Friday, July 3, 2015

Happy 4th of July

The sky is pure blue, "painted that way" as G'ma said every time she looked up.  The occasional fluffy white cloud drifts by, and I'm hearing G'ma remark on that, too.  The flag in front of the house is swaying, the pole attached to one of the front columns with thin, silver wire.  

It's an elegant solution to TBG's reluctance to put holes in his house;  I feel like Daddooooo every time I wrap another ring around the post.  

Daddooooo was big on flags and the 4th of July.  We always went to the beach.  We always stopped at Custom Bakers in Long Beach on the way home, where the bakers always let us go back and stick our fingers in the vats of frosting.  

We always went to the boardwalk as the sun was setting.  There were skeeball games and mechanical fortune tellers and the smell of the ocean, too black to be seen but too noisy to go unnoticed.   We practiced our ooohs and aahhhs all afternoon, and we were in fine form by the time the booms and the bangs began.  

Through it all, the flags were flying.  

There was a big one in the bracket beside the garage door, until the house was painted and further holes were frowned upon (is this some kind of male thing I just don't get?). A pole-holding-tube was sunk into the flower box, and while it was neither sturdy nor attractive, it did the job and as far as Daddooooo was concerned that was that.  

There was a plastic flag attached to the car's antenna, and all our bicycles had flags on the handlebars.  

I'm not letting the tradition fade away.  Happy Fourth of July, denizens!  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Updating the Manse

We've had 11 different homes since we've been married.  That's a lot, even considering the fact that we'll be celebrating 40 years of marital bliss this August.

To be fair, one of those residences was a three week stay in the San Francisco apartment TBG used while starting his new career; the rest of us remained in Chicago to finish up the school year.  But all the others held my family and our possessions for at least two years.

Five years was the most time we spent in any other abode.  We changed cities, wanted to own, needed a backyard, invested wealth in real estate, occupied a temporary space while looking for a retirement paradise, and landed here in the desert Southwest, with a firm promise to myself : Never Move Again.

Moving requires purging.  The operant question for everything you own boils down to this: Do I want to pay someone to move this?  It's surprising how often NO is the answer.  After each move, I had less detritus to store.  This didn't always translate into organized cabinets or neat closets; I manage to make a mess wherever I go, it seems.

But Tucson is my final stop.  Having proven that the house works for wheelchairs, I don't have to concern myself with making accommodations as we age.  The doors are wide enough to wheel into closets and toilets and two different showers.  There's a small step up to the front door which can, if needed, be ramped with ease.  We are there for the duration.

And therein lies the rub.  As first-time-long-time-homeowners, we are now, after 9 full years in one home, we are discovering the further joys of ownership over the long haul - things break.

The dials on my washer and dryer have been missing for years.  Brother replaced one when he visited after I was shot; the other is turned by grasping the metal stalk (with dry, non-greasy hands) and turning forcefully.  The plastic overlay is peeling off, the washer's inner drum is stained, the dryer heats everything to a crispy state, no matter the setting.

We lost the microwave a few years back; I'm still working on getting a stainless steel handle to replace the black plastic one on the new machine.  The glass door in the oven is permanently stained; no one has a suggestion for removing the grease which has worked its way behind the gaskets.

The dishwasher racks are new, too.  They don't make plastic clips the way they used to; KitchenAid was happy to replace the racks before I finished describing the issue.  "This happens quite frequently,, ma'am."

We painted the outside when the first cracks appeared; that was five years ago and those pesky cracks have, once again, reappeared.  We debate repainting the inside, but the downside of an open, flowing floor plan is that you can't paint just one room.  Everything does flow into everything else, which makes for delightful entertaining but creates problems for small changes.

And now, it seems, we need to replace the carpet in the master bedroom.  Nearly a decade of shoes and feet and situps and weddings have created more dirt than fiber.  The Carpet Police have given up.  It's hopeless, they say.  Do we go to a flooring store?  Do we call the lady on the tv with the terrible voice?  Who knows.

Then, there is the issue of TBG's closet.  I always get the biggest closet; that's our deal and I'm sticking to it.  In this house, though, the disparity is striking. The shelving and rods in his closet are not user friendly.  The door opens into the small space.  The shelving is open and he likes drawers, not baskets.  I put up a bulletin board in my closet; he wants one too.

