Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tangrams

All those shapes.
All those colors.
All those smiles.

We made girls
with green hair 
or were they rays of sunshine? 
We made letters
while noticing that there were numbers there, too.
(see the 36?) 
Funny how one thing hides within another,
or pretends to be something else entirely.
Larry really liked the lower case b transforming itself, without much help, into a 6
We sat and studied it for a long time.

The girls seemed able to do the task while seated.
Those two blue shapes made a bow
just like the one in her hair. 
They were also wings, which flew around her head.

And, there were smiles. 
Just putting the dot on the J was cause for joy.
And why not?
We're getting smarter every day, and that is fun.



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I HATE COMPUTERS!!!

There, I said it.  I want to go back to paper and pencil.  NOW.

Last week, I wanted to share photos of the scholars in the kindergarten classroom, cutting and coloring and concentrating.  They were, theoretically, uploaded to Dropbox, which meant that they should be accessible here, on Lenore the Lenovo.  They existed in New Folder in Dropbox on my phone. Yet, they were no where to be found in Lenore.

I searched everywhere.  I screamed.  I stormed around the house.  I searched again.  I checked the phone and reassured myself that I had not totally lost my mind.  They were on the phone in Dropbox but not in Dropbox on the computer. It took days for them to be accessed on the laptop.

Lenore has it in for me.

I have a meeting tomorrow.  The information is in the GRIN inbox.  Lenore has decided that This webpage is not available.  Did all of Go Daddy! disappear over night?  I don't think so.  I found it on my phone readily enough... although working from my phone is hardly convenient.

There have been other issues, too.  Words With Friends will not load on Lenore.  Links do not open automatically; This webpage is not available is my only answer to the clicks.  I tried to use System Restore, which has saved me in the past, but apparently Lenore the Lenovo required me to set up System Restore.  My other computers set up automatic restore points.  Lenore did not. The first date to which I can return is today, when it's already too late.

I'm toast.  I'm screwed.  I'm aggravated.

I wanted to make the kids an anniversary card, but the photos I needed were no where to be found, though I know they are in here.  I suppose I shouldn't have cleaned out my gmail folders; I deleted the card I could have used as a template.

Sigh.

There was something about replacing a broken laptop in my warranty. Right now I am ready to accidentally run this one over with my car.... or toss it from a great height.... or spill breakfast lunch and dinner on it.

It deserves nothing better.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Scholars at Work

It was a tough morning in kindergarten.
After all the effort it took to cut out that ear, the glue stick wouldn't let go.
Every station had a challenge.... like scissors.
Some of the friends in the classroom had the skill down pat.
They knew how to hold the paper 
and turn the paper  
although some had to stand to do so. 
Make no mistake,
this was serious business. 
The story featured a mouse
and cutting the M was the straight part of the task. 
It was those pesky eyeballs and noses and ears, all those round shapes, that gave us the most trouble.
I'd never considered the pedagogy behind this kind of exercise, but watching the scholars zip through some pieces and struggle with others gave me time to ponder.
"Thumbs up" was the most frequent reminder needed.
Some of the kids just didn't have the coordination yet.
Neither did Big Cuter, who failed scissors in Senior Kindergarten, 
and who, as I went on to tell the strugglers, is now a lawyer.

The glue stick was also an issue.
It really liked the taste or the texture or the personality of the paper because it often refused to let go.
One of the scholars thought he'd try the up-in-the-air approach.
We had fun describing adhesion and friction and the need for a solid base - for glue and for life.

Then there was coloring
leaving no white spaces because in this room we color the whole picture.

Finally, there was showing off the finished product. 

This teacher is creating Americans, one letter of the alphabet at a time.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Smile

He loves Sgt. Pepperoni's pizza.  Lately, they haven't been answering their phone with anything approaching regularity. This has caused much consternation.

Sometimes they're there.  Sometimes they're not. Their reputation was suffering.

(OK, that was fun!)

But the pizza makes him smile, and I was feeling PTSDish and not at all peckish (I can't seem to make myself stop) so he decided to try them once again.

"Thank you for calling Sgt. Pepperoni's.  We are closed for unfortunate circumstances."

That about covers all the possibilities, don't you think?


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Feeling the Love

Are you feeling it too, denizens?  Are you feeling the Papal Love Machine?

True, it's driving around in an open sided Fiat, which offers protection from only the wind, and that makes it a somewhat anxiety ridden Love Machine, but I can't help myself - this Jewish girl has spent Yom Kippur crushing on Francis.

He's opening his heart to those who've had abortions, to those who've divorced.  He understands the difficulties multiple pregnancies have, especially in the developing world, and he's talked about it. He congratulated the bishops on their work to heal the victims of the Church's sex abuse scandals.  He's given voice to issues his followers deal with every day.

