Friday, May 30, 2014

A View From The Inside

Lunch at Cafe 54 is delicious in so many ways.  The food is fabulous, the atmosphere is light and lively, and The Editor is always good company. We were breaking bread and sharing stories before she leaves for Maine, and it looked like we'd end up kvelling about our children, once again.

At least, that was the plan.  Then The Author walked in.

She's a member of the writer's group at The Clubhouse next door.  It's a safe place where those dealing with mental illness can have a cup of coffee, play a game of cards, read a book, learn a skill, take a class.  Cafe 54 is run as a Clubhouse project staffed by members; the customers are an eclectic mix of jurors on lunch break and downtown office workers and students and those involved in Clubhouse programs.  It looks like very other busy Tucson cafe at lunch time; the difference is evident only in the fact that you pay no tax at a not-for-profit venture.  It's a guided step back into the real world for those whose illness has given them a time out.

The Author was a college student when she became ill; that intellectually curious woman is at the core of who she is right now.  The woman she is right now speaks openly and candidly about schizophrenia. She laughs about the voices in her head as she tells us that her autobiography began as an answer to their comments.  Walt Whitman and Paul Theroux and involuntary commitment.... our conversation was wide ranging and profound.

No one wants to have a public meltdown, she informed us.  The stigmatization felt internally by those with her diagnosis is matched by the concomitant worry of public exposure.  Waiting in line in the cafeteria, having an episode, The Author was startled and then comforted by a friend's hand on her shoulder and his Okay, now.... in her ear.

Overtly, she rejected his help. Inside, back at the person who defines her, she could see the love.

The rejection of help is the symptom.  Helpers should not be put off by protestations. "I'm fine," she told us, is the self-protective cocoon of the illness itself.

At her core she knows this.  It's not easy to mirror it on the outside when your mind is creating incongruencies.  It's an isolating existence, this combination of being constantly on guard and feeling judged for behaviors over which your control is limited.  It feels safer, easier, more comfortable, to shrink your world.

That fixes the outside, but, again, at the core she knows something is missing.
No one wants to feel alone.
You do feel the comfort inside, even if you're rejecting it on the outside.
The conversation began with Santa Barbara, an event of which she was unaware.  As she considered the similarities to Tucson, I wondered how she would tread the line between public safety and individual rights.  What would that system look like? How do we protect innocents from incarceration....

.... and then she began to talk.

When she is dealing well with the world, she recognizes that some of her previous behaviors had been bizarre, that she had truly deviated from the norm, that something was not right.  When she is having an episode, that reality check is missing.  Asking her if she wants help is beside the point; she's not dealing with that right now.  Helpers should not forget that she feels their love even when her behavior says otherwise.

Reframe the conversation, she suggested.  The hospital is a safe place. They understand and accept the experience.  You can have symptoms without judgment.

She was tired of people telling her to pull herself out of it.... and the person who tired her the most was herself.  Going to the hospital is pulling yourself out of it.  It is not admitting defeat, it is recognizing a pathway to the other side.

She wasn't presenting a locked ward.  She was presenting a comforting place to have your meltdown. She was occupying the present moment, speaking to the issues which define her experience: isolation and stigmatization, first cousins to mental illness.

Her solution to the problem of young white men with untreated mental illnesses is early intervention. She is able to see the hospital as a refuge, and has taken herself in for the occasional tune up over the years.  She and The Editor will be going over the first draft of her autobiography in the Fall, talking back to the voices by telling her story.

There was so much passion and raw emotion and absolute silliness in our conversation.  We teared up and laughed uproariously and agreed that others should hear her point of view.  Stay tuned to hear updates on our plans for A Salon at Cafe 54.

The message is simple
It's hard to try to find the person on the other side, but it's worth the effort. 
And, on that other side, she is able to see the love.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Answer to A Minor But Worrisome Issue

Answers are so hard to come by.  Questions are easy, because I believe what they taught my children:
The only stupid question is the one you do not ask. 
Answers, on the other hand, seem to be in short supply recently.  Is the Santa Barbara shooter mentally ill or a bad seed?  Would stronger legislation or better training for first responders or stiffer penalties or a fully armed populace make us safer?  Does a rallying cry take the place of real action? Is that the purpose of a shout-able, repeat-able, quotable slogan?  Is raising consciousness a worthy goal in and of itself? 
 
I've been torturing my brain with these and other thoughts all weekend long.  It started at the quilting bee; it got worse when I returned home to find TBG glued to the news reports from SoCal.  Rain's comments to my post on the subject, and our subsequent conversation, just fanned the flames. 
 
I want to know why.
I want to know what to do.
I am tired of facing a problem without a solution.
 

I tried to lose myself in crocheting a sweater set for FlapJilly
When that didn't work, I tackled a less weighty but still bothersome issue - the efficient sharing of photographs.
 
 
I could post them on Facebook, but I don't trust the privacy.  They are a public company, beholden to the bottom line, and after facing down angry shareholders as value plummeted in the wake of the IPO, Mark Zuckerberg seems unwilling to stand in the way of financial gain ever again.  If he can make money by alerting advertisers to the fact that I am crocheting or quilting I'm certain he will do so.
 
Normally, this would not be a problem for me.  I adhere to the other piece of good advice my children heard, this one passed down to them from Daddooooo:
Don't do anything you wouldn't want published on the front page of The New York Times.
If I post it on the internet, I expect it to be circulated to the ends of the earth.  I am careful about including others' personal details in The Burrow (I always ask first) and I think three or four times before adding my own photos.  Flowers and sunsets are no brainers; anything else requires deliberation.

Which brings me to the Worrisome Issue - pictures of my impending grandchild.

I want to show her off.  I want to revel in her smile and your smiles as you look at her image in pixels on your screen.  I want to share the joy.

But....

I have come to recognize that, by posting her image on-line, I am making a decision for her.  She will have a web presence before she has a chance to decide for herself if that's a path down which she wants to travel.  Her image could be hijacked for indecent purposes or bizarre obsessions or other creepiness. 

