Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fabulous Women

I know some pretty fabulous women.  Really, I do.

Roomie started her new job today, a job she pursued over many long months of unemployment.  She was resolute and resourceful and always up-beat.  If she was worried she didn't show it.  If she was frightened we never knew it.  She was the party planner, gift organizer, grandma-extraordinaire she'd always been, and we were lucky to be the beneficiaries of her love.

Mei-Mei deals with brain surgery and a job she hates and her face is wreathed in the glow of those who are loved.  The man in her life stepped up to the plate in a big time way and the joy is contagious.  She, like me, battles demons of her own, beasties lurking just beneath the surface, ready to pounce without a moment's notice.  We both do our best to pretend they aren't there.  Most of the time we're successful. When I fail, it's nice to know she's at the other end of the ether.

My still-blond-new-old-friend sent an email that brought tears and a deep sigh.  I'm reminded of time that was wasted wishing that things were different.  I'm reminded of unrealized potential traded for social success.  I'm astonished at her openness and delighted that she's invited me for tea.  I knew I liked her - she doesn't drink coffee either.

JannyLou Farkle is the matriarch of the Farkle clan and the best next door neighbor a shootee could have.  She and her husband, Fast Eddie, have been sharing her bad news and her scary news and her good news and her worrisome news and her anxious news and then her very very good news with us over the last few weeks.  She's appropriately peeved at the situation and commendably strong in her approach and now she's asleep under the same kind of gooshy blanky that I received from Marin friends three months ago.  It's good to be able to share the joy.

Chicago Gal is more than a bowler.  She's a painter and a gardener and a ceramicist and a person who can be counted on in a pinch.  She's up when I'm up and down when I'm down and takes better care of me than I do of myself.  All I have to do is ask and she's on it.

And then there's Imelda, my newest found friend.  Ours began as a professional relationship, but by the end of our first face to face meeting we had adopted one another.  This afternoon we spent a nice long time talking as we were fondling footwear at J Gilbert and driving across the street to the Safeway.  "Are you sure?"  "Yeah, why not?" That's how comfortable we are together. 

And there are more, denizens.  So many many many more.

Rocky called to tell me that she is proud of herself.
Seret is reaffirming her positive outlook on life.
Little Cuter is shedding the Wedding Bell Blues.
Amster's hitting her stride and we're counting the days til we're in the gym together again.

I am healing.  Is it any wonder that that is so?  Just look at my surroundings.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It Had To Be Done

I had to write it.  I couldn't put it off any longer.  My guy at the DOJ has been respectfully reminding me that the US Attorney and the Attorney General were waiting to see if I wanted to weigh in on the death penalty.

In reality, I didn't want to.  I wanted to ignore the whole situation.  I wanted not to care.

But, as I've said before, when the People of the United States prosecutes your offender I believe that there is an obligation to show up. 

So, I went to the arraignment.  One purpose was to desensitize myself to his presence.  The more important reason was the fact that it was happening at all.  There was no lynching, no mob violence at the scene.  We are an orderly people, governed by the rule of law, and, as a (n unwilling) participant I had to go.

I knew then that I'd have to write something about his fate.  Did seeing him in person make a difference?  I didn't consider that fact before choosing to attend the arraignment, but I certainly considered it in the weeks that followed.

I had stared at his scrawny neck.  I had seen his pathetic over-long sideburns.  I had examined the creases on his prison garb, wondering how their starchiness might feel on his body.  I watched him smile and make eye contact with the court workers in and around the jury box..... and watched him avoid all of us in the gallery.  I was breathing the same air, occupying the same space, listening to the same proceedings, sharing the same piece of an afternoon with him. 

Did it change my opinion?  Not really.  I didn't need to be reminded that a human being had done this to me, to Christina, to Gabby.  It's the part that upsets me the most, the part I asked President Obama about, the part that confuses me still. 

What kind of a person does something like this?  What kind of a being destroys another?  What does it take to feel so removed from our shared experience of inhaling and exhaling that you feel justified in ending someone else's life?  Who are you?

There is nothing that can change the events of January 8th.  There is no balm available for our sorrow.  There is no replacing that which is lost.  There cannot be. 

We can only move on, looking to our better angels, recognizing the reality and smiling at the rising sun. 

As long as he's not ever ever ever walking the earth as a free man again, I honestly don't care what happens to him. 

Honestly.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One Week to Go

Next Monday afternoon I hope to be able to report that Dr. Boaz has released me from my non-weight-bearing status.  My speculation is that physical therapy will be ordered; pilates and yoga... probably not.

These last 7 days are going to be special.  The temptation to rush the healing, to lean on my right side just a little, to wonder if the bone cells really do need the last few hours to heal themselves properly - it's like smelling fresh out of the fryer donuts dangling just out of reach.  I am so tired of being dependent.

Dr. Boaz isn't concerned about my redder than the other foot as long as it doesn't hurt and the temperature doesn't vary.  Apparently, I still have vascularity issues.  Who knew?  His nurse asked me if it was less colorful first thing in the morning, but I never remember to look at my foot first thing in the morning so, once again, who knew? 

I am not used to my body playing tricks on me.  Then again, I've never been shot before.

I missed the Fiesta in the Barrio this weekend.  My concert buddies were busy and a street fair on my own felt more like work than fun.  The Golden Gopher and his lovely wife dropped by Sunday afternoon to share the glow from Calexico and to agree that I had made a wise decision in avoiding the event.  Next year.... next year.

The crepe myrtles are leafing out all around the remains of last year's flowers.  The finches have moved on to tastier pastures and now those remnants just hang there, looking sad.  I suppose that I could get myself over the uneven gravel covered berms and stand close enough to trim them from my walker, but I can hear the screams of "NO!" from those who love me and know of my general clumsiness.  Next week, I guess.

