Monday, June 30, 2014

A Billy Collins Afternoon

I've been feeling sentimental all day.
I live too far from my offspring.
 
I am reminded of their presence by Little Cuter's burgeoning belly as the home screen on my phone and by this napkin holder, made by Big Cuter when he was 8.
23 years later, it's still in use.
 
Pulling out a napkin this evening, I thought of this Billy Collins poem that says what I'm feeling more elegantly and eloquently than I ever could. 
 
Enjoy.
 

THE LANYARD

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Friday, June 27, 2014

I Can't Do It

The January 8th Foundation... or Committee... or Memorial Planning Group..... or whatever the official title of the dedicated volunteers who are creating a remembrance of the response to the shootings in 2011.

At least, that's what I hope it is. 

I've attended parts of some of their meetings in the past.  I've never made it through an entire presentation.  It's not that the talks are dull; I don't have the emotional strength to sit through them.

My eyes dart around the room; I'm never more fearful than when we are all together.  I'm hot and then I'm cold and I'm never ever comfortable in the chairs... no matter if they are padded or upright stackable folding chairs.  I'm hungry then I'm thirsty then I just want to be gone.

It's not that I don't care about the issue.  I think it is that I care too much.

I don't do well in committees, unless I'm in charge.  Knowing this about myself, I've managed to absent myself from most responsibilities which would include sitting and talking with a disparate group of people tangentially related to the most significant event of my recent life..... and as you can see in that last sentence I have a very hard time coming up with a representation of what happened to me... to us.... to Tucson.... to all of us.

There are so many pieces.  No one else has my exact set of memories or experiences.  No one saw it from my vantage point.  And, I don't have anyone else's thoughts, either.  As TBG is fond of saying, the most important thing we've learned from all of this is that each person has a unique experience and no one else is capable of judging that experience. 

Some are communal.  Some are completely removed.  All will be represented by the collected memorabilia and something more ceremonial.  That something will be put out to bid and a committee will decide and there were so many opinions and I started to get that hot and fidgety feeling so I left the first meeting before any decisions were made. 

I have a low threshold for meetings, even when I know what I want to say.  The ambiguity of building a memorial to something that killed my little friend is hard for me to fathom.  I'd like to celebrate the after-math, the love, the selflessness, the healing and the bonding and the sense of being one.... before these kinds of things made Tucson old news. 

It has to be done and it will be done and I hope and pray that it is as wonderful as the Oklahoma City memorial.  I promise to love whatever they decide to do.  I promise.  I just don't want to be there right now.  The sun is out, my grandbaby is on the way, and I have a smile that I'd like to keep just where it is: plastered on my face as I remind myself that the sun came up and I was here to see it. 

By definition, it's a good day. I don't want to cloud it with sorrow.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Dentist

TBG says it best - "He has the smallest, smartest hands which have ever been in my mouth."

Nibbling on our babies' fingers aside, I think he's right.  Dr. Jess (he practiced for a while with his brother, so last names were useless) is thoughtful and gloved before he beginss to manually admire my dentition.  I always know what he's going to do and why.  There are no surprises; he announces noise and spray and discomfort so that I can be prepared.

I've written about dentists before  (click here and here) .   I have nothing but affection for the profession.  My teeth are inherited from my paternal grandfather, he who chewed chicken bones right up to his death, where he greeted the Grim Reaper with all of his own, original, un-filled teeth.  The dentists in my life were never going to get right with me as a patient.  I was good for two cleanings a year and x-rays every two years.  I never thought about dental insurance.

Marrying TBG made me rethink that decision.  The man has a mess in his mouth, and a long history of incompetent men with their hands in his mouth.  He's phobic about dentists; Dr. Jess is the first one I've known him to visit with a smile.  And he visits him a lot.

Given my history, I was rightfully surprised to hear that the sharp edge on the side of my tooth was, in fact, a cracked tooth with an unstable filling.  Last month it received a temporary covering.  Today, it was permanently repaired.

I didn't sleep well last night.  Took an Ativan in the evening, when I realized that I was curled up in a tiny ball in the corner of the couch, arms around my knees, chin resting on my biceps, a frown on my lips.  I had to go to the dentist at 9am. I wasn't a happy girl. 

The Ativan took the edge off, and I managed a smile or two before seeking comfort in sleep.  Woke up, reluctantly, and ate, because I knew I had to be properly fueled, not because I wanted to put the blood orange Chobani, half a banana and a sprinkling of Kashi Go Lean Crunch into my mouth.  I didn't want to put anything into my mouth.... especially the dentist's hand.

But I had no choice.  The temporary implant, which gave me no problems, is unreliable for the long-term.  Even though I was perfectly happy with its vaguely rough surface, Dr. Jess assured me that it was an accident waiting to happen.  I needed a permanent solution.

I was prepared for the morning's activities.  I brought crocheting and my Kindle and my smart phone and my ear buds.  I put Sarah Vaughan on Pandora, put the purple buds in my ears, closed my eyes behind the sunglasses the tech provided, and tried to breathe.  Meditation is a skill I'll need to develop further before it can be of use in such situations.  I tried inhaling and visualizing a 1 and exhaling as a 2 appeared, but it was hopeless.  I relaxed my fingers from the death grip they'd found on my shorts, took my shoulders out of my ears, and let my brain wander with Ella Fitzgerald's scatting.

It was wet and numb and noisy.  It was slightly pungent and noisy.  It was turn your head this way and noisy.  I'm hearing that damn drill still... and I've been home for 90 minutes.

Dinah Washington and Duke Ellington rounded out the ear bud section of the morning.  I had to participate in the placement of the overlay - my teeth rewarded me by being strong enough to support this less drastic measure - and then there was the smoothing and lowering and bite-on-this-ing and my face was so tired of holding my mouth open I nearly wept. 

And then I was done.

Just like that, Dr. Jess was patting my shoulder, telling me to be careful of the Novocain in my lip and cheek, and the technician was guiding me to the payment counter.  I was befuddled.  I was exhausted. I wasn't thinking very clearly at all.  I drove home slowly, down my newly paved through street, but I was too distracted to notice the improvements.  I've typed the story to you, here, hoping that it will help the anxiety to dissipate.

So far, it's not working.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

#OffTarget

 
Little Cuter has been bemoaning the fact that FlapJilly has no 0-3 month size outfits.  Everyone is buying big stuff ... because everyone knows that babies grow much too quickly for 0-3 month clothes to get much use.  I've tried to share this learned wisdom with her, but she is insistent.  She needs plain white onesies for my granddaughter and she is not to be dissuaded.
 
This errand conflated nicely with my desire to participate in the Moms Demand Action project, so, this morning, after Pilates and a shower, I drove to Buy Buy Baby to make my mark. 
 
