Friday, November 28, 2014

Is It Necessary?

Do we really have to shop every day of the year? 

Is it necessary to leave home and exchange cash for goods on Thanksgiving?

Can't we take one day away from the hustle and the bustle and the need to accumulate?
Did the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, performing with a pop singer I did not know, need to shake their butts and caress their breasts, in close ups, at 5 o'clock on Thanksgiving afternoon? 

Elvis appalled the 1950's with his pelvic gyrations.  I wonder what my grandparents would have to say about what we're seeing today.
Does the dog have to bark furiously just as the baby is falling asleep? 

How does he know?
Do football players have to perform self-congratulatory dances after making routine catches and tackles? 

I don't remember attacks of terpsichory after a particularly effective social work interview.
Did I really need to eat the third helping of turkey and stuffing this afternoon? 

Was the berry pie with ice cream really necessary?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to You!

Sitting on the couch, snuggling with FlapJilly, as Little Cuter dices and slices and purees.

Looking down the couch at my boy and my husband discussing football and basketball and Ferguson.  San Francisco living has transformed my somewhere-to-the-right-of-Attila-the-Hun son into a left-wing-nut.... and I love it.  His father is bemused.

Smelling sweet potatoes baking, salivating and fantasizing about casseroles and mash-ables and
slice-ables and dip-ables. 

Listening to cooing and squealing, feeling tiny toes and fingers squirming.

Remembering Daddoo and G'ma and Nannie and G'paw and Thanksgiving dinners past... laughing about burnt rolls and too much creamed spinach and after dinner walks in the snow.

Feeling thankful for all of you reading The Burrow, for Gabby Giffords' strength and inspiration, for the Prince Elementary School Mustangs' enthusiasm and love, for those who GRIN with me and walk with me and learn with me.

Today is a good day - the sun came up and I was here to see it. I am truly blessed.

And then, there's this:


Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I just don't know. 

Michael Brown terrorized a store owner. Michael Brown was a very large man.  Michael Brown is dead.  Those are facts. 

I saw the video from the convenience store. Darren Wilson, did not.  Darren Wilson is also a very large man, though many pounds lighter than the young man he shot.  Darren Wilson carried a badge and a gun and the full weight of authority behind his actions.

The Grand Jury deliberated, discussed, reviewed and decided. They interviewed witnesses.  After 200 hours, at least nine of them agreed that Officer Wilson was not responding inappropriately. They declined to indict him.

Those are the facts that I can pull from the reporting.  Having been the subject of many interviews, having seen my own story publicized without any input from those who were there, having found the New York Times telling the world that I was older than I am, that I was perforated more than I was, I know that reportage is a tricky business. 

For the most part, what we are told is close enough to the truth for general purposes.  Those with more direct access to the facts are often appalled.  "It's not right!" was my plaintive cry. 

Did it matter? If a 6th grader is tasked with describing the events of January 8, 2011 here in Tucson, she would go to "the paper of record," the New York Tim, and I would be remembered by her teacher and her classmates as older and more damaged than I really am. 

So, yes, it matters.

Should the headlines read Protests Erupt or Violence Erupts? Should the first speaker on the evening news be a hotheaded youngster or The Reverend Al Sharpton, who is, all of a sudden, the voice of reason in a troublous time? Are the men jumping through the broken Dollar Store window, clutching items they've removed from the shelves, better described as looting or reacting to a system that treats them unfairly?

It matters. It speaks to the perspective of those in power, to the values of those in the streets.  It strikes each of us differently, hitting pieces of our personal histories with more or less impact, depending on what we bring to the table.

Second guessing gets us nowhere.  Should an indictment have been handed down?  Law'n Order teaches that a District Attorney can indict a ham sandwich; how could Officer Wilson escape prosecution?  The interwebs tell us that police officers are rarely called to account in the courts.  The specifics were available to the members of the Grand Jury; did they do their job?

Is your head spinning as fast as mine?

There is so much work still to be done. 

