Friday, July 31, 2015

Our visit is coming to an end.
FlapJilly and her parents will have to get by without live-in sitters and errand runners.
The grandparental units will have to survive without this:
It's not going to be easy on any of us.

We went to the park this morning, for swinging
and greeting our public with a queenly wave.
The sandbox came home with us in her diaper, but she wasn't worried at the moment.

Once we got home, crawling between Mommy and Grandpa 
left me with plenty of time to admire her curls.
There will be many milestones before we see her again.
She'll be walking and sleeping through the night and cutting her molars.

One thing will never change, though.
Grandma will always love her.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

And Even More Baby Pictures

I'm not going to make any excuses.
It's FlapJilly's birthday and we've been celebrating all day.
Grandpa helped her downstairs 
and then we went out to breakfast.
She was the belle of the ball, amusing the owner, the waitress, and the grumpy old man who entered with a frown and ate with a grin, waving and playing peek-a-boo with our little darling.

She brings joy wherever she goes.
We're the passive participants, reveling in the reflected glory.
It's among the most fulfilling roles either of us has ever held.

After a nice, long nap, Little Cuter set up the water park in her backyard.
She didn't want to break out the air pump, so the palm tree and the slide were left uninflated.
Grandma's lungs filled the orange ring,  
but the water was much more interesting.
She brought her mouth closer and closer, 
tried to grab the droplets, 
and then
SUCCESS! 
 There was a gentle breeze, a sunny sky, and a happy baby.
Life was good.

The afternoon nap was a fantasy.
Between the afternoon's excitement and Thomas the Wonder Dog's barking, sleep was elusive.
So, down she came to the living room, where much fun ensued.
Dinner was eaten, a bath was given, and down she came for more fun.

Standing
and sitting 
this sturdy birthday present with the twirling, colorful animals 
held her attention  
until Daddy needed just one more hug.

She went to bed, the kids went to the movies, and Grandpa and I are babysitting.

Life is good.






Wednesday, July 29, 2015

And More Baby Pictures

I tried, denizens, I really did.  
I was four paragraphs into a more serious post, and then FlapJilly woke up from her nap.  
That was it for thinking.  It was time for loving. 
There was a lot of that going on. 
When that tush started toddling away, 
my heart followed right behind.
The pink kitchen was a birthday gift.
It's a perfect foil for the toss everything onto the floor stage she's inhabiting right now.
We can discuss the politics of pink kitchens in another post.
For now, I can only discuss the adorableness of playing Where's the Baby? with the living room drapes.
The balls are on loan from FlapJilly's own Mary Poppins. 
She brought them with the mesh bag, but FlapJilly prefers them on the floor.
(cf. pink kitchen comment above) 
The baby tosses and the grandparents clean up.
The baby is not amused. 
and takes action on her own.
Grandma doesn't seem to mind at all.
Look at that face.
Would you argue with anything she did?

One year ago today, she came into the world.
It's time to start on the second million kisses.
Excuse me while I begin.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

More Baby PIctures

Because I am having so much fun, because I am overwhelmed with the wonderfulness that is my littlest relative, I am incapable of typing anything resembling profundity.

I could write about the books I've read lately, but Goodnight Moon  and Sandra Boynton's Pajama Time don't lend themselves to in depth analysis.  They do, however, lead to snuggles and that is, at this point, much more important to me.

Yes, it's true, I have baby brain.

We took her out to lunch yesterday. SIR carried her on his shoulders because the stroller lost its space in the trunk to our suitcases and never made the return trip.
She grabs on with a serious grip; TBG's senior citizen follicles are no match for the tugging. SIR has no such problem; he enjoys the trip as much as his daughter does.

The front of her shirt has pictures of The Avengers - Captain America, The Hulk, and two others whose names escape me at the moment.

The back of the shirt has ruffles. 
That encapsulates my little one - tough and delicate in one delectable package.

I'll try to be more thoughtful tomorrow, but I'm making no promises.
This grandparenting thing is just too delicious for words.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Where Has The Time Gone?

One year ago today, I was here in Illinois.  Little Cuter, pregnant and nesting, took me to the garden center where her neighbor's child gave us a great deal on a pink and white hyacinth.  We planted it in a pot destined for her deck, and decided it was a lovely present with which to greet her baby.

That baby arrived on July 29th, but parties in the middle of the week aren't the most convenient for working parents.  So, family
 and friends
  gathered on Saturday at FlapJilly's house to celebrate 52 weeks of babyhood.  

It was perfect, just like the birthday girl herself.
Little Cuter painted the antique high chair to match the decor.  

The local grocery made wraps and croissant sandwiches and there were salads and sangria but mostly there was this
 and this
 and this
The personal smash cake was much too hard for her to penetrate.
 Grandma had no problem using fingers as cutlery and moving the process along.
 FlapJilly would like to thank all of you for the birthday wishes.
As is our family tradition, she'll be celebrating all week.
More pictures will follow.
I'm having too much fun to think about writing.

Friday, July 24, 2015

On The Road Again

Off to see the grandbaby, because she's turning one and she'd notice that we weren't there... right?

No, TBG, it's not a surprise party.... although we did have fun with that thought after you verbalized it.  According to our daughter, "it can't be a surprise party because FlapJilly doesn't know what a party is."  

I disagree with that - the party is wherever SHE is!

And that, dear readers, is in Illinois.  I am still creating birthday gifts and doing laundry and haven't even begun to think about packing, but that all paled when Little Cuter called this morning, with a mommy question.

"Talk me down off a ledge, please," came right after her subdued "Hi" ... the Hi with the tremor right behind it.  That tone clutches at my heart and sends my stomach into my throat, but I calmly tell her that I have nothing else to do but listen, and help.

That's the same kind of story Michelle Obama told me in my hospital room when I couldn't stop crying.  As she held me in her arms, tubes snaking everywhere, my face leaking on her from every available orifice, she patted my back and cooed in my ear.  "That's okay.  Just cry it out.  We've got nothing but time."

