Friday, October 20, 2017

I Made a Grown Man Cry

OFA asked me to shepherd a group to Congresswoman McSally's office this morning.  We were a small but vocal band of three retirees, each with a story to tell.  OFA does provide fact sheets with talking points; our voices amplified them with a personal point of view.

Bill talked about gun safety and DACA and his experiences in the field.  JannyLou talked about insuring a loved one with Type 1 Diabetes before and after the Affordable Care Act.  The Congresswoman's staffer nodded and sighed and took notes.  He was properly sympathetic and bemused by a system that forces long time partners to skip marriage in case health care costs should bankrupt their family.  He heard what they were saying. 

I asked him if he'd visited the Gabe Zimmerman room in Congress, the one dedicated to Gabby's staffer who was killed on January 8, 2011.  After all, Gabe was employed in the same capacity, meeting with constituents, before he was murdered by a Glock wielded  by a man even the United States Army didn't want to equip with a gun. 

By this point, his pen was down and his eyes were locked on mine.  I was on a roll.

Next time you're sitting next to your employer, my Congresswoman, ask her why she is not interested in keeping you safe.  If I were your mother, I'd call on your behalf.  I was sorry to shock him, but getting shot myself was pretty surprising; it can happen to anyone, anywhere, even in front of a Safeway on a sunny, Saturday morning.

He volunteered that he was driving the Congresswoman to an event this weekend.  He looked a little green around the gills as he said it.  I pressed on.

She's MY voice in Congress, and I don't think she is listening to me.  I told him about my op ed and her response on her telephone town hall and about my repeated, unsuccessful attempts to ask for an explanation.  I reiterated that her vote was a personal insult to her community, an insult exacerbated by the fact that her vote wasn't needed to pass the legislation.  She was tone deaf to her constituents, at least the ones who know me, or know of me, or of any of the others in our circle of horror.

We talked about the Venn Diagram of being-one-step-away-from-a-gun-violence-victim/survivor, about how many people are invited into the club no one wants to join each and every day.  We talked about Las Vegas.

And then we were back on insurance and the fact that I would have been uninsured and financially devastated had I been responsible for my medical bills before the ACA abolished lifetime caps and exclusions for pre-existing conditions.  He was aghast.  His face, already blanched from pea soup to vaguely nauseated, was white. 

Yes, uninsured after participating in democracy, with a 9 year old by my side.  Injured while being a good citizen, just as Gabe was killed while working to enhance my experience, at the side of an elected official.  Injured while waiting in line with those who didn't agree with Gabby at all, and were there to tell her so.  I told him that being scared to meet with people is not the way to make us feel heard, that shaking hands and paying attention would be a good start.

I paused, took a breath, and told him that I felt disconnected from ....

"YOUR representative," came out of his mouth, strangled by emotion. 

She may be one of 435, but she's my one.  She's all I've got and she's not hearing me.  Will you tell her, asked JannyLou? 

We all took a breath.  We shook hands, he took our picture (to be uploaded to the OFA site), and promised to pass along our comments.  As we left, his face had regained a rosy hue, though his eyes had the look as he bid me goodbye.  He definitely heard us.  Whether we can make a difference or not on the larger stage, I do not know, but today we made a small dent. 

After all, I bet he didn't go into work today thinking that his was a dangerous job.  I bet he goes home with a different mind set. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Smile

Forget Jeff Sessions rewriting history.
Forget Donald Trump and his $25,000 unfulfilled promise.
Forget the Cubbie's dismal hitting and Gordon Hayward's shattered ankle.

Instead, look at this face.
Aren't you smiling?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Red Rocks

You have to ease into the vortex, even though it comes upon you rather suddenly.  One minute you're climbing through Coconino National Forest, filling your eyes with thick green conifers.  Then the road bends and this is there:
I was naughty.  I couldn't help myself.  I had no side-seat driver.
I took my own pictures while piloting thousands of pounds of metal.
Like I said, I couldn't help myself.
It helped that everyone else on the road at that moment was also slowing down to oohhhh and ahhhh.

The red is from iron ore.
Sometimes it's orange.
Some of the tops have been sheered off by glaciers
but most of the formations resemble sand castles, dribbled over time.
Parked in one of the many Scenic View pullouts, I found myself counting the layers.
I was looking at a picture of deep time, imagining ancient creatures crushed within the walls.  
Sedona does that to you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On Vacation - A Snippet

Three moms rented a house for themselves and those they love.  I drove from Sedona to Flagstaff one night to join them.

There were a lot of them and they were paying for the space so I came prepared to sleep on a couch, happy for their company.  I had my pillow and sleeping bag and a camping mat just in case all the couches were taken. 

Oh, no.  That was most certainly not happening. 

A not-very-happy-but-extremely-gracious young man gave up his bedroom.  The moms dismissed my protestations with that look you give your teenager when she is, unbelievably, stating an absurdity.  Each one of them would have slept on the floor before allowing me to do so, no matter how well equipped I happened to be.

And as I stood there, surrounded by their love and their caring, I felt old. 

