Monday, August 31, 2015

RIP, Puzzle Man

Merl Reagle died last week. I am bereft. There will be no more of his crossword puzzles to make me groan. 

He felt ill, went to the hospital, sent his wife home for his laptop and snacks, and was gone before she returned. They'd been together for years. She traveled with him and had breakfast with him and helped at his Tucson Festival of Books presentations and all the other presentations he made around the country and now he is no longer.

She was a lovely presence, gifting me with $25 to a local bookstore when I won 4th place at the last TFOB.  She was solicitous and thoughtful and now, in the space of an errand, she is alone.

I am so sorry for her loss.

Her husband has been with me every night for a long time. TBG and I retire to the bedroom, put on our jammies, and while he turns on the television I open my current collection of Merl Reagle's puzzles. 

The clues are challenging but manageable. The puns are smart and funny and awful.... just the way puns are meant to be.

Reagle was the youngest person to have a crossword accepted by the New York Times; he was 10. He was friends with all the puzzle people. He was funny and approachable and brilliant. He was, apparently, a talented musician as well.

He told a great story, and made a large audience feel cozy and comfortable.


The world is a lesser place now that he is no longer in it.

*****
I've written about him before here and here and here and here.

Friday, August 28, 2015

And Now, Alison and Adam and Vicki

Again and again and again, I tell myself that I won't let it affect me. Over and over and over, I remind myself that I am safe. The words are futile; I'm terrified and angered and sad. Like a scummy film on the surface of a pond, gun violence blunts the shining sun, diffusing it and muddying it and making the world a scary place.

Leaving the house wasn't easy this morning. Then, again, watching the television wasn't any easier. One of their own was shot down on a sunny morning and suddenly all those stories the anchors had been reporting over the years were no longer about the other – the victims were one of them.

I watched the CNN correspondent try to hold back his tears as Alison Parker's father said that his soul was crushed. I listened as Ashleigh Banfield tried to make sense of the senseless, describing how Adam Ward's fiancee watched him die from the production studio... in real time. Just saying the words made them facts that smacked her in her face; she had trouble physically forming the words.

And, again and again, I reassure myself that I haven't pissed off anyone in the recent past. I remind myself that I'm going to an out of the way place for lunch, that the salon for my haircut is off the beaten path, that Amster's kids and I will stay safe and secure in her house this afternoon. There will be no adventuring today; their Suzi is too terrified to deal with strangers right now.

This morning, at Starbucks, Mr. 10 and Amster saw the story in USA Today. “Mom! Just like Suzi!”

What do you say to a kind, thoughtful, loving 10 year old that will make it be okay? That I was like Mrs. Gardner, shot but surviving? That random things happen but not to 10 year old boys? That life is a crap shoot and we all take our chances just getting up and out of bed every morning? How can she reassure her little boy that he'll make it to adulthood?

I have no idea, and I'm kid-sitting for him and Mr. 12 this afternoon.

They came to the hospital and saw me, tubes running from every orifice, blood pooling in catchment bags, black and blue and weakened. They know that they are now older than Christina-Taylor ever will be. They watch me limp where I used to run.

They know first hand the consequences of guns in the hands of the mentally ill. What can I tell them that will reassure, will comfort, will explain? They don't need to be outraged; they are little boys.

Yet outrage is all I can muster right now. My Survivors' Group is peppered with messages about PTSD being triggered, filled with tales of sorrow and frustration and fury. Mostly, there is a weariness, a desire to find the lives we once knew, before guns robbed us of loved ones, of our abilities, of our sense of the world as a safe place.

Christina-Taylor and I were at a grocery store. Alison and Adam and Vicki were at a water park. None of us were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were doing what we do, in places we assumed would be violence free. I wanted to shake my congresswoman's hand. They wanted to report on improvements to a local river. These should have been non-events, ones in a series of every day activities. We all, each and every one of us, should have been able to call our fathers afterwards, as Alison did every day, sharing the experience, asking for advice and compliments.

Instead, they are dead and I am wounded and guns are everywhere.

Alison's father was right when he called our politicians cowards. He's the newest warrior in the crusade to make gun ownership a matter of public safety as well as a Constitutional guarantee. He vows that he will not give up until changes are made.

Well, let's see..... Donald J Trump (when did he add the J?) says it's not guns but the people wielding them. Marco Rubio wonders about the quality of mental health care. Hillary says that background checks are important and that laws should be strengthened but her emails and server problems have made her more of an after thought than a viable candidate and the reporting gave her exactly that amount of coverage.

And then they went on to Donald J Trump inviting an audience member on to the stage to prove that his hair is not a toupee.