Usually, I do not allow myself to move off the carpet at the front of the store.  There are too many temptations within.  But I was on a specific mission, one that would require concentration and price comparisons.  I had to enter the danger zone.
 
The store manager sat behind the Help Desk, greeting all passersby.  No, I didn't need any help; the clothes were right behind him and I was certain I could find what I desired.  I drooled over the small frilly dresses and the teeny tiny hats and the sleeping sacks and the footie-pajamas but I was looking for plain, white, very small clothes.  Not premie clothes; this baby has baked long enough.  She's five pounds of love inside my daughter right now; were she to try to arrive tomorrow they would do nothing to retard her progress. 
 
I could look at the 0-3 month sizes with impunity.  There was nothing on a sale rack, but there was a round display containing the simple things I was seeking.  On an interesting hangar, clearly labeled with sizes not covered by garments, I had a choice of long sleeves and short sleeves and sleeveless onesies.  I chose the tank tops.  This kid is coming in August.  It will be hot.
 
I found shirts with side snap closures on similar hangars, and there were plenty in the size I needed.  I grabbed the only sleeveless onesies on the rod, put them in my cart, and tried to leave.
 
Silly me.
 
I was stopped by the $7 striped leggings.  One set in pinks and reds, another in blues and greens, and, with my 5-for-$5 white things combined with my 20% off one item coupon, I was out of the store for under $20.  I counted it a successful shopping trip, but I had more than that in mind.
 
I asked Mark, the salesclerk reorganizing the toy aisles, if he would mind/get in trouble if he participated in my political action statement.  I explained the scenario to him in great detail; he was seriously interested.  Turns out that his father is military and then was a cop (the changing tenses caught me up short for a moment... I guess you never get over being a serviceman) and Mark was raised with discipline and respect and I have a CCP (closed carry permit).  He didn't understand why anyone would need an AK-47 to buy diapers. When he heard my back story, he wondered what I would do if I saw someone carrying an assault rifle in Target.
 
I told him he probably wouldn't want to be around me. 
 
How can I determine who's a good guy with a gun?  Unless you are in uniform or showing your badge, your intentions are murky, at best, I think. 
 
Mark wasn't selfish.  He went to get Rosa to pose with him.  I insisted that we ask the manager if they were allowed to participate in their uniforms with their name tags.  We walked over to his desk, Rosa and I chatting about weapons and safety, where he informed us that in-store photos were prohibited.  Without missing a beat, he suggested that we take the clothes outside and use the big sign above the door to announce my location.  He didn't care that I had not checked out.  He wanted me to do what I'd come to do.  He, too, thought weaponry and children's supplies were antithetical to one another.
 
I posed, but the sign was too high.  Mark suggested a shopping basket, I agreed, he ran in and brought it back, and the picture at the top of this post was the result.  Can you see the decal above my #OffTarget sign?  It's a gun with a big black line through it; Buy Buy Baby is not interested in being a venue for an open carry demonstration.... nor for anyone who feels that strollers cannot be purchased without carrying protection on his hip.
 
We took four shots, two after using a Buy Buy Baby marker to enhance my hashtag, and I sent the best one off to Moms Demand Action.  I went in to the cashier, and talked about Christina ("You're the one who brought the little girl?") and student council and Gabby and guns and the sidewalk in front of Safeway.  The young woman was appropriately moved.  She'd never heard of Moms Demand Action before today.  She's interested.
 
All in all, it was a very successful morning.  Now, with the goodies in a flat-rate envelope ready to be dropped at the post office this afternoon, sensible gun legislation information shared with people new to the issue, and this post written, I can officially say that I've worked today.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Where's My Doonesbury?

I'm a hold out.  I admit it.  I get my news from the morning paper.
 
Yes, the paper.  That gets-all-over-your-fingers newsprint that is rolled up and rubber banded together and tossed from an old rusted vehicle onto my driveway at 5am.  The same kind of newspaper my grandparents and my parents read, religiously, every day.  back then, there were several papers in the house each day; the NYTimes in the morning, Newsday in the afternoon, and The NY Post under Daddooooo's arm each evening.  Bubba and Zayda took the Forward and the Herald Tribune.  My youth was surrounded by articles with by-lines, but I was less interested in the facts they were reporting than in the features towards the back.
 
Erma Bombeck led me to The Burrow.  Sam Goody ads led me to NYC and days flipping through record bins.  The theatre reviews told me what I would not be seeing.  But the main event was the comics.  Every day, there was the comics.
 
They were always in the same place on the page; Peanuts at the top left, Doonesbury at the top right.  I skipped some of them; Prince Valiant never caught my heartstrings the way that Brenda Starr did.  But Doonesbury was my touchstone.  Generationally relevant, snarky and subversive, Gary Trudeau was not only a great story-teller, he was married to Jane Pauley, a 1970's and '80's hero of mine.  She went where few women sought to tread; I just knew he had her back.
 
Moving from city to city, I was less and less impressed by the caliber of the news reporting.  I kept up my NYTImes subscription for my brain, but always had the local paper for the sports and the comics.  Mostly the comics.  In San Francisco, we called The Chronicle The Comical; the quality of the reporting was suspect at best.  But, I could sit at the table amidst cheerios and blueberries and pancake syrup and demonstrate for my children that reading the newspaper was how a responsible adult began her day.
 
Now, they open Yahoo! and see the headlines, then follow links and blogs for the details.  If they want comics, they search them out.  It's much too much work for me.  I'm happy to have the Arizona Star do the work so that I can sit at the table and reap the rewards.
 
I came home from Chicago a while ago, opened the paper, and found that there was no Doonesbury in the comics page.  I called, wondering where it went, and the woman on the phone said that Gary Trudeau was taking a vacation. 
 
I thought nothing more of it at the time... figured he was ill... he's my age... it happens.
 
Then, today, on FB, someone posted a Doonesbury cartoon.  I searched, and found that he's been publishing all this time.
 
I was lied to. 
 
I sat in stunned silence, staring at the screen, barely able to read the joke. 
 
I was lied to.
 
I'd been too uncurious to search out details, or I'd have known before today.  That's on me.  But removing my favorite comic without telling me?  That's outrageous ... and on them.
 
If Brenda Starr (mine, not the red-head in the papers of long ago) weren't on the editorial staff I'd cancel my subscription right now.  But she is, and I want to read her, and there is all that local news that no one else covers and I do need to know why the highway project is behind schedule and why the streetcar is a year behind in starting so I suppose I'm stuck.
 
Still, I want Mike and Zonker and Joanie Caucus and Alex and her babies... especially her babies as I get ready to welcome mine.  Where did they go? Why did they go?  When will they come back?  To whom do I address these meaningful questions? 
 
