Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Old Barrio, In Color

On Monday, I promised you more pictures.
I tried to cull them, but I was powerless. 
Today, I'll share the colors.
On Friday, the old and new.
There was all this orange and blue.
Some of it was newly washed old adobe, the paint the only concession to the 21st century.
I was looking for a blue house with orange trim, but I was disappointed.
There was a faint whiff of Howard Johnson's about it all....that soon took on a retro aspect...
and then I forgot all about it because there was this
a softer version that made me smile.
Then, again, I'm a sucker for a functional porch.
Especially for a purple porch. 
I found the reverse a block or two further on.
and this one which seemed to poke its finger in the eye of the beholder.
With this one,
I could see a blue house against a blue sky.
Pea green would not be my first choice were I in charge.
It was sensory overload at times when they came one right after the other.
The sun got into the act,
not wanting to be excluded from the color riot.
In our family, we see these rays and say
It was that kind of a morning.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day

First published on April 21, 2009

I like Earth Day. I was there at its creation, after all.

It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Initially, it was a touchy-feely alternative to the harsher realities of the anti-Vietnam War protests. You wanted to do something, but war was such an uncomfortable subject and arguing against it made your parents wonder why they were spending tuition dollars while you were telling the lawfully elected President of the United States of America that you knew more than he did. With your picture in the crowd on the front page of the NY Times. At 18 years of age, no less. But planting trees? Recycling newspaper? Not littering? And all this in service to Mother Earth. Who could be aggravated about supporting Mother Earth?

Earth Day had teach-in's. They were more fun than sit-in's, which invariably involved police and disciplinary action. They were less fun than be-in's, which owed more to Timothy Leary and The Grateful Dead than to anything political or practical. Teach-in's were earnest and had hand-outs and statistics and pictures of desolate landscapes ravaged by the cruelty of man. There was science and legislation and outrage and lots of tree give-aways.

Earth Day had no mandatory family gatherings. It required no gift giving, no card sending. You went outside and did something - cleaned a playground, weeded a median strip, planted one of those free trees. You felt good because you were doing good.

Now there is Earth Week and "We're greener than you are" tv networks Were this still 1970, there would be protests about the idea being "co-opted by 'the man'". Instead, Sheryl Crow is designing reuseable grocery bags for Whole Foods and Wal-Mart is selling them next to the discounted paper towels.

And Mother Earth is grateful.

Monday, April 21, 2014

El Barrio Viejo

Brenda Starr and I walked for fifty minutes on Easter Sunday.
It would be more accurate to say that we were erect and not sitting for fifty minutes
because we stopped quite often so that I could take pictures. 
There were pictures of doors.
Yes, they have saw blades on their door. 
Recycling materials is common in The Old Barrio.
This garage door looked like repurposed wood to us,
and the tin fencing certainly seemed to have led another life before coming to rest alongside it.
This was on a boarded up building.
Again, reusing old materials makes for an interesting texture.

And there were pictures of windows.

There was open space
often in surprising places. 

and there were fabulous places to sit. 
Are you intrigued and amused and enticed by the colors?
Come back on Wednesday and see the Houses, Old and New edition of our walking tour.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Making Noise

I have a link to help you Make Your Voices Heard just under the masthead of The Burrow.  I tweet @ABattheBurrow. I share posts on Facebook and I have these adorable MooCards which I hand out when the conversation turns toward taking action.  I call my elected officials, leaving scripted messages on voice mail.  I sign petitions which bring me spam emails but make me feel good in the moment. 

Today, though, I think I made a difference.

Pam Simon, an official Champion of Change according to the White House, sent an email to her Jan 8th cohort, exhorting us to call Governor Brewer's office.  Ever obedient, I dialed the number as I read the details.  Steam was soon pouring out of my ears.  All that meditation, the deep yoga breathing, lowering my shoulders as the biofeedback guru recommended .... none of it worked.  I was in the zone... the fury zone... the oh dear God how can this be true zone.... the just wait til I get someone on the phone zone.

Fully expecting to be shunted to the recording system, I stammered a bit when a living, breathing, young woman answered the phone. Identifying myself as a survivor of the January 8th shooting in Tucson, I didn't get two words into my spiel before she interrupted.

