Monday, September 30, 2013

Our Day Off

It was heavenly. Cell phones - off. Messages - not returned. On the schedule - nothing but what felt good to us. Amster and Beautiful Annie and I, no kids, no responsibilities, no worries. Did I say it was heavenly?

We were at Canyon Ranch, a plan hatched when I tried to figure out how to thank Beautiful Annie for all the pro bono legal wrangling she and her staff did for GRIN. We are now officially a  501(c)(3) entity, although the story of how this came about will make for another post where I rant about the IRS. The process was, in theory, very simple. In actuality, it was frustrating and time consuming and didn't cost me a dime. Canyon Ranch was the least I could do.

Amster and I arrived first, valet parking The Schnozz and changed into our weight lifting attire forty minutes after I picked her up. Why don't the rest of you live here?  Look what's right at my doorstep:
cnn.com
Amster and I began our friendship as weight lifting buddies.  I had the expertise, she had the enthusiasm and motivation.  For years, we spent every weekend morning together, lifting and sweating and sharing our lives. Bullets interrupted our sessions, and I've not been willing to commit to weights when Pilates and PT are taking up so much of my time.  But on Saturday we were at it once again, waiting for Beautiful Annie to arrive from "halfway to Benson."

We spotted for one another on the bench press, bemoaning the diminution of our strength and laughing at ourselves, knowing we could get it back with just a few weeks of hard work and consistency. We pec-decked and french pressed (our triceps, not roasting coffee) and used light weights for flyes as our bodies became re-accustomed to the repetitive, thoughtful, movements.  We use good form. We don't race through the motions. We get the most out of each repetition. 

It was good to be back there with her again.  There are times when my life seems to have veered off on a course of its own, circumstances and opportunities drawing me to places about which I never dreamed. I have new horizons and chances to excel in areas heretofore unimagined, but sometimes the same old same old feels just right.  It certainly did on Saturday.

There's no cell reception to speak of at Canyon Ranch, so we went to the spa's lobby to search for Beautiful Annie and there she was, poring over the daily schedule, highlighting the classes she thought she might enjoy.  We're a good threesome - all her choices were our choices, too.  The tile making class was closed, so we went to Women's Stretch, instead.

Forty females of all sizes and shapes and motivations were arrayed on the squishy, carpeted floor of Gym 9.  Once again, I was reminded that fourteen weeks of flexing a foot while seated with the leg extended
Brian Williams is a VERY good listener.

will give you a very lengthened hamstring while shortening your quadriceps to mere stubs of their former selves. I was somewhere in the middle of the crowd, able to do some things well and others not at all. No one was judging; that's not the Canyon Ranch way. It's a place to try new things, explore new ideas, wear gym clothes to lunch and see if, perhaps, those toes might be in reach of my fingers.

The fact that I had my friends on either side didn't hurt at all.  Amster went to sauna and aromatherapy and whirlpool while Beautiful Annie and I stayed right there, in Gym 9, for Pilates Magic Circles.
balancedbody.com
The padded handles are pressed against the waist by the inner arm, against the shoulder by the open palm, between the thighs and the feet pressing out and pressing in. There's not a part of the body which is not engaged at some point during the routine.  It's 45 minutes of breathing and squeezing and though it might not look like much from the outside, talk to us after you've tried it.

Foolishly, we stayed in Gym 9 for Abs Express - twenty minutes of continuous abdominal exercises. The leader was a perpetual motion machine, jumping up to show us what to do and then bouncing back to the floor to pick it up where she left off. Crunches (or my version, a Pilates roll-up with knees in tabletop) then cobra, leg extensions and circles and more crunches, plank in all its incarnations, then a 2" off the ground, elbows in, yogi push up which is held until the teacher gets bored and moves on to ....
You get the picture. 

We were feeling pretty proud of ourselves as we waited to be seated in the Dining Room for lunch. We ordered a chicken sausage and mozzarella on whole wheat flatbread for the table, chicken quesedilla's and fish tacos for our entrees, and ice cream and blueberry/raspberry tarts and cookies for dessert. We laughed over the calorie and sodium and carbs and protein counts listed on the menu.  We were hungry and we were looking for foods that would fill us up.

We showered and I whirlpooled and then we each had a Signature Canyon Ranch massage, and "Yes, I would like some lavender aromatherapy on the pillow. I wasn't looking to work out any kinks, or improve my muscle tone, or separate the fascia from the bone itself; I save that for my weekly therapeutic deep tissue massage. I asked to be relaxed and not too greasy at the end; both wishes were granted.

We sat by the pool and told stories, the way women do when there's no pressing problem to be solved. It was "how did you?"  and "when did it?" and catching up on pieces of our lives we were surprised the others didn't know. There was no hurry, no worries, just laughing and nodding and sharing. When it was time, we showered and dressed and drove off to dinner at Gavi, back in the real world with creepy waiters and not a Kansas City Ice Water to be had.It didn't matter. We were still channeling Canyon Ranch, still on our day off, still in the zone. 

I woke up on Sunday and did my yoga practice and then went on to the gym to work on my back and biceps.... a routine I haven't followed since I intersected with weaponry. Perhaps I am really getting back what I have lost.  Perhaps it took a day off with friends to figure that out. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Making Americans

I spent a morning with 19 five and six year olds this week. As always, it was impossible to be sad. I was surrounded by little ones who couldn't get enough of me, and it was easy to return the favor.

It was a surprisingly well-behaved crew, sitting cross-legged on the rug in front of Miss Levine. These are the English language learners who speak another language at home but who are fairly fluent in English. It has a lot to do with the families' involvement and the value placed on education at home, the teacher opines as she places the iPads and headphones at one of the learning centers. 

iPads and headphones? Miss Levine researched their use, a grant paid for them, and the kids are part of the digital age, moving seamlessly from iPad math games through  cutting out A's and a's and gluing them to a worksheet to writing in their journals to listening and spelling on the desktops-and-headphones beneath the windows. They didn't need any help beyond squeezing the expanders to contract to fit their heads; their small hands were otherwise quite capable. 
 
My favorite part of Learning Centers is lying on the rug, Beanie Baby in hand, reading aloud. They are learning about seeds and flowers, and so Ruth Kraus's classic tale of hope and confidence was presented proudly for my perusal. The little boy is so certain that it will grow, despite hearing NO at every turn. I kept the pedantic explication to myself, and shared the kids' delight when they turned the giant, poster sized, page and saw The Carrot Plant.

There were other huge books, with sunflowers and peas and soil and seeds. We spent quite a lot of time exploring the alphabet at the beginning of the silly poetry book, thinking of animals of our own that were w's or l's or b's. We were not above acting them out.

There's a new friend in the classroom, just off the boat or the plane or the ship from a distant land, unsure about exactly what to do. He sat with his arms folded around himself, looking down at some haven only he saw, there in his lap. His nods were imperceptible, his shoulders bearing the weight of the world. But his brown crayon kept talking to him, wondering what other details he might put in his journal... and the fact that I was answering his crayon seemed to amuse him.

I didn't know why he was smiling. Was there something amiss?  Didn't everyone talk to their crayons?

Soon the four boys at the four desks were conversing with Crayolas, distinguishing between B's and R's, answering one another's questions, and, for a moment, he was a part of the whole. 

