Monday, February 8, 2016

Watch The Super Bowl With Me

The television's been on all day, the backdrop to TBG's day, a day he's spent hitting the pause button and calling me over to watch yet another beautiful San Francsico scene.

Sometimes, I could point and say We lived there and if I closed my eyes I could smell Marin.
The combined musical talents of our military were inspiring, but it was Lady Gaga, with her red sparkly eye shadow and her almost white hair and her loooong blue nails who brought the tears to my eyes.

She sang our National Anthem as if she actually understood the words.
I don't understand why Hyundai would think that the overprotective father was the way to start out the evening.  We liked their computerized engineer much more, although the glowing implant was a little creepy.

It is not as creepy as the dirty razor campaign, though, which causes me to close my eyes and sing LALALALALA at the top of my lungs.  Really.... people are eating.

And then there was the Dorito's baby and the ultrasound and if you haven't seen it click right over. I guarantee you'll guffaw.
And, again, I'm just a bit melancholy at Audi's beautiful tribute to The Starman.

The R8, a generation or two down the road from the one Jean Jennings and I rode around in, was as beautiful as the music.

And then, there was the NSX... and we were in lust.
Denver sacked Cam Newton and recovered the fumble and scored a touchdown as the ball tumbled into the end zone.

The game just got interesting.  I seem to be rooting for Peyton Manning ... at least in this half.
Carolina's flying touchdown was awfully pretty, and the dancing, while ridiculous, was also adorable.
There's been a barrage of racist carping about the joy Cam Newton brings to the playing field.  I'm just not that upset about someone who enjoys his work.

Living in Chicago with the 1985 Bears may have something to do with that.  Jim McMahon's headband with Pete Rozelle's name scrawled on the terrycloth, the Super Bowl Shuffle (which seems to have disappeared from YouTube), Mike Singleterry's stare.... Cam Newton's antics don't come close to that standard... even if he does chew color coordinated gum.
Half time was certainly bouncy, and I enjoyed how happy everyone was.

Beyonce's gyrations made me nutty. Big Cuter tells me that I am old. He's right. So am I.
The Panthers were held to 7 points in the first half, and their kicker missed a 44 yard field goal at the start of the second half and suddenly I was entranced by a Pokemon commercial.

The Super Bowl is an interesting viewing experience.
The phone rang everytime there was something wonderful or something stupid and my boys were having such a good time dissecting the minutiae of strategy that I couldn't bear to ask them to speak with their inside voices but I insisted that they hang up so I could watch and listen to the weiner dogs run into the arms of the ketchups and mustards they love.

It was my first Awwwwww moment of the night.
Lest I forget that I was watching America's blood sport, that moment was followed by Budweiser being an American Man's Beer, with a wizened white guy flicking an orange slice off his not a fruit cup Bud on draft.

And I was about ready to sigh in despair when they ran the entire Super Bowl Babies song, and I realized the choir uniforms were the colors of the winning Super Bowl teams... except the crying Seahawks infant, who made me laugh and vow not to give up on the whole endeavor.
Christopher Walken does creepy better than anyone since Boris Karloff and I don't enjoy watching either one of them.

Helen Mirren can call out drunk drivers or read the telephone book and I'll pay attention.
Cam Newton on his knees, watching his pass that never was turn into 1st-and-goal for Denver, reminded me that some people really care about what I've been experiencing as the vehicle for advertising excellence.... or attempts in that direction.

I'm glad that I could happily cheer for Peyton Manning all evening, without incurring any angst.
The sad faces holding Panther turquoises towels have a young team with a bright future.

The Denver Broncos have a wily veteran who can now retire, the only quarterback with 200 wins in the history of the league.

My Colts loving relatives, Shannon of the Magic Fingers, my card playing Happy Ladies Club friend are all on Cloud 9.

I am going to publish this post and move on with my life.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mini-Book Reviews

I updated the sidebar a few weeks ago. Some of the books deserve a special mention.  Although I'm not in the mood for in depth reviews, I want to be sure that the readers among you (that's all of you, right?) don't miss out on some very special treats.  Hence, these mini-reviews.