I might place a birth announcement in The New York Times, but I wouldn't post albums of baby pictures.

Today, after failing three or four or seventeen times to send 41 images to the local Moms Demand Action manager via Picasa and Gmail, I tried Google+.

In three simple clicks - one to select the album, one to Share, one to add her email - she had the pictures and I had a prompt for a post. 

I can set up a circle of recipients and promote my grandchild's progress with impunity.  I can set it up to prohibit re-sharing, so the images will go only where I send them.  I can share and not worry and now I can move on to another nagging problem......

...... there are so many of them, aren't there?  Isn't it nice to have a solution to one of them?

You are welcome.

 




Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Again?

Six are dead.  Thirteen are wounded.

Again.

Those are the numbers we heard in Tucson.  Dory and Judge Roll and Gabe and Christina-Taylor and Dot and Phyllis are long forgotten, though.  Too much time has passed.  CNN's retrospective on mass shootings in America listed the last ten.... in the last two years.... and Tucson was too long ago to be mentioned.  Our event is ancient history, it seems.

Yet, it is exactly the same story.... a preventable story... a story that will resonate for a while and then vanish into the collective unconscious.... unless I keep nagging about it, I guess.  So......

Another disturbed 20-something white boy, this one with parents and therapists and an academic career to go along with his legally obtained weaponry, shot up a peaceful college town.  His family warned the police; he deluded the officers with politeness and his whiteness, I'm sure.  His written manifesto mentions his glee that they did not search his home and find his weapons cache.

He obviously knew right from wrong.

There were two sorority sisters on the front lawn.... a young man on his way to the deli.... bike riders and errand runners and their lives are ended or altered because the laws have not kept up with the problems.

I don't know how to write the law, because people shouldn't be locked up just because they see the world through a different lens.  Crazy and Creative are first cousins, I think.  We don't want mad men walking the streets, but we don't want to incarcerate people just for being weird.

On the other hand, our shooter heard voices, and told others about them, in private, in a journal, on MySpace.  The Santa Barbara shooter posted his whinging on YouTube and wrote his own 140 page screed, promising vengeance.  I think it would have been obvious to anyone who looked just a little deeper that neither should possess deadly force.

I can say that with some authority, since Stan, the guns-and-ammo manager at our local Wal-Mart, refused to sell our shooter ammunition.  Why? "It was obvious he wasn't a person who should be given ammo."  If the salesperson at the shooter's second Wal-Mart stop had been as attentive to his job, perhaps the bloody Safeway scene could have been avoided.

Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of common sense to make a difference.

Reframing pieces of the issue toward mental health may open the door to sensible legislation just a bit wider.  Again, drawing the line is a difficult task, but little steps would be better than no steps.

Yes, the legislation on the books should be enforced. Yes, states should comply with mandatory reporting requirements, and the hardware and software should be easy to access.  Yes, there will still be horror stories.  But, perhaps, with expansion of our mental health services and a willingness to look at more than the client-in-the-interview, we might have a chance of preventing more posts like these.

Because that's the part that grabs my heart and twists it like a wet washrag.... both Tucson and Santa Barbara were preventable tragedies.  Had appropriate care been available, had the shooters been treated... medicated.... kept away from deadly weapons because everyone agreed that their brains were not functioning well enough .... I'd have less notoriety and a 13 year old friend.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Moms Quilting Bee

I went to a Quilting Bee Saturday afternoon.
These ladies were the actual quilters.
The rest of us 
were there to create squares 
Patrice and Alyssa's Peace and Love square.
We were assured that no skill was necessary.
They assumed we could all use scissors.
The rotary cutters were a different matter entirely.
They are devilish tools with hidden safety locks and the ability to remove slices of a human finger with reckless abandon.  We saw the remains on a quilter's hand.  It would behoove us to take care.

There's a reason I crochet blankets for babies - they always fit, despite my mistakes.
Quilting requires a lot more precision.
The lucite measuring square must be exactly positioned, and JannyLou's kinfolk couldn't keep their hands still long enough for me to take a picture.
 There were cardboard templates to move around and help to center the square on the desired design element. The quilters were there to advise and suggest and to remind us that anything is possible.
So the doctor's wife and I got to work.
The first task was to convince the quilters that it was okay to cut up his white doctor coat.
We assembled the rest of our materials from the archived fabrics left around Tucson at the various impromptu memorials after January 8th. 
We separated stitching from pillowcases, and thought of Yvonne whose name tag we left, intact, for someone else to discover. 
We measured 
and played with fabric placement  

and filled out the paperwork (why is there always paperwork?) 
which included a statement about the person honored in the square.
Gabby sent material for her own square.
and I made one for Christina-Taylor and me.
It's purple and green and the flowers reminded me of Christina's Business, the plant watering service for which she and I made business cards and advertising flyers and it was just that kind of afternoon.
Doing good work.
Having a good time.
Missing those taken too soon.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Moving On

She broke her engagement.

"I pulled the band aid off."

She wants marriage and children and a family like the one she still cherishes, her parents and her brother, loving and concerned and moving in the same direction.

The fiancĂ© seemed less interested in them and more interested in his own road.

She looked for a long time, and was so glad when she thought she'd found him.  But, she's neither stupid nor unaware, and she could recognize the incongruities and so she's sending back the ring.

She feels better than she has in a long time.
*****
She decided where to send her daughter to high school.

Yes, the daughter had an opinion.  That opinion made the decision an issue.

She struggled to define her reactions, to consider the options, to investigate her reasoning.  She loves her child, respects her style, admires her tremendously and knows where the power lies -- with the grown up.

She did what she knows is best, what her daughter, reluctantly but not altogether unpleasantly, agrees is best, what her relaxed demeanor demonstrates really is the best.
*****
The court date is set.  The issues are laid out. There's nothing to do but wait.

Dad showed up at the piano recital, his eyes glancing at her and then jumping away, as if burned.  There were no words exchanged.  There wasn't a handshake or a smile... and don't think the kids didn't notice.  It wasn't hostile or awkward as much as it was vacant, empty of emotion.

