Friday, November 28, 2014

Is It Necessary?

Do we really have to shop every day of the year? 

Is it necessary to leave home and exchange cash for goods on Thanksgiving?

Can't we take one day away from the hustle and the bustle and the need to accumulate?
*****
Did the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, performing with a pop singer I did not know, need to shake their butts and caress their breasts, in close ups, at 5 o'clock on Thanksgiving afternoon? 

Elvis appalled the 1950's with his pelvic gyrations.  I wonder what my grandparents would have to say about what we're seeing today.
*****
Does the dog have to bark furiously just as the baby is falling asleep? 

How does he know?
*****
Do football players have to perform self-congratulatory dances after making routine catches and tackles? 

I don't remember attacks of terpsichory after a particularly effective social work interview.
*****
Did I really need to eat the third helping of turkey and stuffing this afternoon? 

Was the berry pie with ice cream really necessary?
*****

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to You!

Sitting on the couch, snuggling with FlapJilly, as Little Cuter dices and slices and purees.

Looking down the couch at my boy and my husband discussing football and basketball and Ferguson.  San Francisco living has transformed my somewhere-to-the-right-of-Attila-the-Hun son into a left-wing-nut.... and I love it.  His father is bemused.

Smelling sweet potatoes baking, salivating and fantasizing about casseroles and mash-ables and
slice-ables and dip-ables. 

Listening to cooing and squealing, feeling tiny toes and fingers squirming.

Remembering Daddoo and G'ma and Nannie and G'paw and Thanksgiving dinners past... laughing about burnt rolls and too much creamed spinach and after dinner walks in the snow.

Feeling thankful for all of you reading The Burrow, for Gabby Giffords' strength and inspiration, for the Prince Elementary School Mustangs' enthusiasm and love, for those who GRIN with me and walk with me and learn with me.

Today is a good day - the sun came up and I was here to see it. I am truly blessed.

And then, there's this:

HAPPY HOLIDAY!!!
 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson

I just don't know. 

Michael Brown terrorized a store owner. Michael Brown was a very large man.  Michael Brown is dead.  Those are facts. 

I saw the video from the convenience store. Darren Wilson, did not.  Darren Wilson is also a very large man, though many pounds lighter than the young man he shot.  Darren Wilson carried a badge and a gun and the full weight of authority behind his actions.

The Grand Jury deliberated, discussed, reviewed and decided. They interviewed witnesses.  After 200 hours, at least nine of them agreed that Officer Wilson was not responding inappropriately. They declined to indict him.

Those are the facts that I can pull from the reporting.  Having been the subject of many interviews, having seen my own story publicized without any input from those who were there, having found the New York Times telling the world that I was older than I am, that I was perforated more than I was, I know that reportage is a tricky business. 

For the most part, what we are told is close enough to the truth for general purposes.  Those with more direct access to the facts are often appalled.  "It's not right!" was my plaintive cry. 

Did it matter? If a 6th grader is tasked with describing the events of January 8, 2011 here in Tucson, she would go to "the paper of record," the New York Tim, and I would be remembered by her teacher and her classmates as older and more damaged than I really am. 

So, yes, it matters.

Should the headlines read Protests Erupt or Violence Erupts? Should the first speaker on the evening news be a hotheaded youngster or The Reverend Al Sharpton, who is, all of a sudden, the voice of reason in a troublous time? Are the men jumping through the broken Dollar Store window, clutching items they've removed from the shelves, better described as looting or reacting to a system that treats them unfairly?

It matters. It speaks to the perspective of those in power, to the values of those in the streets.  It strikes each of us differently, hitting pieces of our personal histories with more or less impact, depending on what we bring to the table.

Second guessing gets us nowhere.  Should an indictment have been handed down?  Law'n Order teaches that a District Attorney can indict a ham sandwich; how could Officer Wilson escape prosecution?  The interwebs tell us that police officers are rarely called to account in the courts.  The specifics were available to the members of the Grand Jury; did they do their job?

Is your head spinning as fast as mine?

There is so much work still to be done. 

On that, I think, we can all agree.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guest Post from FlapJilly

My G'mu  (GrandMaternalUnit) is quite busy with me this week. 
Mom (Little Cuter to you) is taking lots of photos with her very fancy camera.
 
I'm rolling over and standing on people's laps with only minimal assistance.
G'pu is quite impressed with my core strength.
  He's named me the first Sub-Cuter.
 
I'm wearing Hoosier gear, sent from The Cheeses, to cheer on IU in football and basketball.
I watch with fascination. 
I'm not that interested in stories on tv, but teams in bright colors are quite interesting.
 
I'm quite chatty, especially in the mornings. 
Mom (aka Little Cuter) is taking great pains to teach me several new words each day.
I've been on the planet for seventeen week, and that's a lot of words.
 
I drool and I eat and I squeal with delight
 G'mu appreciates your loyalty and thinks kindly of you every day,
However, I'm quite an attractive nuisance.....
as you can see. 
I'll try to be less adorable tomorrow so that she can write something of substance for you.
I'm making no promises, though.
 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mommy Blogs

The Burrow is a personal blog.  That seems to be the current catch-all for those of us who don't concentrate on politics or fashion or giving advice.  I started writing in April, 2009, at the suggestion of my then 20-something son, Big Cuter.  He told me to write because he liked reading my words.  He thought others would like them too; "You are much hipper than you think you are, Mom."

That was my favorite compliment for many years. 

I write what I like to think about.  I adhere to Dooce's primary blogging rule: I don't write about anyone whose feelings would be injured by my words.  There have been some marvelously snarky unwritten posts over the years.  They rattle around in my brain, tempting me with an apt phrase or description that perfectly captures the absurdity I'm not posting for you.  There are some mournful posts which touch on the lives of others in a way that might be intrusive; those, too, live only in my brain. 

There are a few personal posts which have been written but will remain as drafts, never to see the light of day. Did you think I was kidding when I said that blogging is the cheapest form of therapy I've found? Sometimes it helps to write things down, even if I know that you'll never see them.

With all of that, you'd think that I would have managed to steer clear of disaster, wouldn't you? 

Well, you'd be wrong.

I was reminded of this by Megan's comment on Thursday's post last week.  She doesn't read Mommy Blogs.  They make her feel less than perfect.  The moms describe scenarios of preciousness and precociousness and she looks at untied shoelaces and too-much-to-do-in-too-little-time and feels like a failure.  Words have that power.  I know that is true, because I did that to someone, too.

I'm not linking to it, because I don't want the kerfuffle to begin anew.  Suffice it to say that I read a friend's post, wrote my own post responding to what I thought was a legitimate question she'd raised, linked my post to hers, and was surprised at the result.

The comments on my post were passionate, thoughtful, disturbed.  How could I judge her?  Didn't I know that she is a wonderful mother?  How dare I impugn her parenting skills?