My reading list over the holidays was mostly James Patterson and other beach books; they were all my brain could handle amidst The Brownie List and FlapJilly's visit and Big Cuter's enticements to play Guillotine and Mille Bornes.  I started On Pluto just before the anniversary of my perforation; I had to have TBG hide it away so that Greg O'Brien's tragedy didn't impinge on my own.

His book is raw and unflinching and funny in the way that outrageous suffering with no solution can be funny.  It's the kind of funny you laugh at in your darkest moments.  What am I laughing about?  Believe me, you don't want to know.  I can't imagine how that must feel.  Please, don't. You don't want those feelings, believe me.

Greg O'Brien's description of living with early onset Alzheimers is that kind of funny, the kind of funny that leaves you shaking your head in gratitude that his adventures on the riding lawn mower involved damage only to hedges and flower beds.  I understood the need to continue to participate in the things that make life worth living, but I wonder about the wisdom of letting an impaired person drive a tractor.... or an automobile, for that matter.  His descriptions of short trips turning into long adventures because his brain thought it was a good idea made me quail on the couch.  There were other people on the road, for crying out loud.  Did no one give any thought to the damage he could have done had his hallucinations decided to show him a bridge to nowhere.... that he decided to cross?

The author was here in Tucson today; I couldn't make myself attend the luncheon.  JannyLou thought it would be too dark and declined my invitation; the more I thought about it, the righter her decision seemed to be.  I didn't want to yell at a man facing a horrible end to a marvelous life, but I couldn't seem to get past it.

The book, given all that bloviating on my part, is a wonderfully warm and thoughtful trip down Loss of Memory Lane.  There's not much in the way of deep philosophy, but the day to day struggles and triumphs and surprises made it a worthwhile read.  For deeper thoughts, and, ultimately, an even sadder journey, look to When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi.

A brilliant young neuroscientist/neurosurgeon/author/husband/father/friend was teetering at the top of his career, ready to jump off into any number of absolutely perfect futures when a chest x-ray revealed Stage 4 Lung Cancer.  He didn't survive, and that leaves a hole in this world which seems irreplaceable.

Dr. Kalanithi's life was defined by his search for the connection between the brain and the mind - which creates which?  Is the mind a result of chemical connections, of synapses and blood flow, or is there a less tangible, looser (scientifically) but more potent (philosophically) explanation.  Air becomes breath when it enters and exits the body... and breath becomes air when the body can no longer respond.

It's thoughts like those that kept me reading slowly and carefully, but this is not a dry, pedantic tale.  Rather, it is filled with moments like these:  When his wife asked if having a baby would make his parting all that much more difficult, he said "And wouldn't that be wonderful!"  The ability to find joy right there in the middle of the sorrow is the reason you should read this book.

Finally, in this list of non-fiction, difficult but necessary, touching but not overly sentimental books, comes Atul Gawande's Being Mortal.  This is the book you read when you need to have The Conversation with your aging parents, or with your adult children.  Using his physician father as just one example, he explores the hidden corners of dealing with the frail but functional elderly.  Who should stay at home and who should decide what level of care is needed?  Where do you draw the line between safety and independence?  Do wishes trump everything, or can a guardian angel swoop in and fix it all?

Gawande doesn't have all the answers, but he shows you how to ask the questions.  His descriptions made me feel better about the care we gave G'ma, and about the way we got there.  If you are worried, start here.

Soon, I'll write about the fiction I read.  It stretched my brain and made me think, which was a pleasant if exhausting change from James Patterson and the Kellermans and Ace Atkins.  For now, though, I'm going to enjoy a lovely weekend with my sweetie.  Come back on Monday so I can tell you about Lewis Black; we're going to see him on Saturday night.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Funny

TBG and I had the 7-Hour-Stomach-Flu today, I in the morning, he in the afternoon.  I managed to make dinner and the fuel made us feel marginally better, but thinking is beyond me at this point.

No one wants to hear my whining about the Republican clown car or if Hillary really won; there's really nothing new to say.