I finished the last of the library books a neighbor toted me over to get.  She was just here, dropping off dinner, and I know that I should have asked her to take me back to the library sometime this week. But asking is really hard for me.  Chicago Gal filters my requests through to the Newcomers Care group; left to my own devices no one would be asked. 

And it's so silly, because everyone seems to take real joy in helping.  People seem to want to be part of my recovery.  It's not celebrity they are seeking.  It's closeness to the tragedy and a sense that they are putting a band aid on an awfully big owie.  There's a tenderness to the outreach, whether it's a home cooked meal from a friend or a giant hug from a total stranger. 

Yes, people feel the need to hug me. This is different from the hands I removed from my pregnant abdomen.  This isn't invading my personal space. This is enveloping me in a communal healing place.  We are hugging one another.

It's weird.  I know.  I know it's weird when it's happening.  And I love it.  I don't get it, but I love it.  I am truly feeling the love.

Someone commented on my cheery attitude last week and I just had to wonder what she expected from me.  Did she expect me to be wracked with misery and remorse?  Quivering? Quavering? Diminished in some way?  Or was she going toward angry and vengeful and filled with rage?  Neither of those extremes appeals to me. 

They don't tempt me.  They won't bring Christina back.  They won't fill the hole in my heart.  There's nothing ..... and that's such a big word I can't get past it. 

I'm not a person who is comfortable with the fact that there isn't some way I can fix the problem.  Just ask the Cuters, or the kids I babysat, or any of my clients; "What do you think we can do about that?" is my natural response to an issue.   Nothing .... absolutely nothing.

So, I smiled at the girl who'd asked about my smile and I said that I was happy, that I was alive, and that was enough for me right now. 

And that's where I am on Monday afternoon: dependent but not despondent.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Teenagers are Idiots

We weren't friends in high school; I'm not sure she knew who I was back then. 

I certainly knew who she was. 

She commanded the hallways as she passed through them, her long straight blond hair swishing perfectly behind her.  We weren't in any classes together, but she was always in my consciousness.  She was, as they say, a presence.

I hadn't given her a thought until we sat across from one another at a reunion dinner a few years back.  The conversation was random and wine fueled.  Stories were shared, most all of them flattering to the teller.  Hers was one of confusion and consequences and love, lots and lots of love.  It was personal and revelatory and I was hearing it. 

At the other table sat the girls I remembered, the ones I sat next to in class, the ones who thought they knew my story as I thought I knew theirs.  Here at this table, no one knew me.  I was as foreign to them as they were to me.  So I listened.  And I learned.

I learned of tragedies which had struck others of that golden circle, of marriages gone awry, of kids with troubles and of plans unrealized.  There was laughter as youthful misdeeds were recounted, misdeeds which scared the hell out of me 40 years later.  In many ways they were so much older than I was back then.

And then I got shot.

I heard from long vanished buddies.  I was visited by neighbors I didn't know I had.  I had Facebook friend requests.  And classmates at a mini-reunion in Phoenix drove down to Tucson for lunch.  A dozen or so, they were warm and caring and interested and thoughtful and fun.  They had not been my friends or acquaintances or nodding neighbors when we were in high school, but that afternoon they were my friends. 

And the friendships have blossomed.  Three were back today, a Cali-Girl and two Phonecians, bringing me lunch and concern and themselves for three hours of chatter.  I heard my still-blond-new-old-friend (she really needs a better name, don't you agree?)  hearing the context and the emotion behind the talk of my recovery.  She was one step ahead of me, defining my position in words for which I had been searching.... fruitlessly searching.  She wasn't triumphant when I caught her eye and acknowledged that she really got it.  She just smiled and nodded her head.

And I realized, then and there, that teenagers are stupid. 

She had been confident in high school and that frightened me so I decided that we couldn't/wouldn't/shouldn't speak and so I never made an effort to see who she was underneath the aura.  I have no idea what she thinks, or thought, but I have no doubt that it was something equally inane.  We were teenagers,  after all. 

I bet that she was an old soul even then, and that having been here before she knew her way around.  Is that too hippie-dippie for you?   Then perhaps you have a better explanation for her ability to own a room, then and now. 

Had she thought to pursue me?  Does it matter?  Perhaps if we had shared classes together.... perhaps ... and again, does it matter? 

Right now, today, I have a yoga practicing, education oriented, lunch buying friend who is willing to drive 4 hours to spend 3 hours sitting around my kitchen table.  She is tuned in to a wavelength I just don't hear.  Without bringing her ego into it, she was understanding, clarifying and supporting my nascent thoughts. 

As my body heals, my brain has a chance to assume center stage.  My heart aches and I have the leisure time to explore the pain.  I've been 3 weeks without pain medication.  My muscles are waking up and my ligaments and tendons are stretching out.  I am preparing for Dr. Boaz to allow me to walk.  And I have time to think.

Sitting still is no longer a problem.  Random pains requiring narcotics do not appear any more.  I am uncomfortable but nothing worse. This is a good thing.

I am now aware of another kind of pain.  This one is closely associated with tears and loss and anger.  I've been ignoring it for a while.... for about 3 months.... since about January 8th.  But now, with the physical issues subsiding,  this one is asserting itself with authority.  I've just begun to share it aloud; my lunch guests are among the first to hear it.

She brought her wisdom to the table.  I basked in the simplicity of it all.

I'm glad that grown-ups are willing to take chances that teenagers eschew.

With age comes wisdom?  Maybe.  It's definitely bringing me more friends.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dream Rangers

I couldn't say it better myself. 

Turn the sound down low if you are at work, and spend 3 minutes and 11 seconds with these men, these ordinary yet triumphant men. 

 

And now that you have the general idea, watch it again.  Feel your smile broaden.
And don't worry, it's okay to be teary.  It's just a little bit dusty at your desk today.

