Friday, January 31, 2014

Old And (definitely not) In The Way

Miss Vicki and I were in the presence of a legend last night.

No, it wasn't the aging hippie birthday boy with the blown out greying locks above his too tight plaid shirt. It was the bass player Miss Vicki saw toting his instrument into the theater as we arrived downtown for a before the show dinner.  It was also Dr. Ralph Stanley, 87 years young.

True, there was the occasional wandering around the stage when he was supposed to be singing at the microphone. A padded chair was center stage, and the whole audience exhaled in unison when, half way through the set, he managed to lower himself safely down onto the seat.  He looked frail and fragile and uncertain, until he opened his mouth.

His voice has always been high and reedy. There's none of the roundness his son, Ralph Stanley the Second, carries. There's a mournful, verse-repeating, church-like quality to it.  He told us that he learned to sing in his old Baptist church, a capella, praying to the Lord.  I'm listening to my Pandora Radio Ralph Stanley station as I type and I can't tell which tunes were recorded in the 1980's and which last year. Pandora's biography calls it high lonesome and I think they've got it right. 

When he began claw-picking the banjo, the way his mother taught him in 1930, the clock rolled back to his dark haired prime.  His spine loosened, his hand was a blur, his head was lost somewhere in the moment. So were we all.

It was a blue-grass savvy audience.  There was a lot of clapping along and shouted requests came from every corner of The Fox Theater. Each member of The Clinch Mountain Boys is an accomplished solo-artist in his own right, so it doesn't seem right to refer to them as the back-up band. The audience certainly did not regard them in that light; every artist had his moment, and the applause never wavered.

It was a long, wonderful set, the end to a long, wonderful evening.  We saw history and musical excellence and indulged in a little bit of hero worship.  It was perfect.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Back in the Saddle, Again

Apparently, my sugars are high.

How can this be true, I wondered, as did my little girl who emailed this query:
How are your sugars high? Genetics? You eat like, NO junk…
That's an affirmation I can get behind.  I don't like candy or chocolate.  I'll eat a piece of cake if it's yellow and your birthday, or a cookie or ten if JannyLou brings me her home-made goodies, but, in general, I'm a fruits and veggies, bread and cheese, kind of girl.

Yet, the numbers don't lie.  The blood was drawn in October and then, again, last Thursday.  I was properly hydrated, I'd fasted the requisite number of hours, and the truth was in the digits on the page.  Pre-diabetic is a frightening phrase.

The doctor was wonderful and reassuring but I was bummed.  Peeved.  Annoyed.  Scared. Luckily, TBG was able to ride to the rescue.

"Pre-diabetic" isn't like "incipient cataract," you realize.

No, I hadn't thought that deeply.  I was stuck on diabetic.

You can fix this, you know.

No, I didn't know.  I was wallowing in despair, feeling my body falling apart at the seams, out of control, ill, on a downward spiral, looking at a life of restrictions and concern.

Really, all you need to do is add sweaty exercise to your routine and you'll be fine.  

Sweaty exercise, he said.  Not my favorite thing in the world, aerobics and all that.  I find the treadmill and the elliptical to be among the world's most mind-numbing creations.  Feet move, but I get nowhere.  The gym has daytime junk tv showing me rich women giving away their clothes to foster children who may or may not need a sequined navy low cut formal gown and ESPN reprising the same three Super Bowl stories over and over again, tiring me with Richard Sherman and the weather in New Jersey. I am not amused.  Never have been, never will be.

I treated myself to purple memory foam ear buds since I couldn't find my pink-just-a-little-too-big-ones anywhere.  How I lost them is a mystery; they live in my glove compartment when they are not between my phone and my ear canals.  I tried to open the packaging in the car, but failed. Miserably.  Totally.  Completely.  There is no way anyone but Edward Scissorhands or Wolverine could get into that plastic.  Luckily, the gym had sharp tools and I was plugged in and ready to go in no time.

The first elliptical had moving arms.  I was using more upper body than lower, so I walked down the row to the five stable arm stations. Two heavily perspiring gentlemen were anchoring the ends of the area; I took the machine in the middle, wiped down the arms, pushed Manual and Go, and, for the first time since January, 2011, I was exercising aerobically.

It wasn't very much fun at all.

The arm rests are in the wrong position for a person of small stature. I was either two inches too high, thus engaging my shoulders, or three inches too low, which forced me to bend over and forward, pitching my hips and pelvis in an awkward angle. The rubber cover of the cool metal was behind my arms when I let them hang naturally, bent at the elbow.  I moved around, up, down, behind, and determined that comfort was never to be found.

