Friday, December 30, 2016

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Best Library

We've been on a tour of the local libraries this vacation.
It's the best, free, indoor activity for an Indiana winter.
Today's adventure took us to the St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend.
There was one marvel after another, starting with this perfectly appropriate Christmas tree in the lobby.
We rode the elevator to the third floor, the space reserved for children, and found ourselves in a train centered wonderland.  First, we had to enter through the luggage tunnel:
TBG and Flapjilly were the happiest campers, conversing
through the train car's window.
When he turned around, Grandpa was amused by this very useful moose.
There were computers everywhere, on big tables and on little desks 
We distracted the digital native with the magnetic table; you moved the fish and the lizards with wands from below. Somehow, Little Cuter managed to stack them atop one another; it was a bit too graphic an image for a 2 year old, so we moved on.
Story time was a lesson in "You don't have to be able to carry a tune to amuse little children."

The librarian sang and jumped and read and clapped and then it was time to go.  It was hard to extricate the little one; there were so many wonderful books to read. Only the promise of lunch with Daddy allowed us to put on her coat.

We told her not to worry.We know we will be returning on our next visit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Most Generous Grandchild

She shares hugs.

She shares giggles.

She shares stories and baby dolls and lots and lots of books.

And, of course, she shares her germs.

This is how I spent hours between 3 and 5 this morning:

Monday, December 26, 2016

Dinner

Big Cuter likes to cook. FlapJilly likes to help. Little Cuter reigns in her kitchen.

Grandma ate and enjoyed every bite.

The food tastes much better when I don't have to do anything but bask in the love of those I love.

It's a very happy Hanukkah, indeed.

Happy Heart

For this ten day trip, I packed three library books and four new downloads on my Kindle.

My girls seem to be following in my footsteps.

My heart is full.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

So Much Fun

There was the library, with a quiet toy corner. There was preparing Uncle Big Cuter's air bed. There were the silly blinking glasses. There was no time to write.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Generational Brownies

You know you've been a success as parent when your daughter uses your recipe to make brownies for her colleagues and your granddaughter joins her on the counter while munching on the ones you brought from home, saying Grammma, come here!!

Life is good.

Leaving

The plane starts boarding at 5:30am.

Yes, 5:30 in the early early morning.  That's just under 2 hours before the sun rises in Mesa, and Mesa is where the plane will be.  Unfortunately for us, Mesa is almost 2 hours away from our home.

It's almost not worth it to go to sleep.

We investigated using our Marriott points to stay at the Courtyard around the corner from the terminal.  But, alas, the days of stay-and-park-for-free seem to have disappeared along with the leg room in coach class.  By the time we got done with the fees, the free room wasn't so free any more.  

So, we set our alarms for 3am.  We'll be on the road by 3:15 and parked in the long term lot with plenty of time to meander through the outdoor concourse to our gate. I'm trying to avoid considering just how tired I'll be; TBG's shoulder is the right height for my sleeping head, and the three hours to South Bend will be just enough for me to catch the rest of my 40 winks.

Everything is shipped, except the last bit of winter clothing which didn't fit in the under-the-seat bags we're allowed for free.  I'll drop it at the post office after I stop at the bank and the grocery store; we need snacks for the plane.

I'm going to try to avoid thinking about anything too serious for the next two weeks.  I'll be sharing the love, though, never fear.  Now, it's time to do the errands and contemplate sleep.  

Friday, December 16, 2016

I Could... But I Won't

I could go off on a rant about the foxes guarding the hen houses in the proposed Trump Cabinet, leading off with one of the questions his transition team asked the Department of Energy:
Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goal of President Obama's Climate Action Plan?
but, I won't.

I could rant about whether I should validate and verify the information, but it came from NPR and I'm choosing to believe that they are not purveyors of Fake News, but I won't.

I could scream at the rafters that WORDS MATTER, but I won't.

Instead I will relish the fact that on Monday afternoon I will have the world's sweetest grandchild snuggled in my lap...or chasing me around the house.... or bringing me a book or six to read.
photo: JPetersenPhotography.com
Have a wonderful weekend, denizens s.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Rust-Oleum, SIR, and a Gift Gone Wrong

We were really happy back in October.  TBG and I bought the supplies and SIR was delighted to have a project. Happy Anniversary!  Happy New House!

  Before he installed the reclaimed and refurbished cabinets and taped and mudded ("It's really an art that takes time to master.") and painted the walls (the exact right shade of white) and installed the lights and panels and whatnots that make this space worthy of FlapJilly's description: 
Daddy's Garage...

