Friday, March 29, 2013

Transportation, 21st Century Style

Big Cuter lives a car-less life style.  He cabs, he walks, he takes the subway, he rides the streetcar. He'll ride the bus to visit one friend, but tries to avoid it otherwise.  I'm jealous of all of his options.

Zipcars live in the garaged under his building. He carries a card in his wallet, has the site bookmarked on his computer, and with two clicks and a few entries he can be behind the wheel of a Mazda 3 or an Audi A4 or a Honda Civic.  He could rent a van or a pick-up, too.  The vehicles live in named parking spaces: Mary Jane, Ocean Beach.... it's a San Francisco smile every time we discover a vehicle.

Today we drove a Ford Focus hybrid out to Marin and back.  There were too many buttons on the dashboard, and nobody could figure out how to unlock the passenger doors.  The turn signal had issues with turning off, and the hybrid recharging system made an interesting rumble under my seat as it gathered power.  But the gas and insurance were included in the price, and the FastTrak for the bridge made crossing a no-brainer. Hertz has never offered to pay for my gasoline or my tolls.

There's no one examining the car for dents and dings.  There's no paperwork to sign.  It's first-come-first-served, which is how we ended up in the Focus instead of the Mazda this morning, but that's the sum of my complaints about the system.

For $30 odd dollars we came and went at our own pace.  We were finished with our visits and our eating and our sightseeing an hour or so earlier than we'd planned, and the bill will reflect that, too.  All it took was a pass of the Zipcard over the sensor mounted on the front windshield.

When I'm asked how I'd get around Phoenix if I took the yet-to-be-constructed light rail, Zipcar is my answer.  I imagine driving to the station a mile or so from my house in Tucson, leaving The Schnozz in a covered parking space, and boarding a train to the big city up north.  It's 110 miles that could be traversed  while I slept, or blogged, or read.  I wouldn't have to worry about encountering dust storms or high winds or a hazmat collision which closes the only road for hours.  Once in Phoenix, I'd get into my Zipcar, see what had to be seen, do what had to be done, drop off the car, and ride home in comfort.

There's no national will for big projects in America today. This would be a massive undertaking, creating jobs in all sorts of arenas.  Engineers to design it, landscape architects to beautify it, surveyors and track layers and conductors and station agents and and and it will never happen.

How do I know this? Another study is being undertaken.  Don't get me wrong; I like studies as much as the next social scientist.  It's just that this one is so obvious I wonder what they are looking to find.  Would I ride it?  Would it make my life easier?  Would I travel to Phoenix more often?  Yes, yes and yes.

It seems that they are not asking the right questions.  How about wondering if the lack of rail service between the two cities has impaired my ability to live a full and complete life?  How do you quantify the fact that I skipped a hearing at the State Legislature last week because I didn't want to spend three hours driving a straight line between home and the capital?  As the interwebs bring us closer together, physical distance is still a stumbling block to effective communication with our legislators. Perhaps the discussion over creating a State Gun would have had a different resonance if Tucsonans had traveled there en masse, on the train, two weeks after we were shot in front of the Safeway?

We'll never know.  I can't imagine it being created in my lifetime.  I just know that I'd be very happy to use it to visit The Golden Gopher, Karina, Miss Popularity, the Heard Museum, the Cubbies in Spring Training.... all that a bigger city has to offer.

I'll continue to dream about it.  That, I know, I can do.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Blooming Flowers


The snapdragons have begun to bloom. Planted in November, they did nothing for months. They were green, leafy stalks, which never drooped and never flowered. They were just there. The same can be said for the amaryllis. The bulb went in before Thanksgiving; the stalk arose last Monday. The wildflowers are erupting, covering the yard with blue and white mini-blossoms. Individually, they aren't that impressive. Collectively, it's a marvel.

Publishers Clearing House sent us an entry form, and TBG insisted that I open it and send it in. My luck was sure to win us the big prize, he insisted. Unfortunately for our bank balance, there were offers in the packet. An unkinkable hose is now proudly attached to the bib under the front window, just behind the bougainvilla. They, too, have begun to sprout. There are little red leaves nestled amidst the woody stumps Ernie pruned back.

I spent the morning watering, soaking, drowning the containers. The carnations are happy with soil that's a little bit too dry; they smiled up at me as I prepared them for my absence. It's Spring, Tucson is a-bloom, and TBG and I are on a plane to visit Big Cuter in San Francisco.

My suitcase is filled with sweaters and long sleeve shirts and jeans. Their time has passed in Tucson, but San Francisco calls for warmth. I always think of our first visit with HDK and Zanner; she and I refused to do anything else unless the boys took us to a store and bought us sweaters. Lots of sweaters. We were young, we had no dependents, money grew on trees, and we were cold. There was nothing they could say; we found a boutique and clothed ourselves appropriately. Even Chicago didn't chill us to the bone the way the wind whipping off the ocean did in Baghdad by the Bay.

The flowers on Lombard Street were amazing that weekend.

Auntie Em's test results were happy news, and so were the Big Cheese's. Getting good news from the doctors is cause for rejoicing these days. Everyone I know has something.... even those who never get anything. New babies with tumors-the-doctors-are-watching, husbands with heart attacks and blocked arteries, the human race is falling apart at the seams..... at least those who are close to me.

And yet, the snapdragons are blooming and the amaryllis is about to burst forth. Life goes on.

After pilates and a massage, I was moving gracefully across the living room last night, as TBG tried to breathe through allergies... or a cold.... or just the gods conspiring to get in the way of his visit to his boy. He's looked forward to this all year long... watching sports, watching his son, eating delivery pizza, feeling the love. The fact that his ears are ringing and his eyes are watering is bothering him, but not enough to cancel the trip. He's a trouper, my husband, I'll give him that.

I wonder if the amaryllis had issues, too. It's blooming much later than it should.

Raylan is back to shooting people. I can't figure out why his brand of violence doesn't upset me; can it be that he's just so damn good looking? Last night, I decided it was his attitude. “Don't you get up every morning looking forward to messing up some bad guy's day? I do.” I kept that phrase in mind as I made my morning calls to my Senators, reminding them that I was still as opposed to gun violence - and their lack of interest in the issue - as I was yesterday. I smiled to myself at the irony, though I didn't share it aloud. Some things are best kept to oneself.

Congress can't manage to keep weaponry away from those who have no business wielding it, and the snapdragons are still blooming. They don't seem to care. I'm hanging on to the notion that I can learn something from those blooms. They waited for the right time to make their appearance. Not my right time, but theirs. I did what I could with fertilizer, but they move at their own pace. I'm around, but I'm not significant.

I think that's my underlying dilemma. I know that responsible gun legislation's time is now... but I don't seem to be able to move the issue along. I know that my family and friends are suffering, but there is nothing I can do except send love. I'm awash in good intentions, but my actions are small and feel meaningless.

On the other hand, perhaps the lesson the flowers are teaching me is that “all things come to those who wait.” I don't know. I don't have a choice. I can only sit and watch, doing what I can do, hoping for the best.

It's not much, it's just everything.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Channeling Daddooooo

We made the hand off at Pilates.  My 10am class was ending, and JannyLou's 11am private lesson was beginning.  Mr. T was the prize to be shared.  I found him on the bench in the waiting area, receiving $1.50 in coins and bills from my classmate; for some reason, she decided that it was her obligation to provide him with the funds for a soda from the Subway next door.  No one is exactly sure why she felt the need to pay for his thirst quenching, but she did, and he is now $1.50 richer than he was when he woke up this morning.

It doesn't take a lot to put a smile on the face of a nine year old.

