I ever would have believed looking for information on broken ribs and accidents in the bathroom. Go figure. I love this kind of thing. So, obviously, I can see the City, State, and Country your server is in. That's not necessarily where you live, as one of my sons is so careful to point out. In fact, my friend Sherrie looks like she moves every week or so. I know her IP number, so I can see when she's on my site, which is nice, since we're not in the same time zone and I might want to call her at a weird time. If she's on my site, she must be awake. Right now she's listed in Whittier. Last month she was shown in Bellflower. A couple of weeks before that it was Pico Rivera. (Gee, Sherrie, slow down!)

What else do I see? I see how many pages you visited and whether you were on a Macintosh or a PC. That's about it. It's fairly useless fun. Nevertheless, it's addictive. I find myself yelling down the stairs, "Hey, John! I got 2 visitors today from Moscow, one from Naples, two from Norway and one from Singapore!" And he'll answer, "That's nice, dear."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympic Dreams Can Be Sad

Even as a child I loved watching the Olympics. Back then it was every four years, and we'd get it during the summer and then the winter of the same year. Now, of course, we get one or the other every other year. It might be better like that. For the viewers it probably is, but I'm not sure how the athletes feel. I've never asked them.

One thing is very different. There are more human interest stories now than there used to be. Back then we saw the sports and that was pretty much it. It was what we expected, and what we got. Now there's an awful lot of filler. (There are also a lot of DVRs recording and skipping through a lot of that filler...) Anyway, tonight they did a piece on the coach for the Chinese Ice Skating Pairs team. Twenty years ago they entered their first competition and people laughed because they were so bad. Now they're champions.

Obviously, I don't think anyone should be laughed at for doing their best. Where were those Olympics held? That's what they should have told us in that little fluff piece, but they didn't. They made the coach sound like a hero for being away from his family for the better part of two decades to train the athletes into the champions they are. His son is named the Chinese equivalent of "Far Away." Is that supposed to be a heroic thing?

These athletes are "picked out as children," taken away from their families while they're tiny and taken to live together in a sports facility with the coach. They live in dormitories, eat in cafeterias, and see their families only on rare and special occasions so that they might obtain this gold medal for their country's honor.

It made me sad. This isn't a heroic thing to me. Families living and loving together, driving to practice and having macaroni and cheese instead of something more expensive to save money so they can pay for lessons—that's heroic. And if you get a bronze or a silver, or even just tenth place and know you've done it with the support of family and friends, not the power of a big nation? That's heroic in my mind. And many of them do get the gold. Different priorities.

I would think the personal feelings of success have to resonate on a different level.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Lucky me. It was one of those days when I'm so very glad to just be myself—where I am, who I am, and living the life I have now. Everything started out good and just kept getting better.

One of the first things I did after getting up was to remember that it was Friday. Since we retired, Fridays don't usually mean much, but since the government decided this year that they'd only process tax refunds on Friday, I thought I'd just peek into my online accounts and see if the refund had been distributed. I knew it was a long shot, since I had only eFiled my taxes last Friday. They said it would take two weeks, but there it was. Money in the bank.

We got out the checkbook and wrote a draft for our property taxes so we could go into town and take care of that. When April comes, we won't have that to worry about. Usually we pay half in March and the other half in April. I was really feeling lucky.

Before we left the house, we called our grandchildren in The Netherlands to thank them for the hand-made Valentines we had received in the mail the day before. It was too late to call when we got them, since they're eight hours ahead of us. We called and talked to our three year old granddaughter, but she was pretty involved watching Blue's Clues on television. Since she doesn't watch much TV, the conversation with us was short, but very sweet. Then we talked with Ruth, our daughter-in-law for a few minutes until Kate, the one and a half year old started really crying.

She's been sick, complicated with teeth coming in (molars, if I remember right) and has been miserable, not her usually sunny personality. I asked Ruth if she wanted the phone or Mommy. Ruth said she wanted Mommy, but she handed Kate the phone anyway. Kate has never talked to us on the phone. She's a busy girl, and phone calls aren't in her realm of consciousness yet. Still, she must have been listening when I started asking her if she was wearing her beads. She loves pretty beads. I said that when we come visit in April, we were going to roll on the floor laughing and playing with beads, and she would have to show us every single one of her toys so Grandpa and I could play and laugh with her while we rolled on the floor. The next thing I knew, she was laughing. Laughing! It was delightful.