HELP!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Baby Proofing

I'm not talking about plastic covers on electric outlets.

No.  I am discussing something infinitely more personal, something requiring a needle and medicinal fluids and my arm.

Apparently, anyone who wants to be around a Chicago-land baby must be inoculated against whooping cough.  For the same price, they throw some anti-tetanus stuff into the same vial.  There's no co-pay, insurance takes care of it, and we were out of the office with a wave of the Check Out Here lady's hand.

Little Cuter had another totally uneventful visit with the world's-most-wonderful-obstetrician, maintaining her status as the healthiest mother-to-be I know.  She's a delightfully compliant daughter, who understands her mother's unexpressed but fervent desire to know the facts; the phone rings as they're driving the four minutes home from the office.  This time, though, the doctor had a message for the grandparents.  Anyone who is coming into close contact with the new baby must have an up-to-date whooping cough vaccination.

We called the office first thing the next morning and went in two days later, together, sitting side-by-side in the office as the Physician's Assistant for TBG's doctor wondered which arm we wanted to suffer some soreness for a few days. With barely a pinch, with no awful hot prickly feeling, with laughter about FlapJilly and Little Cuter and SIR and the delightfulness of buying baby presents, the whole experience was one big smile.

It's the first time I'd ever heard of this precaution.  Little Cuter is protective of the air she and her baby girl are breathing - just ask the teen who blew cigarette smoke in her face on a city street. I remember how I quailed as the exhaust from a city bus wafted over Big Cuter's Aprica stroller thirty some years ago.  We try to protect them from everything we can see, because there is so much which is lurking just out of sight.

Moms are hard wired to worry - remember that bird nesting in my vinca?  Protection was her intention; she wanted me away and she wanted me away now.  I got the message.  Those little babies paraded across the courtyard earlier this week, mom in front, dad behind and then up on the pony wall, surveying the scene.

I can hardly wait for August 1st.  I am now fully protected and prepared.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Remembering Moms and Dads

G'ma's everywhere these days.  The clouds remind me of her sitting in the passenger seat of The Schnozz, commenting on the bigness, the blueness, the mountains up against the sky.  Lazy afternoons leave me with a hole in my day, because there's no mommy to visit at the pod castle.  In six weeks or so I'll be a grandma myself, and the woman with whom I want to share the joy is o where to be found.

I missed Daddooooo after he died.  That's a fact that cannot be denied.  His postcards and newspaper clippings and demands for information about his grandchildren - "How is that girl doing?" - were bookends to my weeks.  I'd hear something on NPR and pick up the phone to talk about it with.... oh, right, he's gone.

I had lots of conversations with the ether in the months after his death.  I paused as I imagined his responses, hostile and humorous at the same time.  He was a complicated guy; he was no clearer in death.

When I visited I was totally focused.  I'd travel to New York to see my parents, and see my parents is what I did.  We toured Long Island and Manhattan, we dined at restaurants where they were greeted by name, we sat on the swing in the back yard, and we talked.  Oh, yes, we talked.  Daddoooo was uncomfortable with silence and he had no problem filling a void. 

G'ma listened.  She made up the background.  There was a pillow under my butt and a cold drink in my hand and a plan for lunch and dinner and she'd taken care of it all without any help or advice or intervention.  She sat quietly and listened, occasionally chiming in to correct a fact or pull Daddoooo back from one of his more outrageous corners, but she rarely initiated a topic. 

Living with a larger than life man had squelched the adventurous spirit I've heard she possessed as a younger woman.  Always up for an outing, she learned to keep her opinions to herself unless safety was involved. She packed more than Daddooooo wanted for a trip to the beach, and withstood his disparagement and scrutiny as she put fruit and napkins and drinks into the cooler.  Once on the sand, everyone was glad she'd done the work; in her heart, she knew she was right.

That's what I'm missing right now.  G'ma had an unerring moral compass.  Love for her children was always at the top of the list, even if we didn't see it that way at the time.  She wasn't perfect, but when the shit hit the fan, she was my umbrella.

There are things I want to discuss with her right now.  I can have my part of the conversation, but the air is empty when it's time for her to chime in.  Should I tell..... what will.... suppose I..... the details are less important than the absence of her answer.

I miss her a lot.

A high school friend told me of her mom's death last Spring, letting me know that I'd been remembered up until the end.  She, too, is trying to forget the last few months  of her mother's existence, hoping to recapture the happier memories of earlier days.  That's been my dilemma, too.  The most vivid images I have are of G'ma in her chair, asleep, not focused on anything, struggling to figure out who I was and why she was where she was.

It's awful. It's not who she was.  Yet, it's all I can conjure up for myself.  Older memories seem awkward to recall; for some reason I find myself being pushed back to the end of life snapshots.  I did what needed to be done in the manner it required; why can't I let go of it and revel in the happier times?

I've tried Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Therapy prescription - I tell myself, out loud, to STOP THINKING THAT THOUGHT.  It gets pushed aside for an instant, but reappears with a vengeance if I drive by a place we shared.  Repressing it just makes it worse.

I suppose I ought to call Maggie the Magnificent and have her social work skills help me pave a new pathway for these thoughts.  I know that there are better places for my mind to wander.  I just need to figure out how to get there.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It Gets Stranger and Stranger

"They made him so uncomfortable that he had to leave.  I think that's awful. The library owes him an apology."
It grabs your attention, doesn't it.  In my politically correct brain I went to a transgender twelve year old using the wrong rest room.  How far from the truth I was.

At the Milwood branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library, the Summer Reading Party was attended by a father wearing a holstered handgun.  As directed by the local law enforcement, staff asked the patron to remove his weapon and notified the police that a man with a gun was on the premises.

Apparently, this was too much for the spokesman of Michigan Open Carry, Inc.  He's the one who thinks the librarians ought to express regret.

If people were uncomfortable by seeing a man with a gun, that's their problem, he said. "Unfortunately for them, nothing in the law says they have the right to be comfortable."

If I thought that arguing the point with him would make a dent, I'd mention "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."  My happiness includes being comfortable.  I shudder to think what his happy place looks like.

Watching Rio Bravo, waiting to hear Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson croon, we were reminded of the long Western tradition of checking your guns at the city limits.  "Leave 'em or go home" .... and there was no arguing.... at least by those not looking for a fight.  Even then, with the nearest judge three days hard ride away, wise minds prevailed.  There was no reason to go looking for trouble.

I've been calling Target, asking them to take a stand on open carry demonstrations at their stores.  The women who answer the phones have been uniformly delightful, thoughtful in their comments, and willing to let me rant for as long as my heart desired.  There is no shuffling through voice mail; the person who says "Hello" is the person who takes the message. 