The leader of the free world and his spouse had nothing else to do right then but listen to me weep.  I believed it then and I believe it now, just as my child believes me when I say that I will listen until she is no longer in need.  That kind of belief keeps us going in the most difficult of times; we're lucky to have it.

And so I listened and she talked and she wondered and we planned and she listened and we shared memories and agreed that trust your gut is the most important rule of parenting, and she went off to do just that.

She called back fifteen minutes later.  With her questions answered and her anxiety relieved, she could worry about ruining a birthday party for a human who doesn't know what a party is. 

We laughed.  She went on to work and I had my nails done and I worked out and I shopped for last minute essentials and came home to finish the laundry and pack.

There may be a lot of picture posts next week.... I'm warning you in advance.  An adoring set of grandparents will be fawning over the most perfect little human on the planet, and we might just have to share.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How I Appear to My Daughter

In yesterday's post, I described myself as a person who is often more tentative than I'd like to be.

That surprised Little Cuter, who took ten minutes out of her busy work day to put her feet up on her computer tower and call me to wonder.  

"Really, Mom?  I never think of you as tentative.  You are a hard charger."

It's nice to know that the illusion I strive to create has been accepted. 

I'm always anxious inside.  I carry with me a sense of unworthiness.  I can trace it back to my first day of 1st grade.  I spent the first 8 days of the school year in kindergarten, then skipped up to the big kids' realm.  The playground was different.  The rules were different.  There were so many more children running around, all of whom seemed to know exactly where to go, and with whom.

My neighbor, a "real" first grader, all of 2 months older than I, escorted me to the #4 painted on the playground's asphalt, and instructed me to wait there.  Obediently, I stood still, watching the world revolve around me and feeling alone.  It was obvious to me that I was deficient in some unknown trait which would have allowed me to join her and her friends.  

I was uncertain, uncomfortable, and frightened.  I had assumed that my friends from my street at home would be my friends on the playground at school.  But the boys were on the other side of the school, playing ball games and tag and climbing on the jungle gym.  The girls were segregated under the trees, playing house and running up the steps of the slide.

That slide.... oh, that slide.  It was taller than any I'd ever encountered.  The line moved quickly, not pausing passively for a tentative newbie who was terrified of heights. When the playground monitor took pity on my lonely self and walked me over to join the line, I was living a nightmare.  Nearly 60 years later I can, without much effort, conjure up the fear I felt as I stood at the top, too scared to bend my knees and sit down.

That feeling of social isolation and physical terror was with me all through elementary school.  I didn't like the school bus; I was afraid that I would be stuck in the back and never make it off at my stop.  I was afraid of the bus stop, and the giant dog running loose on the same corner.  

I didn't watch the same television shows the other kids saw; years later I realized that they all had older siblings who were driving the viewing decisions in their homes.  My little brother and sister and I were happy to watch Mickey Mouse and Mighty Mouse and Crusader Rabbit.  I didn't know that would be ground for derision, and I was blindsided when the teasing started.

As an adult, my verbal skills and general resiliency have helped me to overcome my childhood angst. I try to project a positive, confident persona, and, given my daughter's response, I must have been successful.  Still, hiding inside that outgoing exterior is the little girl who's worried that people won't like her, who doesn't understand what's going on, who is petrified and flummoxed and stuck.

I'm glad I didn't show that to Little Cuter; I wouldn't want that to be her expectation for how a grown woman should act.  I wish I could banish her entirely from my psyche, though.  She reappears more often than I'd like, sending me into a tailspin of anxiety... less often as the years pass, but there nonetheless.

Don't tell anybody, though.  I like the notion that my kid thinks I'm tough.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Feeling Inspired

A fellow BlogHer '15 attendee called it falling into Wonderland. 

Sharing my Kathleen-provided bottle of Prosecco with total strangers seemed an absolutely natural thing to do.

I began to use hashtags in my texts and emails; Little Cuter was quite impressed with me.

Anyone was welcome to sit anywhere.  If only Junior High School had been like that.  Imagine the Grand Ballroom of the Midtown Hilton filled with women who wanted you to be their friend. Everyone had something to offer; the only problem was finding the time to learn it all.

I took notes on the recto. I wrote the phrases which touched me on the verso. SheKnows Media was thoughtful enough to include a bound journal in our welcome bags.  That right there encapsulates the entire experience - a social media mavens gathering whose organizers gave us paper notebooks to record our thoughts.

Soledad O'Brien made a return appearance,this time with three of the scholars her Starfish Foundation is sending to college.... colleges like Smith and Princeton...."not inexpensive universities!" as she pointed out with a laugh.  Her pride in the young women sharing the stage was contagious; several thousand of us in the audience were beaming.  My takeaway?
Philanthropy doesn't have to be with a Capital P.  You do what you can.  Small is good.
Majora Carter, who is working to revitalize the South Bronx through one amazing project after another, spoke to us about her newest venture: urban on-shoring of tech jobs. This links to a video - with sound.  Tech companies were having trouble finding reliable, off-shore beta testers.  She offers training and then job placement right there in the South Bronx, creating jobs for those who thought there would never be one for them, and providing a solution for which companies were willing to pay.  My takeaway?
See the problem for what it is and know that there are many solutions. 
Teneshia Jackson Warner had us guffawing as she described her months long, ultimately successful campaign to get Russell Simmons to hire her at no fee.  He blew her off time and time and time and time again, yet she kept faxing and calling and showing up.  She flew across the country, west to east, north to south, which was, she admitted, somewhere on the other side of normal. 

But that was just where she encouraged us to be. On the journey required to become who you are meant to be, you have to examine the distance between your comfort zone and your dream. As a person who is often more tentative than I'd like to be, my takeaway was simple:
Be willing to stretch when the moment is before you.
I'm going to work on that.

