Friday, December 14, 2018

Good Friends

It is exactly as I imagined it to be. 

She's wrapped up in the cashmere blanket, wearing one polar fleece and leaning on another, only her face exposed.  "Do you want another blanket?  An herbal hot pack?  A hot toddy?"  

No, she said she was fine and I knew that she meant it because we've been friends long enough to know, and to ask for what we need.

He put pink packeted sweetener in his ice tea and I wondered where he found it.  "I lived here for a week," he smiled back at me.  So later, when he wasn't thrilled with the blue cheese dressing, he claimed that he hadn't been offered anything else.

"No, you do not get to know where I store my saccharine and yet be unable to open the refrigerator to search for salad dressing.  It's the same thing,"  I told him, and he agreed, because he's been in my kitchens since 1974.

Besides, they are living here, albeit part-time.  They're around on a random Thursday night for burgers and football on a come anytime you're ready basis.  Their house is a convenient way-station in mid-town; I have a key.

And they have one to our house, too.  If you know anything about TBG, you understand the magnitude of that statement.  His home is his castle, and he protects it vigilantly.  Yet he was enthusiastic about sharing access with them, because you never know........

But I do know that it is wonderful to have them here, just as I imagined it in 2006 when we moved here, expecting them to follow, with the Golden Gopher and his bride not far behind.  Two-thirds of us have established a beachhead; we're just waiting for the others for things to be absolutely perfect.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Big Kids and Home Grown Produce - A Snippet

The fourth and fifth graders were in the garden when three high school girls strolled by. 

We offered them some scallions (we have lots of scallions) by waving them, enticingly, over the garden wall.  The big girls giggled and demurred..

We laughed at their timidity.  We chomped on leaves-of-something-we-planted as we wondered why they weren't as brave as we were.  They were powerless to refuse us: they shared a giant scallion

And then we let them in on the secret: they had bad breath!

After we showed them how to capitalize on their new super power, they ran off with their faces close to one another, laughing Hello! How Happy I am!, huffing their scallion breath all over the place.

We looked on with amusement, content that we had taught the Big Kids a thing or two.

Grandma's Garden is a powerful place.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Snapshot of America

Amster and I hosted the Nearly Annual Hannukah Party on Sunday night.  With Perfect Patty manning the frying latkes,

 I was free to meet and greet, to play dreidle, and to watch the lights.
I looked around the room and smiled at the diverse circle my Iowa born friend has accumulated. There were Jews from Arizona, and one from Argentina, and several others from the East Coast. They were the sprinkles on top of the agnostics and the practicing and non-practicing Christians of all stripes - there weren't many of them, but they made their presence known, and I was grateful for them.   After all, the dreidle is not self-explanatory.

There was the quintessential American side dish - green bean and Campbell's mushroom soup casserole, topped with tiny fried onions - next to the turkey and the latkes and the home made applesauce.  There were jelly donuts and bakery cookies and Amster's Rice Krispy treats which flew off the table as fast as the latkes.

I really shouldn't, but....... seemed to be the theme around the buffet table.  That made me smile.

It got dark and we gathered around the homemade play dough menorahs and the giant menorah I brought from home.   The big kids couldn't be bothered, but Mr. 13 couldn't resist my entreaties.

Surrounded by Amster's Christmas decor,  I told the story.  It's a good story, with elephants and battles and magic and faith and science, and, like all good stories, it starts with Once upon a time......

We chanted the prayers that have been chanted for generations, and sang the songs our parents taught us.  There were full bellies and warm hearts, celebrating and sharing and questioning and thinking and it was just an absolutely wonderful night.

And no, I don't know why it took 8 days to make the oil.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Words From a New American

My friend, Josepha, gave this speech at her Naturalization Ceremony.  
Mom is Lady Jane; Aunt Suzi is me.
We are family.

Congratulations to everyone!!

I thank God for everything He did for all of us here, for my family.

I thank the people of the United States who welcomed my family into safety,  hope and freedom of America.

Especially I thank my Mom!!
Mom – thank you for - Your empathy Your love Your patience with me
Your support in different waysMay God bless you. I love you.

Thank you, Aunt Suzi for all your support in rebuilding my family’s lives.

Thank you, Amy, for accepting my friendship.

I thank you all staff at International Rescue Committee who welcomed my family at airport. When I came here, I knew nobody. They helped my family to start a new life in a new country.

I am very happy today.

I lost -
My country My family
My friends

Today I have -
A country I have a family I have friends

(Cue applause and tears)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Becoming an American

If I had a Bucket List, attending a Naturalization Ceremony would be on it.  On Friday, I got my wish. 
Lady Jane and I sat on a bench right in front, escorted there by a lovely court officer whose chief objective seemed to be making sure that everyone was comfortable.  She took that responsibility very seriously.  There was no fussing, except for a few little ones making their presence known.  There was only excitement and smiles and lots of love from the changing faces of America.

