Thursday, December 31, 2009

My New Year's Resolution(s)

This is the week I throw out my old spices. I'm not a good enough cook to use anything but the freshest ingredients; I need all the help I can get. This is also the week that I move the "wear me or toss me in here" bag into my closet. White shirts with ring-around-the-collar are always the first inhabitants. As soon as I put away the last of the holiday decorations I'll give the potting shed its annual cleansing. January may be long and dark and c-c-c-cold in the mornings but it's time for my Boris Badenov imitation -- out with the bad..... in with the good.

I made my first serious New Year's Resolution in graduate school in 1974. In truth, it was more of an assignment that I transformed into a resolution. Behaviorism - think B. F. Skinner rewarding pigeons for appropriate pecking - was all the rage and we were a class of skeptics until the professor had us create a personal program to change one of our own unwanted behaviors. I will not bite my nails became my credo, cans of Coca-Cola became my small rewards, and a manicure was awaiting me as I met my interim goal. Though the teacher's involvement in my personal renaissance sometimes felt creepy, the fact that I had the course requirement hanging there helped, I'm sure, to keep me focused.

I don't bite my nails anymore. I also make resolutions. Lately, I've also been keeping them.

My most successful resolution was also the most modest. Standing in the check out line at the best grocery store in Marin, shuffling my feet and wondering what could be taking so long, I felt the unpleasant aura of building rage. And I had to laugh. It was the middle of the week. I had no appointments, no errands, no family members depending on my speedy arrival, not even a book to read (the library was to be my next stop). Why did I care if I stood in a pleasing space for an extra 5 minutes or so? And yet I did care, deeply and profoundly and seriously and annoyingly. What would I do with the time I saved? Did my impatience create a speedier check-out experience? Probably not, since my glowering mood could be felt, no doubt, by all around me. Was I improving the world around me? Was I happier being antsy? All these no's and I don't know's and the anxious bubbling in the middle of my thorax (somewhere between my heart and my gut) created an epiphany. I was making myself and everyone around me crazy. I would stop. I would make it my First Official New Year's Resolution.

Two deep breaths and a car full of groceries later, it came to me that, perhaps, I was over-reaching just a touch. I'd always laughed and said "You can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take New York out of the girl" whenever a Californian would wonder at my promptness or my quickness or my impatience. I lived with the New York minute as my standard, and I was making myself and everyone me crazy. Since that was the second time in 15 minutes that I'd had the same thought, I began to pay attention to the intention behind it.

I had no idea what it felt like to be patient. The notion of standing calmly in the presence of incompetence was foreign to my nature. I was unable to picture what it looked like to wait without writhing. Therefore, rather than trying to become patient, it seemed prudent to take a smaller first step. My First Official New Year's Resolution became: Examine the concept of patience.

Forced to consider the idea, I didn't allow myself to dismiss the behavior out of hand. I watched those who were patient, I took deep yoga breaths and plastered a smile on my face, I practiced saying "No, that's fine.... take your time" under my breath and even managed it aloud once or twice. And I meant it each time I said it.

Sure, I was always in a self-congratulatory mode after I'd restrained myself in a stupid situation, but what's wrong with a little self-praise every now and then. It's not like I was always successful and my arm was permanently bent from patting myself on the back. But this was a major change in the way I perceived the world, and I was proud of myself.

I'm still working on it; there are always people who don't do what I want them to do exactly when I want them to do it, after all. But I'm marginally better since I took the pledge to consider patience as a virtue, and the world is a better place because of it. (Believe me, it's true.... I am not a subtle person..... as the Cuters beg me to calm down, Mom I remember patience and try to smile.)

And that brings me to this year. TBG is turning 60 on Saturday. We are in a new decade. It's time to resolve.

I've written before about my admiration for Coach John Wooden. He's a wise man with almost 11 decades of experience to rely upon. There is no one who says a bad word about him. I was wrapping presents and missing my friends and my children and worrying about the future and feeling sad about the past when Coach Wooden quoted his favorite person:

"Mr. Lincoln said that people are generally as happy as they allow themselves to be."

That struck a chord in my heart. A man I respected was giving me advice. I was privileged to be in his presence (albeit on the television) and I ought to pay attention. He was saying that it was in my power to put a smile on my face.

The idea that I could be responsible for my own happiness is not a new one for me. It's deciding to make it so that's the basis of the resolution. I'm going to forcefully, intentionally, thoughtfully and regularly stop myself from looking at the dark side. I'm going to work on worrying less and enjoying the here and now more. I'm going to use some Rational Emotive Therapy and say - out loud, if necessary - "Stop it now!" when I sense myself wallowing.

I've taken the plan out for a trial run over the last few days, and I think there's a chance this one's a keeper. Of course, telling you all about it is bound to help too.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Precious

Spoiler Alert: You might not want to read this if you plan to see the movie. Details will, no doubt, be revealed.

Mariah Carey plays me at 25.

That's only one of the wonderful surprises in Precious
. The Little Cuter took herself on a date to see it earlier this month, and she was on the phone to me that night encouraging me to take myself, too. ("Do not bring Dad.... it is so not his kind of movie.") So, today, feeling bereft, I took her advice. TBG didn't want to sit in the dark, anyway, so there wasn't even any guilt at leaving him to fend for himself on this first Cuter-less day. I went in smiling.

That lasted about 3 minutes. Awful doesn't come close to the life lived in that 3 room duplex, and Alfred Hitchcock could take lessons about what happens at the top of these stairs. Every time I though it couldn't get worse, it did. It wasn't over-the-top horrible, it was believable and wretched and it felt true.

That was how it got under my skin. Precious wears pajamas that barely button closed, the little girl in her building spray paints the garbage cans for entertainment, the social workers' offices have no doors or partitions so rape and incest are discussed without privacy ..... this is real life in all its terrible glory. It's not been gussied up for the film; the filth is the filth.

There is bravery in Mo'Nique's decision to take the role of the mother. There is not a redeeming feature in it - not the clothes, not the makeup or hairstyle, not the character herself. I can't imagine how she was able to leave it in her trailer and pick up her actual self at the end of the day. The moments before her rage explodes, those quiet, might-be-peaceful-except-you-can-feel-the-anger-building moments, are among the most powerful in the film. The camera wanders off, resting on the over-turned dishes or the empty TV stand, and there is no sense of calm, no ease, no assurance that the moment has passed and Precious will, this time, escape her mother's wrath. There's just an empty silence - a void in which no warmth or love or hope or help resides. Truly, the calm before the storm... which isn't really that calm at all..... it's more that the world is making space for the turmoil to follow.

I didn't recognize Mariah Carey, and had to wait for the Little Cuter to clue me in. Miss Weiss..... "What color are you?"..... was absolutely, positively, without a doubt, spot on, precisely how I looked and how I felt and how I practiced social work when I was 25. The client's drawing over the desk. The stacks of folders in a stair-casing rack. The soda machine within sight of my desk. Asking all "the right" questions in just "the right" tone of voice and having absolutely no clue what to do with the answers. Keeping my distance yet holding out my hand. No wonder Precious was confused - "Do you like me?"; Miss Weiss knew just how powerless she was and how much she wanted to fix it all and the impossibility of the situation of each and every player on the field. Yet she came to work every day, dressed as if it mattered what she wore.