Patrice Cullors and Opel Tometi, the creators of #BlackLivesMatter, set my head spinning.  Gwyneth Paltrow did not.  There were blog advisors and Girl Scouts and SEO's, and I'll get to them over the next few posts.  For now, though, I'm going to work on stretching.
 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Mother's Best Friend

There are some stories only a best friend can share.  There are some stories a mother might not share with her daughter... or might no longer be able to share with her daughter.  Those stories were front and center last Tuesday, and I'm still basking in the glow.

G'ma grew up next to Gladys; G'ma on the right, with the porch.

There were no metal gates or awnings then, nor when I visited in the 1950's and '60's.  We played stoop ball, out in the street, tossing the Pensy Pinkie against (obviously) the stoop.  We played handball in the narrow alley on the right.

I never thought about what it was like for my mother to be a little girl on that stoop, in that alley.  I knew about some of the neighbors, but the stories were just that - stories.  I didn't see the relevance to the woman who was my parent.  I couldn't and didn't imagine her as a child.

But I knew about Gladys.  I knew that she and G'ma had some grand adventures - taking the train to the West Coast, skiing in Vermont, camping, going to college, teaching.  I knew that Gladys and her husband introduced my parents.

I always wondered why.

The girls' friendship became less important as their married lives began.  We moved to the suburbs, they kept an apartment in Queens.  As an adult, G'ma wasn't one for friendships; I never saw her sitting around the kitchen table with a girlfriend, or going shopping with a girlfriend, or having lunch with a girlfriend.

I always wondered what happened to Gladys, but I never asked.

Somehow, it felt intrusive.  I had to wait until I was ready to see my mother as something other than my own appendage before I felt comfortable asking. That didn't happen until my twenties, when I was busy creating my own space in the world.  By the time I turned around and took a breath, dementia was stealing her memories. I gnashed my teeth; I'd waited too long.

After I was shot, Gladys' daughter searched the interwebs and found me.  We connected our mothers via snail mail; both of them preferring it to typing pixels on a screen.  Gladys understood G'ma's fading brain; her letters were full of memories and love.  They always made G'ma smile.

Last week, I went to New York a day early, just to see Gladys.  She's an artist, a sculptor, a poet, a widow, a rabble-rouser, a mother of two girls, a grandmother.... but when I walked through her door she was a teenager seeing her best friend for the first time in too long a time.

"Oh, it's my little Esther!"

There were tears. There were hugs.  There were more tears. More than once, we found ourselves holding hands.

We talked about my grandparents. "Radicals, for sure.  I remember going to rallies with Sam.  Ida was maybe less outgoing but believed very strongly.  After all, the Rosenbergs happened right around the corner from us."

Daddooooo teased G'ma about her Commie Parents; apparently, he wasn't that far from the truth.

G'ma was the better skier, the first to drive a car, the one who encouraged Gladys to join her at Brooklyn College.  Yes, they were old when they married; 26 and 27.... practically old maids.  G'ma's oft repeated lament that she "went to college when all the good men were at war" felt right to Gladys, too.

Daddoooo was incorrigible when he met G'ma; she was known for sighing "Oh, Herbie...." on a regular basis.  She didn't seem to mind his outrageous behavior, she seemed to find it somewhat amusing.  I was there to testify that it got real old real fast and stayed that way until he died; we took a moment to ponder their life together.

At that moment, I was watching my mother and father as young adults. I was glad Gladys was there, on the couch, holding my hand.

Gladys's wedding movie was on the DVR; my mother was ravishing, happy, smiling, full of joy and enthusiasm.  She seemed happier there, in the big room in the basement on Gladys' side of their shared 6-flat, than she does in the movie shot eighteen months later, at her lavish wedding at the Waldorf-Astoria.

"Maybe she saw him as her way out?  He was a very successful businessman, remember."

No, I don't remember.  I remember having enough-but-never-more, I remember the bankruptcy, I remember the arguments.  Was he not worth the effort if the money wasn't there?

I don't like to think of my mother in that light, and I don't think I need to do so, either.  That was part of her marriage; I was part of the family.  Sure, their divisiveness made for some miserable moments, but I was always able to recognize that it was all about them, and not about me.

I wished they were happier.  I knew I couldn't make it so.  I always felt loved.

We agreed that that would have to be enough.

Over lunch, I ready her poetry and looked at the pictures she'd found.  I took only one.

As Gladys said,  "She was a real bathing beauty!"

Monday, July 20, 2015

Donald Trump, John McCain, and What I Learned This Weekend

There will be much to say about BlogHer '15 and New York City and seeing old friends and friends of friends, but I can't get past what I saw and what I felt in the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport this morning.

The seats at Gate 12 were grouped comfortably around a big screen tv. It wasn't dangling from the ceiling, it was on a bench at eye level. It was very hard to ignore.

CNN's talking heads were taking on Donald Trump. The New York Times reporter and the Republican advisor (What does that mean? Who is taking his advice?) were bemoaning the fact that the media had been sucked up into the Trump universe without investigating his positions.

The Huffington Post's announcement that their coverage of Trump's campaign would now be found where it belongs – on their entertainment pages – was grist for their mill. The moderator made reference to those of us in New York who know about his scandals more intimately than other Americans but he never went on to elaborate.

Having spent the past few weeks watching steam come out of TBG's ears every time that bankrupt, narcissistic, gives-business-a-bad-name ass shows his face on tv, I am well acquainted with his business failings. When I learned of this latest kerfuffle, I saw why it made a difference. The lack of respect he demonstrates towards everyone except himself may have come back to bite him after all.

What in the world made Trump think that John McCain's imprisonment in the Hanoi Hilton was his to assault? He was captured.... y'know what.... I like people who weren't captured is the flip side of his oft repeated I like winners.