I had to leave the room.

This cannot be allowed. This cannot become ordinary.

Perhaps the fact that a reporter and a camera man were the victims this time will change the trajectory of the reportage. When I call Senators and Representatives, I speak to their aides. I always ask how they feel about the fact that Gabe Zimmerman was doing their job when he was killed by a gun. “How does voting against sensible gun legislation make you feel safer about going to work? He was killed because he was a Congressional Aide.... just like you are....and that could have been you and your employer on the sidewalk outside the Safeway that morning, instead of Gabby and Gabe. What does your Senator say about that?”

They pause. Often they gasp. One began to cry.

That was the effect I was going for, because only when it becomes real to those in a position to make a difference can there be any hope for change.


Again and again. Over and over. I am so very very tired of it all.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Our New Sleep Number Bed

We got a mattress in a box today.
It required unpacking and unwrapping and unfolding.
There were instructions to be read.
We've never had to read the instructions for a mattress before.
We'd never watched the creation of a mattress before, either.
Today was the day.
The Sleep Number guys were right on time, in their Penske rental truck.  
They lugged our old and well worn mattress out and toted their much lighter boxes in.
Unwrapping the bladders
and filling them with air 
was the first, and longest, step. 
I admit that I giggled.
A lot. 
When they were full, they were set aside to rest. 
The tubes stay attached.
They connect to this control box
which sits underneath the platform.

The soft bottom layer was smoothed onto that platform,
and another, softer, gooshier layer went on top of that.

The edges were built, side by individual side slipping into the pre-cut curves.

A piece similar to the edges was inserted between the individual bladders, 
to keep his air from bumping into mine,

and then the whole thing was zipped together.

An egg-crate topping was added
and a decorative  covering was zippered over the whoe thing.
We were warned: "Don't take it off and wash it, it will shrink and you'll never get it back on."
I put our newly washed and perfectly fine mattress cover on top of it, 
remade it with fresh sheets,
and followed the instructions to find my perfect Sleep Number.

I seem to be a 30.
I'll keep you posted.
*****
Shameless plug:  
This was amazingly comfortable in the store, and should prove to be the same, here at home.
If you are thinking about buying one, be sure to tell them that Suzi Hileman referred you.
For every 10 referrals, we get a free queen size bed.
I'm sure The Cuters will enjoy that we're-not-buying-it-but-heck-if-it's-free-we'll-take-it addition to their visits.

No one asked me to write this.
No one is paying me to write this.

Isn't that a shame?



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sorry....

I was prepared to respond to Rain's comment on yesterday's post, but Skype and FlapJilly and Little Cuter derailed my plans.  I'm too filled with smiles to rain on my own parade.

Besides, the clouds in the sky are doing a fine job of that right now, as we roar into monsoon, our fifth season.  The cacti are puffed up, filled with water, and the crepe myrtle refuses to stop blooming. All of that is wonderful, but it pales in comparison to the joy I take in watching my girls toss bags of oatmeal onto the kitchen floor.

Her iPad was on the table, angled down to their play space on the floor, and I laughed along with them as the baby took the packets out of the box and flung them behind herself.  She has my daughter trained well; the bring-it-here-wench was right there when she was needed.  FlapJilly was never without more ammunition.

They substituted for maracas, too.  One handed, two handed, then tossed on the floor.  Cue the giggles.

She took a step and a half towards the couch, but the yes-she-is-just-about-walking video I received after our call confirms that she's capable of much more than that.  It's the whole separation thing; she pushes her elephant-on-wheels away from mommy, cruises to the rump end and pushes it back across the floor, stopping decisively and abruptly at her maternal unit's lap, into which she dumps herself, rather unceremoniously.
I can go away by myself, it's true.  Just be here when I get back.
We've all had moments like that, haven't we?

Watching her grow and learn is an awe inspiring activity.  She's figuring out that she has control over inanimate objects.  The sliding glass door is a percussion instrument, one she plays loudly and passionately and with both hands off and then on again, but not leaning for support.

She is so ready to walk on her own.  

Thomas the Wonder Dog didn't respond to her requests that he rejoin her in the living room, so we toured the coffee table in the family room, instead.  Little Cuter was a trooper, kneeling her way around and around the rectangle, pushing the computer so that FlapJilly and I could continue to look into one another's eyes.  We were having a great time; she was having trouble navigating small spaces not designed for anyone larger than 27 pounds.

By that time, we'd talked and laughed and tossed foodstuffs for nearly an hour.  My plans for a well reasoned screed (is that an oxymoron?) were foiled by those 27 pounds.  Those plans will be revisited tomorrow.  For now, I'm going to look at pictures and dream of those arms around my neck.

