Wednesday, October 1, 2014

This Is Harder

My sister sent me a text, reminding me of a late winter afternoon, a decade ago.  We'd spent another in an endless series of days clearing out our ancestral manse. A split level with an attic and a basement and a couple of crawl spaces strewn around for good measure, its contents seemed to grow exponentially with every load we removed.

It seemed that we would never finish the task, that G'ma would never figure out who was who in the photos and portraits, that old memories like on-too-long bandaids would continue to pull at our heartstrings, that gloomy clouds would forever surround our heads.  My sister remembers standing on the curbstone, listening to me sigh from the front porch, "This is harder than when Daddy died."

Letting go of the physical spaces became easier as I grew older, but the home my parents occupied for nearly 60 years has a special place in my heart.  Untwisting the paper clips Daddooooo used in the shed instead of S-hooks, folding G'ma's handkerchiefs into neat piles, sliding down the stairs from the attic when no one was looking.... I can conjure those images just by closing my eyes.

It was hard to walk away. 

My mother's estate has settled, the proceeds are in the process of distribution, and I opened an account with my mother's money. It will be spent on everyday expenses, I'm sure, but it will also add a little bit of joy to our lives.  TBG won't have to squish into a teeny coach seat as he flies to see his granddaughter next month; I used some of G'ma's money to buy him an upgrade. 

He'll think of her as he boards early and uncurls his cramped self into what passes for luxury on American Airlines.  It's just a fancy seat in coach, because G'ma was not foolish enough to pay for Business or First Class for a less-than-three-hour flight.  But she will enjoy traveling in semi-comfort with her favorite son-in-law (he's her only son-in-law), and he will enjoy having her along for the ride.

That's the kind of thing I know my mother would appreciate. She was always in favor of spending it while she could watch us enjoy it, rather than having us toast her after she was gone.  We had lots of fun spending my inheritance while she was alive, going to plays and dinner and flying off to weddings in LA.  Yes, I would reassure her, she had enough. 

And she did.  And I took my share and put it in the bank.... and I nearly cried as I signed the paperwork.  No, I would not like the lovely bank officer to take the check and deposit it for me.  No, I did not want to wait right here while she took care of it.  I wanted to walk the check up to the counter and talk to the friendly teller.  I wanted her to know that this was my mother's money, because it couldn't be just another deposit. 

It had to be special.  It's the last change that will occur in our relationship. I'm in no hurry to be done.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


A very nice man came to interview me today. 

I had totally forgotten that he was coming.  I usually check my calendar for the following day before I go to sleep; last night I didn't.  I went to sleep thinking that I was meeting Miss Vicki for lunch and meditation, that I'd spend the morning finishing the boxes I created when I cleared off the desk. 

Sitting at that desk, I watched a little white car cruise up the street, back up, pull into JannyLou's driveway, drive past my house, back up again, turn into my driveway and drive down one side and then around the bottom of the U... and not reappear in the window on the other side. In my nightgown, I went to the garage, opened the door, and asked if I could help him. 


He unpacked his equipment while I threw on some clothes.  Future generations may be interested to note that the blouse I am wearing on the tape I created for historical purposes should not be considered an indication of what a serious, thoughtful woman might wear.  It was comfy, it was clean, and it was quick.  By the time I got back to the courtyard and invited him into the house, I was in a lather.

He'd been sent by the January 8th Memorial Foundation to create a record of what I remembered about January 8, 2011.  He wanted me to tell my story, in whatever way it tumbled out of my mouth.  As he connected the microphone to the battery and set the tripod so that the light was just right, we talked about music.  I'd seen Mavis Staples this month at The Fox; years ago he'd spent time with Miss Mavis and her sisters and Pops, interviewing and soaking it all in.  He was willing to share his stories, and it made it easier to share mine.

And share it I did.  I relived it all.  I held her hand and I flew in the medevac helicopter and my cell phone and its messages became evidence for the FBI.  I'm not writing it here again.

In fact, I'm not writing much here at all.  I've tried to right the universe by meditating, by sharing FlapJilly photos with strangers, by holding my husband and sighing.  I'm going to try the pool and some sunshine, and if that doesn't work there's always Stoli in the freezer.