He's apologized for the damage done to indigenous peoples; then he sanctified Junipero Serra, focusing on his Hispanic background, rather than the conquering generals in whose wake he traveled. This is the same crazy logic which makes every 4th grader in California create a model of one of Serra's missions; I have learned to live with the inconsistency.

After all, one forgives one crush his flaws.

I spent the morning watching video of Francis leaving the Fiat to bless and caress and kiss a young man on a stretcher while family members clapped and cried and clasped their hands as the Pope held them and smiled with them along a dirt road in Cuba.  I kept hitting replay. There was so much joy in those moments.  I didn't want to let them go.

I saw him arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, which may have been renamed Andrews Joint Air Base (there was a sign in the background) and he kept smiling.  There was a red carpet between his vehicle and Mr. and Mrs. Obama, but it was a short, narrow one.  The President thanked the Pope for his words and work with Cuba, and I didn't have a moment's worry about the separation of Church and State.

This isn't a man who needs pomp and circumstance, although the mass he celebrated was held in the largest Catholic church in the Americas.  The nuns who had the aisle seats were transfixed within their habits, their faces shining and bursting with joy.

And everyone kept smiling.

I'm so tired of complaining.  I'm so tired of feeling blue.  I'm going to lose myself in the man in the white robes, and contemplate the past year, and wonder about the coming year, and step forward into tomorrow.  I'm hearing Neilah, the final prayer, being sung over and with my brother and his family (the only ones I can be certain are actually there, doing that) and remembering my father and eating hard boiled eggs to break the fast.... or HoJo's All You Can Eat Fried Chicken sophomore year in college.... and feeling a connection to 5776 years of ancestry doing just the same things, in somewhat the same ways.

And so I'd like to say thank you to Rita and FAMBB for explaining being Catholic by living it and being my friends when I was young enough for that to have made a difference.  We were different but we were also the same.  I think that's a message Pope Francis might be glad that I'm feeling right now.

This is so much more worthy of my attention than the Clown Car.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Snippet

I told her she could ask, so I couldn't be angry with her.

Of course, feel free to ask me a personal question.

I just didn't expect her to ask the one question I ask myself to which I have no answer.

"Did you fall on top of her body?"

I wish I knew.  I wish someone knew.  There are no pictures, no memories extant from those who were there, and I have blocked those moments from my conscious brain.  I like to believe that I am not the kind of person who would leave a child behind in an effort to save myself, and the fact that I know we were holding hands as the bullets began flying lets me believe Little Cuter's interpretation of the pulling-my-arm-across-my-body action I repeated while recuperating - You know, Mama, that way you said Come On! 

I answered.  They offered opinions on whether I should view the FBI's photographic evidence.... uniformly against it, if you wondered.... and they stared with open eyes and open mouths and, I hope, open hearts.

Mine was certainly out there.... raw.... exposed....


****
I'm closing the comments for this one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Just to Get it Off My Chest

Has our nation gone batty?  Have the Republican candidates so overwhelmed the voting populace that someone normal, someone who might appeal to a less strident audience, someone who doesn't spout catch phrases might be an acceptable choice?

Where is John Hunstman when I need him?  I don't agree with him on everything, but I could sleep at night were he our President.  He was too reasonable, I guess, to succeed last time.  This time he didn't even show up.

John Kasich gave a reasoned, nuanced answer to the issue of gay marriage at the first debate, and received no publicity for it at all.  He spoke from the heart, and from civic pride; he seemed to understand the situation in a way that his fellow candidates did not. He responded like a man who has lived a full life.  He wasn't looking for the Supreme Court to validate his lifestyle.  He seemed able to accept the reality that many kinds of humans make up America.

That's a concept the other candidates seem to have trouble understanding.  They seem to share a we're right and they are so very very wrong attitude.  That's fine for a softball team, but it falls short of the standard I would set for the leader of our country.  After all, they are running for the Presidency of the entire United States, not just those whose religious and moral principles fall in line with their own.

Reasonableness is lacking regarding ObamaCare, the Iran nuclear deal, and, above all, when discussing Israel.  Have you seen Ann Coulter's rant?  The one where she tweeted How many f'ing Jews are there in this country, anyway?  Foul language from a member of the political press is cheap and unworthy, but that's not what irks me about her comment.  I have to wonder: Is she truly that ignorant, or is she mindlessly feeding religious animosity?

I don't believe that any of the candidates on the stage were pandering to the Jews in the audience. I don't know a lot of Jews who are comfortable with the Republican platform on any level, and support for Israel may not be enough for them if Bernie Sanders ends up running on the Democratic ticket.  By standing with Israel, Ms. Coulter, those candidates were speaking directly to the religious right, those who are waiting for the Rapture... whose wonderfulness certainly does not include the Jews.