I walked in with the enthusiasm of a college kid on a weekend adventure, couch surfing and hanging out in pj's with my friends.  They saw a grandma, someone they could and should cosset and treat with the courtesy due her cronehood. 

It was a moment, denizens.  It was a very interesting moment.

Monday, October 16, 2017


I'm having issues. 

It was only 525 miles round trip, but the air was different and the company was different and I was, for a day or two, different, too.

Re-entry is jarring. 

I have dozens of emails; I'm ignoring them all.  The refrigerator is empty; I really don't care.  I walked around the backyard, watering and deadheading and reorganizing networks of vines, but the effort was desultory at best. 

I read Langston Hughes essays and tried to ignore the tv; I hadn't heard one all weekend.  I avoided all electronics, with one exception.  The Cubbies were invited into my cocoon, via phone apps. 

Tomorrow is a full day, and the week to follow even fuller.  Tonight, I'm going to pretend that I'm still on vacation.

Friday, October 13, 2017

On The Road

I'm taking myself on a mini-vacation.  People invited me, and I said yes. 

Seret and Mr. DreamyCakes, have flown to Sedona.  Amster and her girlfriends and their assorted relatives of all ages from a variety of relationships have rented a big house in Flagstaff.  They all wanted me.  I had no reason to say no.

Packing is making me smile.  This is an opportunity to wear my fall clothes.  I'm tossing a light jacket into the car.  I can wear my cowboy boots.  The problem is restricting myself to just enough; my inclination is to take everything (I've just mentally added another pair of cowboy boots).

I'll be gone for 50 hours; the planning has taken three times that. 

I'm printing out the driving directions just in case I lose my cell signal.  Somewhere I have a map; I'll be perusing my route tonight as I watch the Cubbies.  Since Lucy (myMapQuest voice who has a lot of 'splaining to do) has taken to muting herself for no reason at all, I want to be sure I know where I'm going before I get there. 

According to, late September through mid-October is the best time to visit Sedona to see the fall leaves change color.  Watching the leaves turn behind FlapJilly as we Facetime is as close to a leaf peeping opportunity as I get. The drive up and back is an extra added bonus to a weekend with my friends.  

I have some new library books from which to choose, and a cornucopia of delights for my picnic lunch.  I'm bringing adult libations and games for all ages and my own pillow and blanket, just in case the kids have added more friends than the linen closet could support.  

I'm not responsible for anyone's happiness but my own.  I'm a guest among guests among people who are friends.  

I'm on the road.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

It's Starting

I had to chastise the salesclerk at the framing store - there were Christmas decorations on display.  It was October 1st.  They were tempting and pretty and completely unacceptable.  Fall had barely ended.  Halloween hadn't even come out of the closet.  What was the great rush?  Along with the assault in the stores, I am finding similar angst in my mailbox every day.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Medical Center beguiles me with lined note pads.  St. Jude's had return address labels delivered.  A home for orphaned Lakota Sioux children has been sending me dream catchers for years; I'm waiting for its arrival in the usual over-sized, over-stuffed envelope full of cards with religious messages (a friend brings them to her church) and stickers and labels and larger pads than the doctors in New York City provide.

We had to move from California to stop Little Cuter's never ending gifts from the ASPCA. She sent them $1 when she was 8 or 9; they spent 50 times that on unsolicited calendars and posters alone.  At Christmas time, they were the beggars to match.

FlapJilly loves stickers; I have a drawer full of stick-able rectangles with flowers and stars and American flags, with angels and fishes and colorful houses, all abutting addresses which no longer belong to anyone I know or love.  We took Daddooooo's check book when he began paying for them; the more he paid, the more they sent. 

I'm sure there is research proving that direct mail works; otherwise they wouldn't send it.  Often, I prove it myself. 

Operation Homefront included a very cool 5x5 decal for my car's sun shield; I couldn't apply it without sending a small donation first.  They are on my list of regular charities, so I didn't feel as if I had been played..... even though I had been, certainly and definitely.  Guilt is a tremendous motivator.

Annoyance is not.  There are envelopes full of goodies which I store or give away without looking at the return address more than once.  I'm ignoring their intrusion into my home, feeling mildly perturbed that I'm keeping their stuff but remembering the lesson of the ASPCA and Daddooooo. 

These people cannot be encouraged.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

If You Give A Presser and Nobody Shows Up......

were the words really said at all?

We felt like that tree in the forest, falling to the ground, wondering if anyone was hearing the sound.  The local president of NOW, the leaders of LUCHA, the OFA usual suspects, and I were gathered in the courtyard of the YWCA yesterday morning, ready to present our words and our passion to the media assembled before us.  

Unfortunately, nobody came.

That didn't stop us.  We spoke, a video recording was made, photos were taken.  Uploading and sharing and registering the event took place on a variety of platforms.  It was all very 21st century.  It happened, even though no one was there to hear it.

For the record, here's what I said:

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
For what legitimate purpose does one need dozens of assault rifles? You can't buy large quantities of fertilizer without triggering an alert. You can't buy Sudafed without the purchase being recorded. An assault rifle is at least as dangerous as cold medicine.