I tell them I miss my Tar-zhay.  I describe driving past it and sighing.  I tell them that I don't feel safe unless the armed human is also wearing a badge.  I'm calm and deliberate and I make my points before I add that I was shot standing 10' from my Congresswoman and the 9 year old whose hand I was holding died that morning, on a concrete walkway very much like the front of your Target store. 

There's a bit of a gasp at the other end of the line as I finish by explaining that, perhaps I am hyper-sensitive to the issue, but I really didn't think so.... all I did was go to the grocery store on a sunny Saturday morning. 

I wasn't expecting to meet up with weaponry then, and I'm not interested in doing so now. 

I knew when I moved here that holstered handguns were allowed.  I was prepared for that, I thought.  It never occurred to me that I'd encounter an AK-47 in the towel aisle at Target, though.

Where's John Wayne when I need him?


***  The information about the library incident came from here  ***

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dancing In The Streets.... to Shakespeare

Beautiful Annie asked us to her latest adventure, and Elizibeth and Miss Texas and I took her up on the invitation.  Among her many talents lies the heart of a ballerina.  Combine that with doing good, helping kids, making Tucson a better place and you have her dancing one of the adult leads in  A Midsummer Night's Dream, music by Felix Mendelssohn.

You know the tune, even if you've never been to a ballet. Close your eyes, imagine a bride and a long aisle, and hear the music.  I knew the connection intellectually; I'd never seen it until Sunday afternoon.

Are you wondering about Annie dancing "one of the adult leads"?  This production was staged by Dancing in the Streets AZ, a six year old not-for-profit founded, by Soleste Lupu and Joeseph Rodgers.  Using a modest sum of money received in celebration of their wedding (their) South Tucson program is dedicated to helping underachievers and low-income families assume personal responsibility for their future through the discipline of dance and the teamwork of performance.

The write up goes on, and I can't say it any better: As an at-risk child himself, (Joeseph) is proud to be able to give back to the community that helped him see another, better way of life and to help others do the same.

We felt pretty good about the whole event before the curtain went up.
That magical tree was the backdrop for Mini-Pixie Fairies and Wood Nymph Sprites and Butterfly Fairies and Spiders and Lizards and other Magical Forest Creatures.
Those boys were graceful and athletic and poised as they tormented and frolicked and leapt, sending the audience into giggle mode in an instant.
The butterflies were stunning, their buns perfectly lacquered in place, nearly all their wings remaining firmly affixed as they flitted and then stood, arms and feet in perfect position. 
 

The big girls were ballerinas.  There was no doubt.  As Miss Texas and I watched in amazement, several of them were fully en pointe.  We spent some time later that evening trying to bend our feet into a position which would hold our entire bodies upright.... while dancing... and twirling... and leaping... as they did, effortlessly.  They were floating on air.


It was over before we knew it, and we were out on the street in front of the Temple of Music and Art, when Elizibeth and I smiled over Miss Texas's head as we remembered Puck, the master of ceremonies of the dream.  UofA grad and local high school dance teacher Marquez Johnson kept the kids in place while flying over the stage, propelled by those muscles.......
 
There was something for everyone that afternoon.




Warned about the dangers of flash photography, I could only record the scene on stage as the dancers posed for pictures after the performance ended.  Apologies for the poor picture quality.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Good Job

"Hi! How are you today?! SO good to see you!"

The italics and the exclamation points don't come close to describing her smiling face and happy-to-see-me cheeks and her dancing eyes taking me in.

"Look at how well you are doing!"

And she knows, because she saw me at the very beginning.  She's part of the free-for-patients-and-visitors Valet Parking service at UAMC, the hospital that saved my life. 

"Has it really been three and a half years?  It feels like yesterday..... and forever ago"

And she's right.  I look at her face and I'm transported back to being driven, to needing a wheelchair, to lowering myself with exquisite care into the passenger seat, my injured leg following slowly, carefully..... and her body right there, between the open door and anything which might bump me.

She never looked worried but she was always alert.  She was happy to see me, but aware that some days my smiles were harder to find. 

"Look at you getting out of that car!" put a grin from ear to ear on my face.  I had been practicing fluidity as I exited The Schnozz, but she was the only one who'd noticed.  Of course, our realm is fairly constricted; it extends no further than the pick-up-and-drop-off sidewalk and driveway area in front of the hospital's main entrance.  I do the same thing every time she sees me; I'm just impressed that she keeps me in her mind.

And, it's not only me.  It's not only she.  It's everyone who wears the red polo shirts or scrubs out there with her. 

It's the twenty-something man wheeling the elderly, oxygen-dependent, frailer than frail woman over the ramp... backwards... slowly and gently and all the while murmuring something in her ear so she didn't experience that gut-wrenching-oh-my-god-I'm-going-to-fall feeling I remember so very well.  He was totally present in that moment.  His eyes were not wandering, he wasn't chewing gum, he was in no hurry. He was there.

It's an eastward facing series of benches up against the wall, and, covered by the portico, it's as shady and cool as an outdoor waiting space can be in Tucson in June. The car keys are separated from the house keys, the door is held open as you exit and enter your vehicle, parking is haphazard and uses all three or four lanes so no one can zoom through and create chaos. 

It is the most organized disorderly process I've ever seen.  It answers to its own rhythm, set in the key of smiles.

Oh, did I mention the best part? 

There is no tipping. 

They are professionals, just like the staff inside the doors.


Monday, June 16, 2014

$725 a Night?

It seems to be a year for weddings.  The kids' friends are hovering around their 30's, and biology seems to be catching up with them.... or is it the opportunity to register at Bed Bath and Beyond that's feeding the frenzy? 

Whatever the reason, my mailbox has been filled with invitations.  We're the only "family of friend" invitees to one event; we're beyond flattered to have been included. Little Cuter's old soccer buddy is marrying her girlfriend and thought that TBG and I would enjoy the celebration, too.  In the midst of all this carrying on, I'm going to be practicing my grandparenting skills.  There are so many places to be, and all of them are filled with love.

We'll meet Big Cuter in Carmel for his friend's wedding.  There were a range of hotel options presented to us, and, since I live with a pool on the edge of a golf course, there was no reason to stay at the country club resort.  We chose a smaller hotel in downtown Carmel, within walking distance of shops and restaurants and the ocean.  Large and anonymous hotels are fine when I want to disappear into the scenery; smaller and more intimate feels better for this trip, somehow.  We've known the groom since the boys were freshman at Georgetown; I need something personal and less generic than a mega-resort to put me in the mood for his nuptials.