I'm too deep within myself for much in the way of conversation, it seems. I'm trying to be mindful and non-judgmental and compassionate to myself....... I've got nothing left to share.
If you're new to The Burrow and want to read the story from the beginning, 
go to the sidebar and click on the 2011/January link. 
You can search in the white box in the upper left hand corner of this page for the label
Getting Shot.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Maybe It's Just Me

I only saw it from the other side. When I wrote about seeing a holstered handgun at breakfast, all my questions were directed at him.  Was the world such a frightening place to him?  Were the eggs looking back in a threatening manner?  Was he fueling up for robbing the cashier instead of paying his check? 

I never looked inside myself.  I assumed that I was right.  I couldn't understand how anyone could see the situation in any other way.  That's never a promising way to begin a conversation, but I wasn't trying to have a conversation.  My way or the highway, buster, and don't look back. 

Then Brenda Starr wrote about our breakfast in her weekly newspaper column.  She expressed the same outrage and dismay you found in The Burrow. She has a much broader readership than I; we both have a few frequent commenters who keep us on our toes.  There were some pieces of an ongoing conversation about the right to bear arms in Southern Arizona which sent me en pointe right away.  I wasn't prepared to be surprised.  I wasn't ready to hear a reasoned argument for bringing your weapon into a coffee shop. I couldn't imagine that such an argument existed.

I was wrong.  A responsible sounding gun owner said that he could never forgive himself if he left his weapon at home and found himself in a situation where that weapon could save his family. He could never survive the guilt, knowing he had the means to protect them, but had chosen not to carry it.  That hit me right in in the heart.  I spend some part of almost every day wondering what if.  I don't dwell on it, and some days it's not part of the equation at all, but I wonder if I had been armed and trained and carrying if I would have been more alert.  I was standing behind the shooter.  If I had been paying attention.... and surely I would have been paying attention because I was carrying a loaded weapon in a public place.... then....

I let that percolate for a day or two.  He'd opened my eyes to another perspective, one I had never imagined I'd find.  I got it.  He seemed like a good guy (ok, here's the link to the Ray Rice post), a sane person, one who wondered why, if I felt that way about seeing guns on the streets, why in the world had I moved to Tucson?

And so I thought back to why we moved here.  The Wild West was a big part of it.  I loved Gabby Giffords' re-election ads, with her cowgirl hat, jeans and boots, walking the scrub with mustachioed sheriffs with big belt buckles and bigger hats and even bigger guns.  It is wild country; I have peccaries strolling through my front yard. 
These are not cuddly beasts.  They eat spiny cacti for breakfast.

Weaponry is not an altogether inappropriate response.
So why did it seem completely acceptable to me in 2006?  Why was I more willing to adapt to different mores then than now?  The commenter was right; the guns were here before I was.  Who am I to step in and tell him what to do?  His family has been here for generations.
He was right.  I was wrong.  And then I saw the solution. We completely agree with one another.  We just don't know it.
We both think that it is permissible for well-educated, well-trained adults to carry firearms.  He was not packing an Uzi, so I assume that his handgun carries sufficient fire power to calm his fears.  Given that he is responsible and not looking for trouble and living in Arizona, and that he's not a stalker or a domestic abuser or...... that's where I think there is overlap.  I can't imagine that a responsible, well-trained, not looking for trouble citizen of the Copper State wouldn't want to assume that everyone else who is carrying a weapon into the coffee shop meets that same standard.
That's all I'm asking - keep the guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them.  Yes, some will slip through and no, it's not a perfect solution, but had everything gone as planned but not funded and therefore not done, our shooter's rejection from the armed services for mental instability and drug use would have been available to the salesperson who legally sold  him a gun.  With those facts, no purchase would have been authorized.  Even the Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in my district thinks it's right to include these things in regulations. I'm giving my unknown interlocutor the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he agrees, too.
We weren't talking about long guns.  That is a separate issue. 
Then there is my reaction to seeing that gun.  Another comment referred to the concealed weapons which are all around me, in fanny packs and back packs and under bulky sweatshirts.  That was a startling image, and I was anxious for a few days... but only for a few days.  I wasn't prepared to be that stressed all the time.  It was the opposite of Mindfulness, a state I've been actively cultivating of late.  I refuse to let the shooter occupy that much of my life.  I will not be frightened out of living my life.
I am cautious.  I seek out security guards and thank them for their help in keeping us safe.  I know where the exits are.  But those are things that a more prudent person might have been doing all of her life.  I never noticed anything.  I was rarely put off by appearances.  I have good reason to be more skeptical, more observant, more self-protective.  I'm on-guard when I'm out in the world, even when I don't know that I am. 
Should that be someone else's problem? 
Today, sadly, it is, because I have no way of knowing that the man at the other table isn't out for coffee before committing a heinous crime.  I don't know that he is certified and qualified and verified.  I just know that he is carrying a weapon.
I wonder what the commenter would do if someone else were open carrying.  Is there a secret handshake or eyebrow raise signifying that you're trained?  I'd like a hologram on every holster, with a device I could carry assuring me that the gun enclosed is worn by a person who knows what she's doing.
I moved here, into their space.  I have to respect that. 
I was shot by a young man who  never  should have had access to a gun.  They have to respect that.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Meditation 106 - In Real Life

