Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Random Thoughts - The BlogHer'13 Edition

Traveling to Chicago from Tucson is easy, for the most part.  Tucson International Airport (you can fly to Mexico) is teeny and I didn't have to worry about parking because TBG dropped me off at the door.  I checked my bag, for free, at the Southwest counter; there was no line and I was through security ten minutes after I left my sweetie at the sliding glass doors.  The TSA agents were friendly, and I must have been walking very well because no one offered me a loaner cane to help me step through the x-ray machine.

And then, I saw her.  A slim, black, woman with a maternity TSA uniform. I was not allowed to photograph her, for security reasons, I guess, but that couldn't spoil my joy.  There was a tie in the back of the blouse, to allow for her ever expanding girth. Her pants were stretchy. TSA provided it all.

I am so in love with my government right now. What a change from 1951, when G'ma was forced to resign from the NYC Public School system because I was growing in her womb, and the kindergarteners she taught had to spared the sight of her blooming belly.
*****
I sat in a line of readers as we waited for the plane to arrive.  Three girls to my left, a woman and her husband to my right, another, older, woman to their right, and none of us had anything electronic in our hands.  No cell phones, no Kindles, no iPads or pods.... just magazines and paperbacks and hard covered library books (that would be me).

It gave me hope for the future of print media. It also made me smile, since I was on my way to a mecca of the electronic transmission of ideas.
*****
I tried The Geek Bar, because I wanted to learn about SEO's and meta-tags and categories.  All the other bloggers at the table used Wordpress as their blog platform; I'm on Blogger and there's no connection between the two.  I didn't stay long.  Little Cuter and I went back to the Expo and collected some more swag.

I did get one take-away, though:  Reboot - a good computer lesson, a good life lesson
*****
Guy Kawasaki was one of the original Apple evangelists, spreading the word and growing the flock. He's moved on, telling us on Friday that Android is beautiful, that "editors are like buffalo; they run in herds and keep their heads down," that Google Plus is the place "for your passions."

He likes the phrase "artisanal publisher" rather than the more prosaic "self-published" book.  His newest artisanal work is APE - Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. It's a daunting task, promoting and selling a book.  All along, I thought creating the content would be the hardest part.
*****
Sheryl Sandberg's leanin.org has 250,000 members. That's a lot of women who are trying to conquer their fears. Men rule the world, she confirmed, as she explained, her voice dripping with sarcasm, how her feminist perspective was received by those in charge:
They love being told that the world they've created is broken.
She asked the audience of women (and 4 men, who, she says, will get a pass when the revolution comes), if we had ever been called bossy. Two thirds of the hands went flying into the air.  None of the men, none of our sons or brothers, were reviled in that way.  She encouraged us to approach the subject this way: your daughter is not aggressive, she has leadership skills.
*****
I was across the street from Barnes and Noble in Naperville today.  I thought of going in and buying Lean In.  I drove away.  What does it say about me that I am unwilling to buy the book? Am I really that afraid?
*****
I want to be Majora Carter when I grow up. She has redefined the notion of environmental equality, creating the first waterfront park in the Bronx since the 1960's.  Her twitter motto reflects her goals - "You don't have to leave your neighborhood to live better." She's trying to keep the best and the brightest at home in their communities.

She's made enemies as she's gained notoriety since, as the dean of a high school in Hunts Point says of her critics, "it's easier to run your mouth than run a business."  She is obviously not afraid.

I want to be her, and not just because of her MacArthur Foundation grant.
*****
GRIN will be fundraising soon, now that we have our 501c3 status.  Kerryn Gerety led a panel which covered Kickstarter, Indigogo, and her own firm, Fundraise.com. She's promised to help me, and just those few words made me less afraid.

Am I starting to lean in already?
*****
At the end, before SIR came to whisk us away to Greek Islands for saganaki and taramosalata and chicken riganati and more bread than any three people had any right to finish, there was Gale Ann Hurd. She was the executive producer of Terminator, Aliens, and, now, The Walking Dead.

She started out by moving past her fears, as she learned that, in Hollywood, you cannot be liked and respected at the same time. Roger Corman, king of the B-movie, taught her the business, allowed her to produce, and never made her type.  He did start her out at the bottom of the ladder when she was ready to move toward producing her own film; she emptied chemical toilets and made coffee and learned an important lesson: Never kiss up, or kick down.

Her production company does not carry her name, as do those of most of the men in the industry. Time has passed and some change has occurred, but it's still tough to be a woman in Hollywood today.
*****
"Girls can do anything."

"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

"Give yourself a break."

"Be proud of what you do."

"Find your inner super hero."

I am going to repeat all of that to myself every day. Perhaps some of it will even sink in.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

BlogHer '13 Redux

Yesterday's post merely scratched the surface.

I didn't tell you about the swag (Stuff We All Get) or the hotel or the travels or Chicago.  

I didn't tell you about nearly falling down the escalator or Lourds.

Don't worry, all that and more is coming in this post. Since you, denizens, are the reason for The Burrow, it seems only fitting that you share in the joy of the largest blogging conference in America.  If you couldn't be there with me, I'll have to bring you along by the written word.

That picture shows the stuff we got on the first day. Moo Cards offered freebies if you pre-ordered in time. I used the opportunity to spread the word about getting involved.
I now have the ability to provide immediate assistance when my companion is at a loss; the card shows how easy it is to make our voices heard.  The cards come in a reusable, sturdy, little, white box (it's in the front on the left with the blue wrapper) which fits neatly in my purse to keep the cards pristine.  The worker bee had noticed my name in the drawer; she went right to it when Little Cuter and I approached the booth.  

I love freebies, especially when they help me shout about my passions. So does Little Cuter.

Most of the exhibitors in the Expo section were promoting businesses, but some were promoting love.  My girl got her fix of puppy love, not once
 but twice
as the ASPCA and the Chicago Humane Society brought tiny beasts for her to cuddle.  She was a rock star at the booth once she told them that she and SIR found Thomas, the Wonder Dog, at their shelter.  "Good for you!" "Yay!" "You are so wonderful!" "That's great!"  If she didn't know how special she was before then, the message was reinforced loud and clear.

We played with carpet washers
and ate less-than-noteworthy breakfasts
and found new and interesting ways to embarrass my son.

Love is found in many incarnations. Although Big Cuter is dismayed to have this image in his head ("Some things cannot be un-seen" he wrote on Facebook), 
the Trojan booth had a short line so I spun the wheel.  Along with a variety of lubricants (who knew there were so many?) I won a special toy.  I will not be sharing a picture; this is a family friendly site and (my) children are reading. I can tell you that I annoyed my daughter all afternoon by laughing about the huge, five speed, three settings item in my bag.  The package included batteries.  'Nuf said.

Did you think you were seeing things in my hair?  You were.  On Saturday, Ren put a blue feather in my hair, along with the yellow and gold and turquoise chalk highlights.  This was my second time in the chair in the Windex booth; as Little Cuter pointed out, the colors coordinate with the product. While she was gaga over Windex's new pump sprayer
I was in heaven over my new look.
People stopped and stared; I smiled back.  I can hardly wait to get back to Tucson and add them in a more permanent fashion.  These were painted on with a brush, wetted and taking color from a pastel stick.  It washed out in the shower, which is why I needed to go back to Ren on Saturday for more, and the feather.  The feather is still with me; she says it will last for three weeks. I forget that it's there until the wind blows it into my eyes.  