The court will decide who is right and who is wrong.  It is out of their hands and so they sit, powerless to move on, and they wait.

They'll both be glad when it's over.
*****

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Is it Weird?

I sent her furniture for the baby's room as her birthday gift.

I think I forgot to get TBG to sign the card I remembered to mail.

This morning, her email to me wondered what it meant that she kept forgetting that her birthday was approaching.  Is it weird? 

Yes, sweetie, it's very weird.  It's not unusual, but it's weird.

She's getting to the point where the individual years blur together. I remember it well.  She went to a 1980's theme party; I was bemused. I missed the 1980's; being pregnant and parenting little ones was as far as I could see. My musical tastes ran to Raffi and lullabies, my reading material centered on Margaret Wise Brown, and forget about fashion or lifestyle trends. Were I to be invited to that theme party, I'd have worn sweatpants.

My birthdays came and went and I was happy to buy my own strawberry shortcake and take a long bubble bath and be done with it all.  I had decade-celebratory parties for TBG, but I wasn't that interested in creating hoopla over my own. My girl's planning a similar weekend for herself - a pre-natal massage and a sunny weekend in her garden.  No fuss. No muss. Just peace.


Daddooooo always wanted Peace and Quiet for his birthday.

I sent clothes.

He wore brand new polo shirts while building and painting birdhouses.

The stains drove G'ma nutty, but they always made me smile. He had me around while he was doing the work, like a giant hug that he could wash and put on again and again.

I can see it and feel it right now.

That's what's weird about it, Little Cuter.  You're changing from celebrating outside yourself to celebrating within.  You're looking at your life from a different perspective, with someone new anchored firmly at the center... literally and figuratively.

You're rotating around a new axis, and the old pieces have to find their way.  They announce themselves with varying degrees of surprise... like, really, kiddo, HOW could you forget your birthday?????... or a yawn.... or ..... furniture for your birthday present.

Or, maybe, it's just that you have a lot on your plate right now?

Or, maybe, it's pregnancy-brain?

Or, maybe, it's just plain weird.

Whatever it is, there's one thing for certain: It's YOUR day.  That much hasn't changed. It's the day that you came out to join the party... a party you've been enlivening ever since.

Happy Birthday, Little Cuter!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's Not Perfect, But....

By the time it went live, yesterday's post was old news.  I tagged on a quick update before I went to bed, but I woke up thinking about it and then Megan commented and I have to revisit it.

Not the why do you need to bring an assault rifle into a taco joint? issue.  If we have to argue about the propriety of such behavior we are too far apart to agree on much of anything else. I'm not a defeatist, I'm a realist.  

I'm thinking about the meta-issues, those that hover over the facts, providing context and nuance and a window into our world.  

How about the undeniable influence that Moms Demand Action was able to assert?  Chipotle is a feel good, healthy, hot, fast dinner stop for a family shuttling between piano lessons, karate, and t-ball.  It's not the only choice, though, and without that organic, range-free chicken, no GMO's vibe... with, in fact, a decidedly anti-warm-and-fuzzy feeling... when it's linked in Mom's Decider Button to guys with assault weapons.... that's not good for business, it seems.

So, Chipotle asks gun-toting-customers to leave their weapons behind.  They reassure families that a safe experience is in everyone's best interests, and they hope that we come back real soon. And then, they decide that since the issue isn't business-centric, it ought to stay out of their stores.  Really, it belongs in the legislature, not in the burrito line.

And that's where I lose them.  I alluded to it yesterday, and the irritation I felt then has grown into something close to outrage.  Corporations are people; the Supreme Court told me so.  If they are annoyed that the issue has crossed the threshold of their establishments, then let them weigh in, on one side or the other, and make their voices heard.  That's what we do in a representative democracy - we participate.  

Saying that the issue should not be decided in their stores is vaguely un-American to me.  

They were called upon to take a stand, and, perhaps, that made them uncomfortable.  Being put on the spot usually does.  These long gun toting fellows with the goofy facial expressions put them there.  Moms Demand Action didn't ask for a response out of the blue; they were taunted by bullies.
Honestly, does he need to have his finger on the trigger?  Was it really that dangerous in there?  I've seen correspondents on the evening news, reporting from  the Cameroon/Nigeria border, who are less well protected.


But the best way to defeat a bully is to stand up to the bully... not to ask that the fight be taken outside.  Out of sight-Out of mind does not work in the real world any more, because there is no place to hide. With one Share click, entire networks of humans can be similarly appalled.  

And then you're forced to decide - are you on the side of the worshipers of Baal or do you stand with The Lord?  

You decide which is which.  I'm going to sit here and smile. Like it or not, the tide is turning and you, Chipotle, are being swept up in the wave.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Burritos and Bullets

I was shot standing ten feet from my Congressswoman, on a sunny Saturday morning, in front of a grocery store. My little friend, Christina-Taylor Green, died while holding my hand.  A licensed, legally carried weapon was used.


Today, I opened Facebook and saw these guys

Yes, those are the round trash holes and marginally comfortable stools you find at every Chipotle in America.


I stand in line at Chipotle at Foothills Mall about once a week.  There's lots of glass,lots of people milling about, and no reason on God's green earth for an AK47 to join me. I wonder if the Chipotle's in Dallas, where this photo was taken, are somehow less secure.

I'm wondering just how strong the fellow on the right thinks he is.  That weapon he's holding has quite a kick.  It also shoots more than one bullet at a time.  Should his spindly arms get tired while he's aiming at the bad guy, those bullets might just stray and spray the families sharing guacamole nearby.  

Are assault rifles really necessary accompaniments to tacos?

Fast Eddie, JannyLou, TBG and I were dining at Five Guys last spring when a handgun on a patron's hip sent me scrambling for the exit. That link will take you to the original post, where I describe the chilling effect of that handgun... a legally carried hand gun.... and the kind but powerless response of the local manager.  