Miss Vicki came with me last Monday.  She'd tried to sit before, on her own, but found it difficult to concentrate.  Tempting her with lunch at Prep and Pastry beforehand, she was willing to try Yogi Marsha and the group at UAMC.

Over chicken and brie on focaccia and roasted beet salad, once we got the ice tea situation squared away we talked.  Her life is changing and, as always, I had an opinion on everything.  Luckily, she sometimes finds my opinions to have value; she always encourages me to speak openly.

Yes, denizens, she's a brave one, indeed.

When she told me that her mother had once said the same thing, we both took a moment..... and then we moved on.  As she drove us down to the hospital parking lot, encountering the first ever traffic jam at the entrance gate, she wondered what the group was like.  Settling, introducing, listening, sharing, meditating in the silence, first sitting, then sharing, then, usually, walking ever so slowly and mindfully, every piece of our soles touching the earth.  Yogi Marsha knows that the mind wanders; she encourages us to notice the distraction without judgment and then to return to our mantra and our breath. 

Just typing it calms me. 

As I was describing the process, I had an epiphany.  I have acquired a particular skill set in these Monday meditation sessions.  I used it, unconsciously, without planning, without even realizing that I was engaged in mindfulness until I was talking to Miss Vicki several days later. 

It was a two-fer, for sure.

It happened during a small group Pilates session.  We were four women, veterans on the equipment, capable of Level 2 and Level 3 pieces, and I was on one end of the row.  Understanding my body's limitations, the instructor gave me a baby-sized version on the piece the other three would be doing.  I was shown some intense, small, pelvic movements and admonished to deepen the crease of my hip as she turned to the other three. 

Balanced Body Reformer
That's the equipment we were using - the reformer.  Developed by Joseph Pilates during his time in a hospital recovering from war wounds, the combination of springs and pulleys allows the student to enhance her performance while maintaining strict control.  At least, that's the plan.  I was standing with my left foot on the ground, my right toes curled under as my right heel pressed against those headrests in the middle. I was facing the raised bar. My job was to curl and extend my pelvis, without moving the carriage.  As always, as I was admonished, as is most difficult for me, I concentrated on deepening the fold between my belly and my thigh. 
Easy it is not.  As I watched my classmates standing on the black mat, one foot on the raise bar, moving the carriage back and forth, maintaining posture and balance  and core strength, I realized that I was crying.  Through the sweat pouring from my forehead and my scalp, coursing down my face were very salty tears. 
The teacher's back was to me; the others were trying not to fall.  No one noticed.  I noticed.  I said to myself, "I am crying."  I looked around my heart and explored the insides of the tears for a bit, but I didn't attach much emotional content to what I found.  It was just there.
We moved on to our other sides, my tears subsided, my self-pitying moment passed, and life went on.  I remembered crying. I mentioned it to TBG.  It wasn't a big deal.  It just was.
In describing Yogi Marsha's approach to Mindfulness and Meditation to Miss Vicki, I flashed to that scene on the reformer, and I had an aha! moment. I had been mindful of the fact that I was crying, but I didn't judge.  I was neither angry nor sad nor anything other than crying.  I wandered around the why's and the why not's for a little bit, but again, I didn't judge.  And then, I moved on.
All of you who have known me for any length of time must be shaking your heads in disbelief.  I am the most judgmental person I know, especially when it comes to judging myself.  That I hadn't chastised myself nor felt sorry for myself nor reminded myself of how far I'd come meant that I had been truly in the moment, mindful.
I felt better all afternoon.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Friends

