Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Random Thoughts

It's all been said and I agree with everything - NBA Commissioner Silver did an admirable job in sanctioning Clippers' owner Sterling whose racism was finally public enough to demand attention.  The larger question, why his predecessor did nothing about behaviors which were well-known if not as well-publicized, remains unaddressed.

Isn't that the way of things, though?  We look for a quick fix to solve our immediate discomfort, and then we move on.
*****
NPR told me that there are rudimentary oil-cans-filled-with-industrial chlorine-bombs being dumped on Syrians.  They don't need much technical skill to put together, so it's possible that the insurgents could be making them except they must be dropped by helicopters and the al Assad regime are the only players with those.

Imagine it, as I am right now.  You look up to see what the noise is and discover it is destruction, fire, the wrath of your government.

Every time I begin to lose hope in America, every time I bemoan the Koch brothers pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into my Congressional race, I need to pause .... and remember those flaming oil cans.
*****
There's an interminable road project along my usual travels.  Once it is completed, I'll be able to circumvent many lights and much congestion.  Now, it is creating progress-impeding 15mph zones and enough wet dirt between the paved and the unpaved sections that I didn't take a chance on stopping up by the sign, in the mud, this morning.  I didn't want to get stuck.

I did see some workers today, which is unusual.  The County paid the general contractor, but he neglected to pay his sub-contractors so the subs stopped working.  They've resumed, in fits and starts, but some issues go unresolved.

Take, for example, the fact that there has not been a street sign at the intersection of La Canada and Chula Vista for two months.  I didn't need the sign when the church and its billboard were on the opposite corner.  But the road construction has pushed them out of sight and thus out of mind and even though I know that I should turn after the bridge, I'm more of a words person than a landmark person and I'd really appreciate it if someone from the Department of Transportation would take care of it.
*****
My gladiolus bulbs are doing quite well in the irrigated pots, and not as well in the hotter, dryer soil.  Unfortunately, I see the soil planted ones more than the containered ones.  I've been watching the leaves poke through the ground cover stones and grow a foot or so and there they have remained, neigher sending up flower parts nor growing any taller.

Some are turning brown, giving up before they ever began.

If I weren't so peeved about the critters munching on my zinnias in the bed on the other side of the pony wall from the glads, I'd do something about it.
*****
Thanks for listening, denizens.  Sometimes I just need to get these things off my chest.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Meditation 103

It happened again.  I am at a loss to explain it and I'm beginning to think that might be the whole point.  In any event, I'm confused and at peace at the same time.

Mindful Meditation is quite odd,  indeed.

I scarfed lunch and met the fourth grade girls on the playground, just as I'd promised last Friday.  As requested, I brought girly-er stickers than these robot ones; my attempts to dissuade them from the notion that such things existed fell on deaf ears.  They are pink and bows and sparkles and there's just nothing I can do about it.  Being ten-ish comes with its own set of challenges; the least I can do is take the pink stickers from my GRIN box with me in the morning.

We talked about how mean girls get in the fourth grade, and of their hope that it would be better in the fifth grade.  I told them that was up to them, since girls were notorious for being awful to one another and I for one did not know why it happened.  I thought that, like Christina-Taylor, girls could be friends with all kinds of people, that girls could say kind things instead of mean things, that helping one another was one way to make the world a happier place and I was rewarded with You mean like we help you with walking and it wasn't a question it was a statement of fact.

With that in my heart, I drove down the block to meditation.  

I'm a big girl now - I don't need the valet to park my car. I can walk from the parking lot across the entryway and up the ramp and across the veranda to the Kiewitt Auditorium ... without stopping.... without too much discomfort.... without too much of a limp.  The girls are right, they are helping me heal.... although, I was very glad to see the chairs inside.

I remembered my sweater.  I left my shoes on, planting my feet firmly on the ground.  Our usual leader was absent, and I felt my irritation swelling.  Before it got too much traction, the substitute was giving instructions for the walking meditation.  I thought it was an odd choice - there was a man in a wheelchair, a new participant, in our circle.  Still, she explained and the group divided into two and I and he and two other women remained seated, having our own little experience without moving a muscle.

I couldn't tell you if they walked for thirty minutes or for three.  I was not asleep but I was not present, either. Occasionally, my feet would shift or my pelvis would remind me of its existence.  I readjusted and returned to wherever I was.... saying In and Out to myself ... following my breath.... feeling the gentle intrusion of the walkers as they returned to the circle.

Before long, we began the seated meditation and, since I'd never really left it in the first place I took my attention to lengthening my spine and feeling lifted and floating and not burdened and then I was jolted back to reality by the clanging of a bell.

It was a tiny little yoga bell.  She barely tapped it with the thin wand. To me, it felt like a fire bell against my ear.

I was physically and psychically disturbed, but strangely unable to be angry.  I wasn't peeved at the big red truck who decided that I wasn't going fast enough in the slow lane and thought that pushing me would help his cause.  I neither slowed down nor sped up and when next I checked my mirror he was gone.... taken by the meditation gods?

It's not spiritual in an organized religion sense, but the inclusion of the reiki notion of sending healing energies out into the world brings some of that home to me.

I can feel it.

I had to ponder for a while. I went in annoyed and I came out calm.  I was connected to something previously unavailable to me.  I'm not sure what it is, exactly.  I just know that it feels good.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Humans Creating Humans

The Bride and The Pharmacist are parents.  LJ arrived late last week, with just a little bit of drama and a whole lot of love.  Everyone is fine and happy and roosting at home.  They are getting used to one another, just as I am getting used to the idea that my god-child has her own child.  The whole thing is very, very strange.