Yummmy.  Yummmy.  Yummmy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Unprepared - Not What I'm Looking For in a President

Donald Trump bloviated for an hour or so, and the talking heads agreed it was good political theater. There was nothing of substance, but there was a lot of us against them

Politicians are bad.  Everyone in the stadium is good.  There are so many of us here and we are so happy to be here.  The world is going to hell in a hand basket, because I was not there to save it. Once I have the power, though, things will be different.  

I'm going to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it.  I'll name it after ME.

When he lost his train of thought, he turned to those seated behind him and took pleasure in their applause.  Turning around, the bigger crowd not to be undone, cheered even louder.  Then he started over again.

It was stream of consciousness.  It was not prepared.  That worries me.

I want a President who thinks that the words she shares are valuable. I want a thoughtful communicator.  

I watched a rabble rouser, an Elmer Gantry, in Alabama last week.  He took the measure of the crowd, and played it like a fiddle.  He's preaching to the choir, and that's fine if that's all it is.  But the rest of the clown car can't seem to gain traction; I've heard Jeff Flake, Arizona's Republican junior Senator, more this week than I've heard Jeb Bush.  

When I'm looking at Jeff Flake as a voice of reason, you know something there's a bad moon rising.

And then there's Bernie Sanders.  

BlackLivesMatter is more than a hashtag these days, and it was last month when he blew an opportunity to connect with a piece of the voting public he will surely need to move forward with his campaign.  His rally on Social Security was disrupted, and he dismissed the invaders by telling them that they were off the topic.

I wish that he had been prepared to answer the issues that BlackLivesMatter raises.  I wish that someone on his staff had thought - or been tasked to think - about the marginalization of people of color, of the divergence in police tactics when race is considered, about the disconnect felt by those kids in Ferguson whose high school is unaccredited and whose school board doesn't seem to care.  

Instead, he was left stumbling and bumbling and annoyed.  He was unprepared.

The Presidency is a big job.  You have to be able to keep all those balls in the air while standing on one leg and whistling.  You can't do all that if you are unprepared.

Now, Hillary, she's prepared.  I just don't trust her..... and trust comes before prepared in what I'm looking for in a President.

It's going to be a long time til November, 2016.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Us


45 years.
44 cars... I think.
10 homes.... I'm pretty sure.

Your friends.... my friends.... our friends.
2 kids.... 1 grandkid.... more friends.

Losses and finding our way back and Hilepower and love.

The hardest work I've ever been glad I've done.

Is that hard to parse?
Really?
After listening to me for almost half a century?

Happy 40th Anniversary of the day we said We Would.
I'm in for 40 more, if you are.



Friday, August 21, 2015

Maybe It's Time to Stop Laughing

Donald Trump thinks it's passion.

Keep that in mind as I tell you a story.

Two skinny white guys, not in hoodies this time but one in a wife-beater..... a descriptive term I forbid Big Cuter from using in my presence or the presence of anyone whose respect he wanted to earn.... a term that fits just perfectly right here.....

Two white guys coming up from 'neath the streets of Boston, find a 58 year old Hispanic man asleep against the station wall...... and believing that it was OK to assault the man because he was Hispanic and homeless, they broke his nose, beat and kicked his head and body, and, before walking away laughing, they urinated on him.

State Troopers followed concerned citizens' prompts and arrested the brothers, who defended their actions by invoking the man who is ahead of every other Republican and Hillary Clinton in polls in Florida:
Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.
Trump seemed genuinely concerned when told the news; his face lost that creepy smile and his brows moved slightly together. He admitted it would be a shame   

But that only lasted a beat or two. 

Unable to contain himself, unable to resist the spotlight, unable to let go of the adulation heaped upon him by those too ignorant to know better, unable to make this about anyone but himself, he fanned the flames.  

Preaching to the choir, he commingled drunken mayhem with public policy.  Ignoring an opportunity to call for debate devoid of blood and urine he recovered quickly and excused the fools thusly:
I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.
No, Mr. Trump, they are criminals.  They are naughty.  They are cruel.  They are many, many things, but passionate is not one of them.  Roget's Thesaurus passion entry lists emotion, excitability, pain, desire, and love before getting to angry at entry 900 .... and entry 900 brings me to Resentment.

Yes, resentment and displeasure, animosity, anger, wrath, vexation.... they all are wound up in two grown men using your name to hurt another human being, Mr. Trump.

You may call it passionate.  I call it embarrassing.
*****

This story is all over the interwebs.  The quotes and facts are directly from here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Guns on College Campuses? I Think NOT!