On that, I think, we can all agree.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guest Post from FlapJilly

My G'mu  (GrandMaternalUnit) is quite busy with me this week. 
Mom (Little Cuter to you) is taking lots of photos with her very fancy camera.
I'm rolling over and standing on people's laps with only minimal assistance.
G'pu is quite impressed with my core strength.
  He's named me the first Sub-Cuter.
I'm wearing Hoosier gear, sent from The Cheeses, to cheer on IU in football and basketball.
I watch with fascination. 
I'm not that interested in stories on tv, but teams in bright colors are quite interesting.
I'm quite chatty, especially in the mornings. 
Mom (aka Little Cuter) is taking great pains to teach me several new words each day.
I've been on the planet for seventeen week, and that's a lot of words.
I drool and I eat and I squeal with delight
 G'mu appreciates your loyalty and thinks kindly of you every day,
However, I'm quite an attractive nuisance.....
as you can see. 
I'll try to be less adorable tomorrow so that she can write something of substance for you.
I'm making no promises, though.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mommy Blogs

The Burrow is a personal blog.  That seems to be the current catch-all for those of us who don't concentrate on politics or fashion or giving advice.  I started writing in April, 2009, at the suggestion of my then 20-something son, Big Cuter.  He told me to write because he liked reading my words.  He thought others would like them too; "You are much hipper than you think you are, Mom."

That was my favorite compliment for many years. 

I write what I like to think about.  I adhere to Dooce's primary blogging rule: I don't write about anyone whose feelings would be injured by my words.  There have been some marvelously snarky unwritten posts over the years.  They rattle around in my brain, tempting me with an apt phrase or description that perfectly captures the absurdity I'm not posting for you.  There are some mournful posts which touch on the lives of others in a way that might be intrusive; those, too, live only in my brain. 

There are a few personal posts which have been written but will remain as drafts, never to see the light of day. Did you think I was kidding when I said that blogging is the cheapest form of therapy I've found? Sometimes it helps to write things down, even if I know that you'll never see them.

With all of that, you'd think that I would have managed to steer clear of disaster, wouldn't you? 

Well, you'd be wrong.

I was reminded of this by Megan's comment on Thursday's post last week.  She doesn't read Mommy Blogs.  They make her feel less than perfect.  The moms describe scenarios of preciousness and precociousness and she looks at untied shoelaces and too-much-to-do-in-too-little-time and feels like a failure.  Words have that power.  I know that is true, because I did that to someone, too.

I'm not linking to it, because I don't want the kerfuffle to begin anew.  Suffice it to say that I read a friend's post, wrote my own post responding to what I thought was a legitimate question she'd raised, linked my post to hers, and was surprised at the result.

The comments on my post were passionate, thoughtful, disturbed.  How could I judge her?  Didn't I know that she is a wonderful mother?  How dare I impugn her parenting skills?

I hadn't written it as an ad hominem attack on a woman I love.  I agreed with all the statements extolling her virtues.  She'd been there for me in the past; I was appalled that my words were being construed as vitriol by her readers.  I thought that she'd asked a question.  I, a generation or two away, had what I thought would be an interesting perspective on the issue.  I wasn't sure where I'd end up, but I thought I had shared some pertinent concerns in a thoughtful and kind manner.

Because I know that I often carry a blunderbuss when a butter knife would do, I wasn't as shocked as I might otherwise have been.  Big Cuter tells me that my apt messages are often obscured by the artlessness of my delivery.  I'm used to being looked askance at. 

This was different, though.  Rather than discussing the issue at hand, my friend's readers, Mommy Bloggers themselves for the most part, were discussing the context. 

Didn't I realize she was posing a hypothetical?  Yes I did.  I was responding to it.

Didn't I know that she tried her very best, that her kids were nearly perfect, that she'd never do anything that smacked of poor parenting?  Yes, I did.  I thought she was asking for suggestions.

Didn't my readers seem just a big smug?  Weren't we forgetting, in our dotage, how overwhelming the task of parenting might be?  Why did we think it was permissible to trash another human being who was only doing what she thought was right?  By this point, twenty or so comments into the situation (and a situation it was, indeed), I was losing sight of the point.  I'd written an answer to a serious question and, in doing so, I had sparked a confrontation.