Yet, I trudged on.  I set the angle of incline at 1 and the speed at 3 and I pressed my feet into the pedals.  I concentrated on even hips and shoulders, bemoaning the fact that there was no mirror to reflect my image and help me correct my posture.  I thought about pressing through my foot centers at the base of my toes and the edges of my heels.  I extended my legs fully, not allowing tightness to dictate the range of motion.  I battled my brain which was telling me that enough is enough. Sweat poured from every pore.

Ten minutes and I was gasping.  Tomorrow I'll go for fifteen, then twenty and twenty-five and I will never do less than I did the day before.  I will figure out a way to use the moveable arm machines without relying on my upper body to carry the weight.  I will reconfigure my music and my Pandora stations so that I have upbeat tunes to amuse me.  I will change those numbers, if changed they can be.

That's the plan.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

PTSD, Integrative Medicine, Aggravation, and Me

I got a speeding ticket today.

I was the only car on the road, in either direction.  As soon as the cones started I slowed down to the speed limit.  Apparently, that wasn't enough for the nicest Sheriff ever, who didn't cite me for criminal fastness nor for going so quickly through a construction zone. That was kind and I'm not taking anything away from the gesture, but there was no danger to anyone because there was no one else around, the speed which inspired the ticket was the posted limit,  there was nary a construction worker on the scene, and I was finally going home after eight hours away.

I'm too aggravated to think through more than a paragraph at a time.  My brain refuses to let go of the angst. TBG tried to talk me down, reminding me that it's over, I can't make it not have happened, which is what I asked for when he offered anything at all, trying to put a smile on my face. He's right of course, but the aggravation has taken hold and is in no mood to let go.

I'm a bit vulnerable.  I had a two hour visit with a physician at the University of Arizona Medical Center's Center for Integrative Medicine, Andrew Weill's brainchild.  Integrative Medicine was one of the attractions of Tucson; I figured that any community willing to adopt Dr.Weill's attitude toward health and alternative modalities was a community willing to learn and grow.  After this morning's appointment, I can attest to the fact that there is no other form of medicine quite like it.

The doctor apologized for the table between us.  There were floor lamps and no overhead neon bulbs.  The floor was faux-wood and the exam table was as comfy as Douglas.  (Douglas is my couch, if you're new here.)  We talked for over an hour before he looked at the blood work and medical report I'd provided, before he listened to my heart or tested my reflexes.  He wanted to know about my diet, my sleep patterns, my supplements, my relaxation strategies.  He wasn't that interested in my structure, which was odd.  He was interested in how I intersected with life, which was odder.

He had some suggestions for me from the neck down, after reassuring me that I was doing a good job of meeting my body's post-perforation needs.  He wondered if I had taken the same amount of care from the neck up.... and I've been thinking about that ever since.

I haven't gone there because I know it will hurt.  I haven't gone there because I seemed to be doing just fine while ignoring it.  I haven't gone there because I don't want to cry.

I have someone, a fabulous therapist, a woman who will let me sob to my heart's content, and then gently nudge me toward congruity.  I could try meditation. I can look at the things which are blocking my healing. He seemed to be suggesting that it's more than a physical, myo-fascial tenseness impeding my gait.  I don't want to believe it, but, perhaps, the time has come to try.

Perhaps.

In the meantime, I will continue to wallow in the well of PTSD-enhanced misery over the fact that I broke the law and got caught.

So healthy.  I know.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Too Much of a Good Thing

The most surprising answer on the pre-test during my first Master Gardener class here in Arizona was this:
The most frequent cause of plant distress in the desert is overwatering.
Yes, denizens, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing... and I have the photos to prove it.


Apparently, too much perlite... old perlite... improperly stored perlite... leads to situations like this
as the extraneous pellets flee the saturated soil in the shallow pot,
and this 
as the soil clumps together in impenetrable clods
making it impossible for the roots to pick up any nutrients at all.
They are waterlogged, drowned, soggy, sodden, sorry things.
They're not much good as decorative plants.
And so, I was back at it yesterday.
I rescued what seemed salvageable and repotted it with brand new soil.
I tried to ignore the fact that the two containers I had not improved were doing just fine

as was the succulent I transplanted into the dirt on the north side of the house.
Apparently, too much tender loving care is the equivalent of a death knell for growing things in the desert.
Who knew? 
The answer, unfortunately, is I did.

I would type more but I must return to the nursery for more supplies.
Just because I failed once, does not mean that I will not try again.

Gardening in the desert requires an acceptance of disappointment.
I'm getting very good at that.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Grandma? Nannie? Bubba?

My baby is having a baby.  
She's gone from "looking like I ate too much for dinner this weekend" to having a small protrusion in the middle of her body.  Growing in size from a lentil to a grape to a plum to a kumquat, the baby is making its presence known.