Lenny Kravitz is the world's sexiest nurse (oh, how I wanted him to take Precious away with him) and Precious's presentation of him to the school's receptionist is only one of the laugh-out-loud moments I had this afternoon. A serious film on a serious topic that is genuinely funny and up-beat. This was a special movie. Sure there were continuity issues - what about the notebook she left in the chicken place? - and unbelievability issues -who has ever had a teacher as gorgeous as Paula Patton... or one as well dressed, for that matter? - but ultimately they didn't matter. No one was preaching or haranguing or insulting my intelligence. This is a movie about a resilient child, and to my mind that's a feel good film.

The Little Cuter said that she laughed and she cried and she was glad she went alone. I agree with her; I'm glad my reactions were my own. I'm feeling emptied, hollowed out, on the verge of tears ..... but there's a great big smile on my face and my heart is warm.
*********************
If you've read this far and haven't seen the movie, I really didn't ruin that much of it. Go. See it. Then come back and tell me if you liked it. I'll be waiting for your comments...........



Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The End of Xmas Vacations

There's an emptiness in the old homestead this evening. The Little Cuter landed safely at O'Hare this afternoon, and the Big Cuter is packing as I type. His plane leaves first thing in the morning, and I am already feeling bereft.

I was never one of those mothers who longed for the first day of school. The house echoed with the sounds of my footsteps .... and nothing else. No teasing, no poking, no whining, no screeching - all the sounds of kids who knew exactly how far they could go and who went there with glee. I could skip lunch and no one was the wiser.... or the hungrier. Groceries went into the cart without discussion. Errands were silent endeavors, devoid of explanations and side-trips to the toy store next door. I was efficient, but I was lonely. I missed the unscheduled chaos of summertime.

Don't get me wrong - I love the fact that the kids have their own lives separate and apart from their parents'. I'm just wishing that those lives were lived in closer proximity to ours. Tucson's not the best place for 20-somethings starting out, and we knew that when we moved here. It's a great place for vacations, and SIR and the Little Cuter will be coming for Spring Training (GO CUBBIES!!!) in March to escape Chicago's winter. The thought of that makes me smile, but I had to sigh and agree with her when she whimpered that she wished her dad could drive her home instead of dropping her off at the airport.

Sunday night found the Cuters next to each other on the couch, she urging him to look for work in Chicago as he attempted to relocate her to San Francisco. The Weather. The Cubs. Deep dish pizza. Shorts in January. The bike path -- they had to agree that both Tiburon and Chicago had great ones and they could both be happy about that. Otherwise, it seemed that each was happy in their own cities, with no plans to choose a new home town, even if a beloved sibling lived there.

I love that each wants the other to live closer. I love that they choose to spend their vacation days with their parents. These are good things. It's just that, sometimes, I wish it weren't so easy to live so far from your family.

I miss them.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Saguaros

Our neighbors had a few tons of cacti delivered last week.


This is not as simple a task as it might appear. There's really no equipment designed for the job. The men charged with the task created a platform lined with packing materials which they attached to an hydraulic lift on their flatbed. The cactus was secured to the platform with rug remnants, duct tape and the occasional bungee cord. Despite their height, saguaros have a shallow root system. Wrapped lightly in burlap, the tendrils were protected during the 10 mile trek from their old home to the pre-dug holes next door.

I'm always impressed by designers who can place a plant before it arrives on the scene. It's a skill I lack. Digging the holes before the plant material arrives makes the installation a simple matter: aim the back of the truck in the general direction of its final destination and tilt. With 5 strong men supporting its weight (upwards of 1000 pounds for the really big ones) the crew leader removed the burlap, spread out the roots and replaced the soil. No amendments; just the right amount of rooting hormone and water and they are upright and beautiful.



These are pristine specimens. Somehow, the birds have not transformed them into condominiums, as they have the one in our front yard.


See the holes? Gila woodpeckers start the process, pecking away and sucking nutrients from between the ribs. Since they don't return to the holes they abandon, other birds take advantage of their hard work and make their nests there in the following years.



Sometimes, the arms of the saguaros fall off. Larger birds then make nests in the gaping wound, leaving sticks and odd bits of detritus sticking out of the opening. Certainly, there are "normal" nests in the branches of the palo verdes and mesquites surrounding the saguaro, but my favorite ones are those in the saguaro.



The arms don't grow until the cactus is at least 50 years old. They start out round and lengthen as they age. When the rains are insufficient, the arms droop; wet years cause them to expand in diameter and reach for the sky.

There's a lot to be said for the stately maples and elms and oaks of my childhood. Tree houses and shade and jumping in the fallen leaves...... these are good things. But the saguaros have personality in a way that the east coast's deciduous beauties lack. Individuals are recognizable and memorable. Birds perch atop them and screech at passersby, their view unimpeded by branches or leaves. They are the stately sentinels of the desert.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Merry and Happy Happy to You All!



I give you, today, my all-time favorite Xmas carol, courtesy of Walt Kelly and Pogo. Sing loudly and lustily to the tune of Deck the Halls.....

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker 'n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof


(Picture is from Robert Sabuda's The Night Before Christmas Pop-Up Book)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Musings

We were sitting on the steps in the main hallway of Annie's Washington abode, watching the 2 little girls play in their fantasy land, when he asked the question.

Not "How does the seed get into the egg, Mom?" Nope, that one was just before the Fullerton exit on Lake Shore Drive in a raging snowstorm on barely plowed roads when we were already 15 minutes late and traffic wasn't moving.

Peacefully watching the girls, the sunshine through the magnificent beveled windows making rainbows we were, I thought, busily counting, out of his 7 year old mouth came "Santa's not really real, is he, Mom?"

He noted my pause, and, ever the Big Cuter, his face took a serious cast as he reassured me: "Don't worry. I won't tell her. She really believes he's real."

What followed was a precise analysis, continent by continent, time zone by time zone, of the why-nots of Santa's voyage. He was quietly demolishing every possible rational explanation for his existence, yet he was still insistent that we not destroy his sister's illusion. "She loves Santa, Mom. I mean really loves him."

I remember the intensity with which he informed me of that fact. It moves me, still. I knew right then that he'd always be there for her, no matter how silly she might be.

She was 10 or 11 when the subject of "when you stopped believing in Santa" became acceptable on-the-way-to-tennis-lessons-car-pool conversation. The Little Cuter said "Of course there's a Santa Claus!" and the case was closed. I never heard anyone mention it again in her presence. No mothers called to ask me if it were true. She never said that anyone teased her about it. She knew it as a fact, and, somehow, within her 4th or 5th grade universe, that made it inviolable.

Was she that powerful amongst her friends that no one dared to defy her? Perhaps. Were they surprised that one of them was still stuck in child-like wonder and struck dumb at the concept? Unlikely. I like to think that Santa himself had something to do with it.

Because what I said to the Big Cuter, after his rationalizations had come to an end, was that they were all true but they were all meaningless. Because the reality is that Santa is joy and love and family and caring and friends and warmth and giving and thanking and everyone ought to believe in that. He bought it then, and he buys it now.... at 26.

The Little Cuter is flying home tonight and the holiday can't start without her. Just before we all go to bed, it's her job to read The Nativity out loud. We revel in the gorgeous illustrations as we laugh at Joseph pushing Mary up onto the ass



and giggle at the anatomically correct baby Jesus



and smile at each other as we remember that births and beginnings are wondrous things and that some traditions never get old...... even though we do. Every year is a reprise of the last, and each one is full of love.