When people ask me to explain my sunny attitude, I stumble and fumble and I'm never quite sure that I am conveying what I really want to say.  I'm living a reality without the luxury of observing it from afar.  I am in the center of a maelstrom of good wishes and court proceedings and out of town visitors.  

I am the calm in the eye of the storm.  Everyone is watching, wondering, worrying, hovering over and about me.  

I am alive.  That's about as far as I get in terms of deep thought on this issue

That alone is enough to keep me occupied, it seems.  The citizen heroes, the first responders - they kept me from dying.  The UMC doctors and nurses and techs and Chief's of everything brought me back from the brink.  The rehab piece is all on me.  

Dr. Boaz allowed me to take his hip home inside my body, but only if I promised to keep any and all weight off it until 12 weeks had passed.  This was good news at the time, since the initial prognostication had been 16 weeks.  For the past 11 weeks I have had only inadvertent moments  when pressure has been applied to that leg; jumping off the electric cart at WallyWorld as I careened it into a woman in the salad dressing aisle was not my most graceful nor intelligent move.  For the most part, though, I've been remarkably compliant.

But the rehab required more than attention to detail.  It required hard work.  Some I did and some I didn't.  

Unless my SuziSitters were vigilant my breathing exercises went undone.  I really didn't like this device at all. 

It hurt to use it - even before I knew that I had a fractured rib - and it made me nauseous and light headed and dizzy and I didn't like it at all.  The Bride was adamant, Reggie was insistent.  They each expected compliance. 

I usually adored them. These were not among those moments.

But, when encouraged, I did use the thing.  I knew it was good for me and I knew that I was lucky to be alive to use it and anyway the rest of my body hurt so much deeper, felt tighter and stranger and more incompetent, so that by the time I got around to complaining about my lung capacity I felt kinda sorta just a little bit foolish.

It did feel awful.  I was doing it to myself.  Who needs breathing anyway?  Deep breaths are vastly overrated.

But then I thought back to the people who ran out of the Safeway, into a hail of bullets, because I needed help.  Seriously.  I have people in my life who put themselves at risk so that I could lie on my couch two months later and kvetch about inhaling.  

Hand me the damn device and stop laughing at me.

So, when I am asked for a personal inventory, a status report, an update on my condition, it's fair to say that this is as far as I have gotten: I'm alive.

My sunny attitude is that of those gentlemen on their motorcycles : 

Life is short and unexpected things happen so get out and do something to put a smile on your face. 

And take someone you love along for the ride.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good Morning, Readers

I'm up before the sun comes over the Pusch Ridge, startled by the sudden brightness as the first light hits the window in the library.

I'm thinking of you, denizens, and wondering how your day has started, wondering what I can tell you about mine.

Billy Collins says it better than I ever could so please, enjoy the words of my favorite poet describing exactly how I feel about you all right now:

A Portrait of the Reader with a Bowl of Cereal

Every morning I sit across from you
at the same small table,
the sun all over the breakfast things—
curve of a blue-and-white pitcher,
a dish of berries—
me in a sweatshirt or robe,
you invisible.

Most days, we are suspended
over a deep pool of silence.
I stare straight through you
or look out the window at the garden,
the powerful sky,
a cloud passing behind a tree.

There is no need to pass the toast,
the pot of jam,
or pour you a cup of tea,
and I can hide behind the paper,
rotate in its drum of calamitous news.

But some days I may notice
a little door swinging open
in the morning air,
and maybe the tea leaves
of some dream will be stuck
to the china slope of the hour—

then I will lean forward,
elbows on the table,
with something to tell you,
and you will look up, as always,
your spoon dripping milk, ready to listen.


-Billy Collins (Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-2003)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tucson Bloggers Meet Up

Bloggers are a solitary bunch.  We sit at computers and type to friends we've never seen nor can ever hope to see.  We read one another's work and admire and comment and wonder - what is she really like in person?

Yesterday, Chicago Gal and I found out.

 
Becca invited me to a Mom It Forward meet-up.  That sentence can be parsed into an entire post of its own : she left the initial invitation in a long comment available to the eyes of anyone who took the time to read it; she's a young mom with a great camera and she lives here in Tucson but our lives don't intersect anyplace except in the blogosphere; Ashleigh Burroughs captivated her but she invited Suzi to the event; Mom It Forward is a great name but what is it?; a meet up???


How cool have I become?  First Alice Cooper, now a 21st century be-in .... younger readers can click over to Wikipedia for insight into the 60's version ... I am on the cutting edge here, denizens.


After milk shakes and fries at Johnny Rockets, Chicago Gal held the traffic at bay as I walker-hopped across University Avenue to the courtyard where Ben's Bells is headquartered.  

Thirty or forty bloggers and their children were gathered around tables under the trees.  It was a perfect Tucson spring day - light breeze, bright sunshine, moderate temperatures and friendly folks.  

I do so love my town.



We sat under trees, and their usual inhabitants greeted us with songs and excrement - in our hair (see left) and on our t-shirts and on our arms.  We were a happy group, we just laughed.


Our task was simple - three coats of the same color glaze on the big flowers and pretty decorations on the little ones



 Here's what it looked like :






We had long pointed sticks which fit neatly into styrofoam blocks to enable our creations to dry more quickly.

There were swag bags
and extremely wonderful t-shirts

and lots and lots of food and drink

But mostly there was laughter and joy and story telling and sorrow sharing.  There was surprise when a face was attached to a commenter (Hi, Leah!) and there was sympathy and understanding - whether the subject was increasing readership or a personal tragedy.  

Ben's Bells has a way of doing that to people.


Neatness didn't count... at least as far as my fingers were concerned.... and that was a good thing.  

Chicago Gal washed her hands carefully after we were finished.  

I took my paint home as a special memento.