Leaving JannyLou to open her pectoral musculature, we considered our options.  Nope, he didn't want to walk with the kids at Prince.  Nope, he was too old for a playground.  Nope, I'm not up for hiking.  Nope, he wasn't interested in being my second set of hands and legs as I extended my irrigation system to include the containers in the courtyard.  

He was hungry.  He was thirsty. We settled on In-and-Out Burgers, although spaghetti was his answer to "What would you choose if you could eat anything in the world?"  It made no sense to me, but that was of no consequence.  Burgers and fries and Sprite it would be.  

Then, he told me that he'd never been to a hardware store.  Actually, the sentence was even more shocking - "What is a hardware store?"  For a girl who grew up with Daddooooo, that was as close to a sin as I could imagine.  Since there's an Ace Hardware two doors down from Pilates, we took some time to remedy that gap in his education.

We strolled past Anytime Fitness, considering how cool it would be to have a key to a gym that let you work out at 3am.  There were men on stationary bikes reading books, and women doing squats and smiling as we walked by, and then I nearly tripped over the gentleman poised outside the Ace, selling gas grills.  

I really ought to pay more attention to my surroundings.  

The front of a hardware store is filled with Buy Me Right Now treasures.  We scoped out the mini-flashlights, the key chains, the tiny screwdrivers.  "Why is it a hardware store?" he wondered, so I asked a red shirted friendly helper who drew the connection between computer hardware and software.  These were things we could touch and feel.  Though he didn't say, I imagine the creation/repair is the software piece to his analogy. I'm not looking at it too closely, though, and neither was Mr. T.

There were rows of rope and light bulbs and tools.  We spent some time in the nails and screws and bolts and washers aisle, opening the drawers and peering inside.  Some of those screws were bigger and thicker and heavier than he'd imagined they could be.  The gentleman standing two feet further down the aisle smiled as he overheard our chatter.... and I flashed to my dad, who would never have let that conversation go uninterrupted.

I could hear him explaining all the uses for the giant screw Mr. T was fondling.  I could hear him demanding to know all about Mr. T.... name, rank and serial number.  I could feel my stomach churning as I worried about what inappropriate, funny-in-his-mind-only, comment would come out of his mouth.  His presence was palpable.  He was there, with me, even if Mr. T didn't know it.

Daddooooo could and did spend hours at a time in hardware stores.  Kids were always welcome, but, since you never knew how long the adventure would last, I rarely went with him.  Of course, the fact that he didn't think that woodworking and electrical repairs and plumbing fixing weren't things that girls needed to know had something to do with my reluctance to join in his fun.  It's only in retrospect that I miss him and the dusty wooden floors of Faine and Seville, the hardware store in town.

Now, there are no more Messers Faine and Seville, there are only Friendly Ace Hardware Men.  Mr. T will find the screws in the same aisle in any Ace in any city.  I could bemoan the homogenization of life, but you've heard it all before.  Today, without anything to serve as a comparison, Mr. T was delighted and there was no reason to interfere with his pleasure.  I kept my thoughts to myself.

We bought him a $2 water rocket (which neither he, nor I, nor Grandpa Eddie can figure out... and YES, we should have asked for help before we left the store, as Mr. T noted as we struggled with the tube) after spending a considerable amount of time examining the moving monkeys (think the Singing Bass from several Christmases ago) and the wooden slingshots and rubber-band guns.  Daddooooo made those same toys for my kids when they were small; the man was everywhere, in spirit, at least.

At the checkout lane, the Friendly Ace Hardware Woman wondered if Mr. T had his Cookie Credit Card with him today.  Puzzled but intrigued, he shook his head as she reached below the counter for the square of paper on which she inscribed his name.  Now, each time he brings an adult into that particular Ace, he'll receive a bag of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies.

This may be his first credit card.  I left the "use it wisely" lecture for his parents.

We paid, we said thanks, he held the door for me.  As we walked down the sidewalk to my car, I noticed a black butterfly resting on the ground.  Mr. T stepped carefully over its gently beating wings and I watched it fly away... tears in my eyes.

Ten years ago, sitting shiva after Daddooo's funeral, I opened the screen door to the house to let some visitors in.  Accompanying them was a small black butterfly.  Someone tried to capture it, and, without thinking, I said "Don't touch it! It's Daddooooo!"  The tiny beast flew around the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, checking out the guests.  Then, as the doorbell rang once more, it followed me to the hallway and flew away.

No one could tell me that wasn't my Dad checking out the party. Don't even try to dissuade me from knowing that he was with me today, too.  After all, I was taking a kid to a hardware store.  Where else would he be?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Eagles Dancing

Thank you, Little Cheese, for finding this for us! If you're wondering what it is, read today's post.

When Plans Go Awry

I'm sure that this has happened to me before.  I just can't remember when so many plans were foiled before they even began... or when they were just getting underway. Stroll with me through the past few weeks:

TBG had water sloshing around in his ear for a whole weekend before he decided that a doctor should look at it.  After an examination, he was given Cipro ear drops. They were supposed to dry up the water and clear up the infection that was beginning to set in.  After eight of the prescribed ten days of use, the ringing in his head was still there.... all day... every day.  He went back to the doctor, who told him that the prescription drops were thickening his ear drum and causing the ringing.

He's got a prescription nasal inhalant and the doctor's assurance that flying won't hurt him and that the ringing will go away.  For some reason, we're believing it this time.  It just wasn't the original plan.
*****
Big Cuter's Hoyas were stomped by a team from nowhere, Florida Gulf Coast University.  This puts a serious crimp in our upcoming March-Madness-Watching-Extravaganza this weekend.  I've had to rethink my packing list, removing the Georgetown tees.  He's hurting enough, poor boy.  No need to have my clothing remind him of the fact that his alma mater will not be winning the whole thing, as his pool predicted it would.  His sister's Hoosiers and his parents Wildcats are still in the running, but he's switching allegiances to the FGCU Eagles.

Going along with the theme of this post, I tried to find you a video of the Eagles' victory dance, but Youtube disappointed me, as did the FGCU Fan Website, as did Google and Bing. You'll just have to imagine 7' tall 20-somethings crouching over, flapping their elbows/wings.  It's worth it to watch the game, even if you don't like basketball, to have them warm your hearts.
*****
I went to a Balance Class at pilates, today.  The teacher is well-trained, the studio was only slightly too warm for my comfort, and I left half-way through.  I can't take all my weight on my right leg while pointing and flexing and tossing my left leg in every direction known to man.  I can't do lunges.  I can't ... I can't... I can't.... when the can'ts got to be too much for me I fled the scene.

I'm not a quitter.  I never leave early.  Yet, there I was, a puddle in the front seat of my car.  I try to avoid situations that remind me of what I've lost.  I wish I'd stayed home today.
*****
I was all set to make Seret's special salad dressing for dinner, until a perusal of my pantry revealed the absence of apple cider vinegar.  I've come up with many on-the-fly-substitutions in my time, but nothing the interwebs showed me was possible without a trip to the store.

I was already in my pajamas and slippers.  I wasn't leaving the house.  Frozen pizzas worked as a fall back plan, though my mouth was hungry for garden clippings all night long.
*****
JannyLou needs 30 minutes of grand-kid-sitting tomorrow and I'm happy to help.  Of course, given how my week has been going, saying yes means I can't walk with the kids at Prince.  The time frames overlap.  There aren't going to that many 60 degree days left this school year; my heart is torn.

I could take the kid with me to walk, but that's not much of an adventure for him.  No second grader wants to go to another school on his own Spring Break, after all.
*****
These are the stumbling blocks I can remember.  I'm sure there have been more.  It feels as if the world is conspiring against me.

I'm happiest when my plans come together.  I'm miserable when they end up in a Jenga-like-heap.  I'd hoped to out-grow this need to know what's coming next, this insistence on making a plan and sticking to it, this desire to have the outcome match my intention.