Company policy is not dictated by the locals. corporate management is in high rises, not a glass box in a parking lot in a strip mall.  No one is walking in for a 10 o'clock meeting with the CFO while toting a long gun, I'm sure. Were that to happen, I imagine security would be accompanying the weapon wielder.

Sure, it may be legal.  But is it right?  Do you really need a weapon to eat a burrito? . Besides, by the time they managed to put down their structurally compromised foodstuffs, the damage will already have been done. Those meals are not neat.  Dripping salsa cannot be helpful while aiming an automatic weapon.

Texans concerned about Right to Carry laws have been staging these protests to draw attention to the fact that handguns are banned in many places where long guns are not.  They are attempting to change the laws by bringing public attention to the issue.  That may be true.  It may be that these gentlemen were waiting for a reporter to inquire about the deeper meaning behind their armed presence in a family-friendly fast-food joint.  It's possible that they would have responded to a question with an in-depth analysis of the issues underlying the inequities in the law.  It could be.  I just haven't heard it.

It took some searching to find anti-Moms-Demand-Action bloggers who made this point.  If change is their aim, I think they need to find a new PR person.  The message is not getting across.

Guns, alcohol and families do not mix.  A rapid fire assault weapon was frightening to me when I saw it strapped to the back of a teenage soldier dressed in camouflage in an airport in 2001.  The threat felt very real.  Somehow, sitting over a chicken burrito with hot salsa and sour cream, children and grandparents and construction workers surrounding me, it's absolutely sickening.

Chipotle's paper bags are filled with love songs to gently raised animals and vegetables and the natural life.  I don't need an AK-47 to round off the meal.
*****
This kerfuffle lasted less than one day.  Chipotle posted a request on Facebook that customers refrain from bringing assault weapons into their stores.  This, at the end of the statement, seems disingenuous to me
this issue is not central to the operation of our business, and we do not feel that our restaurants should be used as a platform for either side of the debate.
Sorry, guys.  You live in and do business in the USofA.  The debate happens out in the open.  It's called activism.

This time, the good guys won. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mall Walking

Brenda Starr and I are in training.  There's a 5K through the pecan groves near her house next November, and we've paid for the t-shirts and the number and the snacks.  There's no avoiding it - we'll be the slowest participants in the race but we'll be participants, nonetheless.

Her husband is in charge of our logo, a riff on my constant references to the fact that we galumph instead of glide as we cover ground.  There'll be a Jabberwocky (Jabberwalky?) connection because Lewis Carroll got there before I did, but I'm taking credit for the original idea.  We are many things when we walk; graceful is not one of them.

We are determined  We are purposeful.  We concentrate.  We correct one another.  We try not to list too heavily to one side or the other.... especially when our listing leads to our shoulders connecting.  Turning around is a sight to behold; we take up a lot more room than you'd imagine.

Still, we are doing it.  One weekend morning each week our little white cars are parked beside one another, waiting for our return. We have walked through Reid Park and the Rillito River Path and funky neighborhoods but now it is triple digits when I bring in the morning paper and walking outside becomes less than pleasant, unless you begin at 5am.

I'm too old to set an alarm to work out.  We've relocated to the mall.

The doors open early in the morning, though the shops are still closed.  There's pathway delineated with black linoleum squares following the outer edge of the mall.  We step in each of the boxes.  It is tempting to cut corners, but the color demands your attention and, before you quite realize it, you've made the turn and are rounding the corner toward home.  It's possible to cover a great deal of ground while admiring the sneakers for sale behind the plate glass windows. 

Today we walked 1.6 miles.  We were quite impressed with ourselves.

We were not alone, though.  There are many others in my age cohort making the rounds as well.  Today we were amused by the woman with the blown out white hairdo, a combination of a page boy and a beehive and an afro.  The temptation to run over and pull it off her head was nearly uncontrollable; it's a good thing that I don't run anymore.  We laughed and wondered and then stopped as we watched her walk by... with her bright red lipstick and bright blue eye shadow and hot pink phone case stuck to her ear.  The fact that she had three friends tagging along didn't dissuade her.  She was yakking.

The fit 50-something gentleman in the striped polo shirt and khaki shorts sped past us at an alarming rate.  He was making firm contact with the ground, as the soles of his shoes announced with authority as he took each step. 

The elderly, bent, walker-attached man was much slower.  We passed him easily.

There were families who seemed to be enjoying the air conditioning and not doing much else. 

There were worker bees in some of the stores, stocking shelves and sweeping detritus.

And there we were, part of the early morning summer in Tucson scene.  The Muzak was blaring.  We were galumphing.  It's not what I used to call exercise, but it certainly qualifies as such for now. 

We only have to increase our distance by 100%.

Friday, May 16, 2014

In Horto, In Desertum

We should hit triple digits this weekend.
The petunias were spent.
There were pretty flowers at the tips of long, bare, yellow stalks.
I snipped them off.
I was ruthless, as you must be when changing seasonal containers.
This one was never attached to the irrigation system.
It did just fine until I went to Chicago just as the thermometer and  the wind picked up.
It was hard to cut down the dead gladiolus; I felt guilty about abandoning them.
Properly watered, they shine on 4' stems like these.
It's too bad the hibiscus (the deep green foliage on the right) wasn't in flower.
The bright red blossoms are a nice counterpoint to the white and yellow.

This rose is resting comfortably in its container, but there are no blooms.  Nor are there buds.
Instead, the leaves are a sickly yellowing green.
I was motivated to fertilize everything by this fellow's distress.

On the other side of the backyard, this rose is just about ready to pop.
It will be the first of may, the second set of blooms from this plant this season.
I must be doing something right.

Keeping the hanging basket properly hydrated was an issue until I hooked it up to the irrigation timer. 
This is how it looked after I pruned it of the less than amazing flowers.
It's the gift that keeps on giving.
My tomato was also a victim of being ignored.
He sat in the small plastic pot for two or three hot days.
He's not very bushy but the fruits are certainly tasty. 
Lest you think that my only successes are containers,look at this lantana. 
Little Cuter planted a pink and yellow variety in a small pot on the plant stand on her patio.  
Here, they are close to being invasive.
This was cut back three weeks ago.

