Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Who is she?
She's Karen Taylor, a Jackson State Hall of Fame basketball player who played professionally in Europe. She raised the Detroit Pistons' 2015 number one draft pick on a steady diet of basketball, competition, and love.
She created and coached an AAU team for him at 5, and all the good lessons one can learn from sports were poured into him.
"Be there for your team when they need you" led to striving for perfection.
"Don't expect me to 'Mommy' you once we're in the gym" stoked the competitive spirit he'll bring to the NBA.
The practice interviews, the respect for the game, the knowledge that more work yields more rewards - these are parenting-from-your-strength skills worth knowing about.
I read the local sports pages every day; I'm TBG's lifeline for what Tucson is saying. He spends an inordinate amount of time watching talking heads on tv. We both watch lots of games. If there is information to be had, one or the other of us has it.... yet this was news to us both.
Sports Illustrated found her.
How did Sean Miller not mention this... let alone Bill Walton?
Monday, June 29, 2015
Friday, June 26, 2015
As I've learned here in The Burrow, writing helps to calm the beast.
Sometimes, though, writing is not enough. Sometimes I have to participate more actively. Saturday is one of those times. #RisingForCharleston events are planned all across the country, and Tucson, of course, is hosting our very own.
Our local survivors' email chain was activated. We were personally invited to join Everytown for Gun Safety volunteers at Congregation Chaverim ... and I began to be drawn in.
This is Gabby's congregation. There's a comforting sense of intimacy and connection when you've shared wine-in-plastic-cups in a famous congregant's back yard with the Rabbi herself. I have confidence in her ability to strike the right note.
Being together in a shared space is difficult for me, and that's bringing me to remembering 9/11, and the neighborhood church on Tiburon Boulevard which welcomed us all that night. Jews and Catholics, Methodists and Sikhs and non-believers sat side by side in the Presbyterian's sanctuary.
It was lovely, and exactly what I needed, and since I can't seem to shake the Charleston massacre from the very front of my brain I have decided that I might need it now, too.
I'm bringing paper and markers for card making; from our hearts to theirs, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church survivors and congregants will know that they are not alone.
It's important to bear witness. It cannot be left to others. We are all in this together, and together I will heal and send healing and be a participant.
Confirming that there will be special attention paid to our security, I began to plan my outfit.
It seemed like a logical progression of events - a service of solidarity in a synagogue should first be examined from a security perspective.... after all, it's a house of worship and I can't be sure that enough of my fellow congregants will be armed and trained and ready to defend the rest of us good guys......
What a world. What a world.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
The first time, they couldn't find me then they thought I was "a valued customer." Amazing what providing a zip code will get you.
The second time, I connected with an actual human being. She was lovely. She wondered if I knew where the reset button was on the black Xfinity box. Yes, I did. I also knew how to reset it, which I did.
Unfortunately, resetting the wifi also reset the telephone. My helpful human was gone, along with my dial tone.
I dialed again, went through the same "who are you... enter zip code.... valued customer" routine, listened to the Muzak equivalent of falling raindrops, and was then informed by an automated voicebox that they were unable to help me at this time. There were two suggestions, and I began screaming in the middle of the first one; I couldn't get faster service by logging onto the internet because I couldn't log onto the internet and that was why I was calling in the first place.
The second suggestion was to "call back at a later time."
I groaned. I got a drink. I called back. If you reread the last big paragraph you'll know what happened then. I can't bear to retype it.
Fortunately, I had agreed "to take a short survey of no more than two minutes describing the service" I received. When Caller ID showed COMCAST on the television screen, I literally rubbed my hands together in glee. Answering the phone, putting the robo-voice on speaker, I gave them 1 on a scale to 5, where 1 was the equivalent of "I hate you!" or "No, no one was that nice to me," for the first few questions.
I was given the choice of having someone return my call to discuss my responses. I chose that option, and found myself at the receiving end of another survey from a robo-voice I gave them 0's (on a scale which now ran up to 10 for "wonderfulness"), except where I admitted that the voice had tried to offer me another service.... they considered this a good thing.