"Oh, wow.  I just spoke to another survivor."

All the anger went away.  It was replaced by an eerie calm in the center of my being.  On my terms, to a receptive audience, I could make my pitch.  We do not need more guns in public spaces (HB2339 allows concealed weapons at public events and in government buildings unless there are security guards and metal detectors at all entrances).... one was used to murder a child... a child whose hand I was holding....

"...and you brought her there because she wanted to be in government, right?"

This woman was listening to me.  She was participating in the conversation.  My voice was being heard.

So, I went on.... wondering if the Governor wasn't the least bit tired of being the butt of jokes on The Daily Show.... reminding her that the only armed civilian on January 8th threw a lawn chair rather than firing his handgun..... describing my wounds and my rehab and my heartbreak ... and the heartbreak of CTG's family and friends.... and I begged her to make the Governor hear my side of the story.

I talked for a long time, and, at the end, apologized for taking so much of her time.

"Oh, no.  Not at all.  Thank you.  And, from me, personally.... God Bless You."

I admit that I got a little teary after I hung up the phone.  Some of it was for what was lost, but most of it was for what was found.  I'd encountered a true public servant.  She paid attention.  She was careful with facts.  She asked clarifying questions.  She left me with confidence in the fact that my opinion had been registered, that my voice had been heard.

She's not looking for notoriety, and I respect that.  I can admire a woman who's not looking for kudos just for doing her job. 

Still, it's rare to meet someone who does her job and does it well... and to have found that person in the office of the Governor of Arizona.... well, let's just say that I am pleasantly surprised.
If you live/vote in Arizona, and you care about sensible gun legislation, you, too can call (602) 542-4331 and urge her to veto HB 2339 and HB 2517..  Tell her you read about it here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Prominence and Protection

I follow Little Cuter's advice. I keep a low profile around the issue of sensible gun legislation. 

I write to you, I've got a button on my purse, I post on Facebook and Twitter, but only those who are connected to me are in that loop. To the outside world, Pam Simon and Pat Maisch and Roxanna Green are the faces of January 8th, and that's just fine with me. 

As Little Cuter's wisdom continues, there are crazy people on the other side of this issue... .and they have guns!

It's a hard space to occupy, this niche between having something to say and keeping myself safe.  Although I laugh about feeling like the safest person on the planet (after all, what's the likelihood of some other disaster befalling one short Jewish girl from New York?), I cannot discount my child's discontent.... because what was the likelihood that I'd encounter bullets in front of a grocery store on that sunny Saturday morning?

I lend my presence when I am feeling brave.  I spoke at the No More Names Bus Tour at Christina-Taylor's church and at the Safeway when Gabby and Mark announced the formation of Americans for Responsible Solutions . I didn't testify before Congress and a gaggle of news cameras, and I didn't take a front and center spot at any number of other, more publicized events.  I felt an equal mix of guilt and relief each time.

I wish I were brave enough to put myself out there.  I wish I didn't carry the sorrow and the newly-ripped-off-bandaid feeling on my heart every time I tell the story in public.  I wish, I wish, but I have my own reality and, after three years, it's more comfortable than it used to be.  I'm able to attend but stay out of the limelight, to show my support without making that support a matter for strangers to judge. 

This morning allowed me to be wallpaper at an event announcing the creation of, the marriage of Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action.  It's a perfect combination of money and savvy and enthusiasm and numbers, and it promises to be a loud and well funded voice in opposition to Washington Gun Interests which is, I am sure, a fully tested slogan.  Pam Simon and Jocelyn Straus and Gabby's rabbi, Stephanie Aron, took the podium, along with others, some of them gun owners who love the sport of shooting, all of whom want sensible federal and local legislation regarding the purchase of weaponry.

It was sunny and hot and the cameras were everywhere.  The microphones were nestled on the dais, leaving just enough room for the speeches to rest.  Several reporters recognized and greeted me and wanted to talk after the event; they were gracious when I declined. 