Do you have them for defense? I've seen the police and the military up close and personal, armed and ready to protect me. Believe me, if the Marines want you, you are toast, and I don't care how many civilians with how many rounds of armor piercing ammo you have.

Armor Piercing Ammo. Are we really having this conversation?
Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

The Hearing Protection Act worries about the health and wellbeing of the shooters who, poor dears, are forced to wear ear muffs to protect themselves from the sounds of their sport. Protections in sports are well known – my son played lacrosse, I still have his pads. My daughter played soccer; the refs knocked on her shin guards before every game. Your sport has risks – buy the equipment to keep you safe.

And if you are loooking at your gun as a tool, then wear protective gear, just like a welder wears a mask.

The Capitol Police were not watching the game when they heard the shooting. They heard the shooting and came running. If there were suppressors on those guns I wonder how many more Republicans would have spent their summers in the hospital, alongside Congressman Scalise.

I get it. Who will make the list? I came of age during Nixon's Enemies List. I understand the fear. But, how about a list made by the Army? If the army disqualifies an individual because he does not have the mental stability to wield a weapon alongside others who are being trained to kill, then why shouldn't the rest of us be just as protected from this person as his squad mates? I asked Rep McSally this question in an op ed in the Arizona Daily Star several months ago; she called me a liar in her telephone town hall a few days later. She accused me of purveying misrepresentations and false statements. Well, Ms McSally, the only facts in the piece were your votes; the rest was my opinion that you have a special responsibility to this particular district, with our particular history, to represent us.......not to Rubber Stamp President Trump's agenda. 

We elected you. We want you to represent all of us.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Random Thoughts On Writing

Brenda Starr's great aunt kept a journal. Some of her writing is in English; much of it is in swirls and lines and dashes that her great niece described with delighted hand motions. The aunt was a legal secretary in the early 1900's, which meant she took shorthand.  Can any of you translate from steno pad to iPad?  There are stories in there, just waiting to unfold, if only we could read them.
G'ma printed.  She claimed her cursive was unintelligible, and was no faster than her printing.  There was always trouble when I presented my first she was ill note from home to the teacher; it was obvious to everyone but my mother that printing was for children, not adults.  But comparing her hand printed notes to the chicken scratch that passed for communications from my father, I am very happy that she stuck to the legible.
Mr. 12 is in the last cohort of students who was taught cursive writing.  I wonder how his successors in the upscale school district will sign a driver's license, a marriage license, a check.  How will they read  historical documents' elegant script?  How will they read their parents' diaries?  This is a worse predicament than Brenda Starr's steno pad personal history; this is akin to losing the fancy F - for - S and random spellings of the 18th century.  The originals will be inscrutable to my great grandchildren.  This makes me sad.
My children wrote thank you notes, one sentence for each grade, on stationary of their own choosing.  My granddaughter sent us a thank you note after her third birthday, signed with her initial, written in her own hand with her own yellow crayon.  My heart nearly exploded.
We weren't allowed to use pen and ink until the third grade.  Cartridge pens
were preferable to fountain pens, with their accompanying and quite spill-able bottles of ink.

We could choose any color ink at all; turquoise, peacock blue, purple were my favorites at one time or another.  Only the teachers could use red ink.  Decades later, in Marin, when my kids were small, the teachers were encouraged to avoid the use of red pens so as not to offend the sensibilities of the little ones.  I sighed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

All Those Stories

I fell asleep last night wondering where my grandmother purchased her groceries.  I knew her neighborhood; G'ma grew up in the house I visited as a grandchild. I remember taking the bus with my grandparents, riding the El with them, walking the neighborhood, but never buying toilet paper or oatmeal or tea bags.  I don't remember seeing a purveyor of those goods.

 At the delicatessen, around the corner on Linden Boulevard, the bell rang startlingly loud when you opened the door.  That didn't distract us from the pickle barrel and the giant wedges of french fries, the most delicious taste ever.  Brother and I, feeling quite adult, walked down 93rd Street all by ourselves.  We ordered at the counter and carried our bounty home, oil staining the small brown paper bags holding the fries.  Pride and grease were a delectable combination.
The bakery a few doors down tempted me, too. 

Not with the breads and the rolls I'd usually covet, but with the tray of cherry topped, whipped cream covered, yellow cake and strawberry filled paper wrapped Charlotte Rousse.

I can still smell the combination of cold and sweet on the plastic spoon.  I ate while we walked back to Bubba and Zayde's six-flat; there was no way I could wait until we got to their front porch.

John's Bargain Store had wooden floors and long open tables with goodies priced just for Bubba and me.  We tried to get the most for our dollar, sometimes two dollars, always surprised with our treasures, enjoying the experience as much as the goods themselves.  

I see FlapJilly's delight as we drive into the Target parking lot.  She's happy to wander the aisles, feeling the so soft blankets and choosing her very own Wonder Woman , cleverly resting on the shelf just at her own eye level.  I've become my grandmother, even if I don't know where she bought her groceries. 


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