They met when my friend joined the Board of a social service agency devoted to the needs of homeless women and children.  When she decided to move to Tucson, my friend put us together. 

"You know I love connecting smart, Jewish women," was the final line of her email. It made me smile; I so rarely think of my friends' religious affiliations.... perhaps because so few of them have any to speak of.  My friend was right, though.  Five minutes into our first conversation, my new friend and I were sharing Yiddishisms and giggling at shared memories. 

You can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take the New York out of the girl.

We met at my favorite French cafĂ©, home of the best tuna sandwich in Tucson.  I have always thought that finding the best tuna sandwich in a new town turned the strange place into home. Ghini's seemed like the logical place to meet. 

The fact that she only had to get onto her main cross street and drive west added to the attractiveness. She's relocated from New York City; she didn't own a car.  "I suppose I'll get used to driving everyplace," was her kind way of saying that she misses the buses that stopped outside her apartment and her work and her grocery store, that the subways that whisked her uptown and down were much easier to navigate than a 2,000 vehicle on unfamiliar streets.

She agreed that the lack of late night dining options, and the total absence of dinner delivered from anyplace serving anything other than wings and pizza, were bigger bones to pick.  She'd never had to find parking in a crowded downtown, so my screed on Tucson as a parking friendly downtown would have fallen on deaf ears.  I kept it to myself.

We shared family histories and dying mother stories and sisterly interactions.  We didn't get to our brothers.  I know about her best friends and their children and she knows about mine.  We touched on work and style and furnishing her new house, but what I remember most from our two hours together is how much we laughed.... and cried... and finished one another's sentences.

I think you'll be hearing about her a lot.  I'd better come up with a good blogonym.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"But how is your soul, sweetie?"

It's wonderful to have someone to ask a question like that.  TBG was concerned.  I'd spent all day in court, listening to she did this and he did that and they weren't the other.  It's a friend's personal matter, and, though I offered a small amount of testimony and rebuttal evidence, I'm not the main attraction. 

"Why did you stay all day?" he wondered.  I was finished by 10:30; I got home just before 6.

I asked myself that question several times during the afternoon.  That which is so obvious to me must be proven, step by step, email by email, text by text.  I try to imagine myself as the judge, listening to strangers, trying to decide who is credible and who is inept lying.

Yes, lying.  I had my illusions shattered when false testimony was given after an oath was taken.  Swearing to God ... for me it was a benign and meaningless reference, once I didn't mind averring.  It meant what it meant to me and to my listeners, and that was okay for me.  But this oat was sworn by a religious person, one who goes to church on Sunday, whose parenting style came from a program recommended by her church elders.  It had to mean something to her.... or so I thought. 

What she said was untrue, and I proved it today with pictures and physical examples.  It was obvious to me that I was telling the truth.  But there's the pesky matter of that judge.

He sits on the bench, listening to tales of woe.  He was interrupted four times today in order to break for hearings on Orders of Protection; he was the on-call judge.  He went from our tragic situation to a more immediate ones, hearing explanations and reading threats and agreeing with one woman that yes, perhaps marrying the man after he'd been convicted of shooting two police officers might not have been the smartest move she'd ever made. 

He listened and took a note or two.  His face is inscrutable, except when he's peeved that his cold is bothering him once again.  He's respectful to the witnesses and his court staff.  I wish he would just let me tell him, in ten words or less, what is wrong and what he should do to fix it.