I can't get over the disappointments.  I'm struggling with the uncertainties.  I'm adrift.

This is my life when my plans go awry.

If the Yiddish proverb* is right, God is laughing pretty hard right now.
*****
*Yiddish Proverb: Man plans.  God laughs.

Monday, March 25, 2013

At the Gym

The good news is, I have more sensation in my leg.  This enables me to find and engage those pesky adductors and abductors and hamstrings and quads as I progress from throwing my leg forward to the beginning imitations of an actual step.  That step ought to include a deeper fold in my hip than I'm capable of right now, and several more degrees of flexion and extension, and space between my ribcage and my iliac crest.... but I fear I am venturing farther into too much information, especially for those of you who are reading this over your morning coffee.

The bad news is, I have more sensation in my leg.  This enables me to notice the grating of my arthritic hip bones and reconstructions as the tendons and ligaments and muscles announce their presence with authority. It's a cacophony of clicks and creaks and squeaks.... not all of them from the hip.  I admit to hollering aloud, to groaning, even to the occasional Oh, dear God.  I'm not sure why I thought that this discomfort would have disappeared by now, but I did.

What a surprise to find that there's just as much ouchiness roaming around; how odd to realize that only the location varies.  I comfort myself with the thought that if new parts are hurting the old parts must be working pretty well.  As one part grows stronger, another part can step up, front and center, to demand my attention.

That is the body I took to the gym this morning.

It was hard to force myself to go inside.  The sun was shining, the temperatures were in the 70's, the air smelled clear and crisp. It's a good thing that the drive over takes only two minutes and passes nary a distraction.... except Christina's park... which would involve more movement than I was planning.  I got there, parked, and stretched myself over a partially deflated but still gigantic plastic ball.  There was a time when thinking about lying on my belly made me cringe.  This morning, I was able to tilt my achy pelvis up and down, to raise my legs straight out behind me, to get onto and off the ball without crashing to the ground.

It's the little things that make me happy, that keep me going, that reinforce the entire endeavor.  Those rear leg lifts were small bonus points on the scorecard of my recovery.  I have to remember to take note when they show up.

The more I use them, the more my muscles respond when I need them. I remind myself of this as I lumber from one piece of equipment to the other, from the mats to the calf raise.  I place the pin in the lightest setting and settle myself on the balls of my feet.  Closing my eyes, listening to Bobby Blue Bland croon the blues, I concentrate on keeping my hips level as my heels go up and down and down and up and up up down down, as my hips try to follow them, to take the pressure off my awakened coral reef of balls and sockets.  That's what it feels like - hard, bony protuberances rubbing up against one another.  It's only natural that my body would want to protect itself  What's unnatural, what must be learned, over and over again, is that maintaining space between those places will, ultimately, lead to healing.

I just wish it weren't so all encompassing, so never ending, so always there.

And that's what I was thinking when I opened my eyes after my first set and looked to my left.  There, next to the dip bar, was the 30-something with the prosthetic lower leg. No, I'm not going for the cheap and easy way out here.... look at him/look at me/get a grip, girl.... because I see him in the gym whenever I'm there and he's always working hard and reminding me, by his very presence, that perseverance is crucial and possible.  No, this morning he took it one step more.

This morning I saw him looping a chain through three, forty-five-pound-plates.  He attached that chain to a weight belt around his waist and did three sets of dips, lowering and raising himself from right-angles to upright by moving his arms.  The rest of his body stayed still.  It looked like this guy, only with two more plates and one less leg.
I've never approached him before, but this could not go unremarked.  I strode over as confidently as I could manage on my screaming lower extremity, introduced myself and my back-story, mentioned how he'd been an on-going inspiration, and then wondered just exactly what I was to think when he strapped himself into all that weight -- did he really want me to believe that I could do something just as outrageous?  

We laughed, we shared rehab-encouraging-words, we went back to work. I may not be up to 135 pounds dangling from my waist, but I did do an extra set, added some extra weight, thought of those three plates hanging down, clanging against the metal prosthesis while his arms went up and down, perfect form in each repetition.  I thought of him as I swam for half an hour, back and forth, using those glutes and the tiny little muscles that connect my torso to my legs, listening to them protesting but drowning the outcry with that conversation... that young man.... that inspiration.

If he can do it, and smile, what is my problem?

Friday, March 22, 2013

While Watching the Basketball

Hour after hour of young men in shorts tossing an orange ball through a hoop may not be everyone's idea of heaven, but, for our family, there's no better time of the year.  The boys were on the phone all afternoon, my inbox is full of Reply All messages cheering and jeering, and I left the CTGMF Spring Training Dodgers v Cubs game at Kino Stadium today at the seventh inning stretch to be home in time for Arizona's first game.

I did stay to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
*****
There are lots of empty green seats in the arena; apparently, the Gonzaga fans didn't stick around for the second game.  It's basketball's version of all-dressed-up-and-nobody-watching. I have to think that those tickets could have been put to good use, somehow.  There has to be a Boys and Girls Club that would have been delighted to use them for this game.
*****
There are four regions in the tournament..  It's odd to think of Harvard playing in the West, but it's just wrong that the Palace of Auburn Hills, in Michigan, is hosting the South this year. California is playing UNLV in San Jose, California.  That's where the East is holding its first round.

Doesn't anybody at the NCAA look at a map?
*****
We've got a lot of skin in these games, with one kid a Hoosier and the other a Hoya. The Bride and The Pharmacist are Jayhawks, and TBG and I have to express some allegiance to our hometown Wildcats.

Still, nothing comes close to the connection I felt in the late 1970's to the DePaul Blue Demons.  They practiced and played in a small gym two blocks from our apartment; we'd walk down the street and see the game.  Kids could shoot baskets during half-times.  The boys were local heroes, and we followed their every move, even as they disappointed us, year after year.

Sometimes, it hurts to be a true fan.
*****
ESPN.com makes comparing our brackets a much simpler task than it used to be.  Still, I print them all out every year.  TBG is using the magnifying glass to read them right now.

We used to take them out of the newspaper.  The brackets were printed on the centerfold of the tabloids, or on a full page of the many-folded NYTimes.  Those words were much easier to read, and we were much younger, then.  It just doesn't seem fair that the type is smaller as my eyes get weaker.
*****
I missed the Oregon game.  That did not disappoint me. My eyes are still recovering from the last time I saw them.  They were wearing neon green - shoes, socks (some thigh high), tops and shorts.  And the shorts did not stop there - there was a camouflage pattern embedded within the screaming greenness.

It was really hard to watch.

I'm not averse to bright colors.  Missouri's bright yellow shirts, shorts, and shoes just make me smile.
*****
"Excessive, severe or extreme contact" is being discussed after a California player took an elbow to the face.

An Arizona player mouthed off and received a technical in the first minutes of their first game.

Being a referee is a lot like being a mom.  "Not so hard!" "Watch your mouth!"
*****
The announcer just described the Wildcats as being "a team with ADHD," a statement which, while unfair to those who are truly diagnosed, is a fairly accurate representation of their performance all season.  They really do have a hard time paying attention all the way through a game.

On the other hand, he went on to say that if they played the way they played tonight, when they played well, they can beat any team in the country. And that's what my boys have been saying all season long; there is such parity in college basketball that any team on any night can take it all away.

That's the real fun of March Madness, after all.
*****
There is so much twirling and touching and rolling and bouncing before a free throw is taken that I'm getting vaguely seasick watching the end of the Cal/UNLV game.  The boys who look at the basket and bend their knees rarely miss.