One of his kindergarten classmates writes in complete sentences. How did she learn to read so well? "In my country, big kids help little kids.  My sister is big. She is 11. She taught me."  Just as Miss Levine says, it takes a whole family to raise a good learner. 

This is the kind of school my mother attended. Immigrant parents, working harder and longer to put food on the table and clothes on their backs, often not speaking English, with no experience riding buses or waiting at traffic lights or joining the PTO. It's up to the kids to bring America home with them.

Camping was the theme of the poster board at the front of the room. I'm not sure the Somali or Afghan students in the room have a lot of experience with camping, just as I know I didn't when Dick and Jane and Spot went camping when I was in 1st grade. But Americans go camping, and many of the journal entries were about camping trips the children ... fantasized?... believed they'd taken?... and does it matter, anyway? 

They were expanding their brains, thinking about unfamiliar things. Miss Levine talked about fiction and make-believe and gave great credence to that which comes from the imagination. Reality is vastly overrated, I thought to myself, and then I disagreed... immediately... because I had a little one's hand on mine, inviting me to see what she'd written.

It's impossible to be sad when surrounded by 5 and 6 year olds.  My reality is pretty good right now.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Streaming Netflix Changed My Life

I used to get a lot of reading done between September and the Super Bowl. My guy watches a lot of sports, sometimes the same game over and over again, dissecting strategies and reveling in joyous moments, all the while leaving me free to work a crossword puzzle or read a book... or, sometimes, lots of books.  Kate Shugak and I became acquainted during a football soaked December when TBG and Big Cuter sat, transfixed, by grown men chasing a pigskin. I wanted their company, but not their entertainment. Click, click, open and read - I had a twenty volume series in my Kindle without moving more than a forefinger.

I was headed that way again, my left thumb making a weird clicking sound which I diagnosed as Kindle Page Turning Syndrome, my eyes accustomed to a bright page with an ever larger font as the nights wore on and my eyes grew weary. And then we found Breaking Bad on Netflix and realized that there are alternatives on the television screen.

Let me point out that, left to my own devices, I'd be more selective in my viewing. I would certainly watch less were I not attached to TBG. He grew up in a house where the tv was background to the conversation. Our tv was in the basement, watched while folding laundry. Adjusting to the constancy of the noise after he retired was a challenge; I learned to tune it out and turn the sound into white noise while I read or thought or typed to you. He finds it soothing, I find it ignore-able, and somehow we make it work.

And then we found Netflix. Once we finished blasting through the first five seasons, we were left with one hour of watchable television a week. Somehow, our usual network and cable fare seemed puerile, prone to taking the easy way out, predictable and un-watchable.  We found the original, BBC House of Cards, because Netflix suggested it to us. We're engrossed in MI-5 and Foyle's War and maybe it's just the accents but we're finding them more enjoyable than anything on American tv.

We tried James Spader's Blacklist, but turned it off when the husband turned up duct taped and bloody in the dining room. For no reason, in full color, gore was in my living room.  There were subtler ways of making the point; we knew that because we'd been watching them on Netflix. It was a simple matter to delete the recording and see what else the television thought we might like.

Normally, he'd have gone to a sports talk or game rerun and I'd have picked up a book or the Kindle. Now, with everything imaginable in front of us, it's hard for me to say no. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm really enjoying spending time in front of the tube.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

He's Not Selling It

The problem with organizers is that their skill set is limited.  They can rally the troops to take action, energize the un-involved, get the message out, and make a lot of noise along the way.  They drop in, work on a problem, then move on to the next unsolved issue.  They don't stay in one place and try to make things work.

Unfortunately, governing requires fortitude for the long fight.  It demands that you revisit the same issues, ironing out the kinks while retaining support.  That takes focus. It's playing the long game. It's selling and reselling and then doing it again, proving to the skeptics that you were right then and you are right now.  It's less exciting, perhaps, than a glossy new challenge might be, but that really doesn't matter.

I think this is the problem with President Obama's absence from the health care debate these days. He's not sure what to do.

He can complain that the fight is personal rather than issue-driven, but that doesn't matter, either. He has Iran and Syria and Nairobi but here at home the ACA is teetering on the brink and he's no where to be found.

Chuck Todd is right.  It's not the media's fault that anti-Obamacare news is flooding the airwaves. Where are the Administration Officials normally charged with shepherding a President's most important piece of legislation through the Congressional morass?  Where are the Democrat's PAC's, making a fuss about losing an integral part of the liberal agenda?

I'm always amazed at Americans' ability to vote against their own self-interest.  I realize that the basis of The American Dream is that everyone has the same chance to become a gazillionaire, that we all aspire to joining the 1% (even if you'd give it all away, doing good deeds that need doing, living a threadbare life of monastic purity) .... but at a certain point I just stop ... unable to go any further... astonished by the lengths that people will go to hurt themselves.

The Affordable Care Act is doing something on October 1st, but I'm not sure exactly what that might be. October 1st is next week. I've had all summer to read and consider and examine, but nothing came my way.  My self-insured, affiliate Blue Cross/Blue Shield policy went up 11%.... what's a health exchange ... where's a health exchange.... what do they offer and will they be safe and where do I sign up?  These are not hard questions.  I'm at a loss to find the answers.

I know that without the passage of the ACA I would be uninsurable.  My intersection with bullets more than exhausted the cap on my coverage. I'd maxed out my policy and BC/BS/AZ would have been done with me, had Congress not taken the first step toward rational health care policy in this country.  Just as we now cannot imagine an uninsured elderly population, I hope that my grandchildren will be unable to imagine that I might have been an insurance pariah.

Perhaps the main-line Republicans (as CNN calls them) will be able to rein in the Tea Party and our government will continue to pay its bills. Hijacking the nation's agenda to serve a narrow set of interests has never been the way to lasting change. Social Security was controversial back in 1933; Aged Parm told me so and I believe her. This fact is, somehow, comforting to me.

Still, I wonder if FDR sat back and watched his program implode, come under attack, be held responsible for all that is wrong in the world?  I think not. I want to see my President tell the citizenry that their adjustable mortgage rates will go up, that their borrowing power at the Credit Union will vanish, that everything will be just a little bit more out of reach, if the government refuses to pay its bills.  I want him to remind the legislators that all they are being asked to do is to authorize the checks for expenses already incurred... expenses for which they voted.

I want him to remind voters that disability drops out of the sky, unbidden and unexpected, that a child with a chronic illness is rarely a planned for event, that moving to another state for a better opportunity means restarting your health insurance based on the body you have now... not the one the insurance company approved fifteen years ago.  The ACA isn't perfect, but it's a start. It deserves our President's support.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thanks, Starbucks.... I Guess

I was waiting for a new friend on Saturday, and Starbucks across from Body Works made sense for both of us. Fortuitously, Moms Demand Action's call to action for the weekend was to show up at Starbucks and thank Howard Schultz for taking a stand.  I'm obedient.....
even if I wasn't terribly impressed or convinced.  Baby Steps, I keep reminding myself.  Baby Steps will get us where we need to be.

Incrementalism has never been my cup of tea. I smiled about that as I ordered my passion fruit ice tea... my shaken iced tea... on Saturday afternoon.  It was too precious for words, but that wasn't the barrista's fault (shouldn't he be a barristo?) so I took my attitude and my large and expensive and very pink drink outside. There was shade, a breeze, comfy steel tables and chairs, and sunshine, all conspiring to keep me smiling as I tried and failed and tried and failed and tried and failed to take a selfie that didn't send me screaming for a plastic surgeon.