Instead, I sat quietly, listening to testimony, checking my email, doing a crossword puzzle, finishing a Sudoku, waiting on the Group W bench in the hallway as the judge heard the third and then the fourth set of petitions for safe keeping.  I came to the conclusion that it's a sad day when you have to go to court to solve your problems.

I wish they would just listen to me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I looked good when I woke up in the morning.  Bed Head was tamed into submission.  My favorite Fabletics yoga pants were clean and on top of the stack , my favorite black top was similarly situated.  My pedicure was still unchipped.  The outside was good to go.

Inside, a combination of analgesics -aspirin, turmeric, Advil - and energizers - BComplex and caffeine laden green tea - had me gliding around the living room.  I was wearing sneakers, which always helps my gait, but there were internal changes I noticed as well.  Nothing was sticking or poking or prodding. 

There haven't been that many days where all of this has come together; I was lighter than air.  I walked through the bagel store with nary a lurch.  I walked up the staircase to Pilates without pausing on the landing which accommodates the turn.  I wasn't holding on, either.  I held my head high and my back straight and my sacrum reaching to the ground.  I was a posture goddess.... at least that's the way it felt.

Capitalizing on the feeling, I practiced standing with both feet evenly weighted as I studied the new items in the little store across from the Welcome Desk.  Bringing mindfulness to my stance has been a way to integrate my meditation practice into my daily life.  Waiting in line at the market can be an exercise in alignment. I'm rarely impatient as I check out, these days; I'm too busy organizing my quadrants.  I brought that same intention to my faux shopping, turning around my center to greet a classmate, making the movement a twist instead of a try-not-to-fall turn.

I think this is what is meant by integrating exercise into your daily routine.  I was complimenting myself on having that thought and on living that life and on getting to where I am now as I strode through the gym, on the way to the restroom.  A class was just beginning.  The students and teacher were standing, facing the mirror in front of which I had to walk.  They all smiled at me as I went by... big, joyful, happy smiles.

It was a watershed moment.  These women had seen me for months, some for years, as I hobbled across the studio floor.  My gait is smoother once I've gotten going, but the first fifty feet or so are an example of woman-trying-her-best-to-figure-out-where-her-appendages-belong.  It is many things.  Graceful is not one of them. 

But that day, everything was different.  My arms were swinging alternately with the movement of my legs, which may not sound like much to you but which is a huge accomplishment for me.  My head was perched atop a long neck, my pelvic floor was engaged, I was pushing off my back foot, rolling all the way through the entire sole and coming up and over my femur moving smoothly beneath my repaired acetabluae. 

I was walking.  I had witnesses.

An hour later, our workouts finished, those students and I met at the shoe cubbies.  We were still smiling at one another.  I felt great.

"Is he yours?"

"How old is he?"

"He's so little!!!"

I was quite confused.  FlapJilly is female, and there are no pictures of her tattooed on my forehead, nor screen printed on my tank top.

Beyond that grandchild reference, I didn't know what was little or old or whose.  I was flummoxed, and I suppose my face reflected my confusion because it all became clear when Maggie brought out her teeny tiny puppy.... the one sleeping on the desk in the studio in this picture taken the next week...
and the one who had followed behind me, trotting happily, tail wagging, face wobbling from side to side, as I walked in front of four women who were smiling at me because I had such a cute little beastie in my wake......
and, for a moment, I was sad. 
"Oh.  I thought you were commenting on my excellent walking," said I, with a mopey face and tone which was noticed immediately by the instructor who smiled even more broadly and said, "Oh, yes, that too!" and I felt a lot better right away.
Happy is very good place to be, even if I have to drag life's cursor by the scruff of the neck in order to get there. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Random Thoughts - The Fall Edition

Ever since I left Chicago for California, I've had an ache in my heart.  I look around me for the red and gold and purple leaves on the trees... and I see none.  I inhale deeply, and while the scents are fresh and clean and geographically specific, there is no desiccating mustiness in the air. 