Everything smells weird.  Her pants don't fit anymore - "not even close." She's over the super-exhaustion that accompanied the start of the adventure - "It's not that I wanted to sleep; I needed to sleep." Her 36 hours of nausea abated, and she's stopped wondering how anyone could be that sick for more than a day or so.  I try to keep quiet about the three or four months I spent hurling and napping while she was establishing herself in my body; she's already apologized.

SIR is proud and happy.  TBG and I are still searching for the words to describe our joy.  We find ourselves looking from one end of the couch to the other, grins plastered on our faces, grins having no relationship to the novel I'm reading or the game he is watching.  We nod, we grin harder, we go back to what we were doing.  Our hearts are full.

I've been signing letters as GMU - Grand Maternal Unit.  Grammu works for me as a name, but TBG is having issues with being Grandpooooooo.  I can't really blame him, though the rest of us are laughing pretty hard whenever we think about it.  I'd always thought I'd want to be Nannie, like TBG's grandmother, a shining star in the heaven that was his childhood, the name his mother chose for herself.

But, when I tried to sign it on a card to the newly enlarging family, my fingers wouldn't form the word. It feels like someone else.  It's not me.  

Bubba, Yiddish for grandmother and what I called G'ma's mother, has no relevance to my life today.  I loved her, but I don't need to rename myself in her honor.  And, unfortunately, the same thing goes for my own Grandma.  She was a woman who loved me, but she had an odd way of showing it.  There 
were strings attached to everything, even the hugs and kisses.  She and my mother had a contentious relationship held together by a fragile truce.  It's not the kind of scenario I'm envisioning for my future with Flapjack.

Yes, Flapjack.  Apparently, the cocoon encasing him requires regular infusions of Aunt Jemima and syrup.  SIR has offered to make them at home, pancakes being one of the food stuffs he creates with style, but Little Cuter prefers the restaurant variety.  TBG, upon hearing of her craving, cried out "Flapjack" and the name stuck.  

And now we wait and watch and wonder.  Her body is no longer her own.  She worries about another human who has no power to protect itself, who relies only on her for sustenance and care.  Her shape shifts and her moods swing and she worries.

Yesterday, sharing the picture at the top with us, she was delighted with the smile and the touchdown arms of her soon-to-be-born.  Is that fetus dancing? Smiling?  Waving hello?  Imitating the Grateful Dead head? I think it's all of the above.  That's a package of love and joy and potential, of wonderfulness and happiness and the completion of a cycle, of expectations and happiness and the continuation of the species and it's all happening right inside my little girl.  Ain't life grand?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cursive Writing


They aren't teaching it anymore. I find that fact to be extremely upsetting. And no, I don't think I'm over-reacting. I am merely reporting another tear in the fabric of the cosmos, an earthquake in the course of civilization.  

How will my grandchildren sign their job applications, their loan documents, their love letters?  Will we revert back to the X?  Printing does not lend itself to flourishes, although Daddooooo did manage to embellish his otherwise illegible scrawl with the most beautiful g's imaginable.  They looked just like the ones this keyboard is sending to you.  

Those gardening tools I mentioned yesterday are still talking to me, it seems. My paternal unit is as upset as I am.

Some grown ups do not use cursive. G'ma was one of them.  Her printing was small and even and precise, just as one would expect of a woman trained as a kindergarten teacher.  Almost til the end of her life, that handwriting was a constant.  When the pen began to waver, when her letters began to sprawl across the bottom of the birthday cards, I was reminded that she was failing. Still, she was able to sign her name, because the pen didn't leave the paper quite as often.  She didn't lose track of where she was or where she was going.  The individual impressions of printing left her long before cursive's connectedness.

There's more to my annoyance than the signature. There's a cultural piece that's being ignored, as well. Learning cursive was a step taken along the road to becoming a grown-up.  Kids in the younger grades used pencils, fat ones in kindergarten and first, thinner ones at the end of first and all through second. Ink pens were not permitted until the third grade, when, in addition to being trusted to write something which could not be erased, we were initiated into the adult world of writing.

The alphabet was back on the classroom wall, only this time the serifs were longer and more fluid. Capital J's looked altogether new, as did S and G. Palmer Penmanship required precision, but it was more like dancing than prancing to me.  I fell in love with the feel of the pen on the paper.  I had a myriad of writing implements, fountain pens with turquoise ink refill capsules; one of those new BIC ball-points, although some teachers didn't allow them; an ink-sipping-pen.... one that used an actual ink bottle.  I got that one because I had an old desk, one with a hole in the top right corner for the ink well.  G'ma went to Back to School Night and thought it was only right that I have the appropriate instruments.