I don't think my arms are long enough.

I hashtagged and tweeted and posted and liked and sent it along to all the organizations which were collecting such things, and every time I hit Post or Send or the envelope-cum-arrow icon I cringed. Just a little, but it was there, nibbling at the edges.  The statement was okay, as far as it went, until it stopped being okay at all.

Haven't read it? Here's the link to the whole thing, but I'll be parsing it below if you don't want to click away. The letter is signed  Howard Schultz, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks Coffee Company,  I can't think of any other way to say that he's in charge of the place; those three titles are as significant as it gets. When he speaks, he speaks for the company.

Dear Fellow Americans, he begins, and I'm really getting the presidential vibe. Not Starbucks Customers or Angry Rabble Rousers or Anybody Who's Interested but my fellow Americans. We're all in this together, we who understand freedom and private enterprise and just want to get back to our drive-thru-latte-fixes.

After acknowledging that guns are a polarizing emotional topic, he goes on to whine that, (i)n recent months, Starbucks stores and our partners (employees) who work in our stores have been thrust unwillingly into the middle of this debate.

Unwillingly? We could start with "Corporations are people" and as people they should have opinions on the issues of the day. We could wonder how a Fellow American can stand on the sidelines of something that touches all of us, most of us unwillingly. Don't believe it?  I'll be happy to show you my scars and discuss the matter.  

But I think what bothers me most is the notion that the coffee shop can exist in a vacuum, as a “third place” between home and work where people can come together to enjoy the peace and pleasure of coffee and community. "Community" without values, I suppose.  "Community" on the soft-rock side of life. "Community" as an escape rather than a coming together.  People sit in their little silos, plugged into their headphones and their telephones and their tablets, exchanging neither glances nor smiles nor nods of recognition with other patrons.  I sat there for two hours on Saturday afternoon.  The grey haired couple beside me and I were the only ones who spoke between groups, and we were just trying to share the shade.

That's not building community. That's offering comfortable chairs and free wi-fi if you buy an oddly named beverage.  Community involves connection, requires engagement.  You eschew the privilege of being unwilling when you open your doors to the public. 

Nice try, Mr. Schultz, but it's just not possible.  Lord and Taylor didn't want to be in the forefront of the animal rights movement, but protesters closed their fur departments. I don't remember the retailer crying foul. They accepted that public attitudes guide the purse strings and they adapted. They acknowledged the facts and moved on.

I'd have had much more respect for Mr. Schultz if he had highlighted the next few sentences.
Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of “open carry.” To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores.
Where was that statement when the first of those events took place? Was closing the Newtown store the best response? Where were your words when they were needed?  You did not complain about the Moms Demand Action "thank you" events this weekend, so you must not object to gatherings in general. Why were you not out in front of the issue?  

Your letter says that your stores exist to give every customer a safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life.
businessinsider.com
I'm sorry, Mr. Schultz, but these guys don't have a safe and comfortable aura. Hard to imagine them enjoying Sade. Was it the sight of all that weaponry that frightened you, as it frightened me?  I believe that the answer is yes. Your letter goes on to explain that No Guns is a request not a ban, because enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on. 

Yup, they scare you too.  Little Cuter's admonition to be be careful as I write about this issue rings loud and clear: Mom, the people on the other side have guns!

Have you done any research on the issue?  Do you know how many enraged gun owners have discharged their weapons after being refused service because they were armed? Were I a responsible gun owner in favor of open carry, I'd be insulted.  You've assumed that because I carry a weapon, I must be teetering on the edge of irresponsible behavior.  Otherwise, why aren't you comfortable asking your employees to enforce your rules?  If I lit a cigarette and were chastised, aren't you afraid I'd set fire to the furniture in retaliation?

Or, do guns resonate in an entirely different way?  Is there something inherent in an AK47 that makes you uncomfortable?

You are continuing to encourage groups from all sides of this debate to share their views in a more appropriate place, with the elected leaders and policymakers who make America’s gun laws. But that's not how things happen in America, Mr. Schultz. We've had lunch counter sit ins and gay pride parades and now an African-American sits in the White House and more and more states are recognizing same sex marriages.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving changed our culture for the better and, I believe, Moms Demand Action is doing the same.

It's not a comfortable or third place space to be, but that's the price you pay for being a Fellow American.  And, by the way, we're not going away or being quiet.  There's a lot less arguing over the 1st Amendment than the 2nd, after all..... and polite women rarely make history.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Memories Abound

A year ago right now I was wearing pretty much what I'm wearing now - a t-shirt and gym shorts. I was just back from Wally World, where I'd run to purchase a full-length mirror.  The bridesmaids had been shuffled from our bedroom to the big guest room and somehow, jumping up and down to see how their dresses looked in the mirror above the sink just didn't cut it.

That full length mirror had been on my list for months; I didn't plan to be shopping for it three hours before the wedding.  No one in the store seemed at all interested in the fact that my little girl was getting married; they were oblivious to the joy.  It didn't seem possible, somehow.  It was oozing from every pore of my being.

I was a reluctant late comer to the excitement; worrying over the weather, over being the hostess, over making it perfect without overwhelming, it all kept my glee in check.  But a year ago there was not a cloud in the sky, there was no suspiciously cool breeze tossing the acacia willow from side to side, there was nothing to cause a worry.  I smiled, I watched the bridesmaids put rhinestone sparkles on my pink Converse
shown here in my favorite wedding picture, and I loved my girl.
There wasn't very much for the mother of the bride to do; the bestest friends were in charge in the getting ready room, Patty was sweeping the last bits of decoration debris from the floor, the groom and his family had yet to arrive. I was at loose ends. I could sit down and revel, remembering.....

...  her Pippi Longstocking phase, braids held out to the sides by pipe cleaners, her eyes dancing with dreams of a bicycle-powered-flying-machine, or, perhaps, magical shoe-brushes for washing the floors....

.... her scene stealing performance as Nana in Peter Pan, sweltering under the hottest costume ever created in a trailer on a back road in Sonoma....

.... her infatuation with Murphy the Wonder Dog, the least intelligent but most loved canine in the world....

.... her insistence that SIR was her friend.... nothing more... her best friend.... the one she spoke to every night.... but really, Mom, stop making more of it....

and even though I'm sure she is right, sure she knows better, sure she is the arbiter of who was feeling what, when, I will always disagree.  I saw how he looked at her the first time I met him, holding five of her suitcases and not at all troubled by her inability to start walking down the stairs.  

"It's all right. It's how she is."

Right then and there I knew what has only been confirmed in the ten years which have passed.  He loved her then and he loves her now.  There's nothing more that a mother could ask.

Thanks for insisting on the wedding, SIR.  A union like yours required a celebration like that - there was just too much love not to share it. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Happy Anniversary

I was a lot less relaxed last year. Every cloud on the horizon sent me scurrying to the National Weather Service's web site for reassurance. Brunch food and flower deliveries had me in a tizzy. I didn't have time to think about the grand adventure unfolding before my little girl.

But now, with a year's worth of memories behind us, I can stand in the back yard and laugh at my dying container plants and remember dashing frantically between home and Rillito Nursery last year... this week... finding replacements for those plants choosing that time to die. Beth had the yellow and blue hanging baskets she'd ordered just for us, and now, looking at the spent vinca, I'm motivated to find a healthier resident for the top of that post. I'll do it in their honor.