She was a little ball of bonneted beauty when I first met her.  She was being dandled by her equally gorgeous mother in the shallow end of the swimming pool at the East Bank Club.  EBC was designed for Yuppies (Young Urban Professionals to those of you too young to remember) in the boom of the late 1970's.  Those Yuppies were interested in the track and the pool and the weights and the aerobic equipment and the racquetball courts and not at all in the nursing mothers.  There was controversy - is a nursing breast more of a distraction than a thong bikini? - and there were rule changes and there were meetings.  When the management realized that those Yuppies would meet, marry and procreate while maintaining their memberships the space became more child-friendly.  When The Bride and Big Cuter were infants... well, not so much.

Seret and I bonded in the lounge of the dressing room, feeding our beautiful babies and marveling at the whole experience.  We were young women far from our own mothers; we created a new, extended family of our own. We planned prom dates for our little ones and dreamed of bright futures.

I never thought about those babies bringing their own babies into the world. Their presence in the world was a miracle enough for me.  I thought of the future in terms of toddling and toilet training and teething, at first.  As time went on, teachers and training wheels and time management skills occupied my brain. I never saw those babies as parents themselves.

And now, she is a parent herself.  She carried a baby through Alabama snowstorms, while teaching English to reluctant teenagers, to weddings and to showers.  She walked down the aisle as a pregnant bridesmaid, glowing with radiance, careful not to outshine the beautiful bride.  She coached softball and hit infield practice the day before LJ announced that he was ready to enter the world.  Life went on and she was a part of it, never letting her girth get in the way of the adventure. 

Can you tell I think she's wonderful?

Her mom is there, helping and sharing the love, just as I will be for Little Cuter this summer.  I hope that notes are being taken, that this worked and this made her nutty will be remembered and passed along so that I can, once again, learn from their experience.  The Bride was my role model for Little Cuter, her mother's wisdom coaching me through the inevitable travails of parenting without family around to soften the burden.  We laughed and cried and hugged all through their childhoods, the ups and downs of normal life made easier because we had each other.

And now, she has to find her own faux family, since Seret will be leaving, eventually... though no one will want her to go.  Still, they have to forge their own path, even if they are half a continent away from the world's most loving new grandmother.  Sniffles and worse, torn jeans and worse, hurt feelings and worse...... those are down the road.  Right now, bottles and boobs and tiny fingernails are overwhelming enough, I imagine.  Remembering how incompetent TBG and I felt that first night home, alone with an infant, jumping up at every rustle from the cradle at the end of our bed, I have to smile as I realize that the little girl whose diaper I changed is now changing the diaper of her own little one. 

Is it too banal to go to the circle of life continues? Her son was born and her grandmother died and April covered both experiences.  I have visions of G'ma meeting the new arrival in Heaven, the two of them planning a wedding for LJ and FlapJilly, laughing at their audacity but secretly holding the wish that it might happen.  Great-grandmothers are allowed that fantasy.

For now, with her baby blankets and beanies and bottles and brushes, The Bride picks up where her mom and I began.  Banal or not... around and around it goes.

Welcome to the world, LJ. 
You picked a wonderful set of parents.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Barrio Viejo - Unreconstructed

The Old Barrio is just that - old.
Located just south of downtown, it held small and medium and large houses.
It was a neighborhood.
Then the Tucson Convention Center came to town and streets were razed.
Houses were bulldozed.  The community was shattered.
 
After years of benign neglect, urban homesteaders returned and began to pretty the place up.
Walking the streets on Easter Sunday, Brenda Starr and I found remnants of design elements gone by:
like this slanted roof. 
It's obviously not designed to help with snow removal.  Perhaps the monsoon rains needed assistance in reaching the ground? The lower end is barely 7' tall.  Small rules!!
 
We could see the ebb and flow of the years on many of the buildings.
Efforts have been made to keep them standing, even if beauty was not the primary consideration for the repairs.
I wonder why the bottom layers are changing color faster than those above.
Sometimes it was hard to tell if the buildings were occupied.
The electric meters gave the only reliable hints.
Even un-rehabbed, there's a quiet elegance to the structures.
They fit perfectly into the environment.
The rounded window and door openings matching the roof line made me wonder if this was an upscale development in its heyday.
Some of the larger properties are in process.
This fence told me that more wonderfulness will be happening to the house behind it.
It has to be coming.
No one would paint that bright a fence unless they were looking for attention.
Perhaps it will end up reconditioned,
like this one.
There were neighbors loading groceries and walking dogs and letting the cat out as we strolled the streets.  We saw a (very fast...too fast for my gimpy leg to catch up to with the camera) blonde dachshund and visited with a long haired blonde Chihuahua at a pocket park commemorating the loss of two children to a drunk driver.  There were Easter celebrants walking to the mega-church's non-denominational service at the Convention Center, decked out in fancy dresses or jeans and tattoos.
 
And there were Brenda Starr and I, taking it all in.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

I'm Not Writing It

An opportunity was presented to me.  I examined it from all angles. I decided not to try.

There it is, bare bones. There is history behind each sentence.  I can judge every part.  I am surprised at myself and proud of myself and bemused at the situation as a whole.  Life just gets stranger and stranger, denizens.  I'm finding pieces of myself which continue to amuse and amaze me.