I love it. It makes me feel like a superhero, which is what Lourds encouraged me to feel.  

Click through to her site.  She is amazing.  There was smoke rising from her bow as she accompanied her musical biography. She played classical violin with touring orchestras at the age of three.  At seven, she jumped from the stage and joined the audience, playing her heart out. The conductor told her she had affronted the classical community and was no longer a part of it... at all.  She was alone... at seven.  

A National Spelling Bee contestant, a straight-A student, the good daughter as her father beat her mother, she found her inner rebel, her latent super hero, as she tried to recapture the joy she felt when she was surrounded by those who were listening to her... at seven.  That journey has been turned into a Broadway-bound musical, with a twist.  The musical has a sibling, The Lightning Girl FUN-dation, which will encourage children to find their inner super-heroes through the arts. This is a woman who has leaned in entirely; she is doing what she would do if she were not afraid.  Sheryl Sandberg would be proud.

The whole convention was like that.  I felt empowered and uplifted and amazed.  I was surrounded by people who were reveling in our shared experience, who were learning and leaning and loving every minute of it.  I'll finish the tale tomorrow.  For now, go spend some time with Lourds Lane; you won't regret it.  Then, tell me about your superhero.



Monday, July 29, 2013

#LearningtoLovetheHashtag

(I had serious formatting issues with this post.  I tried and tried to fix them.  I nearly threw Nellie the Netbook through the window. In the end, Little Cuter reminded me that you read my content and don't judge my presentation.  Please remember that as the formatting takes on a life of its own below)
*****
#BlogHer'13    
was held at #McCormickPlace in #Chicago this year,
and Little Cuter and I were in attendance. 
It was a remarkable weekend of networking and learning and being inspired.  

#BlogHer's founders were there
Jory des Jardins, Elisa Camahort Page, Lisa Stone
as were a host of celebrities.

Little Cuter and I were front and center for #ReeDrummond, #PioneerWoman.

Have you seen her on #The
FoodNetwork?

Neither have I.
I'm not a #cook, nor a #homeschooler, nor married to an Oklahoma cowboy.
I don't live on a ranch,
nor am I renovating an old building in the center of my cute but dying little town.
Yet I was mesmerized by her reinvention - from a NYC ballerina to foodie extraordinaire.

That was the recurring meme for me during the weekend.
Who were these amazing women who created new lives by being unafraid?
I was in serious danger of being inspired.

#Sheryl
Sandberg walked the walk as well as she talked the talk.

Before her presentation (for which we were, once again, front and center)
she came down into the audience to connect.

She was thrilled to meet me.
I continue to be astonished at my fame.
Her interest was genuine and her enthusiasm was contagious.
As she spoke to the 5000 women who filled these empty seats

ten minutes after I snapped this photo
I began to squirm in my seat.
What would I do if I were not afraid?
#Lisa Stone (see above, right)'s answer to this question was
co-found #BlogHer.
I want to be that brave.
Perhaps I need to #leanin.

#Queen Latifah emceed the #Voices
OfTheYear presentations,

and she rocked the house.
(I tried to find a link to connect you to these winning posts,
but #BlogHer's new interface stymied my efforts)

#BlogHer doesn't provide a speakers' fee.
It's a testament to the power of blogging women that #QueenLatifah came to us,
to introduce the introducers and to promote her new TV show.
I'm happy to help her by providing the link.
I wish I could link to the post on guns and power;
Little Cuter and I were clutching hands as I was weeping.
Entrepreneurship was a recurring theme.
#BritMorin, #Silicon Valley's new "It Girl" according to #RandiZuckerberg (Mark's sister),
moved from #Apple to #Google to become the doyenne of makers at #Brit.com.
#Makers, you wonder? That is the new name for creativity and DIY and home-made.
She is 28 years old.

#KerrynGerety led a panel on crowd based fundraising.
#GRIN will benefit from her expertise, 
even if she won't drop everything and move to #SanFrancisco and marry Big Cuter.
Little Cuter and I would love to have her in the family.
She took this photo
and tweeted her joy at "seeing (her) fav mom/daughter duo"

Reconnecting with friends is the second best part of the conference

Little Cuter met a grown-up she coached as a child.

I squealed when I realized that my table-mate

was Virginia DeBolt, the #Elder Geek
from Ronni Bennet's Time Goes By blog.


That's the beauty of #BlogHer conferences.
There is no hierarchy, there are no divisions, there is no reason to be shy.

There is only #community.
*****
Little Cuter said it best: This was the first time in our lives that being on-line while conversing with others was not inappropriate.  In fact, it was de rigeur. Tweeting was rampant; #BlogHer13 was the top trending topic on Twitter. Those hashtags (#) were ubiquitous, and I was a late-but-fervent adopter.  Knowing that I was in the same section of the interwebs as hundreds of other tweeting conference goers was a strangely comforting sensation.  We were truly in this together.  We were making community.  I have obviously had a hard time letting them go.

Friday, July 26, 2013

I'm On My Way

Nerthus is there already.  Little Cuter and I are making our plans for dinner.  I'm remembering to put a canvas tote bag in my giant suitcase so that I can carry around the swag I collect. BlogHer'13 is at McCormick Place in Chicago, and I am on my way.

Chicago is one of the few place to which I can fly without changing planes.  Luckily, my friends and my family are there, too, as are the Art Institute and the lakefront and the library building on Michigan Avenue.  There's deep dish pizza and flaming saganaki and the world's biggest and best margaritas.  Someday, I'll see Shakespeare on Navy Pier; perhaps I can organize an outing to Comedy of Errors which is opening on Friday night on the pier's South Lawn.  Of course, Not Kathy and Dr. K live right above the Pritzker Pavillion, and the music there might be tempting, too.

It Happened One Night is being shown outside, at Belmont Harbor, on Tuesday.  I have an early appointment in the city on Wednesday and will be sleeping on someone's guest bed Tuesday night. I think I've just found an activity to tempt my hosts.

After writing paragraphs like those, I wonder why I ever left the best city in America.

The conference will be inspiring and uplifting and exhausting.  I'll lay eyes on those I've only know by their words, and I'll reconnect with those who brightened the BlogHer's I've attended before. It's an odd feeling to have strangers approach you with questions about people you know they've never met in person ... TBG and the Cuters and G'ma will have their lives dissected by people who have read about them for years.  

I'll be motivated by Sheryl Sandberg and Ree Drummond and most of all by Lisa and Jory and Elisa who founded BlogHer in 2005. Their goal was to empower women.  If I am any indication, mission accomplished.

There's something inherently powerful in being a part of a syndication network that reaches 40 million readers.  There's something delightful about the synergy created when those writers convene in one space.  The San Diego Convention Center was filled with food and friendship and folderol when Little Cuter and I attended our first BlogHer conference in 2011. The distances we covered on foot were substantial; I rested by the Twizzler Statue of Liberty as we entered and exited the hotel on the way to the conference.