What happened to acknowledging the years my Senator refused early release because it was not his turn? He still bears the scars and other physical reminders of living in a cage, a cage he could have left but for the fact that he honored those imprisoned before him. I don't agree with him all the time (cf Sarah Palin) but I've never dismissed his Vietnam experiences as unworthy of a hero.

So, the talk shows are filled with Is this the end of his campaign?

I'm not sure that's the question I'd be asking. I'd be wondering why he got as much coverage as he did up until this point. 

All I can imagine is that it is summertime and people are looking for fluff. That's where I'd been languishing until this morning, when a brief mention of a post on Twitter put it all into a different and more disturbing perspective.

Trump has been calling Mexicans rapists for weeks, and only now are people saying he's through.

BlogHer '15 was filled with eye opening experiences, many centering on the marginalization of people of color. This tweet brought it all to a head for me.

I listened to the founders of #BlackLivesMatter. I listened to AvaDuVernay. And I heard an exquisite post, After Eric Garner, What Do I Tell My Son? Click through, read it for yourselves, and pause, as the author did, half way through, to sob.

I can't imagine what it's like to be frightened for your children every time they leave the house. Not only the universal my-heart-is-living-within-my-child-and-I-can't-be-around-him-and-keep-him-safe worry that all parents share, but that worry with an extra layer on top.

Will the police stop him? Will he behave in a way that keeps him out of trouble? Will it matter how he behaves? How do I explain respect for authority when young black women are dying in jail cells


Sure, Donald Trump is the story here... on the surface. I'm thinking that tweet is alerting us to something more … something more important …. something I spent a lot of time thinking about this weekend.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Never Underestimate the Value of A Chance Encounter


I learned a valuable lesson this afternoon. It came at me unexpectedly, and rather loudly. It made me smile and brought more than one tear to my eye. It erased all the angst of getting myself and my suitcase and my overloaded giant purse from Long Island to mid-town Manhattan. It left me with a gigantic smile on my face and a lovely, warm, gushy feeling in my heart.

It all started three years ago, the last time BlogHer held a conference in New York City. The venue was the Midtown Hilton, a mega-hotel on 6th Avenue. I arrived late in the evening, after watching the Olympics' men's beach volleyball competition. Those tiny little bathing suits and those perfect pecs stayed with me as I waited patiently for a registration clerk.

She was as tired as I was, but we both agreed that thinking about those tiny little bathing suits could cheer us up in no time. She'd been watching it, too. We marveled at the feats the human body could accomplish while looking so good, wearing next to nothing. We laughed about the impossibility of creating that look for ourselves, or any of the men in our lives, though we were happy enough with life as it was.

I don't remember if she recognized my name, or if she asked me about my cane, or if January 8th came up in another context. As always happened with kind hearted souls, she was touched. She admired my fortitude in venturing cross country alone, putting myself in crowded situations which made me vaguely uncomfortable. She talked about watching the news coverage, crying over the loss of life and the damage to the lives of those of us who survived. She was proud to be speaking to a survivor; she admired my spirit.

If there were people in line behind me, we didn't notice them. We were wrapped up in the connection we'd created across the counter. I felt like I was staying with a friend.

She found me a beautiful room and sent me on my way.

The next afternoon, returning to my room for a quick shower before the conference's afternooon sessions began, I found a bottle of champagne, six chocolate dipped strawberries, and a lovely note. She was pleased to have met me, delighted to have helped me, and hoped I enjoyed the Hilton.

With bubbles rising in my glass, I toasted her kindness.

Fast forward to this afternooon. After a lovely morning on the boardwalk in Long Beach with Roomie,
full of pastrami on rye, I rode the Long Island Railroad into Penn Station. I walked the wrong way on 33rd Street, ending up on 8th Avenue instead of 6th. (They can call it Avenue of the Americas all they want; it will always be 6th Avenue to me.)

The taxi driver hopped out and shoved my suitcase into the back seat and was in his seat before the light changed. Thirty minutes of horrendous traffic later he unloaded the luggage at the Midtown Hilton.

I was hot and aggravated; there were more cars on the road in those 20 blocks than I see in a week in Tucson. There were jaywalkers and trucks turning left from the center lane and horns blaring and bicycle delivery people careening between the lanes. New York City is many things; busy is one of them.

The line for registration at the Hilton was only 5 people deep. In a 46 story hotel at 3pm this felt like a good sign. I waited patiently, moved to the desk when it was my turn, and began to engage the clerk in polite banter. I was hopeful that I could cute my way into a room on a high floor. I was tired and wanted to be up and away from the street noise.

Before I could wonder about my room, though, we were interrupted by a loud voice calling my name.

It was Kathleen, the registration clerk from three years ago.

Did I remember her? Did I remember talking about the Olympics and those teeny tiny bathing suits? Of course I did!

My original clerk handed me off to my old friend, who, by that time, had come around to the front of the desk to hug me. She said that seeing my name on the guest list for the conference had her eagerly anticipating my arrival. She told her colleagues about me. She hoped I'd check in while she was on duty..... and there I was.

There was more hugging, more laughing, and then the conversation turned serious. She said that my story had resonated with her more than she imagined it would. She often thought of me and of Christina-Taylor. She kept the paperwork from my stay in a folder on her desk, to remind her of our conversation.

And then there was Newtown and there were more dead children and, in the aftermath, the communty's challenge to the nation - Do 26 acts of kindness to remember the 26 murdered in the elementary school.

“I accepted that challenge. I thought of you and I did it.”

Stunned is a fairly apt description of my reaction. I told my story quite often in those days, to friends and strangers and registration clerks, but I never expected to have a personal impact on any of them. I felt that I was satisfying curiosity and I hoped that hearing my story would make a difference in their attitudes toward gun safety but it never occurred to me that a woman behind a hotel desk would change her life after talking to me.

She did. I cried. She cried.