I will give credit where credit is due, however much it pains me to attribute anything positive to Ted Cruz.  Amidst the gnats sniping at his face, wondering about his campaign's misrepresentation of a CNN news item and The Donald's threat of a lawsuit alleging Cruz had stole the caucases, the winner coined a new word which I am shamelessly adopting for my own personal use.

Trumper Tantrum.

Isn't it beautiful?

I'm going to smile about it and eat healthy foods in moderate amounts and be back tomorrow with something of substance.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Woman and A Jew Run For President

When I was little, my Grandpa told me that I could be anything I wanted to be.  "This one," he told my parents, "this one will go far. Even to the White House."

Patiently, I explained to him that there were three very good reasons I never could become President: I was poor, I was Jewish, I was a woman.

Poor is still an issue, were I to run for public office.  The only way Michael Bloomberg can say that he'll join the candidates if Trump and Sanders are the winners is because Michael Bloomberg wants to die broke, and he has $33 Billion to burn through before that happens.  He's the 8th richest person in the USofA.  That might trump the fact that he is a Jew.

I've enjoyed this election season immensely, for no reason other than the fact of Bernie Sanders's religion has not been the subject of a single editorial, op ed, news report, or protest... at least that I have seen.  He looks like all my Jewish great-uncles. His repartee is straight from their mouths.  He's disheveled, like a Wandering Jew, I suppose, but no one makes the connection.

Perhaps my Grandpa was right; I could be elected as a Jew.

But I am still female, and that's another matter entirely.  Princess Myrtle directed me to this feminist blog post at Shakesville, which says it all clearly and profoundly.
To continually assert that she is representative of "the establishment," into the highest echelons of which women aren't even allowed, is a neat way of obfuscating the fact that she is, in her very personhood, a challenge to the establishment.

Let me say that again, plainly: Sanders calls Clinton emblematic of an establishment that has never even allowed a woman to be seated at the head of the table.
Hillary is many things, and certainly she was on the edges of power while her husband was The Most Powerful Man in the Free World.  She was a Senator, following in the footsteps of women who had been elected before her.  That, in itself, is a powerful thing.  Aside from Olympia Snow, I had no such role models as a child.  The path that Mrs. Clinton is plowing is even more rutted and muddy.
... paths littered with obstacles are always easier to traverse if someone has tread them before.
 Sarah Palin and Geraldine Ferraro don't figure into this equation, although Ms Ferraro was eminently qualified for the post to which she aspired.  Being handmaiden to the Man In Charge is something with which women have been relegated forever.  Taking on the challenge itself, knowing that you are capable, putting yourself out there in front - those are things which Feminism touts and which America seems to have a hard time embracing.

There are, as Shakesville points out more eloquently than I do, many ways in which Bernie Sanders could run against Hillary.  By ignoring the fact that The Establishment does not now and never has before allowed a woman to assume the mantle of the presidency without trying to bring her down by critiquing her hair, her clothes, her mannerisms, her tone of voice.  As Shakesville notes, Bernie's disheveled appearance is considered adorable by the media in a way that would never been condoned regarding Hillary.

Doubt me?  Think back to Pant Suits.... hair styles.... makeup.....

I suppose that I could be thrilled about a Jew nearly winning the Iowa caucuses... if he didn't do it by stomping on a woman.

Grandpa, not that much has changed, it seems.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Old and Alone

There was a heartwarming story in the Arizona Daily Star while I was away.  A family, out in the early morning, delivering the Star, saw an elderly woman lying on the ground.  Wearing only a shower cap, underwear and socks, she was frozen on the sidewalk.  They covered her with their coats and spare blankets from their car. The dad lay next to her, blowing warm air on her face while the mom called 911. Less than 10 minutes later, professional help had arrived.

They saved her life.  She spent five days in the hospital, thawing out, and is now on her way to Milwaukee, to live near her daughters.  The retirement home in which she's been living threw her a going away party, and invited the family who rescued her. She greeted them with a hug and a kiss and these words:  I don't remember you but I love you.

Her friends described her as a socialite and a fashionista.  I'd call her mildly demented and unsafe to be living alone.