I was never tired or lonely or alone that weekend, unless I wanted to be.  There were writers I'd admired and women who made me laugh and a group of match-makers for Big Cuter that still makes me smile, two years later.  I found opportunities to write for print magazines. I learned about SEO's and meta tags and, although I will be at the Geek Bar for a follow-up lesson this weekend, more and more people found The Burrow thanks to the changes BlogHer suggested.

It's this intersection of people and information that appeals to me.  If the sessions don't entice me, there are seventeen interesting conversations happening in the hallways and anterooms.  There is no standing on ceremony.  Everyone has a big name tag and an even bigger desire to connect. There will be fashion shows and themed parties and shuttle buses which will travel on the mayor's secret road to McCormick Place. They will feed us and ply us with snacks and liquids and freebies, and we'll be surrounded by like-minded (mostly) women who have found a voice in the ether.

Last year, in New York City all by myself, I walked outside for dinner at 10pm, strolled half a block to the MOMA, took the subway.  This weekend, Little Cuter and I will see Austenland and listen to Gale Ann Hurd talk about producing Terminator and The Walking Dead.  We'll eat deep dish pizza and watch the lights on the ferris wheel at Navy Pier go round and round.  We'll reminisce and reconnect and make new memories.

We'll be together, with 5000 of our closest friends and associates, in the Windy City.  The plane can't take off soon enough.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Don't Wanna

Don't try to make me do it.  You won't win. Neither my body nor my mind is in the mood to exercise today.  I just don't wanna.

I've been regular, six or seven days each and every week, with professionals and on my own, taking care of the body that survived bullets and surgeries and bed rest.  I am proud of that body, my body, the one that's sitting like a lump in this chair, watching its fingers type to you.  It's got remarkable bones that didn't need to be replaced and a resiliency that surprises me every time i get back up on the reformer and do the leg-and-foot-work once again.

It's always willing to do what I tell it to do...  or at least to try.  "Can you do this?" the instructor might ask.  My answer is always the same.  "Let's try it and see what happens."  I've been operating under the premise that the worst that can happen has already landed on my doorstep. The surgeon promised that no one, no activity, no pulling or stretching or positioning could remove my repaired hip from its moorings.  I could do whatever I could manage.

And so, for thirty-one months that's exactly what I have been doing.  Whatever I could manage moved from galumphing with the walker, to leaning on the cane, to balancing between two hiking poles. I aimed for distance and endurance and fluidity in my gait; I'm not ready to say that I've accomplished any or all of it just yet.

I've snapped a pedometer to my belt, left a hiking stick in my car, leaned on shopping carts and hand rails as I tried to motivate myself to do more, to get better faster.  The pedometer just depressed me; the numbers were no where near what they were before I intersected with bullets.   The hiking pole reassured me that I could get from the furthest parking space to the door of Costco without having to pause and regroup.  The shopping carts and the hand rails and the elevators instead of the stairs were normal enough to avoid drawing unwanted attention to my disability.

Dis-ability..... the word is resonating today.  Were I truly able-bodied, I'd have laughed at my lassitude, taken myself out for a high calorie breakfast, and promised that I'd work it all off tomorrow.  But, my abilities have been dissed. I am not running on all cylinders.  My git-up-and-go has got-up-and-went.

I creak and I crack and I ache.  The only way that will change is if I am diligent with my exercising. I cannot take a day off; my muscles and tendons and ligaments go right back to those three plus months on the couch, relaxing into the non-painful but not helpful postures they adopted back then. If I move, if I stretch, if I push myself to do what my treatment team suggests, the pay off is immediate and self-reinforcing.

I squeeze and I lengthen and I adjust and I level and I press and I breathe.  The physical therapy movements and the Pilates sequences depend on precision and mindfulness.  It's not about strength, it's about progress. The little changes build upon one another and suddenly I can keep my feet in the correct position as I move through the flow.  It's about consistency and tenacity and a willingness to do the work.

That willingness is absent today.  It has vanished.  My usual early morning good cheer remains, but the impetus to put on gym clothes and head to LA Fitness is lacking.  No one is waiting for me there. The is no instructor or classroom full of friends.  There is just the machinery, the mats, and me.

I can't make myself go.  I've tried.  I found piles to straighten and emails to answer and problems to solve.  I answered the phone and made an appointment for 11am.  I got into the pool and did five minutes of laps, but even that wasn't holding my interest.  I got out, dripped all over the newly washed floors, and plopped on the stool in my closet, peeved.

Peeved at myself.  Peeved at whatever had stolen my energy. Peeved at the whole situation.  I don't want to have to work out, I want to want to work out.  I want to exercise instead of rehabilitate.  I want to watch my muscles grow instead of return.  I want to impress myself with the weights I am moving and the power of my perfect self.

I want to be tall and blonde, too.  Are you gearing up to sing Mick's ode to my whining?  I am annoying myself as I type these words.  The hope that writing it down would lead to motivation was a futile one, at best.  I'm still sitting, nearly finished with this post, and still without energy to do what I know needs to be done.

I don't wanna.

That's going to have to be good enough for today.  It's all I've got.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hearing the World

My hearing aids were lost for a while. They'd been annoying me on our last visit to San Francisco, which I put down to the head cold I'd been battling. The air pressure, the internal swelling, the itchiness I couldn't shake all led me to take them out on the plane home and put them someplace safe.

As usual, putting them someplace safe meant that I couldn't find them when I got home.  I searched everywhere. I stuck my hands into pockets of my suitcase that had not been touched since the lint in my palm was a full sheet of paper.  

I remembered worrying, as I hid them, that the plastic tubing would be crushed by the space they were occupying. I just couldn't remember where that space was.

I opened travel cases.  I poured out the contents of my dop kits - the one with the wet stuff and the one with the dry stuff.  I went back to the garage and dumped the suitcase out all over again. I opened the hidden compartments in my wallet, though there was no way that the devices would have fit there.  For a while, I thought about phoning Southwest Airlines and asking if they had been turned into the lost and found; for some reason, I never made the call. 

Actually, I knew exactly why I never made the call: if they weren't in the SWA Lost and Found then I was on the hook for replacing them.  I also knew why I'd lost them: the audiologist had explained the replacement program/insurance for lost or damaged devices at my last visit, two weeks before we flew.  

I'd never considered the possibility that I would lose them since I made a promise to myself that I would wear them all the time, unlike Daddooooo who kept them in his breast pocket as often as he inserted them in his ears.  If I only took them out at night, I would always know where they were.  Though this plan led to several near escapes in the shower, I'd never misplaced them. Not once. For those who are intimately acquainted with my behavior, this must come as a shock.

I found them last week as I was taking G'ma's checkbook out of the zipper pocket of the leather purse I'd forgotten I'd taken on my trip.  There they were, entwined together, in fine fettle.  All they needed were new batteries.  The world was alive once more.

Helen Keller wished for hearing more than sight, when asked which sense she'd most like to retrieve.  When everyone is laughing and you haven't been able to decipher the punch line through the teller's giggles.... when the kids in the backseat accuse you of not being interested when you really didn't hear them at all... when the television's volume control is set at 30 and you still can't figure out what Don Draper is saying.... then you understand the loneliness of the hearing impaired. Luckily, my damage is only in the upper ranges; I'm well within normal limits (and what a nice sound that is to hear) except for high pitched tones.