The reservation process sealed the deal.  There will be three of us staying in one room and the big resort had no rooms with two queen size beds.  It's not that they were sold out; they didn't exist.  The reservationist could request a roll-away, but couldn't guarantee it.  There were no rooms or suites with a pull-out sofa bed, either.  For three times the price of the smaller hotel, we could have the privilege of worrying if Big Cuter would be bunking on the carpet.

The smaller hotel clerk remembered my name, and used it throughout the booking process.  We discussed the rooms still available, their location within the property, the various attributes, and what we needed.  Though the two-bedded rooms in the reservation block were all gone, the lovely young lady on the phone made an administrative decision and gave us one for the lower, one-king-bed-room, price.  There may not be parking in their small lot, but that's why they invented young sons with strong legs; I'll order the cocktails while he tries to find a place to park.

The girls are getting married in Santa Monica in October.  The wedding is at Shutters on the Beach.  Have you heard of Shutters on the Beach?  It's glitzy.  It's trendy.  It's gorgeous. 

It's also $725 per night..... and that's without the taxes and other add-ons that arrive at check out.

Yes, you read that correctly.  From 4pm until noon the next day one could reserve 400 square feet of no-view, up the stairs, luxury.  For $36 per hour, I'm not sure I'd ever go to sleep... although then I'd be missing the use of the bed.  There are other options available, of course.  There are suites for $1200... and more.... with partial-ocean views and a table and chairs. 

I can't make myself even look at the website any more.

There are other options in Santa Monica, but the reviews are sketchy and they aren't very convenient unless I have a car... and then there's the parking issue once again.  None of these beachside hotels seem to think that parking for their guests is a necessary amenity. 

I'd love to be there to watch them tie the knot.  I could visit my LA friends and stick my toes in the Pacific.  The parents are dear to me, and sharing their joy would be wonderful.  I just don't know if I want to go into debt to celebrate with them.

And then, there's TBG.  He hates to travel.  He doesn't like big parties.  He's a wonderful human being but he's not much fun at things like this.  I'd bring Little Cuter as my date, except she'll be a new mommy and, I surmise, unwilling to leave the babe behind.

These are good problems to have.  Too much love in the world..... what is a woman to do?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Random Thoughts - The Friday Edition

Celebrating his 90th birthday by jumping out of , as Brian Williams put it, a perfectly good helicopter, President George H W Bush continues to amaze me.  TBG and I watched an HBO documentary love fest about him, and found ourselves shaking our heads in wonder.  His life reads like an American history lesson, upper class division. 

After an hour, it was easier to understand his "vision thing" remark.  For him, it's so obvious that it need not be described.  He was put on this earth to do good, to do what was right, and to have a great time along the way.

The man can't walk, but he certainly can fly.
Former President George H. W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday with a tandem skydive, landing on the lawn of St. Anne's church in Kennebunkport on Thursday.
*****
The quarterly Cornell magazine, Ezra, was filled with astonishing information. 

It is possible, using dendro radiocarbon wiggle matching, to date two thousand year old wood samples with a precision of plus or minus ten years.

Have you seen Humans of New York's two eye doctors sitting on a bench, telling us
The eye doesn’t see. The brain sees. The eye just transmits. So what we see isn’t only determined by what comes through the eyes. What we see is affected by our memories, our feelings, and by what we’ve seen before.
A MacArthur genius fellow at Weill Cornell Medical College has created a computerized eyeglass prosthetic, connecting directly to the ganglion cells, sending information and bypassing the damaged photoreceptor cells entirely.   She's developed a transmitter, just like the doctors described.
*****
Watched the opening game of the World Cup ... for a while... until the flopping and the refereeing got to be too much for me. 

I'm sympathizing with the protesters who were arrested outside the stadium; some of the billions used on that building could have gone to improving life for Brazillians.  It's weird, wondering whether ten year olds selling their bodies on the street for drugs in a favela is any worse than fifteen year olds shooting up a high school in suburban Oregon.
*****
Messers 10 and 8 are turning 11 and 9 this month.  Gifts have morphed from trips to Toys R Us to more grown up pursuits.  Mr. 11 will be receiving iTunes gift cards, per his request.  I can't make myself give him money in a card; I have to tell myself that I did something special to bring him together with this gift, even if that something special was going through a pile in Little Cuter's bedroom and finding this in amongst the Christmas receipts and old photographs.

Mr. nearly 9 selected his gift early this year.  Accompanying me on a garden supply run to Ace Hardware, he became entranced with a watering wand.  He tends his garden assiduously.... and, this looked a lot like a sword.... feeding both sides of his little boy-ness.
Dramm 12501 ColorMark Rain Wand 30-Inch Length with 8-Inch Foam Grip, Blue
*****
We have a bird nest in the vinca. 
 
I've been startled by what I now surmise to be a parent bird darting out from the thicket of leaves in the biggest container in the courtyard.  I thought it was enjoying the shade, as I jumped back (yes, I can now jump back without falling down!) in alarm. 
 
Yes, alarm.  I wasn't expecting the planter to explode in my face.
 
This morning, though, I was braver, or calmer, or simply more curious.  I looked back after the fluttering creature landed on the crepe myrtle and saw little white speckled eggs. 
 
I'm going to be a grandma in so many many ways.
 
 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Enough

I've about had it with America and Americans.  The Oregon school shooting was the third story on NPR news today.

The third story.  After political wrangling and Syrian drama the newscaster finally got to a dead student in a public high school. 

A dead student ... shot ... in a public school..... and it ranks third on the list of newsworthy items.  Something is definitely wrong here. 

The shooter was 14 years old.  Have you been in the presence of a 14 year old boy lately?  Cogent thinking and raging hormones are not usually seen in the same being, and 14 year old boys (for the most part.... don't start with me, Big Cuter!) are living breathing hormonal messes.  They can't help it; it's part of growing up.  Learning to manage the feelings while positively interacting with the world surrounding those feelings is a major task of middle school.  Adding weaponry to the mix leads to disaster.

How does Little Cuter relax and send FlapJilly to school in the morning?  That school, at the end of her delightfully peaceful suburban street, looks just like Sandy Hook Elementary.  I'm imagining helicopters with cameras hovering above the playground, beaming pictures of frightened students around the world.  I understand the mom  quoted on CBS News: "I don't want to send my kids to school anymore."

Where is the outrage?  Do we need another hearing on Benghazi?  How about a hearing on the relationship between gun and ammunition manufacturers and the NRA and other anti-sensible-legislation groups?  How about a thorough, comprehensive, all-inclusive, every angle review of school safety procedures?  What works?  Who knows? 

And, who cares?

We all grieve.  We're getting very good at that part.  We bemoan the state of affairs over coffee. That part, too, has been honed to perfection.  But finding a solution?  Analyzing the problem from all sides, listening instead of pontificating, wondering instead of ranting.... where is that?