Then we each grab a copy of "the Night Before Christmas"


and listen as she grins her way through it. Chiming in on "To all a GOOD NIGHT!" we'll hug and go off to dream of sugarplums dancing in our heads.

I hope she looks out the window of the plane as they reach their cruising altitude. I'm sure that Santa will point, wink and wave.


from Robert Sabuda's The Night Before Christmas Pop-Up Book

The Nativity is illustrated by Julie Vivas, published by Gulliver Books/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich with text from the King James Bible

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm Sorry......

The holidays have definitely gotten to me.

I tripped over a grocery cart (don't ask.... please, don't ask....) and bruised my shin. Worse than that, I yelped aloud in the parking lot and attracted a few helpful by-standers. Pain and embarrassment..... wonderful.

I drove past the post office twice without remembering to mail the last box of brownies. I forgot to have lunch. It was 3pm before I thought to bring in the morning papers.

So, when I tell you that yesterday's post was written well in advance but scheduled for 7:02pm (when I began to write it) instead of 6:00am and that is why you were Burrow-less Tuesday morning, dear readers, you have to believe that it is true.

The holidays have definitely gotten to me.

I've run out of scotch tape in the dispenser and I can't remember where I've stashed the extra rolls. I bought 2 sheets of forever stamps and they have vanished, as well. And TBG just reminded me that I have a meeting tonight at 7pm. WHO schedules a meeting during this time of year? The Little Cuter had one meeting all week at work and that was canceled. WHY am I going out tonight? I want to do the laundry and read about zombies and instead I have to go out. And I do have to go --- the group funded a project near and dear to my heart and showing up is the least that I can do.

It's an alternative to the endless and pointless bowl games on tv and it's a pretty drive and yes the holidays have gotten to me.... I just have to remember to focus on the smiles and the love.

Please don't tell Santa that I was whining to you just now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Conspicuously Consuming (in Public and in Private)

I am not going to be a crabby old lady, complaining in the line waiting to pay for my goods. I am not. I promise. I'm going to put my mind to it and squelch the urge to bitch and moan and wonder aloud why, on the Monday before Christmas, Best Buy decided that they only needed to staff 6 of their 13 registers. The Big Cuter pointed out that being right doesn't always mean that you get to be right out loud. After all, the kid who was in charge of the line certainly wasn't the one in charge of staffing patterns.

But the experience made me consider the nature of the modern shopping experience. Accustomed as I am to instant access to customer service (live-chat on the shopping sites is my favorite e-tail feature of the last few years) and a ten click sequence from shopping cart to shipping, even one person ahead of me in a line tends to make me antsy. Un-staffed registers drive me to distraction.

Oops, used to drive me to distraction.

We were in the store to investigate the purchase of a bigger and better television, a task for which the Big Cuter is eminently qualified. While we were finding our way, answering our own questions by carefully perusing the detailed - albeit in very very small print - labels, several salespeople offered assistance. After 10 or 15 minutes of comparing clarity and refresh rates and number of HDMI inputs, we could find no one with whom to discuss stands and delivery and installation. No one. No one who was helping another customer. No one who was restocking shelves. No one at all.

As a teenager, just on the cusp of being able to go shopping by myself, I remember G'ma noting with satisfaction that you could always find a salesgirl (yes, salesgirl.... even if she was grey haired and wrinkly) in B. Altman's. I'd never considered the differences between department stores, and certainly never noticed the absence of sales help. Today, I can't imagine uttering that phrase in connection with any department store.

TommyBahama sent us a $50 gift card to entice us into the store. It worked. We dragged the Big Cuter there after lunch today. He sat in a comfy chair and played with his smart phone while TBG and I selected pretty clothes from the racks. Someone took the items I was holding and "started a dressing room" for me. When it was time to move into the trying on phase, I could find neither the clothes we'd chosen nor the woman who had absconded with them. The store's not that big...... it's still a mystery that she disappeared for as long as she did.

But more surprising to me was the fact that she had disappeared at all. We were really going to buy stuff. We were pleasant. And she was gone. I thought of G'ma and Altmans and I sighed.

TBG made the analogy between the Sears Catalog of old and today's electronic shopping. I wonder how American consumers made the transition from reading about what's available to touching and feeling the actual merchandise and now back again to buying on faith and a picture. Big box stores have fueled anonymous shopping trips - has anyone ever seen a helpful associate roaming the aisles of Costco? Training on anything other than the taking of payment is non-existent - "Does this brand run true to size?" is an unanswerable and mysterious query. Now that most e-tailers are offering free shipping there's really no reason to increase my carbon footprint by driving to the mall. It's so much less aggravating just to log on.

At least that way, if I'm bitching and moaning there's no one around to hear me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Musings on G'ma

One year ago, G'ma was in the rehabilitation hospital trying not to melt into the bed. Friday night she was in the middle of the Happy Ladies Club cocktail party in my living room. If I'm going to beat myself up when she rolls off the couch, I'm going to have to remember to revel in the times she's up and out and having fun.

G'ma's a member of the Club, and we've been to luncheons and, of course, she's the cheerleader when we bowl. Not that she remembers any of this, but the women who've been there with us all recognize her limitations and they've learned to create conversations in which she can participate. The bowling ladies all spent time yakking with her and my hiking buddies each made a special effort to wonder why she didn't hike with us...... which led to G'ma demonstrating her exercise routine (bending and unbending her index finger) and laughing. Laughing is good.

Those who didn't know her were respectful of her short term memory issues and talked about old times and the here and now and then wandered away. And there she sat, Sprite Zero with a straw in one hand, a plate of cookies resting on her lap, and her eyes sharp as they ever were.

And she sat and she watched and she judged. From her comfy chair right in the middle but not in the way (just as she'd like it if she gave it any thought) she had the perfect vantage point to scan the crowd and make her internal pronouncements. TBG and I knew what she was thinking as her eyebrows moved over her forehead and her head gave those almost imperceptible shakes and her mouth smiled then pursed then disapproved, but I'm certain no one else could tell that anything was going on at all. But it certainly was.

We'd been to the luncheon/gift exchange at her pod-castle that afternoon. With the list of the caregivers' names our only guide, we'd thought and pondered and cogitated and deliberated and considered and rejected and discarded dozens of ideas. The facility has a "no cash gifts" policy, and that extended to gift certificates and those pretty credit card gift cards from Target and Barnes and Noble and Home Depot. Handkerchiefs, candy, perfume, picture frames.... we decided on body wash, puffs and a blessing charm in pretty bags with tissue paper and pretty tags. Walmart and the Beauty Warehouse and the grocery store...... not nearly as much fun as shopping for this kind of thing would have been in Marin or in Chicago but I'm in Tucson and I love it even if the shopping is boring.

The luncheon was a pot-luck buffet and it had the usual array of pizza, chicken and rice casseroles, Swedish meatballs and deviled eggs. I'd love to know who thought that spare ribs was an appropriate addition to the festivities..... one cannot really use utensils to eat a rib, and greasy fingers combined with 80 years of life on the planet leads to some interesting experiences.

G'ma eats with the same 3 ladies at every meal. One says nothing. One introduces herself as "completely deaf" despite the 2 industrial-strength hearing aids she's sporting. The third defines querulous. The deaf lady and G'ma exchanging winks over the whispering, whining, wondering tablemate between them was a sight to behold. G'ma would answer her questions or suggest solutions and she'd sigh and tell us why it wouldn't work and the deaf lady, though missing the words, knew what was going on and she and G'ma rolled their eyes, subtly, as the middle one tried to get the food into her mouth. They may be old, but they've retained their edge. After asking me if I was the daughter, deaf-but-feisty looked straight at G'ma and said, "I know enough not to ask you" and they shared a laugh.