This story is the nightmare of all of us who have parented elderly parents from afar.  Did she get lost on her way to the shower?  Did she mistake her shower cap for a stocking cap, thinking it would keep her warm?  Were her shoes too difficult to put on, or were they never considered?  Did she forget the purpose of her LifeAlert button, or did she have one at all?  What if that family had not noticed her?

Respecting a parent's wish to live independently is what we all hope to do.  It's what our parents expect us to do.  It's what we'd like our children to do for us.  G'ma was emphatic - I want to stay at home.  We took that as a dispositive answer; she seemed safe enough, she wasn't all that forgetful, and her wishes trumped our concerns.

In retrospect, we should have stepped in ten years before.

Daddooooo's medications, over which she always had had control, were being given haphazardly. She couldn't keep it straight - did the pill go down with food or without food.  I discovered the problem while helping my Dad change before my nephew's bar mitzvah.  The pill container was on the sink in the hotel bathroom; G'ma had not followed the instructions and his breakfast was now all over his shirt.

She laughed about coming downstairs and finding a light still burning on the cooktop.  Her refrigerator was filled with half eaten containers of food she'd ordered.  She was reading books while holding them upside down.

We denied the evidence.  It was too overwhelming to consider that our mother was losing her mind.  The thought that she who had ably cared for us now needed care herself was anathema to her and to her children.  So, we lived in blissful ignorance.

She got lost while walking in her retirement neighborhood in New Jersey.  She flagged down a policeman, showed him the address card Brother had created for her, and asked if the officer would aim her in the right direction.  He, graciously, offered her a ride to her front door and she, ever the lady, accepted.  My sister was beside herself, and I brushed her concerns aside.  No harm, no foul, I said.  She solved the problem herself.  She enjoyed a long walk and had a good night's sleep after all that exercise. What was the problem?

The problem was with me.  I could not accept that she needed help.  I didn't want to start down the path of becoming her caregiver.  As long as she put up a good front, I was willing to leave her alone.  Even when she moved to Tucson, she lived in a congregate living situation, but without help.

That worked until she began falling.  We hired full time caregivers, just for a while, until the casts come off, Mom.  The casts came off but she couldn't find her way to the dining room any more.  Worse, once she got there, she ate alone.  The more competent ladies with whom she had formerly shared meals were put off by her forgetfulness.  They no longer wanted her company at dinner.

That was the final straw.  I had moved my mother back to Junior High School.  She was shunned by the cool kids.  On my own, I began a tour of facilities with more comprehensive care, and was lucky enough to find The Pod Castle just two miles down the road.  She lived in her own, small apartment, but caregivers checked on her every hour.  She was reminded to join the other 15 residents for meals. Someone stayed in her room while she showered, just in case. 

As she aged, and became more infirm, it was a small step for the caregivers to move from the chair outside the bathroom door to the seat outside the roll-in shower to helping her wash her hair.  The transition was easy for everyone but me.

I still saw her as independent, strong minded, capable.  I was living in a fantasy world.  Once I was able to accept the fact that the Mommy I knew had been replaced by a Mommy I was meeting for the first time, things got easier.  I never made peace with the forgetfulness piece, but she did.

Will I remember more if I get angry?  I don't think so.  Besides, who wants to be around a cranky old lady?  

Her judgmental attitude disappeared, replaced by a kind acceptance.  Though my siblings tell me that I helped her through the hardest times, I disagreed then and now.  She was a much nicer person in her dotage.  Her default response was Whatever you think is best.

I could assume that responsibility because we had been talking about her failing memory for years. What would we do when she could no longer recognize her grandchildren?  What about when driving was no longer safe?  Where would she live out her remaining years?

Luckily, Arizona's mild temperatures were tempting to her on a frigid New Jersey afternoon, and I swooped in and moved her here without protest.  She was willing to consider living situations which had been rejected out of hand just months before... months during which she lost the ability to read a menu, to make a doctor's appointment, to pay her own bills.  I think that she was glad to have someone else be in charge.