I perfected my signature over one lonely summer.  I worked on my initials. Three letters or two?... bold or girly?.... authoritative or inviting?  Printing offered no such diversions.  Cursive could be personalized and I was just the girl for the task.  It made me happy.  I felt like a big kid, like someone on the cusp of the rest of adulthood, developing the persona with which I would be associated.  Control was an elusive thing in my childhood; I relished the opportunity to create something of my own.

I'm still signing my name the same way; my married name was just added into the style I adopted in junior high.  It's an anchor to my youth, a connection between who I was and who I thought I would become and who I am today.  How sad that we'll educate an entire generation of children who will miss that rite of passage.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Out Front

... as in gardening, not politically or issue driven.  Titles are funny things, sometimes.

On the other hand, I do feel as if I am standing in front of an army of readers like theoretically-Anonymous, who are watching the snow fall while wrapped in blankets, frozen hands gradually un-thawing after shoveling snow. TBG and I decided long ago that we were too old for frigid winters, no matter how many family and friends we left behind.  Days like today reinforce the rightness of that choice. It's sixteen and seventeen degrees in Chicago and Foxboro as I type in shorts and a t-shirt... I'm just sayin'.....

Once again, I implore you not to hate me.  
*****
When I left you yesterday, I was exhausted from improving the back patio.  The following afternoon, my belly full of cheesy pizza, I tackled the front courtyard.  Bending and grease are unfortunate companions; I did a lot of stretching and belching. 

This is what was left 
after I removed these
 and these.
The copper bucket was a gift from TBG's parents to my parents on the occasion of our wedding.
I decide to rescue it from oblivion in a corner of the library and put it to good use.
All four of our parents are nodding their approval .... from the great beyond.

There's a lot of time to think when you're gardening.
It's a time for communing, especially when the tools I use came from my dad's shed.
They speak very clearly, sometimes.

I moved on to the spikier cacti,
ones with milky sap... annoying.... allergenic... glove requiring milky sap
and ones which wrap around others, leaving glochids and spines where they are least expected.
I spent the better part of the evening trying to remove invisible prickers from my fingers.

After that, it was time for some softer beauty, so I added some purple pansies to get this
with the fervent hope that the marigolds will do more than they have shown over the past fourmonths.  Yes, they were Halloween plants.

This stem should turn into a hibiscus; the roots are firmly embedded in the old soil.  I removed it carefully, adding new Black-Gold-cum-perlite to fill in the holes.  If it does come back, I'll be sure to show it to you.  For now, we'll just have to turn this side to the wall.
The other containers in the front were amended to enhance the other marigolds which did nothing
and the amaryllis bulbs which are now looking like Easter visitors, rather than December or Valentines as I had hoped.  The little orange violas will more than make up for their tardiness.

My respite over, it was time to install the ouchie transplants.
Back into my gloves went my hands, as I scraped stones and troweled dirt and spread roots liberally doused with hormones to enhance their experience in a hole filled with back fill and just enough new fill to remind them of life in the container.  Otherwise, I fear, the shock would be just too much to bear.  
These seem to be taking their time adjusting to their new environs.
It's a cruel hard world here in the desert Southwest.
Only the tough survive.

Volunteers like these blue bells, are happy and littering my yard with their foliage. 
I admired them as I stared at the next project - gladiolus bulbs.
They will grow 48"-60" tall, too much for a container.
The nursery insists they will do well in the ground.
All I have to do is excavate the packed dirt to a depth of 5".
Easier said than done, and a project for another day.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January Gardening in the Desert Southwest

Don't hate me.

I spent Sunday afternoon with my hands in the dirt, the warm sun on my back, the plants juicy and ready to be embedded in their new homes. I know that it's freezing cold where you are.... so I offer this as a salve for your senses. There are places in the country where the sun shines and the ground is ready for new offerings. It just doesn't happen in Chicago or Foxboro or Bloomington right now. 

I'm sorry.

These plant feet were the first items of business.  
The huge container which once held the now dead fan palm managed to keep the hibiscus alive and almost well throughout our short but noticeable winter. Unfortunately, the weight of the soil and water had pushed the original feet deep into a crevasse.  I lifted the pot, all by myself thank you very much, and found a small grey spider with a black dot on her back. I recoiled.  She stayed still. I decided to ignore her as I settled the bigger feet under the pot's edges.
I added another snapdragon
and replenished the old soil with a mixture of Black Gold and perlite.
The perlite, little white balls of absorbent material, retains water in the pot. It is the single most important factor in successful container gardening in my yard here in Tucson.  It gets really really really hot here, in case you've forgotten, and when the summer winds blow the combination dries out the soil faster than anyplace else I've ever gardened.  The perlite keeps the June and July waterings down to two a day.