Meanwhile, the world is crumbling around us, and I don't think that massing arms on the border of Ukraine will do anything other than distract an increasingly distractable public.  We flit from crisis to crisis - is anyone still interested in the three men who shot an Illinois State Trooper and are still running free?

I'm looking for gravitas.  I'm looking for the ability to make subtle distinctions.  I want to imagine my President holding my welfare above poll numbers.  I'd like to respect the person, even if we disagree on policy.

I don't want a President who spouts nonsense about vaccines and autism.  I don't want a President who proclaims that doctored videos are the basis for sound health care policy.  I don't want someone who knows that God has told him what to do; in some circles hearing voices giving directions is cause for alarm.

I want to feel good about my government for a change.  Is that so much to ask?


Monday, September 21, 2015

I had plans to write today.  I've never written down all the thoughts I had about the Republican candidates debate.  I was ripe and ready for a rant.

Then the boys showed up with the new baby and my plans flew out the window as they lugged supplies and their exhausted selves into our house.  They're driving from San Francisco to Miami because their little one is still too fragile to fly.  A grandpa joined them to share the driving and the shlepping and the love.  Our house is conveniently located off the southern cross country route, the I-10, the road trip Little Cuter and I have yet to take.

I have to admit, denizens, the thought of packing a small bag and joining them on the journey has crossed my mind more than once.  Instead, I shopped for essentials - a boppy pillow, plastic grass and a flower, yogurt and fruit and salad and steaks and chicken and coffee - and I allowed the thought to drift away.  I'll be the hostess with the mostest and send them on their merry way in the morning, well fed, well supplied, and fueled by love.

I've known one of the daddies since he was speck in Heidi's womb; I'm considering myself an unofficial grandparent.  I'll be hugging and loving and then I'll be back tomorrow so we can share anguish and terror and other ramifications of the Clown Car that is Republican politics.

For now, though, I'm going to revel in the love.

Friday, September 18, 2015

It Was One of Those Days, Redux

Mark Kelly sent me an email this morning.  He recounted his story of Gabby's shooting, and then asked me to share mine.
As Gabby and I travel the country, one of the things that amazes me most is just how many people know someone who has been shot. Our stories are very powerful tools in the effort to change our gun laws.
So, I clicked over to the form and I wrote about watching Gabby slide down the flags and about three bullets piercing my body and about holding the hand of a dying child on a sunny Saturday morning in front of a neighborhood grocery store.  I wrote about still learning to walk, nigh on to 5 years later.  I wrote about being afraid of public spaces, about being unable to enter a first run movie theater, about how the world is now, for me,  a scary place most of the time.

I read the rest of my emails, checked in on Facebook, and called Comcast.  The details are uninteresting; I knew we needed a new cable box and I wanted to schedule an appointment.  After 3 tries... three disconnections..... I got through to a live human who insisted on pinging and connecting and demanded serial numbers and I firmly repeated that it was unnecessary, that I needed a new box, and would he schedule it.

He hung up on me.

Seriously.  He put me on hold and then I heard a dial tone.  He never called back.

I, a woman on a mission by this point, called a fourth time, hear Sarah's voice at the other end, and began my spiel again.  At the end she said, "I'm sorry.  Certainly we can do that.  Let me put you on hold and find an available time slot."  

I smiled.  She came back to be sure I was still waiting, and then offered me tomorrow at any 2 hour time slot I wanted.  I asked TBG which one he wanted, and all hell broke loose.

I had attitude.  I was assuming he'd be available.  What was with my face?

I told Sarah I'd be home at 1pm, and quickly patched over our argument.  We have been together long enough to know that pettiness is just that.  I apologized for my face and my attitude (if he felt it it must have been there, right?) and went off to the elementary schoolers who hug me and call me Granny.  I'm smart enough to know that they are the best antidote when my heart is sore.

We walked around the soon to be lined path, and I told a new girl all about getting shot, and losing Christina-Taylor, who was just the same age as you are, as one of our co-walkers reminded us, and we talked about recovery and strength and the power of friendship and love to get you through the day.

Several of the older kids remonstrated with their greedier friends, those who wanted a specific sticker.  Do we get to choose?  NO! Why? Because (cue Mick Jagger) You can't always get what you want.  Everyone laughs, the kids because they remembered the song I taught them, the grown ups because they get the joke.

More errands and lunch and I was still nursing an ache in my heart.  TBG and I were fine, but I felt bruised. Then JannyLou called.   She'd received an email from Mark Kelly that morning..... and as she spoke about that same email I'd read and responded to eight hours ago my tears fell and my heart ache exploded.

The bitch was back, in both of our souls, and we were peeved.  We agreed that PTSD was biting us, once again, in the ass, when we least expected it.