At the end, there was only "Goodbye." No one said that I should expect a return call. No one asked for or verified my phone number. No one transferred me to "to the next available operator." Nope. Nothing..... for five minutes.
That was when Jen appeared on the other end of the line. She acknowledged that I was obviously having issues, she thanked me for picking up the phone politely, she told me that were our positions reversed she would have had a hard time being as nice as I was being to her.
Quoting Little Cuter, I told her that I was often reminded that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar, and, for some reason, I was in a pretty good mood.
She was amazed. She seems to hate technological problems as much as I do. However, she assured me, she not only could fix my computer hook up, she was authorized to have access to whatever she needed in order to accomplish that feat.
I was stunned. A real person with real skills and real power was talking to me. My problem would be resolved.... and it was, with little effort and much laughter and a clear explanation of the issue and the solution. She disconnected an old network, I reset the Apple router which is sending the signal to the Cuters' side of the house, and all was well.
She didn't have an email for me to send a personal recommendation, but Jen transferred me to Josh, her supervisor, who is, I hope, reading this commendation on Thursday morning.
Jen's great. She deserves a raise. I'm not angry with COMCAST any more, and it's all because of her.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
That's the question I've been trying ask for the last thirty minutes.... now seventy minutes... and there's a great post coming out of this but I cannot type it on my phone, the only device in the house with internet access.
Come back tomorrow to read the sad tale; technical difficulties preclude further communications at this time.
I was in the second round of consoling friends, the result of not checking my phone all day. With a friend, at Pilates, playing Scrabble, I was busy having my life while my friend's was being disrupted.
She came over in the morning and chatted, listening to TBG pronounce the same sage words of advice she'd heard the day before from her girlfriends.
We went to breakfast, and hashed and rehashed the situation. Over omelettes and muffins, we came to some conclusions.
It's a dream come true for her in many ways. It's also very sad. There is only so much she can do... and she's done more. Her job is to acknowledge the good that was done, to accept the decisions, and to stand firm with the consequences. She's done.
We drowned her remaining sorrows in a predictable and delightful high school chick flick, sharing the adjustable Sleep Number bed with Luke and Bo, her Staffordshire Terriers.
Life is good.
Monday, June 22, 2015
Friday, June 19, 2015
I thought about the messages, focused on the kids' voices I'd saved at triumphant moments, and realized that I'd be able to record new ones quite easily. I pushed Delete All.
I didn't think about the message Nurse Nancy left on the morning of January 8, 2011, telling TBG that there had been an accident and asking him to meet us at UMC's Emergency Room.
I had a moment of unease, knowing that it is now lost forever, and then I came to a realization. I can leave it behind. It's okay. No one will judge, and if they do, I don't care.
I don't need to have it on the machine; I have it in my head and my heart and I can pull it up whenever and wherever I want it.
But I don't need to dwell on it, I don't need to wallow - although there were times, early on, when that was all that I could do. But that was then and this is now and I'm not there any more.
The memories don't spring up unbidden... at least not as often as they did before. I conjure up the deep emotions, but on my own terms, not theirs... at least most of the time.
Graceful David, back at our Pilates studio after an absence of too many months, could tease me today about moving my legs into 90/90.
"Look at her, doing it all ... without complaining ... using her abs and not her hip flexors."
And he's right to mention it. I've made lots of progress since he's been gone, and, while hearing it gives me the impetus I need to carry on, that's not why he's saying it.
He's really noticing a change, and I don't think it's only in the physical arena. I'm lighter in my being as well as on my feet.
I'm no longer surprised that I pass, unnoticed, through the Tucson airport. I no longer start every third paragraph with "Before I got shot..." or "Since I was shot...." I'm reminded of January 8, 2011, I'm not constantly tripping over it.