Beethoven composed symphonies without hearing a note, or so they say.  I think he heard each and every one of them inside his head, the same way I hear the Cuter's individual "Hello"'s, even when they are thousands of miles from my ears. I tilt my head a different way for each of them.  

G'ma's "Hi, Suz" has a richness that the rest of her words lack.  There's love and, for the moment, a real connection to the outside world. The way it's delivered is so much more potent than the words themselves. 

Mr. 8's "Hello, Crazy Susan," a throwback from my college days upon which he stumbled one afternoon, has always been accompanied by a devilish twinkle in his eyes.  Today, after two hours of testing me and re-calibrating my hearing aids, with the help of the UofA's Audiology Clinic and three of its finest students I can hear the high pitched glee that's in there, too.

I'm finding the keyboard keys' clacking very annoying.

What used to be a hum is now a gale force wind emanating from my desk top's tower.

The air conditioner turns on with a click loud enough to startle me.

The world is a very noisy place. I'm so glad to be here to hear it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Yellow Birds

A yellow bird
With a yellow bill
Was perched upon
My windowsill

I lured him in
With a piece of bread
And then I smashed
His fucking head...

That's what this book is all about.  You're going along peacefully, wondering what's coming next and then KABOOM there's shrapnel and fear and confusion.  Most of all, there's confusion.

Kevin Powers opens his spare novel with that traditional U.S. Army marching cadence.  It jolted me. Literally, my head shot up, my eyes widened, TBG wondered what was going on. I shook my head, reread the lines in march time, and found myself getting smaller.

My shoulders were hugging my neck. My arms were pressed into my sides.  My head shook from side to side, trying to remove the image from my brain  and then my eyes went to the second part of the frontispiece:
To be ignorant of evils to come, and forgetfull of evils past, is a mercifull provision in nature, whereby we digest the mixture of our few and evil dayes, and our delivered senses not relapsing into cutting remembrances, our sorrows are not kept raw by the edge of repetitions. 
Sir Thomas Browne, the 17th century English philosopher, physician, and ecyclopedist, knew what he was talking about.  Sorrows kept raw by the edge of repetitions succinctly describes my life after bullets intersected with Christina-Taylor and me. I couldn't close my eyes; the hospital or the sidewalk appeared as my lids lowered.  Too bruised to exorcise my demons through exercise, too exhausted and drugged to concentrate on reading, unable to lose myself in film or radio, I played an endless loop of what if as the images raced on and on, bouncing against the corners of my heart.

Less eloquently, I would tell my social work clients that the awful aches would dissipate, because only the mentally ill stay in crisis forever.  As Adam Arkin's West Wing psychiatrist reminds us, We get better.

But what if the getting better has to happen overnight?  What if you are in a war zone, being deviant, focused only on surviving on Monday, and on Wednesday your mother wants you to fix the fence in her backyard?  How do you leave behind the sights and smells and vigilance which were your reality?  What if, in doing so, you are forced to look deeper and accept responsibility for actions which are reprehensible in the same moment that they are completely understandable.  Is heroism warranted when all you wanted to do was become as small as possible?

One thing that never left me was how very young they all were.  Eighteen, twenty-one, grizzled at twenty-four, their rituals and worries were of those who had seen too much and not seen enough, at all.  The Yellow Birds left me with sand under my shoes, gasping for breath, teary and smiling and stuck in the chair until I finished all 226 of its small pages.

I've got to read the other National Book Award Finalists; I certainly didn't read a better book in 2012.

Monday, July 22, 2013

We're All In This Together

Any thoughts I might have entertained on the subject were called into question on January 11, 2008.  Not that I ever gave it much thought.  It had touched my family, but we'd managed to ignore it. I worked along the edges, but never did more than dip a toe in the water. It was an issue for the other.  It wasn't my concern.... right up until the point when it was completely my concern.

A mentally ill young man killed my little friend; I confront the aftermath every day of my life.  Bullets shattered a sunny, Saturday morning, along with my hip and my sense of safety and security. Who is that young man over there, muttering to himself?  Why is that woman staring blankly at the sky?  I see danger around every corner.... might they be mad?

And if they are?  Do I walk past without saying anything?  Do I mutter and turn my head?  Do I complain to the woman behind me in line?  I watch that happen, and I wonder if, perhaps, there isn't a better way.  

My first cousin was adopted at birth.  Fifty-some years ago, regulations and background checks and information on family of origin were provided grudgingly, at best.  My cousin was a cute baby who became a schizophrenic young man.  He stole the centerpieces at my wedding, hiding them in the bushes nest door.  He was loud.  He was unpredictable.  His parents were flummoxed.  

There was therapy and there were half-way houses and there was tough love.  My mother and her brother weren't close. We got together on holidays, but they never spent much energy keeping in touch.  My cousin was damaged goods; it was easier to avoid them entirely.  You had to be on your guard when you were around him; keeping Daddooooo's behavior in check was enough for my mother.  She didn't need to worry about another human being who might fly off the handle.  

After all, what would she do?  What could she do?  Therapists and medication and structured work experiences had been tried, to no avail.  Her brother joined NAMI and worked on legislative solutions. Community-based treatment, the second half of the 1970's de-institutionalization movement, was without funding or local support.  No one wanted a house full of mad men in the neighborhood.  No mall wanted a walk-in counseling center in the space next to the Nike outlet.  Insurance didn't recognize the issue as one requiring consistent, long-term management, and, as he aged, my cousin's insurance coverage went from private to public assistance.  The lines for care in that segment were stretching out the door. 

Still, my cousin, like my shooter, roamed the streets.  His friends, like the shooter's friends, gradually disappeared.  It's exhausting to try to fix crazy... and even more so when the patient refuses to accept reality. It was easier to ignore it all.

For my mom, that was easy.  We lived our lives in separate towns.  We didn't have to be confronted with bizarre behavior. As we got older, my cousin stopped arriving with his family for events.  No one ever asked where he was.

No one ever asked.  

How lonely that must have been for my aunt and uncle.  How isolating to have a part of your family dismissed like unwanted mail. How frightening to feel that the burden rested solely on their shoulders, knowing that the help they needed was no where to be found.  

They tried. They found a program that worked.  He stopped disturbing their sleep with loud, uncompromising demands made from the front porch in the middle of the night. His younger sister learned to cope with him, as her parents aged and she became the responsible adult. She has her own son, and she has her brother, too.  He doesn't know how lucky he is.  She cares.  She asks. She stays involved.

I understand my mom's reluctance to deal with the issue.  It was what she learned from her own parents - if it's not good news, stay away.  Immigrants, they had developed a framework to protect themselves from a strange, new world.  My cousin's madness, my shooter's madness, their strange worlds are so easily avoided... until they intersect with you on a sunny, Saturday morning.

Can't we do better than this?  The mentally ill are here among us, trying to make their way in a world which is as odd to them as they are to us. Medication, counseling, organization and community can combine to integrate those with needs into the mainstream. This is true.  I read the research in school  

But, it's not cheap. It's not easy.  It's not comfortable.  It forces us to come face to face with questions most of us would like to ignore. What does it mean to be okay? How much deviation from the mean can a society accept?  How much help can an adult be required to obtain? Where will that help be delivered, by whom, at what cost?  