They've done well, this first year, my girl and her guy. They know who vacuums where when, and are delighted when the other does it, "just because."  They laugh at the same silly jokes and prod one another to do their very best.  They've got a future ahead of themselves, and they are laying the groundwork, one steady brick at a time.

A year ago today the house was filled with folding chairs and tables and new relatives. The road between the hotel and the house was torn to shreds, but no one seemed to care.  Friends were amazed at the convenience of our tiny airport, and were thankful for the water bottles and What to Do in Tucson flyers I'd created. I was glad they liked them; Elizibeth and I had a fine time creating and dispersing them. It was nice to feel useful. So much was out of my control.

The weather held, with just the right amount of cloudiness. The ceremony was loving and funny and then, by the power of his sister going on the internet, my boy officiated and my girl kissed her new husband, my Son In Reality, not Rent, forever.

Yes, forever. They are complementary to one another, the bride and the groom. Where she is cautious, he is fearless. Where he quails, she encourages. They laugh at the same silliness. They respect one another's fears. They are great problem solvers: she's a cover-snatcher so they bought two twin comforters for their new king size bed. Best of all, they like each other's parents.

First anniversaries require paper gifts, according to Hallmark, but the kids want a porch swing instead of engraved stationary and since they'll choose it and assemble it who am I to complain. I may send a special paper gift because that's just who I am and I know that they will laugh and say "Oh, Mom!" and remember other ridiculous packages they've opened from me in the past....

... and will open from me in the future.  This is just the first of many more anniversaries to come. I couldn't be happier.... for them.... and for myself.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's My Choice

It's time to concentrate on the things which make me smile.  Without too much effort, I could list a dozen or more things which make me grimace. I wish I didn't have to look beneath them to find the happy places.  I wondered aloud, hobbling up the small step in the garage, the one that tripped G'ma and left me wondering how such a small obstacle could cause such a huge calamity, the one that had both TBG and me stopped in our tracks right then, just for a moment, considering which leg might be better suited for weight bearing, "Why did this have to happen to me?"

I don't go there very often. It's not very useful nor enlightening nor uplifting.  It certainly does not make me smile. But my migraine was still roaring away in the background and my gait was more roiling than rolling and I was tired of it all. The words didn't sound right, hanging there above the cars and my two healthy feet and my husband who loves me and I felt an electric shock up my spine as I channeled Rocky:
Attitude is the ONLY thing you can control.
She was right in front of me, up close and personal in the way that only a friend of four decades can be, and she was annoyed with me.
You have a choice every morning when you wake up.  That's a gift.
We were much younger when I first heard her say these things.  Becoming perforated was not something either of us imagined, but neither were most of the other challenges life threw our way. Still, when I think of the renewal she promises with every morning, I know now in a way I did not then that tomorrow is not promised and that today, by virtue of the fact that I am here to see it, is a good day. Not only the choice, but the day itself is a gift.
Look around you - you don't usually have a choice.
These were words of wisdom offered to her children, a demographic of necessarily limited choices. I wonder if Big Cuter remembers himself at eight, longing to be a grown up, knowing with absolute certainty that "things are so much easier when you're an adult."

I laughed to myself then as I am laughing to myself now. Yes, adulthood brings more choices, but fewer of them are good ones. There are so many constraints, from areas which continue to surprise me.  I never thought that my body would betray me. I did everything I could to insure that. And then I got shot. As she says, you usually don't have a choice.
You can be pissy - you have every right to be - it's your choice.
The fact that everyone agrees that I am allowed to gripe - on occasion - is perfect. I can't wallow (cf. on occasion) but I can move on and annoy someone else with the same whingeing. I can take their sympathy and add it to the pile of Poor Me and be pissy all day, If I choose.
But remember, it's your choice.
And that's what stops me, each and every time. I have control over the most important part of myself; I operate the keyboard. I can play minor chords or bounce along in C Major and it's my choice. I can close my eyes and straighten my hips and shoulders and engage my fourth quadrant and upper magnets and bend my ankle and lift my knee and get up that step and into the house.

Or, I could curl up into a little ball on the unswept floor and cry.

It's my choice.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

And Again?

Big Cuter wanted to know how we were dealing with the news of the day. I was honest, and told him I'd ignored the whole thing.  He thought that was a good plan.  I'm not so sure.

Between the 49'ers' dismal performance, Breaking Bad's emotional roller coaster, and G'ma falling down, I was in no mood at all to add one other piece of sorrow to my life.  I know, I know, I know.... football and television and my ancient mother ought to be on very different levels of the Worry Ladder, and they are.  Unfortunately, my psyche is less than vigilant about keeping an appropriate amount of distance between them; I'm finding them mushing together just below my heart.

I feel for my boy, who loves his team to distraction. I worry about Jesse and twist around the axis of guilt/hubris/disappointment/ego Walt's constructed, and I'm still seeing G'ma collapsing under my car while I stood helplessly nearby. That's a typical Monday's worth of angst, and I was getting comfortable with it all, shoving some pieces aside, considering and discarding others, organizing my thoughts so that I could be available should anyone call or email. I avoid the television early in the day, and I had Sirius Bluegrass on the radio as I ran my errands, so the news was new to me when I returned home, joining TBG in front of the big screen.

We watched in horror.... for a few minutes.... and then I left the room.  I found a book on the Kindle and I took up residence on the bed. For six hours, with only a short break for lunch, I read.  Lost in a new author's murderous, mysterious world, I ignored the television and the world around me.  The fantasy was more appealing than the reality.

I'm getting very good at blocking out the drone of the talking heads, relying on them only for reminders to get up and stretch my achy self.  When the commercials come on, I move. I'd hear maybe and perhaps and it seems that and my stomach would clench. If we've learned nothing else from these incidents of chaos, it is knowing that there is very little truth behind the initial reporting. Reporters rush to be first, rather than to be correct.

Don't believe me?  Remember NPR and CNN pronouncing that Gabby Giffords was dead as TBG sat in the ER waiting for word about me? There is danger in rushing to the microphone and we've learned to protect ourselves. But this was the first time I've actively ignored the entire situation.

I have a general sense of what's being reported - a disaffected, young, black man who some say was hearing voices and others liken to a 13 year old, playing video games in the bedroom he rented from the owner of the Thai restaurant in which he worked.  No long term relationships, no obvious social skills, and those pesky voices.....my shooter heard them too.... and the connection became stronger and I went back to my book.

I fled to my book.  I retreated to my book.  I drowned and immersed and comforted myself with my book.  The real world was too spiky, too filled with sorrow, too troubled for me.  I'd look up, I'd see the images of Washington, DC, I'd remember that I could have been on an airplane to that very scene, lobbying for sensible gun legislation, reading names at the memorial ceremony, hiking the halls of Congress, telling my tale, sharing my woes, begging for understanding and action.... and I'd go right back to the book.