I'm already afraid to go to the movies.  I don't linger in front of the grocery store.  I'm hyper-vigilant in crowded and public spaces.  I don't know what I'd do if I had to worry about sending my kid to school, too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sharing the Love

Yogi Marsha sent me a copy of the Metta Sutta to share with you.  I'm using it for today's post, hoping that you will read these four lines, repeating them three times for each person/group described below.  Just change the I to "the patients in the hospital" or "the survivors in Oregon" or whoever else you've chosen.

I'm overwhelmed today.  There is so much bad news.... like the shooter who heard school was closing in a few days so he rushed over for his fifteen minutes of fame.  It's too much of a stretch for me to send love his way right now, but those on the receiving end of the bullets will be in my words and heart today.  It's not enough, it's just all I can do.

Repeat it softly, slowly, carefully.  Pause after each period.  Share the love and kindness.  The world needs it.

Metta Sutta

May I be filled with love and kindness.

May I be well.

May I be at peace and at ease.

May I be happy (contented).

When you radiate the Metta for yourself and for others you can visualize the person in front of you, happy and at ease.

Say the Love-Kindness Meditation for:
  • Yourself
  • Your teacher (person who gave you the Metta Meditation)
  • A benevolent person or animal (someone you cherish)
  • A total stranger or a neutral person (someone you do not know personally, i.e. someone you have seen in the news or on T.V.)
  • An enemy or difficult person ( someone that when you think about them, you feel a lot of tension or constriction in your heart, or someone with whom you have a mild to moderate disagreement or someone you want to forgive but cannot) *IMPORTANT: Start with the person who is the easiest to forgive  and not the hardest.
PLEASE REMEMBER: The Metta Meditation is not a romantic or selfish love. This is divine unconditional love.

Please be aware that the Metta Meditation should not be misused
as whatever you give out returns to you in full force.

*****************************************************
The Metta Meditation should be done in this order:

For five to eleven minutes daily;

You can do it in addition to your Meditation practice or separately;

You can also do it before you get out of bed in the morning or
before you fall asleep in bed at night.

******************************************************

This Meditation is very powerful; it will give you equanimity and it purifies the heart, calms the spirit and increases the circulation in the body.

The more love you radiate to others, the more love will come back to you (whether you can feel it or not ).

Your plants and animals will also benefit from the Metta meditation.
This Meditation is 27,000 years old and Yogidevi Ma’at is passing this Empowerment on to you as her teachers passed it on to her; therefore, each time you share it with your loved ones, neighbors or friends you will strength the lineage from the time of the Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha) and you spread world peace !
 
(From Yogidevi Ma'at via Yogi Marsha.... if you want to send some love and kindness their way.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Meditation 104

https://tinyurl.com/mxk4z4e
I couldn't get into it today.  I arrived early and nestled into a comfy padded chair until the door opened.  I crocheted and chatted and then joined the group in the circle.  Yogi Marsha instructed the newbies on comfort techniques as I crossed my legs (my feet don't reach the ground when I sit up straight in the chair) in half lotus.

Just getting into that position on the chair was an accomplishment; six months ago it was a fantasy, an intention, a desire.  I took a moment to compliment myself, and to let that sink in around the edges.  Being kind to oneself is the first step in our mindfulness practice. It's hard for me.

There were twenty of us saying OM together and breathing together in the same space.  Yogi Marsha brought the conversation around to LeBron James, which got more of my attention than her soothing words usually attract.  I try to turn off my thinking brain as soon as I enter the room because I've found that it takes me a while to stop fidgeting.  But I knew just where she was going with her thought - the peace that LeBron demonstrated in his pre-game interview and in his demeanor on the bench during the game. 

I saw the same piece on tv, and I reminded her that she had left out what, to me, was the most significant statement he made.  Did he do anything different to prepare?  Was he anxious? Did the championship possibilities leave him all aquiver?  His answer sums up everything I love about him:
It's just basketball.
That's my definition of mindfulness in a nutshell.  He plays, he sweats, he hurts, he gets paid... and it's all just part of one section of who he is.  I'm trying to get to that place, myself.

The silent meditation began, and I just wasn't there.  I was going with the random thoughts rather than observing them as they flew by.  I tried and failed not to judge as I my brain tried to take my self away from peacefulness. 

Then, the doors opened and a latecomer arrived. 

As quiet as she tried to be, I found it impossible to ignore her progress across the auditorium and into a chair.  I went with it, then inhaled Peace and exhaled Calm.... all to no avail.  I was very glad when the bells rang and we were directed to come back from wherever we had been.

We shared our experiences and gave the newcomers suggestions and then we began the Metta Sutta.  Yogi Marsha recites it aloud, each section repeated three times.  We send peace and well-being and joy out into the world, starting with ourselves, then moving on to our teachers, then the patients and then the staff at the hospital in which we meet, and then to one with whom we have discord.....

and my heart, which had been heating up, and my eyes, which were full of tears of love and wonder, were wrenched from that place of beauty and oneness by thoughts of the shooter.

My open heart closed right up.  The warmth in my center was gone, replaced by a throbbing above, nearly at my left shoulder.  I did not want him in my space.  I did not want to wish him joy or peace.  No.  I did not.  Not at all.

I wrestled with that alone, as the session wound down.  As the chairs were put away, I shared my angst with Yogi Marsha.  Looking at her is like looking into a mirror; today was no exception.  Her startled response surprised me; her explanation gave me ease.

She, too, is connected to a murder.  Last week, she, too, was jolted out of her comfort zone by the image of that shooter.  She was no more pleased than I was.  Being wiser and more practiced and closer to mindfulness and the concomitant lack of judgment that is required, she offered this: 
The thoughts are there to be recognized and then discarded.  It is freeing oneself of that packet of unwanted thoughts of an unwanted being.  It is lightening my own load.
And then, as a believer in reincarnation, she added this:
I hope that those who have done such evil will take that which we are sending and will come back as more loving beings.
Changing the world one soul at a time.  I can get behind that.
 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Crafts to Soothe the Soul

Perhaps you've noticed that the Reading section of the sidebar has been rather sparsely populated of late.  The most significant reason was the density of Dickens's Bleak House and the necessity to ready 200+ pages before class at 9am every Friday in May.  There's no skimming those pages; tidbits of great importance are hidden deep within the wigomeration.... Dickens's own word for excessive verbiage, though his was of the legal variety. 

Schoolwork has taken over my life before, and yet I managed to sneak in a bit of James Patterson brain candy just to ease the pain.  Not so in recent months.  I find myself racing home not to pick up where I'd last left the heroine but to the couch and my crochet hook and the softest, brightest, loveliest yarns I can find.... as long as they are also washable and hypoallergenic.