It was the kind of laugh women whose brains are functional within limits they'd never imagined and whose bodies don't respond to the commands those brains are sending laugh. The kind of laugh that would be a cry if they were querulous but instead is realistic and acknowledging and rueful and honest. Because it is what it is whether they laugh or they cry.

And it's much more pleasant to be around them when they're laughing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Random Thoughts on My Holiday Season

The Big Cuter is sitting on Douglas (our couch, for those who've forgotten) with his hands clasped behind his head and his sweatpants down and his t-shirt up just enough for his belly to peek out and beg me to rub it.... only he's a grown man and not my 3 month old bundle of protoplasm so I stifle the urge to rub and instead I type to you.

I remember coming home from college and embracing the sounds and the smells and the routine rhythms of the life I'd left (happily) behind but which still cosseted me as I walked in the front door. There was hostility and uncertainty and lots and lots of yelling or quiet steaming but it was home and it felt right. Not necessarily wonderful but right nonetheless.

And tonight I look over and see my husband and my son in the exact same position on the couch, yelling at the exact same time as the Colt's run the length of the field for a touchdown, wearing the same outfit and examining each corn chip in exactly the same manner. And it's not only right, it's wonderful, too.
********
Proving once again that just because things are fine when I wake up there is no guarantee that they'll stay that way, Kris from the pod-castle caught me on my cell in the parking lot of the post office to tell me that she'd found G'ma on the floor beside her couch when she went in to dispense the mid- afternoon meds. That was the reason the phone had gone unanswered when I'd called 20 minutes before to see if she was awake and wanted a visitor. She rolled over to pick up the receiver and became tangled in her Horace Mann School blanket and the phone was knocked off the stand and she was down.

No one feels guilty. No one is worried. There are no bumps or bruises and her blood pressure was a bit elevated but she rolled off the couch for crying out loud so what should we expect? Foregoing the APC, I drove to the pod-castle and found G'ma watching Law and Order, having no memory of the event at all.

Whenever I wonder whether Assisted Living was the right choice, things like this happen. I mean, really --- the woman was lying on the couch and she managed to fall down. Living alone is just not an option.
***************
My hydrangea is still blooming in its container under the portico (yes, a portico.... this house has lots of first-time-for-me features). I've added 3 white and 3 blood-red petunias to the backyard containers, where the volunteer mesquite trees are taking root quite nicely. The vinca, an invasive plant that's just fine in a pot but runs rampant in a flower bed, is still green and healthy. One hard freeze and it will turn brown and mushy and have to be removed for aesthetic and olfactory reasons. But, for now, I'm pretty happy.
******************
One year I am going to plant the paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs the day I buy them in October so that they will be in bloom for the holidays. As it stands right now, though, I will, once again, have my blossoms for Valentines Day instead. On the bright side, I found the bulbs I'd put in storage in the garage last March, and they are coming up nicely right along side the ones I bought this year. Every year I plan to save the bulbs and replant them; this is the first time I've ever actually done it.

Is it possible that I am actually learning and growing and changing my behavior? One can only hope.
*****************
Cards with pictures and status updates are filling the mailbox. Marriages and college acceptances and studies in China and 50K endurance challenges are making me smile.

I really do love this time of year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Beastie

This beastie has been living on the courtyard's south column for the past week.
(yes, I live in a house with columns..... it's also stucco..... two attributes with which I never imagined I'd live. And yet they work here. Kinda. But TBG loves them and I love him so they make me happy, too.)

Anyhow, I took these pictures over several days, at different times and,
amazingly for Tucson, in different kinds of weather. Yes, we had weather in Tucson. When you live with 350 days of sunshine every year, 50 and cloudy counts as weather. And it rained this week and that's really weather. I've been through the courtyard a lot this week, meeting the UPS guys running to and fro, faster than my brownie offering fingers could greet them and signing for the FedEx lady who really loves the brownies. And no matter what time I went out there this green beastie was on the column, at my eye level, letting me get within inches of himself.... herself???

Doesn't he look like a string bean?
And shouldn't he have another foreleg?

Ah, there it is. He had it mid-thorax.... for balance, perhaps?
Can you see the sharp edges on the appendages?
Up close and personal they are very very nasty.



And tell me that head doesn't remind you of the Alien Leader in Independence Day.

But most of all, tell me what it is.

I've tried to use the identification keys but I'm not sure how to answer the very basic questions. (Yes, I should have paid more attention to the insects lecture in Master Gardening classes. But I was trying to get over the beasties pinned to styrofoam which sat in front of me for 8 hours and I was unable to concentrate on very much else. There was also this microscope which projected its images onto a movie screen at the front of the room and the slide on display I remember the most held parasites injecting themselves into some sort of pupae .... at which point I closed my eyes and tried to think happy thoughts.)

Have you stuck with me this far? Are you surprised that you enjoyed looking at beasties? I have to say that I don't like snakes and maggots and worms and grubs but a beastie like this one is beautiful to my eye.

I just wish I knew what it was.


Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Love This Time of Year

I'm having a very nice day.

The sun is out, the sky is blue, and the temperature is clement enough that G'ma is comfy in just her sweatsuit. Old ladies in sweatsuits is my favorite sartorial statement of the last quarter century. It's such an obvious solution to a universal problem - old people are cold all the time and many don't have the manual dexterity to make buttons and zippers useful appurtenances. The home economist in me loves them.

But, back to my nice day. The Little Cuter sent me several heart-warming emails, most of them dealing with how much she loves this season and how she channels me while making a gigantic mess creating her latkes. She's gushing over the fabulous gift tags she found this season, and I know just exactly what she means when she tells me that she crumbles with joy as she attaches them to her presents. She's my girl, and I love her.

The Big Cuter woke up early to be functional for his last exam of his first semester of law school. They take them on computers, and if there's a technical problem the geeks are there with a solution -- a pencil and a Blue Book. Seriously. He packed a bottle of champagne and popped it as he turned in the test; he's on vacation until the middle of January and I can feel his bliss.

If you're only as happy as your unhappiest child then I am ecstatic.

Arrived at the gym to find that I'd misread the schedule and the clock - in fact I was on time for my favorite yoga class of the week. I love surprises like that. Mattie is one of those flexible people who seem to have no bones; she's all ligaments and tendons and bends and stretches like silly putty. And she laughs as she leads us and instructs us and moves us in ways we never thought possible. And yet, there we are.

She sent us inside ourselves and I started to think about my nascent New Year's Resolution. Watching John Wooden at his eponymous basketball tournament last weekend (Hoya Saxa!) reminded me of what a fine man he is. One of the current Bruins looked straight into the camera and said "When Coach Wooden is around you stand up straighter and you're always acting the way you know he would expect you to act." 19 years old and he'd been in the presence of greatness and he knew it and he wanted to live up to it. That is a role model.

So when Coach Wooden quoted Abraham Lincoln (his favorite person after his wife, Nellie.... I told you, this guy is the real deal!) I paid attention and found the germ of a resolution:


"Mr. Lincoln said that people are generally as happy as they allow themselves to be."