We hugged, I got my key card, and I went up to the 40th floor to a lovely room with a great view downtown. And, when I came back after dinner, there was another bottle of champagne and a luscious dessert waiting for me on the dresser.

I toasted Kathleen once again, marveling at it all.

Sometimes, life throws you a ray of sunshine in the most unexpected manner. I'm holding this afternoon in my heart forever. After all, it's not often that the consequences of my actions come back to hug me in a hotel lobby.



Thursday, July 16, 2015

Libraries and Love

First printed in 2009.  The feelings are still the same.

I am living an embarrassment of riches.

After several months of waiting not all that patiently, I reached the top of the reserve list for Sara Paretsky's latest oeuvre . It now shares a shelf with Linda Fairstein and James Patterson and Anne Perry and Faye Kellerman, occupying the space just vacated by Patricia Cornwell. I am surrounded by library treasures and they didn't cost me a dime. I just had to show up with some identification and a utility bill proving that I actually live where I said I live and that was that. They gave me a pretty library card




(actually, it was mailed to the address I gave them..... just in case I had forged my gas bill, I guess...) and welcomed me to the community.

I've thanked Ben Franklin for the idea before, so I won't go there right now. Instead, I'm just going to gush. I've loved libraries in ....

Chicago under the Fullerton El tracks, from whose stacks I read all of Agatha Christie, armed with a xerox-ed list of titles which I crossed off as I found them on the shelves.

Ithaca under McGraw Tower, where the Andrew Dickson White Library


Courtesy of the


was the scene of some epic naps curled in the sofa looking down Libe Slope, but also where I rediscovered reading for pleasure after graduating in December but hanging around campus til May.

New York City's iconic Main Reading Room, waiting patiently for a minion to find my title within the vast expanses of the shelves to which they, and only they, had access, then sitting on my wooden chair at my section of the wooden table with the wooden barrier between my work and my neighbors' and feeling smart.

Tiburon, basking in the glow of a peninsula coming together to raise a proper library and, in the process, creating a community center touching 5th graders working on a project in the glass enclosed group room and AARP members learning to send emails to their grandkids at the media center in the middle of the room and gardeners sharing their bounty -- you have to love a place that has a waiting list for those who want to donate one of the weekly arrangements.

Oceanside, where Miss Carroll remembered my name and always had a really really good suggestion for me and where no one laughed when I said that I was going to be like Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and read all the books in the library in alphabetical order.
(I got somewhere into the B's before I gave up....)


So today, when I realized that a Jeffery Deaver novel had taken up permanent residence in my trunk, I stopped in to return it and pick up Hardball. The self-check-out terminal gently directed me to the Information Desk where I was informed, regretfully and sorrowfully, that I owed $5.50 in fines. I handed over a crisp Lincoln and, before I could get into my change purse the librarian said, "Oh, y'know what, this will be just fine." And she closed the cash drawer.

I was stunned. This was a debt I had incurred knowingly - I had seen The Broken Window in my trunk for 2 weeks, and I'd received an email reminding me to return it, and I'd driven past the library or forgotten it when I'd gone in and I owed them the whole amount and I was going to pay it. I had 2 quarters and a nickel and I made her take the extra 5cents because I was making a point:

Libraries are to be cherished and supported and nurtured and skipping out on fines just is not right.


But I waxed even more eloquent, there at the Information Desk, in front of this poor librarian who was only trying to do me a favor and make me smile. I went on to taking responsibility for one's actions and from there segued nicely into there have to be consequences and was just about to launch into specific examples when I realized that there was a line of people behind me and that, perhaps, just maybe, it might be possible that my voice was a tad louder than the inside voices good parents insist be used in libraries.

I took my book and left.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Missing G'ma

This is reprinted from 2014.  I'm on my way to visit G'ma's best friend, the girl next door, the woman who introduced her to my dad.... and my mom is in my heart right now.  
*****

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

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

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

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

I want my Mommy back.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Getting to NYC

TBG was a trooper and drove me to the airport.  We left the house at 6:15 in the morning; I hate setting my alarm for 5:anything so I zoomed around from 6.  There wasn't much to do - shower, dress, pay a bill I had forgotten - which was a good thing.  I was tired.

The Tucson airport is a dream come true for a traveler.  With my printed out boarding passes, I zipped through the security line with only one person ahead of me.  I didn't get the pre-check this trip; sometimes I do and sometimes I don't and I can't figure out why or when.  My Converse came off, my laptop came out, I was scanned and sent on my way.

Our gate was changed from A8 to A7; I kept my seat.  American Airlines offered me an upgrade to Gold Status; that put me in the fourth group to board the plane.  My aisle seat, a small enough man in the middle, a smooth take off and landing and I was in Dallas/Ft. Worth before I finished my book.  It was a simple, easy trip.  I ate my Kashi bar and a plumcot from the stash I'd brought from home.  American thinks club soda is the same thing as sparkling water, and I drank it (it was free, so who am I to complain..... channeling Daddooooo made me smile).

I took the train around DFW to my next gate.  I had an hour between flights, which was enough time to wait on the long long line at Wendy's.  I've been intrigued by their Strawberry Salad advertisements and this was a chance to try one.  It traveled well, the crunchies were scrumptious, the apple balsamic vinegar was tasty, and the spokeswoman is right - cut up lettuce is cut up lettuce, no matter how much you pay for it.

Boarding the next flight finally happened.  We settled in, adjusted the air vents, and were treated to the news that LaGuardia Airport was having traffic issues; we were delayed for an hour.  I didn't have a connection to worry me, so I finished The Silent Wife and had another plumcot.  The skinny young men occupying the rest of my row were silent, too.

Eventually we took off and bumped our way east.  I took the Airporter into the city, couldn't understand the almost-but-not-quite-English instructions from the driver about securing the free shuttle to my hotel, grabbed a cab driven by an Uber-like, friendly twenty something, and was at my boutique hotel five minutes later.