They may not look as cool, but they rarely miss.
*****
I picked New Mexico but I'm not too sad to see Harvard leading in the first half.  Their center has four fouls in this same first half, and he just lost his shoe running for the ball.  I'm not too worried.
****
The Arizona players were in the stands for the Harvard/New Mexico game.  That made sense; they will meet the winner on Saturday.  I was complaining to TBG that the boys were playing on their cell phones instead of scouting their opponents when the announcer made the same point.

I felt special.
*****
With four and a half minutes left, Harvard is up by 6 and then the game ends and Harvard beats New Mexico for their first post season victory ... ever.

My soul is happy, though my bracket is weeping.
*****

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Random Thoughts - The Pre-March Madness Edition

I have years and years of our family pools, printed out, winners circled, Cinderella teams and final four choices written in handwriting that grew as the kids did.  It's all electronic these days, but TBG and I still print them out and shuffle through them; some things just need to be fondled.

I didn't create a pool for The Burrow this year; life got ahead of me, it seems. Personally, between Little Cuter's Hoosiers and Big Cuter's Hoyas and The Bride's Jayhawks and our local Wildcats I've got animals and unknowables aplenty to cheer on to victory.  It's going to be a wonderful few weeks.
*****
My friends have been doing interesting things lately.  Liz went to Indian Wells just for the heck of it.  Karina did faux-sky diving in an indoor air-will-hold-you-up place.  Ellen climbed to the top of Wasson Peak on her newly repaired hip.  Somehow, repairing the irrigation system on my raised bed feels awfully tame right now.
*****
Book Bub has made me a free Kindle book addict.  I rarely put down a real book; I'll muddle through to the end once I've started.  These freebies are of varying quality and genre; literary fiction seems to be a pseudonym for poorly written romance masquerading as mystery.

Luckily, I figured out how to remove the ones I don't want to see from the carousel and how to put the ones I've finished into the cloud.  It was random poking that delivered the solution. Big Cuter is right; if you're not afraid to play with it, electronic devices can be a lot of fun.
*****
NPR told me to come back after the break to hear "Conservatives talk about their autopsy of the Republican Party."  I have to agree.  My Facebook page is covered with quotes from General/President Eisenhower... you know, the one who warned us half a century ago to beware the military/industrial complex.  Bombarded by analysis of the war in Iraq as the tenth anniversary is commemorated, his words ring true.

WMD's?  Baathists?  Saddam found in a hole in the ground?  How quickly we forget, how easily those battles slip into the past as we focus on Afghanistan and bringing the rest of our troops home.  A friend is being deployed to South Korea before returning to Tucson forever.  It seemed like a safe posting.... until last week.

I find myself shaking my head and worrying a lot more these days.
*****
Randy came over to say goodbye last night.  His timing was impeccable; dinner was ready as he walked in the door and there was plenty to share.  Our conversation was mundane and sublime and I didn't have to change out of my post-massage comfy shorts and tee to entertain him.  That's a good friend... and a good visit... and another reason I don't want him to leave.
*****
The lizards are doing push-ups on the sun-warmed stones in the courtyard.  The snakes are slithering across hiking paths.  I just saw my first ground squirrel scamper across the stones and hide beneath the prickly pear cactus. Spring has definitely sprung.

It's probably time to turn on the irrigation for the whole yard, again.  Sigh... I was enjoying those tiny water bills.
*****
TBG and I have been re-watching The Newsroom on On Demand.  The third episode ends with the Tucson shootings and the premature announcement of Gabby's death.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: Aaron Sorkin is exactly the person I would have chosen to tell my story, if anyone had asked.  He captures the sudden, shocking, horribleness of it all without sensationalizing or demonizing.

I cried.  We cried.  It was beautiful.
*****
Graduations.... thirtieth birthdays..... weddings.... house tours.... this spring is shaping up to be a busy one.  I'm on the periphery of everything and it feels great.  It's fun to be included but not have to shoulder any of the responsibility.  All I have to do is show up and say "Awwwwwww....."

Truly, life is good.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Can Someone Explain This to Me?

Actually, no one could.

I made seven phone calls just now.  It took about ten minutes.  It garnered three answering machines and four real, live humans.  It was civic engagement at its most basic level.  It felt great. If only HB 2544 weren't so frightening, I'd be pretty happy with myself right now.

Arizona's legislature is, once again, boggling the imagination.  The House has passed this already; I was calling before the hearing in the Senate which takes place as you are reading this essay. Weep along with me as you see what is moving along the path to being enacted:
This bill will require ALL police departments in the state to sell to gun dealers, and put back on the street, ANY and ALL GUNS acquired by the departments including those surrendered or voluntarily turned in. 
That's right, denizens.  Instead of destroying the guns turned in at Gun Buy Back Days, local jurisdictions will be forced to put those puppies right back out on  the streets.  It's almost as if the framers of the bill think the weapons have feelings, and will cry out in terror as they approach the smelter.  I wish they were thinking about those of us who've encountered the business end of a Glock 9mm with as much sympathy.

This Republican backed bill seems to fly in the face of local control; where is the hue and cry about Big Government now, I wonder?  If a citizen decides to turn in a weapon, how can the legislature justify overriding her desires to have the thing destroyed?  These were the questions I posed to the Senate staffers to whom I spoke (or on whose machines I left messages).  No one had an answer.

My first three calls reached answering machines; I'm trying not to draw any conclusions about the fact that they were all Republicans and that all the Democrats had live humans answering the phones.  I was nearly batting 1000 until the young woman in the office of Sen. Shooter (yes, that's his name and no, I couldn't make this stuff up) said "Hello."

I left thoughtful, impassioned-but-stopping-short-of-hysterical messages. How will this make me safer?  How does this square with respecting the rights of local municipalities to draw their own distinctions between what is right and what is wrong for their communities?  How does this further the conversation about sensible gun control legislation?

I asked.  No one could answer.  "He hasn't discussed this with me."  "I have seen nothing on this subject today." "We've had no discussions about this, that I am aware of, anyway."  Everyone promised to call me back; even the machines told me that I could expect a call back with an answer.  Hours have passed.  No one has responded.

So, I am left to wonder.  It helps to remember that this is the same body which declared the Colt Revolver to be the State Gun just two weeks after a Glock took down 19 of its citizens who were participating in democracy in action.  The chilling effect that had on my participation is easy to document; I turned down a chance to testify before the Senate of the United States because my family was concerned about putting my face on such a divisive issue.  "The other side has guns, Mom," was all it took to convince me.

It feels like muscle flexing, with a bit of "Oh, yeah?" thrown in for good measure.  I'm disturbed and uncomfortable and unable to come up with a good reason for this bill.  I keep coming around to  a variation of "we've got the power and we'll show you how we use it."

There's some small measure of hope; the Republican super-majority which insured passage of Republican sponsored bills no longer exists.  There is a small but vocal cadre of Democrats who are occasionally joined by forward thinking members of the opposite party who have been able to stop some of the more egregious efforts to diminish our state's reputation.  They cannot do it alone.  They won't do it if they think they are alone.

So, I will ask those of you who live in Arizona to get on the bandwagon and make a call or two or six.  I'm copying the information below this post.  If you are so inclined, read it and dial away.  The hearing is at 2pm on Wednesday (today, if you're reading this as it's posted).  Somebody ought to be paying attention by now.

Together, we can make a difference.  If my story has touched your heart, why not let your fingers touch the phone?
****************
Wednesday March 20th, the Senate Public Safety Committee is considering HB 2455 -- a measure that passed the Arizona House last week. This bill will require ALL police departments in the state to sell to gun dealers, and put back on the street, ANY and ALL GUNS acquired by the departments including those surrendered or voluntarily turned in. 

This bill not only takes away a citizen's decision to have their unwanted weapons destroyed, but it trumps local government policies that allow police to destroy weapons. Passage of this legislation will virtually stop any future gun buybacks -- an ironic legislative move since AzGS is receiving a $100,000 anonymous donation to run a large gun buyback program during the month of May in partnership with the Phoenix Police Department and Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix. 