I have nothing new to say.  I have no hope that I can change anyone's mind on the subject.  I can change those who are in office, and I am supporting candidates who share my views on the necessity for legislation to regulate the proliferation of dangerous weapons and who are interested in increasing access to mental health treatment for those in need.  I don't need to retell the story of watching the light go out of a little girl's eyes; at this point it's shock value and of no use to me at all. 

I'd much rather share Christina's love of life, of family, of America ... and I'm doing that. GRIN leaves me with a full heart, rather than an achy one.  I am making a difference, and I don't have to wait to see the results.  They are not dependent on changing intransigent minds.  My rewards are built into my actions... which, now that I think about it, is the perfect segue to ask you to click on over to Everytown's home page and sign your name.  The reward is built into the action. 

Plus, if you sign up on the homepage, you'll be redirected to a picture of me holding a flag that Amster made for the bus tour last summer.  I admit to a moment of flabbergasted astonishment when I showed up on my monitor.  Everytown called yesterday and asked permission to use the photo, but I didn't know that it was going to be given such prominence. 

My name is not attached to the picture.  I'm just a 60-something woman with well-polished nails holding a paper American flag.  That's the kind of anonymity-cum-making-a-statement that appeals to me.

Random Thoughts - The Lost and Found Edition

The leak still exists in the back planting bed.  I dug, I scraped, I pushed, I pulled and I managed to extricate the tubing from its space securely pinned beneath a tiny concrete ledge.  There's a goof plug which leaks and tubing-to-an-emitter which leaks and the simples thing is to replace the large tubing but the big roll I thought was living on the corner of the storage rack is nowhere to be found.

I'll buy some more and fix the problem, but I really wonder where it has gone.
Big Cuter and I spent a very productive hour in his closet today.  Every box came down off the shelf or out from under the hanging clothes.  I consolidated and eliminated and labeled and smiled when he wondered if it was deja vu or if, in fact, we had done this once before. 

I didn't tell him that we'd done it twice before.  Instead, I explained the serial nature of culling your possessions - multiple times poring through the stuff, being more and more ruthless with each purge.

He decided to keep the sweatshirt announcing he was a SENIOR, even though he'll never wear it again.  He tossed the caps and hats, which I'll wash and give away.  We taped up and marked the boxes holding the Construx and the Dinosaurs and TBG's metal castle from his own childhood. 

Now, if I could only find the Legos.  I know they are someplace, because Mr 8 and 10 enjoy them.  I just don't know where they are.  So, the creations made by my little friends will decorate a shelf in Big Cuter's closet until the master collection can be located.
I'm trying to go through the boxes I saved from G'ma's pod castle.  They are filled with sentimentality and kitsch... like the soapstone Inuit fisherman in his canoe, a relic of their cruise to Alaska. 

I moved the pencils and rulers and highlighters and pens and safety pins to my desk, where they will be used.  I took all the tchotchkes and settled them on the shelves in Little Cuter's room.  My plan is to send one to each of G'ma's great-grandchildren when they are born.  They will never know her, but they will have an item to cherish.

Or lose.  I won't care.  The stuff will be someone else's problem.
I could riff for twenty sentences on the number of lost socks which are sitting in a pile in the corner of my closet.  I keep hoping to find the mates.  I'm a dreamer.
I started the planting season with four pairs of pruners.  One was from G'ma, and still retained Daddooooo's sharpened edge.  One was slightly too big for my fingers.  One had a small blade for tiny neat cuts and one had a larger, more powerful blade for thicker stems.

This morning, collecting a pail and gloves first, I looked in vain for something with which to deadhead the petunias.  From four, I am now down to one. 

Were I paranoid, I'd wonder about a thieving gremlin in my midst.
I am now the proud owner of five size K crochet hooks.  Two were G'ma's, the other three I purchased.  Why?  Because I don't like to leave a store without being certain that I have everything I need.  The hooks cost $1.75.  I cannot seem to find them in the place I thought I left them and so I continue to buy more of them. 

Sometimes it's not a thieving gremlin.  Sometimes it just me being careless.
I had plaid sunglasses which garnered many a compliment.  They are lost.

I had a green Camelback water bottle which fit perfectly in my favorite fanny pack, never leaking a drop.  It is lost.

