Thursday, December 18, 2014

The End of an Era

It was only 161 votes which separated Ron Barber, Democrat and fellow January 8th shootee, from his opponent in November's election, Martha McSally.  That's two hundred doorbells rung or not, 200 family members and friends who remained unconvinced, a block or two of  un-contacted voters.  That's what happens when a Congressional District is gerrymandered into equal thirds - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

My little piece of heaven, Arizona's Legislative District 9, is sending two Democrats to Phoenix for the next session of the House.  Ethan Orr lost by 132 votes to Dr. Randall Friese, another January 8th friend. He'll join Victoria Steele in trying to make Arizona a more human-friendly place, one that cares about education and gun safety; he's already crafting legislation, or so his wife told me last week when we met at Pilates.

I am trading a personal relationship in Washington, D.C. for one in Arizona's State House.  If, as Tip O'Neill pointed out, all politics is local, this should be a good thing.  Instead of knowing one of 435 Representatives, I'll know one of 60.  This should fill me with a small sense of power.  Instead, I can't get past the ache of losing my connection to Washington.

When TBG and I talked about leaving the comfortably liberal confines of Marin County, we encountered skepticism.  We were moving to the Wild West.  Were we sure we were thinking clearly?  I had a ready answer: My Senator would be The Maverick, John McCain, my governor a Democratic woman, and my Congressman was a Jewish girl whose centrist position in the Democratic Party fit both TBG and me quite nicely.  California was in the midst of an economic crisis, and residents were fleeing north to Oregon (which mounted a campaign against immigrants from other states) and east to Arizona.  The Copper State was trending purple, and we would be adding more blue to the mix.

Then, President Obama tapped Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security and her Secretary of State, Jan Brewer, moved up to the governor's mansion.  We traded down, in my opinion. 

Then, John McCain chose Sara Palin as his running mate, insulting the electorate and diminishing his stature in our house..... and many others. I was glad she could see Russia from her front porch; I just wish that Senator McCain had asked her a question or two before deciding she would be appropriate to lead our nation should he die in office.  Given the loss of Gov. Napolitano and the rise of a trained hair dresser in her place, this was not an outre concern.

Then, Gabby's brain intersected with a bullet. Ron Barber took her place in Congress, winning by the same kind of slim margin which removed him from office today.  Gabby spoke across the aisle.  She touched ranchers and sheriffs and teachers and police officers alike.  She was on the rise. 

Her seat will be occupied in January by a woman who flew fighter jets and argued with her military superiors demanding equal treatment as she served in the Middle East but who chose to remove any mention of her beliefs or plans from her campaigning.  She softened her image, appearing in soft blouses instead of her Air Force uniform.  She got her hair cut.  The changes were cosmetic; her positions have not changed since the last time she challenged Congressman Barber. 

And so, here I sit on Douglas, admiring my tree and the sunshine and the music and wondering where Arizona and America are going.  Should Dreamer kids receive drivers' licenses?  Will the Medicaid expansion Governor Brewer approved continue to provide services to our most needy?  Will sensible gun legislation ever have a chance in Washington? 

I voted.  My friends voted.  I made my opinions known, tried to convince others of the validity of my views, made phone bank calls and wrote checks.  In the end, I won one and lost most.  The Arizona  that enticed me  in 2006 is a memory.  It's the end of an era and I am sad.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Santa Came to Prince Elementary School

 GRIN was there, too.
We were making frames for the pictures with Santa. 
 
Everyone
was dressed to the nines.
These two were "almost twins".
These sisters were working too intently to smile, but I couldn't let all that pink go unrecorded.
 
As Santa's elf sent pictures electronically, GRIN volunteers ran the craft table.
 With paper and stickers and markers,
 volunteers helped with the choices.
There were so many,
many choices. 
Once the decision was made, Miss Ellen traced the 4x6 template into the middle of the frame. 
 She put an X through the rectangle which would hold the picture,  
to remind the artist to keep the decorating outside the box.
This led to decidedly mixed results. 
Our listeners were very young
 
and very excited  
 After the first few episodes of confusion, we decided not to care.
 