Combining the warm soil, fresh from Rillito Nursery, and the cool, smooth, round pellets of perlite was nearly orgasmic.  I eschewed my gardening gloves and went in bare-handed.  My nails were filthy, my heart was full.

You can see the perlite in this photo, which I took to demonstrate the berm I created in the pot.  I made a pie crust edge to keep the water from running over the sides; it was silly but effective and, most important of all, it was fun to do.
Standing up, after untangling the never-kink (ha!) hose, I noticed this:
Look at those two feet planted firmly on the ground, casting perfectly straight shadows. 
It's the little victories which brighten my day, even if I have to use a wheeled cart to move my equipment from pillar to post.
By the time I was finished deadheading and refurbishing the soil and adding another snap dragon or two, the remaining containers were as happy as I was.

Tomorrow I'll share what I'm doing in the courtyard.
Right now, I'm going outside again.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

HarpFusion in Church


It's easy to see why angels play harps in heaven. 


On Saturday afternoon, some of them were in the apse of St. Mark Catholic Church. With strong fingers and graceful wrists they plucked and strummed and caressed the strings.

With a sharp pull and a graceful release, 
hands up, curved fingers freeing the vibrations, 
the audience silent,
the leader, raising her hand in triumph, as the music died.

It was something to behold, something to treasure.

I was there because a friend from The Happy Ladies Club extended an invitation.
Her church was throwing a party for its new building 

Auntie Em played the harp in her youth.  I wished she were by my side on Saturday. 
I wanted Christina-Taylor, too, so I lit a candle, just in case her spirit was wandering in the neighborhood, looking for a pleasant afternoon respite.
I was in church, after all.
Harps are beautiful instruments.


and so were the women who played them.
Look at those smiles.
They buy their own dresses, in complimentary hues. 
The first set, ranging from Disney's Electric Light Parade through Greensleeves to Klezmer Dances, was played in turquoise and teal.

They sat on stools, with perfect posture
leaning in and out, 
holding the harp and pressing the foot pedals, beating time on the sound board or the sound box, 
small smiles, head tilts, bigger smiles,
shrinking into the sounds as they grew weaker and lesser and higher and then growing larger and larger as the music did and her smile, oh, denizens, her smile was something to see.  
They are all students of Harp.
They are merit scholars and double majors in math and bassoon and dance.
They are on their way to PhD's and Masters Programs and carry a 4.0 along with the biggest musical instrument a parent could be asked to transport.
"What kind of car does your family drive?"  I asked the Knight sisters.
"A very big van." 

The intermission was just long enough to admire the new building and make some new friends.
This church was a very friendly, welcoming space, even for a snarky heathen like me.
Though my friend worried that I'd limp into the baptismal font by mistake,
thus forcing her to adopt me as a new convert,
I think I'll be back more often for the music than for the Gospel. 

But I will be back. 

After all, it's not every weekend that I can hear two sisters riffing on the theme music to a Spanish language cartoon "we watched when we were trying to learn the language"
playing an arrangement they created themselves
on their harps
on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Life is good.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Watch Football With Me

This is a pretty good weekend, if you like football.  If you don't, perhaps you want to come back tomorrow. Harp Fusion might appeal to you.
*****
"Since we're going to be home all afternoon, would it be okay to ask if you want to make cookies?"

The fact that Brenda Starr and I had pancakes at IHOP an hour ago did not deter me.

*****
The boys think this first game, Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady, is boring.  Watching between stirring and weighing and scooping cookie dough, it looks no different than usual to me.  I watch different colors run up and down the field, and sometimes I am even able to figure out which team is on offense before CBS superimposes an arrow on the field.

Think about that arrow.  It's not really there, yet it is. It's the same thing with the blue line of scrimmage  and the yellow first down marker. How do they appear on the field, under the feet of the players?  It's a mystery... the kind of place my mind wanders as different colors march up and down the field.
*****
Peyton Manning is tearing the Patriots apart, and I ache, just a little, for FAMBB and Messers 8 and 10. Big Cuter is beside himself as he waits for his beloved 49'ers to play in the second game. At this moment, I'm glad that my interest is so much less passionate than theirs.

I don't understand the attraction of watching others play, and yet I, too, have had my heart broken by total strangers, larger and stronger than I, who were unable to fulfill the promise I knew they had, hidden inside.