Please help stop HB 2455 from passing by:

  • attending the Senate Public Safety Committee Hearing March 20th, 2:00pm in SHR 109 to show widespread opposition to this bill. Signup at the kiosk outside the hearing room and enter the bill number and your opposition. You will also have the choice to testify against HB 2455.
  • calling Senators on the Public Safety Committee to tell them you are an Arizona resident opposed to HB 2455. Call before tomorrow at 2:00pm. Ask others to call and do the same. Here are the reasons you can give --
The legislature should NOT be involved in a citizen's decision to safely get rid of unwanted weapons and have them destroyed. 

This is a local control issue - local governments like the City of Phoenix and City of Tucson have policies in place requiring police to destroy weapons acquired voluntarily from citizens. If some local governments want to sell weapons, they can. The legislature should not be dictating to the locals what is a local matter.
Arizona ranks in the top 10 states with the highest gun death rates -- a rate that's 40% higher than the national average. It's time we change direction and implement sensible gun policies that the citizens want. 



Sen. Rich Crandall (R-16), Chair 602-926-3020
Sen. Al Melvin (R-11), Vice-Chair 602-926-4326
Sen. Ed Ableser (D-26) 602-926-4118
Sen. Gail Griffin (R-14) 602-926-5895
Sen. Barbara McGuire (D-8) 602-926-5836
Sen. Lynne Pancrazi (D-4) 602-926-3004
Sen. Don Shooter (R-13) 602-926-4139

We must speak up loud and clear and tell our legislators to act NOW for sensible gun legislation. 
Let your voices be heard. Together we can make a difference and save lives.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

So Long, My Friend

We are a tight knit group, those of us who were there to shake Gabby's hand on January 8, 2011. Contrary to reports floating around on the interwebs, we are not a group of actors who knew one another before that morning.  We didn't stage the event; we were there when it happened to us, unwilling participants in a spark that ignited the current frenzy over sensible gun control legislation.  That is the public piece of it all. The private piece is much more special.

We each have a role to play in the on-going drama that is our lives, post getting-shot-on-a-sunny-Saturday-morning.  Some of us talk to the media, some of us organize get-togethers, some of us lobby on Capitol Hill. Each of us acts, in some small way, as a representative of the larger group.  Not everyone has the same set of skills in their toolbag; together we're a fully functioning unit.

We are gun owners and gun fearers, parents and grandparents, mothers and fathers and sons and daughters. We've brought our significant others into the fold; the power of shared tragedy and the healing journey is a bond too strong to be kept from those we love.  At the top of this food chain of inter-connectedness and compassion sits Randy.

Randy, always ready with a smile and a hug and a big "How ya doin', kid?"  No matter the baggage I bring to the moment, just seeing him lightens my load.

He's a retired mental health professional whose experience with the system has been invaluable.  He explains the ins and outs, the tangible and the unsubstantial-but-real consequences of diagnosis, treatment, incarceration, and rehabilitation.  He's had first hand experience on the front lines.  He's seen it from both sides - as a recipient of the horror and as a comforter of the afflicted.  It makes for a very interesting package.

He's tall and fair and curly haired.  He's in blue jeans and sandals most of the time, embodying the Tucson experience.  He's at every hearing, every press conference, every party.  He knows when a smile will suffice and when more than a hug is needed.  His uncanny ability to know when "I'm fine" means "I'm on the verge of losing it entirely" has saved me on more than one occasion.

And now he's leaving.

There's a house to be fixed up in Hawaii, and a wife already there and settling in. Can he live on an island?  He's not sure, but he's willing to try.  He's moving on. Why do I feel as if he's leaving me behind?

I've come to count on his presence, knowing that he could put the right words to the unfathomable emotions roiling beneath my surface.  He provided validation and acceptance and humor and joy and I will miss him ... terribly... totally... completely.  There will be a void whenever the rest of us gather.  He will be missed.

I should be glad for him, and I am. He's making a change, taking the next step, living the life he might have had had bullets not interrupted its trajectory. He's the first of our group to leave. My issues are personal; for him, I have nothing but good wishes and great expectations.

I am bereft.  I've felt this way before, when friends moved far away and left me behind, holding the baggage of our relationship alongside the emptiness in my heart.  This is a little bit different.  The whole experience has been sui generis; I've managed to hold it together by hanging on, sometimes with only my fingertips, to the connections our little group has forged.  I'm having a hard time letting go of even one piece of the puzzle.

Since I have no choice, I've begun stockpiling the memories.  His steady hand on my back when being upright was just too much. His bright eyes towering over the tiny women who make up a good proportion of those of us who were there that morning.  His hugs... oh, my, his hugs.... those need the reality to be fully appreciated.

I wonder if he thinks we're kidding when we tell him we're having a reunion at his house next January 8th.  Hawaii after New Years sounds pretty good to me.  The fact that Randy and his sweet Barb will be there is just the icing on the cake.

I know that life goes on.  I just don't like it when it wrenches a stanchion from my tent.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Here Are the Pictures

What's a gardening post without pictures?  I wondered about that myself, as I posted last week.  But, life intervened and the sun had set before I could get home and take the photos I wanted.  Now, after a lovely, warm, breezy, sunny weekend, I have finished upgrading the irrigation, installing plants in the containers, and begun growing veggies for salad delights.

My timer was covered in lime.  Even with new batteries, it didn't make a sound.  So, Brother and I bought me a new one and I installed it today.
I was glad that I remembered to use the thin white tape to cover the threads as I screwed the pieces into one another.  It's still leaking and the hose bib connector may have to be replaced, but none of the connections are seeping, and that is a good thing.

It's hard to dig a trench to bury the lines.  I was struggling and feeling annoyed until I remembered a lesson learned in Master Gardening.  I soaked the ground I wanted to trench and was able to create a ditch large enough to conceal the tubing.
No one wants to see tubing.  We want to see flowers.  The rose bush I bought last year was pruned to four canes, and has small buds budding.
This is the rosebush I bought at Rillito Nursery yesterday.  Promised to do well in high temperatures, I thought of my new-best-friend, Jean Jennings, when I saw the name.  Chrysler Imperial.... how could I resist?
I planted Super Sweets and Cherry tomatoes along with sweet basil this year.  I've given up on peppers and curcubits and going with what I know works.  Maybe next year I'll be more adventurous.  For right now, having an imperfect body is enough disappointment for one person.
Not everything needs irrigation. 
These desert marigolds are volunteers, and seem to do just fine with the run-off from the containers nearby.
Going with my "plant what works" theme, I stuck carnations behind the hyacinth bulb which has appeared every year since I put it in when we arrived in 2006.  It's nice to see an old friend every springtime.
The dead stump in the front of this container will, I hope, be a strong and vibrant zinnia come summertime.  For now, purple on purple carnations are filling the emptiness.
Remember the weeds I showed you in January? 
They are now these lovely blue wildflowers, dotting the courtyard and pathway and spreading to cover the entire front yard.
The desert mountain laurel pods are still hanging on.
I'm sure I could do something creative with them.
I just don't know what it might be.
 Instead, I spend time sniffing the fragrance of the blossoms.  Would that I could package it and send it your way.
Those nubs on the top of the cactus will be big flowers in a week or six.
One never knows with these things.
The sun on the cholla made me smile.
It, too, is beginning to bud.
Red flowers will attract the ground squirrels, who have been curiously absent lately.
Something is living here, though.
These five holes are snakes... or lizards... or mammals of some sort.
No one can tell, for sure.
 I could fill them in, or run water into them, or leave them alone.  I'm opting for the last choice; those beasties were here before I was, and will be here afterwards.  I hope they enjoy the wildflowers I'm seeding for them.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mommy Wars

How I got caught up in this I'll never really know.  I was struck by a comment, I ruminated, I couldn't find an answer in my own brain, I wrote it up and published it.  I found that my readers had strong opinions, and their answers helped me clarify my confusion.  I'm still not sure that I'm right, bu now I know how my audience feels.