Mom It Forward is coming to Tucson - bloggers doing a good deed once a month, sharing love and laughter, gifts and hugs, and getting out from behind the computer to see who the rest of us are.

Thanks, Becca, for including me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Good Teachers

The Cornell Alumni Magazine, after reporting that Gabby and I are recovering apace (seriously..... I'm a news article in my alumni magazine... this just keeps getting stranger and stranger....) went on to profile two other alumna, Michelle Rhee (former head of the DC public school system) and Randi Weingarten (president of the American Federation of Teachers). 

Two smart women, two very different ideas about what's right and what's wrong.
 *****

Arizona's legislature is on a rampage, reducing its contribution to public education and cost-shifting much of the rest to the counties.  My school district's latest budget update* includes these delightful tidbits:
  • General Fund revenues have declined by one‐third in the last 3 years
  • FY ’11 shortfall estimated at up to $(825) M followed by $(1.4) B in FY ’12 – excludes more than $1 B in suspended funding formulas
Did you notice that last phrase?  That's more than $1,000,000,000,000 of unfunded mandates, $1 Billion which was promised but is now in limbo.  We are talking about almost $2 billion dollars which were budgeted but never arrived. 

How can you run a business that way?
*****

And then I went to Prince Elementary School last week.  Miss Levine's class wanted to read me their stories about kindness.  How could I resist a room filled with 5 and 6 year old authors?  Most of the students hadn't learned the alphabet when they started class in August.  Here they were in March, proudly following along as Miss Levine's fingertip pointed to their words.

Picking up a fallen friend, helping the teacher when she needs it, sharing and caring and gratitude for the clothes their parents provided -- simple acts of selflessness that reminded us all of our better angels.  

Their reward for writing and drawing and reading?  The chance to hug me (seriously..... this was a big deal in that classroom) and then the surprise I'd brought just for them.  Extra t-shirts from the race CrossFitNow put together 14 days after I was shot, a fundraiser for Tucson Together, have been languishing in my garage since mid-January.  Outfitting 24 kindergarteners and their assorted aides and assistants and principals and teachers was a no brainer.  Look at how happy they are:


*****
Think the story can't get any sappier?  Rest assured, it can.  The principal's 5th grader attends her school.  He would have been a classmate of Christina-Taylor's brother had his mother not put her money where her mouth was, talked the talk and walked the walk, and enrolled her son in her school. 

Would you invest with an advisor who didn't have her assets heavily invested in the same instruments she was recommending to you?  Why should education be any different?  This principal is telling her clients, her constituents, the parents of her students that she values her son's education as highly as she values that of their children. 

Isn't this the kind of employee you'd be likely to reward?  Bonus?  It doesn't seem to be the kind of person from whom you would withhold basic resources.  Not that she couldn't make do without them, but because she shouldn't have to do without them.  
*****
And so I have to wonder.  How can anyone deprive those faces of anything and everything they need to learn and flourish and grow? How is that a good thing?  How can grown-ups let egoism and territoriality and politics and money interfere with helping each one of these little humans become all that she can be?  How can we create the kind of America Christina believed in if we shortchange their education?

It's a mystery, denizens.  An absolute mystery.


*Budget figures for the Amphitheater School District can be found by following this link.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fulfilling My Responsibilities

To Those of You Who Hate the Sports Posts:  Just read the highlighted portions below.  That should be enough to make you sound well-informed if you are asked to participate in a conversation about the college basketball tournament.  If even that is too much for you, come on back tomorrow for a non-sports experience.
 *****
Once again, perforations notwithstanding, I offer my services as Sportscaster for the Uninterested.   I promise that this post will allow you to participate in any conversation which touches on the start of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) men's basketball tournament, usually referred to as March Madness.

After the first night, I was leading the family pool by 25 percentage points.  Big Cuter is in London instead of on the phone with us his Hoyas play a lackluster first half in their first game..... taking place in the second round.  Were he available, I am certain that I could tell you where I stand on this, the second night .... though technically the third night.... of the tournament.

Why the confusion, you ask?  Never satisfied with leaving well enough alone, bowing to pressure, reflecting the everybody gets to participate ethos of youth sports, the NCAA has added a play-in round.  Huh?  Quickly: they've added 8 teams and ranked them 11th and pitted them one against the other in the middle of the week, without much fanfare or promotion.

I could rant on and on about the foolishness of tampering with something that works, but the new, less snarky, more in love with the world me who has emerged since January 8th frowns on kvetching about nonsense.  As Seret taught me, It is what it is.  Smile, and move on.

It is, after all, the NCAA, not exactly known for transparency or understandable actions.  I smile, thinking about the fact that I am here to not-kvetch about it.  Let's move on.

The play-in round, involving only 8 teams, is now The First Round.  Up until this year, getting past the first round or, conversely, not making it past the first round, had real meaning.  Now, it's just weird.  The first time all 64 teams play, the former first round, is now The Second Round.

Sure, and Spring Training is the first season and the 162 games which begin in April is the post season.  What that makes the playoffs and the World Series is beyond me.

But I digress.

There have been some fine moments.  Princeton played Kentucky to a 1 point difference, losing at the very end of the game.  The Tigers' coach choked up at the post game press conference, overcome with the wonder of it all. Pac-10 Player of the Year, the University of Arizona's own Derrick Williams, blocked a shot in the last few tenths of a second of the last minute of the game and the Wildcats held onto their 2 point lead.  Tucson is agog.

Big Cuter's Hoyas left their game back in D.C. and Virginia Commonwealth trounced them soundly.  Sigh.  There are fans in Louisville who are stunned that their guys are one-and-done.  Richmond will be playing Morehead State in one of the more unlikely 2nd (3rd if you're willing to go along with the NCAA) round pairings in tournament history.  A number 12 seed playing a number 13 seed; it makes you stop and wonder about the rankings themselves. 