Yes, the DePaul Blue Demons left me bereft, just as the Patriots are piercing the hearts of New Englanders this afternoon, trying and missing the two point conversion, their deflated faces and shoulders telling a tale of defeat.
*****
Peyton Manning is another poster child for rehab. It's not enough that I have Gabby Giffords jumping out of airplanes. A guy with a repaired arm and a damaged neck is quarterbacking a Super Bowl bound team.

As Gabby said, every new achievement just shows me how far I have to go.
*****
"We need to score more points."

Bill Belichick actually said it at the press conference after the game, when asked what he would change next time. That's my standard line when I hear reporters ask it.

It's frightening to think that he and I share a sense of humor.
*****
And now we switch to Seattle, the loudest stadium in the NFL. It's neither domed nor miked; it was engineered to make it impossible to hear the count or an audible on the field.

Few people think that San Francisco can win in a stadium that has seen only one home team loss this season, but I refuse to believe that my boys will be sad at the end of the evening. TBG and Big Cuter have been paying close attention to every nuance of every play of every game, all season long, and, as long as the coaches pay attention to what they will be shouting at the screen, we should be fine.
*****
The 49'ers sacked the quarterback and recovered a fumble on the opening play but the Seahawk's defense held them to a field goal, denying them a touchdown but putting the first points on the scoreboard.

Now, I will wait for the phone to ring to see how we're feeling about it.
*****
TBG is pleased that the coaches have listened to his exhortations to blitz with NaVorro Bowman. Big Cuter agrees with the more aggressive play calling. Fumbling and then recovering a kickoff to start the second quarter was a little bit heart-stopping but now I'm looking for snacks since cookies have substituted for dinner for one of us.

Plus, the noise and tumult of cooking a real meal would be an unneeded distraction to the viewing experience.
*****
Colin Kaepernick, the running quarterback, brought them to fourth-and-inches and the offensive line held and Dixon went over for a touchdown and the boys are doing celebratory push-ups. The defense gives up a long pass and the Seahawks threaten but they are held to a field goal and I'm enjoying the afternoon.
NYTimes Crossword puzzles with a good pen in Elaine's Japanese paper box, crackers, the wedding album, a large print library book holding water, Stoli and Cran, cheese and crackers, 
and a knife for MOTG's amazing home made savory jelly.  Life is good.
*****
Our team lost.  The boys are waxing philosophical.  I finished my novel.  In two weeks we'll watch the Super Bowl, rooting for the Broncos but not investing much emotional energy in the outcome. It's my favorite way to watch.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Women in Banking

Chicago Booth Magazine, the alumni rag of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, has a cover story on women in banking and finance.  Their balancing acts brought tears to my eyes.
"..her younger son... in first grade suggesting that she change her career so she wouldn't have to travel." 
"..she...worried that she was an absent mother, since her job took her away from home three or four days a week, to a different city each day."
Time passes and nothing changes.  Social work and school teaching were good professions for young women when I was growing up.  You could take a few years off, raise your family, go back and continue to do the work you loved, and still be available for kith and kin.  Unless you are special enough to be one who "requested a yearlong sabbatical" and are able to live her next sentence: "When she returned to work....," most young mothers have neither the flexibility nor the financial resources to live like the five featured women.

But that was the point of the article.  These women have huge incomes, and, no doubt, much of it goes to exceptional child care. They are preaching to a choir of MBA's, people who know the meaning of a dollar. Still, I wonder if the most recent profile Linnea Roberts's husband, George, "one of the three cofounders of private-equity giant KKR," outlined his familial responsibilities?

The happier side of this article was found in items like these:
"She has an innate ability to quickly strike up relationships with people, which is powerful.." 
"I've been told that I'm too nice - it's pretty much been on every review..."
"....rewarded her ability to establish rapport with clients."
Women paying attention to the relationship side of the business seems to strike a chord, doesn't it? the notion that it's about more than numbers, that human connections are given weight in the world of banking and finance, that's news.  It was certainly not the case when TBG began his career in 1978.

The world could use more managers like this one:
"...it's gratifying to see that somebody with (her) good personal characteristics is succeeding because she's the kind of person that you root for...... It's good to see that winning out over greed or sharp elbows."
Now, if there were day care centers on the ground floor of every office building, if sabbaticals were not reserved for those at the very top, if flexibility were prized as a means of achieving success, then, perhaps, articles like these would be unnecessary.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Benghazi & Newtown: The Politics of Now

I just don't get it.  Republicans are still furious over the deaths of four grown-ups in Benghazi while evincing no concern for 26 children and teachers mowed down by an automatic weapon wielding young man.

Those grown-ups assumed the risks associated with their jobs. The kids did the same. The grown-ups wore bullet-proof vests and carried weaponry. The youngsters wore logo emblazoned t-shirts and carried back packs.