I try to engage. I try to participate. I try to make my voice heard. None of it is easy and all of it is needed but I'm done, for now.  I cannot add one more bit of sadness to the pile.  Another young life was lost, more innocents are lost or damaged, nothing is resolved, and the talking heads keep talking.  The naval officer who described himself as "doing office work" was frustrated that he didn't have a weapon to use in his own defense.  He worried about the civilians at the Navy Yard who "didn't sign up to put their lives in danger" when they agreed to work at the Navy Yard.  The anchors talked about the shooter's disgruntled attitude, and the (un)timeliness of his paychecks, and they glommed onto passers-by with a fearsome friendliness that was frightening even 2500 miles away.

Everyone wants the story. The story is very simple. A disturbed man wielding a weapon shot a lot of people.  The why's, the how's, the arguing and the bloviating and the shouting don't change that.  I don't know what will.  I just know that today, for this moment, for this event, for now, I am done.

I have nothing left to give, no tears left to fall. I'm numb.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

No Good Deed...

I didn't want to go. I wanted to read the T Jefferson Parker police procedural I downloaded from the library's website. I wanted to swim, or go to the gym, or even watch professional football.  I just didn't want to go over to the pod castle. I'm still raw from thinking about what used to be and what is now.

But I was also hungry for soft serve ice cream and the pod castle was concerned about a swelling on G'ma's jaw so I bundled my nerves in swaddling clothes and drove over to see my mom.  Going over to the grandparents on Sunday afternoon is an old routine.  Perhaps I was channeling the angst that came from sitting in the backseat, listening to G'ma's "Two hands on the wheel!!" as Daddooooo sang along to opera and pointed out the varieties of airplanes flying overhead.

I had two miles not twenty to drive, and only one old woman to see. It was totally different. There would be no one to play canasta with me, no one to make me a hamburger, no stacks of Reader's Digests to delve through. I wouldn't be sitting at a banker's desk, pretending I was a business man (sexist, perhaps, but very 1950's) .  In the three traffic lights between her house and mine, I reorganized my vision of the mommy in the front seat of the Mercury to the reality of the frail woman stuck in her recliner.

The afternoons are worse than the mornings. In the morning's it's "Hi, Suz!" and the television is turned off.  In the afternoon, drowsy and fiddling her teeth in her face, she's confused and then agreeable when I offer a drive to Dairy Queen.  Though the footrest is up on the electric chair she is undaunted. I watch in horror as she squeezes her shin between the armrest and the ankle pillows and shimmies herself forward.

"Mom, wait a minute.  Let me put this down for you."

Her flummoxed look chilled me.  She had no idea that there was something amiss.  She assumed she was old and fragile and the issues were hers... not the chair's.  If she kept going forward, her feet were sure to hit the ground.  That's why there is an alarm on the seat of the chair... an alarm that is supposed to chime and announce its location when her bottom moves.

There was no chiming or announcing as she scooted forward, as she stood up, as she walked down the hallway.  By the time we encountered a caregiver, I was livid.  The thing which is designed to keep my mother safe was broken. For how long, I did not know. The caregiver was oblivious to my distress, nor did she have any idea that the alarm was mal-functioning.

"Can you look at it, please, and see if you can get it working?"

"Ma'am, I'm a care giver, not a mechanic."

I thought I had stopped shaking by the time we got through the rec room and out to the back patio.  I thought I was in control, that my rage was bottled up neatly, that I was focused on my mom and not on the sassy wench who had dismissed my issue and with it any confidence I might have had that my mother was safe in that environment.  Visions of shopping for a new home, of moving her, of what to do that night, of hiring a private duty nurse to watch over her, of screaming at the heavens, all of that was in my head as I helped G'ma and her walker down over the curb and into my car.

She used to be able to take a shuffle step forward while the walker was on the pavement and she was on the sidewalk.  Not so much any more, I came to find out.  I put the walker down, I cued her to move forward, and there she was, tumbling down off the curb, sliding down the front of my car, landing on her side.  She was on my right side, my damaged side, the side to which I cannot shift quickly.  All I could do was watch.

And scream.  I got down faster than I have in three years, saw that her eyes were open and there was no obvious broken bones or blood, and I screamed.  Help came. Her vitals were checked, her wounded nose and elbow were cleaned and covered, Arnica was rubbed onto her bruised knuckles, and she kept wondering why I was crying. Mom didn't remember that she had fallen.  She didn't seem to notice that she was in the parking lot.... on the parking lot... that she was bleeding or that I had let her fall or that I had failed to keep her safe. She was hungry for dinner.

It was time to move on.  The med tech reconfigured the alarm system and there was chiming and announcing galore.  Everyone was fine, except for me. I saw that fall all night long. Going to sleep was torturous.

I was at the pod castle at first light.  She was fine.  The alarms worked.  The aides who love her were on duty and the owner listened to my tale of woe with real concern.  I have no doubt that she will take action.  I have no doubt that I will, too.  I need to leave my anger at the door.  I need to concentrate on the here and now and I need to remember that my mother needs more than a cursory glance when she's outside. I need to focus on the good parts of the day, the fact that she was fine, that she doesn't know that it happened, that the repairs were quick and painless.

I need to stop seeing her fall.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Diligo Fratrem

I love my brother.

The phone rang this afternoon just as I settled down for the last third of Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher novel. The pace was quickening, the bad guys were dropping like flies, and the phone was ringing.  I was all full of grrr and leave me alone until caller id told me that Brother was there.

I knew before I said "Hello!" that he and his girls were driving from their new home at the end of the Red Line to their synagogue much closer to town. Talking to me on their way to Kol Nidre was a good use of time.  It was good for my soul, as well.

There aren't a lot of people who want to hear me talk about my mother.  I write about it here because I know that you can click away if you find me annoying or self-indulgent or too morose for where you want to be right now. There's no harm and no foul; I don't know and you don't have to worry about offending me. I get it off my chest, and I feel better. Healing through blogging; it's the cheapest therapy I know.

Brother listens. He understands. He laughs in the right places and offers to visit at the right times and is generally there when he's needed. I'm not sure that he's needed right now.  I don't know what is needed.

He told me that they'd called G'ma last week and the conversation was marked by a certain amount of peevishness on her part. She lost track of her sentences.... and she knew it.  Her usually excellent skills at confabulation deserted her.... and she knew it. He was touched by the fact that she cared.  In the past, her default has been that anger won't help her to remember, so why should she waste time being peeved? She's funny and able to laugh at herself... at least she has been up until now.

Anesthesia is no friend to the demented.  After every procedure, after every sedation, there is less of my mother than there was before.  I don't understand the biology, and neither does anyone else.  Google anesthesia dementia and the first page brings you ten articles, alternately claiming that anesthesia does and does not increase the risk of dementia.

I don't care about the research. Just like when the pediatrician denied the correlation between drooling and sniffling and teething, I know what I'm seeing.  My mother was finishing her own paragraphs before she broke her leg. Since she's been home, she's losing the ends of her sentences.  I'm just sayin'......

So Brother listened as I got a little teary, telling him that I go to visit her in the mornings now, because my readers told me to focus on the love in the moment.  She's less tired, more herself before lunch; I'm a happier person seeing her that way.  I'm long past the guilt of visiting on my own schedule; now I try to keep a smile on my face for as long as I can before I go back to my car to sigh.. to breathe... to weep.

I miss my mother.

I read him a letter from G'ma's oldest friend. It speaks of a woman quite different from she who parented us. I want to be able to ask about that person, the one Gladys knew, the brave and resourceful one who is hiding someplace inside the body currently masquerading as my remaining parental unit.