Some took to it naturally.... delicately.... just look at her pinkie.
 There was serious attention paid to detail 
and great precision brought to the task.
Some worked with great concentration.
Some put great thought into the placement of every precisely chosen item.
There was collaboration

and there was great pride.
 But mostly, there was joy. 

GRIN was thanked effusively for our help.
I said thanks, but I knew in my heart that I was the one who should be thanking them.

These Prince Mustangs fill my heart.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Random Thoughts - A December Edition

There was a deluge on Saturday.
The downspouts empty into my containers, splashing soil onto the columns and bruising the blossoms.
The companion pot on the other column was down to the bare roots; for some reason the water comes down more forcefully just ten feet away.  I didn't want to lose the remaining plants, and I didn't want to hire a contractor to renovate my downspouts.
 I created a removable plant umbrella. 
It made me laugh and it served its purpose.
*****
Responding to the washer's buzzer while concentrating on baking brownies results in 40 minutes of towels tumbling on Extra Delicate.  It seems that I can concentrate on exactly one thing at a time these days.
*****
Dean Martin has a sexy twang in his voice, Bing Crosby is lighter. Perry Como is never surprising, while Nat King Cole catches me unawares with a phrase or an extra-long pause. 
 
I have favorite versions of almost all the standard holiday tunes, and I am becoming annoyed when artists omit the third stanza of Jingle Bells.  Since we've already determined that, at this time of year at least, I can only hold one thought at a time, I've kept the Ella Fitzgerald Holiday Station on permanent play in the kitchen.  The theory was that it would be inoffensive and cheery and unchallenging background music.
 
It turns out that there aren't that many holiday tunes, there are just a lot of people who think I want to hear them singing those tunes. 
 
When I start to get aggravated by Christmas carols I know it's time to take a break from baking.
*****
There is so much football available on so many days that I've been able to bake and wrap and write with reckless abandon.  I never have to worry that TBG is yearning for my presence.  He likes me to be around, but he doesn't need me to be happy ... at least at this time of the year.
 
Still, I get to missing him so I'll take Lenore the Lenovo Laptop and sit next to him as he's watching Thursday Night Football on Saturday Night (this is true... and should not be allowed) or they'll-make-the-playoffs-unless-this-game-ends-in-a-tie sort of games and I can be productive and not distracted.  It's like white noise.
 
And then I hear Al Michaels use the word prescient (correctly, of course) and it feels like a small gift, a thank you from the football world, for my presence.
*****
Judy Holiday is the most aptly named actress for this time of year, and last weekend TBG and I enjoyed her not-that-ditzy-at-all Gladys Glover in It Should Happen to You. 
 
Gladys Glover is the first Kardashian - she becomes famous for being famous, has her privacy invaded (or not), and stands for nothing. 
 
Judy Holiday is my mother, incarnate.
 
It's always a pleasure to watch her movies, because it means my mom is right there in the room.  Her cadence is the same, her body language is eerily familiar, and her absolute certainty is disturbingly G'ma-ish. 
 
Half of my enjoyment is imagining my own mother on the screen... and it's not that hard to do. 
 
It was lovely to visit with my mom, remembering her in the swivel chair in my living room, unwrapping the same ornament for fifteen minutes, watching me work, looking at her hands and wondering aloud "What am I doing?" and laughing.
 
And then, after a chorus or two of holiday cheer, she'd look down and wonder, again, what she was doing... and why.
 
It's the laughing I'm holding near. 
***** 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thoughts While Baking Brownies

It's a meditative experience, after the first week or so.  I triple the recipe; the math works out perfectly.  There's no cutting sticks of butter or searching for the quarter teaspoon measuring tool.  It's all full cups and sticks and teaspoons, and that's very soothing.  I think before adding every ingredient, checking my arithmetic, stirring carefully.  I watch the yellow eggs turn ecru when the vanilla extract hits the bowl, and I remember my yellow organza formal - they crinkle in the same way.

It's raining outside, the larder is stocked, there's no need to go outside... except maybe to visit with JannyLou next door. This is as close to the weather outside is frightful that Tucson gets; the Pandora Ella Fitzgerald Holiday Station is running white men from the 50's singing about snow, and I can't stop smiling.