They came from Congo, Bhutan, Nigeria, Denmark, Rwanda, China, South Korea, Mexico, Iraq, Burundi, Columbia, Germany, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Togo, and Vietnam.  52 applicants who met the requirements of  good moral character, residency, and attachment to the Constitution of the United States, who passed background checks and a written test, who studied and waited and finally found themselves in the Federal Courthouse, surrounded by friends and family and Federal Marshals, ready to stand, representing your country for the last time,.   

The judge asked them to raise your right hand, and bid their country of origin good bye. 

I declare on oath, that I absolutely and entirely give up and renounce all allegiance .....that's a statement right there.  They are no longer German or Nigerian or Vietnamese.  They are all Americans. 

It was a moment, denizens.  A hopeful, pregnant pause before they began their new lives.  It was an honor to share it.

They ran a video of iconic American images, to help us get back to business.  We stood again and sang the Star Spangled Banner, recited the Pledge of Allegiance (led by a new citizen), and heard a speech from a Daughter of the American Revolution.  She applauded the newbies for having studied hard and sacrificed.  She offered congratulations and recognized  your accomplishment and ended with  President Kennedy's Ask not admonition. Then, she said what was in all our hearts: We welcome you, and are proud to have you.

It was quintessentially American , and it only got better.  There were speeches.  The judge encouraged everyone to come up - new citizens as well as the family and friends who were crowding the benches.  He wanted to hear the stories: Come on; you're all invited to come up and speak. And please, take pictures.  You'll want to remember this day!

And so they did:
I wouldn't be where I am today if not for......
Thank you, my family, for encouraging me and pushing me to complete this.
I thank her mom and dad for raising a wonderful woman, my wife.
She started the application before she got sick and now her husband stands alone.
I'll speak in my language so my Dad can understand.
Just wanted to say, Mom, welcome to America!
Met him at the airport, we've been through ups and downs, had fun at the grocery store, and here he is, the most stylish man in the room.
Thank you, America, for how accepting and how loving you are.
Good bless America and God bless you all!

As if that weren't enough, the judge went on:  No other country does this. Thank you for selecting America. We as Americans thank you for choosing us. Thank you all for coming to America. Thank you for making this flag your own. I am truly honored and humbled. You have demonstrated that we are a country of immigrants, collected from many backgrounds, to become one America. Hold onto your beliefs and traditions.  You have opportunity and responsibilities. Two are the most important.  You have the right to vote. Register and vote. It's your voice.  And serve on a jury. Meaningfully participate in the system, because the system needs you.

He told  me, when I took this picture later on, that this is his favorite day of the year. 
It was warm and inclusive and wonderful.

There was a short video wherein President Trump proved he could read a short paragraph.  He ad-libbed Very very special, but otherwise was non-offensive.  Quickly, we went on.  To the accompaniment of Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American, there were more faces and photos of America on the video screen.  

The certificates were handed out, by an official who did not mangle a single name, and whose colleague managed to shake hands and smile and pose for photos with every new citizen.
Lady Jane and I hugged our newest citizen through tears of joy and wonder.   
52 people turned their backs on their homelands and adopted our country as their own on Friday. Goodbye, Rwanda!  Hello, America!!  

It was very special.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Problem Is.....

We don't know what is growing in Grandma's Garden.

Grandma had a plan for the raised beds.  It involved tacks and string and measurements using a yardstick.  It involved thoughtful consideration of the space, and the creation of lines of a certain depth, varying according to the seeds' requirements.

What happened was 40 or 50 kindergarten scholars, anxious to be given a seed to plant.  We did manage to cover one part of the lesson - the holes were to be as deep as their first pinkie knuckle.

Of course, that required that we define where the knuckle existed on their finger, determine that it didn't matter if it was the right or the left hand, and discuss the consequences of overcrowding if too many seeds went into one hole.

The seeds were very, very small, and so were the gardeners.  They couldn't wait.  They had to plant.  And they had to plant right away.  And there were so many of them and only one me.

It went marginally better as the older kids cycled through, but there was never any real sense of organization.  There was joy and excitement and delight and accomplishment and pride and dirty hands and knees, and that was more important to me at the time.

At the time.

Now, 2 months later, we have easily identifiable scallions to chew upon as we ponder the unfathomable.  The signs we created on the few rows I managed to label have been moved so many times that they are useless.  We all remember carrots and lettuce and lots and lots of beets, but there may be others.