I hadn't written it as an ad hominem attack on a woman I love.  I agreed with all the statements extolling her virtues.  She'd been there for me in the past; I was appalled that my words were being construed as vitriol by her readers.  I thought that she'd asked a question.  I, a generation or two away, had what I thought would be an interesting perspective on the issue.  I wasn't sure where I'd end up, but I thought I had shared some pertinent concerns in a thoughtful and kind manner.

Because I know that I often carry a blunderbuss when a butter knife would do, I wasn't as shocked as I might otherwise have been.  Big Cuter tells me that my apt messages are often obscured by the artlessness of my delivery.  I'm used to being looked askance at. 

This was different, though.  Rather than discussing the issue at hand, my friend's readers, Mommy Bloggers themselves for the most part, were discussing the context. 

Didn't I realize she was posing a hypothetical?  Yes I did.  I was responding to it.

Didn't I know that she tried her very best, that her kids were nearly perfect, that she'd never do anything that smacked of poor parenting?  Yes, I did.  I thought she was asking for suggestions.

Didn't my readers seem just a big smug?  Weren't we forgetting, in our dotage, how overwhelming the task of parenting might be?  Why did we think it was permissible to trash another human being who was only doing what she thought was right?  By this point, twenty or so comments into the situation (and a situation it was, indeed), I was losing sight of the point.  I'd written an answer to a serious question and, in doing so, I had sparked a confrontation.

I was forced to defend myself rather than my position.  I had to rework, rewrite, reframe my argument.  She was wondering.  From decades down the parenting path, my readers were answering.  None of them sounded particularly harsh or judgmental. To me, it seemed as if they, too, were responding to her inquiry.

Was she doing the right thing? I'd been hoping for a conversation.  What I got was an argument.  I didn't plan on being in the midst of the Mommy Wars, but I was. 

As a stay home mom, I resisted becoming annoyed when working women wondered when I'd return to the real world. I didn't remind them that my real world included an adorable infant who was infinitely more rewarding to tend than random clients had been. 

Everyone makes different choices, everyone has different resources, no one shares my priorities.  That doesn't make me right and everyone else wrong.  That's just life.  Those were the precepts I created once I began parenting, precepts born out of trying to find common ground with my own parents and in-laws, who didn't always agree with my plans.  We could differ without hostility as long as I was respectful of their perspective.  I'd tried to take that same approach with my blog post, but, apparently, I failed.

Or, perhaps, I didn't fail.  Perhaps I had wandered into a corner of the interwebs where different rules apply.  Perhaps, in Mommy Blog Land, it's safest to agree and move on.

Then, again, perhaps it's better to avoid them entirely. 

I'm just not sure, and I don't have to worry about it.  I'm not looking for advice on the subjects they are likely to be discussing.  That part of my life is over, thankfully. Now, I just have to worry about Megan and Little Cuter and The Bride and all the other young mothers in my circle.  There are apps and blogs and lists and sites and I think it all comes down to thinking that I am glad I parented my children before all this free advice was so readily available.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Preparing for the Polar Vortex

Warning to Parents: Do not make random promises to your children. 
You will be expected to adhere to them. 
 
Long, long ago, in a house far, far away, I told Little Cuter that when she had children she could host the holidays. Until then, she'd have to travel to her parents.  I said it.... I'm sure I did.... it sounds like me.... I'm not disputing the evidence.... I'm just whining about the consequences of a one-off remark made to quiet a kid who didn't want to travel.
 
TBG and I are packing our polar fleece and our heavy socks and our turtlenecks this week as a result of that conversation.  We'll be joining the throngs at O'Hare on Saturday, leaving the sunshine and 70's, arriving to rain and 40's.... then snow.... then 30's and 20's and clouds...lots and lots of clouds. 
 
Only the presence of a granddaughter could induce me to get on a plane right now. 
 
My house is a disaster; the library and the kids' rooms and my closet are overflowing with holiday preparations and out-of-season clothing. I need time to put it all away.
 
I have to collect the greeting cards and the stickers and the stamps and the pre-paid mailing envelopes I thought I'd ordered but apparently did not. All of this has to be in the house by December 1st if I am to adhere to my Brownie List schedule.
 
The Tucson Festival of Books' Kick Off Party is this weekend; I'll be on a plane instead of hearing the list of authors and buying my ticket to The Rock Bottom Remainders concert on the first day of sales. 
 
Tucson is filling up with arriving grandparents and grandchildren and aunts and uncles and cousins.  They are figuring out the No Left Turn directions on Oracle Road and its major cross streets.  They are wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts instead of sweaters. I will miss laughing at them.
 
Those of us who live here wait anxiously for these six weeks, the only ones cool enough for our cold weather attire. We Tucsonans are smug in our long sleeved sweaters as the visitors amuse us with their summer clothes.  Scarlett, newly arrived from NYC, emailed that she was sitting on her porch, freezing and loving it.  I love defining freezing as anything below 65 degrees, too.
 
But, this weekend we will don winter weight pants.  We will have our scarves and gloves and hats and shoes that have traction to resist the ice and snow.  Our parkas live in the kids' basement; they are picking us up at the airport so we don't have to bring other outer garments. That, at least, is a blessing.
 
In October, I smiled as TBG resisted leaving his winter clothes in Illinois.  I'm going the opposite route.  I'm collecting all the sweaters I love but haven't worn in the eight years I've lived here. I'm packing them and taking them and then leaving them all in the plastic box she has reserved for me.  It lives in her crawl space when I'm not there.  It doesn't disturb anyone.  Eventually, the plan will be for me to travel with only a purse.
 
I just wish I didn't have to travel into the Polar Vortex.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Random Thoughts

Brother and Intrepid Cat are in Israel.  They were in Jordan last week.  Brother thinks everyone should take a sabbatical once every 60 years.  Intrepid Cat notices no women on the streets of Petra.  I sit at home and worry about incoming rocket fire.
*****
Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature this year. I enjoyed The Secret History, a tale of academia gone mad, so I was happy to download it to the Kindle. This was a switch from my usual practice.

Honored books frighten me, ever since I tried and failed with Thomas Pynchon.  I have a master's degree; I should be able to understand a book written in English.  I've read Ulysses once a decade since my 30's and I'll continue to enjoy it through my 100's, I hope.  But books with awards tend to be overly precious or inscrutable or more complex than they need to be... or so it's seemed... until The Goldfinch.

It's a fabulous tale, a well-written character study (or two, or three, or ten), and the philosophical rambling at the very end has given words to the space I've been inhabiting for the past four years. 
*****
Six Characters in Search of an Author is Luigi Pirandello's funny, terrifying, aggravating, enlightening investigation of the space between reality and fiction and our own hopes and dreams.  My Humanities Seminar's professor has translated it.... twice.... and he would be delighted to try it a third time. 

I was skeptical going into this course on Tragi-Comedy.  I worried that it would be above my head.  While Chekov continues to elude me (perhaps I need to see it performed), I'm having a great time with almost all the rest of it.  There's a lesson in there about forcing myself to stretch, but I'm having too good a time right now to learn it.
*****
The Humanities Seminars sponsored a showing of The Rise of the Planet of the Apes at The Loft Theater this afternoon.  JannyLou's golf game lasted longer than expected, so I sat alone, in the darkened movie house, surrounded by fellow students of a certain age, couples and threesomes and lots of us sitting by ourselves. 