Perry Como's inoffensive voice reminds me that Rhonda was on The Perry Como Christmas Show every year we were in elementary school.  Her father was his accountant, so she got to dress up and sit on the floor, looking up admiringly at a client singing about a holiday she didn't celebrate.  We were all consumed with jealousy.

Russian Jewish immigrants like my grandparents wrote many of the iconic Christmas songs : Let It Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow; Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire; White Christmas; Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree; Silver Bells; I'll Be Home for Christmas; Holly Jolly Christmas; and, of course, White Christmas. There was a lot of money to be made in the music business those days, when sales of sheet music were a major source of income. 

But why people who came from the shtetl wrote these songs goes deeper, I think.  They represent an idealized moment in America - family, safety, warmth, protection from the elements, a home to welcome you with smiles and songs and kisses.  No wonder G'ma loved them.  Daddoooo saw them as Gentile; she saw them as American.

Even before I met Nannie and became addicted to Christmas, I loved carols.  I loved the notion of going from house to house, singing with neighbors and friends.  The Little Drummer Boy's rat-a-tat-tat can still make my heart skip a beat; it's such a sweet, sad moment in time.  The majesty of Adeste Fidelis, the faces of the congregation singing Silent Night.... the music transcends the politics of religion and speaks to a place in my soul.

And so, I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised when Nepali and Pakistani and Africans from all over the continent want to sing Jingle Bells as we walk around the track at Prince Elementary School.  Not a single one of them has ever seen a snowflake. We go o'er the fields and there is no doubt that we are laughing all the way.  There are tickles on the Ha-Ha-Ha's and there are hugs at the end and then we start singing it all over again.  Occasionally, I am allowed to inject the A-B-C's for variety, but whether it's April or August, their favorite song has us in a one horse open sleigh.

Their experience of America is living on the edge.  It's new customs and new culture and just like kids everywhere they want to belong.  For them, Jingle Bells is an open door to America.

Or so it seems, as I'm stirring brownies and letting my mind wander.

Friday, December 12, 2014

It's All Much Simpler This Year

Amidst the holidaze, planning proceeds for the 4th anniversary of my perforation.  BEYOND! actually encompasses more than my little piece of heaven, but this year I am having a hard time looking beyond my own nose. 

The permit issuers were beginning to worry.  I hadn't responded to their emails.  I had been avoiding my GRIN inbox, then the computer died and the shortcut with it and if I could remember the web address I could plug in the user names and passwords which are, frustratingly, more readily available than the places I need to enter them.  But that's not the reason.  I knew what they wanted to tell me.  I just didn't want to face it.

I wanted to revel in FlapJilly and then in the Brownie List and I didn't want to plan or think or go back to the worst moment in my life.

In the past, when people would tell me to take care of myself, to do what I needed to do, to think of me first, I would confidently reassure them that I was doing exactly that.  By participating in public events, by sharing my story, by creating and doing good deeds, I was taking care of myself.

This year is different.  I don't know why, but it is.  I am much sadder.  I am trying not to be as angry as it seems all too easy to be... all too justified.... all so unproductive.

There's a lot of energy involved in redirecting all that emotion, and that doesn't leave much extra, even for the things that matter.  One month out from the event, though, I recognized that ignoring a problem may not make it go away.  I baked two disposable tins of brownies, created To/From greetings for each, and made my way to Parks and Rec and the Department of Transportation. 

One old friend was retired, another transferred, but their compatriots were the ones who'd been contacting me and being ignored, so the sweets fell into the correct hands. The paperwork was completed, hugs and handshakes were exchanged, and now I can move on.

One task down, how many more to go?  The answer, I realized on the drive home, was fungible.  There were as many tasks as I decided there had to be.

I don't want new fundraising flyers; I'll take a Sharpie and update the ones from last year.  It's a not-for-profit, after all.  Donors should be impressed with my frugality. I'll ask Elizibeth and her friends to take a mallet and the new signs and plant them using their young legs and new drivers licenses.  I'll eliminate the snacks and water, will use last year's t-shirts instead of reordering new ones, and I will stop and take a deep breath every once in a while.