I shudder to think of how difficult it would have been had we not been talking about this over the preceding years.  I had a good sense of what she wanted, and she trusted me to listen and make it happen.  A lower cost of living here gave her choices, and she was happy in the Pod Castle, having her meals and laundry and entertainment provided.

I wonder if the nearly-frozen-to-death lady and her daughters had had those talks.  I wonder how their mom convinced them that she was perfectly fine.  I wonder if they are berating themselves for allowing her to fall victim to living in a less restrictive environment than she needed.  I wonder if they or the facility made the decision to move her out.

Growing old is not for sissies, as Bette Davis reminded us.  It helps to be prepared.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What Four Days With A Toddler Taught Me

5:35 am is an appropriate time to begin crooning.  The fact that the adult charged with your care has no interest in facing the shower at 5:36 am is of no consequence.
Patience can be taught.

I responded to my babies' first cries from the crib; Little Cuter and SIR have allowed FlapJilly to figure out, for herself, how to rejoin the world.  This interlude between sleep and Come Get Me NOW allows the caregiver to wash and brush and comb and dress before assuming the role of Attendant in Chief.  It also taught the kid that all things come to those who wait.

Would that someone had taught that to me.
Never have splash time in the tub while clothed.  This applies to both the participant and the observer.

Do not think that a bathrobe will protect you. A bathrobe is useless.  A towel on top of a bathrobe is useless.

Requesting that care be taken when the pitcher is gleefully and competently dumped on the participant's own head are drowned out by the delighted shrieks of the drenched baby and are, similarly, useless.

Prepare to be ensorceled... and very, very wet.
Life with a toddler involves narration.

This became obvious today. I told TBG that I was going to put on one sock, then the next sock, and then one shoe......
Eat and sleep when you can, for opportunities should never be wasted.

My first morning's hopes for oatmeal were dashed when FlapJilly's polite request for her bag of balls overwhelmed my heart... and my hunger.

I never made that mistake again.

She enjoyed her cottage cheese while I enjoyed my yogurt.

It's a good thing that cottage cheese curds adhere to one another. FlapJilly's method of ingesting did not include my help once the scooping was completed.

She turned the whole utensil upside down and used her lower lip to extract its contents.

Sometimes, the curds fell into the pocket of the bib and extricating them became another, solitary task.

It was nice to sit back and relax and let someone else do the work for a while.
The fact that Grandmas cannot command a fleeing, flying, flock of geese to return is something the candidates for President ought to address, if the outrage voiced by a certain small constituent is any indication of the seriousness of the matter.
It is possible for the human heart to explode with joy.

Friday, January 29, 2016

We took our time getting downstairs.
There were books to read and foam candles to put in and out of the foam menorah.
But hunger overtook Grandma, so on went the clothes and downstairs we went.
Breakfast was cottage cheese (note the spoon for self feeding) and fruit and then it was time to brush brush brush those teeth.
Once again, FlapJilly asserted her independence.
She gets those back molars with enthusiasm and vigor.
It was a very soft shirt she wore for breakfast.
The sippy cup with milk was empty.
Refilling it was easy; replacing the cap was not.
I failed.
She was covered in milk.
Off went the soft pink outfit, and on went Outfit #2.... which fell victim to Grandma's Perrier bottle.
For some reason, I thought that sharing with Miss Independent was appropriate.
It was not.

I was tired of choosing outfits, so into the tub we went.
The Splash Party was so much fun, 
but naked baby pictures are not going to make their way into The Burrow
 so you'll have to use your imagination.
Be sure to include a sodden grandmother in your imagining.... the kid does like to splash!

Seret came over for lunch, bringing a guitar for the clad-only-in-a-diaper baby.
It didn't take long for her to rock out. 
Lunch was corn and lox and noodles from the bowl.
I took a clue from Little Cuter's attitude and put FlapJilly in the high chair.
After all, I do want to be invited back.

There were more books after nap time, and some Elmo on Grandma's phone, and then it was time to go to the train station and pick up Mommy. 
There's nothing better than this.