We listened to Dr. Richard Poss share the stories of Washoe and Nim Chimpsky and other apes who learned language and lived with humans until they became moody, gigantic, hormonal adolescents.  We were enthralled, captivated by the notion of communicating with another species, impressed with what science and human ingenuity could create.

Then, we saw the film... the heartbreaking, delicate (despite the helicopter crashes), challenging film.  Walking out, I heard the same thing, over and over and over: I never go to Sci Fi films.  I'd never have seen this.  Oh, it is so sad.
*****

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blogs Gone By

I cleaned out a piece of my desktop just now.  Not a big piece, or an intrusive piece, just a piece that has been nudging the edges of my consciousness every time I go to the Blogger Dashboard (the handy dandy place for all things The Burrow).  I'm mourning the losses.

The Dashboard is also the site for my Blog Roll Reading List.  Snippets of the most recent posts by the bloggers I follow show up right beneath the working buttons (new post, view blog, post list).  I'm always interested in what Ronni Bennett has to say over at Time Goes By, but I rarely saw her posts.  Instead, I was bombarded by daily, sometimes twice daily, pictures and references and verbiage from someone who no longer interested me at all. 

There's no reason to share the blog's URL; you might really like it and then wonder what's wrong with me.  It wasn't offensive or poorly written.  I was just done with it. 

Once I figured out how to hide it from the feed, I was a woman on a mission. I would hide the blogs I didn't want to see, and reacquaint myself with those I'd forgotten.  My mission led to many frowns.

Where was Joann Mannix, who wrote Laundry Hurts My Feelings? Her long-form stories made my sides ache from laughing, often laughing through my tears.  The title links you to the last post she wrote, a description of a parking lot misadventure that is humiliating and humbling and completely understandable.  She hasn't written anything else since last February.  I miss her.

Tied Up With a Black Velvet Ribbon was another favorite for a while.  When I clicked through to see what was happening, this is what appeared
http://tiedupwithablackvelvetband.blogspot.com/ It doesn't look like you have been invited to read this blog. If you think this is a mistake, you might want to contact the blog author and request an invitation.
Since I can't remember what I loved about it, I don't know what I'd say when requesting an invitation.  And, since I've never seen this kind of message before, I wonder if I'll be requesting permission to join a site of bondage fetishists ... or shopping fetishists ... or perhaps it's someone's personal journey, not to be shared at random with others.  In any event, I'm not pursuing the matter. 

There were a spate of ElderBlogs, found by linking to comments on The Burrow.  Most of them came when I was writing about G'ma.  Most of them are gone.  Well Aged with Some Marbling: the art of aging gracelessly , The Next Chapter, Gently Said ... I miss their take on adulthood.  I wonder what happened to them.  Did they grow tired of the experience?  If so, I wish they'd said goodbye.  Did they become ill?  I wish I'd known to send a note of encouragement.  Did they realize that they were leaving a hole in my life?  I hope so.

Not all of my favorites disappeared.  Done Nesting has migrated to Reason Creek, for reasons only its owner, Nancy Hill, can explain.  And explain them she did, at one of the Meet Ups she runs here in town.  We met face to face at my first BlogHer conference in San Diego; I keep up with her adventures here in town via her blog.  My friendships are crossing the line between cyber and real spaces.  It's interesting.

When I write about cyber friendships crossing into reality I must mention Nance at Mature Landscaping, whose life took over the time she used for writing.  She and JES at Running After My Hat and I had a mini-blog friendship going along quite nicely back in 2009 and '10.  We were cogitating plans to move our small readership numbers into the stratosphere when, as JES so elegantly put it, then, Damn, you go and get shot, girl!

Nance triangulated the Safeway, my house, and the hospital, realized I must have been the one who brought the child, and sent flowers to the hospital the very next day.  She'd never met me in person, yet she knew that I'd be there, doing that. The next time someone says that the interwebs are destroying human interactions, remind them of this, please. 

JES is still writing, and we three are still friends even though Nance has stopped taking fingers to keyboard.  I just wish I knew what happened to the rest of the gang.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Piano Recital

"It's time!  It's time!  It's TIME TO START!"
The young man in front of me was anxious to get going.
He'd been staring at his watch since I entered the music room.
As the minute hand on the wall clock moved inexorably toward the full, upright, position, he leaned over his own time piece, willing it to move faster, tapping it lightly to help it along
 
And then, it was time to start.
 
Ian, teacher to young and old alike, announced to the audience
 that although he had 35 students in total, none of the adults were willing to perform. 
Instead, a handful of his younger pupils would present works ranging from pieces in their beginner books all the way to Brahms, with some original music thrown in for good measure. 
 
He told us it would last 45 minutes.
If I'm going to be watching other people's kids perform, it's nice to know how long I'll have to sit.
 
The little ones' feet didn't reach the floor, 
but their fingers were beautifully arched and their backs were perfectly straight. 
Some of the pieces required four hands, and Ian was glad to oblige.
The older students could reach the pedals, and wore fabulous shoes to do so.
My young time keeper entranced the audience with Brahms played with gusto.
Some of the New Age pieces were lengthy; Ian was happy to turn the pages of the score. 
This musician spent a week this summer working with Ian, perfecting his craft.
The hat was only the start of his marvelousness.
As the performers mature, they bring more of themselves to the music.
Swaying and staring off into space  
and then flying his hand over the top 
he had the audience enthralled.
 
The younger students were seeing where they could be, in time, with effort and practice and drive and desire.  The lesson was softly delivered, but filled with power.
 
I know that's true, because I was watching Mr. 9's face.
In his tuxedo shirt and vest and self-designed Nikes, he was quite studly.
Ian introduced him as well dressed.
He was taking the performance quite seriously.
 
He didn't need music; the notes live in his soul. 
Composition and improvisation are part of Ian's curriculum.
Mr. 9 wanted to play Pharrell's Happy Song, so Ian created a four handed version just for them.
There were shared smiles and nods and feet were tapping.
At the end, with his face nearly breaking from the smile, Mr. 9's left hand went up and over and landed loudly and proudly and firmly on a very high C.
 
The crowd went wild.
 
It was a totally appropriate reaction.
 
An hour on a late Saturday afternoon, surrounded by families and music and love.... it was perfect.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bringing Light to the Situation

Little Cuter and SIR had the most beautiful wedding at our house.  The front and the back were decorated with light, and not much more.  There were strings of little bulbs hung in the trees surrounding the enclosing walls in the backyard and there were globes with electric bulbs scattered through the trees in the front.

Neighbors complimented us for weeks following the event.  The house looked stunning, elegant, delightfully mysterious, festive.... I loved collecting the kudos. 