I was forced to defend myself rather than my position.  I had to rework, rewrite, reframe my argument.  She was wondering.  From decades down the parenting path, my readers were answering.  None of them sounded particularly harsh or judgmental. To me, it seemed as if they, too, were responding to her inquiry.

Was she doing the right thing? I'd been hoping for a conversation.  What I got was an argument.  I didn't plan on being in the midst of the Mommy Wars, but I was. 

As a stay home mom, I resisted becoming annoyed when working women wondered when I'd return to the real world. I didn't remind them that my real world included an adorable infant who was infinitely more rewarding to tend than random clients had been. 

Everyone makes different choices, everyone has different resources, no one shares my priorities.  That doesn't make me right and everyone else wrong.  That's just life.  Those were the precepts I created once I began parenting, precepts born out of trying to find common ground with my own parents and in-laws, who didn't always agree with my plans.  We could differ without hostility as long as I was respectful of their perspective.  I'd tried to take that same approach with my blog post, but, apparently, I failed.

Or, perhaps, I didn't fail.  Perhaps I had wandered into a corner of the interwebs where different rules apply.  Perhaps, in Mommy Blog Land, it's safest to agree and move on.

Then, again, perhaps it's better to avoid them entirely. 

I'm just not sure, and I don't have to worry about it.  I'm not looking for advice on the subjects they are likely to be discussing.  That part of my life is over, thankfully. Now, I just have to worry about Megan and Little Cuter and The Bride and all the other young mothers in my circle.  There are apps and blogs and lists and sites and I think it all comes down to thinking that I am glad I parented my children before all this free advice was so readily available.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Preparing for the Polar Vortex

Warning to Parents: Do not make random promises to your children. 
You will be expected to adhere to them. 
Long, long ago, in a house far, far away, I told Little Cuter that when she had children she could host the holidays. Until then, she'd have to travel to her parents.  I said it.... I'm sure I did.... it sounds like me.... I'm not disputing the evidence.... I'm just whining about the consequences of a one-off remark made to quiet a kid who didn't want to travel.
TBG and I are packing our polar fleece and our heavy socks and our turtlenecks this week as a result of that conversation.  We'll be joining the throngs at O'Hare on Saturday, leaving the sunshine and 70's, arriving to rain and 40's.... then snow.... then 30's and 20's and clouds...lots and lots of clouds. 
Only the presence of a granddaughter could induce me to get on a plane right now. 
My house is a disaster; the library and the kids' rooms and my closet are overflowing with holiday preparations and out-of-season clothing. I need time to put it all away.
I have to collect the greeting cards and the stickers and the stamps and the pre-paid mailing envelopes I thought I'd ordered but apparently did not. All of this has to be in the house by December 1st if I am to adhere to my Brownie List schedule.
The Tucson Festival of Books' Kick Off Party is this weekend; I'll be on a plane instead of hearing the list of authors and buying my ticket to The Rock Bottom Remainders concert on the first day of sales. 
Tucson is filling up with arriving grandparents and grandchildren and aunts and uncles and cousins.  They are figuring out the No Left Turn directions on Oracle Road and its major cross streets.  They are wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts instead of sweaters. I will miss laughing at them.
Those of us who live here wait anxiously for these six weeks, the only ones cool enough for our cold weather attire. We Tucsonans are smug in our long sleeved sweaters as the visitors amuse us with their summer clothes.  Scarlett, newly arrived from NYC, emailed that she was sitting on her porch, freezing and loving it.  I love defining freezing as anything below 65 degrees, too.
But, this weekend we will don winter weight pants.  We will have our scarves and gloves and hats and shoes that have traction to resist the ice and snow.  Our parkas live in the kids' basement; they are picking us up at the airport so we don't have to bring other outer garments. That, at least, is a blessing.
In October, I smiled as TBG resisted leaving his winter clothes in Illinois.  I'm going the opposite route.  I'm collecting all the sweaters I love but haven't worn in the eight years I've lived here. I'm packing them and taking them and then leaving them all in the plastic box she has reserved for me.  It lives in her crawl space when I'm not there.  It doesn't disturb anyone.  Eventually, the plan will be for me to travel with only a purse.
I just wish I didn't have to travel into the Polar Vortex.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Random Thoughts

Brother and Intrepid Cat are in Israel.  They were in Jordan last week.  Brother thinks everyone should take a sabbatical once every 60 years.  Intrepid Cat notices no women on the streets of Petra.  I sit at home and worry about incoming rocket fire.
Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature this year. I enjoyed The Secret History, a tale of academia gone mad, so I was happy to download it to the Kindle. This was a switch from my usual practice.