The plant identification app on Grandma's phone wasn't much help.  We tasted them, Grandma assuring the kids that greens are super foods.  We didn't know what we were eating, so no one could claim not to like it.  Small bites, fresh from the garden, even if they were bitter and unusual, were tastes we had grown ourselves.  If only we knew what they were.

I've decided to crowd source the answer.  Do any of these look familiar to any of you? 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Painting in Grandma's Garden

Foam brushes and cups of water were the ingredients.
The girls wondered what to do, but I was giving no instruction beyond "Paint."
And so they painted. 

The top of the wall was a target once the kindergarten kids left. 

The fence got its fair share of attention, too.

It was a lovely day in Grandma's Garden.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Medicare and Me - Part 1,000,000,000,000

It's been an on-going saga.  I sent in my paperwork in October, the week I received it.  The deadline for signing up is Friday.  As of this morning I had heard nothing from the agent who was charged with figuring it out for me. 

My phone calls became progressively more desperate over the last few weeks.  I've called early in the week, and late in the week, in the morning, in the afternoon.... it made no difference.  So, this morning, I pulled out all the stops.  TBG was listening from the bedroom; "That got their attention, I'm sure," was all he could say.

At 4:15 this afternoon, I was sitting in the agent's office, my paperwork in front of me, her apologies pouring from her lips.  None of this was my fault.  She has been overwhelmed but that's not my problem.  Nothing can make it be okay.  I shouldn't have been worried.  She was truly sorry.  I have to respect a woman who accepts responsibility without asking to be excused for the consequences.  We decided to smile and move on, with me secretly applauding myself for acting with such maturity. 

As she was explaining the differences between Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans and the Drug Plan we were discussing because that deadline was looming, I began to appreciate the enormity of her task.  There are so many companies, and so many drugs, and no two of them appear on the same tier as you look around the plans.  Lorazepam is Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, with accompanying price increases, on three different plans.  Some let you shop at WallyWorld, some at Walgreens, some at CVS.

For us, the plan at CVS offers free drugs.  No co-pay at all for my meds, $1.36 a month for TBG's.  I signed the documents, shook her hand, and walked out with my needs met until we meet in January, when the new Medicare Advantage Plans become available. 

I also had a new fact to nibble upon.  Part of the reason my agent was so busy revolves around Blue Cross and their inability to reach an agreement with a large practice here in Tucson.  Apparently, the physicians felt that they could not offer quality care if they accepted Blue Cross's offer - a fraction of what their time is worth.  Instead of accepting the deal and complaining about it afterwards, the practice walked away from the insurer.

6,200 of their patients walked away, too.

Really, the agent mused, what was Blue Cross thinking?  Would you walk away from your doctor to stay with your insurance company? 

Physicians for social change.  Transparency in medical costs.  Standing up for what you believe in.  Trusting the client to make the right choice.  Confidence in the product you offer.  But, mostly, somebody saying NO to an insurance company and not only getting away with it, but getting away with it in a huge way, hitting them in the pocketbook, where they might notice it.

That, on top of winning at cards earlier in the afternoon, made this a pretty delicious Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Getting in the Spirit

I'm powering through the Brownie List.
My shopping is finished.
I have all the supplies I need for whatever gifting or baking emergency might arise.  
My candles are flickering on the second night, and I have these faces to make me smile.
She said CHEESE!
He said Are we FINISHED HERE???

The matching cheesy outfits are a direct result of their mother living with their grandmother during her formative years.  
There she is, wearing the costume I sewed for her big brother two years before.
I had no shame.
Apparently, neither does she.

We're in the spirit.
Silliness is a major factor.
It's December - Happy Everything!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Happy Hannukah!

It's a minor holiday.  There's a war story married to a miracle married to a lot of housekeeping in the Temple.  It's celebratory and triumphant.

It's when G'ma made us sparkle covered felt dreidles and 6 pointed stars and filled them with shiny coins.  One year I got a silver dollar; I can feel the shiver up my spine just typing the words.  There was a present every day, some larger, some smaller, but the real fun was the lights.

Everyone had a personal menorah.  Everyone got to choose the candles, every single night.  Once you were old enough to hold-and-not-drop-it you could use your own shamash.  And then you could watch them.  They sat in the living room, on the piano. There were lots of excellent viewing places.

The grown ups were doing the dishes, my siblings were elsewhere, and I was sitting on the couch, in New York, thinking about Macedonia, listening to life go by, one flicker at a time.  Tonight in Indiana, my grandson will watch a menorah bought in Arizona as he celebrates his first Chanukah. 

I sang Ma'oh Tzur, just as I used to sing it with my father, and my grandfathers, and then I sat down on the couch to type to you and watch the candles flicker.  Time passes and nothing changes in moments like these, and for that I am very grateful.


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