Colin Goddard was shot 4 times at Virginia Tech, by a student with an undiagnosed mental illness. Colin is now the Senior Policy Advocate at Everytown for Gun Safety.

I love it when a tragedy turns into an employment opportunity.  I just wish this one didn't involve weaponry.  I really wish it didn't involve weaponry and education.

Somehow, the NRA has a different perspective.  They have offered bills in 15 states - and were defeated 15 times.  Yet, they continue to insist that a well armed community can police itself and defend itself from terrorism.

This, despite the fact that, as reported by the Sun Sentinel, that
Florida A&M police chief Terence Calloway.... cited a 2009 poll of campus police chiefs that found just 5 percent supported the idea. And a 2014 study produced by Ball State University found similar opposition among college presidents, while polls of campuses throughout the country have regularly turned up student opposition in the 70 to 80 percent range.
I was at a shooting.  It was chaos. A passerby was armed.  He chose to throw a plastic lawn chair rather than fire his weapon.

That's right.  The only armed man besides the shooter selected lawn furniture as his weapon of choice.  He worried about hitting an innocent in the cross-fire.  He worried about being identified as the assailant by the police.  He took the least lethal course of action because he was well-trained and thoughtful.

Our shooter was angry.  He was passionate.  He was self-absorbed.  He knew he was right.  He was a man on a mission, a person poised on the edge who toppled off into the abyss.

I knew a lot of people just like that when I was in college.  We were protesting the draft, the war, racism and inequality.  We were angry and passionate and we knew we were right.

We didn't have weaponry to prove our point.

I remember the outrage when the National Guard opened fire on the students at Kent State.  Guns on campus seemed an outrageous overreaching.  College is a place to learn, not to dodge bullets.  There was an emotional disconnect between the rifles and the kids.... a disconnect which was appropriate but which seems to have disappeared over the passing years.

We teach our youngest students to use your words when conflict arises.  How effective can that mantra be when teachers and support staff are armed?

Perhaps we are desensitized to the enormity of the awfulness; these mass shootings happen so often that Tucson is a long-forgotten memory.  But it is very real to me, to my family, to my friends, to the survivors' community, to those who have lost a loved one or been damaged ourselves.

A good guy with a gun threw lawn furniture at the shooter.

That's a dispositive answer to an awful question.

More weapons are not the answer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Purple and White and Orange Surprises


I gasped aloud this morning, driving past my yard.

I always enjoy the plantings,
but this morning was different.

The little leaf cordia was in bloom
and a previously dull corner of my front yard,
back there behind the orange Mexican Bird of Paradise,
was covered in these bright white blossoms.

The memory kept me smiling all day long, even though I didn't win a single game at mah jongg.  I could hardly wait to get home and take proper photos.

The whole yard is blooming.  
It's mostly orange.
The Mexican Bird of Paradise competes with the barrel cacti 
and wins for softness, if nothing else. 

The flowers are at all stages on this one, from last year's empty stems to the closed dull orange buds, to the brighter ones opening (bottom left) to the dead brown remains of their siblings (at the top).
I tried to photograph the ants 
which were swarming over every inch of this beauty
but my camera phone failed us. 
I gave up,  stood back, and admired the glow. 
There's some yellow, too.

The older cacti sprout babies and settle in to nourish them.
There are several more on the other side.
Lest you think my entire yard is prickly and poky, 
rest assured that there is lushness, too.
The Texas Rangers have given us a bonus bloom, 
and the purple is a gorgeous way to start the day, 
The Ironwood tree is kelly green, 
and eminently huggable,
were it not for the long sharp thorns. 
Volunteers take up residence in the drainage swales
and under random rocks.
Vinca is an invasive plant,  and frowned upon by the gardening community and HOA's everywhere.
As long as it only invades my courtyard I think I'm safe from the flower police.
I can't have you thinking that everything I touch turns out well.
SIR dug me a lovely hole, and we planted this fellow to the correct depth.
It's properly fertilized.
It may be overwatered.
It may be too sunny.
It is definitely unhappy. 
Fortunately, I have many prospective locales awaiting its arrival.
I have high hopes; once, these succulents were similarly distressed.
Thanks MOTG for the butterfly feeder.

Are you wondering about the little leaf cordia?
Remember, the white ball of gorgeousness I saw as I left home this morning?
It's there, in the picture of the empty space.
Here's a close up:
Yes, denizens, the blooms were gone.
Those white flowers and these two were the only ones left.
Life is harsh, here in the desert.




Tuesday, August 18, 2015

It's Cutting Into My Free Time

A short rant, if you will oblige me this morning, denizens.