How lucky I am to share it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

There was breakfast in the big girl chair, once again.
Mommy is not too pleased with me, but I'm ignoring her.
FlapJilly is happy to be there, and that's all that matters to me.
We went to the big library in Naperville.
The kids' area is different from the children's libraries I knew as a child.
Toys, play rugs, noise.... it was a welcoming space with no shushing. 
Family Story Time was nearly 100 kids and grown ups in a sunny, carpeted auditorium.
The librarian had a microphone and a projector to display the pages on the screen and a lovely felt board right in front of us.
FlapJilly was enthralled.  
We danced and listened and danced some more.
The Hokey Pokey is ubiquitous; she remembered it from Music Class and had a great time shaking it all about.

Grandma was hungry after all that fun, so we hit Panera for some mac and cheese.

After some initial exploration,
my apple became her dessert.
She was quite serious about choosing her bites.  
Her precision amused the other grandparents in the surrounding chairs.
We shared the love, agreeing that FlapJilly made everything taste much better.

After we napped, in separate rooms but for exactly the same amount of time,
it was tie to throw some balls around the family room.
Climbing up on the ottoman was a new trick, and the applause was overwhelming.
We dumped and picked up and dumped and picked up the balls... over and over and over again.
I really tried to have the house cleaned up by the time her parents returned, but I failed.
They didn't seem to care.
That made everyone smile.

We listened to Pandora kids radio and danced and kicked balls and dunked balls in the hoop and played peek a boo and then it was time for dinner.
I've never seen a toddler eat lox before.  
I sent my siblings this picture, though I'm not sure what point I was trying to make.
Perhaps I just needed to share the joy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

We read books.
We ate breakfast and snacks sitting in the big girl chair,
even though Mommy said the high chair was the appropriate venue.
Grandma's a soft touch.
We cleaned up the balls, after dumping them out and picking them up and dumping them out and picking them up.  
Sometimes the basket ended up on her head, 
but books could be read through the mesh, 
so there was nothing to worry about.
There was time to love the doggie,
and then there were more books.
After nap, and a change of outfits,
we spent some time watching the migrating birds out the front window.
Thomas the Wonder Dog was as interested as we were, 
and we were very very glad that he was around.
A trip to the grocery store afforded the opportunity to wear the silliest hat that Grandma crocheted.
And then Mommy came home and joy abounded. 
The young family rested while Grandma made dinner.
They worked all day and deserved the couch time.
Sesame Street entranced them as I made spaghetti and meatballs.

It's not profound.
It's not deep.
But this post makes me very happy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Travel Day

I left class at noon, and couldn't find anyplace enticing for lunch on the way to the airport. I parked, splurging for the $3.99 per day covered space, and was delivered to the terminal efficiently and effortlessly.  Since I leave clothes with the kids, I travel with electronics and not much else.  Packing is a breeze, and walking through the airport is a non-event.

How different this is as time passes.  It wasn't long ago that I was leaning on a cane, begging for an early boarding pass so that no one would bump me.  I'm a comfortable, confident traveler again, and it feels great.  Progress is hard to measure when all the days are the same; it takes returning to a formerly-difficult-situation to impress myself.

My change-in-DFW flight was at the gate next to the direct flight, which hadn't left yet, which had seats available, and which carried me non-stop from Tucson to O'Hare.  From the sunshine to the pouring rain.... but at least it isn't snowing.

SIR and I caught up on his work and his weekend with his daughter.  "It's not babysitting... I'm her FATHER!" was his response to co-workers' amazement that he'd be spending the weekend assuming total responsibility for his daughter's care.  Little Cuter was away, honing her craft, as he built a fort out of sheets, covering the family room and causing his little one to twirl and spin and stare at the lowered canvas above her.  He seemed none the worse for wear.

FlapJilly was awake and reticent when I walked in the door, but within a little while she was snuggling and giggling and peek-a-boo-ing .... and I was in love.  She is bigger and more beautiful, as if that were possible, and she is so much more connected to the world than she was even two short months ago.  I can hardly wait for her to wake up so we can start the fun.

The kids think I am doing them a tremendous favor by acting as the substitute babysitter for a week. If they only knew........


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