If you feel the need for more water-cooler-fodder, try these:
  • There are some great names, like Jimmer Fredette and Momo Jones.  
  • The Butler/Pittsburgh game took 15 minutes to play the last 1 second of game-time.  Were they kids making kid mistakes or was  it referees interfering with the outcome of the game?  Is a foul a foul no matter what the clock says?
  • Duke can be counted upon to keep its cool til the very end.  Coach K is Coach K, year after year.
  • There are some interesting young coaches out there, young men with fierce eyes and stern visages and not much screaming and throwing of chairs.  Not quite John Wooden, certainly not Bobby Knight.
  • Yes, BYU cut one of its star players for admitting that he was having sex with his girlfriend.  A team full of virgins is in the Sweet 16.  Seriously.
The next series of games begins on Thursday.  I'll keep you posted.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Things to Think About Over the Weekend

  • How to locate a fabulous, indoor, airy, high ceilinged venue for the kids' wedding.... said venue to cost less than a semester's tuition.
  • How to reorganize our files, which have been duplicated and lost-then-found and are currently over-flowing.  
  • How to thank my high school classmates who have made a 70+person donation to Christina-Taylor's Fund.  Handwritten thank you's are a given; there ought to be something more that I can do.
  • How to get around my yard next week when Ernie and his guys come to spruce it up. 
  • How Reggie spent a week with us and never heard that Little Cuter and SIR were getting married.
  • Whether or not I think the Attorney General should seek the death penalty in US v Loughner.
Is it any wonder that I cannot start to think about writing a post today?   Everything else seems trivial in comparison to the last item on my list.

Everything on that list is worthy of consideration.  I can't get started on any of them, either.  

Big Cuter is off to a competition in London.  Little Cuter is awash in wedding conundrums.  I am contemplating the death penalty.  

TBG is battling a bug that keeps him sleepy.... or is that a consequence of the fact that he, too, can submit his thoughts on the subject.

I used to have an opinion about the death penalty.  It had something to do with right and wrong and certainty and power.  I can't remember what it was.

I have been concentrating on healing and choosing to ignore the justice piece of the situation.  That is no longer a viable plan.  I have two more weeks without walking; the healing is drawing to an end.  We'll be back in court on May 25th for the competency hearing; the trial could start as early as September. 

My opinion matters.  I just wish I knew what it was.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Tiny But Memorable Moment

There have been many celebrations and remembrances and convocations.  

Concerts have been held.  


T-shirts have been printed
for races


for ceremonies with the President

and for those concerts

The events have been large and well-attended and recorded for posterity on video and still cameras alike.  Attendees arrived early to secure seats.  Microphones were used.  Sometimes there was a JumboTron.  There were always some tears and there were always some smiles and some of the faces began to look familiar.  

Today was something different.


Without much publicity, without any fanfare, 2 film makers from Maui dropped by Northwest Community Park this morning.  They are driving across the southern part of America, planting native trees and wishes written on pieces of a brown paper grocery bag they thoughtfully provide. 
The hope is that the tree and the wishes will both flourish and grow.

They brought with them the velvet mesquite sitting forlornly in its hole up there.
Our Parks and Rec Arborist smiled broadly

as the Master Gardener in me wondered why he had not scored the root ball.  Laughing aloud, he explained that there were no roots circling the edges and that he had had experience with my ilk before and appreciated the love we showed for growing things. 

I was abashed but not convinced.  On the other hand, of all the trees I've planted myself here in the desert, only one has survived.  
Perhaps I'd better take some lessons from this guy?

Plant A Wish also brought a mock-up of the permanent marker which will be placed nearby.

There was an amplifier
but Supervisor Ann Day didn't need it as she shared her thoughts about mesquite trees and Tucson and healing.  

Gabe's mother planted our wishes


and then the golden shovels


got to work.


This photo shows that it is nearly impossible to use a shovel while balancing on a walker.

The whole event lasted less than an hour.
There was no brouhaha.
There was one reporter from the neighborhood's free newspaper.  He had a telephoto lens and a notebook.   He did not have a network feed.

The tree was in the ground and the sun was announcing itself with authority and it was time to go. 

I stopped to say "Hi" to Christina on my way past her tree.



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Progress

There are many things I still cannot do.  I can't drive or sit on the ground or place the soles of my feet against one another.  I cannot reach the top shelves of my closet or pantry or refrigerator.  I cannot kiss TBG without grounding myself first - the shocks after pushing the wheelchair to his side are memorable, to say the least. 

I cannot clean up the mess on the desk or the floor in the library because I can't reach and grab and cart and carry.  Take a look; it's becoming dangerous in here:



I can't bring Christina back, nor repair Gabby's brain, nor mend the hole in Mavy's heart.  If I could, I would.  But I can't.

It's all too easy to let my mind take me to the dark places.  Light reading is all that I am good for; anything that requires thought or which borders on the macabre lights up centers in my brain which are painful and scary.  Concentration is often spotty, and my ability to ward off hurtful notions is far from robust.  If you've ever wondered what good is James Patterson? let me tell you that he is the perfect antidote to voracious reader's wandering mind.  I'm captured, engaged, delighted and transported.  I am not drifting off to sunny Saturdays and gunmen.

But I don't really focus on the cannot part of my life.  It's there, whether I think about it or not.  It surprises me at times, annoys me at others, but mostly it's background noise to all the things that I can do now.

I can roll over in bed.  I can put on my own shoes and socks.  I can stand at the sink and rinse off my plate.  I can open the refrigerator and grab a bottle of sparkling water all by myself.

I can open and close car doors and front doors and garage doors - all of which involve leaning and reaching and stretching.  Ten weeks ago any lateral movement involved pain; today I move with impunity.