It's all much simpler this year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Making a List

Not that kind of list, denizens.  I have everything I need or I want and Santa is focusing on the littlest member of the clan, while being certain that the rest have socks and underwear to last a life time.

No, this list is for FlapJilly.  Her grandfather and I were sitting on Douglas, disgruntled viewers of gender stereotyped advertising on every channel we tried.  All the little girls were in pink... sparky pink... and most of them had tulle.  The ones with the biggest smiles were wearing tiaras or fairy princess wings.

Though Little Cuter went through a fairy princess stage in second grade, I think it had more to do with her friendship with Rachael than any real infatuation with spangles. Her wedding dress came from J Crew; it had pockets in lieu of lace. The notion of success through princess-ness is not part of her repertoire.

FlapJilly may have different ideas on the subject, and those will have to be treated with respect.  With that in mind, I started to make a list of Acceptable Princess Movies.

The first, most obvious, undisputed champion is Princess Bride.  True, Buttercup spends most of the movie being kidnapped and rescued and kidnapped and rescued, but it's the most quotable movie in our family pantheon, it's a good introduction to Christopher Guest, and the lessons it teaches are fairly perfect: sportsmanlike behavior, dedication to a cause, respect for genius, and, of course, believing in true love.

Next, I went to one of my classic Top 10 - Roman Holiday.  Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck and William Wyler and Rome.... what could be bad? as G'ma would say.  There is deception on both sides of the romantic equation, just as there is attention to duty and to a job well done. There are downsides to every career, princess-ing included, but Audrey manages to squeeze in one weekend of motor scooters and ice cream cones and haircuts before sucking it up and moving on with her life. 

SIR and Little Cuter treated us to Frozen on one of our visits.  I remember that it was beautiful and that the animation was incredible but I'm having a hard time recalling the story.  The kids were enthusiastic about it, and perhaps I will be, too.  But I've seen Princess Bride and Roman Holiday dozens of times; this list is too important to be added to randomly.  Ask me in a few years, after I've had time to watch again, and again, and again.

I know we'll watch Cinderella, because all those early Disney movies should be watched.  Big Cuter opines that in the first Star Wars Princess Leia is brave and heroic and he is my life line on anything Skywalker so I'll include it for sure. 

But that's as far as I can go.

There are Queen Movies we can watch when she's older, films like Elizabeth and Essex, but that list can wait for a while.  Can you think of others? 

It was a nice way to spend an afternoon, thinking back on movies that made me smile.  If you're so inclined, I'd love to know what you'd recommend.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Briefly, While My Eyes Are Still Open

If one more person tells me that my energy is amazing, I will scream.  Aloud.  In public. 

I am tired.  I ache.  I have a smile on my face and love in my heart but I am not as old as I'm going to be and I'm certainly not as young as I used to be.

I never thought that was a valid excuse before hearing a friend's tale of woe last night, a tale with which I could identify, a tale that ended with "We are just too old to do this on a regular basis."

I understood what she meant, without judgment.  The body takes longer to recover as it spends more time on the planet. I may have more patience in my seventh decade, or I might be too tired to care that much about so many things. 

I'm husbanding my energy for these moments at my kitchen table.  Patty the Magnificent cleaned again, but she left my work station intact.  I'd organized it.... a little bit, anyway.  All the gift tags were in the same box
and the ribbons and small garlands were collected in the same area. 
I replaced the cushions on their individual chairs;
I have to stack a couple in order to sit here and type to you.
Pandora's Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas Station has been making me smile.  I'm going to find my Bela Fleck CD, the one with the Tuvan Throat Singers, and put it in my car.  There are certain things that must be enjoyed within a concentrated period of time, and that CD is one of them.

Latkes are on my mind as unranked Indiana takes an improbable lead early in the second half.  They have the highest scoring freshman in the country, and they are giving 4th ranked Louisville an exercise in humility... at least for now. 

I'm making a pot roast, and the longer it cooks the better it smells.  G'ma's roaster is the perfect piece of cookware - the right size and full of memories.  I'm going to use it for Amster's Hanukkah party turkey ... and G'ma will be with us every step of the way.