I still was exploring the concept of allowing myself to be happy during the reading at the end of class when Mattie read a similar homily from the Bhagavad Gita and I was struck by the quantum connection between my burgeoning resolution and her finding that passage for us. I left the gym floating a cloud of connectivity.

Came home to a Hanukah card from my Aunt Lillian, she of the green jello mold. She was thanking me for the bundle of World War II era photos I'd found in G'ma's hutch and sent on to her. She had never seen those pictures of her husband (G'ma's brother, Paul, who trained in Texas and fought with Patton and apparently knew a lot of other very handsome soldiers with whom to be photographed) in his uniform and they'd opened a floodgate of memories for her. She told me the story of how they met - and G'ma, later in the day, remembered the outlines of that day as well. Aunt Lilly loved me for sending the memories, and I loved her back for sharing hers. The fact that her grandson could use the pictures to make a collage for his 1st grade's Veterans Day celebration was an extra added bonus for both of us. The day was only getting better.

G'ma and I found a wonderful new sandwich place and we created 2 perfect lunches before we went to the bowling alley where I somehow threw 2 strikes and 3 spares and ended up scoring 130 points and winning the first game. Not that we care. Not that anyone will remember. Not that it made a difference. But it did make me smile. I'm not going to talk about the second game we played. Suffice it to say that it's a good thing we don't care.

Got home to find a holiday card from Amster and it turns out that she likes me as much as I like her. There's something very special when your friends take the time to write down how they feel and then take the next step and send those feelings on. Very special indeed.

I cleaned up the wrapping supplies and re-set the outdoor lights timer and read another chapter or two and cooked dinner and did the hundred other things one does as the day winds down. And I did them all with a great big smile plastered on my face.

I told you - I'm having a very nice day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland



I hiked in the rain today.

Here in the desert we cherish days like this.

This year was particularly dry. 6.06" may not seem like very many inches for normal rainfall to date, but since our actual rainfall to date has been a mere 2.86 " you can see why Paul Newman bi-cycling Katherine Ross on his handlebars while singing about raindrops falling on his head is not as ridiculous as it might seem.

The rain felt wonderful. We all had appropriate attire, some more absurd than others. Our fearless leader was ensconced in the world's droopiest maroon poncho after her jacket's water-proofing-spray-on-goo had repelled its last raindrop .... we watched, fascinated, as the water was sucked into the fabric at an alarming rate. And we smiled. Especially as she picked up her frock/tunic/toga/sailcloth to trip lightly over the very very rocky but totally walkable trail.



It really wasn't her fault that we missed the trail head she'd intended to take and it didn't really matter anyway. We got to blaze our own trail (they call it bushwhacking here in the desert) and pause







to admire the rocks




























and the lichen




and the moss


and the cacti


We sang carols on the way back to the cars.

I'm lighting Chanukah candles and wrapping Christmas presents and it was warm enough for me to entice G'ma to sit on the super comfy sofas in the backyard of the pod-castle. We settled our old and achy bones deeper into the cushions and watched the clouds sit still on the flat blue sky.

It's not the kind of Christmas that requires mittens and mufflers, though we did hike with a couple of layers beneath our rain-gear. But it's a very authentic Christmas, in a latitude-inal kind of a way. Tucson at 32° 7' N and Bethlehem at 31° 42' N pretty much share a climate.

We even have Christmas Cholla.


We also have atmospheric conditions that make the fact that there was no room at the inn 2010 years ago an issue. Not only was there the come and be counted piece, there was the weather. Sleeping under the stars isn't really an option when it's pouring rain and your pregnant wife has been riding an ass for a lot longer than any woman in her state should ever have to ride upon an ass, no matter who she's carrying under her heart.

Jesus lived like this. It truly is a winter wonderland.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A New Spot to Linger

the Burrow is featured on the Where Elders Blog page of the blog Time Goes By. Click and see where I sit as we talk.

Time Goes By is a lovely place to linger. The Little Cuter tells me of days spent falling down the blogosphere-rabbit-hole as she wends her way back through the archives of her favorite blogs. Usually, I'd rather spend my time curled up with a book than scrunched over the monitor's screen, but Time Goes By made me feel like I was spending a pleasant hour or so with friends.

Smart friends. Talented friends. Distinguished and awarded friends. Friends who are talking about things I think about and write about and who bring a nuanced and intelligent and provocative perspective to the conversation. They are smart people ... and not just because they are old.

Had I the internet and blogging when the Big Cuter was an infant, those long lonely boring nights which began when he woke up to play at 11pm would have been much different. Before the advent of 24 hour connectivity, once I'd called Dial-A-Joke and Dial-A-Prayer I was pretty much on my own. Alone in a city apartment without a backyard for wandering. Alone and awake at 1am with a charming-but-not-much-of-a-conversationalist on my shoulder..... at least he wasn't much of a talker at 2 or 3 months of age. Alone and walking the long hallway of our railroad apartment, quietly so as not to disturb TBG who had to wake up and earn our daily bread. Had you been out there then, I could have talked to you. And believe me I would have talked to you. Every night. All night... or at least until the rhythm of my typing put him to sleep on my shoulder (no playpens for my special baby). So, I understand the mommy-bloggers. Completely. Absolutely. I'd have been one, I'm sure.

But now, as TBG faces the start of his 7th decade, as the Cuters make their own ways in their own worlds, I find myself embracing my role as a crone. And I'm enjoying listening to others who are doing the same.

I'm not relaxing into it or using it as an excuse to exempt myself from the daily travail that is life in the 21st century. I'm finding it empowering and energizing and, most surprisingly, I'm finding it fun.

On my 50th birthday I took a group of friends on a hike up Mt. Tamalpais. As we tried to balance the camera on the trunk of my Audi for a time-delayed photo of us all, 2 women stopped and offered to help. Upon hearing the reason for our adventure, the taller one revealed that it was her birthday as well. Then, she put her arm around me and said the words I've remembered and cherished and lived by since: "I'm 70. Let me tell you.... the best years are the ones coming up for you. You are 50 - who is going to tell you what to do? No one! You've been alive for 50 years -- you know what to do by now."

OK, if you've heard a more empowering statement, I want you to share it. Because that was pretty special for me. She gave me permission to be comfortable with myself, my thoughts, my actions. I take advice (oh, about as well as I always did...) and I do attempt to stay within the bounds of civilized behavior, but my opinions are founded in decades of experiences and I've earned them and learned them and own them myself.

Mommy-bloggers are seeking answers and sharing events and looking for suggestions and that's still a part of my experience in the Burrow. But I feel like I'm on more solid ground. I'm making pronouncements. I'm drawing conclusions. I'm ranting and expounding and declaring and at times I'm bloviating and still you are reading.

There are things about which I am unsure - G'ma among them - but the mommy-bloggers can't help me there. Somehow, though, I think that my new friends at Time Goes By might be just the ticket.