I also hurt my friend's feelings.

This blogging stuff has lots of points and corners and twists and turns. I seem to have made a wrong one.

Little Cuter called me and wondered if my friend was hurt. She saw what others saw and what I had not considered: I was calling on people to disparage another's parenting.  Though that wasn't my intent, I quickly came to see how it could be construed as such.

I really didn't know what to think. Her son, after a long hard week of single-parenthood, offered to make her a margarita.
She'd be giving her son the opportunity to make her smile, to present her with something she likes. He offered to do it for her, he's demonstrating his love, he enjoys the process... what is my problem?
I was really wondering.  It made me uncomfortable, and I didn't know why.  I know she's a strong role model, a positive parent, a woman who makes those around her feel comfortable and included.  She wondered, in the Facebook post that prompted the brouhaha, whether she was a bad mother or a great mother and I took the question to heart.  I mulled it over, I talked to my friends in real life, I went back and forth, and then I sat down to type.  I was really wondering.

We all use our blogs for different purposes. This blogger is obviously more confident in her parenting skills than I was/am:
And I am certainly not going to go and write a blog post on whether your choice to provide samplings of alchool to your children is ethical or a good parenting decision. I don't need an audience to tell me "I'm right"
I wasn't looking for affirmation; I was looking for context, for other opinions, for analysis other than my own.  I wasn't sure where I stood and I was asking for help.  My title was a question, in and of itself : Am I Right?

It's worked for me as I heal, as I parent my 90 year old mother, as I deal with family stress.  I had no idea it would be so controversial when I brought up parenting. I've always aired my troubles to my friends.  It's how I make decisions.

"Is this what you do in your playgroups?" another comment asked.  Yes, indeed, it was.  We wondered aloud and with one another about our choices, our concerns, our stances on the issues.  Was she overly-anal or merely super-organized, our friend who had her full-time sitter fill out an hourly log of the children's activities? We thrashed that one out, over and over again, with her in the room.  Should my sitter have gotten her 17 year old daughter birth control pills when she asked for them?  There was a lot of disagreement over that one, believe me.  Don't imagine that my alcohol-free-party screeds were not contested, either.  We relied on one another, we listened, we learned.

I can see how my friend felt bashed by the number of people who took the issue seriously, who wondered about alcohol and tweens, who were concerned about the message it sent.  I suppose my opening comments, and their repetition throughout the post, were not enough.  Saying "I like this woman.  I respect this woman.  I wanted to answer her honestly,"  obviously was not enough. 

I'm still not sure about the right answer to the original question.  I can see them giggling over the ingredients, frothing the beverage til it was just so, hugging as the joy of making mom smile overcame them all.  As my son commented, 
As long as the parents are engaged and actively pay attention to how their actions are being perceived and parroted by their kid, I don't think this is necessarily a red flag.
Context is everything, as he says.  I know that the parents are "engaged and actively pay(ing) attention" and I know that their hearts are in the right place.  I'm still not sure about the right answer, but there's more that I want to say. I'm moving on to the meta-issue.

I think it's sad when we look at questioning as disparaging.  Sure, some of the comments were strongly on the side of NO, but if you look at them, you'll see "stepdad was an alcoholic," "family of alcoholics" running through the comments as a steady stream.  Once again, context is everything.

Our questions are a snapshot of our own issues; as a member of a generation that venerated sex and drugs and rock and roll these subjects roil around in my brain all the time. Are misogynistic lyrics the ruin of today's youth?  What about Mick Jagger singing "Under My Thumb?"  Is bad behavior by rock stars leading them down the road to hell?  What abou the Grateful Dead's Casey Jones, "ridin' that train, high on cocaine?" My parents were appalled at my music, just as I am appalled at Elizibeth's choices; it's a rite of passage and, with good adult supervision and values modeled by the grown ups in our lives, damage can be avoided.

But, if we look at an answer with which we disagree as an ad hominem attack, if we take issue with  raising the question, if we can only preach to the choir, then how will we learn? In the original post, I tried as hard as I could to present my quandary - a good parent wondered about a nuanced issue and I wondered, too.  I want to keep up with the times, I try to be accepting of cell phones on the table next to the 20-somethings in my life although it screams RUDENESS to my aged ears.  I try to recognize that life goes on, that perceptions change, that my reality is based on a 20th century, industrial age education, one where it was taken for granted that our children would do better than we did.

Faced with underemployment and instant access to information and wealth inequalities and dysfunctional government on all levels, the world is a vastly different place than when I was a young mother. My circles were live and in front of me, not spread over the interwebs. Who I was figured into what was said - by me and about me.  We've lost that connection as we've made more and more intersections.

Actually, I think that's the crux of the matter.  My readers intersected with my friend.  They never really connected.

It is an awful feeling when your words hurt another.  I'm responsible for giving my friend some bad moments, and for that I apologize and seek forgiveness.  I had no idea that the Mommy Wars would touch The Burrow.

I remember the school psychologist telling the 5th grade moms that we were "parenting against the culture," back in 1993.  It seems as if it's only getting worse.... with more eyes and ears to hammer home truths... if truths they be.

So sorry, Becca.  So very very sorry.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Planting in the Short Desert Spring.

There was barely a transitional stage.  It snowed within recent memory; the pictures are still cropping up on Tucsonans' Facebook pages.  We awoke after torrential rains to snow capping the mountains this weekend.  It had melted by the time I arrived at the Festival of Books, but the image was burned into my brain.  Elizibeth and I shared the warm clothing I'd brought along; flip flops were out of the question.

My polar fleece wasn't too heavy as I crossed the campus to my car.  I rolled down a window, and cranked it right back up once I began to move.  The breeze was frigid, though the sun was out and the trees were barely moving.  That's as wintry as Tucson gets, and I'm glad.

TBG turned on the pool's heater and the sun warmed the water as the mechanics did their job but the air temperature hovered near 60.  I was too cold to contemplate donning a swimsuit and taking a dip.  The winter seemed determined to stick around.

From Rillito Nursery
We have a six week window for planting, here in the desert Southwest.  The danger of frost must have passed, and the temperatures have to stay in double digits so that the roots don't burn up before they become established.  Valentines Day is the usual start to the gardening season; this year, it snowed.  Tomato plants required the cosseting of a water wall.

I put off planting anything.

It's hard enough to coax a tomato to grow here; I want them to have a safe and comfortable start.

So, I didn't get Brother to help me repair the raised bed.  I didn't buy new soil.  I had no plants resting in the shade of the acacia tree, waiting to be placed in their new home.  The irrigation set-up (timer, resistor, tubing) is connected to itself, but not to the garden plot.  It's been too cold to work outside.

And then, I woke up today.  Ernie called to remind me that he was coming to wash the windows and clean up winter's destruction of the yard.  I put on a long sleeved shirt and a pair of shorts and walked outside, intending to survey the scene and develop a strategy for the yard guys.  

I began to perspire almost immediately.  It wasn't even 9am, and it was H-O-T.

The actual temperature is immaterial; it felt like an outer circle of hell by the time I dragged myself across the expanse of the front yard.  Mexican Birds of Paradise need to be trimmed to nothingness; I could barely bend over to check for green (growing) shoots.  The wildflowers I've determined are weeds covered the stones; there are too many to pull, they are too close to those I've chosen to keep, and the Round-Up I sprayed last week doesn't seem to have accomplished a thing. 