This Lean In Project Bat Swing is interfering with my free time.  I'm beginning to become annoyed.

I have two James Patterson books on loan from the library.  I have a baby blanket to crochet.  I have a wedding present to wrap and mail.  I have paperwork generated by the desk cleaning activity of last week's timeline activity.

I'm feeling overwhelmed.

The Professional Organizer I used in the past has moved to Phoenix; I have to begin to look again.  Does this mean that I can add a row to my timeline, moving everything back a week?  It occurred to Little Cuter, my partner in crime, at the same time it occurred to me - her list consists of sign up, learn, use, sign up, learn, use while mine is read and take action, read and take action, read and.... well, you get the picture.

I have to go through my old posts.

I have to describe my audience before I can begin to write (thanks, Brenda Starr, for pointing that out to me).

I have to purchase post-it notes of various sizes.

I could walk away from the whole thing, but having written it here and said it aloud to lunch guests and friends and casual acquaintances and committed it to writing for my daughter that's not a viable option... not if I want to maintain my standing in those communities.

So, I sigh.  I pout.  I put it off.... but there's that deadline looming on Friday... on the timeline I created myself.

Still, I'm old enough and wise enough to know that structure is good but stress is bad.  If the framework is too tight, I need to adjust it to meet what is feasible.  I think that will be my task for this week: rework the timeline.

Next Monday I'll go to Nerthus's co-working space and see if having others around makes a difference.  I'll schedule blocks of time most days to do the work.  I will not avoid it.  I will embrace it.

At least, that's the current plan.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Going Away Without Leaving Home

Brenda Starr and I had breakfast with others this morning.

Not our husbands; we left them home so that we could catch up on that which fascinates us but bores them.

Not with friends, although friendliness was the order of the day.

Just she and I and the Tohono O'odham families we didn't know before we sat down but with whom we bonded over popovers and chile and children.
I'm rarely the other, at least when considering identity.  This morning, in a restaurant owned and operated by a Tohono O'odham family, I was separate, yet still a part.  Old age is a great leveler, and no matter the color of your skin or your gender or your language, creaking joints are creaking joints. We form a community of our own without asking for a membership card. That was certainly true this morning, as we joined the already seated couples of a certain age, they and I all wearing our wrinkles with pride. 

Brenda Starr smiled at me smiling.

There was nothing shy or retiring about the patrons at Cafe Santa Rosa.  They smiled at everyone, even those of us they didn't know.  The restaurant is bright and open and invites it.

The window shutters are thrown open to let in the morning light.  Yes, the glass window panes keep the heat out, but the idea that we have the windows open somehow makes the air feel fresher.  It was all part of the simple but real ambiance of the place.

They called it a popover, but it was delicate fry bread to me. 
Fry bread is a creature of the BIA and surplus food stuffs and the fact that anything deep fried is automatically a comfort food.  It's not a true native food, but try telling that to the patrons around us. The plates were greeted like old friends.

Remembering zeppole at the San Gennaro Festival in NYC's Little Italy, fried dough at the Marin County Fair, cronuts almost anywhere had me salivating before mine arrived. Covered in red chile, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheddar, it was light and fluffy and not at all greasy... which made it perfect finger food.

Brenda Starr said it was okay to eat with my fingers, even if nobody else seemed to be doing it.

As we ate, family groups filled out.  Children and grandchildren and cowboy boots and adults in pressed t-shirts and a toddler with a too-big-for-his-head-cap and rain boots and a space ship back pack filled our hearts as our stomachs protested taking one more bite. We discussed her classes and my book and tidiness but mostly we enjoyed a little slice of another life.

I love Tucson.  I can travel without leaving home. Come and visit and I'll treat you to lunch.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Brushing Her Teeth

FlapJilly is quite proud of herself.
I think you have to be a 1 year old to believe with all your heart that you are the center of everyone's universe.  By the time you hit 2, you've figured it out a bit more, you're noticing that others have needs, too, and that often those needs will be met before yours. 

But right now, FlapJilly is convinced that she is the axis about which the world revolves.  
She giggles, and the world she knows giggles, too. 
And in those giggles are love and wonder and amazement.... but mostly, there is joy.