I was asked if I could take this on by someone who never asks for anything.  She's always willing to step up to the plate, donating money and time and support and space and everything necessary to get things going.  Then, like any good creative type, she's on to the next piece, leaving the first in good hands. 

I have to learn that lesson. 

There was a grant available.  It required four pages of exposition.  The money could not be used for salaries. The winner agreed to pose for pictures with an oversized check.

On the face of it, it was a no brainer.  Four pages of why I am doing what I am doing where I am doing it and with whom and how they are benefiting already exists.  All I needed to add were the parameters of the program.  It looked like an afternoon's work.

Had that been the case, this post would never be written.  Unfortunately, there was no program.  It seemed that it was up to me to figure out how to incorporate the parameters of the grant with the Pilates program already in place.

We don't need anything except salaries.

We have equipment and a room and the cost of running the pre- and post-tests are nonexistent; if we do it electronically there aren't even any photocopying costs. 

I'd love to pay the salaries of the teachers who are there every week, but the grant won't let me do it. 

So, there's an opportunity to increase my Doing-Good-Net-Worth by $1000 and I can't find a way to spend it.  It's driving me crazy.

GRIN buys no-show colorful socks which are given as rewards throughout the year; last semester's financial outlay was $30.  The class participants will receive certificates of participation.  They already exist, all that's needed are their names. 

I'm not clever enough to come up with a new plan.  The grant is due tomorrow. I'm not going to try.

I feel abashed when I say that I'm worrying about it for more than $1000 worth of angst.  There's more to it, though.  I don't need it right now.  That's more important.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Old Barrio, In Color

On Monday, I promised you more pictures.
I tried to cull them, but I was powerless. 
 
Today, I'll share the colors.
On Friday, the old and new.
 
There was all this orange and blue.
Some of it was newly washed old adobe, the paint the only concession to the 21st century.
 
I was looking for a blue house with orange trim, but I was disappointed.
There was a faint whiff of Howard Johnson's about it all....that soon took on a retro aspect...
 
and then I forgot all about it because there was this
a softer version that made me smile.
Then, again, I'm a sucker for a functional porch.
Especially for a purple porch. 
I found the reverse a block or two further on.
and this one which seemed to poke its finger in the eye of the beholder.
With this one,
I could see a blue house against a blue sky.
Pea green would not be my first choice were I in charge.
It was sensory overload at times when they came one right after the other.
The sun got into the act,
not wanting to be excluded from the color riot.
In our family, we see these rays and say
GOD 
It was that kind of a morning.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day

First published on April 21, 2009

I like Earth Day. I was there at its creation, after all.

It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Initially, it was a touchy-feely alternative to the harsher realities of the anti-Vietnam War protests. You wanted to do something, but war was such an uncomfortable subject and arguing against it made your parents wonder why they were spending tuition dollars while you were telling the lawfully elected President of the United States of America that you knew more than he did. With your picture in the crowd on the front page of the NY Times. At 18 years of age, no less. But planting trees? Recycling newspaper? Not littering? And all this in service to Mother Earth. Who could be aggravated about supporting Mother Earth?

Earth Day had teach-in's. They were more fun than sit-in's, which invariably involved police and disciplinary action. They were less fun than be-in's, which owed more to Timothy Leary and The Grateful Dead than to anything political or practical. Teach-in's were earnest and had hand-outs and statistics and pictures of desolate landscapes ravaged by the cruelty of man. There was science and legislation and outrage and lots of tree give-aways.

Earth Day had no mandatory family gatherings. It required no gift giving, no card sending. You went outside and did something - cleaned a playground, weeded a median strip, planted one of those free trees. You felt good because you were doing good.

Now there is Earth Week and "We're greener than you are" tv networks Were this still 1970, there would be protests about the idea being "co-opted by 'the man'". Instead, Sheryl Crow is designing reuseable grocery bags for Whole Foods and Wal-Mart is selling them next to the discounted paper towels.

And Mother Earth is grateful.

Monday, April 21, 2014

El Barrio Viejo

Brenda Starr and I walked for fifty minutes on Easter Sunday.
It would be more accurate to say that we were erect and not sitting for fifty minutes
because we stopped quite often so that I could take pictures. 
 
There were pictures of doors.
Yes, they have saw blades on their door. 
Recycling materials is common in The Old Barrio.
This garage door looked like repurposed wood to us,
and the tin fencing certainly seemed to have led another life before coming to rest alongside it.
This was on a boarded up building.
Again, reusing old materials makes for an interesting texture.

 
 
And there were pictures of windows.

There was open space
often in surprising places. 

and there were fabulous places to sit. 
 
 
Are you intrigued and amused and enticed by the colors?
Come back on Wednesday and see the Houses, Old and New edition of our walking tour.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Making Noise

I have a link to help you Make Your Voices Heard just under the masthead of The Burrow.  I tweet @ABattheBurrow. I share posts on Facebook and I have these adorable MooCards which I hand out when the conversation turns toward taking action.  I call my elected officials, leaving scripted messages on voice mail.  I sign petitions which bring me spam emails but make me feel good in the moment. 

Today, though, I think I made a difference.

Pam Simon, an official Champion of Change according to the White House, sent an email to her Jan 8th cohort, exhorting us to call Governor Brewer's office.  Ever obedient, I dialed the number as I read the details.  Steam was soon pouring out of my ears.  All that meditation, the deep yoga breathing, lowering my shoulders as the biofeedback guru recommended .... none of it worked.  I was in the zone... the fury zone... the oh dear God how can this be true zone.... the just wait til I get someone on the phone zone.