And then, there's this rose.
I diverted the irrigation myself.
I dug the hole myself.
I separated it from its container and settled it neatly in the ground.
I was kneeling and bending and feeling just fine, and I think the plant knew it, too.
It's been rewarding me ever since.

In Horto, In Desertum
Garden in the Desert.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Urbs in Horto

That's Chicago's motto.
They live up to it.... big time.

I had an hour between dropping Little Cuter at work and meeting old friends for lunch, so I walked.
(Feel free to bask in that sentence.)
I didn't hurt, the weather was warm, the sun was out, and Michigan Avenue beckoned.
Not the stores.... the avenue itself.

The trees are planted in planter boxes.
affording comfy resting places 
for weary travelers. 
Newspaper boxes are interspersed with floral decor.
Staring across the street, debating whether to go into Cartier and drool
I couldn't get past the tulips.
There were lots of tulips.
Lots and lots
of tulips. 
They were planted in stages
so that new ones will bloom as the older ones fade.
There were random decorative items in planters,
and Wet Paint signs on the railings. 
They may not be able to fix the pot holes in the streets, but the wrought iron is beautifully maintained.
Gardeners were planting 
small gardens 
which drew me in closer 
and closer. 
It was a lovely day for a walk....
especially when you and your mom are color coordinated to the flora.
Urbs in Horto.... City in a Garden.....
truer words were never spoken.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sorry I'm Late

That was the theme yesterday.

I tried to leave Chicago.  Really, I did.  The Realtor was to meet me for breakfast and her usual "take me to the airport because then we have an hour to ourselves" run.  I had B55 as a Southwest Boarding Pass and three hours between our meeting and my plane's departure.  Life was good.

Without cash, with a new car, without the desire to see that car driven by a young valet to a remote parking lot, she disappeared from view just after I spied her through the window.  That was fine; she's been blowing in almost-but-not-quite-late for the 31 years of our relationship.  I sipped my odd green tea mixture and waited happily.  There were two under-two-year-olds at the next table I stared and dreamed.

Safely parking her new car, she tried twice before her egg whites were to her satisfaction.  My oatmeal was as odd as the green tea, filled with honey and something creamy with totally tasteless granola on top.  I've never been disappointed in oatmeal before, but, as G'ma used to tell me, there's always a first time.

Our waitress was delightful if sporadically attentive.  The conversation was, as well.  I was trying to find a bite or two that would hold me over until I got to Midway.  I decided that I could wait.

The drive was easy, we hugged good-bye, and I was delightfully surprised to find that, for the fifth flight in a row, I was on the TSA pre-screen list.  I didn't have to wait in the long line.  I was shuffled off to the right, where I breezed down the skinny hallway next to the windows, tossed my suitcase and purse onto the belt, and strolled through the metal detector.  It's a whole different experience when you don't have to take off your shoes.... I almost felt like a human being.... not a potentially dangerous one, either.

Gate B9 was one moving walkway from security.  The oversized lounge chairs with the charging stations in the armrests were unoccupied.  I settled in next to two men with headphones, turned on the Kindle, and read on in Bleak House. That little device comes in handily when the reading material is an 800 page tome and you are trying to travel light. 

I had time.  I waited, happily.  Inclement weather on Monday left many travelers scrambling for escape on Tuesday, but there were no clouds to speak of as I watched the planes take off and land.  I'd be home in time for my therapy at 4:15pm.

That was the plan. 

I fed myself at Potbelly's Sandwich Shop, a favorite when we lived in town and my guilty pleasure while waiting at Midway.  A toasted tuna and a giant Coca-Cola left my belly and my heart happy.  Certain tastes bring back vivid memories and, as I returned to the gate, my mind was back at Oz Park with The Cuters.  I settled in, gently belching the world's tastiest pepperoncini, and waited to board.

That was the plan.

As the runway became less busy and then empty, CNN and the airport announcer told us the same story - there was smoke in the control tower.  Midway and O'Hare were shut down.  Our plane had been diverted to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  There was nothing further to report.

The helicopters overhead were scary to some, but I was still struck by the silence.  Looking at another day in the airport, never reaching Albany, the young mother and her toddler read picture books and colored and were remarkably calm.  The family on their way to UofA graduation, planning to celebrate at one of Tucson's fancy resorts, a vacation they never would have taken were their youngest child not celebrating, they'd checked their belongings through.  Without underwear or toothbrushes, with another daughter already on her way from another city, the mom assured me that her outward calm in no way reflected her inner turmoil. 

We waited.

There wasn't a lot of information to be given; firefighters concentrate on the job at hand rather than public statements.  At one point, there were planes lining up on the runway.... and there they sat.... for two hours.... before this announcement: Attention in the terminal.  Do not get excited if you see planes moving.  They are going back to their gates.

We waited some more. 

Rumors flew. I read.  I crocheted. I chatted with the Ironwood Ridge High School teachers to my left.  We watched the other's bags for bathroom breaks and information seeking forays.  We played with the baby. 

We waited.

Then, the announcement we dreaded.  There was no guarantee that the airport would reopen anytime soon.  We should get in line to rebook, or call the 1-800 number, or go online if we had access... which, being Boingo in Chicago, was unlikely since the free service lasts only 20 minutes and no one wanted to pay for more.  So, I got on line, holding a place for one of the teachers who sat comfortably watching the luggage as the line inched its way to the counter.  The pilots waiting nearby shared their news - all flights scheduled before 7pm were going to be cancelled.

I called The Realtor, made a plan to take the train to her house for a slumber party, and prepared to leave Chicago in the morning..... although as the line moved slowly forward the rumor was that there were plenty of seats on the 7:15pm plane.  So many decisions... to rebook and hope... to rebook later and plan... and we waited and pondered and then the desk attendant picked up her microphone and told us that We have a plane!