Mark sends us emails all the time.  We're on the Americans for Responsible Solutions mailing list. We read them, sometimes we send money, we always think of Gabby, and we move on.  This happens several times a week.  We've never been put into such a tailspin before.  It must have been that first, bold, click here line, a line we remembered verbatim:
At some point in your relationship with ARS, you indicated that your life was also touched by gun violence. I'd love to hear your story. Share it here.
And I did and I thought I put it away but it fell all over TBG first and me for the rest of the afternoon until I figured it out.

Don't let anyone tell you that PTSD isn't real.  It is infuriatingly real.  There are strategies to cope, and many of them work quite well.  But recognition is necessary before the healing can begin.  Who knew that a request to share what I've shared so often before would set me off?

Not I, that's for sure.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

One of Those Days

It hasn't rained since yesterday afternoon.  The clouds are cumulonimbus, very large and very dense and very grey and flat on the bottom.  The sky is Carolina Blue.  There's enough humidity to keep my cuticles from shrinking, but not so much that I can't take a deep breath.

It's one of those days when everything is perfect.

The desk on which I type to you is neat and as tidy as it's ever going to get.  I have come to terms with my need for a decent amount of clutter; I've decided that it's okay.  My piles are contained rather than sprawling, and that seems to make all the difference.

It's one of those days when my workspace invites me to join the party.

I spent a productive hour in the gym this morning, and another equally productive one at Pilates this afternoon.  I'm not where I want to be, but I'm much closer than I've ever been.  I'm doing the work and now I can see results.  It helps when the nerve endings are reconnected and I can actually engage the deepest parts of my musculature.

It's one of those days when my body is responsive and relatively pliable.

JannyLou and I had small chicken caeser salads for lunch, feeling very healthy as we cataloged the woes of those we love... and those we tolerate.  We're continually impressed by the resilience shown by others.... and ourselves.  We've each faced death and turned our backs on her; we're allowed to feel good about ourselves.  And we do.  It's not braggadocio or egotistical.  It's true.

It's one of those days where the truth is worth looking at.

Too often, we have rotten days, days filled with angst and worry, days that don't turn out the way we expected.  Too often, the mundane becomes acceptable.  Too often, we forget to look around and notice the wonder.

It's one of those days when the sun came up and I was here to see it.... by definition, a good day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Project Bat Swing, Revisited

Apologies to the 9 people who read this yesterday.
It was supposed to be in the queue for Wednesday.
Alas.... I am not paying attention to anything it seems!

Dear Little Cuter,

I'm not going to write a book.

THERE.  I said it.  I don't want to do it.  Not one little bit of me, actually wants to do it.  I've been searching for that piece that has always thougth she wanted to do it, but when I pulled her in for closer examination, I found tht she was woefully lacking in enthusiasm for the day to day grind.

The writer in me, the Jo March in the attic, does not have the staying power for the long form.  I'm happy with the essay.  I have the attention span of a fruit fly; the idea of revisiting the same work, over and over and over again, was giving me agita.

And then there's the whole subject matter.  I forget, as my life goes on its merry way, that my path was skewed in an awkward direction on January 8, 2011.  It's not only revisiting the work I created, it's revisiting the events themselves.

It's really, really hard.

My first project on Writing My Book was to read all my posts on Getting Shot and Rehab.  I was to label them and sort them that was a fine plan until it came time to start.  I'd forgotten, thankfully, just how sad I was.  I forgot the fear and the worry and the wonder... because there was certainly wonder in it all.

But, as Julia Roberts told us in Pretty Woman, it's easier to remember the bad stuff.  That bad stuff stuck to my soul, to my heart, to my smile.  It culminated last Friday on Christina-Taylor's birthday. I described it to your brother as a mini-melt-down but it was more than that.  It was cathartic.  I was, once again, raw and exposed.  I was looking at the darkest place I've ever been, and I was flinching... and I was right to be repelled.... and I realized that I didn't want to spend any more time than I had to in that very space.

No.  Not one minute more than I have to.

In Being Mortal, Atul Gawande writes about the shrinking of horizons when death is imminent. The greater world becomes less important than that which is immediate to one's existence. I think I had that kind of constriction.  I don't care about spreading my tale.  I care about doing good and seeing it happen and being there and sharing the love.  I need the human connection more than I need a bound volume of my words.

Before being perforated, I attributed my lack of a novel to the absence of an idea and a shortage of will power.  Afterwards, as everyone wondered when I was writing my book it became a foregone conclusion. Before I had asked myself the hard questions, I was looking for an agent and a publisher.

At lunch, Lady Jane asked if I wanted to write it or if everyone wanted me to write it.  It was a great question.  It focused me on what I want and how I want to spend my time.  She lent me the book; she was living the lessons.  When you have faced the fact that tomorrow is not promised, today becomes very important.  I value every morning.  I still feel what I felt in 2011:
The sun came up and I was here to see it.  By definition, it's a good day.
I'm not going to squander those good days doing something that doesn't bring me joy.