Fully expecting to be shunted to the recording system, I stammered a bit when a living, breathing, young woman answered the phone. Identifying myself as a survivor of the January 8th shooting in Tucson, I didn't get two words into my spiel before she interrupted.

"Oh, wow.  I just spoke to another survivor."

All the anger went away.  It was replaced by an eerie calm in the center of my being.  On my terms, to a receptive audience, I could make my pitch.  We do not need more guns in public spaces (HB2339 allows concealed weapons at public events and in government buildings unless there are security guards and metal detectors at all entrances).... one was used to murder a child... a child whose hand I was holding....

"...and you brought her there because she wanted to be in government, right?"

This woman was listening to me.  She was participating in the conversation.  My voice was being heard.

So, I went on.... wondering if the Governor wasn't the least bit tired of being the butt of jokes on The Daily Show.... reminding her that the only armed civilian on January 8th threw a lawn chair rather than firing his handgun..... describing my wounds and my rehab and my heartbreak ... and the heartbreak of CTG's family and friends.... and I begged her to make the Governor hear my side of the story.

I talked for a long time, and, at the end, apologized for taking so much of her time.

"Oh, no.  Not at all.  Thank you.  And, from me, personally.... God Bless You."

I admit that I got a little teary after I hung up the phone.  Some of it was for what was lost, but most of it was for what was found.  I'd encountered a true public servant.  She paid attention.  She was careful with facts.  She asked clarifying questions.  She left me with confidence in the fact that my opinion had been registered, that my voice had been heard.

She's not looking for notoriety, and I respect that.  I can admire a woman who's not looking for kudos just for doing her job. 

Still, it's rare to meet someone who does her job and does it well... and to have found that person in the office of the Governor of Arizona.... well, let's just say that I am pleasantly surprised.
*****
If you live/vote in Arizona, and you care about sensible gun legislation, you, too can call (602) 542-4331 and urge her to veto HB 2339 and HB 2517..  Tell her you read about it here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Prominence and Protection

I follow Little Cuter's advice. I keep a low profile around the issue of sensible gun legislation. 

I write to you, I've got a button on my purse, I post on Facebook and Twitter, but only those who are connected to me are in that loop. To the outside world, Pam Simon and Pat Maisch and Roxanna Green are the faces of January 8th, and that's just fine with me. 

As Little Cuter's wisdom continues, there are crazy people on the other side of this issue... .and they have guns!

It's a hard space to occupy, this niche between having something to say and keeping myself safe.  Although I laugh about feeling like the safest person on the planet (after all, what's the likelihood of some other disaster befalling one short Jewish girl from New York?), I cannot discount my child's discontent.... because what was the likelihood that I'd encounter bullets in front of a grocery store on that sunny Saturday morning?

I lend my presence when I am feeling brave.  I spoke at the No More Names Bus Tour at Christina-Taylor's church and at the Safeway when Gabby and Mark announced the formation of Americans for Responsible Solutions . I didn't testify before Congress and a gaggle of news cameras, and I didn't take a front and center spot at any number of other, more publicized events.  I felt an equal mix of guilt and relief each time.

I wish I were brave enough to put myself out there.  I wish I didn't carry the sorrow and the newly-ripped-off-bandaid feeling on my heart every time I tell the story in public.  I wish, I wish, but I have my own reality and, after three years, it's more comfortable than it used to be.  I'm able to attend but stay out of the limelight, to show my support without making that support a matter for strangers to judge. 

This morning allowed me to be wallpaper at an event announcing the creation of Everytown.org, the marriage of Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action.  It's a perfect combination of money and savvy and enthusiasm and numbers, and it promises to be a loud and well funded voice in opposition to Washington Gun Interests which is, I am sure, a fully tested slogan.  Pam Simon and Jocelyn Straus and Gabby's rabbi, Stephanie Aron, took the podium, along with others, some of them gun owners who love the sport of shooting, all of whom want sensible federal and local legislation regarding the purchase of weaponry.

It was sunny and hot and the cameras were everywhere.  The microphones were nestled on the dais, leaving just enough room for the speeches to rest.  Several reporters recognized and greeted me and wanted to talk after the event; they were gracious when I declined. 

I have nothing new to say.  I have no hope that I can change anyone's mind on the subject.  I can change those who are in office, and I am supporting candidates who share my views on the necessity for legislation to regulate the proliferation of dangerous weapons and who are interested in increasing access to mental health treatment for those in need.  I don't need to retell the story of watching the light go out of a little girl's eyes; at this point it's shock value and of no use to me at all. 

I'd much rather share Christina's love of life, of family, of America ... and I'm doing that. GRIN leaves me with a full heart, rather than an achy one.  I am making a difference, and I don't have to wait to see the results.  They are not dependent on changing intransigent minds.  My rewards are built into my actions... which, now that I think about it, is the perfect segue to ask you to click on over to Everytown's home page and sign your name.  The reward is built into the action. 

Plus, if you sign up on the homepage, you'll be redirected to a picture of me holding a flag that Amster made for the bus tour last summer.  I admit to a moment of flabbergasted astonishment when I showed up on my monitor.  Everytown called yesterday and asked permission to use the photo, but I didn't know that it was going to be given such prominence. 

My name is not attached to the picture.  I'm just a 60-something woman with well-polished nails holding a paper American flag.  That's the kind of anonymity-cum-making-a-statement that appeals to me.