While we mull those issues, the mentally ill are walking among us.  Youngsters, like my cousin and my shooter, ought to be able to rely on the grown-ups in their midst for assistance.  When the adults are committed, as were my aunt and uncle, a real life can be cobbled together from the fragments mental illness has left behind.  My cousin is living in a sheltered space, working at a meaningful-to-him job, contributing and participating in society.  My shooter, whose parents ignored the warning signs, the requests from teachers and administrators and their child's friends, who paid no attention to behaviors that were just not right, is living in the US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.

According to Pam Simon, who knew him in middle school before he shot her at the Safeway, our gunman was a quiet, well-behaved, gentle young man. I want to believe that our tragedy could have been prevented if someone, if anyone, had done more than complain.  If someone - his parents, a neighbor, a family friend - if anyone, had intervened, my life would be very different right now.

We are all in this together.  It is past the time to stand on the sidelines and watch the situation worsen. Funding is tight, time is precious, resources are scarce - that's all true and I don't care.  Our fellow humans are suffering, some silently, in the shadows, and some violently in parking lots.  It is in all of our best interests to recognize that we all have am interest in the solution.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Accentuate the Positive

...Eliminate the negative..... that's where I'm going to try to go today.  I've got Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder, zip-a-dee-doo-da'ing away.  Yes, I'm mixing everything up but that's what's going on and the only way to make sense of it is to look on the bright side.  After all, the sun came up and G'ma and I were here to see it, even if she is sleeping on someone else's sheets.

With everything swirling around me, I'm bemused by the fact that the pod-castle has misplaced G'ma's sheets. I don't want them "circulating around the house," as one caregiver described it.  I want them in her closet or on her bed.  I don't think that's an unreasonable request, and neither did any of the worker bees to whom I mentioned it.  Still, the pretty pink and white flowery ones - not ours - remain tucked in neatly beneath her comforter.

I want Big Cuter's Marimekko cars and trucks sheets folded on the shelf and Little Cuter's flannel sheep on the bed... the bed without side rails..... the bed with the alarm that works most of the time... the bed that holds my mom.

When I go there, I feel the maudlin cloud creeping over my spine.  I don't like it, not one bit. Thus, the first paragraph of this post, which I just re-read to turn my frown upside down.  It may sound silly, but it works. When I'm smiling, I'm able to function.  When I'm slumped into myself, chin on my chest, the corners of my mouth reaching for my shoulders, my brain turns off.  I can feel the switch.  It even has words: I'm Done. I hear it and, with some help from a wonderful therapist, I remind myself that I can wallow or I can move and that moving feels better.

I worry about the sheets because the larger issues are too much for me.  So much of what discombobulated me about the follow-up appointment was irrelevant.  The appointment was made, the surgeon thought she was healing beautifully, gait training is in her future, and all is right with the world.  The doctor was aware of the events surrounding the scheduling of this appointment, and he assured me that he would follow up. He was almost as upset as I was, which gives me hope for the future of medicine.

He understood that attitude is nine-tenths of the battle, and the only one over which we have any control. Growing bone was something G'ma's body had to do for itself. Doing the work to keep her safe requires communication and information and, perhaps a change in systems.

Maggie from Georgia wondered why we didn't make the appointment when G'ma was in the hospital.  It's such a simple idea. It solves problems before they arise.  During rounds, the resident tells me that G'ma needs a follow-up appointment. Right then, I call the office so the resident can chart that we have an appointment scheduled six weeks after discharge.  I put it on the calendar on my handy-dandy-smart-phone. The resident tells me that G'ma is to be non-weight-bearing until she sees the surgeon again.

All problems solved before anyone knew they were problems.

Then, there are those pesky sheets.  If I focus on the laundry perhaps I won't worry that the Life Enhancement Counselor had G'ma walk down the hallway even though the PT had changed the orders. There were no consequences, and she was at no medical risk after doing it (I asked the surgeon) but shouldn't everyone be on the same page?  I have to go to sleep at night, and I can't do it if I'm worried about my mother's safety.

And really, I don't.  Accidents happen.  She fell in New Jersey; she was younger, then, and gave herself a black eye instead of a broken leg. I know that.  I'm not angry with the pod-castle because she fell on their watch.... not that anger would do me any good, anyway.  I'm angry because they don't seem to realize that the little things can make you just as nutty as the bigger, scarier, ones.

I want those sheets.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Random Thoughts - The Too Hot to Concentrate Edition

We wait all year for Monsoon. The clouds are big and puffy, the sky is bluer than blue, then the clouds are massive and black and the wind blows and the rain pours down from darkened skies.  It makes for beautiful sunsets; TBG and I have taken to watching the sunset from the patio. It's been too hot to do it until last week; now the milder temperatures are balanced by the increased humidity.

No one from any other part of the country would think that it is sticky here right now.  Tucsonans, a different breed entirely, are melting.  We are weather wimps, and proud of it.
*****
Do you have a regular group of people who run/walk/take out the dogs in your neighborhood?  Sitting at a front window, typing to you every day, I have become accustomed to the grey-haired-guy-with-the-two-pugs; to the runner-with-the-leash-around-his-waist, attached to two Springer spaniels; the teen who wears black socks and long shorts; the octogenarian with her wooden walking sticks.

Recently, a fit, forty-something woman has taken to running in the early evenings.  She must not go down the hill; she's back much too quickly to have made it to the bottom and up again. I'm judging her form and her pace and her dedication as I wonder what I do that others, unbeknownst to me, are judging. It's something to think about.
*****
G'ma's been billed by Vonage since 2008, even though I cancelled the account and the phone number when she moved here that year.  It was a monthly, recurring $35 charge, the only charge on her Discover card in four years. None of her children did any investigation, until all three of us were on it like white on rice.  I called Vonage and lived through voice mail hell for a while before I got to the Account Manager.  She spoke coherent English and understood the problem.  She didn't deny that I had called to cancel, didn't tell me that I needed a code to verify the interaction, didn't mock me.  She listened, took some more information, and then, sighing, she said the truest thing I've heard in a while:
$35 a month since 2008..... that's a lot of money.
 *****
I got G'ma into and out of The Schnozz  today.  I didn't sleep well last night, worrying about the viability of my plan. She had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon, and an ambulette seemed like more than we needed.  True to form, though it hurt and she was scared, my 90 year old maternal unit rose up from the wheelchair, pivoted on her own, and lowered herself into the front seat.

Such are the minor victories which make me smile.
*****
Ernie was here this morning, with the crew I met when I first became a customer.  We hugged.  We were sweaty but we held on for just a moment too long.  They hadn't seen me since I intersected with weaponry. I forgot how much people need to touch me to reassure themselves that I am really alive.
*****
This Snowden character is holding press conferences in the Moscow airport.  He's certainly entitled to have an opinion, but I'm not sure why NPR devoted minutes to his thoughts on the morality of the FISA court.

Emmanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes, and Aristotle can speak on the subject and I'll pay attention. The ramblings of a 29 year old thief?  Not so much.
*****
I've not made much of the Snowden affair here in The Burrow, because there is nothing surprising to me about any of it. Collecting information in the aggregate is part and parcel of living in the digital age. We all have the illusion of privacy, and that's just fine.