I am a whiz at driving the electric cart through the grocery aisles.  I can sit at the manicurist's table without wincing or rearranging my body.  I can slide across a booth to make room for a friend at the diner and I can even hold the back door of my house open for myself (ok, the walker holds it open, but still......).

I can get through a day without pain medication.  In fact, I haven't taken a pain pill since the 5th of March.  Aches and discomfort remind me of the fact that I am here and alive; I embrace the sensation and distract myself by straightening up our living space.

I can move around the house, pedaling the wheelchair with my own two feet.  My quads and hamstrings are still atrophied, but they are getting stronger and stronger.  When I first came home I couldn't bend my knee at all; today I can bring it almost to my nose.

I have vacated my throne on the love seat end of Douglas.  I can reach my own drinks and blankets and remote-control-tv-component-devices.  There is no longer a shopping bag filled with my stuff sitting on the pillow next to my throne.  It's moved into the library and I am completely able to lift it and search through it and replace it out of the way.  

My house looks more like a house and less like a rehab facility.  TBG and I agree that this is a very good thing.

I can party til the wee hours and be none the worse for wear.  I can walker-hop over curbs and on uneven surfaces and I can even carry a light bag or two as I'm doing so.  I can stand up to be hugged and I can return the squeezes.

These are all little bits of everyday life.  Since January 8th they have taken on monumental proportions.  I have three more weeks of non-weight-bearing-living, and then my small bits and pieces of progress will disappear into the box which holds those memories I choose to hide.  This hasn't been fun.  It hasn't been easy.  It hasn't been comfortable.  

But it has been.  I am here to be aggravated with how slowly I walk (G'ma beat me down the hallway this morning when Not-Kathy and I dropped in to say "Hi") and with how much time it takes to approach the sink to brush my teeth.  I am here to choose my clothes (even if I can't reach them) and to read the mail (even if getting out to the retrieve it from the curb is an exhausting task).  

I am here.  

That is a good thing.  All the rest is window dressing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Love at the TFOB

Not-Kathy signed on to SuziSit at the Tucson Festival of Books last Saturday.  Her mom, Ernie, came along, too.  The three of us, along with about 40,000 other Tucsonans, wandered through white tents and books in print and electronic books and jugglers and mariachis and The Berenstain Bears.   The sun was out, a breeze was blowing, and the UofA students were on Spring Break, leaving their beautiful campus for us to enjoy.  

Just another wonderful reason to be in Tucson.

Parking was more onerous than any of us had expected, but Not-Kathy took charge and thanks to Ernie's yellow Sam Hughes permit, we were on the Mall only 10 minutes later than we'd hoped to be.  Entering through the kids' area, a school chorus provided the soundtrack as we strolled/rolled past a hands-on physics experiment involving a giant yellow I-beam and a movable fulcrum.   

It was full but not crowded until we got to the Arizona Star's tent.  They were three and four deep outside the open doorway to Merle Reagle's word games event.  Last year there were some empty seats for this same opening-of-the-Festival session; next year I'm bringing breakfast and getting there at 9:30.  

Turning away, we browsed the booksellers' tents and smelled the roasting kettle corn.  After a brief stop in the Culinary Tent, laughing with Janos Wilder and wondering a bit about his co-presenter, we decided to listen to my friend Larry Kramer talk about his new book, C-Scape.   There's a whole post to be written about his ideas; stay tuned.

C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today It was a little bit of Marin heaven for me, and I snuggled into the wheelchair, with myegg-crate cushion wrapped in Not-Kathy's guild's quilt and a smile plastered onto my face.

Kramer is a natural raconteur, and since he's got a great face to watch and equally wonderful stories to tell the hour passed without a single ache or twinge.  I love being distracted while my mind is being engaged.  Ernie asked a question and so did a few others and then it was time to introduce him to my friends and to hug and talk about how all our kids are doing.  As we were talking, a woman approached and I stepped back so that she could talk to the author and she stopped me.

"No, please, I came to talk to you!"
This is what my life has become.  Kramer brought us SportsWatch and MarketWatch and teaches at Syracuse University and has written a book.  I, who have done not much more than get shot and recover and have a positive mental attitude, I am the object of her attentions.  All we could do was laugh.  He'd asked me how I was doing; I turned to him and said "This is how I am doing."  Not-Kathy and Ernie and Kramer got to see the love that has enveloped me since January 8th.  It was nice to share, even if it was just a little bit odd.

We ate mediocre hamburgers (it was the shortest line) and I revived myself with 16 ounces of Coca-Cola and then we headed to the bookstore.  Not too much pressure at all is being applied to The Youngest, a senior in high school who's been accepted to the College of Nursing at the UofA.  Not too much at all.  As evidence, I offer the fact that another panel was attended before we began to shop, and only one item was purchased.  But the "Come to Tucson" vibes were pretty strong nonetheless.

How I Planned Your Wedding: The All-True Story of a Mother and Daughter Surviving the Happiest Day of Their LivesThe panel was held on the lower level of the bookstore, right at the opening of the elevator.  These things have become relevant to me.  We sat 5 rows back on the end and listened to Susan Wiggs #1 New York Times Best Selling Author and her daughter Elizabeth Wiggs Maas answer questions on their book How I Planned Your Wedding.

And I took a moment and thought about my life.  Strangers are hugging me and Little Cuter is getting married and Not-Kathy's Youngest might live 20 minutes from my house and wasn't it 15 minutes ago that they were babies?  I watched a mom talk about her daughter's wedding and it felt great.  

I have been sharing my horror; it was nice to share my joy. 

http://iamthebeholder.wordpress.com/

We thought it would be a session on turning a blog into a book; obviously I was interested.  It turned out to be a session on wedding planning.