Time passed, the images didn't fade, TBG was on board with the idea - I began to search for a way to make it a more permanent part of our landscaping.  We paid thousands to have professionally installed up-lighting on the foliage; we saved thousands by opting to leave the actual house in shadows.  It's a nice enough structure, but it didn't need to be floodlit like the Taj Mahal. We were looking for highlights, not advertising our status.

That's a problem with lighting the outside of our house.  The illumination draws attention.  We like to stay private.  Ever since my life burst onto the public scene, I've become acutely aware of two facts: we are in the phone book abd  my computer monitor and tower are on a desk which affords me a magnificent view of the mountains and the road in front of my house but which also affords passersby the opportunity to gaze into that window and look right back at me.  At night, though I like to type with the stars blazing back at me, the un-shaded window pinpoints me like a target in a shooting range.  I pull the shade and sigh.

But those little lights from the wedding haunted me.  The front of our home is well-lit, and the big, round, colorful balls the boys will help me hang in December will be decorative enough to suit me.  But the back, where the lighting is focused on the pool and the low bushes surrounding it, is awfully dark at night.  We've left the floor to ceiling windows uncovered, which works fine in the daytime but leaves a big black hole in the evening.

My search for hanging globe lights continued.  The web was an interesting place to look - hanging globes had maps of the world, lighted globes had batteries and flashing red splats for capital cities.  Solar powered illumination had hundreds of thousands of suggestions; hanging solar illumination wasn't much less overwhelming.  The party planners thought Crate and Barrel was their source for the lit balls that delighted me, but Crate and Barrel's website was useless.

I went to the store.

I haven't been shopping for home goods in years.  I have enough stuff.  The colors and the textures and the shiny newness of it all was overwhelming, but I was saved by the lovely lady behind the counter who knew exactly what it was that I was seeking.  She knew the proprietary name of the product, she knew that it came in two sizes, she knew that it was on sale. 

On sale.  My two favorite words in the shopping world. 

She couldn't order it for me, because it was only in the warehouse and her computer couldn't talk to the warehouse for me.  So, I sat on a sofa in front of her Service Desk and ordered twelve large balls with interior solar light sticks. Then, I left town.
When I returned, ten days later, there were three giant white Crate and Barrel boxes awaiting me in the front hallway.  TBG had moved them inside and there they waited.  Inside each one, four smaller brown boxes were nestled in the middle of more beautiful bubble wrap than I'd seen in a long time.  All twelve lights could have been sent in one box, I think, but the excess somehow made me smile. I'll reuse the packing materials and I've already repurposed one box to serve as my Halloween storage container but it was the sheer too-much-ness which awed me.

I unpacked one light from one small brown box.  I hung it for days in the sunlight, waiting for a miracle to occur.  When that didn't happen, I loaded them all back in my car for a return trip to C&B.  The saleswoman was very happy to take them back, was very sorry they didn't work, was calling for a helper to unload my trunk, was as surprised as I was that the globe unscrewed in the middle and that in the middle of the middle was a very very small on/off switch.

She turned it on.  I drove home, rehung the globe, and was treated to a small but shimmering glow that evening.  I moved the lucite orb from the Palo Verde in the front to the crepe myrtle in the courtyard to the mesquite with the sturdiest branches in the backyard. 

It took three days, but last night TBG noticed the glow, admired the glow, and wondered if there could be more glow.  For a man who like the least amount of tchotchkes on permanent display, this is a milestone moment.  He adores the holiday charm my decorations bring to the season, but the basic structure of our house is unadorned.  If I cared, I'd make a fuss.  I don't, so I don't.  He's always been in charge of the colors and the sizes and the shapes of our furnishings, although I retain veto power. Usually, my attempts to liven up the scenery are met with polite dismissals.... and sometimes not so polite dismissals (cf my desire to paint the interior pony walls surrounding the pool in vibrant purples and yellows and oranges). 

To find that an idea I'd created met with his approval filled me with delight.... and my delight soon spilled over into gushing.... which led to why are you so excited.... and we both make those decisions, don't we...and I stopped before what began as a smile ended in a tiff. 

I'll hang some tonight before he changes his mind.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lock Up Your Weaponry

The loaded pellet gun was in a glass-fronted cabinet.  The 12 year olds had access, so the security must have been pretty thin.  One picked up the rifle, one walked in front of him, and the evening ended in the emergency room.

No one is dead.  No one is in jail.

I'm disturbed.

Is there a person on this planet who believes that unsupervised tweens should be holding an ammo-filled weapon at 2:30 in the morning? 

The most trouble my kids got into at a sleep-over was calling the most popular boy in the 6th grade and hanging up .... over and over and over until it was Little Cuter's turn and his mother answered, asked who was calling, and my child gave her name... her real name.... which led to a phone call to me and a phone call to the poorly supervised party's hostess and notes of apology written the next morning. 

It never occurred to me to worry about loaded rifles in unsecured cabinetry.  It never seemed likely that a 12 year old would endanger the life of another in such an obvious way.  I obsessed about drugs and drinking and unprotected sex but, in what now seems like a ridiculously innocent time, guns never crossed my radar.

I don't know how anyone parents today. The challenges are monumental.  They lurk in corners of the interwebs, corners which Mommy Bloggers root out and post about.  I send those posts to Amster, the ones about vanishing images that are stored forever and predatory trolls using brand new apps and tracking systems allowing her to follow the kids through cyber-space.

She reads all Mr. 11's text messages; they come through her phone on iTunes, somehow.  The boys share game cheats and funny faces and mundane questions about soccer practice and math homework.  The girls call him babe and refuse to meet him when they're both in the produce section because I look awful right now.

He laughs at the boys' messages and is flummoxed by the girls' and that's as it should be right now, in the 6th grade, when he's gaining his sea-legs, navigating the shoals of middle school. That's what his mother should be guiding him through: the why are girls so weird conversations endemic to young men.

Instead, she's going to have the What will you do when a gun is present? conversation, reminding her little boys what happened to me and what gun shot victims go through and I hate the fact that I'm an avatar of what can go wrong in the world today... and yet I'm very very very glad to be used in a let's prevent this campaign, no matter how small. 

As far as the grown-ups in this situation are concerned, TBG calls for strict liability if an unsecured weapon is used in your home; if it happens, you are liable.  There are no mitigating circumstances.  His plan calls for substantial financial penalties tacked on to every medical/legal/job-related cost incurred by the victim. 

I'm looking for jail time... or the stocks... or something that will get the attention of adults who are stupid thoughtless careless irresponsible derelict enough.... I am out of words.

If you must have your guns, at least keep them out of the hands of those too young, untrained, immature individuals with whom you share your residence.  Others of us might have loved ones in your area.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Saturday will mark 46 months since I intersected with bullets.  As anniversaries draw near, I fight an on-going battle with the dark side.  48 months ago Christina-Taylor and her family joined G'ma and my family around our dining room table for Thanksgiving dinner.  As I begin to gather my cold weather gear for this year's trek to Little Cuter and the Polar Vortex, my heart goes back to that Thursday afternoon when CTG was 9, and full of promise. 