Brother understands. He accepted my Yom Kippur inspired apology for any wrongs I'd done him in 5773, and he returned the favor.  He'll eat pre-fast pasta so he can nap through the sermon, and he'll be thinking of me as I'll be thinking of him. We're in this together, he and I.

At this moment, that's the best news I've had all day.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Coming Home

I was only gone for three days.  It feels like an eternity. I'm having serious re-entry problems.

There was a garbage can to drag out to the street this morning.  There was a newspaper to retrieve at the end of the driveway. I had an appointment in the morning and a luncheon date at noon; I wanted to do both of them but I resented their presence on the calendar anyway.

We're on the last gallon of milk and the bread is looking a little green around the edges. Nothing in the house can create an edible dinner. The grocery store is in my future.

I'm blue because there was no elevator to take me down to the bakery in the building for a fresh blueberry muffin, a muffin that is Goldilocks-like in its perfection - not too big nor too small but exactly the right number of bites to fill me up but not out. I made oatmeal as I dreamed of Little Griddle doing all the work, leaving only the eating to me.

I like vacation. The real world is rearing its all too normal head and I'm annoyed.

It's foolish to feel this way. I like all the projects which require my attention. My body is grateful for the hour spent at Pilates this morning and my soul is filled with good company and laughter after lunch with CTG's mom and Sgt. Lois. I have nothing to complain about and yet I am yearning for the release of being away... even when the here and now is quite fine.

Yet, I know it's not just the being away.  Mayors Against Illegal Guns wants me to join them in Washington, DC next week for the end of the No More Names bus tour. I'll be doted upon and transported and I won't have to make any decisions at all. The travel will be fun and I could probably squeeze in a visit with Intrepid Cat and her parents. I'd be away.

I'll just have to tell my story, in the most gut wrenching detail, over and over and over again. I ought to do it. I just can't make myself say "Yes."

I want to be on vacation and not have to think about any of this at all.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Living in My Children's Homes

I spent a week in Chicago-land, my home base the house SIR and Little Cuter bought just before they wed last year. They were up and out to work before I rolled over and looked at the clock. The guest bed was comfy and the house was quiet and there was no reason to get up and get moving.

I rambled around, upstairs and down, but there were no chores to be done. When G'ma would visit me she always found something to do.  She'd sew or clean, organize and cook, pick up kids at school and play with the dog. I had nothing. The dog slept all day, raising a semi-curious eyebrow at me as I glanced into the bedroom where he, comfortably ensconced amidst pillows and blanket, ruled the roost. Nothing was out of place.  Nothing needed fixing (by me) or cleaning or straightening or washing or ironing.  Yes, I would have ironed. I wanted to be useful.

I did the grocery shopping, but I couldn't put the newly purchased items away. Their kitchen is well organized in a way that only they understand. I could only disrupt the flow. So, I stacked the cans and the spices and the ripening fruits in a straight line on the counter, and I walked away.

It felt like cheating.

I've been in San Francisco for a couple of days, for an engagement party and to see my boy.  He lives in a nice sized box overlooking the Civic Center and Davies Symphony Hall and, in the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge. They are tearing down the high rise across the street, and soon he'll have a view of the rest of Twin Peaks. The bookshelves are stacked two deep, there are no dishes in the sink, and if I had a year I couldn't begin to tackle the work that needs to be done to bring the bathroom up to G'ma's standards.

It doesn't bother him and it's his house so why do I care?

My sister spent a week in my studio apartment in 1973. She cleaned my toaster oven until it shone brighter than it did when I took it out of the box.  She vacuumed under my bed and washed the insides of the windows. She's obsessed.

I am not.

G'ma would come to my college apartment and clean the stove.  My roommates and I were grateful. She was appalled that we would cook in such an environment. We really didn't notice. I think that's the same attitude my boy brings to the pile of socks on the floor at far side of his bed. Dressing for the gym today, he grabbed a pair and smiled at me.  On my last visit, I matched the friends and tossed the holey ones and grumbled to myself that I had failed as a mother. He does have a closet.  Why he didn't use it was a mystery to me.

Just as my dirty ovens surprised my sister and my mother, I suppose.

It's an odd feeling to be alone in another's home.  When the other is your child, it's even weirder. I see the toys I've sent for birthdays, the pictures I framed and they've displayed, my old comforter that now covers his bed and I know that I am with them every day even though my body is thousands of miles away. Still, she is so neat and he is so oblivious and it's obvious that they are their own people and I am just the woman who parented and then let them go.

Not too far, but gone nonetheless. He's in and out, working and exercising. She's up at 5:30 am and away all day. Yet, they are here beside me, all day long. His unmade bed brings me memories of kissing him awake for elementary school. Her well-organized home sends me flashing back to the color coded files she created for her college applications. They incorporate what I send and they make it their own.

I know that's what grown-ups are supposed to do. I just wish we could all do it closer to one another. Perhaps then he'd be a little neater and I'd have a clue about where she stashes the pasta. They are adults, making their own ways in the world and doing quite nicely. I just wish I understood it a little bit more.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, CTG

I went to church on Sunday.  

I felt no strong pull to attend synagogue, despite the High Holy Days and Days of Awe which my family and friends are celebrating this week. I've been speaking to my heart this week, examining corners and wondering where the new year will take me, but I've been unmotivated to pray in public. There was nothing for me to say, there.

Today is Christina-Taylor's birthday, though, and last Sunday was the second Sunday in September, the day on which a mass is celebrated in her name. So, there I was, at St. Odilia's, her family's church, two traffic lights away from the Safeway where bullets took her from us. Honestly, I'd rather have been at her 12th birthday party.

But, the day and time were announced on Facebook, and everyone was invited. I rolled out of bed and through the shower and my closet without thinking too much. I was in the parking lot fifteen minutes later, leaving my car next to her parents' car, and in front of this sign

I was trying to hold it together, but that just pulled it apart. What have we come to that such signs are necessary... at a church?

I slipped into the back row, after telling the Boy Scout on the patio that I would donate to his cause after the service, if he could formulate his reasons more articulately. I tried to laugh at myself for making every moment a teachable moment, but the smile wouldn't come. My civics lesson with Gabby and Christina-Taylor had led me to a hard bench on a Sunday morning and my heart was breaking into little pieces.  None of them wanted to be translated into a grin.

St. Odillia's is a friendly place, starting (and ending) the service with handshakes and greetings. The message was hopeful and welcoming and healing. The cantor (there must be a word for the person who sings in a Catholic service but this is as close as I can come) held out her arms, bringing us into her song, encompassing us all as she thanked Jesus.  "You have been our refuge," she sang, and I knew that it was true.  My friends find solace in their belief in his goodness; for that I am ever grateful.

Two babies were introduced to the community, and blessed. Christina-Taylor's delight in being a 9/11 baby was the centerpiece of the sermon, a short and thoughtful homily on healing grace and poverty and what we can do about it. "If you want peace, work for justice," was the message. I wanted nothing more than to talk about it with CTG. I was lonely, and the comfort I wanted cannot be found.

So I looked around the auditorium, at the Dad cossetting his antsy young son, tenderly stroking his head, directing his attention to the dais; at the quiet chatter in the glass fronted family room, where praying and playing were taking place side by side; at the three crones, one terribly palsied, all white haired and smiling and delighting in one another as they helped and guided and laughed. I watched the parishioners take Communion, eating the bread that was matzoh and which, this morning, resembled a tortilla, leaving the altar with clasped hands and gentle smiles.  