I'm missing my pregnant daughter more and more every day.  As the baby grows, so grows my obsession.  TBG has renamed me CrochetZilla; it's apt.

I started with hats that looked like flying saucers.  I ignored the gauge required to make the finished product resemble the picture on the page.  Over time, I've gotten better at making a small square to check for size; usually I'm wider and shorter than required.  I've yet to figure out how to change the size of the hook to remedy that situation.  It's a good thing that babies are short and squishy.... fit becomes fungible.

I graduated from plain beanies to turbans
 
 and frilly sunhats 
I've made matching mittens.... with idiot strings to keep them together. 
Bored with these small projects, I moved on to sweaters.
Here, the gauge became more important.
The sleeves on this sweater are ballooning out at the end.
I paid no attention to the weight of the yarn required, nor the number of stitches per inch.
My guess is that her hands will be somewhere well within  the rose part and her parents can decide to roll up the rest or leave her as a fingerless child.
 
Those parents were amused by our attempts at a beret.
(Our because TBG designs and I work)
 
SIR doesn't think her head will ever be big enough to hold it up.
We all agreed that it is adorable, though.
 
We disagreed on the edging for this one. 
My husband prefers monochromatic visuals.
I wanted to incorporate the white to make a sweater set since I didn't have enough purple yarn left to make a full hat or set of mittens.
I always win.
I do the work. 
This afternoon, on my way home from brunch with Brenda Starr at Prep and Pastry,
I stopped into my home away from home - Michaels - and bought enough pink yarn to finish a striped cardigan and some multi-colored yarn I just couldn't stop fondling.
 
There are certain times that I wish I lived in a place where scarves and sweaters were necessary.
 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Moving On

Young, brilliant, personable, and employed shouldn't be miserable. And yet, it is.  Unhappy, limited choices are sending thoughts around the edges of the envelope.
Everyone says two things about law school and me -  a) that I'd be good at it and b) that I shouldn't do it.
My mind went to being a junior associate at the big law firm as I typed
Don't do law school until you REALLY look at jobs available and the life (or lack thereof) you'd be living.
But with money promised for education, having worked and saved and able to come out on the other side to do good deeds without worrying about repaying loans, with no family to consider, the future seemed wide open. Suddenly, the opportunity to spend three years surrounded by smart people, learning interesting material, and living in any city you chose, sounded pretty good to me..... law review and clerking for a Supreme Court Justice....
 
It was a path traveled by others through the ages, and it was well worn and clear and that was when I began to realize that I couldn't give any good advice. 
 
I come from a generation raised by parents and grandparents who went to the same job every day, year after year, until they retired.  My friends went to work with the same mindset.  Today's new workers are serially employed, and I don't need statistics to prove it.  Here in Tucson, in Illinois, in California, in New Hampshire, and in Boston, young people I know are taking jobs that appeal at the moment rather than those which look good for the long haul.

That is not a bad thing.  It is not a good thing.  It just is.

My mind doesn't go there, at least not at first. 
 
Taking a break to learn and prepare for another stage is not something that crossed my mind a decade or so into my career.  For my friend, it's the natural next step.  Trying to expand my horizons, I opined that credentials, especially those with gravitas, become important in a fluid job market. 
 
Then it hit me. The fluidity is where I get stuck - I can't think as broadly about the future as they do. 

I hope that there's some measure of comfort for the parents of these adventurers in this next tale.  My friend's 4.0 in physiology college graduate is managing a women's mountain biking team instead of going to medical school.  She wants to have a life. It was a small but significant leap for her parents, who love her and trust her and ultimately want her to be happy.  And then, at graduation, her ten second thank you speech from the podium included continuing my education.

There is hope.  It just might not look like what you expected, when you expected it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

"The Right Way" to Remember

G'ma's been very present these last few days.  As FlapJilly bulks up in utero, perhaps her major work of supervising the construction of her great-granddaughter requires less of her attention.  All the organs and connections are made, she's just putting on pounds and growing lungs and rods and cones, and it seems that my mother's spirit has time to wander.

She's been next to me in the car, admiring the clouds and the big sky and wondering why the sun is so hot on her arm.  I smile and remind her that it is summertime in Arizona... and I pause for her to catch up.... "Tucson... right?"

There's a catch in my throat and a tug in my chest and then I start to judge.....

It's very un-mindful of me to do so.  Yogi Marcia reminds us to let the thoughts flow through and around and out again, noticing their presence but not assigning value. This is a difficult task when considering my maternal unit; she was the Queen of Judgment.

Wrinkles where there should have been ironed creases.... bad grammar ..... inappropriate laughter.... our obvious superiority to all things not ours... even when she knew that her life was far from perfect, that there was room for improvement, that she herself was lacking..... her ability to put others into their proper place never waned.

So, driving past the pod castle, I had to shake my head - hard... from side to side... more than once - to get the image of her last few weeks out of my head.  Her frailness had turned to near invisibility; she was skin over bones.  Opening her eyes to say hello was an effort; they didn't stay that way for long.  I sat beside her and watched tv and fled the scene.  It was too hard to handle.... and yet it is the memory which pops into my head.....over and over and over again.

It's not helpful.  It puts me back into the space where you were reassuring me that my avoidance was okay, that I should take care of myself, that G'ma knew I loved her ... even if I was only there for an occasional five minute visit.  I wasn't proud of myself during those last months; I thought I ought to have more inner strength.

I am my mother's daughter... therefore, I judge.

Finding myself with G'ma on Mt. Lemmon at the end of yesterday's post put a huge smile on my face.  Why don't I go to those spaces when I think of her?  Why do I put myself at the end, when things were winding down, when she was busy with the business of leaving me?  Why do I revisit the time I dropped her

There was a glass-half-empty quality to my house growing up.  That may be part of it.  Those days are closer in time than the happier memories.  Perhaps that's it.  There was so much raw emotion, the loss was so obvious, everything was happening in real time and the finality of it all was striking.... laden with emotional content to put it in clinical terms.... it made a lasting impression.

I wish it would go away

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Emptying Out the Town

JannyLou and Fast Eddie drove out just now. There's a trailer and a rooftop carrier and the suv is filled to the window ledges with plastic containers and ice chests and clothes and entertainment enough for the summer.

The houses bordering the golf course have their security shutters firmly clasped and the heavy padlocks discreetly hidden behind the flowering plants.  Those garage doors won't open again until Thanksgiving. 

Though Princess Myrtle is freezing in her first San Francisco summer, Tucsonans are quietly melting in place.  Those who know what's good for them are heading out of town.  The roads are empty; traffic signals have been readjusted over the past few weeks to reflect the absence of kid-transport.  At 4pm it is now possible to drive the thirteen minutes from Amster's house to my house without being stopped by a single red light.  Adhering to the speed limit has never felt so good. 