The only similarity between the two situations is the universal agreement that there was bad intelligence.  No one knew what was going on, no one shared what little was known, concerns were ignored. Decisions were made by generals and assistant secretaries and parents who were operating within their own little silos of information, hurtling down the road to disaster, thinking they were smarter than the facts would reveal... like a mother who taught her son-who-was-battling-mental-illness to shoot... and provided the armaments, too.

Fingers are pointing in all directions.  It really doesn't matter.  Men and women and children are dead and everyone wants someone to blame.  I understand that part of it, personally and profoundly.  TBG and I are eternally grateful that our shooter was captured and adjudicated and incarcerated; it's as close to closure as we'll get on that piece of it.  But Christina-Taylor is still dead.  Knowing how it happened and that punishment has been meted out doesn't change that... and that's the most important part.

There are steps which could be taken to lessen a recurrence of tragedies such as these.  The geo-political problems are much more difficult to tackle than those closer to home.

We are a nation of laws.  Though this Congress demonstrates otherwise, it is usually the job of our legislators to craft the rules which allow us to live in harmony, to create a more perfect union.  As times change, so must those laws.

We have had marginal success in nation building building outside our own boundaries, but, as the United States of America we have done pretty well.  It's time to make some improvements in the places which are most amenable to change, which are within our grasp, which will make an immediate difference here, at home.

Whether the Ambassador listened to the warnings, whether the warnings were sufficiently information-driven, despite who knew what when, Benghazi is a bonfire impersonating Yarnell.  Not to minimize the loss of life, but those people signed up to do a dangerous job. Risk was inherent in the situation.

Twenty-six others woke up one morning, ate a healthy breakfast, hugged their parents and siblings and husbands and children and went to school.  They weren't assuming that they were at risk at all.  They were going to school.

To my mind, the moral outrage displayed by Republicans is grossly misplaced.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Toast

I admit it. I'm slacking today.  I slept until 8:45, not budging when TBG kissed me goodbye while sticking a note to my clock. My pilates instructor is on vacation, I canceled my group session because the teacher is no longer holding my attention, and there was nothing on the calendar except a morning visit to Ms. Levine's kindergarten class.  Sleeping in was acceptable, although somewhat disconcerting.

I'm used to watching the sun turn the hills pink. Today, they were brown against a blue sky when I sat here at the desk to check my email. I made a pan of brownies and headed off to school with Mousetronaut Goes to Mars tucked under my arm.  Reading aloud to the most well-behaved class of kindergarten students on the planet is a treat.  Sharing special words from my friend, the astronaut, sent especially to the three little boys who insisted that they, too, would be space travelers.... well, that was quite wonderful... quite wonderful, indeed.

We shared our amazement at Meteor's ability to save the day, and then, with Ms. Levine's encouragement and ten more minutes to occupy, we read the first in the series, Mousetronaut.  We counted down as the rocket prepared for blast-off, we cheered as Meteor saved the day, and then, with five more minutes before it was time to line up for lunch, we began to craft our own Moustronaut story.

Her name is Rosie.  She started out with one then two then three and settled on four eyes before we whittled them down to two purple ones.  She's small, she's smart, and she's brave. Those are her characteristics, and we're sticking to them.  She'll have an adventure or two, I'm sure, and we'll be certain to share them with you. For now, you and I will have to wait until the authors dream up an event or two.  It was exhausting creating just one character, after all.

And so, exhausted, heart full, body weary, I acquiesce to Elle's request on yesterday's post.  Here is the toast I offered to Amster and The Firefighter at their wedding, Monday afternoon. The details (lists.... bacon) are personal to them, but I bet you could use the outlines just about anywhere.

I'm happy to help.

I offer a toast.
A toast to love
to friendship
to admiration.

A toast to adulthood
and to parenthood
in all its delightful incarnations.

I offer a toast to knowing what's right,
and living your life accordingly.

A toast to competence
and achievement
and lists
and bacon.

To Amster and her Firefighter,
a long and joyous life together.

And now, I'm going to take a nap.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wedding, The Relaxed Version

Amster and The Firefighter surprised their children by getting married this afternoon. 

It was perfect.  Totally and completely appropriate for the least pretentious couple I know.  They were surrounded by those who loved them, by those who share their lives, by those they see every day. Several dozen of us gathered in the courtyard as the judge conducted a simple, short, thoughtful ceremony and Ms. Attorney-At-Law took photographs.  

There was prosecco and sparkling cider and chocolate cake with whipped chocolate frosting and ice cream on the side.  The wedding party wore blue; the kids wore nicer-than-usual school clothes, the guests dropped in for thirty minutes or so in the middle of the work day. 