As Daddooooo and G'ma told us, over and over again, "Don't do anything you wouldn't want printed on the front page of the New York Times."  I don't think that anyone in power cares how much time I spend on Jungle Jewels (much too much) but I really don't care if they know.
*****
That new woman is still running up and down our street.  I will no longer judge her.  She has shown endurance and tenacity; I shall dub her a regular as of this moment.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Discharge Blues

It's been seven weeks since the phone rang with the news that G'ma had fallen and couldn't get up. The story just continues to make waves in our lives.  Usually, they are gentle swells.  Yesterday, I was in the middle of a tsunami.

The original home health care company discharged her.  They didn't tell me.  They just did it.  Apparently, when there are no skilled nursing needs, they cancel the connection.  The fact that her physical therapy was still an issue to be addressed didn't register on their radar.  She was done.  That was the reason the PT never returned to the pod-castle.  She wasn't on the list.

I didn't bother arguing with them.  If they don't want the case (and the dollars that come with it) they don't need it.  Her primary care physician (PCP.... because he reappears in this saga and I don't want to type it all out over and over again) was happy to send a referral to another agency.  They were happy to send a PT to see my mom.

Of course, no one told me.  I didn't know that the appointment had been made.  I didn't know that it had been kept.  I didn't know that she'd been up and walking.  Why should anyone tell me?  I'm only the Reliable Informant, the Primary Contact Person, the one who comes to visit and pays the bills and brings the supplies. Why should I know?  That must have been their reasoning; I can't figure it out otherwise.

The new PT showed up on Friday and got her up and walking.  She made it down the hallway, and then complained of pain... "Just a little."  For G'ma, that's tantamount to screaming in agony and writhing on the floor. Although much of her old self is lost, she's still able to cover her aches and ouches.  She doesn't want to disturb the status quo. She's not looking to attract attention to herself.  She wants to be fine, so she tells herself that she's fine, and she answers inquiries the same way.  That she was wincing and saying that she hurt was a clear signal that something was wrong.  The caregivers sat her down on the seat of her walker and wheeled her the rest of the way to the dining room.

Visiting over the weekend, I had found a bright red folder that the new home care agency had left behind. Inside, there were documents to be signed and care plans to be followed and reminders that throw rugs are dangerous.  There was also a calendar; 2:30 pm on July 15th had been penciled in.  I was there for the appointment.

Jane, the third PT, began by asking the basic demographics.  G'ma was, as always, pleasantly confused. She gave her birth date and her social security number and that was about it.  "When did you fall?"  led to "I fell?" and "How do you feel" led to "With my fingers."  I stepped in and provided the answers I could, right up to the question that stopped me in my tracks.  When had she seen the surgeon for her follow-up visit?

Never.  I didn't know that she was supposed to see him.  The paperwork which accompanied her home from the hospital mentioned only her blood work and recommended follow-up by her PCP.  I did that.  We are working on getting the numbers back where they were.  The nurse practitioner has been out to see her, has been monitoring her progress, has been checking her levels and titrating her dosage.  I figured that she was also noticing mom's healing leg, too.  I know that she'd admired the scar, and had palpated the area (for what, I don't know, but I saw her doing it), and had pronounced that healing was proceeding well.  No one mentioned that G'ma needed to see the surgeon. So, the answer was: "She hasn't."

Jane gave me a funny look, and called the surgeon's office.  Yes, they had a record of the call I'd placed in early June, just after discharge from the hospital.  They had called me back... they had a record of it.... and of the fact that the phone was busy. That was all that was on the chart.

Hmmmm..... cell phones don't ring busy... at least mine doesn't.... it goes straight to voice mail... of which there was none.  They never tried to call me again, even if the busy story were true.  Steam began pouring out of my ears.

Could I manage to get my mother to the office.  Answer quickly.... the receptionist needed to know NOW, Jane said.  I nodded, and wondered why this would be an issue.  There are ambulette's available if I can't get her into my car.  The implication that I had abandoned my mother, that I was uninterested in her follow-up care, that I could not be trusted, was coming across loud and clear through the phone line.  The creases in Jane's forehead grew deeper the longer she spoke to the scheduler.

Did G'ma really need to see the surgeon, I wondered?  Couldn't he send a portable x-ray to take the picture he needed? That machine had saved many a trip to the PCP's office; certainly this situation warranted the same consideration. The scheduler would ask and call me back.

This morning came and went; no phone calls were received.  I called them myself and was told that G'ma had an appointment scheduled for 11 am on Wednesday.  I guess it's a good thing I called to check.  We would never have known had I not done so.

Meanwhile, G'ma is back in the wheelchair, and loving it.  "Do you mind being pushed to dinner?" I asked. "Mind??? It's fun!" was her reply.

I try not to think about the mantra her PCP drilled into our heads : Those older patients who exercise and move about on a regular basis do better than those who don't.  Use it or lose it.  You must stay active.

I try not to think about the nonsense statements she's spewing more often than not.  This is a new development, one that presages more losses, I am sure.  Without her walks to the dining room and the tv room and the other pods in the castle, she's dwindling.  She never gets her blood going, never changes her point of view, never gets tired. Without the ability to stand on her own two feet, I worry that the rest of her will follow the path of least resistance.  Am I likely to find a puddle of G'ma melted into her recliner?  Who knows. More and more of her life is disappearing, and I am powerless to stop it.

I can take care of her.... or at least, I thought I could take care of her... I'd like to take care of her... if only the agencies would allow it. I should have had better discharge instructions from the hospital.  I should have had better follow up from the surgeon.  The home care agency should have kept me in the loop.  That's all true, and that's what I am telling myself is the cause of my angst today.

The real reason - the fall and decline of G'ma - is just too much for me right now.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All Right.... I'll Write About It

Trayvon and George are everywhere.  ESPN offered no respite; Stephen A Smith was bloviating again this morning, this time about justice and Florida's Stand Your Ground law, and attitude and hoodies.  The Arizona Daily Star devoted the main story on the front page to the aftermath of the trial.  Facebook is consumed with outrage.  I can't escape.  I'll dive in, instead.

No one knows what really happened.  No one ever does.  Eyewitnesses are unreliable, especially when one of them is dead and the other doesn't testify.  People came running, but it was dark, they were frightened, they couldn't really see or hear.  The 911 call is muddy; did George say punk or coon?  As Diane Rheem wondered aloud this morning, how could those two words be confused?

There was blood where it should have been and none where it might have been and who was on top was the question of the week.  There were a lot of blonde women making pronouncements as TBG flipped through the channels, trying to find something that was not related to a neighborhood watch gone wrong.  It was impossible.  There was no other news to be found.

Isn't President Assad still firing on his people?  How's Nelson Mandela feeling?  Texas is stepping in between women and medical care.  Obamacare is stumbling over its own two feet.  Egypt is appointing a government while making noises about an election.  All these stories were carried along with the trial in Florida right up until the verdict was announced.  Then, miraculously, they disappeared.

Instead, talking heads are mulling over evidence offered in a courtroom far away. Having spent some time of my own in a courtroom, I know how opinions change as testimony is given. Those who saw our shooter for the first time at the sentencing hearing were much angrier than those of us who had been there throughout his appearances. We watched the evidence being presented, we followed the proceedings, we listened and we learned.