The problem is, he's never been willing to invest the time and energy and money to upgrade it.  I've offered to use some of my inheritance from G'ma to create a beautiful space for him and, now, finally, he has agreed.

I went to the Container Store and set up a Customer Engagement.  A designer will come to the house and evaluate the situation.  She will have samples and ideas and suggestions and, when she leaves, we should have a finalized plan for improving the space.

It will cost lots more than I'd anticipated, but I've learned something since becoming a permanent resident  - nothing lasts forever.  If it's not right, it will continue to bother me unless I take action... action other than moving.

Given that, I asked her to take a look at the laundry room, too.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Stanley Johnson's Mother

She was next to him as he was drafted; she "still has the lean face of an athlete," said TBG.

Who is she?

She's Karen Taylor, a Jackson State Hall of Fame basketball player who played professionally in Europe.  She raised the Detroit Pistons' 2015 number one draft pick on a steady diet of basketball, competition, and love.

She created and coached an AAU team for him at 5, and all the good lessons one can learn from sports were poured into him.

"Be there for your team when they need you" led to striving for perfection.

"Don't expect me to 'Mommy' you once we're in the gym" stoked the competitive spirit he'll bring to the NBA.

The practice interviews, the respect for the game, the knowledge that more work yields more rewards - these are parenting-from-your-strength skills worth knowing about.

I read the local sports pages every day; I'm TBG's lifeline for what Tucson is saying.  He spends an inordinate amount of time watching talking heads on tv.  We both watch lots of games.  If there is information to be had, one or the other of us has it.... yet this was news to us both.

Sports Illustrated found her.

How did Sean Miller not mention this... let alone Bill Walton?

Monday, June 29, 2015

#RisingForCharleston - Coming Together With Love

We stood, at the end, together.
We stood, making loving hearts with our fingers.
We stood in solidarity.

It was quite a moment.

The sanctuary was filled with like minded humans of all faiths
and ages. 

There were smiles and there were tears and there was love.
There was so much love.

We sent cards with that love, 
from our hearts to those bruised and battered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal...
known as Mother Emanuel...
and we all needed our mothers right then.

Celebrating determination and strength and reminding ourselves that we are not alone, 
singing Amazing Grace.

It was not enough.
It was everything.
It was something.
It was what we could do, then and there.

It was a sunny Saturday morning, just like the last one I shared with Christina-Taylor.
I know she would have loved to join me.

I miss her, each and every day, just as they will be missed.

Let them be remembered.
Let them be an inspiration to us all.
Let us act for change.

Let this be the last time we gather together to remember those taken - not lost, not gone, not passed - TAKEN.... MURDERED.

Let us not gloss over the horror, as hard as it is to keep it front and center.
It's a necessary step if we are to move forward, together, to make a change.

They are missed.
They are not forgotten.
They are in our hearts.
They inspire action.

Every Town for Gun Safety.

Get involved.
Do it now.
They deserve your attention.

(Thanks to Jocelyn Strauss for the photos)

Friday, June 26, 2015


I belong to a private internet support group.  We are all survivors of gun violence.  No one judges, because we've all been there, done that.  We know the variety of forms in which PTSD rears its ugly head.  We know feeling as if the floor has just dropped out from under you, caught unawares as you tumble down a rabbit hole.

As I've learned here in The Burrow, writing helps to calm the beast.

Sometimes, though, writing is not enough.  Sometimes I have to participate more actively. Saturday is one of those times.  #RisingForCharleston events are planned all across the country, and Tucson, of course, is hosting our very own.

Our local survivors' email chain was activated.  We were personally invited to join Everytown for Gun Safety volunteers at Congregation Chaverim ... and I began to be drawn in.

This is Gabby's congregation.  There's a comforting sense of intimacy and connection when you've shared wine-in-plastic-cups in a famous congregant's back yard with the Rabbi herself.  I have confidence in her ability to strike the right note.

Being together in a shared space is difficult for me,  and that's bringing me to remembering 9/11, and the neighborhood church on Tiburon Boulevard which welcomed us all that night.  Jews and Catholics, Methodists and Sikhs and non-believers sat side by side in the Presbyterian's sanctuary.