Honored books frighten me, ever since I tried and failed with Thomas Pynchon.  I have a master's degree; I should be able to understand a book written in English.  I've read Ulysses once a decade since my 30's and I'll continue to enjoy it through my 100's, I hope.  But books with awards tend to be overly precious or inscrutable or more complex than they need to be... or so it's seemed... until The Goldfinch.

It's a fabulous tale, a well-written character study (or two, or three, or ten), and the philosophical rambling at the very end has given words to the space I've been inhabiting for the past four years. 
Six Characters in Search of an Author is Luigi Pirandello's funny, terrifying, aggravating, enlightening investigation of the space between reality and fiction and our own hopes and dreams.  My Humanities Seminar's professor has translated it.... twice.... and he would be delighted to try it a third time. 

I was skeptical going into this course on Tragi-Comedy.  I worried that it would be above my head.  While Chekov continues to elude me (perhaps I need to see it performed), I'm having a great time with almost all the rest of it.  There's a lesson in there about forcing myself to stretch, but I'm having too good a time right now to learn it.
The Humanities Seminars sponsored a showing of The Rise of the Planet of the Apes at The Loft Theater this afternoon.  JannyLou's golf game lasted longer than expected, so I sat alone, in the darkened movie house, surrounded by fellow students of a certain age, couples and threesomes and lots of us sitting by ourselves. 

We listened to Dr. Richard Poss share the stories of Washoe and Nim Chimpsky and other apes who learned language and lived with humans until they became moody, gigantic, hormonal adolescents.  We were enthralled, captivated by the notion of communicating with another species, impressed with what science and human ingenuity could create.

Then, we saw the film... the heartbreaking, delicate (despite the helicopter crashes), challenging film.  Walking out, I heard the same thing, over and over and over: I never go to Sci Fi films.  I'd never have seen this.  Oh, it is so sad.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blogs Gone By

I cleaned out a piece of my desktop just now.  Not a big piece, or an intrusive piece, just a piece that has been nudging the edges of my consciousness every time I go to the Blogger Dashboard (the handy dandy place for all things The Burrow).  I'm mourning the losses.

The Dashboard is also the site for my Blog Roll Reading List.  Snippets of the most recent posts by the bloggers I follow show up right beneath the working buttons (new post, view blog, post list).  I'm always interested in what Ronni Bennett has to say over at Time Goes By, but I rarely saw her posts.  Instead, I was bombarded by daily, sometimes twice daily, pictures and references and verbiage from someone who no longer interested me at all. 

There's no reason to share the blog's URL; you might really like it and then wonder what's wrong with me.  It wasn't offensive or poorly written.  I was just done with it. 

Once I figured out how to hide it from the feed, I was a woman on a mission. I would hide the blogs I didn't want to see, and reacquaint myself with those I'd forgotten.  My mission led to many frowns.

Where was Joann Mannix, who wrote Laundry Hurts My Feelings? Her long-form stories made my sides ache from laughing, often laughing through my tears.  The title links you to the last post she wrote, a description of a parking lot misadventure that is humiliating and humbling and completely understandable.  She hasn't written anything else since last February.  I miss her.

Tied Up With a Black Velvet Ribbon was another favorite for a while.  When I clicked through to see what was happening, this is what appeared It doesn't look like you have been invited to read this blog. If you think this is a mistake, you might want to contact the blog author and request an invitation.
Since I can't remember what I loved about it, I don't know what I'd say when requesting an invitation.  And, since I've never seen this kind of message before, I wonder if I'll be requesting permission to join a site of bondage fetishists ... or shopping fetishists ... or perhaps it's someone's personal journey, not to be shared at random with others.  In any event, I'm not pursuing the matter. 

