Friday, October 24, 2014


A group of women, sitting seaside, dining on shellfish and salads.

Shared experiences long ago have brought them together, with another, visiting for the weekend.

Out of a comfortable silence, one asks of all of them and none of them and of herself as well:
Is anyone else friends with SoAndSo on Facebook?
 The silence was suddenly less amiable. 

Eyes were raised, shoulders shrugged, heads nodded.

Then, she asked the question that stumped us all.
Does anyone know who she is?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Living in a Battleground State

Granted, it's not like Pennsylvania in 1865.  There is only a war of words, not bullets and bayonets. No one is dying, except, perhaps, a small piece of myself... the piece that believes in the process.  Right now, the process stinks.

Martha McSally, the Republican, Tea Party supported candidate for the seat once held by Gabby Giffords, is using our former congresswoman's name and image in her ads.  There is a little old lady saying that "Gabby was independent ... and so is Martha ... and that's where my vote will be cast."  There are three sheriffs who appeared in an ad for Gabby's last run, who are now voting for McSally because the incumbent, Gabby's former director of community relations and her hand picked candidate in 2012, "is no Gabby Giffords."  A third ad reminds me that "Gabby Giffords supported border security measures," before it goes off on a rampage against our current Congressman.

I scream every time one of those ads appears on the television.  How dare they use her name?  How dare they show her photo?  How dare they use her record to bolster the campaign of a woman whose views are diametrically opposed to everything for which Gabby stood?  Reproductive freedoms.... sensible background checks for gun ownership... a benevolent attitude toward Dreamers and other undocumented denizens of our state... backing the Affordable Care Act..... McSally is on the other... the wrong... side of each one of them.

Gabby, too, was furious.  She created her own ad, starting the thirty seconds with an acknowledgment that "it is hard for me to speak," and going on to tear into the ads which used her image to support a woman with whom she has nothing in common.  It broke my heart to think abut the creation of that ad.  Taking time from therapy, learning a script, staying calm in the face of abuse of her persona, her reputation, her self.

With all she's been through in these past four years, I'm saddened that she has to defend herself in this way.  Even worse, the ads are clever enough to confuse a voter who might not be conversant with the issues and the personalities involved.  A cursory glance at the tv can easily lead to the conclusion that Martha McSally is closer to the positions held by Gabrielle Giffords than Ron Barber could ever hope to be. 

I scream.  I grit my teeth.  I throw (soft) things across the living room.  I am offended on Gabby's behalf.

The DCCC and the RNC and an assortment of PAC's are funding louder ads.  These screech about ObamaCare and privatizing social security and saving the A-10s at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.  My favorite one has about 200 words; 150 of them are Ron Barber/Nancy Pelosi.  I doubt that many listeners can accurately place Ms Pelosi in the governmental hierarchy; she's a lightning rod for "I hate Liberals" I suppose.  Still, the fact that Mr. Barber accepted financial support from a leader of his party seems to be enough to inflame Ms McSally's base.

I'd love to be able to vote for her.  She has had a stellar military career. She's been an educator in the military war colleges.  She's strong willed and intelligent.  Unfortunately, I disagree with her on everything.  Everything.  No exceptions.  And, perhaps, that's why I'm so offended by her advertising. 

Would I be more willing to accept her use of Gabby's fame  if I agreed with her positions?  I like to think not.

And so, in the long commercial breaks in the World Series (GO GIANTS!) and Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, TBG sit on Douglas and grit our teeth. There is no attempt to teach.  There are no useful facts presented.  There is only divisiveness and distrust.

I know it's been this way since the beginning of time. I've read Cato.  I've seen the editorial cartoons from the Lincoln/Douglas race.  I know I'm na├»ve to wish for a more intelligent exchange of ideas.  Still, you can't blame a girl for hoping.... can you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I'm trying.  I really am trying.  I'm just not having very much success.