I realized that I was no longer on the outside, looking in. 

I was part of the community and that was the point. Christina-Taylor was all about inclusion and joy and doing something new. In her honor, I was wearing an outfit I'd coordinated with accessories to match, and though I was one of the few who were not in blue jeans, I didn't feel overdressed. There was no one there to judge. They were glad that I was there, new, dressed up, knowing no one but smiled at by all. 

Fr. Troutman, the pastor, remembered my name and asked about my rehab before sighing that the family's pew was full. I assured him that it didn't matter. I felt connected, right there in the back.

My little friend is gone, but she is not forgotten. She is with me as I drop off socks to PYP and as I measure how tall her brother has grown.  While he towers over me and recounts his mom's encounter with a rattle snake while wearing red... a color certain to enrage the reptile... wearing a sport coat and looking all grown up... his sister is sitting on my shoulder, laughing along with me. 

I don't think I'll make this a regular Sunday thing, but I am looking forward to it as an annual event, a re-connection with a part of myself I don't visit very often. Thanks for the invitation, Christina.  I love you.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lead Me (NOT) Into Temptation

I have met the devil.
I lost the battle for my soul.
It doesn't look like much, sitting on the island surrounding the cooktop.
It's small and light and easy to lift.
The handle tilts up and out of the way.
There's even a plastic lid to keep the used oil from sloshing over the sides when the machine is stored.
The cord goes in one way, and one way only, and I made sure that it couldn't be pulled out inadvertently.
The instructions were quite clear.
This was a dangerous piece of machinery.
If only they knew just how dangerous it was.

I found a recipe for Faux Cronuts on-line.
It was right up my alley - open a package, deep fry, dip in sugar/cinnamon mix, eat.
The fact that the package had two boxtops for Prince Elementary School's collection box just added to the joy..... as if it needed any enhancement from external sources.
I'm a carb-aholic.
Sweets don't do much for me.
I've never eaten chocolate - not a candy bar nor a bite of ice cream nor a wrapped-in-foil square.
It holds no allure.
But breads... wheat and rye and seeded and loaves and rolls and slices and muffins... they make me smile.

I also have a taste for things which are fried.
Raynor's in Baldwin was my favorite restaurant when I was young; their fried chicken was mostly crust and little meat.  I loved it.
Big Cuter blames his obsession with grease on my pre-natal habits while he shared his living space with me.  McDonald's french fries (at least once, sometimes twice, often three times every day) is seeded in his genetic makeup.

I don't apologize for any of it. 
I'm just stating facts.

I knew that Cronuts recipe would be trouble.
I made the first batch with Carapelli's Light Olive Oil in a deep Reverware pot.
It called for four inches of oil.
That's a whole bottle and a little bit more.
The tube of dough wouldn't open, no matter how hard I knocked it on the counter's edge.
My stick-a-knife-through-the-packaging technique left me with some very interesting shapes in addition to the pre-cut triangles included by Pillsbury.

It didn't matter.
They fried up quite nicely, and we didn't mind long strips instead of round-ish faux donuts.
They were awesome.

We dipped the first batch in a mixture of granulated sugar and cinnamon, but TBG had a taste for something even sweeter, softer, dreamier.
He wondered if we had any powdered sugar.

An Aside: Every year my family would trek to Little Italy for the Feast of San Gennaro.
We'd put dollar bills in the statues moving slowly down the streets in the impromptu parades.
We'd window shop and try to find Mafioso in the crowd.
And we'd eat zepppole.... fried dough coated with powdered sugar.

The thought that I could create this in my own kitchen left me gobsmacked.
The cronuts would have to be perfect, though.
The pot on the stove technique had me fiddling with the temperature of the oil.
It would get hot, then too hot, then not hot enough.
There weren't any spatters... at first... but by the last batch I was dropping and jumping at the same time.
The dough went in - I went backwards, away from the flying grease.

So, I gave in to the devil.
I bought The Fry Daddy.
It's awesome.
Though they suggested "high quality vegetable oil" I stuck with my olive oil.
There's a line on the inside that tells me when to stop pouring.
It's exactly one bottle's worth.

It heats up in fifteen minutes, and maintains the proper temperature throughout the cooking cycle.
The inside is coated with a non-stick material but I'm not thinking about all the chemicals that are leaching into the cronuts... this doesn't come close to being a healthy meal and I'm not making any excuses.  I've created a bit of Little Italy in my kitchen in America's desert southwest there will never be a reason to criticize my own personal slice of heaven
It's easy to clean up, when the coating from the deep fried french toast sloshes onto the sides.
Yes, deep fried french toast.
I made it for dinner.
We didn't snack at all that night.
Nor did I eat breakfast the next morning.
I was full for eighteen hours.

Full.... bloated... exploding... and very very happy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's Ba-a-a-a-ck!

Thursday, late afternoon.  His joy is permeating the house.

He is more than a little disappointed that The Tweety Birds, aka the Arizona Cardinals, will preempt the Forty-Niners on Sunday afternoon, forcing him to leave the house and watch them play Green Bay at a sports bar.  I suggested that we join Miss Margo at the place up the road; she watches the Packers there every Sunday.

"A Packers' Bar???????"

We'll be searching for another venue.
*****
NBC has a countdown, marking the minutes, now the seconds, until the NFL season begins.  Every second has a different man smiling at the camera. Mine is sitting on the couch, relaxed and energized at the same time.

It's a comfort to us both.  He watches and I read. He plots plays and I peruse plots (sorry, I couldn't resist) and life is good. We can be together, doing exactly what we want to be doing, enjoying the other's company without really participating in an activity that is of marginal interest.

I try not to dwell on the memories of long hikes instead of long stories. It is what it is. It's not bad at all.
*****
He'll be on the phone with Big Cuter, listening to statistics and prognostications and sharing his own certainties.  They argue esoterica, but they are willing, even eager, to explain the basic details. I admit to feeling somewhat abashed when the notion that the runners and the catchers were the running backs and the receivers and that the really good ones were able to be both became clear to me.

That was an indication of the amount of thought that goes into my viewing.  I'll admire a performance, a series of plays, an exciting moment, but I won't analyze the intricacies. It's color and spectacle and I'm not ashamed to say that I like the arrow superimposed on the field by some networks; it shows me which way the ball is moving.  The boys see offense and defense; I'm relying on a graphic.

Hey, it works for me.  Don't judge.
*****
For the past ten years, last year's Super Bowl winner has opened its season at home. Tonight, the Ravens traveled to Denver, giving up home field advantage because the Orioles, with whom their stadium shares a parking lot, have a game tonight.

Who made these plans?
*****
Baltimoreans may not be able to drive across town to see their team play, but they could still celebrate. There were fireworks over an empty stadium. I seem to be the only one who thought it was weird.
*****
The game was played.  The boys talked. I read a whole book on the Kindle.  Apparently, Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes, tying the record. I was aware of them only because Big Cuter had picked Peyton and TBG had not.  The phone rang all night long with my big boy's little boy-like jeers and taunts directed at his daddy.

No matter how old they get, boys do like to triumph over their fathers.  It's a glee unlike any other.  It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them, and I love it.
*****
Friday came and went.  There were replays and pronouncements and preparations but there were no games.  We watched old movies and West Wing and I read not a word. The phone didn't ring with delighted "I am the best!" announcements from our son.