It's no longer the defining event of my life, though my limp reminds me of its centrality to my existence with every lurching step. It's become burdensome to carry the weight of the tragedy in the front of my brain, and I've been able to push it back where, I think, it belongs: brought out when needed but otherwise locked up tight.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Two kids in double digits. The little one, little no longer.... at least in his own eyes. It's filled with rapture (Finally, I'm in 5th grade and The Oldest in School) and a vague sense of unease.
No one says it better than Billy Collins, so I'm not even going to try.
On Turning Ten
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
It takes a whole day to get from Tucson to New York City. When we decided to move here, it was possible to fly on Jet Blue direct from Tucson International Airport to JFK. That lasted for a few months; the flights were cancelled as soon as we unpacked the last bag. American ignores us, too; forcing me to change planes in Dallas or Chicago. I pick the trips with the best connections, and travel early enough in the day to change my plans if I'm delayed.
These are the things which put TBG over the edge. Alone, I can manage my anxiety without having to consider another person. For me, that makes all the difference.
I'm traveling between Long Island and Manhattan and I'm trying to avoid renting a car. I have people who will willingly drive me between destinations, but I have to be within a reasonable distance.
I have people with whom I can stay, saving hotel fees and maximizing my pleasure. If only it were possible to get between Kings Point, Bethpage, and Long Beach via public transportation. Somehow, the layers of railroad tracks were not considering my current needs.
Then, there's the issue of fitting it all in. I want to go to the theater. I want to go to MOMA. I want to feel the sand between my toes. I want to see my nieces. I want pizza and Chinese food and pastrami on rye. I have time to do all these things, as long as I don't mind ignoring other things. I have friends and relatives ... and I have people I would just as soon avoid.
Since those to be avoided are known to those I wish to see, I am in a bit of a pickle.
At this point, I have purchased my conference ticket and the accompanying hotel room, I have an appointment on Tuesday and a place to sleep that night and the next. The air travel is on hold until 11 o'clock tonight, as I ponder the unanchored bookends of my trip.
Will I sleep at the Marriott near LaGuardia so I don't have to wake up at 4am to make my flight home? Will I go out to Long Island when I arrive, forgoing the pleasures of the big city to make the next day an easier excursion? Will my friends be in town... and can I hide from those I don't want to see?
Sometimes, in the planning, it almost seems easier to just stay at home.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Friday, June 12, 2015
Thursday, June 11, 2015
I missed my first cousin's, but then I remembered that it was his father's birthday on the 6th, and his on the 10th, so I still have time to get in under the wire.... if I remember that he's on the east coast and three hours later.
But first, I'll write to you.
And that, denizens, has been the problem, this year and every year, with the month of June. May holds the Cuters' birthdays and Mothers' Day and is otherwise uneventful. But June.... I can find something or someone to celebrate on nearly every one of its thirty days.
There are cousins and nieces and friends and brothers with birthdays and anniversaries and weddings and graduations and most of these events recur year after year after year.
You'd think I'd have a system all set up. I think I'd use it if I had it; the cards are neatly organized an arms length from where I type to you. I like all these people. I love celebrating. Stationary is right up there with my Top Ten Things in Life. And yet, here I am, with but three hours to go before I'm forced to wish My Cousin The Firefighter a belated happy birthday.
It's a mystery, denizens. It's a mystery indeed.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
For five hours every week, a smart person stands in front of me and tells me things I did not know. I don't always agree with everything that's presented, but I am never at a loss for topics which engage my mind.
For instance, this morning a classmate pondered the behavioral rigidity of George Eliot's study of provincial life and the rules laid down to the Hebrews in their Bible. External versus internal, immediate consequences versus eternal damnation, the role of belief and faith and whether social norms have the same effect as Biblical proscriptions..... she walked away, but my brain has been spinning ever since.