I took many lovely pictures of my weekend in Santa Monica.  I walked the depth of the beach, from the boardwalk
 to the ocean.
I saw the original Hotel California
and Muscle Beach and the Boardwalk. 
I'd love to share more of the photographs, but technology is getting in my way.
Lenore the Lenovo Laptop served me admirably on my trip.  She was perfect for blogging in a comfy chair along the staircase at my hotel.
Now that I am home and trying to do more than email, now I am having issues.
 The salesman in Best Buy told me that Lenovo was IBM in the way that Acer swallowed up what was the remains of Gateway.  I took a moment while he was ringing up my purchase to mourn the demise of those cow boxes, and then moved on.  There was some minor instruction about shifting the screens and revealing other screens but he assured me that I would find it intuitive.
I stared.  I thought of my children, giggling at the thought of this new device, intuitive, and their mother all in the same sentence.  I was shown the on/off switch.  I was surprised that my inability to locate the most important button on the equipment didn't alert him to the possibility that I would find other features inaccessible. 
He offered me insurance, which I bought, and promised to replace Lenore if Best Buy couldn't fix what I'd broken.  It's an equal, one for one, guarantee.  I don't know how they make money on it, but I'm sure they do.  I would pay to have someone sit with me and explain the things I cannot fathom, but that option was not presented.
So, today, home from a wedding and my grandbaby, exhausted from the change in altitude and breathing airplane air, and readjusting to the time zone, I thought I would treat myself to editing the photos on my new toy.  Lenore was fully charged and ready to go.  My belly was full and my ice tea was at hand. 
I was stumped. 
The photos exist in a variety of places.  They originated on my phone.  I uploaded them to Dropbox, not realizing that Dropbox had automatically uploaded them, too.  Somehow, they were visible on Google+, which must be an automatic upload as well.  I think that they are in the Verizon Cloud, but I have no idea where that portal lies. 
There are times when I yearn for pen and paper and waiting at the 1-hour photo shop.
I want to move the pictures from one of those locations to a photo editing program on Lenore.  The Start screen has an intriguingly named CameraMan icon, and another icon announcing that it is the Camera Roll.   CameraMan will take my picture, but that is of no use to me right now. Camera Roll tells me that there are no photos in the file. 
I know.  I know.  I know.  I'm trying to get them there.
Lenore came with a newer version of Windows than that which I am used to on my old, desktop.  I know how to find My Pictures when I'm working here, at the desk, on the old unit.  I can't find it anywhere on Lenore.  I can open Dropbox and Google+ and see the photos there, but I have no idea how to select them and move them to a file on Lenore's hard drive.
Pencils and paper.... I'm yearning.......
I've played with swiping and adding apps and reading Help and none of it is useful.  I am frustrated and flummoxed and quite annoyed.  The only place with which my photos work seamlessly is Blogger, the platform I use to write to you.  They've added a way to upload photos directly from my phone, without going through another app.  I can't edit them, but I can upload ones which require no help.
I will work on it.  I will conquer it.  I might need some outside assistance, but I will get it done.  When?  That's another story entirely.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mission Garden

As I began to tell you last week, The Happy Ladies Garden Club went to The Birthplace of Tucson.
This is the view from Sentinel Peak, a high spot over the location of the Presidio the white settlers established. 
Now it is the home of the University of Arizona's giant A, and a hiking and sightseeing destination
I followed the Happy Ladies around the garden's surrounding adobe brick wall and through this gate.
The produce the garden creates was on a table to our left, but we were not allowed to look.
Our guide led us into the recreation of what used to be. 
The Santa Cruz River ran year 'round up until the 1600's.
Greenery was everywhere.
If you can grow a bigger sunflower in your backyard, post us a picture in the comments.
Personally, I'm going with "this is the biggest thing I've ever seen."
The goose neck squash we saw were the second blossoms of the season.
They were in the Three Sisters Garden.
Corn, beans, and squash fed the community all year long.
The tall corn stalks shaded the lower growing vegetation during the heat of the summer.
When they died back, the others took turns as staples.
It wasn't only veggies.
Fruit limes flourished as well.
Benches span the irrigation canals and the bermed beds