I have so many single socks..... but you do, too, I bet, so I won't belabor the point.

I have bonsai scissors which are missing.

My turquoise dangly earrings are gone.

This is beginning to border on the absurd. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perks of Gardening

Yes, I paid to have the irrigation system examined. Yes, they fixed the leaks they saw. Yes, they attached the containers to the main system even though they were only paid to work on the new system. And yes, I spent this morning repairing leaks.

The small bed at the back of the pool was its own water feature this morning.  The main system, the one that waters everything except the containers, runs from 7-9am.  That's long enough to let the water soak down to the recommended 18" depth for mature, established shrubs and trees.  I take a cursory glance on watering days, making sure that there are no obvious leaks. This morning, I had to put my gym plans on hold; the shrubs in the back were become water-logged.

I was too nervous to turn the system off and search for the leak right away.  I wasn't sure I could get it to restart.  The new timer is shiny and clean and almost exactly like the old one.  Still, it intimidates me.  I found that I had been left without an instruction booklet (a fact which will be remedied this afternoon by a visit to the nursery) so I was on my own.  The dials were clearly labeled, but I wasn't sure what needed to be where.

The only information available to me was a blank chart for listing zones and watering times/days which was loosely velcroed to the inside of the timer's locked cover.  Upon closer examination, I found the easy "how to" chart on the reverse.  After a moment spent laughing about the installer's sense of humor, I reversed the paper and followed the plan clearly outlined therein. 

Turn this dial that way and that dial this way and press that button but not this button and then scurry as fast as you can to the area in question..... it was a good plan except that by the time I reached the bed it was, once again, underwater.  I made troughs in each direction from the spot where, I sensed, the leak existed.  All that accomplished was creating two new pools.  The ground is so dry that it refuses to accept the overage.

So, I turned it off and went to the front, where the emitters required adjusting so that the water didn't run through and add to the salt stains on the concrete. Living with salts in the soil and the water creates a white crusty edge to containers and beds.  Flushing it all the way through makes a big difference, but flushing every time I water will only deplete the nutrients I pour in on the top every week via the Maxsea fertilizer. It's a balancing act, one complicated by the winds and the fluctuating temperatures.  90 and sunny over the weekend, 75 and breezy today..... the plants just can't get adjusted.

After twisting the emitters to release more or less liquid as each pot required, I turned and noted the sorry condition of the new rose bush in the courtyard.  It was dry as a bone, although there were two emitters in the hole.  I studied the situation, explored for leaks by following the tubing back to the main line, and then had an aha moment - gravity.

Yes, denizens, I realized that if the tubing was inserted in the main line where it jutted up toward the sky, the water didn't have enough pressure to make it that far.  There was nothing left for the spaghetti tubing which led to the plant.  So, I took the trowel and dug down into the dirt and buried the main line, anchoring it with ground cover pebbles and one very large river rock. 

It popped right back up.

I dug deeper and longer and stretched it out and watched with joy and wonder as little droplets made their way down the tubing and into the hole.  The repair was effective.  Unfortunately, the timer had just about run its course.  When the water stopped, the hole was still dry and the leaves were turned into themselves.  I dragged the hose from the side of the house and left it running slowly for an hour.  It's a good hole and the water was absorbed as soon as I turned off the spigot.  I hope the roots are still available to act as a conduit to the flower which is wilting on the vine.

As I was watching the hose fill the hole, the quail were sharing the joy.  The bigger one ventured to the edge first, dipping his beak in the watering trough.  His wife, a bit smaller but much more brazen, hopped up and dunked her head.  They drank, they shook, they looked, they drank... and then they did it all over again.  They jumped up onto the pony wall and then leapt back to the water.  It was a surprise in their neighborhood and they weren't letting it go to waste. 

I, sitting at my desk on the other side of the bay window, enjoyed their show.  My little exercise in plant maintenance had opened up an adventure for the birds and given me a free show right before my eyes. It's one of the perks of gardening.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hiking with PWR!Gym

Catalina State Park's trails were beginning to feel familiar to me.  I could gauge how far I was from the parking lot, how much higher I could climb, where we could stop for lunch.  After bullets separated me from my hiking poles, I lost interest in the trails.  We were at Gabe Zimmerman's trailhead earlier this year; I picnicked but didn't put a foot on the path.