Before he could move his most needed tools off the dining room table and onto the work bench and the pegboard......

Before the Beer 'Fridge could get out of the way of everything and come to rest in the perfect spot...

........ the floor had to be refinished.

He sanded.  He swept.  He cleaned.  He re-sanded the rough spots.  He made sure the surface was pristine.   
He did everything the directions told him to do, in just the same order they recommended. 

These pictures are what happened.
Splotches do not belong in Daddy's Garage.
Nor do white streaks or brown blobs.
And did you notice the pitting.
Yes, denizens, those are holes.  
Holes with rough edges do not belong in Daddy's Garage.
It may look like freckles, but it's imperfection after imperfection and it does not belong in Daddy's Garage.

And, if that weren't enough, the measurements he took (again, according to their plan) left him with half the floor uncovered.  He was reluctant to tell me that he paid for the rest himself; after all, it was a gift and he's not ungrateful.  

But, it's hard to hide the garage floor when the in-laws come to visit.  We saw the sparkles (lovely) and the holes (unwanted) and the streaks (distasteful) and the blob (just ugly) and the uneven coverage and the splotchy streaks so in the vein of and second prize is TWO weeks in Philadelphia  he laughed and told me that not only did the product suck and the results disappoint him but there wasn't enough and he had to buy more to finish the job.
   
Home Depot asked me to review the product.
I linked to this post. 

Hello, Home Depot people!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A course in manners was needed, or so her parents thought. 

Standing in front of the pantry while yelling M&M’s PLEASE!!!! at the top of her lungs was not to be rewarded. And so, they began to work on Excuse me. 

She’s a fast learner, my delightful granddaughter. As her parents made sure to use the phrase at every possible moment, she figured it out rather quickly. Pleasing the grown-ups is FlapJilly’s favorite pastime; their smiles and congratulations on her polite asking brought joy to everyone. 

But, would the work done in private translate to a social situation? She’s often a little shy when there are others about, especially if some of them are men with great big loud deep voices. Would she be brave enough to interrupt when others were watching?

The question was answered last Sunday. After a grueling weekend spent removing the old roof from the new house, Daddy and Papa and Uncle were sprawled on FlapJilly’s couch, recuperating, paying minimal attention to anything but their aches and pains. The tv was showing a sporting event of some sort; no one was paying much attention. The conversation was desultory. 

In strolled the little one. Gently, quietly, respectfully, she placed one tiny hand on her grandfather’s knee. Excuse me, Papa. I want some M&M’s, please

Adorable, right? Perfect parenting, right? Imagine it with the please pronounced Peesh and the joy is complete. 

Yes, my dear. You may have all the M&M’s in the land. Polite behavior is always rewarded. 

We’ll be there on Monday. I can hardly wait to be interrupted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Same Party, Year After Year

I've been attending the Cornell Club of Southern Arizona's Holiday Party for more than a decade.  No matter where we hold it, it's exactly the same.  

The men are wearing Cornell ties and pins and polo shirts.  The women sport shiny red things - on their feet, on their bodies, dangling from their ears.  We always have name tags, even though, by this point, we should all recognize one another.  After all, we've been doing the same thing for more years than most of the children playing tag around the edges of the adult conversation have been alive.  

Some years there are more of us, some years there are fewer, but I can always count on seeing the fascinating members of the Classes of 1954 and 1963 and 1990.  They each have a story to tell, and this is the place for reminiscences.  "Of course I'd like to know what my alma mater felt like right after WWII" is not merely polite conversation.  I was listening long before they stopped to wonder about me.

There's the woman with the fancy red and black raw silk jacket, pulled from the closet every year for this occasion.  There's the woman who lives too far for us to visit as often as we'd like. There are the other two couples TBG and I try to meet for dinner once or twice a year; having three calendars in the same place at the same time makes planning a cinch.  

There's The Gnat, now a middle schooler but once a little one I kept occupied with crayons while her mother ate her lunch in relative peace.  This year I addressed her family's holiday brownies to her alone; I'm certain she'll share.  

We move around from venue to venue; our homes are scattered to the four winds, so nothing is convenient for everyone.  We've been at country clubs with terrific views and restaurants with terrific chefs.  We've have pianos to accompanying our caroling.  We've eaten salmon and chicken and salads.  We've gone vegan and vegetarian.  We've never skimped on dessert.

There's always a cash bar and I always refrain.  Wine at noon puts paid to the rest of the day for me.  Besides, there are stories to hear and tales to tell, none of which require lubrication.  It's two hours of reveling in the past while wondering about the future.  It's two hours of conversation with well-educated humans.  It's two hours of catching up and discovering the new and then it's time for the finale.  Give My Regards to Davy and the Alma Mater and Evening Song and then it's hugs all around and Good Bye, 'til next year.