Grapevines for wine were tried, both trellised and left low.
It's an experimental garden, too. 
The volunteers built a ramada, using native branches.
The open weave let a gentle breeze through while sheltering us from the Arizona sun.
And finally, lest you think that I am living in a mythical Garden of Eden,
here is a blue agave, growing in the rocks and the dirt.
When it's grown, the juice will be distilled and tequila will be made.
Life in the desert is good.

Monday, October 20, 2014

More Love

The conservative Attorney General of the State of Arizona has given up the fight.  No longer willing to tilt against the prevailing tide of judicial and public opinion, he agreed that the Circuit Court's ruling on laws similar to Arizona's left him with no choice - same sex marriage will now be legal in my state.

That's a statement which brings a smile to my face, given how I spent the beginning of my vacation.

There were simple centerpieces 
and there was carrot cake 
because the blonde bride loves carrot cake.
Little Cuter told me that.
They've been friends since they were 8. 
Their friendship spanned six or seven soccer teams.
It included tennis camps and camping trips and family ski vacations.
There are inside jokes - Little Cuter telling us to SHUT UP I'M SLEEPING when her snoring was the reason the rest of us in the tent were awake - and fond memories of pumpkin patching on the first Saturday in October for years and years and years.
Her mom and I depended upon one another like sisters, since  neither of us had family in California.  She balanced my checkbook every month and I never felt demeaned that I couldn't accomplish in four hours what she could finish in fifteen minutes.  I was never embarrassed that she knew just how much I'd spent on my VISA card.  We were in each others lives, non-invasive but totally connected.
And now her little girl is as happy as mine.
In her fabulous wedding gown, she was glowing from the inside out. 
I've never seen her so happy.... and I've known her for 21 years.
She was relaxed, comfortable in her own skin, delighting in her status and her love and her surroundings.  It filled my heart with joy.
When the evening news is filled with stories from Ferguson and Syria and Hong Kong, it's warming the very cockles of my heart that Arizona has provided a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dismal autumn.
With hate oozing out of every corner of the planet, why would anyone deny these two the opportunity to love ... in public ... with recognition and acceptance and pride?

Friday, October 17, 2014

She Smiles

Resting in the arms of her father, her hands making patterns which make sense to her alone, she smiles.

Noticing her mother's return, she turns her head and smiles.

Sneezing, surprising herself, she smiles.

Staring intently into my daughter's face, a face which is inches from her own, a face with a tongue sticking out and then drawing back in, she smiles.

Bouncing on the therapy ball, in anyone's arms, she smiles.

With a dry diaper and a full tummy, lying on her back and waving her feet, she smiles.

Her grandmother smiles all the time.

In fact, she is so busy smiling that she has no time left to type to you.

Instead, I'll give you a photo so that you can smile, too.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Telling My Story

I was up at 5:45 a.m.  It was dark in my friends' house, too dark to walk safely down the hallway or the stairs.  Really, it was too dark to be awake. 
I had no choice in the matter.  My physiatrist at the Rehabilitation Institute had invited me to speak to the students and residents under his tutelage.  He's been wonderful to me; it was my pleasure to return the favor. I only wish that his rounds weren't at 7 in the morning.

I stood under the canopy of a still green tree, sheltered from the drizzle, watching the early morning dog walkers in their raingear.  I, of course, was coat-less and hat-less, having believed the internet's weather forecast which promised 60's and sunshine. Uber got me from their neighborhood to the hospital with ease, and the trip qualified me as a full-fledged member of the 21st Century. Little Cuter is quite impressed with her trendy mother.