The guys had a lot to do.  I wish they had paid closer attention to Ernie's instructions.  The volunteer crepe myrtle which had established itself amidst the purple lantana in the front yard fell victim to the power pruner's blades.  It will return, but I miss its smiling tentacles rising from the detritus of the spent ground cover below.  There's a price to be paid for having helpers in the yard; I was working with Ernie when the cutting began and wasn't there to save the pretty pink flowers from ruin.  Sigh....

Ernie cut the bougainvillas down to the nubs, and then worked on removing the unproductive, thick stumps near the ground.  We trimmed the branches which were headed toward the wall; this year the bougies are going to flower outward and upward, if I have anything to say on the subject.

The rosemary was a different story; I had hopes that a hedge would form.  They are doing nicely, but still look like distinct plants, plants which are growing forward and backward instead of left and right.  Ernie says they will eventually climb to the top of the pony wall and drape delightfully over to the other side.  

Given that the definition of a weed is a plant in the wrong place, I took issue with TBG's description of our courtyard as full of weeds.  I like these blue volunteers which are sprouting all over the place.  I like thinking about the animals whose coats dropped seeds, whose digestive tracts and excretions left bundles of beauty for me this spring.  The circle of life is quite obvious out here.

Soon, the entire courtyard, and a good portion of the front yard, will be blue and swaying in the breeze.  For now, it's a work in progress, with new flowers popping up every day.  I'll collect the seeds from them, and sprinkle them over the ground during the first summer rain.  Ernie promises that they'll take; I'm choosing to believe him.

The raised bed has boards that need reattaching and soil that needs enriching.  I'm considering a variety of possibilities for making it higher, but I think I'll have to wait til next year.  Summer came too quickly for me and there's no more time for thought.  Action must be taken before the climate intervenes and makes further work impossible.  

I'll plant tomatoes and basil and jalapenos; they've been successful in the past and I am sure I can grow them again.  I'm going to skip the melons and the beans and the peppers; I'm tired of investing energy in things that disappoint me. When it cools off, I'll put in lettuce, a cool weather crop that provides free salad and a smile every afternoon as I'm preparing dinner.  Yes, home grown lettuce tastes a lot better than that which you find at the store.

My citrus trees are a sorry example of my abilities; they are trying, but not having much luck at all. I'm blaming my irresponsible inattention to irrigation, when I'm not wondering why I chose plants that require so much coddling.  I'm reminded of G'ma advising me to find my houseplants at Woolworths.  "If they can survive there, they can survive with you," she told me, and she was right.  I expect compliance from my plants; a hard scrabble upbringing was always a good indicator of their success at home.

That's the joy and the frustration of gardening in an inhospitable climate.  The aloes and agaves froze when I was too lazy to go outside and cover them during our frigid winter.  It broke my heart to cut them off; I knew I had failed them, sending them to an early doom.  I promised that I'd do better next time.

By the time the electric blowers were on the gardeners' backs, I was drenched in sweat, my hair was stuck to my head, and my heart was full.  I have a few more holes to fill in the yard, a few more spaces to enhance, but, for the most part, the heavy work is done.  When the temperatures have climbed to triple digits I'll be able to admire my handiwork from air conditioned splendor. 

It's not as much fun as digging in the dirt all summer long, but we make do with what we have.  What I have is good.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Down in the Dumps

I spent 45 minutes in the gym this morning.  I did leg curls with 20 pounds on the machine and squats without weights.  I couldn't move the seated leg press machine with my right leg, couldn't move it an inch... until I looked and saw that there was 50 pounds on the weight pin... and then I felt better.... until I remembered that I'd been doing much more than that before....

Before.... I was fast, I was confident, I scurried.  Before.... I didn't have to worry about keeping my planters hydrated while I visited Big Cuter for a long weekend.  Before.... I was symmetrical.

It's been a while since I've been so disappointed.  The sun is out, the air is clear, the wildflowers are blooming, and I'm blue.  I have plans to visit with Amster's kids this afternoon, and there's a massage awaiting me later on, too.  My kids are healthy and happy and G'ma is stable and as delightfully confused as ever.  There's no real reason for my heavy heart.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a universal background check proposal this morning; our side is flexing its muscle and I should be beaming.  I've had a (very small) part in the effort; I should be proud.  I am... kinda sorta... but there's a cloud sitting on my lap.

Actually, the cloud is centered on my right thigh, just below the hinge of my torso. It's an interesting pain, sharp and deep and consistent.  I like consistency.  It keeps me centered.  I just wish this little piece of heaven would leave me alone.  It's changing my posture and my outlook.

I find myself shifting to the left as I type; I just rearranged myself in my birthday chair.  It takes a conscious effort to weight both sides of my sitting apparatus on the best of days.  Today, that effort involves working through the pain.

Yes, it's pain.  I've had discomfort and I've had anguish and I've had searing, stabbing, unrelenting awfulness over the last two years, but I've rarely used pain to describe it.  Today, I'm giving in.  I'm in pain.

Accepting the ups and downs of recovery has been the most difficult piece for me.  I like a steady course, one that rewards effort and demonstrates progress.  Too bad.  As I used to sing to the Cuters in similar situations, You can't always get what you want.

Right now that fact is making me sad.

Peeking around the corner of my brain, however, is a ray of sunshine.  The title that my fingers found for me is reminding me of My Man Godfrey, William Powell's 1936 Depression masterpiece. A rich boy running from responsibility, he is found living in the dump by a rich girl on a scavenger hunt.  He's her lost man and she's going to save him.  As with most of the comedies of that era, he ends up saving her, as well.  Only this time, the benefits cover the other lost men, those who were living in the cardboard shacks in the dump right next to Godfrey.  The details of the story are less important (and I would hate to spoil the tale for those of you who are going to watch it on Netflix tonight) than the lesson I'm finding within.

Those men were truly down in the dumps.  Again, like most Depression era filmmakers, de Cava portrays them as down but not out, lost but not despairing, alone but helpful to their neighbors.  I find myself wondering how they could smile... and why I can't.

I'm laughing at myself as my fingers tell you that movie characters are pushing me to look deeper at  my life, but it's true.  I'm searching everywhere for pieces of the puzzle that seem to have gone missing over the weekend.  I walked, I learned, I ached.  I thought it was the vastness of the Festival of Books that did me in, but it's two days later and my leg is still screaming.  It's hard to stay upbeat and focused when, just sitting here typing to you, my thigh is announcing its presence with authority... in a loud voice... laced with pain.

I'm usually pretty good at pushing the aches to the background, but the warm weather and sunny skies remind me that I'd rather be digging in the garden than whining about my hurting hip.  The effort I'm expending to move the pain off the front burner is taking all of my inner strength... and I'm failing.  I can't distract myself today.

And then, back I go to Godfrey.  When the trash intruded on their living spaces, the denizens of the dump moved their shacks to a clearer patch, and then helped their neighbors do the same.  The characters were cognizant of the changes but not overwhelmed by the challenges.  I'm holding them in my head as I take myself to the shower (where bending to wash my feet will make me wince) and to lunch with TBG (where lowering myself into the Boxster will make me gasp) and to watch Amster's kids while she's in trial (where I won't be able to play tag or chase them down the hall).

All those problems.... and I'm here to have them.  That's a good thing.

I just wish it didn't hurt so much.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Words of Wisdom from the TFOB

I reread the notes in my Moleskine last night, as I regaled Big Cuter with my day at the Tucson Festival of Books.  He's a fan of Patrick Rothfuss in particular and fantasy in general; I tried to make it real for him.  As I revisited the day in my head, I realized that there were many more pearls of wisdom hidden in the talks and that yesterday's post only scratched the surface.