The pool was too hot by 9:30; I don't enjoy sweating while swimming laps.  The sun was baking the upward facing side, and I could feel the sunscreen surrendering.  I pruned the containers in the shade, but those pesky climbing weeds covering the heavenly bamboo will have to wait until I remember to go outside before breakfast, when the sun has not gotten over the roof.

Taking in the trash cans is an adventure.  The handles are burning, the lid nearly soft enough to be bendable, and the snakes are out on the ground cover, watching my bare toes in flip flops.  I'm not used to planning before doing that particular chore; it's only an issue for these four months.

Summer camps are traipsing across the UofA campus; teenagers in ever lengthening, straggling lines; little kids in matching neon t-shirts; busloads from Sonora.  How they manage to smile is beyond me.  The air conditioning is powerless if the car isn't parked in the shade.  I sweat behind the steering wheel as they walk by.

Walking with Brenda Starr is an indoor activity these days.  Hiking, were I able to join my friends, starts at 7am, 3,000 feet above my house, on Mt. Lemmon.  Ten degrees per one thousand feet is the rule of thumb; 85 down here is in the high 50's at the trailhead.  I cannot imagine ever needing a jacket again, as I watch the lizards doing pushups in the garden.

Then, I remembered taking G'ma for a picnic on just such a day.  She refused to consider bringing a sweater, but was quite glad to take advantage of the stash in my trunk.  She wondered why she was so underdressed, and I didn't have the heart to tell her that she'd soon be returning to triple digit temperatures, returning to air that felt as if it were melting her thinning skin.  And for right now, that's exactly where I want to be.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

New Tires

My car gives me too much information.  It tells me how many miles per gallon I'm getting as I'm tooling along and I find it incredibly distracting.  I could change the display to tell me how many miles I have until the gas tank is empty, or to count out the miles on my second trip, but it's all annoying.

Not as annoying as the fact that the trunk locks automatically and I have to remember to press the button three times to release my groceries, but real close.

With alarming regularity, it decides that my rear tail light is malfunctioning.  This is a difficult issue to address if you are alone.  I am always alone in my car.  The service manager didn't mention it to me at my last check up, so I've decided not to worry about it.

As G'ma advised, if you hear a noise in the car, turn up the radio.  Still hear it?  Turn the music louder.

So, when the dashboard announced that The Schnozz was suffering from low air pressure in the tires, I shrugged it off.  The temperatures had been vacillating wildly over the week, and that always makes the tires swell and then calm down.  Historically, the computer has had a hard time dealing with it.

But when TBG told me, with horror in his voice, that my right rear tire was flat, I drove straight to my friends at Discount Tire.  I parked under the FREE Air Pressure Checked HERE! sign and waited my turn. The neatly dressed young man informed me that all four of my tires were bald, and that the right rear one had a screw in it, to boot.

I have had more flat tires in Tucson than I have had in my entire driving career.  I have not heard that this is an early warning sign for dementia (like leaving the gas cooktop aflame) but I was beginning to wonder.... aloud.... until the kind kid reminded me that every road in a five mile square radius is under construction and that there was no way to protect my tires, no matter how vigilant I might be.

The fact that there was no tread on any of them was another matter.  He assured me that I should not drive one more mile without taking action.  Recognizing that tires are the most important part of the driving experience - they are the only things between you and the road - I agreed and followed him into the showroom where, after perusing the comparative merits of Michelins and Pirelli's and less sporty Michelins than the ones already on the car, I opted for the stickiest-and-therefore-priciest foursome. 

With a rebate and a lifetime-even-if-I-hit-a-brick-in-the-road-and-there's-no-tread-left full replacement guarantee, I was satisfied with the price.  Sighing, I wondered when they would be able to do the work.  It was 4pm on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, after all, and every bay in their garage was full.

"We'll have it for you by 5:30."

TBG picked me up and brought me back; it's around the corner and he was glad to do it.  The phone rang at 5:29 to let me know that it was ready.  Parked right in front, facing the correct direction, keys handed to me with a smile, I entered the perfectly paved downhill slope toward home.

New tires... no potholes... no traffic.... it's really a shame that the road passes right by the Sheriff's Department HQ. 

Otherwise, it was the perfect confluence of events.
*****
This post is dedicated to Jean Jennings, writer, editor, hat doyenne, and friend, who was fired by the new management at Automobile Magazine last week..... along with all the other women who held executive positions at JeanKnowsCars.com.  She made a real difference. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Random Thoughts - The Driving Around Town Edition

I was on my way to the pod-castle, only there was no one there to visit.

Lazy Sunday afternoons, triple digit temperatures making any outing an indoor experience, the heat enervating and heavy on my shoulders.... it all led me to G'ma's orange chair, Law'n Order on the television, the same three stories recirculating between us.... a perfect way to while away the hours.

I'm beginning to forget the weakness at the end; my memories are sweeter this way.
*****
While away the hours--I had to stop in mid-paragraph to Google that phrase. AuthorSally assuaged my fear that I was over-thinking the issue.  Wile, as in beguile or entice, is exactly what I intended, but the h stubbornly refused to leave my brain.

There's an ongoing discussion of this issue on-line, but I am not entranced by its wiles.
*****
Politics is the only thing that's moving in the air these days.  As the yellow mesquite and palo verde blossoms have turned to brownish dust gathering in fitful piles on driveways, covering golden barrel cacti with intractable glee, campaign signs are beginning to crop up to replace them.

There are at least three Republicans running for almost every contested seat on my ballot. For the first time, ever, anywhere, in my memory, the Democrats have refrained from shooting themselves in the foot.  There's one candidate for each race.

In this state, it's enough to be not a Republican.
*****
I ended up in my favorite low-rent burrito place, eating half of the always-too-spicy-but-exactly-what-I-wanted lunch and reading The Essential Dashiell Hammett.  My June class  covers the history of the detective story.

Did you know that the detective story was invented? I did not.

I am as anxious for school to start as I ever have been in my life.
*****
I avoided the yarn store and managed to hold my FlapJilly purchases to pretty too-big-to-be-swallowed buttons. At the nursery, I checked out with two ebony vinca in 4" plastic pots and a small jar of citrus fertilizer (pure nitrogen).

Even the credit card is exhausted.
*****
Driving home, past the pod-castle, I remembered how soft G'ma's hands felt as we sat on the couch in the rec room, watching old musicals with the other residents and their families.  I thought of how soft FlapJilly's hands and feet will be, and I smiled.

It's that circle of life thing again, denizens.  I can't deny it.

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