I sat on a high backed stool in the front of a small auditorium, fifty or so fresh faces before me.  Medical students, interns, residents, and orthotists, they were somewhat intimidated by the fact of the Medical Director on the seat to my right.  It was hard for them to ask questions, or shout out answers.  Instead, they sat with their faces turned my way, hanging on my every word. 

They were evaluating my posture as I described the morning in January, 2011, which started me on my rehab journey.  Yes, it's a journey.  I know that because the Medical Director told the audience that it was.  He reminded them that they were always to consider themselves a way station on the patient's path. It was their responsibility to keep that in mind.

I told them about the medevac helicopter and I told them about the little nurse with the big voice who comforted me when I landed.  I called myself a uvula slut, and described the anesthesiologist's decision to bypass the three baby-steps and go right for the mega-dose of This-Will-Fix-You-Right-Up.  I talked about the physical therapist who was amazed that I was able to do a one legged pivot transfer and clomp around the entire floor with my walker. 

I talked about the resident who woke me at 6am by pressing on my full bladder. I encouraged them to remember that a procedure which needs to be repeated every twelve hours should not be started at 3 in the afternoon.... because the patient will then be awakened at 3 in the morning... every morning... and that's just not right.

I talked about what I'd been before I was shot, and I talked about missing those things afterwards.  I described lying on my couch for 14 weeks, not doing my exercises because no one had made the connection between repetition and retaining strength.  I described my Pilates and yoga and physical therapy teachers, and the journey I took to find them  Creating a treatment team was hard for me.  I encouraged them to consider that fact when sending someone else out into the world. 

I didn't dwell on the shooting; I talked about Christina-Taylor's death.  At the Medical Director's prompting, I described my time on the sidewalk outside the Safeway, and the citizen heroes and first responders who cared for us until we were whisked away to the hospital.  I told them about wonderful nurses and frustrating physicians. 

It was my hope that the doctors in training would see a woman, damaged but unbowed, who had taken charge of her treatment plan ... because there was no one else to do so.  I hope that they recognized that I, with my professional background and big mouth, still took almost 18 months to create a treatment team willing to work together for my benefit.  I wanted them to understand that the feelings behind the losses are as important as the shattered acetabulae. 

I'll never know for sure, but I can hope that some of them will be better doctors after hearing my talk.  I know that I am a better patient for having shared my story with them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Weekend With Old Friends

There's something really wonderful about old friends. There's an ease, a comfort, a space which time and circumstances have created. It's a privilege to be there.

I attended a wedding over the weekend. Sixty-some revelers watched and smiled and cried and drank and ate and danced the night away. Children-turned-to-adults, looking nothing at all as they did when I knew them at the beginning of the century. For them, it's been an eternity. For me, it's only a blip on the screen of my life. Yet the memories we shared are fresh in all of our minds.

The groomsman and his mother who shared the evening of the Winter Formal with Little Cuter and her then-best-friend were every bit as delightful on Saturday night as they were in the 1990's. That mother was the one who told the dressed-in-their-finery-and-feeling-their-oats ninth graders that the pictures we wanted to take were just as important to us as the entire evening was to them. “Stand in front of that door and smile!” she commanded, and they did.

The memory was as fresh to me as if we were all in my living room right then and there. His sweet smile, her acerbic charm.... nothing had really changed. There were a few more grey hairs, but not much else was different. I was far from my home, further still from where I'd known them, but none of that mattered.

On Monday, I had lunch with women I've known since elementary school... and junior high school... and high school. We ran in different circles back then, and we didn't spend much time together outside of class. But we reconnected at our 40th reunion, and with Facebook and email and random trips east and west we've established a new relationship. There's shared history, but from several different perspectives. We are delighted to share a fancy restaurant and distant memories whenever our travels bring us to LA or NYC or Phoenix … even to Tucson.