Cabbies in NYC like to talk. Where was I from?  Why was I here?  How long have I been blogging?  Did I use Wordpress?  Did I find it as complicated as he had?  I left him my card; perhaps he's reading about himself right now.  The demographics of the Burrow's readership is changing.

I took my Hotelie friend's advice and strolled across the street to Avra Estiatorio, an upscale Greek restaurant.  Sea bass souvlaki, fresh bread and radishes and olives and humus as freebies.... my tastebuds and I were very very pleased.  I tried to avoid looking at the prices; this is not Tucson and it's scary.

And now I'm happily ensconced in my upgraded room, typing to you.  I know I said that I wouldn't have time, but, apparently, I was wrong.  Tomorrow starts the fun part of the trip.  As travel days go, this one was long and stupid but relatively painless.  I'm glad to have you around to share the stories.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Travel Angst

I'm excited. I really am.  I've been looking forward to the adventure all summer long.  Now, it's almost here, and I'm all atwitter.

My tummy is roiling, jumping, flopping, on the verge of aching.  Why?  I cannot say.  I just report the facts.

My clothes are in piles on the closet floor; decisions to whittle the selections down to those which make the cut are stymied.  I look at the clothes - new, old favorites, bright colors, sedate blacks, light shoes and sneakers and everything comfy and clean and why oh why is it giving me the willies?

My original plan had been to take only my Vera Bradley doggie carrier.  Yes, it's a doggie carrier but I didn't know that when I bought it.  It's the perfect size for visiting FlapJilly and her parents, because I leave my basics in their house.  The carrier holds gifts and a few select items perfect for whatever occasion sent me their way.  It's light and bright and makes me smile.  I love traveling light; a carry on which fits under the seat in front of me defines that mode of travel.

But seven days away from home, flitting between hotels and friends and relatives, dressing up and dressing for dancing and dressing for meetings and greetings and museums .... well, that leaves me with several pairs of shoes, and almost every skirt in my closet.  The bag is bursting, and I haven't put in the toiletries and sweater and gifts for my hostesses.

I relented and brought in the rolling suitcase.  I'm not going to take advantage of my free checked bag on this leg of the trip; my AAdvantage credit card gifts me that freebie, but I'm changing planes and worried that my clothing will end up in Dubuque while I'm in NYC.  I'm reboarding in Dallas/Ft. Worth, an airport which has had its share of delays and weather related disasters; a checked bag will tie me to my original flight and diminish my opportunities to escape, should they exist.

Trust me.  TBG sat in the Phoenix airport for hours because his checked bag tethered him to a flight that was cancelled.  He couldn't change anything; he was attached to his suitcase, wherever it was.

These are the kinds of worries running through my mind.  The weather report is perfect.  Why am I so anxious?

I'm staying in a hotel recommended by a Hotelie friend; she's never steered anyone wrong, and she loved this boutique Marriott property on her last visit.  I have all kinds of Marriott elite status points; I'm usually upgraded when I check in.  Yet, somehow, I'm worrying.  I'm not sure what I'm worrying about.  I'm just worrying.

I have to get from Kings Point to Bethpage on Tuesday.  The Long Island Rail Road would be my choice for transportation, but the two towns are on separate lines which requires traveling to a hub and changing trains.  Somehow, spending my vacation in Jamaica Station doesn't excite me.  Uber doesn't seem to have a presence on Long Island.  I think I'll use a car service, treating myself with G'ma's inheritance, traveling like a lady, as she would say.

Dinner with friends at the beach may be less wonderful than we anticipate; there's a 70% chance of thunderstorms that day.  That won't stop the conversation or diminish the joy, but the dancing might be a little soggy outside.

I'm not seeing everyone I should.... and that adds another fillip to the fox trot going on in my belly.  Life is too short.  I don't need negativity.  I just don't want to.  That's going to have to be enough.... I hope.

There will be smiles and laughter and hugging.  Old friends and young cousins and pizza and the Museum of Modern Art will fill my days before, during, and after a wonderful conference of like minded humans.  I'll be wined and dined and have no one to answer to or for except myself.

Why am I not able to relax and enjoy the anticipation?




Friday, July 10, 2015

Traveling

I'm off to the East Coast on Monday, all by myself.

I'll be visiting G'ma's oldest and dearest friend from her childhood.  I'll be staying with a cousin I see far too seldom.  I'll hang with Roomie and other high school friends, dancing under the stars at the beach, eating pastrami, riding the Long Island Rail Road.

There are dinners with friends from California and more friends from (junior) high school and, perhaps a niece or two, if I can fit them in.

I'm going to be sure to eat a slice (that's how you speak of pizza in The Big Apple) and have a pretzel from a street vendor.  I may indulge in a hot dog from a street cart (did you know they are illegal in Los Angeles?) or I might splurge on a full lunch, including fries and a coke, from Nathan's.

The trip is planned around BlogHer'15, the annual conference sponsored by my syndication company.  They've recently merged with She Knows, a giant female social media conglomerate; it will be interesting to see if the friendliness of past conferences can be retained.

There are amazing speakers coming to share their expertise - Melinda Gates and  Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi (the founders of Black Lives Matter), Girls Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Christy Turlington and Ada DuVernay, the director of Selma.  There are workshops on branding and content and image and social media and a Geek Bar to help with those pesky tech questions.

I have an appointment set up with a consultant from Go Daddy; if there are changes in The Burrow's look you can blame that meeting.  I'm going to an early morning yoga/stretching class sponsored by Depends (no laughing, please.... apparently, these undergarments are the new wave in adult fashion).  I have a consultation with a techie from Best Buy who promises to show me how to get the most out of Lenore the Lenovo Laptop.  There are parties every evening and a gigantic Expo with vendors tossing swag at all who walk by.

The conference is in a hotel across the street from the Museum of Modern Art; I'll be there for sure, getting my fix of The Bather.  He looks as tentative as I feel most days; it's nice to know that Paul Cezanne felt my pain.