We took care of all our running around, hit the grocery store and came home. We picked up the mail at the end of the driveway, and there were seven (7!) audio books from the PaperBackSwap group in there waiting for me to download. They were all books I had chosen and can hardly wait to enjoy. Perhaps more importantly, I got the all clear on my annual mammogram test from the hospital. This was turning out to be just about a perfect day. I didn't know what could be better. We had even splurged on KFC for dinner. (We tried to find a Popeye's at son Jeremy's suggestion, but never did find one.)

Before we ate dinner, I sat down to check my email, just to see if there was anything important (or fun) for me there. I was astonished to find out that I had won a contest on Mason Canyon's blog. My prize, three brand new audio books, would be coming in the mail. They have book and audio book giveaways on her blog regularly. It's easy to enter. I just found out that on a lucky day, even I can win. Her blog is a winner, too. It's one I read regularly, no matter how busy I get.

There have been times in my life when I wasn't particularly happy to be me, or to live where I lived, or be the age I was. I guess I didn't know how to appreciate what I had. I realize that yesterday was exceptionally bump-free, but most days are really good now. Life is really good.

And Ryan—when you called to talk to John and spent ten minutes talking to me first? You have no idea how good that made me feel. I'm glad Stacey has you, and I'm glad we're getting to know you better. Just one more way I feel lucky. So many fun people are in my life.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Amendment 28

I've heard there are people around the country who are proposing that a new amendment to the United States Constitution be passed. Before I read the suggested new amendment, I thought, "Not again." Then I read it.

Maybe it is time for—
Amendment 28
"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators or Representatives, and Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States ."

What would you think about that?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My (American) Idol Opinion

If you wait long enough, I'll probably give you my opinion about everything. Tonight American Idol went to Hollywood. We heard such quotes as "I don't care about them," which is what one contestant was saying about the others; and "Hollywood is a disgusting town." Well, that would have been Ellen DeGeneres, the new judge. She sounded like she knew what she was talking about.

Overall I thought the show was fast paced and had less of the annoying people who show up on what I consider the pre-season shows. I for one was glad not to have the cloying Paula gushing all over the singers. I'm emotionally allergic to saccharin. There were only five voices tonight that I'd like to hear more of—enough to spend a few bucks on a recording, at least.

From the male voices, I'd pay for a song or two from Andrew Garcia and Casey James. I also liked Justin Williams' voice, but they sent him home. That was a surprise to me. They also kept people I didn't like, though. From the girls I'd buy a song or two from Katie Stevens and Lilly Scott. I might buy a whole record from Lilly Scott. She was a real surprise.

If you don't watch Idol and wonder why I do, sorry. I'm downloading audio books and watching television. There are worse things I could be watching. But then, of course, I wouldn't be able to blog about it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rhetorical Questions in Church

Very seldom is there an unexpected belly laugh from an entire congregation. At least the pastor knows everyone is paying attention.

Today both the scripture and the sermon were on the boat ride Jesus took with Simon Peter. Poor Simon hadn't been able to catch any fish all day, and James and John in their boat hadn't done any better. Jesus had been preaching on the shore and then went out in the boat. He told Simon to lower his nets and they caught so many fish the boat nearly sank.

As he spoke of this, the pastor paused and looked at everyone. "But Jesus wasn't really trying to catch fish, was he?" he asked us. "What was he hoping to catch?"

A little girl's voice piped up loud enough for everyone to hear, "Lobster?"

I love it when kids that small are really listening and feel free to engage in the the greater conversation. We couldn't help but laugh, since it was really funny. Still, I hope her parents had the sense to really talk to her about the story when she got home. I hope she continues to add her voice to the service. We all loved it, but none more than me.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sweet Dreams are Made of These

At three minutes before noon today I pushed the e-file button for our Federal Tax Return. I'm done for another year. I did end up taking yesterday off, since I didn't want to spend my birthday doing taxes. It was one of those decisions that I couldn't regret, as the day was really special. Today's goal was to finish before noon, and I did that—barely.

We'll mail in our State taxes, since we have to send a check with that one. It's worked out that way the last two years. It seems they're taking too much out for Federal and not enough out for the State, so then we use our Federal refund to pay our State taxes. I think our penalty this year was sixteen dollars. That's okay. Colorado doesn't charge income tax on the first twenty thousand a retiree earns. I'll gladly give them the sixteen.