It was lovely, and exactly what I needed, and since I can't seem to shake the Charleston massacre from the very front of my brain I have decided that I might need it now, too.

I'm bringing paper and markers for card making; from our hearts to theirs, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church survivors and congregants will know that they are not alone.

It's important to bear witness.  It cannot be left to others.  We are all in this together, and together I will heal and send healing and be a participant.

Confirming that there will be special attention paid to our security, I began to plan my outfit.

It seemed like a logical progression of events - a service of solidarity in a synagogue should first be examined from a security perspective.... after all, it's a house of worship and I can't be sure that enough of my fellow congregants will be armed and trained and ready to defend the rest of us good guys......

What a world.  What a world.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Here's My Internet!

I tried to get through to a human.  I really did.  I dialed 1-800-COMCAST four times.

The first time, they couldn't find me then they thought I was "a valued customer."  Amazing what providing a zip code will get you.

The second time, I connected with an actual human being.  She was lovely.  She wondered if I knew where the reset button was on the black Xfinity box.  Yes, I did.  I also knew how to reset it, which I did.

Unfortunately, resetting the wifi also reset the telephone.  My helpful human was gone, along with my dial tone.

I dialed again, went through the same "who are you... enter zip code.... valued customer" routine, listened to the Muzak equivalent of falling raindrops, and was then informed by an automated voicebox that they were unable to help me at this time.  There were two suggestions, and I began screaming in the middle of the first one; I couldn't get faster service by logging onto the internet because I couldn't log onto the internet and that was why I was calling in the first place.

The second suggestion was to "call back at a later time."

I groaned.  I got a drink. I called back.  If you reread the last big paragraph you'll know what happened then.  I can't bear to retype it.

Fortunately, I had agreed "to take a short survey of no more than two minutes describing the service" I received.  When Caller ID showed COMCAST on the television screen, I literally rubbed my hands together in glee.  Answering the phone, putting the robo-voice on speaker, I gave them 1 on a scale to 5, where 1 was the equivalent of  "I hate you!" or "No, no one was that nice to me," for the first few questions.

I was given the choice of having someone return my call to discuss my responses.  I chose that option, and found myself at the receiving end of another survey from a robo-voice  I gave them 0's (on a scale which now ran up to 10 for "wonderfulness"), except where I admitted that the voice had tried to offer me another service.... they considered this a good thing.

At the end, there was only "Goodbye."  No one said that I should expect a return call.  No one asked for or verified my phone number.  No one transferred me to "to the next available operator."  Nope. Nothing..... for five minutes.

That was when Jen appeared on the other end of the line.  She acknowledged that I was obviously having issues, she thanked me for picking up the phone politely, she told me that were our positions reversed she would have had a hard time being as nice as I was being to her.

Quoting Little Cuter, I told her that I was often reminded that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar, and, for some reason, I was in a pretty good mood.

She was amazed.  She seems to hate technological problems as much as I do.  However, she assured me, she not only could fix my computer hook up, she was authorized to have access to whatever she needed in order to accomplish that feat.

I was stunned.  A real person with real skills and real power was talking to me.  My problem would be resolved.... and it was, with little effort and much laughter and a clear explanation of the issue and the solution.  She disconnected an old network, I reset the Apple router which is sending the signal to the Cuters' side of the house, and all was well.

She didn't have an email for me to send a personal recommendation, but Jen transferred me to Josh, her supervisor, who is, I hope, reading this commendation on Thursday morning.

Jen's great.  She deserves a raise.  I'm not angry with COMCAST any more, and it's all because of her.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where's My Internet?

That's the question I've been trying ask for the last thirty minutes.... now seventy minutes... and there's a great post coming out of this but I cannot type it on my phone, the only device in the house with internet access.

Come back tomorrow to read the sad tale; technical difficulties preclude further communications at this time.

A Snippet - Commiserating With a Friend

Poor choices have been made and tears have been shed but life goes on.

I was in the second round of consoling friends, the result of not checking my phone all day.  With a friend, at Pilates, playing Scrabble, I was busy having my life while my friend's was being disrupted.
She came over in the morning and chatted, listening to TBG pronounce the same sage words of advice she'd heard the day before from her girlfriends.

We went to breakfast, and hashed and rehashed the situation. Over omelettes and muffins, we came to some conclusions.