There is always the theater, if I find myself with an empty evening.  There's the Shake Shack and Times Square and The High Line and the shops on Madison Avenue.

It's going to be a busy week, and I'm not sure that writing posts will happen.  If they do, I'll publish them.  If they don't, you'll find oldies but goodies filling this space.

Everybody deserves a vacation, right?  Even your trusty, every weekday blogger.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Is Anybody Else Worried?

United Airlines, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Wall Street Journal's online presence were all hacked today.  At least, that's what the interwebs are calling it.  Homeland Security says it's not a terrorist attack, that they are three separate incidents, that each is an internal issue, that no one should worry.  The companies are saying it's the software and nothing to worry about for the long term.

I'm sorry.  I'm worried.

Sure, bad things come in threes and accidents will happen and no one is claiming responsibility but I'm still worried.  I don't believe in coincidences.  I don't think that glitches, the Exchange's word, are the best description for whatever halted trading on the NYSE at 11:31 am.  This is the backbone of the American financial system; glitches seems far too minor a term for something that shut it down.

UAL used the same verbiage, but if I were in the airport this morning I'd be looking for something more serious than a glitch at which to direct my fury.  Hand written tickets?  Electronic scales that no longer compute? Ripple effects throughout the day, all over the country.... glitches just doesn't cut it.

And, I'm still worried.

If I were a bad guy, I think I'd test out my project before I ran with it full bore.  I'd do mini-hacks, all about the same time, looking for problems and ferreting out solutions.  Then, once the kinks were worked out, I'd return for a grand finale.

Like I said, I'm worried. I'm flying on six different planes in the next few weeks.  I'm sleeping in mid-town Manhattan in an enormous hotel.  I'll be in large groups and assemblies and not all of the rooms will have immediate access to the outdoors.... in fact, none of them will have that.

As I feel my anxiety level rising, I breathe deeply and remember that, in fact, I'm worrying about nothing.

After all, they were only glitches.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Updating the Manse #2 - Meeting the Consultant

I watched her drive past the house.  It was twenty minutes before our appointment, and I was catching up on Facebook, sitting at the desk, watching the world go by.  It's a small slice of the world outside my front window; our neighborhood leads nowhere, just back out to the main artery.  The cars driving past are neighbors or vendors, for the most part.

A white cross-over proceeding slowly, pausing for house numbers, stands out.  When that car sped up after passing our address on the mail box, I knew that our consultant was going to hang out in the cul de sac at the bottom of the hill.  When that car drove back and parked in the driveway nineteen minutes later, I fitted a smug smile on my face and opened the door.

I'm my own personal neighborhood watch.

Lugging two cases-on-wheels and a purse, she struggled with the garden gate, then turned with a smile.  That was a great first impression; it felt as if she really was glad to meet me.  She's smart and neat and (obviously) prompt, with a firm handshake and a business card in my hand before we said anything further.

She wants me to know how to find her, and how to pay for items at the Container Store itself.  My project will be charged as a whole; discounts applied after certain thresholds are met. I have a loyalty promotion and a refund of the consultation fee coming my way; before we looked or chose or measured she wanted to be sure that I had the information I would need at the end.

It was a very comforting way to begin.

TBG gave her the grand tour of his closet.  He wants drawers, not shelves or baskets.  He doesn't need a lot of hanging rods, but there are many many ways to configure the containing of the infinite variety of exercise outfits he owns.  There are long bike shorts and short bike shorts and padded bike shorts and those without any support at all.  His socks are all white, but they are of varying heights and softness.  His upper body is covered in tank tops and sleeveless tees and short sleeved and long sleeved cotton and wick-away shirts.

Each segment of each segment deserves its own storage space. That's a lot of storage space.

The laundry room took more thought.  I was prepared to remove the built in cabinetry and start from scratch.  I'd re-purpose the cabinets to the garage, clearing clutter from the floor space. I was enjoying the prospect of finally solving the storage conundrum created by a house with no basement and no attic.

The consultant begged to differ.  Why would remove beautiful built-ins?  They add to resale ("Did I mention I'm never moving again?"  "Well, your heirs will have to deal with it. Think of them.") value.  It's intuitively less expensive to add shelving and baskets on wheels, and it saves a whole lot of work.  I'm not sure that the existing space can accommodate what I want, but that's why The Container Store has designers on staff.

Apparently, my consultant is my project manager.  There's a design team which will develop the preliminary plans.  There's a construction crew - trained at headquarters - to do the custom install.  There's a contractor do do the measuring of our slanted corners and tight spaces.  If I get confused, I have the consultant's card.

And now, we wait.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Remembering Daddooooo

There was something to that John Philip Sousa inspired music I was playing all weekend.  It opened up posts and memories and kept a smile plastered to my face.
Considering that the sun has barely shone, that the beasties are devouring my gallardia, that it's humid and hot and I might as well be sweltering on a beach in these conditions, that my car needs a bath but I don't want to wash it because it rains every day... well, let's just say that the smile was no mean feat.
Pandora's mix included Bizet's March of the Torreadors from Carmen.  After two notes, all I heard was Daddooooo; Bernstein could have been conducting the Oceanside Junior High School Marching Band for all the difference the music made.

My head was filled with my father's bombastic baritone, bellowing the words through a gigantic smile and a puffed out chest.  No, he didn't know Bizet's lyrics.  He had the New York version, which went like this:
TOR-E-O-DORO, don't spit on the floor,
Use the cuspidor,
Whaddaya think it's for???
That basic theme repeats, ad nauseum, and so my phantom father and I had lots of opportunities to dance around the kitchen island last Saturday. There was lots of marching, and then there was standing proudly as we bellowed.... and don't tell me I didn't hear his voice, though he's been dead for more than a decade.

It was a moment, denizens.  Someone knew I needed a smile and a Daddy hug.