Hometown restaurants have disappeared, as has one of my friends' actual home, a victim of Hurricane Sandy. It stood in the middle of the block, and it took no effort at all to recall the feeling of standing on the stoop at the top of the stairs to her front door. Not the inside, not what we played nor what we said, just the sensation of standing there, looking across the street at Hilary's house. It's been 50 years; I have it in my heart right now as if it were yesterday.

We shared news – sick friends, newborn babies, pregnancies, travels – but that was hardly the reason for getting together. There was a sense of patching together the past, of returning to a time when everything was waiting for us. I walked to the car with a more youthful spring in my limping step.

On her way home, up and down Mulholland Drive, the newest expectant grandma among us dropped me off at my evening's destination. More old friends, this time from my young adulthood, welcomed into their home for the night. Everything is perfect there, made more so by the beauty of that perfection. Artwork from their travels and sculpture from Chicago and a hot tub under the stars bathed my eyes and my body in warmth. There's nary a boring corner; a plush monkey was resting on the upper corner of the couch, behind the cushions, not hiding so much as discreetly placed.

As with all their treasures, he carried a story. I was aware of bits and pieces of the setting and the situation, and as I sank into the pillows and listened to my friend tell the tale, I was awash in peace. Far from home, but only as far physical distance was concerned, I was wrapped in the comfort of old friends.

If there's a better blanket, I've yet to find it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Daddy

(I'm traveling. Having too much fun to stop and tell you all about it. Instead, I'm saying Happy Birthday to my much loved, if very confusing, father, once again.)

It was always very confusing - was his birthday the 12th or the 14th of October?  One of them was Columbus Day and the other was Herb's Day and to this moment I still have to stop and think.... and it's gotten harder since the bureaucrats moved Chris's Day to the generic.... how can something have occurred on "the second Monday of the month" every year?

But he was around me in spirit at the wedding, and he's not having an easy time returning to his life on the other side.

Yes, I am much happier blaming him for intruding than wondering why I am conversing with dead people.

We're not so much conversing as he is hovering and I am feeling nudged.  I misplaced the hiking pole I've been using to keep me balanced and symmetrical.... for a change... if it's not the pole it's my keys or the Kindle or my grocery list.... it's who I am these days.  I used the metal one with the "I Love Tucson" sticker crookedly affixed just below the grip, but it looks too much like rehab and not enough like life.  Then, I found myself and Daddooooo in the potting shed leaning on the wall above the bucket of handmade walking sticks he'd crafted from fallen branches of the pin oak in the backyard.

I have been using the one that was G'ma's - before she graduated to the walker - all day.  Herb's been chattering in my ear the whole time.

That was his way.  Deaf-as-a-doornail with hearing aid batteries constantly squealing or dying or resting comfortably in the breast pocket of his plaid wash-and-wear shirt, he monopolized the conversation so that he would know what was going on. That works well until your audience hits second grade or so; after that, it becomes a full fledged "Herb Attack."

I know this because I have been guilty of them, myself.

His tales were fascinating.  If the facts weren't really facts, well,  they should have been.  He went to City College with Richard Feynman.  He lived down the block from Jonas Salk. He knew every cobblestone, every cornerstone, every brick and street sign in Manhattan.  Serving as tour guide in The Big Apple made him about as happy as anything else I can imagine... and I've been sitting here thinking about it for a while.

Surrounded by his grandchildren-of-a-certain-age, those who were sentient but not yet sarcastic, he was the tour guide of his own life.  He could sit for hours, regaling them with stories about the chickens they raised in the backyard on Hessler Avenue, about the boat he and his brothers built one summer... the boat that almost floated, about the time it rained frogs and about all the times he got into trouble at school, because he just wouldn't stay still.

He probably deserved a diagnosis or medication; for those born in 1916 those options were nowhere on the horizon.  He was "just being Herbert." He continued being just himself, sui generis as I called him in the obituary I wrote for the New York Times, until the very end.