Random Thoughts - The Lost and Found Edition

The leak still exists in the back planting bed.  I dug, I scraped, I pushed, I pulled and I managed to extricate the tubing from its space securely pinned beneath a tiny concrete ledge.  There's a goof plug which leaks and tubing-to-an-emitter which leaks and the simples thing is to replace the large tubing but the big roll I thought was living on the corner of the storage rack is nowhere to be found.

I'll buy some more and fix the problem, but I really wonder where it has gone.
*****
Big Cuter and I spent a very productive hour in his closet today.  Every box came down off the shelf or out from under the hanging clothes.  I consolidated and eliminated and labeled and smiled when he wondered if it was deja vu or if, in fact, we had done this once before. 

I didn't tell him that we'd done it twice before.  Instead, I explained the serial nature of culling your possessions - multiple times poring through the stuff, being more and more ruthless with each purge.

He decided to keep the sweatshirt announcing he was a SENIOR, even though he'll never wear it again.  He tossed the caps and hats, which I'll wash and give away.  We taped up and marked the boxes holding the Construx and the Dinosaurs and TBG's metal castle from his own childhood. 

Now, if I could only find the Legos.  I know they are someplace, because Mr 8 and 10 enjoy them.  I just don't know where they are.  So, the creations made by my little friends will decorate a shelf in Big Cuter's closet until the master collection can be located.
*****
I'm trying to go through the boxes I saved from G'ma's pod castle.  They are filled with sentimentality and kitsch... like the soapstone Inuit fisherman in his canoe, a relic of their cruise to Alaska. 

I moved the pencils and rulers and highlighters and pens and safety pins to my desk, where they will be used.  I took all the tchotchkes and settled them on the shelves in Little Cuter's room.  My plan is to send one to each of G'ma's great-grandchildren when they are born.  They will never know her, but they will have an item to cherish.

Or lose.  I won't care.  The stuff will be someone else's problem.
*****
I could riff for twenty sentences on the number of lost socks which are sitting in a pile in the corner of my closet.  I keep hoping to find the mates.  I'm a dreamer.
*****
I started the planting season with four pairs of pruners.  One was from G'ma, and still retained Daddooooo's sharpened edge.  One was slightly too big for my fingers.  One had a small blade for tiny neat cuts and one had a larger, more powerful blade for thicker stems.

This morning, collecting a pail and gloves first, I looked in vain for something with which to deadhead the petunias.  From four, I am now down to one. 

Were I paranoid, I'd wonder about a thieving gremlin in my midst.
*****
I am now the proud owner of five size K crochet hooks.  Two were G'ma's, the other three I purchased.  Why?  Because I don't like to leave a store without being certain that I have everything I need.  The hooks cost $1.75.  I cannot seem to find them in the place I thought I left them and so I continue to buy more of them. 

Sometimes it's not a thieving gremlin.  Sometimes it just me being careless.
*****
I had plaid sunglasses which garnered many a compliment.  They are lost.

I had a green Camelback water bottle which fit perfectly in my favorite fanny pack, never leaking a drop.  It is lost.

I have so many single socks..... but you do, too, I bet, so I won't belabor the point.

I have bonsai scissors which are missing.

My turquoise dangly earrings are gone.

This is beginning to border on the absurd. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perks of Gardening

Yes, I paid to have the irrigation system examined. Yes, they fixed the leaks they saw. Yes, they attached the containers to the main system even though they were only paid to work on the new system. And yes, I spent this morning repairing leaks.

The small bed at the back of the pool was its own water feature this morning.  The main system, the one that waters everything except the containers, runs from 7-9am.  That's long enough to let the water soak down to the recommended 18" depth for mature, established shrubs and trees.  I take a cursory glance on watering days, making sure that there are no obvious leaks. This morning, I had to put my gym plans on hold; the shrubs in the back were become water-logged.

I was too nervous to turn the system off and search for the leak right away.  I wasn't sure I could get it to restart.  The new timer is shiny and clean and almost exactly like the old one.  Still, it intimidates me.  I found that I had been left without an instruction booklet (a fact which will be remedied this afternoon by a visit to the nursery) so I was on my own.  The dials were clearly labeled, but I wasn't sure what needed to be where.

The only information available to me was a blank chart for listing zones and watering times/days which was loosely velcroed to the inside of the timer's locked cover.  Upon closer examination, I found the easy "how to" chart on the reverse.  After a moment spent laughing about the installer's sense of humor, I reversed the paper and followed the plan clearly outlined therein. 

Turn this dial that way and that dial this way and press that button but not this button and then scurry as fast as you can to the area in question..... it was a good plan except that by the time I reached the bed it was, once again, underwater.  I made troughs in each direction from the spot where, I sensed, the leak existed.  All that accomplished was creating two new pools.  The ground is so dry that it refuses to accept the overage.

So, I turned it off and went to the front, where the emitters required adjusting so that the water didn't run through and add to the salt stains on the concrete. Living with salts in the soil and the water creates a white crusty edge to containers and beds.  Flushing it all the way through makes a big difference, but flushing every time I water will only deplete the nutrients I pour in on the top every week via the Maxsea fertilizer. It's a balancing act, one complicated by the winds and the fluctuating temperatures.  90 and sunny over the weekend, 75 and breezy today..... the plants just can't get adjusted.

After twisting the emitters to release more or less liquid as each pot required, I turned and noted the sorry condition of the new rose bush in the courtyard.  It was dry as a bone, although there were two emitters in the hole.  I studied the situation, explored for leaks by following the tubing back to the main line, and then had an aha moment - gravity.