For one afternoon, I'm 18 and 19 and 20 all over again.  Year after year, it's the same party.....  and it's wonderful.


Monday, December 12, 2016

I Lied

Actually, Blogger and Lenore the Lenovo conspired in my iniquity. But, when it comes right down to it, I can't blame Russian hacking for the lack of a post early this morning.

I wrote it.  The systems refused to save it or publish it.

I copied it to a text file and promptly forgot about the whole thing.

I apologize.  In my defense, I am about 50 boxes through The Brownie List, and there are so many many many more to go.

Today's post will be live at midnight.  Sorry if I disappointed you this morning.  I'll try not to let it happen again.

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Vacation Day

I'd call in sick, except the Burrow prints only the truth.

My truth, right now, is that I need a break.

I'll be back on Monday, refreshed and ready.

Have a wonderful weekend, denizens.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Filling My Soul

I read Horton Hatches The Egg yesterday.  Fifteen English Language Learners sat silently at my feet, legs in criss-cross-applesauce, hands in their laps..... for the most part, any way.  Grandma stops reading when there is tumult on the carpet; it's amazing how quickly silence from a grown up leads to silence from the kids.

I've been feeling disconnected from the Prince Kindergartens this year; Miss Levine has moved on up to 4th grade, and I had to work to establish a new routine for myself.  Miss Levine was easy; I could open her door anytime, any day, and plunge right into whatever was going on.  Different teachers have different expectations, though, and I never want to be a bother.  But last month found me chatting in the Teachers' Lounge with most of the kindergarten teachers and we developed a plan.

I want to make a lasting memory, one that all of the kids and I can share.  The teachers were looking for a Cool Down period after lunch recess and before the afternoon learning blocks began.  Dr. Seuss was the perfect answer.  From 11:30-12 every day, the youngest students return to their classroom and try to transition from playing to studying.  Transitions are hard, even more so when English is your second or third language and you're not very good at it yet.  There are work sheets to be decoded and rules to be followed and if your brain is busy translating your body is often left behind.

Enter Grandma.  Horton and I have been making the rounds of the classes, joining them on the playground, accepting hugs and smiles, then following them into their room and onto the carpet.  I get a chair, because Grandma's don't get down on the floor that easily.  It's not that they haven't asked me to join them; they'll make a special square space just for me, I'm sure.  But up on the chair I have gravitas.... and everyone can see the pictures in the book more easily, too.

Reading upside down is an acquired skill.  I wonder if there is a class in that in Masters in Education programs.  I lose track of the lines. I fumble the words.  The kids don't care.  As long as the pictures are held firmly before their eyes, they are focused.  Grandma messed up the rhyme?  Only the teacher smiled.  Grandma skipped a page?  Everyone hollered.

We learned two new words - faithful and immense.  Faithful was hard to define; a good friend who trusts you was as close as we could come.  Immense was much more fun - HUGE is a concept every one of the kids can grasp.  When you are the smallest on the campus, when everything is adult sized and you are just 5 years old, when the strangeness and newness compound to minimize your existence, HUGE is all around you.

Horton on the tree was immense.  The egg was not.  The fact that Mayzie the Lazy Bird's egg turned out to contain an elephant with wings was delightfully surprising; that baby was definitely Horton's kid.  How that could be was a concept far removed from their enjoyment of the story; little ones are more comfortable with absurdity than their third grade siblings.  The older kids were aware enough to squawk when the egg revealed a non-bird creature; That Cannot BE!!  But the little ones just giggled and shared in Horton's joy.

Being captured and caged and shipped across the sea must have resonated with the refugee kids at my feet.  There was an almost-creepy silence when Horton was getting seasick as he left his home behind.  I left it alone; this was story time, not therapy.  Perhaps I was imagining the extra joy on their faces as Horton and the baby return to the jungle, together, home, once more.

Perhaps.  Perhaps they were just thrilled at the generic happy ending.  Perhaps they didn't understand any of it and were merely reacting to my enthusiastic reading aloud voice.  Perhaps.

One thing I know for sure.  My heart was very happy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Boys Helped Me Decorate

"Put this on the doorknob." 
Met by a blank stare, I commented that it wasn't a very complicated instruction.
"You don't have door knobs," was Mr. 11's accurate if somewhat snarky response.
And so it went, for minimum wage plus a tip, last Wednesday.