Daddooooo would gather the leaves in the bag attached to the lawn mover, letting me stand between his hands as the detritus swirled around my feet and legs and chest.  He'd lift me out, then dump the bag over my head.  The more he swept, the bigger the pile grew, and the more neighborhood kids arrived to jump and fling and bury ourselves underneath, jumping out to scare the littler ones.

Cactus paddles and mesquite's spiky branches just won't lead the a similar experience.
One of the barrel cacti keeled over and died last week.  I noticed it while going out for the morning paper.  Lying on its side, spiritless, empty, weighing nothing, it is harboring an interesting assortment of little beasties underneath its rotting corpse. 

I'm leaving it for Ernie's guys to remove.  The thought of a colony of many legged creatures festering in my garbage can until pick up day is more than I can bear.
That got me thinking about compost.  The Sonoma County compost facility is one of my favorite places in Northern California.  It smells great - full of life and decomposition and nutrients.  The texture of the piles, some of them three or four stories tall, is soft and even and absolutely luscious.

I'd love to compost here, but no one can guarantee that the pack rats won't chew their way into the plastic bins of the rolling composter, nor that the coyotes won't pry their way through the slats of the wooden separators of the open air bins. 

I have enough interesting wildlife outside the pony walls; I don't need to encourage it inside, where I live.
There's a den of some sort in the wash between my house and JannyLou's.  I'd love to know who's living inside.
Even though the temperatures are still in the 90's and the pool is tempting, my sleeveless blouses are looking much too summery for September, nearly October. 

It's a psychological thing.  Acclimating to the West Coast, I learned to decide that some colors were for Fall/Winter and others were Spring/Summer.  It's time to put the lavender and yellow away now, and bring out the forest green and oranges. Black seems to go both ways, though. 

My pink and white polka dot sneakers will be washed and put away, along with the pink Converse and the white Converse.  I think I'll treat myself to a new pair this Fall.... after all, I always got new shoes at this time of year.... for going back to school.....
..... and I'm going to school again, starting October 1st.  I'll be reading tragicomedies, covering authors I've managed to avoid in six decades of literary browsing.  Ibsen, Pirandello, Ionesco.... I'll keep you posted in the sidebar as the semester progresses.

We're starting with Amphitryon, written by Flautus in the first century BC.  I wonder how comedy will translate after two thousand plus years.... but that's the beauty of Fall, and a new semester.  There's so much to figure out.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Levels of Preparedness

Home alone in the early morning.  Sitting at the desk, catching up on emails and looking for strappy black sandals to wear to a wedding next month.  Watching the walkers and the puppies and the bicyclists and the garbage trucks.  Feeling content.

A white mini-truck drives by slowly.  Backs up. Disappears behind the corner of the house and then reappears, even more slowly.  Repeats this maneuver again and parks.  There's a small sticker on the door panel; the words are too tiny to reveal his affiliation. 

Out of the truck, he's cruising my front yard.  Eyes downcast, he's very interested in the ground beneath his feet.  Sticking a long metal pole into the planting holes of my opuntia, he carefully retrieves it and moves on to the mesquite tree. I can sit no longer.

Galumphing to the closet, I find shorts and shoes.  Rushing is still beyond me; I thrust my feet into dressy slip-ons because they were the easiest foot coverings close at hand.  I locomoted - it looked nothing like walking - out the front door, down the driveway, and across the berms.

"Can I help you?"

"I am looking for your water meter.  I found a rattlesnake."

Two or three steps backwards... hand to my chest.... eyes as wide as they can be.... "Better you than me," was all I could manage.

He was just about to put his hand under the concrete slab protecting the meter when he heard the rattle.  I encountered him as he was returning with a shovel.

"I'll let him live if you want.  Usually, I kill them."

Death in the morning was not on my original agenda, but it quickly moved to the top of the list.  The next door neighbors rousted a rattler yesterday morning; I saw them outside and stopped to wonder what all the excitement was about.  We love many things about our neighborhood, slithering snakes are not among them.

The execution took two or three strikes with the shovel blade.  A hole was dug in the open space across the street, and a burial occurred.  My meter was read. Goodbyes were said.  A post was written.

It was a very productive morning.


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