If I couldn't do it well, I wasn't going to do it at all.

Miss Vicki took me out a few times.  She was solicitous and thoughtful and we had fun but I wouldn't call it hiking.  Margo and I walked on flat surfaces and had enough time to take dozens of photographs.  There was not a lot of sustained forward movement in either of those instances.  I'd walk a few hundred yards and then pause to catch my breath or massage my hip or loosen my neck or cover my need to stop by taking a picture. 

I covered the ground, lumbering, groaning, but doing it.  It was all I could do with the strength I had then.  I was certain that I'd always be limping; I would be the most nimble Walter Brennan impersonator I could. Trying to put a funny face on it was the best that I could do.  Progress was slow and I was losing patience.  I could do more and lift more but the underlying abilities - to kneel, to bend, to twist, to balance, to share the weight of my body equally on two legs evenly planted on the ground - those seemed stuck in place.

Once the massage therapist and his magic scraper began to treat my injuries, everything began to change.  Numbness was replaced by feeling, skipping over the months and years it had taken the rest of the nerve endings to regenerate and reconnect.  I could use my adductors because I could feel my adductors.. and how the knee bone's connected to the shin bone and the quadriceps and all the preparation I'd been doing for three years came together.

I was able to roll through my foot using my toes and my ankles and my arches as my calves flexed and my knees were bent and lifted by a combination of the muscles in my front and my back.  It was exhausting to pay attention to all of that activity, and I couldn't maintain it for very long, but I felt that I was having longer and longer periods of better and better ambulation.

This weekend, Big Cuter and I proved that.  We drove up to Catalina State Park and joined the Bowden PWR! Hike for the one mile trek.  Ten milers had started at 7:30, four milers at 9:30, and we short timers took off at 11:30... after posing for the obligatory team photograph. 

Big Cuter and I struck out ahead, following the pink ribbons affixed to upcoming vegetation which marked our way.  He let me set the pace.  He offered the bench half way through.  He made sure that my entirely-absent-directional-skills did not get us lost.  He admired the saguaros and prompted me to follow him onto the harder packed sand. 

We didn't stop.  I took no pictures, I admired no views except in passing. He thinks that I should try to widen my stride since I seem to put one foot down right in front of the other and that is exactly what we were doing... from the start to the finish.... and I could have kept going.

Instead, we retreated to the tent, accepted smiles and rejected cake, shook hands with Diane Bowden and thanked her for creating the event, and drove home.

I could list the things it wasn't (long, strenuous, steep, windy, exhausting) but the list of things it was is much more fun.  It was such a sense of accomplishment.  It was a shared experience with gym rat friends, and no one cared that incapacity had brought us to that particular gym.  It was more than I thought I could handle. It was an opportunity to prove something to myself in a safe environment.  It was something to do with my son.

But, to me, there's one thing it was that made it extra special.

It was a hike.
Hat Hair and Hat

Friday, April 11, 2014

We Were Busy

Very very busy.  Mr 8 and I planted a garden at Amster's house over the last two days.  We battled dust and rocks and heavy lifting.  We sneezed. We sniffled.  We sweated.  We used tissues, the ones without Vicks infused in the fiber.

The outside dogs used to live in the side yard.  That's where the planting beds are, too. The beasts dug and climbed and pawed and chewed through irrigation .  What was left was dirt covered with stones. Our first task was cleaning up the mess.  With brand new, colorful gloves, small enough for all four of our hands, we started at opposite ends of the first bed and began to remove the stones.
 Tossing them onto the ground was as much fun as anything else we did.
The new Staffordshire Terrier puppies were out with us for a while, but when the stone showers began they quickly retreated to the safety of the indoors.

After stone removal came ground aeration.
Using G'ma's trowel and the one that Amster bought we stabbed at the dirt, trying to turn it into soil.
Though he's tall enough to get a decent angle on the tool, 
sitting on the side was easier after a while. 