Watching excerpts of testimony is not the same thing.  Reading the transcript is closer, but still one step removed from the evidence the jury had to evaluate. Desire for revenge, fury at the perpetrator, sorrow over the loss... none of those have any bearing in a court of law.  The jurors had to pay attention to the rules set out in the Stand Your Ground legislation. There wasn't much room for personal opinions.

The voices on television, the analysts on the interwebs and in the print media, the lady behind me on line in the grocery store.... that's where the opinions flourish.  Should he have been wearing a hoodie?  Should he have gotten out of the car?  Who felt more threatened?  Is there value in pursuing a civil suit?  What would I tell my son, were he 17 and black and hungry for a snack?

I wasn't there.  I can't weigh in on who was right and who was wrong.  I didn't hear the judge's instructions. I haven't studied the law.  I have to rely on the system.  It's all I have. I ache for both sides - for the loss of a son, for the destruction of a man's life, for the ongoing pain and aggravation descending on all concerned.

It's just too sad. It should never have happened. I had a hard time getting past those two sentences until I found (and retweeted) a phrase that sums it up for me:
How cool would it be if we lived in a world where George Zimmerman would've offered Trayvon a ride home to get out of the rain that night?
A girl can always hope, right?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Thank You Parties

The best advice I can offer is this: try to avoid situations which will require you to throw one.

TBG and I are attending the Pilates Diva's this afternoon.  It's been a little over two years since we held ours. I've been antsy all day.  

It's odd, since there aren't any similarities, on the surface, at least.  True, we were both victims of young-ish, white, men, but unless you are one of those who is recasting the George Zimmerman affair, I don't think that's relevant. Mental illness and irresponsible gun solutions are behind my injuries; The Pilates Diva's guy nodded off behind the wheel. 

I find her story to be much more likely to alter my way of life than I've found my own to be.  She was behind her husband on their tandem bike when the SUV proved, once again, that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. TBG hasn't gotten back on his own road bike since he was forced into an uncovered drainage hole and turned his face into hamburger. I'm not sure I'd get back on a bike again after viewing my accident from the roadway itself, pinned under a bike I couldn't move, while watching cars fly by. I can't stop going to the grocery store, or hanging out with my little friends, or being politically involved.  I could, I think, stop cycling.

Then, again, maybe not.  Certainly not if I followed our hostess's example.  She ate organic, unprocessed, natural, pure foods.  She followed her exercise regimen devotedly.  She didn't dwell in the negative spaces, although she didn't ignore them, either.  Her husband was injured, too, as was their cycling partner. The bike was damaged beyond repair.  She could hardly wait to get back in the saddle.


She slipped in a hip replacement between the accident and this photo.
One year ago she was broken.  
Not so much any more, as you can see.

And so I began to think about all the people who pitched in to make recovery just a little less awful.  I brought her Arnica cream and Mederma and my walker and the bedside commode.... which is making the rounds of my family and friends at an alarming rate these days. As I carried the satchel into her house, I felt like the next link in the chain to which I became connected in January, 2011.  Strangers fed me, smiled at me, held doors and my hand and my heart, just for a moment, but as necessary to my recovery as were the squats and the leg lifts and the push-ups. 

As I laid my treasures on her counter-top, Marvin stepped in... to say Hi... to see how her husband was doing. Though I'd bowed out of cooking dinners - a wise choice for all concerned - that evening's meal was on its way shortly, their daughter reassured me.  "There are so many people who want to help."

Tonight we'll be drinking margaritas and admiring her roses and toasting her good health... and I'll slip in a quiet thank you for my own. We'll celebrate good friends and helpful neighbors and we will be grateful... very, very grateful. Because we both know, no matter how much it aches, no matter how much we wish things were just as they used to be, no matter at all.... the sun came up this morning and we were here to see it.  By definition, it's a good day.

L'Chaim!  To Life!

Friday, July 12, 2013

do

She's the girl at climbing camp.  
Not the only girl, the girl.
She sat next to someone else at lunch.
He was devastated.

Acorns not falling far from oaks, this son of two lawyers made a list.
The title is my favorite part: do.
Not "to do," which would put it out in the future somewhere.
Not "what i can do to make her like me," which drowns in its own verbiage.
 do.

He starts out by taking matters into his own hands - he will choose to sit beside her.
How often have I waited to see what life would bring, rather than making the decision my own?
This is a confident young man, and it shows.

He will excel, because success is very attractive, 
and he will be sure that she notices, since he'll be in her line.
While they are waiting and chatting, he'll give her his undivided attention,
while behaving like a gentleman.
Resisting the urge to mess around is tough when you're a tween.
She must be a very special young lady.

And then, when she's noticed that he is the one most deserving of her attentions,
he'll make her feel like the funniest kid on the planet.

I ask you - how could she resist him?

P.S. His mother is as concerned about his spelling and capitalization as you are.
This was not the time for corrections, though.
This was a moment to cherish.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Swimming with Daddooooo

In one of his former lives, I am certain that my father had gills.  The water was never too cold, the air never too chilly, the surf never too high to keep him out of the water.

He'd shallow dive off the poolside, avoiding diving boards because the impact jarred his ear canals.  He'd point his fingers and his toes and create a straight arrow with his body and whoooosh across the bottom of the pool.  He was as likely to come up underneath me as he was to arrive beside me.  Swimming with him was always an adventure.

He'd burst from below, shaking his head and exhaling.  If there was water in his mouth, those around him were sprayed.  He thought it was funny; I did, too, until I turned 8.  Still, he was having such a good time, it felt churlish to berate him; I hid my shame by pretending that I didn't know him.  Once I became a parent, though, I could hardly wait for him to arise and spray my children.  They found him delightful and I, safely ensconced on the edge of the pool, did too.

He was a champion wave rider, a body surfer before the term was coined.  Growing up on the ocean, spending summers wearing nothing but a swim suit, frolicking in the Atlantic Ocean with 20 or 30 of his first cousins, their parents on the beach, under umbrellas, eagle eyes watching their every move. I learned water safety from my dad, and they were lessons that stuck.

Never swim alone.
Never hold anyone under water.
Look before you jump.
Don't assume it's deep enough.
Beware of the tides.

Just typing those lines brought the smell of seawater to my desk.  I think there's sand between my toes, too.

We swam at the county pool and the town pool and the pool at the beach club.  Daddooooo could be convinced to join us in the water, no matter how tired he was.  He carried a bathing suit, a towel, and a pair of goggles in the trunk of his car.  If a pool appeared, he would be ready.  Our motel choices on summer vacations were predicated on the presence of a pool in the parking lot.  If a pool was unavailable, we drove on.

The ocean was his favored milieu, though.  He liked the unpredictability of the waves, the feel of the sand under his feet, the salty tang that remained on his skin as he shook himself off.  He'd hold a child on his shoulders forever, taking him off only to clutch him to his chest when a really big one was coming in.  The waves made the heat and the crowds bearable.  He taught us to jump over the little ones when we were tiny and to allow ourselves to be propelled by the big ones when we grew.  He was a cheerleader, urging us to go longer and faster.  The fact that we couldn't hear him over the waves made no difference; he was yelling and that was all that mattered.