I took issue with a lot of the mom's advice/actions/conclusions, but, to be fair, she wasn't always happy with herself either.  Elizabeth just smiled... with her amazing curls, and acted like the Disney Princess I wanted to be when I was 5.

Not-Kathy and Ernie and I rolled our eyes and shook our heads and nodded in agreement and wondered and laughed and looked confused.  We were having our own little party over there on the side of the room.


 

And so started the Tucson piece of the Little Cuter and SIR Engagement Celebration Tour.  We three had our own participatory experience, an experience we would never have had were it not for the kids' impending nuptials. There was some good advice and some timely warnings and, of course, there was a book to buy.


I chatted with the Wiggs girls about Little Cuter and getting shot and Tucson and others came by to share the love and then they inscribed the book for the kids and I left, fully intending to put it in an envelope and mail if off on Monday.


But something happened.  I don't know why, but I opened the book with a red pen in hand and I began to read and re-write it. Right now I'm on page 30 and I'm having a grand old time.  I'll send it on to Little Cuter with a blue pen attached; it's so nice of the Wiggs' to have given us the outline for our own wedding book.

The Tucson Festival of Books is many things; as a venue for an engagement event, I'm betting that this was a first.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 Strikes Again

I had a more lighthearted post scheduled for Monday, but I've been transfixed by the images coming out of Japan and I just can't be that carefree right now.  Heidi's Youngest Child is a working artist in China; he landed at the Tokyo Airport 10 minutes before the first quake hit.

I do not like seeing "the ceiling that almost fell on me" pictures.

Heeding his mother's urgings, he's trying to come home.  It's terrifying.  Once again, as Jerry calls it, The Horror.

CNN ended a report with "come Hell or high water" ... and the video was of just that.  6 miles in from the shoreline, tsunami driven cars and boats and houses were lined up in a mishmash of recognizable shapes along the side of the road. For context,  I went to San Francisco - the street looked just like Geary where Little Cuter and some girlfriends and I had real Russian Jewish deli a decade or so ago.

I can only imagine the misery and pain of those who are awaiting word from loved ones.  My imagination in this regard is pretty vivid.  It's awful and I'm powerless and I ache.  I now understand first hand for myself right now just what my friends felt when they heard what had happened to me.

I need to do something and I don't know what.  So I thought of those healing vibes you all have been sending my way?  I'm down to mild discomfort now so I hereby release them from my sphere .  I'll ask you to direct them across the ocean to Japan.

Travel safely, Roo.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Healing Through Music

Alice Cooper posed for pictures.  Jackson Browne hugged me.  Graham Nash thanked me for being there.

It was quite a night.

Second row from the stage, on the end, my wheelchair and Concert Buddy and I grooved and rocked out and sniffled.  I did a little sobbing and lots of hugging; Concert Buddy was amazed at the number of people who felt the need to touch me.  

The woman who saved my life by staunching my leg wound found me and embraced me and shared the love over Little Cuter and SIR's engagement.  Mavy introduced me to her grandson - her date for the evening since her husband died at the event which was the genesis for this concert.  Ozomatli on the stage; dead friends in our hearts.

It was quite a night.

I had my own personal security guard - a moonlighting US Marshal who had seen me the day before at the Federal Courthouse.  We agreed that this was much more fun.  He transported me safely back and forth from the arena to the Hospitality Suite to the after party.

Yes, the after party.  With our credentials lanyarded around our necks, Concert Buddy and I drank Perrier and ate mesquite cake with David Crosby and Joel Rafael and paparazzi and Dr. Ponytail.

Yes, Dr. Ponytail and Dr. Mrs. Ponytail were there, too.  Turns out she was the anesthesiologist for my second surgery.  We laughed about my irritated uvula and discussed pain control and it was almost like a regular evening with friends.  Except that Graham Nash was telling a joke 10' away from us.  

Alice Cooper is a very nice man.  Polite, charming, well-spoken and kind.  He didn't wear his makeup, nor did he dismember any living things.  He came to the Hospitality Suite before the concert began and posed for pictures - lots and lots and lots of pictures - and he never looked stressed or annoyed or anything except glad to be there.  I've never hung out with Alice Cooper before; I'd recommend it highly if you get the chance.

Ron Barber is Gabrielle Giffords' District Director and he conceived the idea for this concert while lying on a bed in the ICU.  The man was shot in the groin and in the face and he spent his time thinking of how to make something good come out of the situation.  It's no wonder that he has such a spectacular family

These are his granddaughter's feet, festooned with remembrance bracelets which were too big for her arms.

My little phs camera wasn't up to the task, but these are the best of the photos I took.  As you look at them, keep this picture in your heart
Ruben Morena of Luz de Luna
That is me with the mariachi who sang to me at the UMC Memorial Garden on January 12th.  Can't you feel the love?

Jerry Riopelle (right)
Joel Rafael
Joel Rafael, Graham Nash, David Crosby
Dar Williams
Jackson Browne & Dar Williams
Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave) 
Lights on Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne and Luz de Luna Mariachis
(Should you be inclined to donate to the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding Click Here . And thanks to Brother Type for the tiny url)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Getting Through to the Other Side

We had a moment or two.

The sun was shining and Burger King makes a great Whopper and there was no traffic on I-10.  We found the open air lot and G'ma's handicapped parking placard came in handily as we slipped right into the closest parking space available.  There's a beautiful courtyard behind the Federal Courthouse and TBG took his time pushing me past the fountain, stopping to let me fondle the newly-cut grassy lawn.  In Tucson, well tended grass is a rarity and worthy of proper consideration.  Homage was paid and we moved on.

There is a well-signed but very long pathway to the accessible entrance to the building.  Rather than entering covertly through the rear, he had to push me around to the front of the building where, not surprisingly, the gaggle of reporters and cameramen were gathered in the shade.  That's when it started for me.