The planning occupied pieces of one week.  I spent some of it writing my toast. 

I went to three stores, one of them twice.  There was one phone call to a vendor. The bride's dress was purchased on-line; as Matron of Honor I wore the fancy knit outfit I bought for TBG's 10th Anniversary at Goldman Sachs.  (Note: Investing in elegant attire is not always a bad idea.  This outfit has saved many a "what shall I wear" moment in the past three decades.)

No one spent more time on it than was necessary. The 99 Cents Only store provided the decor and paper goods, my closets the lacy tablecloths, big blue vases, and fancy plastic champagne flutes. (Note: Investing in elegant plastic ware is not always a bad idea.  These glasses have toasted weddings and birthdays and graduations and nothing at all over those same three decades.)

I got up early this morning, loaded The Schnozz with a cooler and bubble wrapped vases, picked up the cake and ice cream  and all the blue and white flowers in the grocery store, and drove to another store to get more.  I hope no one else on Tucson's northwest side needs blue or white flowers today.  I laid the tablecloths and put out the flutes and arranged the flowers and twisted the strands of hearts and wedding bells through the cacti (only stabbing myself once) and the railing of the stairway and I was done.

It took two hours.

I showered and changed at Amster's, after purchasing two glass flutes with embossed hearts and a cake knife and server for the bride and groom.  I know she said no presents, but it feels tacky to take back the vases for the flowers......

I toasted love and friendship and parenthood and admiration and competence and lists and bacon.  The kids really liked that I included bacon.  Everyone clapped and blew bubbles as hands were shaken and shoulders were clasped and cake was devoured and then it was over.  

My car was packed up and I was on my way home an hour after they said I DO.

No stress, no bother, no muss.... except for the boys shoving their faces into the wedding cake...because they'd seen brides and grooms do it and.... well, they are 8 and 10 and their mom just married a fire chief.  It doesn't get better than that.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Small is Good

It turned out to be a party for my friends.  Some came to help, some came to stroll, some came to bring their kids and their grandkids, sometimes they brought both at once.  Lots of people brought their dogs, all of whom seemed delighted to meet one another.

There were little ones who got their pictures in the paper while existing totally in a world of their own, snuggling VIP Pets or showing sisters how to draw on the sidewalk just so. Parents stood by, smiling, unconcerned, feeling the sun's warmth and the glow, standing around, watching their kids and the dogs and feeling the love.

The Nicest Couple on the Planet organized the Cornell Cares volunteers, who stamped and greeted and gave out sidewalk chalk and hustled donations disguised as raffle prizes. They raised several hundred dollars, a little bit more than last year, and everyone seemed satisfied with the goodies received.

A few t-shirts were sold, many were given away, and everyone agreed that the silk-screening was very well done. The boxes went back into The Schnozz for storage in the corner of my garage, boldly labeled for easy access.

Clearly, asking TucsonSherri to coordinate was a wise choice.

Christina's paved pathway is covered with love and affirmations and butterflies and boats and flowers and instructions.  Sunday morning, walking Nordic-style with one pole, pausing on the way out to take pictures, making it all the way to the first bridge, I smiled at the bicyclists and striders and amblers as they smiled at the words and the pictures and at me.

Christina-Taylor would have been proud of us, being out and about, moving, and I admit to being a little teary as I walked all the way back without stopping once, talking to my lost little friend, feeling pretty damn proud of myself as I took long, wide, measured steps, not cocking my hip or thrusting my shoulder, allowing my torso to do some of the work and my arms to swing naturally.

Three years ago, I was in surgery.  I don't remember much of it, being unconscious and all. Two years ago, I leaned on my husband's strong arm to get fifty steps down the path.  Our hug was on the front page of the paper. Last year, I walked back from the turn-around point at Thornydale, with two poles, pausing every few steps to take a picture, to catch my breath, to stretch my aches and pains. It was more, but not enough.

On Sunday, I walked.  I was aerobically exhausted at the end, the kind of tired that makes my muscles sing and my breath come from deep down in my lungs. All of me was working and none of it was hurting. I was tired, but I was able.

I haven't said that in a very long time.

For those of you who came out to join the festivities, Congressman Ron Barber  and the Cornell Club of Southern Arizona, and GRIN volunteers and Prince Students and Parents and Teachers and my friends, my very special friends, new and old and related to one another and glad to visit and stroll and draw and share the love.... to all of you who were there in spirit if not in the flesh.... and to Christina-Taylor, whose spirit enhances my life..... thank you for being you.
*****
Photos from the Stroll & Roll 2014
more pictures on Facebook and Google+ if I can figure out how to upload them




















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