The cheers and clapping were spontaneous. 

We boarded as soon as the last person steps off the inbound flight and I've never seen so many people move so quickly.  A1 through 30... GO! and they went.  There was no pausing between groups; B55 was on the plane minutes after A1.  I settled down between a grandpa going to a wedding and a Tucsonan returning home.  We pulled back from the gate as soon as the doors shut on the last man on and we took off just as quickly.

The pilots were as tired of waiting as we were.

My plan was to write to you yesterday afternoon, once I got home and unpacked and took a shower.  By the time I landed and met TBG for a quick dinner and got home and showered and flopped onto the couch my brain had turned to mush.  I forgot that I was late to the party... that I'd not written my post... that you were waiting.

Please, accept my apologies.  I hope that reading this over lunch is just as satisfying as reading it over breakfast.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Clouds Rolling In

A thunderstorm is on its way.  

I'm watching the edge of the weather system creep over the neighbor's house and, as the words appear on the screen the first few drops are hitting the windows.  Little Cuter's plants are either closing up or opening their blooms to the water.  She has dahlias and lantana and geraniums and chrysanthemums and the most astonishing collection of ranunculus MOTG and I have ever seen. Planted to celebrate the season and look gorgeous for her house party on Saturday, they survived a late freeze and are now simply beautiful.

My little girl never evinced an interest in gardening.  The young woman she's become is fixated on growing things.  Is it homeownership which created the change?  She seems to think so.  Personally, I think it's G'ma's influence from above. Today's humidity and cooler temperatures and rain are just what they need and, again, I'm thanking my own mother for her Mothers' Day gift.

Thomas-the-Wonder-Dog is terrified of thunder.  He quivers and quakes and hides in the basement, which is an improvement over his behavior when the kids lived in a City apartment.  With no place to hide, SIR at work, Little Cuter in the shower, he took matters into his own paws and joined her in the bath.  Crashing through the shower curtain, he wrapped himself around her soapy legs, insensible of the havoc he was creating.  She was there and he was comforted so she continued washing her hair, then washed his, and they dried off together.  

Today, finding no comfort at SIR's feet, he's gone back down to the basement to shake in private.

Those few raindrops are all that have fallen as I've typed these paragraphs.  The clouds are darkening, though, and the wind has died down, and now giant pellets are descending.  Though I worry about the padded lawn furniture, SIR is blissfully unconcerned.  

The edge of the weather system is now a straight gray line in the sky, like the shadow of the lighter gray following it westward.  I'm watching the white blossoms on the neighbor's apple tree hold onto the branches, valiantly.  They appeared earlier this week, I'm told, along with the pink cherry and crab apple blossoms.  Perhaps they will remain attached, perhaps they will cover the grass.... time will tell. For now, they are stolidly resisting the forces of nature.

The separation between the rain cloud and the sky has vanished.  Everywhere I look it's gray.  The basketball playing neighbors have gone inside, Thomas refuses to join us upstairs, and the ranunculus are bowing under their own, wet, weight. 

I've forgotten how much I like a midwestern rain storm.

Monday, May 12, 2014

What Goes Around Comes Around

I spent a lot of my childhood in the backyard.  We had the swing set, the sandbox, the big tree for home plate, and no fence between ourselves and our uncle and aunt next door.  It was kid heaven.... proven by the doorbell every evening.... the neighborhood kids asking if we could come out and play.... or just asking if they could play in the yard.

I often thought that my yard was more popular than I was.

I spent Mothers' Day weekend with the kids in Illinois.  SIR's sister was celebrating her birthday on Saturday, and she and her husband brought their three little boys from Indiana to share the joy.  Her parents, Big Bob and MOTG, rounded out the party.

Every bed in the house was occupied, and still there was a need for more.  Little Cuter, channeling her inner child, recreated a fort-bed on the downstairs couch for the kids.  There were so many, many choices, between the long piece and the middle piece and the one that was headed into the middle of the room, and then, there was the air mattress.  It was a conundrum wrapped in a paradox and altogether overwhelming for the littlest one, nearly three (shown on both hands with all the fingers waggling).

SIR is the world's best uncle, a fact that assures he will be an equally fabulous father.  Before the guests arrived, he'd shopped for water pistols and giant jars of bubbles.  The water balloons were a failure, even with the bright orange spout secured in the neck of the rubber hole, the hose was incapable of filling them to anyone's satisfaction.  It didn't matter.  They enjoyed watching their uncle try and fail.

There was so much to do that he never go to the whiffle ball and bat Little Cuter  purchased on our morning run to CVS.

Shorts were exchanged for bathing suits and the fun began. The water pistols were swords and wands and squirters. The big brother, at seven, was acutely aware of the little ones.  There was no hostile "I'm bigger and you're gonna get it!" Instead, he'd rub their heads and check to be sure that their weapons were loaded and ready to fire.  Obviously, he's been brought up well.

The bean bag toss came out (you may know it as Cornhole, but I have a hard time with that moniker) and the grown up boys began a competition that lasted well into the evening, long after the little boys had gone to bed.

The ladies went to Little Cuter's Baby Shower (more on that later this week) and left the menfolk in charge.  Everyone was alive and no one was bleeding when we returned three hours later.

No one but I was surprised.

They'd barbecued while we were gone, and there was more of that as the evening wore on.  Guests filtered in from the party, taking up residence on the padded patio furniture and the steps and the grass and the living room couch. It was a full house.  It was wonderful.

I was reminded of lazy summer afternoons when I was a girl, of bbq smoke and catching fireflies and frolicking with my cousins under the rotating sprinkler.  There was always a snack or a hug where there was a need.  The same was true on my daughter's porch last night.