We've been receptive to repeated requests for comments.  We've limited the scope of the inquiries to what we feel and what happened and how I am progressing.  The larger issues, the societal issues, the legal and moral issues - those we've avoided discussing on film.  But yesterday was different; there were only those meta-issues to be discussed.  My feelings were specific and overwhelming and, in some ways, unclear.  They were certainly not to be shared.  We said "No Comment, please" and moved on.  We couldn't stop them from taking pictures, though.

TBG pushed faster as the doorway was opened by one of the many many Victims Assistance staff members.  It must be nice to have a job where your back up consists of US Marshals - ones with badges and don't-mess-with-me faces.  Those faces reflected nothing but concern for my well-being as their hands searched every bit of my wheelchair .  Did they "wand" me?  I'm not sure.  I was having a moment.

Without warning, I was scared.  Terrified.  Vulnerable.  The last time I'd participated in a civic event there were bullets involved.  That memory came back fiercely, and the tears flowed.  I was shaking and TBG was hugging and the Marshals had furrowed brows.  Tissues were produced (these Victims Assistance people think of everything) and I took a deep breath and the moment passed.  

I hate being surprised by fear.  It's not the way I define myself.  But it was there and it was real and I had to embrace it.  The time for denial was long gone.  We were in the Federal Courthouse and the process was underway.  There was real danger, of course, but there were also all those US Marshals.

I was glad that TBG had encouraged me to use the wheelchair in lieu of my walker; the distances we traveled were long and slippery.  I'd still be hopping today.  Instead, we glided swiftly down corridors and through locked doorways with alarms which sounded after 15 seconds - no one was sneaking in behind us.  Up the elevator and down another hallway and into an anteroom which was as sterile as they come.  This was not a place for random visiting.

I met the other survivors - Mavy held my hand and told me I could be strong as the tears flowed down my cheeks and my heart was pounding in my chest.  More tissues, more hugs and lots and lots of sympathy.  The others were made of sterner stuff, it seems.  I was a puddle.  The representative from Homicide Survivors, Inc. put her face in front of mine and reminded me to breathe.  She was sympathetic and strong - exactly the combination I needed at the moment.

I began to relax.  Clearly, we were surrounded by experts.

One of the prosecutors briefed us on what was to follow - where we would go, how we would get there, where we would sit (a cut out was provided for my wheelchair) and how we would be protected.  And protected we were.  The courtroom was filled with US Marshals; they surrounded the room like wallpaper.  Big, slight, brown, white, black, male, female they all shared one common trait - their eyes were trained like lasers on the room.  I've never seen so many people focused on one space.  There was no yawning, no shuffling of feet, no wandering gazes.  They were on the job and doing it well.

Since their job was to protect me, I was glad to see it.

The gallery space was 3 or 4 rows of pews with padded cushions; the doors opened and in poured the media.  Some we recognized and some were strangers but they were all looking at us and typing away on their devices.  I focused on TBG and the Marshals.  The Victims Assistance staff were seated all around us, forming a human barrier.  Their attention was focused on us; it helped to know that we were not alone, that they had our backs, that every few minutes one of them would walk over and explain something about the room or the people or, most important, would offer reassurance that we were safe and secure.

There was only a small wooden barrier between my self and the defendant's chair.  It didn't look like much of a deterrent.  TBG reassured me -"Just let him try to come at you. Just let him try."   It's nice to have a protector by your side. 

Mavy prayed and I shook as the side door opened and in he came.  Shackled.  Chained.  Locked.  Smirking.

He's a puny little person, with extra long sideburns and (as the Arizona Star so eloquently put it this morning) fuzz on his chin.  That ubiquitous mug shot makes him seem larger and fleshier and scarier than he is in person.  He's a wimpy, shrimpy punk.

That's my opinion, anyway.

His affect was weird enough to encourage Judge Burns to order a competency hearing.  No sense in getting started if he's unable to assist in his defense or to understand the nature of the proceedings against him.  The defense wanted to put the hearing off so that she could bond with her client; that went no where fast.

Judge Burns owns his courtroom.  TBG, a recovering lawyer, said "In this room he is God."  He's a fairly benevolent deity as far as I could tell.  He listened respectfully, he was totally prepared,  he was well-spoken and thoughtful and he embodied impartiality.

I'm not a big fan of impartiality right now, I must admit.  I have a certain bias in this case.  Sitting in the gallery, feeling quite insignificant, I realized that I am involved in the ultimate game with an ultimate arbiter and the ultimate penalty.  I want everything to go my way, I want all the decisions to be in my favor, I am anxious with each and every motion presented, and I really really care about the outcome.

But the outcome doesn't define the situation.  Christina-Taylor and Judge Roll and Mavy's husband are still gone.  Nothing can alter that fact, and that's the fact that lives in the corner of my soul every day.  I laugh, I listen to music, I gossip with friends and I feel just a little bit sad. 

I'm telling you - there is a big cry coming.

For now, I'd like to thank the people of the United States for prosecuting the person we believe perpetrated this evil.  Innocent until proven guilty..... I've never had such a big stake in such a profoundly personal and disturbingly inexplicably intensely public issue.  I'm wounded in my soul and there are only temporal remedies available to me.  

I am so glad that I was there.  The pipsqueak is demystified, reduced to an insignificant speck in my space.  I watched the process and felt safe.  Everyone was doing an important job and no one was grandstanding or being obtuse.  The citizenry's business was being conducted with honor and grace.  I was proud to be there.

And this morning I woke up and the sun was shining and I, the Official Grandmother of Prince Elementary School, who was announced as such this morning before the Mob Dance at Field Day


I was in the presence of such joy


such hope


such promise


 that the world seemed as if it were once again righting itself on its axis.



I want to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it.  I want America to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.  

~ President Barack Obama, Wednesday, January 12, 2011 ~

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