She's quite proud of her newest accomplishment - brushing her own teeth.
Mommy is excited so FlapJilly is excited which makers Mommy even more excited....
and so it goes.
Little Cuter's first inclination was to ask the baby to hold still so Mommy can finish brushing.
She moved on to brushing her own teeth might be within FlapJilly's repertoire of behaviors,
which led to all these smiles and giggles and toothbrushing stuff flying everywhere and the baby, 
holding the brush very still, 
moving her head ferociously from side to side.
Have I mentioned that this is the most adorable child on the planet? 
Have a wonderful weekend, denizens.
Feel free to come back and look at the baby pictures if you need a smile.
It's my remedy of choice these days.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

POTUS Politics - A Snippet

Bernie Sanders is leading Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire 44% to 27%, according to NBC's Nightly News.  His big ole smiling face was there, next to his refusal to engage in character assassination: he likes Hillary Clinton; he disagrees with Hillary Clinton on several important issues; he'll be talking about those issues from now on.

Did you just feel a breath of fresh air blow through the political theater?

Meanwhile, on the clown car, Donald Trump's only problem seems to be that he's not growing his lead to match the pundits' expectations.  This reminds me of stock analysts blaming a company for not meeting the analysts' own predictions; might the predictions themselves have been faulty?  Mr. Trump is still scaring me, not because of what he says, but because there are people out there believing him.

Are you shivering in fear yet?

All that led me to this:
Bernie vs The Donald... coming to you live in 2016! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone.

Little Cuter and I have our own Lean In circle.  Instead of wondering why the other is not pursuing her dream, SIR suggested (and we agreed) that we should push instead of kvetch.

She'll start a new business.  I'll write a book.

There.  I've said it out loud and now I've written it for all the world to see.

I don't have a problem stepping up to the plate, I told the kids.  It's taking action that stymies me. They looked at one another and said Project Bat Swing.  And so Project Bat Swing it is.

Little Cuter took the bull by the horn and began, that night, after several cocktails, to outline her plan of action.  I began to hyperventilate.  She had obviously given much more thought to the ins and outs of moving forward than I had.  When she said that her timeline would be ready by the following Friday, I panicked.

It's the first week of school.  I have GRIN stuff to do.  I can't start out behind, I moaned.

The whining was frowned upon, but the message was received.  She would finish her timeline whenever she could; there would be no expectations of me until today.  She looked quite pleased with herself.  I was bemused.... stuck.... anxious... committed.... overwhelmed.

The overwhelmed piece was taken care of nicely - break it into manageable parts, Mom.  What will you do first?

First, I have to clean off the desk.  No one can work in this kind of an environment.

I put in a call to the organizer who helped me in the past, but I hope to get started before she arrives.  I know what I need... and it's not this.  With her ingenuity and my checkbook I should be ready to begin compiling the information I need to begin writing.

It's something I've been aching to do but afraid to start since ... well, since forever.

I'll keep you posted as we make progress.  For now, I'm going to start recycling the empty envelopes hiding beneath the photos beneath the mouse pad beneath the cable to the printer which courses over scrap paper and scissors and a gift for Brother's Wife which has been staring at me since G'ma died.

It's time to start.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter, Bernie Sanders, and Sue Monk Kidd

In the never ending saga of the left eating its young, a Progressive conference hosting Bernie Sanders was interrupted by activists under the aegis of  #BlackLivesMatter, Seattle chapter.  They were peeved with Bernie for the way he handled #BlackLivesMatter activists last month at Netroots' conference in Phoenix.

Their point is that, although pursuing economic justice is a worthy goal, black folks are worrying about more basic things - the safety of themselves and their children in a culture of systemic racism, the consequences of which are meted out by those blessed with white privilege.

It's not an easy thing to consider, especially if you, as I, have thought we've been on a path toward a post-racial America.  We have an African-American POTUS.  Religion, race, country of origin don't seem to figure into the descriptions my children provide of their friends and acquaintances, at least in the same way that they did in my day. Ben Carson's race was never mentioned.

And that, perhaps, is the point.

Without recognizing this as the central issue facing our country today, #BlackLivesMatter says that all other conversations are irrelevant.

Perhaps you would like to argue the point.  It's America, so feel free.  But let me offer you a bit of reading material before you form an opinion.  Sue Monk Kidd wrote The Invention of Wings, telling the story of Sarah and Angelina Grimke.  Three quarters of the book brings them from children in a slave holding family to nationally touring spokeswomen for the Abolitionists.... until the men in charge decide that it's unfeminine and unseemly and detrimental to The Cause for females to speak in large, public arenas.

Step aside, girls.

Uh, no, I don't think we will.

The Grimkes said it in the 1800's - freedom is only freedom if it's freedom for everyone. They linked racial and gender equality.

It's an argument worthy of attention.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Special Time

Old Friends have just joined the Grandparents Club, and everyone is ecstatic.  FlapJilly is keeping the beat in her Daddy's arms, and Little Cuter is over the moon.  Fast Eddie and JannyLou are about to escort a granddaughter to college, with equal measures of pride and exhaustion.