Why not click here and check it out yourself..... the health care policy links were particularly interesting to me.... but so were the jazz and the story telling links. Have fun!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Random Thoughts as a Jewish Girl Does Christmas and Chanukah Too

I'm in mid-brownie baking mode and my brain is fried. Every moment is consumed with melting and mixing and cutting and bagging and boxing and labeling then driving to the post office where I am a whiz at the very cool APC (Automated Postal Center) and then coming home and starting all over again. Coherent thoughts are few and far between.
********
The fact that I know the name of the self-serve machine in the lobby of the post office gives you some idea of how I've been spending my time lately.
**************
My mind is filled with conversations. It's reminding me of putting books onto library shelves in a new house. The characters are adjusting to their new neighbors and I'm talking to the recipients and yes it's all a bit .... can I actually be thinking of using this word???..... surreal but is it possible that you might know what I mean? I'm choosing cards carefully and my box of bubble-wrap-on-a-roll is my new best friend and I'm grinning from ear to ear as I chatter to my friends in my head.
********
Tucson has no place to shop for the kinds of paper goods that I use up every single year. I'm talking about cellophane bags and interesting curling ribbon and a wide variety of stickers and gift cards and small but fabulous inexpensive but aren't you thoughtful evoking gifts. In Marin, I'd spend hours in Ideal Stationers. Here, I'm considering a run to Wally-World....... though they totally ignore Hanukah... which is annoying.
***************
And that's a nice segue into my stereotypically, who shops more than a Jewish girl? rant. As I open box after box of fabulous Christmas decorations and shrug at the small carton of sort-of-okay-but-I'm-really-not-that-excited-to-see-them Chanukah decorations, I say to you, merchants of the world, that if you make it I will buy it. I promise. Just be sure it's not plastic and doesn't have a flannel backing and if you could manage to tone down the blue just a touch from that nearly-neon hue so favored by the few who've taken pity on me and created something anything oh, come on I want to shop.

As I said earlier, coherent thoughts are few and far between.
************************
There are 2 little girls, about 8 and 10 years old, sitting in the first row behind the television announcers as Syracuse starts the second half against the Florida 'Gators. They are wearing Florida colored Santa hats and they have their arms outstretched as far as they can go in front of themselves and they are clapping their open palms against one another .. you know..... being 'gators . They are having such a good time I'm not even going to think about the fact that it's 10pm on a school night and they are not home in bed.
***********************************
Florida's St. Pete Times Forum must have had a more mellifluous name at one point, don't you think??? And how would you have spelled mellifluous? I had issues, I assure you. And I am a good speller.
**********
I never understood why people would ask if spelling counts? What were they going to do? Mis-spell on purpose? Didn't everyone always try to do everything right? Were they looking for permission to write without thinking? How did they do that? I'm still confused.
**********
It's time to put in 3 more pans of brownies. Thanks for the lovely interlude.
*************

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Makes Them Do These Things???

Helicopter Parent. Rocky was describing herself that way last night as she worried about her senior in college with a 3.8 GPA and no job prospects. She knows she's powerless. She knows it's his issue. She knows he's a grown-up and he has to take responsibility for his own future. She knows all this and yet she's panic stricken because his life is unsettled and insecure. She needs to fix it and she knows that she shouldn't and, worse than that, she knows that she can't. These thoughts co-exist uneasily.

Princess Myrtle is headed to Yemen for a month, after promising the only parent she was brave enough to tell that she wouldn't leave the capital city. Apparently, working during the day and taking Arabic at night while living in an apartment in Cairo wasn't enough of an immersion program. I've asked her to let me worry.

MTF's daughter's plan to visit 50 states and 50 countries by the time she's 50 has taken her to hotels where you wouldn't take off your shoes in Panama and in Syria and in India and she keeps threatening to go to Yemen and MTF told me this with a loving epithet that expresses the admiration mixed with terror that she feels.

Little kids.... little worries.... big kids..... big worries...... rather than look at it as minimizing the worry parents feel over will she ever walk and is he going to be in diapers forever how about the reality : those memories seem funny as you watch him back out of the driveway with his sister riding shotgun.

Rocky's moment of stunning clarity : It never ends, this parenting, does it? says it all. My favorite Cathy panel - it's framed and hanging in my closet - contains this essential truth: Mothers never sleep. We just worry with our eyes closed.

My helicopter is stored in the garage, underneath their framed finger-paintings and next to their baby clothes. Ready, at a moment's notice, to spring into action.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Brownie List - A Jewish Girl Does Christmas part 2

It started innocently enough. HDK & Zanner and TBG & I were celebrating our first holiday season as working adults and we gave them a pan of my brownies and they gave us fire place tools. You know what I'm talking about..... the big brass stand and the little broom and dust pan and the oversized tongs and the pokey thing that's the only piece you ever really use anyway so why are the rest of them there????

Well, dear reader, I was abashed. Obviously, there was a mysterious Christmas gift giving code to which I was not privy. TBG was able to laugh it off and I liked the fire place tools a lot so I didn't make too much of a fuss but you can be damn sure that the next year I took Zanner shopping with me for their gift.

But that was because she kept score by dollars spent. In their divorce, there was only one point on which both they and the judge agreed --- neither of them had a very healthy attitude toward money. I was used to TBG's family Christmases, which featured lots of socks and warm sweaters and candy. Chanukah was books and stationary and hand knit mittens and maybe a doll or a dump truck but mostly it was judging what the relatives sent and then eating latkes. So, I had presented the brownies with pride and love and a sense that they were absolutely the perfect present for our bestest friends. I even baked them in a beautiful pan, which they got to keep.

Obviously, this was her issue and not mine. I knew that people loved my brownies and were happy to be around when I was baking them and smiled when they arrived as a care package in the mail. I knew that I loved making them and gifting them and watching people eating them and once I put that all together with the fact that Christmas is all about love and sharing and memories and comfort and did I mention love ..... well, the plan just kind of created itself.

I went to the giant Ace Hardware at Clark and Broadway and Diversey and bought clear plastic containers with bright red and blue and green and white tops. I bought brand new baking pans and actually paid attention to exactly how long 4 of them in the oven took to cook perfectly. I attached big beautiful bows and gave them to my special people. And my special people understood what they were receiving.... and, of course, that was part of what made them special.

Friends moved and siblings left the parental abode and cousins married and started families of their own and we moved and old friends re-appeared and playgroup kids went off to college and suddenly I was mailing a dozen boxes... then twenty... thirty.... forty-some last year and each one a total smile.

FAMBB, my locker partner from junior high til graduation; Ilene, my skinny little younger cousin now all grown-up in her beautiful blended multi-generational home; Hans-O our then-handyman-now-policeman and always a role model for the Cuters, who'd come and shoot hoops on his way home because he'd put the damn backboard and bucket together for us and he'd earned the right to the court; MTF and Daddooooo's remaining brother and K&K&Kids who think that the holiday season begins when their box arrives .... I'll hear from them all.

How can I be sure? Because the only rule associated with assuming a position on The Brownie List is that the recipient must acknowledge receipt of the package. Now, it's possible to blow off a pre-signed by Kinko's photo Xmas card or an e-card greeting or a generic family newsletter but if I've taken the trouble to bake and wrap and ship you brownies you cannot ignore me. Not if you want to stay on The Brownie List.

Just ask the people who've wondered where their box was lurking.... yes, I do keep track of these things. Not because I'm keeping score, but because I'm bribing you with sweet treats to entice you to share a bit of yourself with me. Because I like you. And I miss you.... all year long but especially now when I want you to help me decorate the tree and eat latkes straight from the pan and take the middle brownie when it's hot right out of the oven.

Putting you on The Brownie List is the next best thing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thanks For Keeping Me Company

Watch Monday Night Football with me, will you?

I'm trying to muster up some interest in Aaron Rogers and his amazing season and the faux-Browns (aka the Ravens) but I only vaguely remember the running back from that Rutgers team we liked a few years ago and the fact that he's Ray Rice on the Ravens doesn't make that much difference to me.