After a break for sneezing and other nasal attentions, 
we lifted the 2 cu ft bags of soil onto the raised beds.
It was a two person job.
I'm glad he's not Mr. 6 anymore; we'd have been in big trouble without his eight year old strength.
Thinking my request for seedlings was just me being cute with the language, Amster bought seeds. 
So, seeds were what we planted. 
We made furrows 1/4" deep, as the package suggested.
After sprinkling the seeds and distributing them evenly down the row, we covered them gently and patted them softly. 
The next day we planted small basil and tomato and marigold seedlings (the little plants, Amster) after repeating the process in another bed.  I would have taken photos, but we were having too much fun.  

We sang random gospel tunes that came out of Mr. 8's mouth.  We gently separated root balls and spread the tiny threads out in the sweet smelling, warm soil.  We discussed the presence of Perlite in the Miracle Gro soil they'd bought, and reviewed the watering schedule.  Amster's spray nozzle for a hose she found lying around is a much better solution than asking Mr. 8 to lug a watering can.  After all, he has to be gentle as he counts to twenty, moving his arms slowly and evenly over our plants.

We'll have pesto and tomato snacks before too long.
Meanwhile, we will watch our plantings grow. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Computer Scamming

She was insistent.  She was persistent.  She was annoying.  I couldn't hang up.

She was calling from Windows Technical Support.  She'd noticed that I had been accessing sites which were dangerous and she was calling to fix the problem.  She didn't ask me for a password.  She gave me an American name through a thick but understandable accent.  And always, she insisted.

Go to Control Panel and after several more prompts she knew exactly what the code looked like on my screen.  CMI....that is very bad  and that's where it got dicey.  She gave me a string of letters and numbers to type into a box on my monitor.  That would allow her colleague to gain access to my machine remotely.  He would then fix the problem

Alarm bells began to go off in my frazzled head.

We screen our calls with Caller ID.  If it's an unknown number or a blocked number or a series of unrecognizable digits or the name of an institution to which we have donated in the past we exit the screen and let the machine deal with it.  I rarely check that machine these days; if you want me you know how to find me if I want you to have that level of access.

Access..... she kept demanding access.

I began to wonder why I had picked up the phone in the first place.  It rang.  I grabbed.  I didn't check the number.

You called me.... I'm not letting you into my machine.  

How can this be a problem, Ma'am?  Did I not read you the code just now?

That one had me stumped.  When I am stumped, and the issue has anything at all to do with the inner workings of my computers, I call Brother.  He worked in IT, he understands IT, he rebuilds IT, he explains IT, and he even knows what IT means.  He's also very willing to help his less-than-competent-in-these-matters sister when she runs into trouble.

I think I'm going to call my brother who knows about these things.  If he says it's okay, I'll call you back and we can proceed.  Do you have a number at which you can be reached?

I didn't have much hope for that; none of these call center techs have ever been able to give out a number.  She didn't even try.  She went back on the offensive.

This is very important, you understand? Yes, there was a question in her voice.  As if I were too stupid to pay attention.  That was when I began to suspect a scam.

Perhaps you could call me back tomorrow at this same time?  I will hve talked to my consultant and then we can proceed.

She was not amused.  She pressed on.  I enjoyed myself for a minute or two, pressing back, then I hung up and emailed Brother.  He was back to me in a flash : DO NOTHING!!!!

There followed a history of these scams, wonderment at the code she'd found on my computer (apparently of no particular purpose in virus detecting but some random combinations which are easy to bring up), praise for my ability to see through it, and a list of sites to visit and download and run to scan the computer for any malicious software my typing that line of code in the search box might have allowed inside.

Secunia.... Trend Micro.... AVG..... he said they would take as long as it does to clean your car.

I wonder if he's seen my car lately.

Days later, I've run them all, heard that Intrepid Cat, his daughter, had the same issue, and laughed at her response.  She is a contractor in a federal department in Washington, DC.  The same scam was run by her, but, being her father's child, she was quicker to catch on than I was.  After playing with her interlocutor for a while, she asaked if he knew that he'd called a federal employee and that he was engaging in a federal crime...tampering with our government's computerization or something because she never got too far into the spiel before they hung up.

That's what I should've done.  Hung up.


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