Yes, denizens, I realized that if the tubing was inserted in the main line where it jutted up toward the sky, the water didn't have enough pressure to make it that far.  There was nothing left for the spaghetti tubing which led to the plant.  So, I took the trowel and dug down into the dirt and buried the main line, anchoring it with ground cover pebbles and one very large river rock. 

It popped right back up.

I dug deeper and longer and stretched it out and watched with joy and wonder as little droplets made their way down the tubing and into the hole.  The repair was effective.  Unfortunately, the timer had just about run its course.  When the water stopped, the hole was still dry and the leaves were turned into themselves.  I dragged the hose from the side of the house and left it running slowly for an hour.  It's a good hole and the water was absorbed as soon as I turned off the spigot.  I hope the roots are still available to act as a conduit to the flower which is wilting on the vine.

As I was watching the hose fill the hole, the quail were sharing the joy.  The bigger one ventured to the edge first, dipping his beak in the watering trough.  His wife, a bit smaller but much more brazen, hopped up and dunked her head.  They drank, they shook, they looked, they drank... and then they did it all over again.  They jumped up onto the pony wall and then leapt back to the water.  It was a surprise in their neighborhood and they weren't letting it go to waste. 

I, sitting at my desk on the other side of the bay window, enjoyed their show.  My little exercise in plant maintenance had opened up an adventure for the birds and given me a free show right before my eyes. It's one of the perks of gardening.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hiking with PWR!Gym

Catalina State Park's trails were beginning to feel familiar to me.  I could gauge how far I was from the parking lot, how much higher I could climb, where we could stop for lunch.  After bullets separated me from my hiking poles, I lost interest in the trails.  We were at Gabe Zimmerman's trailhead earlier this year; I picnicked but didn't put a foot on the path.

If I couldn't do it well, I wasn't going to do it at all.

Miss Vicki took me out a few times.  She was solicitous and thoughtful and we had fun but I wouldn't call it hiking.  Margo and I walked on flat surfaces and had enough time to take dozens of photographs.  There was not a lot of sustained forward movement in either of those instances.  I'd walk a few hundred yards and then pause to catch my breath or massage my hip or loosen my neck or cover my need to stop by taking a picture. 

I covered the ground, lumbering, groaning, but doing it.  It was all I could do with the strength I had then.  I was certain that I'd always be limping; I would be the most nimble Walter Brennan impersonator I could. Trying to put a funny face on it was the best that I could do.  Progress was slow and I was losing patience.  I could do more and lift more but the underlying abilities - to kneel, to bend, to twist, to balance, to share the weight of my body equally on two legs evenly planted on the ground - those seemed stuck in place.

Once the massage therapist and his magic scraper began to treat my injuries, everything began to change.  Numbness was replaced by feeling, skipping over the months and years it had taken the rest of the nerve endings to regenerate and reconnect.  I could use my adductors because I could feel my adductors.. and how the knee bone's connected to the shin bone and the quadriceps and all the preparation I'd been doing for three years came together.

I was able to roll through my foot using my toes and my ankles and my arches as my calves flexed and my knees were bent and lifted by a combination of the muscles in my front and my back.  It was exhausting to pay attention to all of that activity, and I couldn't maintain it for very long, but I felt that I was having longer and longer periods of better and better ambulation.

This weekend, Big Cuter and I proved that.  We drove up to Catalina State Park and joined the Bowden PWR! Hike for the one mile trek.  Ten milers had started at 7:30, four milers at 9:30, and we short timers took off at 11:30... after posing for the obligatory team photograph. 

Big Cuter and I struck out ahead, following the pink ribbons affixed to upcoming vegetation which marked our way.  He let me set the pace.  He offered the bench half way through.  He made sure that my entirely-absent-directional-skills did not get us lost.  He admired the saguaros and prompted me to follow him onto the harder packed sand. 

We didn't stop.  I took no pictures, I admired no views except in passing. He thinks that I should try to widen my stride since I seem to put one foot down right in front of the other and that is exactly what we were doing... from the start to the finish.... and I could have kept going.

Instead, we retreated to the tent, accepted smiles and rejected cake, shook hands with Diane Bowden and thanked her for creating the event, and drove home.

I could list the things it wasn't (long, strenuous, steep, windy, exhausting) but the list of things it was is much more fun.  It was such a sense of accomplishment.  It was a shared experience with gym rat friends, and no one cared that incapacity had brought us to that particular gym.  It was more than I thought I could handle. It was an opportunity to prove something to myself in a safe environment.  It was something to do with my son.

But, to me, there's one thing it was that made it extra special.

It was a hike.
Hat Hair and Hat

Friday, April 11, 2014

We Were Busy

Very very busy.  Mr 8 and I planted a garden at Amster's house over the last two days.  We battled dust and rocks and heavy lifting.  We sneezed. We sniffled.  We sweated.  We used tissues, the ones without Vicks infused in the fiber.

The outside dogs used to live in the side yard.  That's where the planting beds are, too. The beasts dug and climbed and pawed and chewed through irrigation .  What was left was dirt covered with stones. Our first task was cleaning up the mess.  With brand new, colorful gloves, small enough for all four of our hands, we started at opposite ends of the first bed and began to remove the stones.
 Tossing them onto the ground was as much fun as anything else we did.
The new Staffordshire Terrier puppies were out with us for a while, but when the stone showers began they quickly retreated to the safety of the indoors.