I needed a kid of my own who was available for hugging.  It's a good thing Mr. 10 was of a similar mind, having informed his mother that he was in need of his own special time with me.  She brokered the arrangements, paid for lunch, and chauffeured us around town, content to let us have our fun, as long as she didn't have to follow us around the fabric stores.

That was just fine with us.  We were on a roll, and we weren't letting a little thing like being unable to purchase the fabric we wanted at WalMart because there was no one who could cut it for us... and NO, we were not to cut it ourselves..... get in our way.  We were on a mission.

JoAnn's Fabrics came to our rescue, once we found it.  Mr. 10 and I agreed that we could love the $4.99/yard fabric every bit as much as we could love the $12.99/yard fabric, and with the savings we could make a blanket for his very good friend, and still have money left over.

Responsible 10 year old boys are some of my favorite people on earth.  Mine managed to remember the blade-less tool, and found a replacement, suggested by Amster who, by this time had finished with World Market and missed her boy as much as I enjoyed having him all to myself.

This is a good kind of competition to have with a friend... who wants to hug the kid more?

And the kid accepts the hugs with smiles and a lovely leaning in, which even being in 5th grade, the oldest in elementary school, hasn't managed to embarrass out of him.  He is the kindest person I know; it's lovely to reflect the light within him.

So, home we went, and work began.

Amster took over when my fingers no longer flexed.  My forearm is talking to me as I type this, 24 hours and several Bayer Aspirin later.


In order to create the fringe, which holds the two sides together, slits must be cut at evenly spaced intervals.   That calls for an awful lot of slits.



The rotary cutter which  Mr. 10 carted around was useless unless we wanted to sacrifice the ceramic floor tiles.... which we did not.

The protective cardboard sucked up the fury of the new blade.  It made a sludgy noise and not much of a cut through two layers of fuzzy fleece.



The dogs were bemused by the whole thing.  Their slobber was unwelcome, so they and their ball were banished to the couch.  It was hard to explain that cuddling was an intrusion.  
We finished Mr. 10's first, and he commanded me to wait until he was ready before I took this photo:
He's in there, head to foot.
And just look at that head.
Yes, he is usually that happy.

After a brief rest and some time communing with his new blanket, it was back to work we went.

The boys spent a week splitting logs and practicing archery and generally being mountain men last month on a combined family vacation near Flagstaff.  
We thought he'd appreciate the arrows as something he likes and, Mr. 10 continued, I just like this other pattern for him.  Those are good colors.
And they are.  
And he is a good kid, who loves basketball and piano and his family and his friends.
I'm very pleased to be counted as one of them.







Friday, August 7, 2015

Watch the Republican Debate With Me

The clown car pulled up to the same arena in which LeBron works his magic, discharging 17 contestants for Republican-Candidate-For-President.  The bottom seven spoke earlier in the day; I was out having fun. Now I am on Douglas the couch, having a different kind of fun.  It's starting out to be so awful that it's wonderful, like a 3 Stooges pratfall.
*****
The pre-game show is embarrassing, but that might be due to my unfamiliarity with the Fox news team.  The qualifications of the men on the stage were attacked from the beginning, and I am impressed for the first time (and, it turns out not the last time) with the toughness of the questions. 

The men were put on the spot from the first.  Donald Trump refused to pledge support for the eventual nominee nor would he rule out running as a third party candidate. Ben Carson's inability to recognize Alan Greenspan or NATO members was the second question.  He's a thoughtful man, a smart man, who had me on his side until he began talking about giving the military free rein to get the job done.

Seven Days in May.... Dr. Strangelove.... I don't think so.
*****
Trump justifies his misogyny by calling Megyn Kelly out for political correctness.  The audience - women in the audience - were applauding.  He says I yam who I yam and if you don't like it too bad. And the audience cheered.  

I know I am supposed to love Americans and love America, but these people scare me.
*****
Governor Walker says that unborn babies are more important than the women carrying them.  Mike Huckabee knows that the zygote is a human being because of the DNA schedule.  I wonder what the DNA schedule is.
*****
I find myself agreeing with Rand Paul about not arming the enemies of ISIS, ISIS which is driving around in millions of dollars of American equipment, and then, as if the Republicans are on a roll into my heart, Ohio Governor Kasich begins talking about mental illness, the working poor, the overwhelmed ER's, Medicaid, job growth, and I'm smiling.  

Jeb Bush spoke about earned legal status for those without other options and he stood his ground and I was vaguely impressed until he kept talking and it became babbling and then there was Donald Trump fantasizing about building a beautiful wall, calling out the stupid leaders of the United States... even the audience gasped.  
*****
Lenders lost billions, Mr. Trump, after your bankruptcies.  I have taken advantage of the laws of this country.....  They need somebody like me to straighten out this place.  