So, today, I bring you The Best of Ashleigh's Notes:
*****
"Research is so seductive."

"Writing from history is the best: you are given a great story 
and you don't have to make anything up."

"I have a folder full of Books I Never Wrote."

The Loch Ness Theory: 
If people are making money off the legend, 
they will lie to keep it so.

On the main players at the OK Corral:
Wyatt Earp had a "deep, cold well of rage, which he kept hidden."
"Old Man Clanton was a real son-of-a-bitch."

John Grisham's prodigious output and phenomenal success 
has put pressure on other authors to do as he does: produce a book a year.

Knowing that Stephan Pastis loved the Mr. Bill segments of Saturday Night Live explains a lot.
For those in the audience who were ignorant of his existence, 
Mr. Pastis described Mr. Bill as "a character who died in awful ways."  
He had a comical glint in his eye.  
As I said, it explains a lot.
I think I might enjoy his strip more if I read it in an afternoon paper.
I prefer a less hostile start to my day.

"We are only the temporary guardians of our atoms."

Questions like these are at the forefront of cosmology right now:
Is an event horizon mute to information?
Is information stored in the event horizon of a black hole?
I loved the fact that I have a vague-hazy-better-than-I-did-ten-years-ago understanding of the issue.

"The most interesting things are happening on television today, not in the movies."

"George (R.R.Martin) is an emotionally ruthless author."

And, finally, there was this:
A novel was written.
The main character was despicable, even to the author.
His agent loved the book but couldn't sell it.
The main character was too loathsome.
The author was at a loss so he went home and asked his father what to do.
"Add a dog. Everybody likes dogs."
He did.
They did.

My moral?  The reason I love the TFOB? Why reading and readers and writers fill my soul?  Because even as I'm laughing in a cold tent on a blustery Saturday morning, I'm reminded that the same lesson can be both simple and profound. 
Which lesson?  
It's okay to ask for help.

Thank you to the woman who offered to spare me the trip down the steps to the end of the line by inviting me to join her party.  I was headed elsewhere, but she gets credit for the good deed anyway. Thanks to the 20-something who offered me his seat right by the doorway, as I paused to catch my breath.  Thanks to the security officer whose concern for my limp-with-a-hiking-pole trek across campus nearly broke my heart.  I was fine, ma'am; I took my time and arrived safely.

This event is a milestone for me. I went from racing in Keens to being pushed in G'ma's wheelchair to stumbling slowly to one venue and then home to this year, spending two days, lurching but moving and doing what I wanted to do.  I'm forced to think of my recovery and evaluate my progress.  I'm glad that I can do it surrounded by thousands of others who are also thinking their own deep thoughts.

Thanks for the help, TFOB.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tucson Festival of Books

It was a busy weekend in Tucson.  The Wildcats were playing softball and basketball on campus, even though it's Spring Break and the kids are supposed to be gone.  That's the premise behind scheduling the Festival of Books for this weekend; the campus and the parking garages are supposed to be empty.  It's also supposed to be warm and sunny; it's March in Tucson, after all.

The best laid plans, as they say.... the kids and I headed out through sprinkles, wearing sweatshirts and polar fleece, parking much further than my achy hip appreciated.  We were there before the festivities officially started at 10am, which is how we could be up close and personal with the Mad Scientist
whose coloring book with the appearing and disappearing pictures gave Messers 7 & 9 the giggles. He was "messing with our minds" and we couldn't decide if that was a good thing, or not.
Elizibeth's new phone timed the teen who was saying the colors instead of reading the words, and then beat his time by 2/3 when he read the words themselves.  Our brains were on fire.

After trips through booksellers and book givers and bookmark makers, we took a rest at the circus stage, where the world's most flexible sisters


amazed us.  Thankfully, there were no clowns.  Elizibeth hates clowns.

Once I recovered, we strolled back to the kids' area where we bumped into Fernando and his mother; the boys went off to his house to play while Elizibeth and I continued to improve our minds.  We heard John Sayles tell us that we "have God's power" as a book author, but absolutely none as a screenwriter.

I asked how the panel members, authors and screenwriters all, handled the movies changing the ends of their stories.  I had Bernard Malamud's The Natural in mind, and was appropriately ecstatic when Sayles used it as his exemplar.  The whole thing was delightfully serendipitous.

We heard Alice LaPlante talk about fiction writers needing to be great liars, after Craig Whitney shared absolutely nothing new in his talk on "A Liberal and the Second Amendment."  I questioned his membership in the NRA, an organization whose public posturing reflects not the sentiments of its membership but the paid for beliefs of the gun and ammunition manufacturers who fund group.  He couldn't talk his way out of it. Perhaps I was expecting something different; I was looking for a reasoned response to a gun-totin' interlocutor.  Then, again, I bring a certain perspective and bias to the issue.

By that time, we were frozen to the core; we skipped the last two sessions and ran for home.

Sunday was a sunnier, warmer, lonelier day for me.  Elizibeth took sick in the cold; I went alone.  From ten til five I lumbered across the mall at the University, climbing steps and fitting myself into uncomfortable folding chairs while my brain was transported to its own happy place.

Mary Doria Russell and Ann Kirschner talked about Wyatt Earp.... after leading a sing-along of the tv show's theme song.  They took such joy in sharing their work, their habits, their philosophical bents; it was uplifting to sit in the audience.  What happens when the law fails you?  How do you deal with fanatics who live on Planet Earp, who take issue with every deviation from the canon?  These are things I will ponder in the coming days.

Then, it was on to Family Matters, where the Nivens's
 and the Palmers
talked about their "enormous pride and joy" as they shared "writing time" with their loved ones.  The conversation ran from romances written from a guy's perspective to their love of The Bachelor on television.  The personal stories were interspersed with snippets on writing ("Doctors love words.  There are doctors who don't love words.  They become surgeons.") but mostly I watched their faces.  They were great faces.

Stephen Pastis writes my least favorite-yet-I-read-it-every-morning-comic-strip, Pearls Before Swine.  I was glad to know that the abuse his character takes for writing puns is there because he knows I hate them; I admit to reevaluating my opinion of the strip over oatmeal this morning..

He was on a panel with Alex Rex and R. L. Stine, childrens' authors extraordinaire.  The room was filled with young readers, all of whom had questions.  We learned that R.L.Stine types with one finger, that Stephen Pastis writes with a "Music To Kill Yourself To" playlist blaring from his computer's speakers, that Alex Rex has a portfolio of "cute animals in waistcoats" just waiting to be put to good use.  The youngsters were beside themselves; it was fun to watch.

I indulged myself in an hour of cosmology with Chris Impey, wallowing in the Big Bang and quarks and the Higgs Boson .  I learned that Congress has authorized (pending the sequester's outcome) half a billion dollars to study gravitational waves... and I have a vague understanding of what gravitational waves are.

Then, I took my expanded brain power to the last session of the last day: Epic Novels.  Though the conversation started out with The Iliad, Patrick Rothfuss, pictured, went straight to the heart of the "intimate epics" he and Diana Gabaldon and Sam Sykes write.  This was nerd heaven.... just look at the man and dare to disagree with me. The conversation started fifteen minutes before the session officially began, and was full of in-jokes and the laughter at the arcane jokes appreciated only by the initiates.  I missed Big Cuter by my side; I needed an interpreter.

Diana Gabaldon told us that she is "not the God in (her) story; (she is) just the spectator," and I went back in my head to the other panels, the other authors, the other brilliant, successful humans who took time out of their writing to talk about the process with us.

This is the fourth largest book festival in the United States, if their publicity can be believed.  All that was missing was you.  If you're looking for a vacation for next spring, why not include Tucson, the second weekend in March, in your planning.  I promise it will make you smile.

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