After stone removal came ground aeration.
Using G'ma's trowel and the one that Amster bought we stabbed at the dirt, trying to turn it into soil.
Though he's tall enough to get a decent angle on the tool, 
sitting on the side was easier after a while. 


After a break for sneezing and other nasal attentions, 
we lifted the 2 cu ft bags of soil onto the raised beds.
It was a two person job.
I'm glad he's not Mr. 6 anymore; we'd have been in big trouble without his eight year old strength.
Thinking my request for seedlings was just me being cute with the language, Amster bought seeds. 
So, seeds were what we planted. 
We made furrows 1/4" deep, as the package suggested.
After sprinkling the seeds and distributing them evenly down the row, we covered them gently and patted them softly. 
The next day we planted small basil and tomato and marigold seedlings (the little plants, Amster) after repeating the process in another bed.  I would have taken photos, but we were having too much fun.  

We sang random gospel tunes that came out of Mr. 8's mouth.  We gently separated root balls and spread the tiny threads out in the sweet smelling, warm soil.  We discussed the presence of Perlite in the Miracle Gro soil they'd bought, and reviewed the watering schedule.  Amster's spray nozzle for a hose she found lying around is a much better solution than asking Mr. 8 to lug a watering can.  After all, he has to be gentle as he counts to twenty, moving his arms slowly and evenly over our plants.

We'll have pesto and tomato snacks before too long.
Meanwhile, we will watch our plantings grow. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Computer Scamming

She was insistent.  She was persistent.  She was annoying.  I couldn't hang up.

She was calling from Windows Technical Support.  She'd noticed that I had been accessing sites which were dangerous and she was calling to fix the problem.  She didn't ask me for a password.  She gave me an American name through a thick but understandable accent.  And always, she insisted.

Go to Control Panel and after several more prompts she knew exactly what the code looked like on my screen.  CMI....that is very bad  and that's where it got dicey.  She gave me a string of letters and numbers to type into a box on my monitor.  That would allow her colleague to gain access to my machine remotely.  He would then fix the problem

Alarm bells began to go off in my frazzled head.

We screen our calls with Caller ID.  If it's an unknown number or a blocked number or a series of unrecognizable digits or the name of an institution to which we have donated in the past we exit the screen and let the machine deal with it.  I rarely check that machine these days; if you want me you know how to find me if I want you to have that level of access.

Access..... she kept demanding access.

I began to wonder why I had picked up the phone in the first place.  It rang.  I grabbed.  I didn't check the number.

You called me.... I'm not letting you into my machine.  

How can this be a problem, Ma'am?  Did I not read you the code just now?

That one had me stumped.  When I am stumped, and the issue has anything at all to do with the inner workings of my computers, I call Brother.  He worked in IT, he understands IT, he rebuilds IT, he explains IT, and he even knows what IT means.  He's also very willing to help his less-than-competent-in-these-matters sister when she runs into trouble.

I think I'm going to call my brother who knows about these things.  If he says it's okay, I'll call you back and we can proceed.  Do you have a number at which you can be reached?

I didn't have much hope for that; none of these call center techs have ever been able to give out a number.  She didn't even try.  She went back on the offensive.

This is very important, you understand? Yes, there was a question in her voice.  As if I were too stupid to pay attention.  That was when I began to suspect a scam.

Perhaps you could call me back tomorrow at this same time?  I will hve talked to my consultant and then we can proceed.

She was not amused.  She pressed on.  I enjoyed myself for a minute or two, pressing back, then I hung up and emailed Brother.  He was back to me in a flash : DO NOTHING!!!!

There followed a history of these scams, wonderment at the code she'd found on my computer (apparently of no particular purpose in virus detecting but some random combinations which are easy to bring up), praise for my ability to see through it, and a list of sites to visit and download and run to scan the computer for any malicious software my typing that line of code in the search box might have allowed inside.

Secunia.... Trend Micro.... AVG..... he said they would take as long as it does to clean your car.

I wonder if he's seen my car lately.

Days later, I've run them all, heard that Intrepid Cat, his daughter, had the same issue, and laughed at her response.  She is a contractor in a federal department in Washington, DC.  The same scam was run by her, but, being her father's child, she was quicker to catch on than I was.  After playing with her interlocutor for a while, she asaked if he knew that he'd called a federal employee and that he was engaging in a federal crime...tampering with our government's computerization or something because she never got too far into the spiel before they hung up.

That's what I should've done.  Hung up.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Missing My Mommy

She's everywhere today.  I don't know why.  I'm not complaining.  I'm merely stating the facts.

I got through all the lights this morning on the way to Pilates.  I don't know why, but I thanked G'ma for the help.

On my way to pick up the paper from the end of the driveway this morning, I noticed that the bunnies had eaten yet another zinnia; I'm down to 12 of the original 15 I planted in the ground last weekend. Peeved and grimacing, I made myself laugh by remembering G'ma's advice on avoiding mold on zinnias - don't plant them.  It took the edge off my angst.

Little Cuter wants help hemming curtains.  My first response was "Where are G'ma and Bubba when we need them?!?"  I could drag out G'ma's sewing machine and try to make straight seams on her expensive fabric, but I demurred.  My heart was aching as I refused her request, but I'm really not good enough to create something she'll be looking at for the next several decades.  My maternal ancestors taught me how to sew; they couldn't imbue me with their talent, though.

I want my Mommy back.