I just recognized Michael Ohr, #74 on the white team (the home team, the Baltimore Ravens) and I smiled. The Michael Lewis book was wonderful and once TBG recovers from the cold from hell we'll trek to the multi-plex to see the movie. I wonder if his teammates are on him about being the subject of the number one movie in the country, if Mike Tirico can be believed.

I like the font the Ravens use on their uniforms. The Big Cuter says that such comments should be treated with 50,000 volts of electricity through a shock collar. I'm impervious to his scorn. If I'm going to sit on the couch for hours at a time I will pay attention to the things I care about

There are so many time outs and replays and referee reviews of play after play after play that there's rarely any flow to watching the game. I know that the boys are often wrapped up in the minutiae of the rules and that they sense a rhythm I cannot feel. From my perspective, watching football has become the same as watching baseball..... background noise until you hear something worth looking at.

(Living within hearing distance of Wrigley Field made yard work a pleasure. We'd hear the fans cheer and race inside to see the play on the tv.)

Fifteen minutes or more were spent listening to the boys sift through football history for the answer to a trivia question posed by my least favorite voice on MNF. The game's not that exciting and I've got brownies to bake. One half of a boring football game is enough for me. I am off to continue to bake my way through The Brownie List.... which we'll read about tomorrow.

For now, I'm going to let them freeze on Lambeau Field without me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Live Music

Sometimes you're in the presence of greatness. You know it going in and you're not disappointed during the performance. There's a general sense of smile in the audience and everyone is in his seat or has established position on the floor in front of the stage well before the lights go down. The intermission is a buzz of cheery wonder, and no one is complaining about the long line for the women's room or the price of the cold drinks in the lobby. We're all just happy to be there.

I've felt it at Grateful Dead concerts and hearing Colin Powell speak and it happened again last night.

TBG and I went to The Music Hall to hear the Tucson Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven's Fifth before intermission and after perform Dvorzak's Concerto in B Minor for Violoncello and Orchestra, Op.104 ..... with Yo Yo Ma as the soloist.

Yes, Yo Yo Ma was in Tucson. Every time I begin to worry that I'm buried alive here in the desert something wonderful like this happens. And believe me, it was wonderful.

I'd scored 8th row center tickets from a friend who's in China right now. Serious music goers surrounded us. They knew the names of the musicians and were happy to share insights into their style and technique. The short middle schooler in the row in front of us had a booster cushion so that she could see over the taller heads in front of her; this was a crowd which had been here before.

The conductor didn't use a score for the Beethoven which was surprising but not as memorable as were his gesticulations his gyrations his splendiferous enthusiasms on the round riser upon which he perched. TBG noticed the guard rail behind him.... a conductor with a fall-prevention-device...... the guy was into it. The first violinist's hair was an active participant and the cellists were bending and bowing in delicious synchronicity and it was just lovely. 30 minutes of familiar music, difficult to perform music, music that the WWII radioman next to me associated with V for Victory and which is stuck in my head even now. It was lovely..... and greatness was on its way.

Yo Yo Ma has been performing since he was 5 years old. I wonder how his parents kept him off the stage for that long. It seemed that he could hardly wait to carry his gorgeous cello onto the stage. His smile was genuine and gigantic and he flashed it to the audience and the orchestra and the conductor and the audience and the first violinist and his hair and the cellists who were glowing and the violinists on the other side of the stage and then the audience again and then he sat down. It was a joy fest before a note was played.

And what notes they were. There was no disconnect between the man and his instrument, between the curve of his wrist on the bow and the delicious sounds which filled the hall. When he wasn't playing, he was smiling at those who were, or leaning into his instrument as they felt the music together. It was the fastest 41 minutes of my life. I can't remember the last time I had a bigger grin on my face.

We applauded and applauded and he bowed alone and with everyone and anyone on the stage and then alone and then with others and it went on and on and then he came back for a lagniappe. Just a little something to send us on our way.

And it occurred to me, as I basked in the fabulousness that was the night, that between the Orchestra Trustee's plea for financial help to stave off disaster and Yo Yo Ma's post script that it had been an incredible privilege to play in Tucson, no words had been spoken. People came and left the stage. Hands were clapped and silence was observed and seats were retaken and no words were spoken. We all had our parts and we did them well.

And some of us did them as well as it is possible to be done.

I hope she's having a good time in China..... we certainly had a good time here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Tempest in a Television Spot

The Little Cuter is my lifeline when it comes to popular culture. I try to keep up, but without regular visits to the beauty salon my exposure to People or Us! or the E! Network is nil. Tucson's not exactly a hot bed of celebrity sightings - there are not a lot of paparazzi in the spas. Unless it's on ESPN or CNBC I'm pretty much clueless.

So, when Shaunna waxed eloquently about Adam Lambert's performance at the American Music Awards and the feeding frenzy which followed, I was hearing of it for the first time. TBG and I had watched the occasional season of American Idol, but we'd skipped this last one. We always agreed with Simon, we thought Randy knew what he was talking about and the girls were just too annoying to watch any more. (Yes, girls..... 'cause that's what they were acting like.... and it's something we ought to outgrow by the time we're nearer to 50 than 15).

Shaunna writes well - since I agree with her most all the time she's obviously brilliant, too - so I followed the link (repeated here in case you didn't feel like clicking on it in the last paragraph). And I was surprised. The music was really good, in a loud, dance to it, get up from the keyboard and stomp kind of way. Adam Lambert has an impressive presence on the stage; he's not dwarfed by the scenery or the sound, he dominates it. The visuals are stunning and somewhat raunchy, and that is the right word, I think. It's not dirty or filthy or all-the-way-nasty... it's raunchy.

When he swiveled his hips my brain went to Elvis and wondered what they really felt when they saw him... or didn't see him, if you were watching Ed Sullivan, at least. The producers and directors of the award show had obviously rehearsed Adam's sequence so I join others in wondering why, if they were so outraged in the morning, they hadn't adjusted the camera angle the evening before? Ed Sullivan managed that trick of television magic in 1956, after all.

For me, the most disturbing image was not the kiss he gave to his drummer-boy (which seemed spontaneous and not at all out of sync with the lyrics or the music) - it was the men on leashes. But that's just me.

Dry humping on stage is something that annoys me but doesn't make my skin crawl - probably a good thing given all that was going on in the video (there's that pesky link again!). Snakes and swords are pretty pedestrian symbols, but music videos are a pedestrian medium, I think, so I suppose I ought to quit complaining. Pressing another's head into your crotch while you're both on stage is admittedly pretty crass, but the lyrics asked "Do you know what you got into? Can you handle what I'm gonna do?" and I suppose your answer could be NO and you could change the channel or close your eyes and just listen (of course, that's pretty old school, isn't it? Remember when you had to make up your own images for songs in the days before MTV?).

So we're on that slippery slope we began to Jack-and-Jill our way down starting with letting women bare their ankles in public. Or was it the charleston? Or how about today's Wall Street Journal??? This is the business bible, people...... did I really need to read about men's chest hair (I'm linking it again, again!) over breakfast??? You know how I feel about breakfast.

My point is that the bar is always moving. No matter how hard you try to keep up, there's always someone just a little bit further out toward the edge, someone daring you to watch and wonder what it would be like to be out there, too. Adam Lambert has a great big voice - just listen to the end of the song - and an oversized persona and he's easy to look at and for crying out loud he was completely covered except for his hands and his face. He's 27 years old and wearing eyeliner. Somehow that seems less offensive than Kellie Pickler's new body.