She and G'ma discussed the utility of various silver serving pieces. Plate and sterling.... G'ma describing the differences and CTG listening and absorbing and then choosing the fanciest ones for the mashed potatoes and the string bean casserole and the kugel and the stuffing.  G'ma, perched on the seat of her walker, wondering who that beautiful little girl might be, wondering why she was asking so many questions, wondering what we were celebrating. 

I miss those girls.

Little Cuter and I were discussing her holiday dinner menu this week.  Sitting at my kitchen table, answering her questions - Does her father like green beans? Will her brother eat cooked spinach?  Why don't any of us like brussel sprouts? - my mind wandered back to that last Thanksgiving when we meant my mother and my friends gathered together.  The passage of time has robbed me of their presence.  I want them back.

I know. I know.  I can't always get what I want.  And I really don't want my mom back, at least not as she was when she left.  That hollow shell of the woman she once was haunts me less and less and the months go by.  The emptying out of her physical being mirrored what had been going on in her brain for a decade or more, and the physical manifestations of her deterioration were difficult to watch.  They bothered me more than they bothered her; she was slow and she knew it and so we'd just have to walk slower.  She didn't complain; she accepted and moved on.

I'm trying that right now.  I'm trying to accept the fact that CTG will never be more than 9.  I've been watching her grow up in my imagination, wondering what cell phone ringtone she'd choose for me on the device she'd been promised for Christmas, speculating on the email address she'd choose, laughing out loud as I consider how big her feet would be by now. 

I don't need a butterfly necklace or a purple rubber bracelet to keep her close; she's with me every single day.... and yet she's gone, every single day. It's the same with G'ma.  I drive past the pod-castle and have to restrain myself from turning into the parking lot.  I finish my chores and I look at the clock - will G'ma be free to join me for an ice cream cone?  I got used to her presence, I relied on her presence, and now she is gone.  The emptiness has burned a hole in my heart.

Her time on the planet was over last December.  She'd overstayed her welcome.  There weren't any plans left unfulfilled.  It was okay... though unimaginably sad... watching her fade away a year ago right now.  We didn't bother to bring her over for Thanksgiving dinner; she couldn't have eaten any of it, nor could she have sat upright at the table for more than a moment or two, and those clacking dentures would have made a disturbing background to the conversation.  It was the right decision, we all agreed.... and yet I'm sitting here in Starbucks, drinking my ice tea, using their internet connection,  wishing that I had that memory to add to my collection. 

There are many many many good memories.  I'm trying to get used to the fact that I won't be making any more of them.  47 months .... 11 months.... it's a blink of an eyelash and forever... and it still hurts.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Perfect Benefit

This one was TBG's idea entirely.  Anyone who knows him is now blinking in astonishment; the man does not do big gatherings unless his daughter is being married or his wife has planned the event.  In the latter case, he leaves early.  I'm not judging, I'm merely relaying the facts. 

But Friday night found us dressed in our Tucson casual best, driving on newly paved roads to a newly created development and into a brand new church auditorium.  He was smiling before we got there, a fact which brought joy to my heart and whetted my anticipation.  The friends we were meeting were his friends, members of a loose-knit crowd of older adults who frequent the spin classes at our gym. 

The men share photos of their grandchildren, which warms the cockles of My Yogi's heart at the two classes a week she leads.  The women chime in on sports talk.  They are boisterous and reserved, liberal and reactionary, competitive and lackadaisical on the bikes.  They worry when one of their number has been absent for a while.  They like one another, and in the relatively anonymous world of the gym, that's as far as they've gone.

Until Friday night.  Orphanage Aid International, a 501c3 founded by one of the cyclists, was hosting its first, annual Fiesta Fundraising Event, and they were all invited.  The tickets were $20 per person; almost everyone in the room bought some.  TBG was visiting FlapJilly when the physical tickets were distributed; another cyclist held on to it for him until he returned ten days later. 

They have each other's backs.

We certainly got our money's worth out of the evening.  Light hors d'oeuvres and Coke products in icy cold cans preceded the Mexican buffet which came after the entertainment.  And what entertainment there was.

These mariachis donated their time to the event.
The young voices, the heart-rending trumpets, the fingers flying over the violins.....
I was in heaven. 
 
UofA graduates danced, and smiled, and swung their skirts.
The four year old with the family beside us couldn't restrain herself.
Plucking at her own skirt, she twirled and whirled and smiled almost as widely as the dancers.
 
And then there were their male counterparts.
Folklorico seems to tell a story, and the men used their hats and their boots to entice and beguile.
But then, they danced alone.
All that blurry photography happened because they were moving so fast.
Imagine boots clomping emphatically, loud music surrounding them, and the world's biggest smiles.
 
I love it when a plan comes together.
New friends, a worthy cause, appropriate amusements..... Friday night had it all.
 
The video has no sound, so feel free to watch it at work.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Meditative Walk


 
 

My Yogi spreads the love in gyms and retirement communities and community colleges all over town.  She Zumbas and cycles on stationary bikes and brings her sense of awe and joy and wonder to them all.  Her fans are people of all ages and backgrounds, bound together by one thing - we all think that she is wonderful.

She's always asked to donate her time or her hand crafted jewelry or her expertise.  She's learned how to say no with grace and dignity.  She's adopted one charity here in Tucson, and she's sticking to it.  Rather than dilute her efforts, she's put it all into one place, a group started by another yogi, her dear friend Sherri Romanoski.

Bag It! supports newly diagnosed cancer patients by providing information and a notebook and a bag to carry it all around.  Rather than leaving the physician's office with only despair and anguish and a thousand questions, Bag It! fights the fear by providing timely, sensitive, thorough facts and resources and connections. As their website describes it: A specially-designed binder provides:
  • Cross-reference guide to BAG IT publications and cancer topics/issues
  • Helpful tips for getting through treatment and beyond on each tabbed section
  • Personal information, medical history, and medication forms
  • Calendar to keep track of appointments, side effects, and/or questions
  • Place to keep copies of all labs, reports, referrals, and diagnostic testing
  • Paper to log in your questions and comments for office visits for later reference
  • Summary and follow-up care plan form
  • BAG IT evaluation
  • Instruction card for creating your own website
While I might not be ready to create my own website in the aftermath of a diagnosis, the thoughtfulness of providing "paper to log in (my) questions and comments for office visits for later reference" makes my heart swell every time I read it.  No one remembers what the doctor says.  No one pays close attention when their heads are exploding.  No one recalls that important issue flying through dreams at 3 in the morning.  Bag It! understood that and took steps to remedy the situation.  That's my kind of organization.

Once a year they put on an extravaganza at Loew's Ventana Canyon Resort.  This year, I left TBG at home with his football games.  I took Miss Vicki as my guest.  She and I have been exploring meditation as an addition to our lives; I thought she would enjoy My Yogi's morning walk through the resort's flora and fauna.  I was right.