None of Eliot's characters seem to have a deep attachment to the trappings of formal religion, not even the Vicar or the Rector. Yet their behaviors are as tightly regulated as were those of the Hebrews, were they to follow all 613 Commandments. Do we humans have an instinctive need to girdle ourselves with restrictions? Is it an extension of my oft repeated parenting mantra : Kids like rules?
Like I said, my head is spinning.
Did you know that the twelve tribes of Israel were not descended from a single maternal line? There were two wives and two servants and just one lucky patriarch. No wonder they threw the littlest one into a pit and sold him into slavery. It's a wonder that they had't hurt one another long before Joseph and his coat came along.
Our professor tells us that the virgin who gives birth to a son in the King James version is merely a young woman in the original Aramaic. He tells us that Moses's Midianite wife touched his genitals with their baby's bloody foreskin, although the text clearly says feet. Apparently, feet is Bible speak for genitalia. These are things of which I previously was unaware.
He went on to quote Saint Paul, in 2nd Corinthians: The letter killeth; the Spirit giveth life.
In other words, much of it is allegory, so it behooves you to pay greater attention to that which energizes the writing than to the actual letters on parchment, or pixels on the screen.
I'm reading literature in both classes, not studying religion or 19th century politics. I save those conversations with myself for after class is over. I drive home slowly, in the right lane, my brain passing cars and bicyclists alike. I'm paying for 5 hours per week; I'm getting many many more.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
You have a smile on your face and there's an opening to your heart right there in your head as you grin and bask in the moment move your head from side to side..... don't you?
Monday, June 8, 2015
Then it wasn't.
The plane was at Gate K-2 (which is around the corner and down the hall).
Then it wasn't.
Then it was, but the crew wasn't.
Then they were there and we rushed on board to insure that one of the crew would not time out and be unable to fly any more consecutive hours.
I cannot believe how slowly people put their bags in the overhead compartment when they know we have only 12 minutes to board and push back from the gate.
Then we were ready to take off, but there were 5 planes ahead of us... and there was that time out issue... and we didn't relax until we were airborne, two and a half hours after our original departure time.
We bounced through bad weather all the way back to Tucson, landed safely, drove home, and saw our bed a little after 1 am.
So much for my post on .... anything.
I'll be back tomorrow, well rested, well exercised, and ready to share.
Friday, June 5, 2015
I lifted the bar up and down, chest open, breathing deeply, squeezing the muscles, moving the bar with precision. I was one with the world.
Then, I sat up.
A young white man wearing a black hoodie, his face obscured in shadows, turned and showed me his back - a white assault weapon silk screened on the fabric.
Part of me wanted to rip it off his body, right then and there.
Part of me wanted to get right up in his face and ask him if he'd ever been on the receiving end of a bullet.
Part of me wanted to weep.
I took what was left of me and closed my eyes. Looking down and not up or out, I finished my bench presses, my french presses, my dips and my push-ups, but the joy was gone.
I debated talking to the gym staff about their definition of obscenity... but left before I upset myself any further.
I'm still quaking, an hour later, after talking it out with TBG and typing it out with you.
PTSD is a wild and not-so-wonderful ride.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
She was responding to her 14 year old daughter's outrage that J.K. Rowling describes her heroine as having mousy brown hair. There is no way that character could have anything mousy about herself, the young reader wailed. Hermione is her favorite character in the series she has read and reread and reread again. It is obvious that such a thing cannot stand.
Her mother, understanding her pain, was gentle as she noted that Hermione was actually nothing more than words on paper.
The child was not amused... and neither was I when, in response to a question I asked in class, I was told the same thing.
Dorothea is not real, so asking about her reaction to being an orphan is a less than valuable question. George Eliot didn't address the issue. The character does not exist beyond Eliot's reach. We can impute motive to our hearts' content, but Dorothea is not real. Our deductions are simply that - deductions. There is no basis for them in fact.
That's a hard truth for me to swallow. I'm not sure that I believe it.
I carry Little Women's Jo March in my heart and as a talisman as I write to you. I imagine her sitting in her attic hideaway, scribbling manuscripts, and I know, in that moment, that she exists.