I wouldn't call it lonely, but it wasn't the same.
*****
Saturday morning and Lee Corso has a leprechaun hat on his head, though the Game Day crew was surrounded by booing Michigan fans.  The rivalry has taken on a quasi-personal bent since SIR's family has melded with ours.  They live right near South Bend's golden dome. His brother fills Facebook with cartoons reviling the blue and gold.

That's exactly the amount of involvement I choose to accept.  I'll watch happily from the sidelines, peering over the top of the latest Faye Kellerman classic. College ball is fun but it doesn't capture the boys' interest in the same way as the professional game. It's background noise to nap by.
*****
Michigan/Notre Dame turned out to be a much better game than we'd imagined, so Faye Kellerman and I kept company through the early evening. I had seventy-five pages left to the book I'd begun in the morning when Arizona's Wildcats met UNLV's Rebels on the field.  The game was a rout, and TBG was ready for something new.  He waited for the book to conclude; it seemed only fair.
*****
Sunday had me up and out by 9am; I straggled home at 3-ish, having seen the Forty-Niners and the Packers on the giant screen at Union as Amster and I had lunch. TBG tried the Fox and Hound, but the noise was eclipsed only by the youthfulness of the crowd and the dearth of available seating.

It wasn't the end of the world, though. With only two televised games this afternoon, Red Zone showed the entire second quarter on the full screen. I left him at half time to type to you.  There's another game this evening, which should give me plenty of time to get ahead on my posting so that I can travel to San Francisco tomorrow and visit my boy.

He offered to pick me up at the airport, but I'm landing during Monday Night Football and it just doesn't seem fair to ask.
*****
Their teams won.  The son's predictions were more brilliant, more prescient, more note worthy than those of his paternal unit, and the phone lines were heating up with his joy as the afternoon went on.  By the time the Cowboys met the Giants, it was agreed that the kid is the smartest human in the universe.

It's nice when grown men hitting one another can bring my boy such joy.

I'm going to start another book now.  The night is still young.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cynthia Reid - In Her Own Words

My friend Cindy paints.  She gardens and exercises and comforts friends just home from the hospital, but when she's not doing any of that, she paints. Starting her professional life as a pathologist, she graduated from looking at slides to creating beauty.  You can find her work here.

Every once in a while she sends a love note to her mailing list.  Today, amidst traffic jams and undercooked burgers and noisy hips and disappointing yard workers and Comcast voice mail hell, I spent first a few minutes, then some more, then a very long time looking at the images and feeling peace descend over my shoulders like a warm blanket. 

She said that I could share her words and pictures with you, and so I have. I hope it brings you the same joy that it brought to me. 

Happy Weekend!
*****

Enhanced by Art
September 2013

I believe that engagement with art can change your life, sometimes profoundly. While I hope that my art in some small way enhances the lives of those who purchase one of my paintings, my own life has been greatly enhanced by the art of others.

"Berthe Morisot," after Edouard Manet, by Paul Burke
My grandfather painted this four decades ago. It represents for me the influence that his painting had on me at an early age, in addition to the importance of the subject, who was the first female French impressionist painter.

"Dance," by John Waddell
John Waddell is a 92-year-old Arizona sculptor and painter. Many of John’s models have been dancers, and his figures express the fluid freedom unique to dance. His image, for me, is a daily reminder to "dance."

"Canoes at Tanglewood," by John Reid

This photograph hung in my medical office for many years. It evokes a sense of calm and serenity that often was needed. I will never forget the day a surgeon came into my office and asked if he could sit for a minute to relax in that serenity.

"Antelope," by Molly Heizer
Molly Heizer’s ceramic work is joyful and soulful. This antelope sculpture displays a sense of whimsy and playfulness.


“Art teaches nothing, except the significance of life.” Henry Miller

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pilates at Amphi Middle School

It takes a village to raise a generation.
My village is doing quite nicely, thank you very much.

GRIN's partnership with Body Works Studios and Amphi Middle School is at it again.
This public/private/not-for-profit collaboration started its second year this morning.
 The swept and cleaned Dance Room at the newly renovated Amphi Middle School campus was the scene, equipped with mats and magic circles courtesy of Balanced Body, Inc.
The girls in Coach Powell's Sports Conditioning Class were the participants.

The girls were a bit skeptical at first.
Kyria got them off the mats and onto their feet.
They were amazed at the amount of work it takes to put your feet firmly on the ground.
Hands placed on the front of the hips lets you feel how open they are, how you can raise your ribs and settle your pelvis and feel taller.
These girls have long, aristocratic necks without even trying.
Hands on the hips, not in anger, but in service of creating a balanced body.
That body can then lean to the left, while the hips remain front and center.
Imagine headlights on your hip bones and shine them forward as you lean to the side.
Come up again and feel your foot centers on the ground before you go to the other side.
A plie is not a squat.  You go straight down, bending the knees and folding at the hips.
Your butt does not shoot out behind you.
It follows your upright pelvis straight down.
Once we got the bending straight down figured out, it was time to learn to bend our spines.
Rounding over and touching the floor brought them to their knees.
There was rounding and then flaring as angry cats and lazy cows were created.
A brief resting position, child's pose to the yogi's in the audience,
and then it was learning how hard it is to sit up and out of your sit bones, with your legs straight and your neck long.
Kyria demonstrated the starting position for the roll down,
and then they were on their own.
Hands behind the thighs helps slow things down.
It will take some time before they find their quadrants and their breath.
On the other hand, no one clunked down quickly and everyone tried to stay evenly weighted, left to right, front to back.
For some reason, lying straight out and "getting as long as you can" made them smile.
So did creating the Big X's on the floor.
I don't know why this made them so happy, but it did.
One of the PYP participants was a willing model for the pelvic press.
It's a small movement, but a powerful one.
It takes concentration and a true mind body connection, which often does not come easily.
Once it's learned, it's easier to stay up.
Pressing down with the arms gives the oppositional energy to the lift of the pelvis.
The knees go one way and the upper body goes the other.
The connection is there.... it just takes practice to have it come easily.
I should know.
I've been working on it for years and years and years.
From the mats, legs went to 90/90... 
or tabletop, if that made it clearer.
Kyria made sure that everyone was correctly positioned
before the right legs were pulled in, increasing the fold while the back lay flat on the mat.
Those legs went straight to the sky....except if you were too pooped to pop, as the front right corner illustrates.
Then, those legs came down
and it happened all over again on the other side.
And then, there were the roll ups.
Arms pressing tightly to the sides of the body, exhaling and pressing rib cages to the floor,
they all managed to rise up and over
 and come to sitting.
It took me seven years of mat class to be able to do a roll up.
These girls did it the very first time they tried.
I was impressed.
They didn't think it was all that awesome, but I begged to differ.

With fingers woven behind heads,
trying to sit up and out of the hips
sit bones firmly planted on the mat
they bent over, curving their backs and breathing deeply.

I'd have taken that picture, too, but I was consulting with Coach Powell.
The girls needed to finish up and get back to the locker room to change.

Before they left, GRIN gifted them with new socks.
The floor might not always be as clean as it was today.
It's important that the participants feel that the space is conducive to the work.
GRIN is glad to help.

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