But I do have that packet of energy SIR recognized when he first talked about Project Bat Swing.  It has to go somewhere.... and I have just the 501c3 for it to explore.

GRIN has a website which is sorely in need of repair.  GRIN has projects which will expand to the rest of the school district this year.  Pilates in the Schools will open at a new campus.  I'm paying attention... but not as much attention as I should.

So, I'm changing my timeline.  I'm going to make good things happen and I'm going to have fun doing it.  I'm going to have small, manageable pieces, rather than weeks worth of drudgery.  I'll have a timeline for you by the end of the week... just in time for you to check in with me on Friday.

THIS makes me smile.

That did not.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

TBG's Plan to Put a Dent in the Refugee Crisis in Europe

We are not wondering why the Arab nations are not stepping up to the plate.  We are not wondering why Hungarian prisoners (or maybe the wardens, the reportage was unclear) are stringing barbed wire between war and peace.  My husband likes simple, elegant solutions.  He hates waste.  He has a plan.

Move a bunch of families to the Caribbean..... the weather is great, the sea will be fun for the kids to romp in, and we have a lot of security already in place.  

Move them into Gitmo.

I understand that the vetting process to enter the USofA takes 12-18 months.  That's fine.  We don't want to open our borders to bad guys.  But, all five branches of the United States military are stationed at Guantanamo.  It's probably a safe place to harbor suspected terrorists.... since that's what it's there for.  

Let's set up tents on the beaches. Let's fully stock the PX and let the refugees shop there.  It's 90 miles from Key West; an easy commute for all those wonderful, good hearted, American youth who would just love to take a gap year and teach, run clubs, provide help with paperwork, translate, do research, run good deed projects with the sun beating down on their heads most of the time. 

My parents went to Cuba for their honeymoon.  It was close and exotic, with great weather and friendly people.  It's a fine destination for those looking to do good but whose parents worry about sending them across the ocean.  A motor boat ride away seems more manageable on all sides of the equation.  

I'd love to visit.... and help... and not worry about hours of travel or weird diseases.

I hear my family yelping and I don't care.  I can see it happening.  Wouldn't some of you come for a week or two months or a semester for a specific project? 

If opening the doors between our two countries signals Cuba's willingness to join the community of nations as a full participant, this might be an easy way to start.  I bet there are doctors and teachers and accountants all ready and willing to start practicing their trades... and Cuba seems to need just that kind of help.

Sure, we'll vet them, and the Cubans will do the same,  before they leave the compound and start mingling with the natives.  But really, it's an island and the Coast Guard is there.  We have all kinds of ways to insure that no one leaves one set of sunny shores for another.

It seems pretty low cost and efficient and representative of all that I think America stands for.  Not walls, but open arms.... even if those arms reach to Gitmo.


Monday, September 14, 2015

A Post for a Utah Daughter

She gave up everything to take care of her failing, aging parents.
Her life will be there when she returns, but a one way ticket brought her to her parents' sides.

There's a big family.
Need I say more?  

The more I hear, the more grateful I am for my siblings' willingness to let me take the lead when G'ma was here in Tucson.  We never argued over decisions or choices.  Everyone was clear about what made a livable life for our mother, and they were happy to leave the day to day decisions... and the major decisions.... to me.  

They included G'ma and my brother and my sister.  We were all on the same page.

Unfortunately, my friend is not as lucky.
She had to stage an intervention.

I offered Big Cuter's sage advice, shared from the couch one Mom's Xmas Tree Decorating Day:

Dad, I think there are two options here:
Help or Compliments.

I don't see viable alternatives.

 And I offered this:

Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.

And, I offered this:

Do No Harm
But Take No Shit.

Anybody got anything else?



Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11

First Posted for 9/11/11
Christina-Taylor Green's 10th birthday.
9 months and 3 days after she died, holding my hand.
So much loss.
So much love.
*****

I am at a loss.  I have no words.  I've tried all day.  TBG has offered suggestions, Little Cuter told me to stop apologizing for crying for no reason.... or maybe there was a reason.... I'm not entirely sure.  I do know that I was surrounded by love and concern and that I was able to offer the same to friends who were in need.

The words to write to you are absent from my brain.  Did Little Cheese know that when she sent me this poem?  Good friends do seem to have your pulse, even from thousands of miles away, don't they?

It needs no more introduction that that which Little Cheese had as the subject of the email:

Read by Billy Collins at Ground Zero, 9/11/11

The Names

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.
******
...barely room, indeed.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Political Snippets

Mike Huckabee was brought to tears by a woman who ran for an office whose duties she cannot fulfill... and then said that God told her she was right.