There were a spate of ElderBlogs, found by linking to comments on The Burrow.  Most of them came when I was writing about G'ma.  Most of them are gone.  Well Aged with Some Marbling: the art of aging gracelessly , The Next Chapter, Gently Said ... I miss their take on adulthood.  I wonder what happened to them.  Did they grow tired of the experience?  If so, I wish they'd said goodbye.  Did they become ill?  I wish I'd known to send a note of encouragement.  Did they realize that they were leaving a hole in my life?  I hope so.

Not all of my favorites disappeared.  Done Nesting has migrated to Reason Creek, for reasons only its owner, Nancy Hill, can explain.  And explain them she did, at one of the Meet Ups she runs here in town.  We met face to face at my first BlogHer conference in San Diego; I keep up with her adventures here in town via her blog.  My friendships are crossing the line between cyber and real spaces.  It's interesting.

When I write about cyber friendships crossing into reality I must mention Nance at Mature Landscaping, whose life took over the time she used for writing.  She and JES at Running After My Hat and I had a mini-blog friendship going along quite nicely back in 2009 and '10.  We were cogitating plans to move our small readership numbers into the stratosphere when, as JES so elegantly put it, then, Damn, you go and get shot, girl!

Nance triangulated the Safeway, my house, and the hospital, realized I must have been the one who brought the child, and sent flowers to the hospital the very next day.  She'd never met me in person, yet she knew that I'd be there, doing that. The next time someone says that the interwebs are destroying human interactions, remind them of this, please. 

JES is still writing, and we three are still friends even though Nance has stopped taking fingers to keyboard.  I just wish I knew what happened to the rest of the gang.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Piano Recital

"It's time!  It's time!  It's TIME TO START!"
The young man in front of me was anxious to get going.
He'd been staring at his watch since I entered the music room.
As the minute hand on the wall clock moved inexorably toward the full, upright, position, he leaned over his own time piece, willing it to move faster, tapping it lightly to help it along
And then, it was time to start.
Ian, teacher to young and old alike, announced to the audience
 that although he had 35 students in total, none of the adults were willing to perform. 
Instead, a handful of his younger pupils would present works ranging from pieces in their beginner books all the way to Brahms, with some original music thrown in for good measure. 
He told us it would last 45 minutes.
If I'm going to be watching other people's kids perform, it's nice to know how long I'll have to sit.
The little ones' feet didn't reach the floor, 
but their fingers were beautifully arched and their backs were perfectly straight. 
Some of the pieces required four hands, and Ian was glad to oblige.
The older students could reach the pedals, and wore fabulous shoes to do so.
My young time keeper entranced the audience with Brahms played with gusto.
Some of the New Age pieces were lengthy; Ian was happy to turn the pages of the score. 
This musician spent a week this summer working with Ian, perfecting his craft.
The hat was only the start of his marvelousness.
As the performers mature, they bring more of themselves to the music.
Swaying and staring off into space  
and then flying his hand over the top 
he had the audience enthralled.
The younger students were seeing where they could be, in time, with effort and practice and drive and desire.  The lesson was softly delivered, but filled with power.
I know that's true, because I was watching Mr. 9's face.
In his tuxedo shirt and vest and self-designed Nikes, he was quite studly.
Ian introduced him as well dressed.
He was taking the performance quite seriously.
He didn't need music; the notes live in his soul. 
Composition and improvisation are part of Ian's curriculum.
Mr. 9 wanted to play Pharrell's Happy Song, so Ian created a four handed version just for them.
There were shared smiles and nods and feet were tapping.
At the end, with his face nearly breaking from the smile, Mr. 9's left hand went up and over and landed loudly and proudly and firmly on a very high C.
The crowd went wild.
It was a totally appropriate reaction.
An hour on a late Saturday afternoon, surrounded by families and music and love.... it was perfect.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bringing Light to the Situation

Little Cuter and SIR had the most beautiful wedding at our house.  The front and the back were decorated with light, and not much more.  There were strings of little bulbs hung in the trees surrounding the enclosing walls in the backyard and there were globes with electric bulbs scattered through the trees in the front.

Neighbors complimented us for weeks following the event.  The house looked stunning, elegant, delightfully mysterious, festive.... I loved collecting the kudos. 