But that's just me.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The President Addresses the Nation

I've been thinking about it all day. I haven't listened to the radio or political talking heads and the sports guys are all caught up in Tiger's privacy statement so I've gotten no input from that angle, either. The local paper is filled with the usual crime and mayhem and good deeds being done around town and the Wall Street Journal didn't offer much more than a recap of the speech itself. These thoughts, therefore, are totally my own.

I love listening to President Obama speak. He is the very best of teachers and explainers and convincers. He looks me right in the eye and tells me that he refuses to believe that we can't recapture that feeling of all being in it together that we had after 9/11 and suddenly I want to go out and hang the flag as I did all through September and October and November of 2001.

He tells the Afghan people straight out that he has no interest in occupying their country nor of becoming a permanent military presence and I almost-nearly-not-quite-but-I-really-want-to believe that they will hear it and see it and know it for the sincerity that I see there. There's a refreshing lack of cynicism in his tone. He understands the skepticism and he meets it head on.

He has high expectations of America and Americans. His take on the Melian Dialogue was interesting; Right makes Might when those who are right are also the most powerful armed force on the planet. Can we shock and awe and be done in 18 months? And am I too crass when I immediately did the election cycle math with the deployments and then the return of the troops? He must mean what he says - he certainly can't relish running for re-election if he hasn't kept that promise.

I know he says it's not Viet Nam, but looking at the young young young faces of the cadets in Eisenhower Auditorium last night brought me smack dab back to 1969 and I was sad. Some of those kids will lose their lives fighting in a place that thwarted even Alexander the Great. I understand the need to root out al Quaeda but there's a reason that they're hiding in the caves along the Pakistani border..... I don't want to think about impenetrable and impossible but it's really hard to avoid it.

Our goals are laudable, necessary, reasonable and self-protective. Are they achievable? Will they have long term benefits? Will we be able to turn the trillions of dollars we're investing in wars abroad to developing our infrastructure at home?

I guess we'll find out in July, 2011.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Very Weird Tuesday

It kept getting stranger and stranger as the hours went by.

There was snow on Mount Lemmon (aka the southernmost ski resort in the USofA) and what might have been melted frost on the front yard's stone mulch when I went out to get the papers this morning. It's the desert in Arizona, for crying out loud. Why am I wrapped up in a polar fleece full length bathrobe (a great gift from the Big Cuter but usually waaaay too warm for Tucson). I should have been paying more attention; the day was only going to get weirder.

VISA decided to protect me from myself by placing a fraud watch on my account without telling me. Unfortunately, it took rejecting my card twice while making purchases over the phone and a couple of calls to VISA before Kesha listened as I ranted and raved and foamed at the mouth over missing yoga to deal with their misguided efforts to keep me safe when all they'd accomplished was to humiliate me and force me to waste my time in an effort to do what the robo-voice on the first call had suggested : feel free to use the card. When I paused for breath, she agreed with everything I'd said, elaborated on the transactions which had been attempted, and gave me a cogent explanation for the fraud alert - I think it had something to do with my purchase of Nellie the Netbook on Saturday, but I was so stunned by her pleasant, respectful, smiling manner that I missed the gory details. ,Then, she credited my account for the points I'd missed by using my debit card rather than call the vendor a third time. Then, she wrote notes in my file. Then she offered to take my cell phone number so that VISA can call me and let me know if there are fraud concerns about my card if I'm out and about. Yes, that's what she said : out and about. She was so cute I was unable to stay mad at her... and that kind of pissed me off. Weird -- I was starting to get mad about not being mad.

Couldn't get through to G'ma on the phone, and have no idea why. Showed up to find her in pj's and ready for a shower. Five minutes later she was out of the bathroom and dressed. Totally weird -- she's usually at least 40 minutes from start to finish. "They haven't fixed the plumbing yet. I had no water in the shower." No way the pod-castle would let something that important go un-repaired, but I couldn't turn it on either. Turns out there's a button on the hand-wand-shower-head which was in the wrong position.... the fact that I couldn't figure that out myself just fit in with the tenor of the day.

Bowled under the name of Cookie, since Peaches had been failing me lately, and threw my second highest game ever. I am NOT a good bowler. I am not even a mediocre bowler. Yet I won. Weirder and weirder.

G'ma remembered and finished a story I'd told her only once before and volunteered to take the long way back to the car. All the items on my grocery list were on sale. The President almost convinced me that a war in Afghanistan might not be the quagmire I fear it may be. It's been a very weird day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Jewish Girl Does Christmas -- a continuing story

December 1st is the start of my favorite time of year. For some reason, I channel the stress into more vigorous elf-ing and suddenly I'm smiling instead of grumbling. It's all about the love.

Nannie is my inspiration, my role model, my raison d'etre in the Christmas department. And yes, I know that raison d'etre means reason for being..... it's totally true that I would never have come up with the concept on my own.

Growing up on the Jewish end of the street, surrounded by Jewish friends and relatives, participating in Jewish festivities, I never missed Christmas at all. Never lusted for a Christmas Tree, never begged for a Chanukah Bush, never felt excluded or deprived. Santa didn't ask if I was Jewish; I sat on his lap and enjoyed the experience but I didn't mind that he went to Rita's house but not to mine. G'ma let me put snowflakes on the window with decals and some spray-on goo that left dandruff on the rug for months beyond its useful life and I was fine. The 8 days of Chanukah were enough for me.

I enjoyed joining TBG's family for the holiday, but I never really got it until the year TBG asked why we always had a menorah but never a tree. "Go get a tree," the ever agreeable I replied. His face said it all before his mouth could form the words. "But, MOM always got the tree...."

That was my first inkling that there was more to this holiday than was obvious to the casual observer. I'd never seen beyond the marketing and the caroling and the ballet and Scrooge. All of a sudden, though, TBG's entire childhood was present in our 11th floor high rise with the green shag carpet. He wasn't the equal partner in our marriage when it came to this particular issue. I was in charge ..... the little boy he was, the precursor to the man balefully pleading with his big blue eyes ...... there was no denying him.

The next afternoon after work, I walked to the corner lot and bought a tree small enough to carry home. Brought it inside and looked at it. Called Nannie and asked "How does the tree stand up?" Wonderful, loving, kind and perfect woman that she was, there was no laughter. Instead, she was outraged : hadn't they sold me a stand? didn't they realize this was my first tree? She sent me right back to the vendor, and reminded me to put water in the reservoir as soon as I got it home. I kind of wished she had told me to wait til the tree was straight before putting the water in the receptacle, but that green shag carpet hid a multitude of sins, and Christmas tree water was the least of them.

I had stopped at Walgreens before boarding the 151 home that day, and the couch and coffee table were covered with decorations. I had tinsel, I had red and green round ornaments, I had lights... and I put them on the tree in just that order. To be accurate, I put most of it on in that order. While I was able to push the balls past the tinsel, the lights had me stymied. I was cogitating the problem, wondering whether there was a genetic component to my frustration, when TBG walked in the door. His reaction was a mixture of love-surprise-astonishment-and genuine dismay that he had married someone foolish enough to think that the lights, for pete's sake what were you thinking went on last.

It was my first tree. What did he expect?

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails
 
Five Star Friday