The man is running for President, Chief Executive Officer of the United States of America, and he supports an elected official who does not believe that the laws of this land apply to her.
*****
Ben Carson questions the depth of Donald Trump's religious fervor, and CNN reports it... as if voters need to know that information in order to form a reasoned opinion.
*****
Jeb Bush has a tax plan, but all the news shows were reporting his appearance on Colbert's Tonight Show.
*****
Donald Trump and Ben Carson have 48% of the likely Republican primary voters convinced that they are Presidential, according to CNN according to a Monmouth University poll.  I'm so disgusted I can't make myself take the time to investigate it and give you a link.
*****
I must have missed the memo - when did the side show move to the main tent?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

26 Kids in Kindergarten

When I was President of the Board of Trustees of our local school district, keeping class sizes small was the bait we used to pass tax increases.  No one wanted her child to be one of 26 first timers; 15 was a big enough class for one teacher to handle.

And, we had aides for several of the hours the kids were with the teachers.

And, we had students who had been to pre-school.  They were socialized to stand quietly in a straight line, to sit still at their desks with their hands folded and their heads upright, instead of lying on the desks. They understood 3 Fingers in the Air was the signal for silence.

And, we had families who understood the need for a good night's sleep before sending a 5 year old to a full day of learning.

And, we had families who understood the importance of returning the homework envelope every Monday morning.

And, we had parents who were able and willing to volunteer as helpers.  In fact, most classrooms had waiting lists for those jobs.

I spent this morning in a class of 26 5 year olds.  Their teacher and I were the only adults.  The students were broken up into of groups of 4 or 5; they moved with their group from station to station.  There are iPads and desktops and library books.  There were foam letters to be placed on the corresponding shape on the laminated worksheet. There were pages with monkeys at the table beneath the M words - mouse, mud, moon, moose all joined the monkey as prompts for copying and drawing.

The little ones tried their best.  Those with older siblings (I asked) were further along than their classmates; the letters were already familiar to them.  The task of supervising the writing center, that table with the M's, was given to me.  I was enthusiastic about the paper the little one to my left showed me.  She'd drawn a monkey and a mouse and written all the words, stacking them one beneath the other on her unwrinkled page. We were very busy being pleased with her work.

The young man to my right, however, was a different story entirely.  He didn't know how to hold the pencil.  I put one between my fingers, and watched quietly as he mimicked my motions.  "I don't know how," was his response to my prompt to write a lower case m.

I drew one myself.  His pencil hovered over the paper but made nary a mark.  "I don't know what to do," he whispered.  I took his hand in mine, and, together, we drew an m.  Down and then up again and make a hump, then up and another hump and voila!  Could he do one on his own?  He tried, but the humps were disconnected and the whole thing was askew.  I drew the outline of an m with dots, and asked him to follow it around.  TaDah! An m appeared.

His smile lasted a brief moment; the task was to write the entire word, and the o was confounding him, too.  He had tails all over the place, o's resembling a's and p's and q's.  Again, I made dots and again he followed them.  Trying on his own, he managed to connect a circle without extraneous marks.  Genius!  Wonderful!  I drew a smiley face next to the perfect o and, just as we were moving on to the u it was time to change stations.

I had no time to examine the work of the other two students at our station.  I had no time to think of something more advanced for the little one on my left.  It was controlled chaos, as the teacher strode across the classroom, helping with frozen desktops and reminding her charges that quiet was the order of the day, all the while running her own reading center.

One recalcitrant learner managed to disrupt the entire room.  She was escorted to the next classroom for a time out, but returned when her running around that classroom disturbed them as it had disturbed us.  Back in our room, she sat at a desk in an quiet corner, alone, rocking back and forth on her chair, doing her work but watching for an opportunity for mischief.

It was exhausting.

Last year, there were aides and translators and specialists to deal with the various levels of readiness in the room.  This year, those support staff have been deployed to the upper grades.  The teacher is a veteran, a kind and thoughtful and bright young woman whose voice had always been firm but steady.... until this year.  This year, I've heard her loud and upset.  I've heard her chastise instead of taking the extra time to reason things out.  There is no time for reasoning; while she's involved with the troublemakers the rest of the room devolves into chaos.

It's crowd control.  It's not education.  She has no time to develop the individual.  She can only move them around from station to station, hopeful that they can figure things out on their own.

How does a little boy who's afraid to hold a pencil learn to make an m without adult supervision?  If you have an answer, let us know.  For now, I'll try to volunteer a few mornings a week to  ease the strain.  I'll look for GRIN volunteers as well.  And I'll worry about my friend whose classroom is nothing like the wonderful room with 16 kids at her feet - the room she had on the first day of school.
More students arrive.  Class sizes mount.  Learning suffers.

Our kids deserve better.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Still Scary, After All These Years


Amster and I took the boys to see Jaws this weekend.

The show was supposed to be outside, but the weather people frightened the movie people into moving everything into The Loft's main theater.