She's recreated the happiest memories of my childhood in her own backyard, and, as I age and she moves into parenthood, I feel the circle of life going 'round and 'round.  Am I smarmier than usual? Perhaps. It comes from all this love that's floating in the air.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Random Thoughts

Recovering from illness takes its toll.  I've cancelled Pilates and a dinner meeting.  I have less energy than usual, and piles are accumulating where they lie because I am too tired to move them and put them away.  I managed to do laundry, but only because I am traveling this weekend and don't want to go naked.  We've been eating plain turkey on rye bread for dinner; vegetables made my stomach leap.

It's better than lying on the bed and suffering, but nearly as frustrating.
*****
I crocheted a sweater for FlapJilly, my in utero grandchild.  The pattern called for 28 rows of this and 23 rows of that and I bet that the whole thing would have looked better had I matched my gauge to that of the instructions.  

Instead, when the pattern called for sewing the side seams together, I couldn't find them.  Worked from the bottom up, the sleeves were perfect, the neck divine, but the body was short.  Very, very short.  

TBG and I pondered and he suggested adding length and as I worked the item transformed itself from a monstrosity to something vaguely resembling an article of clothing.  After tying bows and turning sleeves into cuffs, it's actually almost adorable.  

I'd take a picture, but I want to surprise Little Cuter and SIR this weekend.
*****
I've been feverishly creating small items but the parents to be are now requesting BIG blankets... big enough for the new mommy and her baby to cuddle beneath.  The problem with that plan is the short attention span of the crocheter.  I like things I can finish in a few days.

Still, the recipients should have some small say in the gifts, I suppose.  Super bulky yarn may be the ticket.
*****
Watching my fingernails cruise the keyboard made me sad.  

TBG saw a news story depicting the dangers of the ultra-violet light used to set the gel nail polish I've been using for my manicures for the last three years.  Apparently, there are enough UV rays in the little machine into which I stash my nails for thirty second intervals to cause all manner of cancers.

I went this morning, resigned to a straight polish job on both fingers and toes.  It would chip,  require time to dry, demand that I be careful.... all of which I dealt with as my vanity struggled with my desire for a long and healthy life.  

Then, I looked at the machine - L E D emblazoned on its front.  No harmful UV rays for these digits, now perfectly adorned with neat and unchippable white, French tips.
*****
The Schnozz went in for a check-up and, nearly six hundred dollars later, I remembered that I needed new windshield wipers, too.

The noise I hear upon starting the car is still there.  The technician says it sounds just like the other GTI's in the shop, even though it's a new noise to me and I've owned the car for 50,000+ miles. 

There's no smoke, no awful smell, and the rumbling disappears after five or ten seconds.  I think I'll ignore it.  As G'ma used to advise, if you don't like a noise in the car, turn up the radio.

I've been blaring oldies all week.
*****
I'm finally able to walk in my sandals.  For three years, they've been hidden away in a plastic space saver bag, crushed together like grains of sand on the beach.  Now, with my ever increasing ability to ambulate well, I'm finding that I don't need the support of tied shoes to get where I'm going.  

I opened the bag, dumped it on the floor, and was transported to the summer of 2010, when WallyWorld put all the plastic flip  flops on sale for fifty cents a slipper, one dollar a pair.  I bought navy and green and pink and white and black and red and yellow and teal and light blue and I was still under $10.

Now, stiff from years of inactivity, they laugh at me from their plastic bin. I'm still working my way through my Keens and Tevas.  These cheapo pals will have to wait for August, when I'm bored with their fancier, more expensive, cousins and the triple digit temperatures draw me to their minimalism.

It's nice to have that problem again.
*****
The clothes I'm taking to Illinois will fit in my purse.  I've left toiletries at the kids' house, and sneakers and socks and sweaters, too.  I'm debating not taking a suitcase at all.

On the other hand, I could fill a giant piece with my winter gear and leave it all there.  They'll have to invite me back, if for no other reason than to wear it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 7, 1983

.... I was enormous.  Gigantic.  The size of a house.... or, at least, a double wide trailer.  I'd gained 47 pounds, and though my plan was for a 10 pound baby and a 30 pound placenta, leaving me 7 pounds to lose I was beginning to believe that, perhaps, I was mistaken.

.... it was a balmy, easy Saturday spent waiting for a baby to arrive.  I knew exactly when I became pregnant, but no one could be precise to that same degree of certitude when it came to the number of days it took to grow a fully formed human..... so we waited.....

... and when we got tired of waiting  we drove west on Wrightwood, the bumpiest, most pot-holed street in town.  TBG was determined to shake this baby loose....

... and when that didn't work we tried to scare him out with a hot dog covered in hot peppers.... which did seem to have an effect on him.  I doubled over in the parking lot, and, no, I was not trying to tie my shoes.  I hadn't done that in months.   Real contractions were certainly different from the practice contractions, Braxton-Hicks.

Time stood still.

And then, it started up again....

... the breeze turning into a wind into a force field, sending Lake Michigan across eight lanes of Lake Shore Drive...

... Zanner coming over for dinner and the rain pelting the windows and the baby making himself known more and more frequently... so we sent her home and I took a nice long shower.... sitting on the shower bench when necessary, admiring my painted toenails as I realized that, in fact, I could neither walk, talk, nor make a joke.

31 years ago I was having a baby.

Today, that baby calls to reassure me that everything is all right .... even if he just wonders if I might be feeling blue.

That baby promised to carry me out if I failed on my hike, came home after I was perforated to lift me and move me, hefts packing boxes of paperbacks to the tippy top of the closet, and leaves arrows pointing to that which is hidden behind.... because he knew that it makes me smile.

I'm not going to focus on the next eighteen hours.... though they were filled with uproarious laughter in addition to all that other stuff.... because it all became unimportant at 12:16.

Happy Birthday, Big Cuter.  It's been a pleasure.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Wind

Eight years ago this week we flew to Phoenix and drove to Tucson.  We were house-hunting, and C&B told us that Tucson was their retirement destination.  Since they lived in Phoenix, we assumed they knew what they were talking about, so we scheduled a realtor trip and hit I-10.

We were nearly blown off the road.