My Yogi held a heart shaped leaf, a leaf which was lying in the pathway, waiting for her, knowing somehow that its shape was one holding a deep meaning for her.  She finds hearts everywhere.  She shares her own easily.  It's a perfect match.
She pointed out the cactus wren's nest amidst the inhospitable cholla .  Can you see the nest, right in the middle of the photograph?  It's a home amidst prickers and glochids and spikes and general unpleasantness.... yet it is home.
She saw a mother bird with a bit of food in her mouth entering the opening and disappearing within.  She drew the connection between the nest, a place of comfort and nourishment, surrounded by a hostile environment, and the journey taken by those with a diagnosis of cancer.  The outside world may be full of discomfort and inconvenience, but it can be mitigated by creating a warm and nurturing place in which to retreat, to regroup, to gather strength and energy before facing the harsh realities beyond. 

I looked up at the blue sky, at the waterfall above, and I soaked it all in. 
 I was out, with friends, exploring the natural world.
I'd walked a 5K and I was moving again the next day.
I looked into the pool at my feet, . 
 the end of the journey for the droplets which had begun above my head, and I let the connection wash over me.
The reflections drew me in, deeper and deeper.
I banished the murmuring voices nearby, breathing deeply, in and out, finding peace and ease and comfort. 
Like the gnarly, intricate, aged tree trunk we passed on our way in, my life is twisting back on itself, revisiting pieces which made me smile, getting caught on those which tripped me up, and always, at the edges, the hand of a friend.
 
Bag It! gets that.
 I do too.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Walking The Nut Run

Brenda Starr brought it up months ago.  She decided, with some prompting by Jon-Her-PT, that we needed to set a goal.  Watching the pedometer would take us only so far; an achievable but ambitious point on the horizon would sharpen our focus and demand that we perform.  The Pecan Festival in her small town outside Tucson was sponsoring a Nut Run, 5 kilometers through the mature pecan orchard.  Didn't I think that we could train our way up to that?  We had months to prepare... it would be fun.... Basil St. John would make t-shirts.... we'd have a team name.

Brenda Starr is quite persuasive. This should not continue to surprise me; her job requires that she have real opinions and be able to express them clearly.  Her perseverance, her refusal to take a step backwards, her smiley Of course we can do it, are qualities I admire and respect even though they end with me waking up at 6am to walk further than I'd walked since bullets perforated my hip and my thigh and my butt. 

She was persuasive.  I was panic stricken.

I was uncertain about the surface.  I was worried that it would be hot... and then I worried that it would be cold.  I couldn't find a water bottle which didn't leak when turned on its side to fit my fanny pack.  I didn't want fans watching me lumber past, following pitifully, hours after the runners had crossed the finish line.  I knew it would hurt. 

She sent me a text, then an email, then a Facebook Message, and then she called my cell phone and left a voicemail.  She never calls; we are face-to-face or words-on-the-screen communicators.  She started out confirming our plans for the morning and ended up wondering if I'd fallen off the face of the earth.

I took two deep breaths and called her back.  I admitted my ambivalence... my terror... my inability to confront it outright... and, as I'd feared, she was fearless and ready to go. Of course we can do it.

I reminded myself that I'd walked on the beach in Santa Monica last month, that I could bring my hiking sticks, that there had to be a sag wagon in case of emergency, and then I laughed at myself, picked up the gear I needed, loaded the car, set my alarm, and forgot about it... or tried to forget about it.... and then I went to sleep and woke up and ate my hard boiled egg and kissed TBG and his achy knee goodbye. 

There was a registration tent, which made Brenda Starr surprisingly happy.
T-shirts and numbers and small bags of pecans were distributed, and Basil St. John graciously ferried our loot the quarter mile back to their car.  Brenda Starr and I were saving our steps for the race course. 
We took advantage of his absence to admire our numbers.... Brenda Starr's first ever 5K number. We were standing in the queue of her first ever walking race.  This was a triumph and she knew it and I realized that while I was mourning what once was, she was celebrating what she is.

She was in the moment, reveling in what she.. what we.. had accomplished, and she was absolutely right.  I stopped moaning to myself.  It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and I was there to enjoy it.
 
I adjusted and readjusted my poles until they were just right.  I looked over the countryside, watching the tractors,
reading the interpretive signage describing the pecan harvest.  I hydrated as Jon-Her-PT joined us and hugged us and I stepped into his embrace because he had been absolutely right when he suggested that we set a goal. I was moving into Brenda Starr's frame of reference.  It felt great.
 
No matter how long it took, we would not be defeated. We would complete the course.  Our time didn't matter. We were going to walk using all of our bodies, not concentrating on the parts that weren't working quite as well as they might or as they will but it is what it is and then the guy without a microphone or a bullhorn was giving instructions and we were off. 
 
We weren't at the back in the beginning.  But we were there before long. 
 
It didn't matter.  Jon-Her-PT walked backward in front of us and corrected our form and reminded us to swing our arms and to use our abdominals and he made us laugh.  Basil St. John walked beside us, marveling at us. We followed the chalk arrows, admiring the seed pods and the blue skies and one another. 
 
We were four souls out for a walk in an orchard on a sunny morning.  It was perfect.
 
And, we finished. 
 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Meg Wolitzer Says Hi

That was a very cool Subject in an email I sent to an old friend this morning.  Very cool, indeed.

It was true, as my email went on, that I was eating lunch with her. The Literary Society of the Southwest, my favorite organization with the most pretentious name, hosted The Interestings's author at our first luncheon of the year. Scarlet, newly arrived from New York City (Murray Hill, to be precise), and my guest for the afternoon, said that she was a front row kind of girl, and since I am, too, we took two seats at the author's table. 

The author walked in, alone, pinning her name tag to her outfit, saying "Hi, I'm Meg," as she distributed herself and her materials into and around her chair.  "Yes, you are," I replied, inanely, but she smiled and we all introduced ourselves and we chatted, just the way women all over America are chatting today. 

I wondered which town on Long Island she ascribed to Jules; it reminded me of mine, Oceanside, but not Syosset, Meg's hometown.  We settled on West Hempstead and then I asked her if she knew Maid Marian, my friend since 7th grade, whose books are on the shelves next to Tolstoy and Theroux and Thurber. 

Of course she did.  She smiled as I took out and turned on my phone; she knew I was sending a message.  It was so cool.

And that's why The Interestings didn't interest me when I picked it up last year.... being cool, fitting in, it was all there and it was too close to home. All those fears, all that angst, all that worry about being cool came back and held onto my heart and my soul and I had to put the book down before the first scenes ended.

Ugh.  Why would I want to go there again? Voluntarily subject myself to the reemergence of all of that crap?  Because, even forty some years later, I still carry the baggage of those years.  I know it's crap and it still hurts.  Not as reality, but as sorrow for the girl who was there at that time.  I was sad enough, right then; I didn't need to add anything else to the mix. 

I started it again because Scarlet and I were going to the luncheon.  With a chip on my shoulder I opened to page one, and by page five I was wondering why I'd ever put it down.  I was entranced.  I was in love with The Interestings just as much as Jules was in love with them in the book. 