With The Wonderfuls in tow, we dined al fresco over pizza and beer
(okay, I was the only one with a beer....)
on the patio, then made our way past the concession stand and settled in on the aisle.

I still need to sit on the aisle; burying myself in the middle of the middle hasn't been an option since public spaces became scary places.  But cuddled next to Mr. 10, a willing recipient of my hugs and rubs and squeezes and other forms of love and terror, eased the bitch back into her corner.

Anyway, I convinced myself, a little bit of fear was an appropriate accompaniment to Jaws.

"Listen to the music," was my answer each time Mr. 10 worried that something was going to happen.
I'd forgotten how long it took before Bruce, the mechanical shark, made his first appearance.
There were plenty of opportunities for him to hid hid head against his knees, his shirt pulled over the whole thing.  

He revealed, on the way home, that his shirt was translucent.
I can understand the need for a filter between terror and my soul.
It's no wonder I love this kid.

Mr. 12 and the youngest Wonderful sat in the first row.
"You have no idea how scary it is to see this movie unless you've seen that shark from the front row,"
was Mr. 12's assessment.  The boys raced up the aisle at the end, eager to share their delight.

"Were you scared?!?!?""
"Of course, I was scared! It's as terrifying now as it was 40 years ago."

The grey haired couple in the row we were passing nodded their agreement.
I'd forgotten the wonder of sharing a really good movie with a theater full of people.
Clapping and shrieking and cheering is much more satisfying when shared with a crowd.

"THAT was a good movie!"
Sure, it's Spielberg.
Sure, it's the first real summer blockbuster movie.
Sure there are iconic lines and scenes.
But, bottom line, it' a good movie.
That's when a 12 year old and his mother and his adult friends and his younger brother all agree.
*****

Have you seen this logo at the movies or on TV?
"That's some bad hat, Harry," is the voice over.
Did you know it came from Jaws?
When this fellow interrupts Sheriff Brody's beachy brooding about sharks, all he can say is
"That's some bad hat, Harry." 

I thought you'd like to know.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Bitch is Back

PTSD said hello this morning.  She crept out of my psyche, catching me unawares.  I was walking through the living room, catching a glimpse of the television, when she found something to set her off.  She's been dormant for a while, but I've felt her revving her engines all week long.

There have been too many shootings recently, I moaned to Little Cuter over the phone.  I don't like to interrupt her work day, but TBG was at the gym and Big Cuter doesn't get the whole PTSD thing the way those of us who were there at the beginning seem to find it.  There are some good things that came out of this whole experience, and shielding my son fro the horror is one of them.

But today, I needed someone who would listen and understand.  Little Cuter wins the award for that.  She was the only one I could think of who would understand that Tom Brady getting off on all counts of deception and impropriety could be a trigger for me.

"We hold ourselves to high standards, Mama.  It's right and appropriate that we should hold others to those same standards, and totally understandable when we lose it because they don't do what we know they should do."

It's the NFL and Tom Brady and the Patriots and the "Independent Review" and it's none of them.

It's the world tilting on its axis, leaving me askew.

It has nothing to do with football and everything to do with what's wrong with the world.

The bitch, because that is exactly what she is, grabs at my heart, tears at my throat, and leaves me between wailing and screeching.  My darling daughter listened, agreed, commiserated, and shared her husband's golden pearls of wisdom when she, too, reeling from chaos at work and on the news, excused herself from the dinner-for-FlapJilly and put herself in time out until she was recovered enough to be around others.

"You don't have to solve everyone's problems.  You are right to want to do so, because you know you could fix it if they would just listen to you.  But they are not listening.  They won't listen,  And so, all you are doing is making yourself anxious and upset and you're still not solving anything.  It's okay to step away every now and then."

She picked a good one, didn't she, denizens?

And so, I have spent the day trying not to solve the problems of the world.  I stopped worrying about why Donald Trump appeals to so many of my fellow citizens.  I stopped worrying if Everytown for Gun Safety's Whatever It Takes day of action was just another means of banging my head against a stone wall.  I left notions of mental health and parental irresponsibility and murders on live tv at home, and I took myself to the Happy Ladies Club's game day.

We played Tripoley and ate Mexican food and we giggled and told stories and made plans for the future.  I solved no one's problems.  I didn't think about them at all.

It felt great.

When I left, it was raining on my newly washed car.  The bitch began to rear her ugly head, but I shoved her back in the box.  For now, for today, for this afternoon, I am in control.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Snippet - Does Poor Service Deserve a Good Tip

Scarlet and i have eaten there before.  The food is tasty, the seating is comfortable, the room is bright and cheery, the parking is plentiful and free (of course, it's Tucson, so the parking is almost always free.)

We met at 1 and waited for our table by the window to be free  We sat.  We chatted.  We looked around.  We chatted and looked some more.  At a certain point, we began to wonder if we had become invisible.