I want to share the joy of impending baby-ness with her.  I want to drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon and
have a picnic, wrapping her in sweaters and sweatshirts and blankets from my car because we forgot how cold it gets at 7000' above sea level.  I want to remember the straw for her Diet Sprite.

 I want to take her to the Bluegrass Festival in the neighboring town this weekend and watch her jiggle to the tunes.

I want.... and I quote Mick Jagger to myself as I remind myself of the impossibility of my desires... because I can't always get what I want.

I want those days back - the ones where I drove past the pod-castle and felt too tired or lazy or achy or unwilling to drop in and hug her for a moment or two.  I knew then, as I passed by without stopping, that I would regret it later on.  I was right.

I was a good daughter.  I know that.  She didn't remember the gaps between my visits, she was always glad that I was there, she never gave me grief when it was time for me to leave.  I monitored and supervised and cherished.... and I wish I were still doing it today.



Dr K's mom will celebrate her 100th birthday this summer, and a
party is being planned.  The photo is priceless and so is she... living alone, playing bridge, sleeping through movies with her son by her side. We'll be there to congratulate her and to honor her and to admire her and I'll be remembering all the friends who attended G'ma's 90th Birthday Party last year.

I love the memories we created during her sojourn in the desert.
I want to be making more of them.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Good Grooming

I ended yesterday's post with my manicure.  That's where I'm starting today.

They look as wonderful as I feel was aspirational when I typed it.  The manicure was a day away.  Now, as my fingers fly over the keyboard, there are turquoise fingertips distracting me from anything meaningful I might have ventured to say.

Turquoise.  Little Cuter's age cohort did this in middle school, I think.  I thought it was awful.  Yet, today, my eye chose this color without question, without much searching, with only the tiniest soupcon of doubt... doubt which was quickly assuaged by the woman in the pedicure chair across the aisle who announced, to no one in particular, that she lo-o-o-o-ved that color.

Thiu, whose nails these are in the way that the my hip belongs to the orthopedic surgeon, thought the color was lovely, too.  I do not dare to disagree with her opinion; she's been tending to my nails since the first year we lived here... which makes her my oldest friend in town..... or certainly the one I see most regularly.

Anyone who sees the same hairstylist over a prolonged period of time (cf G'ma and Maureen, a 30 year love affair) knows what I mean.  She's had babies and enrolled kids in school and done my daughter's wedding party.  She found out she was pregnant the day I was shot.  She's heard me moan and groan and knows just when to listen and when to laugh.  Our lives are entwined; today we decided that her three year old son should marry Flapjilly.

Don't laugh, Little Cuter.  Vietnamese culture demands that the groom's family pay for both the bride's and the groom's wedding ceremonies.... including clothes and rings and necklaces.  From where your father and I are sitting, that's a good deal!

But, I digress.

My hands and fingers and arms and shoulders are well massaged and lotioned.  My nails are of an even length and my cuticles are unobtrusive. I shared having-a-pregnant-daughter stories and she bragged about her seven year old's ability to read both the English and Vietnamese newspapers.  Keeping the culture strong is her goal. "But my kids, they were born in America, and they are Americans....... maybe Little Cuter and SIR will pay for the wedding......"

It was a wonderful afternoon.

Monday, April 7, 2014

I Dug a Hole

It may not sound like much, but, to me, it was earth-shattering.

No pun intended.  Really.

The fact that I could lift the shovel out of the rack and carry it, without assistance, to the front of the house was remarkable in and of itself.  Last year, I used G'ma's transporter wheelchair as my garden cart and my ambulation assistive device.  I couldn't propel myself and the equipment I needed without a great deal of help.  Since humans were not always available, I used what was at hand. It was a measure of how far she'd fallen that G'ma didn't even chuckle when I described the scene to her last year.

Trust me, it was both practical and very funny.

This weekend, though, I was the picture of strength and ability.  I carried a twenty pound bag of approved-for-roses-soil to the first hole, in the back, and I only had to rest once.  By the time I'd amended the soil and added more to the filling in of the hole, I had lightened the load sufficiently to enable me to tote it to the courtyard in the front of the house.... except the dolly was calling to me and I wanted to save my strength for digging so I loaded up the four wheeled assistant and pushed it around to the planting area.
Last year, I couldn't have bent over and moved anything.  Had I tried, I fear that I would never have stood erect again.  This year, using my hamstrings and my back to push, I careened around the corner of the garage with a huge grin on my face.

I like it when progress smacks me in the face.

It took two trips to gather everything
in one place, and I was aided by the fact that there was irrigation near each of the sites.  The soil is easier to move when it's moistened; dry, it's practically impermeable by mortal woman.  Still, I stood upright and used both legs to support the lifting and scooping and dumping of dirt.

This was a dream last planting season.

I took lots of breaks.... celebrating the moment... catching my breath... easing the aches in my glutes and my adductors and my erectors.... recognizing it for what it was - real work.  I was conscious of my strengths and weaknesses, but I accomplished the task without catering to them.  I rested more often than I might have before I was perforated, but I had such a pretty water bottle
 and such a lovely view
that it was almost like visiting a living gallery.  I wax poetic, but you'll have to forgive me.  I was in a mood.

The roses are planted and irrigated and fertilized.  Future plantings may be in the works if I manage to keep these babies alive through the summertime.  For now, I'm done for the season.  I have post-installation-manicure scheduled for Monday afternoon.  My hands, as well as my back and my hip and my self, deserve a break.

They look as wonderful as I feel.

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