As if the programmer were channeling my mind, a few tunes later Dvorak's Humoresque was pouring out of the speakers and my father was, once more, in the kitchen.  This time, we were humming and gliding as we crooned:
Passengers will please refrain
From flushing toilets on the train.
The train is in the station.
I love you.
With a little twirl, a quick two step, a shake of the hips and the shoulders we finished the song with a smile.

My dad was difficult, but I'm beginning to see the wisdom in G'ma's suggestion that we concentrate on the good parts.  This was one of the good parts.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Post Fourth of July Snippet

Pandora's John Philip Sousa station was the perfect accompaniment for my gym work-out on Saturday.

My favorite pieces came from the same two albums - More Great Marches Not By John Philip Sousa
and Sousa's Greatest Hits & Some That Should Have Been.

As I listened to the Colonel Bogey March (composed by Kenneth J. Alford) I reflected on the fact that these musicians are the United States Marine Corps Band, The President's Own , as the album cover informed me.

It's nice to know that they have a sense of humor.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Happy 4th of July

The sky is pure blue, "painted that way" as G'ma said every time she looked up.  The occasional fluffy white cloud drifts by, and I'm hearing G'ma remark on that, too.  The flag in front of the house is swaying, the pole attached to one of the front columns with thin, silver wire.  

It's an elegant solution to TBG's reluctance to put holes in his house;  I feel like Daddooooo every time I wrap another ring around the post.  

Daddooooo was big on flags and the 4th of July.  We always went to the beach.  We always stopped at Custom Bakers in Long Beach on the way home, where the bakers always let us go back and stick our fingers in the vats of frosting.  

We always went to the boardwalk as the sun was setting.  There were skeeball games and mechanical fortune tellers and the smell of the ocean, too black to be seen but too noisy to go unnoticed.   We practiced our ooohs and aahhhs all afternoon, and we were in fine form by the time the booms and the bangs began.  

Through it all, the flags were flying.  

There was a big one in the bracket beside the garage door, until the house was painted and further holes were frowned upon (is this some kind of male thing I just don't get?). A pole-holding-tube was sunk into the flower box, and while it was neither sturdy nor attractive, it did the job and as far as Daddooooo was concerned that was that.  

There was a plastic flag attached to the car's antenna, and all our bicycles had flags on the handlebars.  


I'm not letting the tradition fade away.  Happy Fourth of July, denizens!  


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Updating the Manse

We've had 11 different homes since we've been married.  That's a lot, even considering the fact that we'll be celebrating 40 years of marital bliss this August.

To be fair, one of those residences was a three week stay in the San Francisco apartment TBG used while starting his new career; the rest of us remained in Chicago to finish up the school year.  But all the others held my family and our possessions for at least two years.

Five years was the most time we spent in any other abode.  We changed cities, wanted to own, needed a backyard, invested wealth in real estate, occupied a temporary space while looking for a retirement paradise, and landed here in the desert Southwest, with a firm promise to myself : Never Move Again.

Moving requires purging.  The operant question for everything you own boils down to this: Do I want to pay someone to move this?  It's surprising how often NO is the answer.  After each move, I had less detritus to store.  This didn't always translate into organized cabinets or neat closets; I manage to make a mess wherever I go, it seems.

But Tucson is my final stop.  Having proven that the house works for wheelchairs, I don't have to concern myself with making accommodations as we age.  The doors are wide enough to wheel into closets and toilets and two different showers.  There's a small step up to the front door which can, if needed, be ramped with ease.  We are there for the duration.

And therein lies the rub.  As first-time-long-time-homeowners, we are now, after 9 full years in one home, we are discovering the further joys of ownership over the long haul - things break.

The dials on my washer and dryer have been missing for years.  Brother replaced one when he visited after I was shot; the other is turned by grasping the metal stalk (with dry, non-greasy hands) and turning forcefully.  The plastic overlay is peeling off, the washer's inner drum is stained, the dryer heats everything to a crispy state, no matter the setting.

We lost the microwave a few years back; I'm still working on getting a stainless steel handle to replace the black plastic one on the new machine.  The glass door in the oven is permanently stained; no one has a suggestion for removing the grease which has worked its way behind the gaskets.

The dishwasher racks are new, too.  They don't make plastic clips the way they used to; KitchenAid was happy to replace the racks before I finished describing the issue.  "This happens quite frequently,, ma'am."

We painted the outside when the first cracks appeared; that was five years ago and those pesky cracks have, once again, reappeared.  We debate repainting the inside, but the downside of an open, flowing floor plan is that you can't paint just one room.  Everything does flow into everything else, which makes for delightful entertaining but creates problems for small changes.

And now, it seems, we need to replace the carpet in the master bedroom.  Nearly a decade of shoes and feet and situps and weddings have created more dirt than fiber.  The Carpet Police have given up.  It's hopeless, they say.  Do we go to a flooring store?  Do we call the lady on the tv with the terrible voice?  Who knows.

Then, there is the issue of TBG's closet.  I always get the biggest closet; that's our deal and I'm sticking to it.  In this house, though, the disparity is striking. The shelving and rods in his closet are not user friendly.  The door opens into the small space.  The shelving is open and he likes drawers, not baskets.  I put up a bulletin board in my closet; he wants one too.

The problem is, he's never been willing to invest the time and energy and money to upgrade it.  I've offered to use some of my inheritance from G'ma to create a beautiful space for him and, now, finally, he has agreed.

I went to the Container Store and set up a Customer Engagement.  A designer will come to the house and evaluate the situation.  She will have samples and ideas and suggestions and, when she leaves, we should have a finalized plan for improving the space.

It will cost lots more than I'd anticipated, but I've learned something since becoming a permanent resident  - nothing lasts forever.  If it's not right, it will continue to bother me unless I take action... action other than moving.

Given that, I asked her to take a look at the laundry room, too.

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