I found a box of Hanukah cards hidden at the bottom of The Rochman's Cedar Chest and I'm going to write to my siblings and my cousins and my friends as I watch Indiana and Arizona play basketball.... not against one another.... but at the same time on different channels. 

I'm going to smile at the picture Brother took of himself wearing the Nationals' jacket we bought him at 60 to replace the Cubbie's jacket we bought him at 30. Thoughts of him lead me to SIR, and the two of them bonding over baseball and home repairs and daughters.  And daughters lead me to FlapJilly and Big Cuter's big hands on her little head and my smile is about to break my cheeks.

Happy Everything!  We're going to watch Errol Flynn's Robin Hood while IU is in the lead.  We're in a happy place and we mean to stay there.  Happy Everything!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Snippet

Big Cuter on Cozy Rosie, his sister's couch, was in his element, opining on everything to people who loved him.

"Any time a woman cuts her hair, you should tread lightly.... something has happened.... big time."

Little Cuter and I mulled over our pasts, but he was on to something else and that was the end of it.

Or so I thought.

I heard from a friend yesterday.  Every piece of her life is in chaos.  There is not a touchstone to be found, for all is in flux.

She's strong and resilient and she already has a plan in place to make sense of the nonsense.....

.....but the first thing she told me was
I got my hair cut.
*****
Happy Tuesday, Big Cuter <3  When you're right, you're right <3

Monday, December 8, 2014

And On It Goes

I did this today.
 I did it many times.
Sometimes there were walnuts and almond extract in the pans.
 
I turned this
into this
and more.
 
I'm exhausted.
I'm elf-ed out.
 
I'm going to put my feet up on the couch and I'm going to look at this 
and I'm going to smile.
 
Have a wonderful Monday.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The End of the First Week

Patty the Magnificent cleaned on Tuesday, but there's little evidence of her work left to admire.  The season has taken over the kitchen and I'm sure the mess would extend through the window and onto the patio were anything just a bit more permeable.
 
I've lost the blues and have moved into the whites and the reds and the greens. 
 
Finding anything remotely decorative in a Hanukah palette is next to impossible in Tucson.  I spent Tuesday driving around proving it.  There were many shop clerks with Jews in their families and they commiserated with me.  Bed Bath and Beyond has a nice display, but I want more choices. 

Sadly, you can't always get what you want.

I have blue tissue paper with glitter embedded ... but not very well-embedded ... in its fibers. Little Cuter forbids me to use it around anything that comes into her house. When I forget, she grumbles.
 
She has a dog and a baby and a full-time job so I understand not wanting to add de-glitter-ing the house to her To Do List. But that glitter is the only wonderful item available to wrap around my gifts.
Sometimes, I just can't help myself.
*****
 
I spoke to Bunionella for the first time in much too long and I found Rocky, too.  I love each and every one of my new friends here in the desert, but the shorthand of long-term friendships is very precious to me.  The timer on my phone said we talked for 57 minutes and 27 seconds this morning; it felt like forever and no time at all. 
*****
I took two shopping bags of Priority Mail Small Flat Rate boxes to the post office this afternoon.  Printing out the labels at home saves a few cents and a lot of time at the automatic postage center.  Unfortunately, the USPS website is the buggiest place I go on-line.  Sometimes it is smooth and efficient.  Most times it takes many tries to accomplish a task. 
 
Yesterday, I lost the labels before I could print them.  I'm in negotiations to get the money returned to my credit card, but it's the government (sorta kinda) and we shall see what happens. 
*****
People are holding doors and smiling and the sun has come out after a beautiful morning of rain clouds and moisture in the air.  A sleeveless top and jeans works all day long, and I am reminded of why I live in the Southwest as I imagine sliding over ice covered parking lots.  It seems somewhat churlish to grumble over a minor computer glitch when there's so much good to be found just by looking around.  
 
I can hear MTF right now, wondering where the snarky girl she loved has gone.  I really don't know. 
 
I'm pretty happy right now, though, so I'm going to let it be. 
 
That seems to be the theme of this week, and it's working quite nicely, thank you very much

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