The tables around us had water and drinks.  We, arriving earlier, had nothing.

The water arrived, eventually.  Scarlet's bottled water took two more trips past our table before the waiter could be flagged down and queried.

He didn't seem to understand our order, although we weren't substituting anything for what the chef had prepared.  Scarlet didn't want croutons.  It was a long and anxious experience.... made more onerous by the fact that I was starving.

We ate. We grew old waiting for our check, and even older waiting for it to be collected and returned. The bill was split down the middle. We hovered our pens over the tip line - To Insure Prompt Service..... hmmm.... that ship had left the harbor early on in our experience.  Would I feel better with an extra dollar in my pocket rather than adding it to his tip?  Should I reinforce bad behavior?  Will he even notice?

Yes, first world problems, but I have to think that I am not alone in my quandary.  Am I?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

When the Sadness is Just Too Much

There's too much horror in the world these days.

The NRA thinks that Alison Parker's parents were too emotional to be rational.

I'm not sure rationality is called for right now.  I think outrage is a more appropriate reaction to the evening news. When the evening news is all about your family, as it was for us in 2011, being thoughtful is nearly impossible.

Being close to gun violence once means that we are close it it forever.  The Parkers' pain is our pain.  What kind of world do we live in? There is no answer, no simple slogan that will wipe away the images of what we'd all like to do to our assailants... in the quiet of the nighttime, with no one listening, with no one to judge, our basest instincts run rampant.

Dreams of visiting pain and suffering on that thing, as one of the Aurora moms calls their shooter, intrude, waking us up, sweating, shaking, horrified that those thoughts exist within us.  There's a terrifying moment when you realize that your mind... your psyche.... your innermost self... thinks you are capable of horrific acts.

It's unleashing something primal, something intrinsically linked to survival.

The worst part is how good it feels.

Don't judge.  Don't qualify.  Don't try to explain or examine or interpret.  Just be there when we need a shoulder to rest upon.

We know it's awful.  We also know that it's there.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

IRS Scam

He got home before I did, so he answered the phone.  I was not sure why he picked up an unknown-to-us number.  His explanation was simple - by the time he got to the phone, the message machine was recording An URGENT message from the IRS.

He doesn't like urgent messages from governmental agencies, so he picked up the receiver and the berating began.

Was he trying to defraud the government?  Was he purposely misrepresenting his income?  He had broken several laws and violated the code.  A law suit has been filed.  His accounts were to be frozen. A lien was being placed on his car. The sheriff and an IRS agent were on their way to our front door, with the intention of taking my husband to jail.

Apparently, he owed $3,946.

Our taxes are done by the accountant we've known and loved since 1980.  He's scrupulous.  He's honest.  He's thoughtful.  He doesn't make mistakes.  When we were audited in the late 1980's he was furious; he fought the audit for years. His response to their questioning was that he had not deducted enough.  He was not in the wrong.  The IRS was.

We ended up with the IRS writing us a check for $7000.

This is not the kind of man to make an account freezing, car lien imposing, lawsuit engendering mistake.  But the woman on the other end of the line was persistent and insistent and, by the time I finished my errands and found him on the phone, TBG was irate.

"Why didn't I receive anything in writing?"  "What do you mean you don't have the time to resend all the paperwork?"  "What parts of the law have I broken?"

The answers were garbled; his interlocutor did not have a fluent command of the English language.  However, she was able to threaten effectively, which seemed to be her default mode when his questions hit close to home.  She kept reminding him that the sheriff and the agent were on their way to our home.

I began mouthing SCAM... he started breathing more normally.  He went back and forth with her a few more times, demanding a physical representation of the error of his ways.  She was truculent and obstinate - my husband was on his way to jail unless he paid up.

It's an interesting scam - just enough money to hurt, but not too much to pay to keep yourself out of the pokey.  He was "willing to pay whatever I must in order to resolve this, but I need some documentation first."

She couldn't provide it.  He hung up the phone.

I took the phone number and googled it.  NumberInvestigator was very clear:

Complaints Complaints about 509-492-3558

Caller Type: Scammer/Fraudster (2 Reports)
Reported Name: Just Said Pasco (1 Reports)
Number of Complaints: 4
One of those complaints is ours.  I didn't give them my name; I called us Anonymous Tucsonan.  I described the scam and submitted it.  Then I went to the Department of the Treasury and the IRS websites and did the same thing, while TBG called the accountant who recognized the scam before half the story was told.

"Forget about it," he said.  So, we did.  But I am posting the story so that you are not frightened the way we were.

As they remind you on the IRS website, the IRS will never call or email you if there is a problem.  You will never be asked to return a call immediately.  All communication is by snail mail.

Keep that in mind if your phone rings and someone tries to tell you that arrest is imminent unless you give them a credit card number right this minute.

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