They are the most clearly drawn characters I've encountered in a long time.  Though some in the room questioned the probability of the relationships, it all felt very real to me.  I went away for a transformative summer, too, where people who wouldn't have noticed me in high school sought me out at lunch time. 

That was cool, too.

Watching the characters grow over time, their story told in the convoluted, folding back on itself way that conversations among girlfriends have a tendency to do, I never felt a false note.  The characters surprised me and shocked me and worried me and appalled me, but they never felt untrue to the selves the delightful woman across the table had created for them.  The story moved along more quickly when children of their own arrived and they had less time for one another but, as that Facebook meme keeps reminding me, we all have friends with whom the passage of time is immaterial; two months or two years and you still pick right up where you left off.

Sitting with Meg Wolitzer was like that.  A gentleman at the back of the room told her that he didn't like the book, that he liked her mother's work better, and then he left..... and he was the first thing she talked about when she returned to us after her speech.  Not the laughter, not the compliments, but the one thing that had gone slightly awry occupied her attention ... along with the chocolate desert.

We reassured her, we dismissed him, we made excuses for bad behavior and turned the conversation toward how wonderful she had been, picking up on bits and pieces which had intrigued us, drawing her away from judging and into our circle ... of new friends .... who felt like old friends....... which is a good thing because Scarlet got Meg's personal email address.

We're having lunch next time she's in town.

And THAT is very cool.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Disconnected

That's the only way to describe how I feel today.... disconnected.  It's an awkward, uncomfortable, unhappy place to be.

I love Arizona.  Even though I almost died here, I love Arizona.  It's a Wild West culture, where Stetson clad sheriffs tote imposing side arms. It's the home of "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice" ... although I think that 1968's ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater would be considered too liberal by the Tea Partiers who've taken over his Republican Party.  It's where the streets of Tombstone are boardwalks and dust, just as they were in the late 1800's.  The aura in Sedona is life-changing.  It's unlike anyplace I've ever lived, which may account for the sense of dislocation I'm feeling today.

The election results are in.  They do not reflect my ballot.... not hardly at all.  The bond to build an animal shelter passed, as I'd hoped it would.  The Budget Override for the Amphi School District passed, insuring that there will be no further cuts in an already decimated system.  Beyond that, everything and everyone I cared about went down to defeat, or is in a race that is too close to call.

Ron Barber, our up-for-re-election Congressman who was shot ten feet from me four years ago, is ahead of Colonel Martha McSally by 36 votes.  36 votes. There are thousands of provisional and mail-in ballots left to be counted, but this morning I was forced to do the math. 

This is what happens when a district is truly bi-partisan; we are evenly split between Democrats and Republicans and Independents.  Our voter turn out was large, in Pima County, at least.  The further reaches of the District tend to vote more conservatively than metropolitan Tucson's demographic, but there's no way to tell where the outstanding votes originated.  Like last year, we will have to wait and worry.

Wait and worry sounds pretty good to me when I think about the statewide races.  Doug Ducey defeated Fred Duval, in a triumph of I'm a Businessman (Don't ask me how well my franchisees are doing) over Let's Fix Education in Arizona (Don't ask me how I'll pay for it).  The Democrats ran a decent campaign, but I'd have been happier had they concentrated on Ducey's failings as a business leader rather than spending money on six foot replicas of Duval's face emblazoned with a Get Ahead with Fred logo. 

They were humiliating.

Terry Goddard failed in his bid to become Secretary of State.  Last election, he failed to become Governor.  I wonder if he's moving down the ladder; will I find him running for Treasurer next time?  He ran against Dark Money and for reproductive freedoms and he was trounced. 

David Garcia gave Arizonans a chance to vote for a thoughtful educator as Superintendent of Public Instruction.  He had real plans to improve the system.  The results are too close to call right now.  His opponent, running against the Common Core and not for much else, kept a low profile.  It didn't seem to matter; the base came out and voted and now they are 2% apart. The Chamber of Commerce didn't endorse her; Common Core is becoming a standard in America whether Arizona agrees or not and business leaders understood that.  I shudder to consider the state of Arizona's economy as companies choose to locate in states which understand the value of a quality education for a competent workforce.

Dr. Randy Friese and incumbent Victoria Steele are also in a too-close-to-call race.  Since I voted for both of them (2 votes split between 3 candidates) I can only be disappointed in the result.  They are both pro-choice, pro-ACA, pro-education, pro-sensible-gun-legislation.  The other incumbent, Ethan Orr, is not.

Even in the most local of these elections, my neighbors and I disagree. It's disheartening.  Friends are dragging around town with their frowns firmly in place.  At lunch I ran into a couple of like-minded voters; we agreed that it was hard to get out of bed this morning.  It's difficult to face a community which I love but which, apparently, doesn't love me.... or at least, doesn't agree with me.

I am losing my connection to Tucson.  It's not a pleasant feeling.



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

No More Laughter.....

.... at least not the raucous, back of the throat, ear splitting cackle that emanated from Tom Magliozzi every Saturday and Sunday morning in my car.

Little girls, and then bigger girls, would groan when I switched the radio from Backstreet Boys to NPR's Car Talk, two men talking about auto repair.  Little Cuter's reassurance went a long way toward calming them down.  "Just listen.  They are really really really funny. Just listen."

And so they did.  They sat in the back seat of my Audi station wagon as I ferried them to Ukiah and Sebastopol and Rohnert Park to play soccer, to stop at In-and-Out Burger, and then to drive home.  All day, both days, every weekend for years and years and years, I spent surrounded by high pitched girl squealing and low pitched men's laughter. 

Those are some of my favorite memories.

Little Cuter and I spent an hour or so in the offices of Car Talk in Cambridge, or our fair city as the Magliozzi brothers called it, .  Just as they described it on the radio, the office looked over Harvard Square at the coffee drinking and the juggling and the wandering.  The shelves were filled with bumper stickers and pins and cartoons and gifts sent from far and wide to Tom and Ray, whose influence stretched from sea to shining sea. 

G'ma couldn't stand the laughter; it sounded false to her.  To me, it was throwing back my head and letting go of all constraints  It was being in the moment, totally present, and relishing every instant.  There were corners of my brain that seemed to come alive when I heard him howl... hidden corners where laughter had been resting, just waiting to be coaxed out into the open. 

I smiled when the banjo music came on to announce their imminent arrival.  I smiled when Hello, you're on Car Talk was followed by Kathy with a K and a Y or Alan without all those extra L's; it was important that they knew exactly to whom they were speaking.  I smiled even harder when they asked if the husband who refused to use his turn signals in order to save energy, or the wife who refused to rotate the tires, or the parent who wanted a safe-but-dorky car for his kid happened to be available to speak on the phone. 