It's a dream come true for her in many ways.  It's also very sad. There is only so much she can do... and she's done more.  Her job is to acknowledge the good that was done, to accept the decisions, and to stand firm with the consequences.  She's done.

We drowned her remaining sorrows in a predictable and delightful high school chick flick, sharing the adjustable Sleep Number bed with Luke and Bo, her Staffordshire Terriers.

Life is good.

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Brother's BIrthday

Pause a moment and wish my younger brother a Happy Birthday, would you?  Aim your thoughts towards Maryland, at the Metro's last stop, and lift a glass in his honor.

A nice beer or a cheap beer, whiskey or a glass of NYC water; he's easy to please.

You might mention the full facial hair experience he's been sporting for the past year or so.  We saw it first when he drove all the way to Illinois to welcome FlapJilly into the family; he drove me to the airport as he left the young family for SIR's Scout's Seats at the White Sox game.

SIR drove home in the middle of the morning to drop off the tickets.
This part of Little Cuter's family is well worth the effort.

Did you notice that he drove half way across the country, rather than hopping on a plane?  He has notions about the ability of metallic objects to remain in the air while he is encased within.  He has other notions, too.

Balance is the key, he told me.
Family, Work, School, God, Sex - each has a place and a piece.

He has consciously, thoughtfully, often (I imagine) painfully, reinvented himself.  He's created an extraordinary human being - funny, smart, purposeful, talented, giving, loving.

... a person whose footwear is never anything but sneakers.

He is himself.  He's wonderful.  He's mine.

Happy Happy Birthday, Brother!

Friday, June 19, 2015

I Erased The Message

I purchased new cordless phones for our land line today. Pause for applause from The Cuters.  I plan to resell or donate the old set, so I went through the directory and the call log and the message center, deleting all the inputs.

I thought about the messages, focused on the kids' voices I'd saved at triumphant moments, and realized that I'd be able to record new ones quite easily.  I pushed Delete All.

I didn't think about the message Nurse Nancy left on the morning of January 8, 2011, telling TBG that there had been an accident and asking him to meet us at UMC's Emergency Room.

I had a moment of unease, knowing that it is now lost forever, and then I came to a realization. I can leave it behind.  It's okay.  No one will judge, and if they do, I don't care.

I don't need to have it on the machine; I have it in my head and my heart and I can pull it up whenever and wherever I want it.

But I don't need to dwell on it, I don't need to wallow - although there were times, early on, when that was all that I could do.  But that was then and this is now and I'm not there any more.

The memories don't spring up unbidden... at least not as often as they did before.  I conjure up the deep emotions, but on my own terms, not theirs... at least most of the time.

Graceful David, back at our Pilates studio after an absence of too many months, could tease me today about moving my legs into 90/90.  

"Look at her, doing it all ... without complaining ... using her abs and not her hip flexors."

And he's right to mention it.  I've made lots of progress since he's been gone, and, while hearing it gives me the impetus I need to carry on, that's not why he's saying it.

He's really noticing a change, and I don't think it's only in the physical arena. I'm lighter in my being as well as on my feet.

I'm no longer surprised that I pass, unnoticed, through the Tucson airport.  I no longer start every third paragraph with "Before I got shot..." or "Since I was shot...."   I'm reminded of January 8, 2011, I'm not constantly tripping over it.

It's no longer the defining event of my life, though my limp reminds me of its centrality to my existence with every lurching step.  It's become burdensome to carry the weight of the tragedy in the front of my brain, and I've been able to push it back where, I think, it belongs: brought out when needed but otherwise locked up tight.

Of course, when there is this in my life
it's fairly easy to do.

That day will always be with me, just not front and center.
I'm okay with that.
I wrote this post with the Charleston church massacre in mind.

No one should have to think these thoughts.
No one should have those messages left on their answering machines.
No one should bleed in a church or an elementary school or in front of a Safeway on a sunny, Saturday morning.

As Sarah Garrecht Gassen wrote two years ago,
giving in on the fight for increased public safety means giving up on every person who has been stolen from us with a gun. .......We can’t give up. The price is too dear.

Change must come at the legislative level, because, as Amster reminds me, You can't fix crazy

It doesn't have to haunt you night and day in order to be relevant.


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