His message seems to be congratulate me on being smart enough to take advantage of every loophole in order to become a billionaire; send me to Washington and no one else will ever be able to do it again.

I'm not sure I'd trust him to do the right thing.... not sure at all.
*****
Gov. Kasich,  would you accept a gay child who chose to marry?  I'm an old fashioned guy, I'm traditional.  But, the court has ruled and I must accept it.  And, I have.  Of course I would love him.  Of course I would support him.  That's what we're supposed to do.  I'm gonna love my daughters no matter what they do, because God gives me unconditional love and that's what I'll give to those around me.  

This is religion that doesn't make my skin crawl.  
*****
Chris Christie wants to increase the size of our military.  He hugged every 9/11 survivor and family member he could find.  He thinks FISA courts are just fine.  He's well prepared. 

He's a New Jersey politician and therefore, by definition, untrustworthy...... Bill Bradley not withstanding.
*****
And in the end, I am furious, because instead of asking about sensible gun legislation, about making my daily life safer, about race relations, about veterans, the candidates were asked whether they had received a word from God about what to do first.

And no one laughed.I am estranged.  

God is a Republican, according to Marco Rubio, since He chose so many fine candidates on Rubio's side and none on the Democrats'.  These are not people with whom I have very much in common.
*****
Ted Cruz declared war on just about everyone. Ben Carson made people laugh and was smart enough to avoid specifics (because they are really scary).  Mike Huckabee's screed about Trump turned out to be a criticism of Hilary.... oh, right.... sure.... but Trump was laughing at himself and that, in itself, was interesting.  His bombastic end to the two hours was very Fox-like, and then, like Megyn Kelly, I was done.
*****
It was more interesting and less cringe worthy than I expected it to be.  There are some deeply frightening people on the stage right now, hugging their families and trying to appear relaxed.  I am more informed than I was before, and that is a good thing.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ranting and Raving at the TV

All I wanted to do was watch Netflix.  The television had other ideas.

I remember when it was set up.  The lovely gentlemen went through the mechanics of the system, trying to make it as user friendly as they could.  As I recall, they were unable to have everything labeled clearly enough for me; HDMI doesn't mean much to my feeble brain, yet that is what scrolled across the top of the screen.

I chose one and clicked.  Nothing has been the same since.

There are messages which say Choose SOURCE on your remote.... and I use the plural because the damn thing keeps popping up on the screen.... over and over and over again.

 I'd be happy as a clam if I could do that, but there is not a single button labeled SOURCE on any of the remotes littering my coffee table.

There are input buttons.  There are set up buttons.  There are menu buttons.  There are no source buttons.  Believe me, I've looked. Everywhere.  I've cleaned the devices as I've scoured them with my eyes.  It's all to no avail.

I wanted to impress TBG with my technological prowess upon his return from the gym.  Instead, I am anxiously awaiting a call back from the technicians who, the office manager assures me, will be able to walk me through it and get me up and running.  I am hopeful that this will happen before my husband returns and chastises me for randomly pushing buttons.

Unfortunately, this time I have no excuses.  I did randomly push buttons.  I am reaping the reward right now.  My stomach is in a knot.  I am no further along my path to access Netflix on the big screen.

Instead, I find this annoying suggestion.  
I've tried all the arrows on all the remotes.
I tried touching the screen itself.
I tried screaming.
I'd be delighted to select the button below if only I could.
But that would require finding a cursor or another connection to the screen.

Nothing works.
And so, I wait.

I don't have this problem with books on paper.
I'm going to spend the rest of the morning with Leviathan Wakes, Big Cuter's newest attempt to expand my literary horizons.  
It's big, it's interesting, and it doesn't need me to push any buttons or be certain that any devices are properly connected.

It's perfect. 
*****
And then, the phone rang. It was a lovely tech from Accura Systems.  He kept telling me how well I was doing.  He insisted that I was on the correct path.  He was delighted that I found the television's dedicated remote.... a remote which had a SOURCE button!  He explained that I was on the wrong input, that the Xfinity remote had gotten me there, and that the Samsung remote could take me where I wanted to be.  

He was thrilled for me.  He was encouraging.  He wasn't judgmental or bored or demeaning.  He was perfect.  

If you live in the greater Tucson megalopolis, Accura Systems can help you with alarms, central vacuum systems, and home theaters.  Call them.  They are perfect!

And so am I.  I am going to try to get Netflix to work right now.  I'm on a tech roll!


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