The winds start in the north or the south or the east or the west... there's no accounting for their origins or their paths.  During the summer, entire weather systems originate over Pike's Peak and drop rain on our parched ground.  The fact that the weather is coming from the east was baffling at first, but we soon became comfortable with those shifting winds.

Comfortable with the notion, perhaps, but not with the results.

The winds kick up lots of dust. That makes for fabulous sunsets.  It also makes it nearly impossible to avoid allergens.

Yes, I know that people came to the desert to escape airborne irritants, but those same people missed the foliage they'd left behind.  They imported non-native plants and trees to remind themselves of home, and soon the desert was as toxic as the lands they'd left behind.

The wind picks up tiny fragments of sand and thick dust and deposits them on eyelids and in nostrils.  I know no one who isn't sneezing or hacking a dry, unproductive cough.  No one is sick, everyone is annoyed.  At the theater on Saturday, the director begged the audience to unwrap cough drops before the curtain went up; there was a rush of crinkly cellophane all around me.  Performing in Tucson in May has perils, it seems.

There's a general scratchiness which abounds.  People are rubbing arms and eyes and throats, seeking but rarely finding relief.  Sympathy is on the face of those watching another sneeze uncontrollably.  Everyone has been there, done that... and has been for the past few weeks.

There's a different yoga practice for the windy season.  My car uses more gas to cover the same territory, as the Schnozz pushes herself through the gusts.The bougainvilla on the side of the house make slamming banging noises with their branches, scaring me with their ferocity until I remember that it's only a plant.

The doors shake and the windows rattle and the alarm goes off when the back door to the potting shed takes the brunt of a particularly strong celestial exhalation.

That's what I'm imagining it to be.  I have so many angels in heaven these days, grandparents and parents and little friends watching me from above.  I've decided that they are blowing out the angst and clearing the way for the new baby and it's taking an awful lot of power to do so.

When my car door slammed shut, pushed by the wind, I thanked Daddooooo for closing it for me. When my breeze-assisted walk to the mailbox is faster than it's ever been before, I thank my spirits for the help.  The clouds speeding by overhead are a reminder from G'ma of those rides we took so that she could admire them from the road.

The birds are flapping their wings more vigorously than ever, battling the forces that resist their forward motion. The plants need extra watering since the winds are more desiccating than even the summer heat. Loose flower petals and leaves are piling up in corners and under low shrubbery.  My mailbox door refuses to stay shut.

Did I mention that it's been very windy lately?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Laramie Project, Tucson High Style

Lolly told me about it.  We find ourselves at the same, interesting, unconnected venues without planning together, so I took her suggestion seriously.  A blast email found two friends with a free afternoon, and we were off on an adventure unlike any other.
http://tinyurl.com/lh6jtsa

This was a deep, serious, thought and tear provoking event.  Based on months of interviews by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project, the play chronicles the death of Matthew Shepard through the eyes of the 22,687 inhabitants of Laramie, Wyoming.

Tied so tightly that the first officer on the scene struggled to cut the ropes, beaten so badly that his face was unrecognizable, he bled and cried and suffered alone until a random bicyclist passed the lonely buck fence in the wind.  The only clean place on his body were the tracks of tears on his cheeks.

Even the plain facts are horrifying.  At 5'2" tall.... or maybe taller, depending on whose telling the story.... Matt was a 22 year old student at the University of Wyoming, there in Laramie.  He was gay.  His murderers were drinking, looking for trouble, and offended by his sexual orientation.  All of that came out in their confessions; the crime was solved with remarkable speed and efficiency.  The police made sure to get it right.

But the facts are not the center of the play.  How could this happen?  Who are we as a town?  What could I, personally have done to alter the outcome?  How can I live comfortably within my skin when my sexual orientation is at the center of a homicide?  For there was no doubt that gay panic was at the heart of this crime.  The perpetrators admitted it.  The townsfolk discussed it.  The audience soaked it in.

Meet People's 2013 Teachers of the Year
http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20743011,00.html

Directed by Art Almquist, People Magazine's 2013 Reader's Choice Teacher of the Year, thirty students at Tucson High Magnet School drew us into their world, which wasn't their world except during the eight run schedule.  It was hard to imagine them living any other way.

The limo driver, Doc... Officer Reggie Fluty... Romaine Patterson.... I know that there were students on the stage performing the roles but, in the moment, I was unaware of any difference between the human saying the lines and the human who told them to the Tectonic Theatre Project fifteen years ago.  

Fifteen years ago these kids were riding tricycles and eating Otter Pops.  Fifteen years ago Judy and Dennis Shepard's oldest son, his father's hero, sat at the corner of his local bar, drinking and taking in the scene.  Did he come on to the driver of the truck by placing his hand on an unwelcoming thigh?  Did that prompt punches to the face and blows to the head with the butt of a gun?  Was he kidnapped or did he go willingly, looking for a ride home after a late night out?  Again, the facts are less important than the reactions surrounding them.

The religious leaders' intolerance.... the don't flaunt it in my face diners in the coffee shop.... the classmates and the educators and the waitress and the physicians and the others who lived and worked in Laramie and shared their thoughts are the center of this remarkable work.  Staged plainly, with straight back chairs moved from side to center to side again the only props, the students manage to create a fully fleshed out world.  You can hear the wind.  You can feel Matt's fear.  You ache and cringe and writhe with each new character.

Add caption
Did you know that Angel Action was started as a response to the protesters at Matthew's funeral? Romaine Patterson, Matt's best friend, created big ass wings so that she and her companions could block the view.  Worried about the chants and epithets her volunteers would be close up against, she went out and bought earplugs.

That's the kind of social change I can get behind.


The play ran 2 hours and 40 minutes.  Initially, we were appalled.  It was high school theater, after all.  It could have been awful... slow... ponderous... miscued... un-lit... unintelligible.  Instead, we were sorry to see it end.  The standing ovation was generalized, not just parents and BFF's but strangers, as we were, there for an afternoon, with no particular allegiance to the school or the players.

No particular allegiance until now, that is.  

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