These reluctant invitees were usually hilarious, if somewhat embarrassed.  Tom and Ray never made anyone feel uncomfortable for long, though.  The beauty of the show was the kindness married to brilliance married to a realistic appreciation of the absurdity of the world.  The Magliozzi's were never mean spirited.  They were honest - Oh, boy, is he in trouble now! - and they were helpful - take it back to the shop and tell them we said to check the timing belt - and they were cautious - DO NOT drive that anywhere but to the dealership RIGHT NOW. 

They were a trustworthy source of information in an arena filled with obfuscation and ignorance.  They were willing to tackle the car-related love interest issues - she hates my convertible because her hair gets messed up was one of my favorites - and the family squabbles - you are on a cross-country drive with your MOTHER-IN-LAW?!?!?!? - with a gentle, teasing hilarity that I've never found anywhere else.

They'd interview their mother for Mother's Day, and laugh about their ex-wives and their children and the foibles of NPR... and there was never anything mean spirited about it.  They were honest and they were funny and they will be missed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Change of Season

Halloween is gone.... kind of.  It has moved from places of honor on chairs and ledges and door knobs to a pile on the kitchen table to a brand new Crate and Barrel box.  The box remains unsealed.  There are always outliers, figurines hiding on bookshelves, candle holders near the courtyard containers, a ceramic pumpkin fallen behind a vase. 

One sure way to make hidden decorations appear is to seal the storage box.  I'm not making that mistake again this year.  This year, I am going to repurpose the three, beautiful, white, unblemished shipping boxes which contained outdoor, solar powered, hanging globe lights.  Halloween is being wrapped in brand new bubble wrap (which C&B tells me can be punctured and recycled ... and I want to meet the woman who has time to poke holes in three boxes of bubble wrap) which is an extraordinarily pleasurable experience.

I'm cheap.  Others may say frugal or conservative or a recycling fiend, but the bottom line is that I cannot bear to throw out that which could be used to cushion items in storage.  I have been unwrapping and refolding bubble wrap for decades.  It shows.  The difference between brand new materials and those which have been doing their duty since Chicago in the 1970's is stark.  The new stuff is thicker, requires fewer layers, and feels absolutely wonderful to the touch.

Still, I found use for the flattened pieces, covering open baskets containing tiny toys, wrapping candles and batteries in small, I-hope-I-don't-lose-them-in-the-big-box balls of plastic.  As I've aged, I've learned to resist the urge to squish the small sections of air.... almost always. 

Thanksgiving was living in two small boxes this year.  2014 will find it a new home in the second C&B box.  Halloween and Thanksgiving overlap one another; the glass pumpkin is too elegant to be relegated to the October-is-Over box; I want it out for November, too.  It's a harvest fruit, after all.  I think I will try to find some other, glass, gourd-like objets to fill out the display.

JannyLou's holiday collection was the subject of a Fast Eddie soliloquy last weekend. She loves these things.... she has collections for every holiday.... I've never seen anyone who loves this as much as she does.  TBG sat silently, smiling inwardly.  He knows that his wife could give her a run for her money.  Her collection is more elegant, leaning to the glass and silver end of the spectrum.  I focused on more kid-friendly items; things that can be organized by 9 and 11 year olds... and one not-too-careful 62 year old...  without fear of breakage. 

Breakage is a fungible term when it comes to my holiday decorations.  There are certain things that were never discarded.  The turkey candle with the broken feathers... the haunted house with the twisted wire fence.... the Cuters' elementary school drawings ... they all made the cut until now.  With a new little human in the family, I have decided to make room for her creations by tossing those of her mother and uncle.  Does that seem fair?  I have no problem with it.  They made me smile, reminded me of days gone by, but they were never put out in prominent display. 

Now, my new white boxes contain only unbroken items.  It's a little lonesome, but a lot neater and lighter. 

IKEA was my source for 200 tea lights last December; I have 150 of them left in a box.  Some of the candelabras would look prettier with votives, but the wax dripping all over the windowsills and the mantle and the end table makes the beauty just another chore in the morning.  The tea lights are encased in inexpensive metal which can be recycled after they contain the droplets.  I'm willing to sacrifice some bit of pretty for ease. 

Is that a sign of age or intelligence... or both?

The stores are All Christmas All The Time, and the red and white and green still feel awkward and out of sync.  It's November.  It's Fall.  It's leaves turning colors and sweaters-not-parkas.  Santa will be here in due time.  For now, I'm having fun looking at my stuffed turkeys and wondering if it's not altogether creepy to admire their fabric selves as I drool, thinking about eating their living incarnations.

This is the kind of conversation which would keep G'ma going for hours.  I'm going to take a moment and remember her... give thanks for her.... laugh with her memory... and enjoy what this month has to bring.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Manners

One of the kids at the Halloween party said something inappropriate.  It wasn't awful, but it was shocking enough in its own right.  The grown-ups were momentarily appalled, which was, I imagine, the extent to which the act had been thought through beforehand, but they didn't give it more than the cursory attention it deserved.

I, on the other hand, made it a teachable moment.

Those who knew me in their youth are groaning right now.  I rarely let an opportunity pass me by.  Amster's kids learned about opening doors and Ladies First and the value of a firm handshake coupled with eye contact at a first meeting with a bewildered stupor often covering their faces.

Why was I, the fun grown-up, the one who always said yes-as-long-as-it's-not-dangerous, the one giving lectures on behavior?  What was the fun in that?

The answer was simple, and bears repeating in every generation. Manners make the world go 'round.

I said it to my children and I'll say it to my grandchild(ren).  Stuck in the back of an elevator in the Sutter Stockton garage, I leaned over to explain to Big Cuter's ten year old self that if he watched, he'd see what I meant.  The gentlemen in front of us held the doors open, unnecessarily but politely, as the elderly couple, then the women, then we exited.  It was crowded, but our departure was smooth and quick.  Manners making the world go 'round in action.

I always compliment the young men holding the door for my wobbly self at the gym.  I encourage them to tell their own grownups that they must have done something right.  I'm always rewarded with a smile.  For that moment, Mom or Dad or Grampa or Aunt Suzi  is standing there in the doorway with us, feeling proud.

A big part of manners is their relation to an earlier, courtlier time.  We hold the door for our mothers, for women of a certain age, not because they are incapable, but because they deserve the honor.  It's a sign of respect.. even if it's only respect for the number of years passed on the planet. Often, it's an acknowledgment of their value in our lives. 

Holding the door for peers is trickier.  Walking a fine line of feminist-friendly-but-oh-dear-God-Mom-is-looking-over-my-shoulder, Big Cuter has decided that he'll take Dad's line and say 'My mom is watching.' Any girl who won't smile at that won't be worth his effort.

There are times when I think I might have gotten one or two things right while parenting.

Miss Marjorie's daughter threw her a surprise 70th birthday party this weekend.  The stair-step, tween grandkids greeted the guests with handshakes, smiles, their names and an introduction to the next sibling on down the hallway.  They were unselfconsciously delightful, thrilled with the surprise and unable to forget their manners.  There are many wonderful things about Miss Marjorie; not the least of them is having raised a daughter who is raising these children. 

It gives me hope for the future.

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