Tomorrow I'm going to a writer's round table discussion at a library about an hour from here. It's like Author's Musical Chairs. There are eight authors, each with their own circle of chairs. We'll have a discussion group with each author before moving on to the next. It should be really great.

One of my favorite authors, Melissa Mayhue, will be there. I have all of her books except the one that came out last week, and I can get it while I'm there, as well as have her sign the only one of hers I have that isn't already signed. Don't expect me to be posting much in the next couple of days—or sleeping much either. Her books grab me and keep me so involved I forget things like eating and sleeping. If you're new to her, do yourself a favor and just buy all the books and start with the first. Read them in order. They all stand alone, but they do build on one another in many ways.

Robin D. Owens is also going to be there, and she's another one of my friendly local authors. Her fantasies are legendary and fly off the shelves. I've often had to wait if I want to buy locally. I usually end up going to Amazon if I miss out when her books first arrive. These ladies are so talented that it amazes me when they remember my name. I know Robin has a new book out, too, so I'm glad I've got few bucks in my pocket for after the discussion groups.

Knowing this was coming up and that I'd be coming home with some really special reading material, I've been cooking up a storm this week. We have three nights of leftovers all ready! John and I will eat like royalty for only the amount of time it takes to reheat what I've already prepared. If you want to be a serious reader, it's important to plan ahead.

A few words about what made my birthday so special. I talked to all three of our sons, and that was great. They're all in great places and happy with their lives, so it's wonderful to talk to them. John took me to the Olive Garden for my favorite meal, Toscana Soup and Stuffed Chicken Marsala. My daughter-in-law Ruth sent me a wonderful recording of three year old Granddaughter Ashley singing Happy Birthday and telling me how much she loves me. (It's already on my iPod for eternity, or as long as the iPod lasts...)

Perhaps one of the best things we did, as far as making me feel great, was visiting our friend Darrel in the hospital in Fort Collins. He's been in there a month now since his surgery for pancreatic cancer. He's not out of the woods yet, and needs another surgery when they think he's strong enough, but his improvement this week gave me real hope. When we left there I was really feeling good. It was just one of those days where everything was sweet. And if you were one of the people who remembered me with a card in the mail, a phone call or a greeting on Facebook—thank you so much. That just added to the day-long celebration.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Annual Tax Dramatics

Please won't you do this next year, John?
I don't want to do it.
Well, neither do I!
But you have so much experience, honey...

I always know when he calls me honey that he's either about to tell me something he knows I don't want to hear, or he's forgotten my name. I don't think he's ever really forgotten my name, but I always remember my dad singing that famous old song, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart, I Forgot Your Name." I was a teenager before I heard the correct lyrics. I wasn't terribly surprised, though, knowing him. After the fiasco with "Walking In Our Winter Underwear," I didn't trust any of his lyrics...

Well, back to the taxes. That was the topic, I believe. After hours with this annual nightmare, I find myself asking the same old questions. Does everybody lose receipts? Forget to mark the mileage after a 3,000 plus mile business trip? I had to go through a stack of gas station receipts that (luckily) we always write mileage on, to figure out the ending trip mileage by the date when we stopped to fill the tank just before arriving home. Numbers that should be so easy to plug in sometimes took me an hour to find today. That just shouldn't happen.

Then, of course, there were the two hours of work I did adding up the separate columns of medical expenses. Mileage goes in one column. Prescriptions go into another. Doctor bills get tabulated together while lab tests and mammograms, that sort of thing are another category. Glasses and things are separate. You can't just add these things together, you know. They go in different slots. Another slot is for your health insurance costs. At the end of the two hours, when I plugged in all the numbers, we were about $150 underneath what we needed to have it make any difference.

I could go on. Perhaps I could make it sound funny, but for some reason I'm just not laughing. I called my friend when I'd had enough and decided to quit for the day. I told her I was grumpy and disgusted that it had to be this complicated. She laughed, as I figured she would. She's good for me. (Thanks, Sherrie.) Then she was quiet while I complained that tomorrow I qualify for Social Security. So do I get a check? Oh, heavens no...

I just qualify tomorrow. That means I'm old enough tomorrow, so the paperwork had to be done two months ago so it can be processed this month. So do I get my check next month? No. It'll be official next month. I'm not sure what that means. Official. It's government language meaning we're going to make you wait another month and a half. I'll get my first check the middle of April. They actually sent me real numbers, though, and if I live through October of my 112th year, I'll get back everything I've paid into the program and can start collecting what my employers contributed. Now I'm tired.