He'd come out of the water, exhausted and dripping, and collapse on the sand.  Though we all had towels, he didn't bother with one.  He'd scoop up sand for a pillow, splay his arms out, crucifixion style, and he'd nap.  The man never had trouble sleeping, which made our forays into covering him with sand all the more delicious.  His naps were short and deep; his snoring rivaled the crashing waves.  Our squeals of joy were muted while we were working, and then one of us would get a bucket of sea water and dump it on his head or his butt or his toes and we'd stand back and watch him roar.

Imagine a St Bernard shaking off the snow... that's what he looked like... that's the image of Daddooooo at the beach which sits front and center in my brain.... that's what made him smile.  Then, it was a race around G'ma's chair-cum-umbrella and into the water, some of us chasing the others and none of us caring who was It.

I'll go out to my pool this afternoon.  I'll splash, I'll swim laps, I'll practice lunges and side-walking and going up steps. While I'm doing all that, I'll be thinking of Daddooooo sending whale spouts my way.  The good memories never fade. They come back to enhance my todays.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Organizing Myself

I found the professional organizer'Things To Do pad right where she left it, in the mesh container. I've done none of the things on the list, proving my theory that most problems, if left alone, resolve themselves over time.  It also proved the organizer's theory - she really didn't want me to put anything in that box.  She predicted that I would ignore its contents, and I did.  The box and the article from the NYTimes Book Review, and notes from a Cornell Leadership Seminar, and an accessory for electronics we no longer own hadn't moved. The chaos was created around it.  

One problem which cannot resolve itself if left alone is a messy desk. 

Patty tried to dust around it, but I quickly disabused her of the notion that anyone would notice.  It was an eyesore, an embarrassment, an area to be avoided.... which was really a shame because the library is a beautiful room with a welcoming vibe...when it's not overwhelmed by the tornado that is my life.

Yes, I accept full responsibility for the situation.  I can try to rationalize it away but the facts are the facts.  It's my mess and I had to clean it up.  Knowing it didn't make it happen.  Again, I could list the reasons, but those pesky facts keep reappearing.  I set myself a deadline.  My desk top tower was on its way back from my Brother-computer-repair-genius-in-Maryland.  I promised myself that I would not connect it if the desk were still a mess.

Delivery was scheduled via UPS for Monday.  Knowing that ours is the last street on the driver's route, I spent most of the day reminding myself that I had to do something about the stuff on the top of the desk.  The truck wouldn't arrive until after 6; I had plenty of time.

The hours passed and I made no progress.  Abashed, needing to take action, I went shopping.  I roamed the aisles of Office Max, located conveniently next to the pool supply store.  We assassinated our skimmer's head while clearing organic detritus, both flora and fauna, from the pool.  It was a two-fer, meant to be, guaranteed to make me smile.  I entered stationary heaven and blissed out.

Up and down the aisles I wandered, Stopping for way-longer-than-I-should-have at the endcap with the decorated Duck Tape.  Had it been packing tape, the Cuters would have been giggling at their mailboxes for months to come.  I bypassed the file folders (still carrying them, unopened, from Chicago) and the pads of paper (ditto) and forgot to buy legal sized envelopes because I was captivated by the pens and pencils.

True to the mission of the day, I bought wire mesh desk accessories.  I really was thinking about the problem of the day while I was browsing.  Honest.  I was.

Back at home after the library and the grocery store, I unpacked the trunk and swept into the library.  I turned on the overhead light, grabbed the top layer of crap and placed it in the middle of the leather ottoman.  Layer after layer, I balanced the envelopes and old photographs and crossword puzzles and briefcases and necklaces one atop the other. Everything that managed to stay put was considered part of the finished for today pile.

If something fell off, I made a decision: trash/recycle; to the car for distribution; to the bedroom closet. Ticket stubs and bathrobes fall into the last category.  Yes, bathrobes.  Feel free to judge.

I hooked up the computer and it couldn't find the internet so I turned it all off and left it alone and went to Pilates.  When I came home, it was happy to log on with the proper  password and user identification number... which I had at my fingertips.  I proved something else to myself: when the systems are in place, I am very organized.

So, that is my next task.  I am going to create a system.  It has something to do with emptying the top wire mesh basket before I leave the house in the morning. It has some content relating to incoming snail mail which requires attention.  It will, no doubt, result in a change in behavior.

I'm up for the challenge. I know it will be a self-reinforcing activity.  I'll find all sorts of extra time and less stress and rediscovered notes with little gems like this, from Hannibal via Risa M. Mish, who spoke at that Cornell conference in 2012:
Aut viam invenium, aut faciam
As the man said, I will either find a way, or make one.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Good Bread

Others might write about chocolate or wine or cheese.  I will write about bread.  

I'm sitting in my butterscotch-chair-that-twirls
looking at the painting Seret did just for us.
It draws me in, as always, depending on the light and my mood.  My eyes wander and there it is, tightly wrapped and calling to me.
Challah is singing a siren's song.

SIR convinced Little Cuter that un-refrigerated butter does not lead to gastrointestinal distress; she's still alive after sharing a kitchen with him for several years, so I decided to believe him, too.  Two or three tablespoons of unsalted butter, unused during dinner, greeted me at breakfast from the counter not the refrigerator. And sitting right above it, on the too-high-to-be-useful-to-me serving island, was that bag of challah.

Every Friday night, for as long as I lived with my parents, we ate challah before we ate anything else.  Daddoooo read (because even after 60 or 70 years he couldn't recite it without getting confused) the prayer of thanks for God's work in bringing bread from the earth, and, for a brief and blessed moment, there was silence in my house.

No talking, no eating, just watching as he cut the poppy seed topped, soft, rounded crust and released the smell. It's like nothing else I inhale.  It's dense and rich and yolky, sometimes with a hint of cinnamon or honey, delicious right from the knife, no accessorizing required.  That was a good thing, since butter is a dairy product and couldn't be on the same table as the pot roast or london broil or roasted chicken, they being of the meat persuasion.  

The challah was cut into small bites so that the bickering could begin as quickly as possible; it was hear or be heard around our dinner table.  While G'ma cleared the table (with children assisting, of course.... we were raised right, as she never fails to remind me) and brought in the next course, there was more challah and more kvetching.... complaining that falls just inside the oh-dear-Lord-please-put-a-sock-in-it line... as slices were too thin or bigger than hers or withheld for an infraction.  

Five Star bakery in Lincoln Shopping Center was where the bread originated.  Other bakers had been tried and found wanting; the clerks behind the counter knew me, knew my family, knew my order as I walked in the door.  That was part of the aroma, too.  

It was a small bakery and everything was made by hand, in the back of the store.  Today, in Tucson, I've yet to find a bakery like it.  My grandmother would tell me that it was the water which separated a New York rye bread or pastrami or pickle from one made anywhere else. Perhaps that's the reason that I can ignore the challah sitting on my counter instead of devouring it in one sitting.  

It just doesn't taste that good.  It's too light.  The texture is too airy.  There's not enough spring in the insides and the outside is crumbly instead of taut.  If I am being conscious of every bite I put into my mouth as I attempt to rediscover the slimmer, post-perforation me, I'm not going to waste the calories on a wanna be.

I need the real thing.  

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