Time passed, the images didn't fade, TBG was on board with the idea - I began to search for a way to make it a more permanent part of our landscaping.  We paid thousands to have professionally installed up-lighting on the foliage; we saved thousands by opting to leave the actual house in shadows.  It's a nice enough structure, but it didn't need to be floodlit like the Taj Mahal. We were looking for highlights, not advertising our status.

That's a problem with lighting the outside of our house.  The illumination draws attention.  We like to stay private.  Ever since my life burst onto the public scene, I've become acutely aware of two facts: we are in the phone book abd  my computer monitor and tower are on a desk which affords me a magnificent view of the mountains and the road in front of my house but which also affords passersby the opportunity to gaze into that window and look right back at me.  At night, though I like to type with the stars blazing back at me, the un-shaded window pinpoints me like a target in a shooting range.  I pull the shade and sigh.

But those little lights from the wedding haunted me.  The front of our home is well-lit, and the big, round, colorful balls the boys will help me hang in December will be decorative enough to suit me.  But the back, where the lighting is focused on the pool and the low bushes surrounding it, is awfully dark at night.  We've left the floor to ceiling windows uncovered, which works fine in the daytime but leaves a big black hole in the evening.

My search for hanging globe lights continued.  The web was an interesting place to look - hanging globes had maps of the world, lighted globes had batteries and flashing red splats for capital cities.  Solar powered illumination had hundreds of thousands of suggestions; hanging solar illumination wasn't much less overwhelming.  The party planners thought Crate and Barrel was their source for the lit balls that delighted me, but Crate and Barrel's website was useless.

I went to the store.

I haven't been shopping for home goods in years.  I have enough stuff.  The colors and the textures and the shiny newness of it all was overwhelming, but I was saved by the lovely lady behind the counter who knew exactly what it was that I was seeking.  She knew the proprietary name of the product, she knew that it came in two sizes, she knew that it was on sale. 

On sale.  My two favorite words in the shopping world. 

She couldn't order it for me, because it was only in the warehouse and her computer couldn't talk to the warehouse for me.  So, I sat on a sofa in front of her Service Desk and ordered twelve large balls with interior solar light sticks. Then, I left town.
When I returned, ten days later, there were three giant white Crate and Barrel boxes awaiting me in the front hallway.  TBG had moved them inside and there they waited.  Inside each one, four smaller brown boxes were nestled in the middle of more beautiful bubble wrap than I'd seen in a long time.  All twelve lights could have been sent in one box, I think, but the excess somehow made me smile. I'll reuse the packing materials and I've already repurposed one box to serve as my Halloween storage container but it was the sheer too-much-ness which awed me.

I unpacked one light from one small brown box.  I hung it for days in the sunlight, waiting for a miracle to occur.  When that didn't happen, I loaded them all back in my car for a return trip to C&B.  The saleswoman was very happy to take them back, was very sorry they didn't work, was calling for a helper to unload my trunk, was as surprised as I was that the globe unscrewed in the middle and that in the middle of the middle was a very very small on/off switch.

She turned it on.  I drove home, rehung the globe, and was treated to a small but shimmering glow that evening.  I moved the lucite orb from the Palo Verde in the front to the crepe myrtle in the courtyard to the mesquite with the sturdiest branches in the backyard. 

It took three days, but last night TBG noticed the glow, admired the glow, and wondered if there could be more glow.  For a man who like the least amount of tchotchkes on permanent display, this is a milestone moment.  He adores the holiday charm my decorations bring to the season, but the basic structure of our house is unadorned.  If I cared, I'd make a fuss.  I don't, so I don't.  He's always been in charge of the colors and the sizes and the shapes of our furnishings, although I retain veto power. Usually, my attempts to liven up the scenery are met with polite dismissals.... and sometimes not so polite dismissals (cf my desire to paint the interior pony walls surrounding the pool in vibrant purples and yellows and oranges). 

To find that an idea I'd created met with his approval filled me with delight.... and my delight soon spilled over into gushing.... which led to why are you so excited.... and we both make those decisions, don't we...and I stopped before what began as a smile ended in a tiff. 

I'll hang some tonight before he changes his mind.


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