If she doesn't exist, I've been sharing my thoughts on writing with no one.... and that cannot be.
There are other characters I know are real. Theodore Decker, the lonely boy at the center of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, is hanging out with me this week as I plan a trip to New York City. I'm with him as he rides the elevators and catches taxis and walks the streets. He is as real to me as my nieces, actual 20-somethings who are walking the streets of Manhattan as I type this. I hear from them as I heard from Theodore - through words written on a page or typed on a screen. I imagine their thoughts as I imagine his. They all feel equally real to me.
Jack Reacher, Lee Child's ubermensch, is real to me, too, albeit in a different way. There are times in my life where a savior descending from the ether sounds like a really good idea. I like imagining that these men exist, even if none have ever appeared before me. I've created a personal story for him, untold by the author but real, if only for me, nonetheless. I need a hero, and they are in very short supply in animate form. If Jack Reacher can fill that hole for me, I see no reason to doubt his existence.
If James Joyce's Leopold Bloom isn't walking down the streets of Dublin, then no one is walking the streets of Dublin. Joyce brings us into all the facets of Bloom's life, painting a picture of one day which captures his soul. They may be written on the page, but Bloom and Molly and Buck and Blazes exist outside of those words, in my life.
Am I unusual? Do I have such a flaccid reality that I must populate it with literary beings? Am I deluding myself? Perhaps, perhaps, and perhaps. Still, at the end of an afternoon spent thinking about this, I find that I have to disagree with the teacher.
I need these characters to exist in a hazy sort of reality, invisibly by my side, able to be consulted or relied upon or thought about without the intercession of their creators. They are mine, by virtue of having been read.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
I find NFL Insider a ridiculous program to be viewing in May, yet there was my husband, fanatic fan that he is, gleaning smidgens of information about a sport which will not be contested for two more months. No one is interested in Tom Brady or Adrian Petersen or Johnny Manziel, though one is appealing and one is tweeting and one is just appalling.
Their turn will come. It's not here yet.
There was a women's friendly soccer game between Korea and the USofA; I tried, but couldn't get interested. TBG was happy to return to the talking heads on ESPN, who were dissecting the reasons that Americans don't seem to love LeBron James any more. TBG was part of the conversation; my native Clevelandian was hollering at the commentators with as much energy and enthusiasm and intellectual rigor as the panelists themselves.
And, why not? He's followed The King since high school, hurt with the rest of his hometown when he was deserted for Miami and a championship ring, thrilled when he returned, crossing his fingers as the Cavaliers prepare to meet Steph Curry and the newbies-to-the-championship-arena Golden State Warriors on Thursday.
But, first, we have to get there.
And that is why my house was filled with women's college softball this weekend. At the top of their game, in the sunshine in Oklahoma City, teams of long haired women faced off against one another as their families cheered them on from the sidelines. Sneer if you will, those of you who fail to see the beauty in the game. The Bride pitched in high school and college and coached teams in Illinois and Kansas and Alabama; it was fun to imagine her on the field, vying for a national championship.
The players all had long hair, french braided or cornrowed or clasped in rubber bands at random lengths along their backs. Most of them wore makeup, none of which smeared. Some wore bracelets, woven threads or colorful rubber. There were top of the last inning three run hits, bad calls by the umpires, wild pitches which batters stood still to take in the helmet, and some very fine bunting.
I can't remember the last time we watched a baseball game at any level; this weekend it was all I saw for three days. This is really a sports drought.
We watched the Stanley Cup Regional games, cheering the Rangers and the Blackhawks and marveling at the quickness of both the players and the announcers. Knowing nothing about the game at all did not stop us from judging the action, the refereeing, the coaching decisions. We are passionate fans, even in our ignorance.
And now, it is Monday afternoon. The Women's College World Series starts in a few hours. Other than that, there is nothing until Thursday night, when the basketball resumes.
I hope he makes it til then.