He died at home, between the first and second commercial of the 10 o'clock episode of Law and Order on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving.  There's some confusion about the date, since the hospice nurse didn't get there to sign the death certificate until early Sunday morning.  Like his birthday, I need cues to keep the date straight.  As with most things Daddooooo related, this is not easy.

As the gurney transported him from his bedroom to the front door, G'ma leaned over, kissed him, then admonished him, one last time, "Behave yourself, Herbert!  Don't give them any trouble."  The paramedics were bemused.  My mother looked right back at them.  "If you'd kown him, you'd understand."

Happy Birthday, you strange and singular father of mine.  Happy Birthday to YOU!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Parenting, The Adult Edition

It's one of those weekends, denizens.  One of those weekends when my heart is exploding, wondering if it can contain all the love.

The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, I have a comfy chair in the shade and the ocean's roar in my ears.  There are children playing Marco Polo in the pool and lots of very fit men responding to DAD! and PAPA! with smiles and dry t-shirts and a wave of the go-back-and-play-with-your-friends hand, a command which is happily followed.  They are happy to get up and watch me hold my breath under water, and they are smiling even when she's down there and can't see him.  The smile is not for her or for me or for anyone but himself.  He's easing himself into the pool to have fun with the only female in his life right now, and Papa's face is barely big enough for his grin.

There are late teen children communing with their parents, and there's nary an electronic device in sight.  I had breakfast on the plaza this morning; my new acquisition, Lenore the Lenovo Laptop, and she was the only item with an on/off switch.  The New York Times, a paperback, a magazine or two.... it was heavenly.  Those without reading materials were conversing.... yes, denizens, there was actual conversation as I scanned the scene. 

It's one of those weekends, for sure.

I'm here because The Ballerina's daughter is marrying the love of her life tonight. I've known one of the brides since she was eight years old, I met the other one last night.  There are 65 of us here to celebrate, and each person seems to be known-by-reputation to everyone else, even though we've never laid eyes upon one anther before. 

"You're ROB!"..."her sister".... "her aunt"...."Yes, I'm Suzi!"

I know which ones are smiling behind their skepticism.  I know which ones came because it's family and that's what you do for family. To their credit, if the kids were freaking them out, they didn't show it. That's parenting, The Adult Edition.  I think it involves a letting go of the expectation that your words will be taken as The Law.  It involves an assumption that you or your cousin or your sister has raised a competent human being.  It involves putting your own needs aside for the greater good, even though you know in your heart of hearts that they are going down an evil path.

Unless there's physical danger, keeping quiet is the hallmark of parenting adults.

The celebrationt had The Ballerina flummoxed, just a bit. A traditional, non-traditional wedding, where the bride wants to be seen by her love for the first time at her wedding ... but where both will be wearing dresses .... and they really ought to compliment one another .... and "What is my role here?!?" was The Ballerina's plaintive cry.  She listened, she consulted, she cosseted and she cuddled... and she's good at all of those things. A steel magnolia, when it's important my Arkansas friend makes her points behind a smile and a stare which could bore a hole through metal. I have a sense that the two dresses, neatly steamed by a bought-here-on-site-industrial-strength-steamer and hanging side by side on the mirror in the Bridal Suite, had something to do with her persuasive powers.  I'm also fairly certain that no one recognized it while it was going on.

Getting it right feels so good when the kids are no longer in constant need of surveillance.  When they were younger, I had so many opportunities to intervene.  If I screwed it up now, there was always a later right around the corner. But distance and experience and respect demand a lesser level of involvement, even when a granddaughter is involved.

Little Cuter and SIR took FlapJilly on her first road trip this weekend.  Tailgating at the Indiana-Iowa game with SIR's extended family, it was the battle of the stripes, but all my girl seemed to focus on was her unending cold and the baby's schedule.  I cogitated.  I composed.  I deleted. I rephrased.  I hit send and I held my breath....

Great pep talk, Mama! was my reward.

Parenting adults ... it's not easy, but the rewards ... oh, denizens, the rewards.......


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