They've been helping me for years; they know the drill.
Carrying the ladder and the tall box of large, unbreakable, out-door ornament balls, they required no supervision to get started.  As I sorted and repacked and organized Halloween and Thanksgiving on the garage floor, my young assistants took to their task with all the importance it required.  My neighbors slowed down to wave and smile as my trees grew more festive.  Their work did not exist in a vacuum.  As their satisfied smiles proved, it really was important work.

The inside was less prickly, at least as far as the flora was concerned.
11 and 13 are, by nature, testing the waters to see how far they can go, and Decorating Day was no exception.  "Why should I put Santa on the roof?" wondered Mr. 11, allowing me to make a fool of myself by explaining how Santa came down the chimney and the chimney was on the roof and even though the orange house has no chimney.... and by this point Santa was happy and I was humming Fiddler on the Roof
 and Mr. 11 went outside to put Santa up on a pedestal.
The reindeer usually guard the front door, nestled in between the container garden.
The boys found a much more active role for them to play in whatever narrative they were constructing.

Grazing reindeer..... it's new this year and I kinda like it.
From my front porch I see them feeding, as I look over my peace wreath out to the mountains.
I'm a very happy camper these days.
And, did I mention that I have antlers on my car?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Feeling Blessed

Bo and Luke Hazard, the Staffordshire Terriers who live with Mr's 11 and 13, were playing rough on Saturday night.  When Amster returned from dinner with the girls, her kitchen and dining room looked like a crime scene.  Blood was everywhere.  The dogs showed no puncture wounds, which led the vet to believe that it was teenage rough housing rather than fraternal terrorizing.  How to keep it from happening again remains a mystery.

Needless to say, my friend is upset.

Little Cuter has had a cold and a cough and a sinus infection and bronchitis for weeks.  Over the counter medications and prescription broad-spectrum antibiotics have minimized her discomfort but not eliminated the disease.  She's still coughing and sneezing and congested.  She hasn't had a full night's sleep in who knows how long.  Moving to a new town meant finding new doctors; it was one of the tasks she thought could wait.  Now, faced with a third trip to the Health Center for the same ailment, she's wondering what else she can do.

Her mother is more upset than she is.

SIR and his adult male relatives spent the weekend taking the roof off the new house in preparation for the arrival of the roofers between 8 and 9 this morning.  By 10, FlapJilly and her dad left their roofless manse so that she could get to pres-school and he could get to work.  The roofers were no where to be found.  Frantic phone calls to the realtor who'd recommended them and the company itself were fruitless.  The fact that it snowed last night and is supposed to rain tonight and my girl has no roof over her head just added to her stress.  Though there was material on the roof when SIR drove by after lunch, there was nary a worker to be seen.

Everyone is flummoxed and only the roofing contractor can alleviate the stress.

I spent my morning counting my blessings. TBG and I have finally vanquished the cold-from-hell.  It was cold enough outside to wear my cowboy boots with stars to class today. In class, the student-who-is-also-a-Rabbi gave the first cogent explanation of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac that I've ever heard. My lunch salad was filled with brown leaves of lettuce; the server noticed and took the charge off my bill.  I found parking spaces everywhere I went, and I found most of what I wanted at just one store.

And what was it that I wanted?  In addition to socks and more socks, I found something for which I've been searching for three decades.

Yes, The Uv has antlers and a bright red nose.

Not only that, the antlers have 7 led lights each.

As I look at the minor disasters besetting those I love and recognize that none of them are life threatening, all of them are manageable, I am inordinately happy.

And, on top of everything, my car has antlers.

No, it doesn't take much to make me smile these days. Not much at all.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Snippet - On Willful Ignorance

My favorite Facebook meme -
 In the interest of maintaining my sanity, I'm choosing to be uninformed.
I've steered away from the President-Elect because it's December and I can immerse myself in elfing. I try to avoid anything that will burst my Holiday Celebration Tour bubble, from toxic relatives to toxic soon-to-be-elected-officials. But just now, watching ABC's World News Tonight's opening headline reel, I was both informed and smiling.

Obviously, I came to The Burrow to share it with you.

The Army Corps of Engineers will deny the Dakota Pipeline a permit and maybe, just maybe, the Water Protectors can go home for the winter.   There's a terrible fire in an artist's warehouse in Oakland; families are desperate for contact as firefighters sift through the wreckage.  I forget what the third story was but then, the fourth story, was the President-Elect's Twitter Tirade (their headline, not mine) with this image behind the verbiage:
abcnews.go.com
Not a photo of the President-Elect acting Presidential.
A photo of an actor acting Presidential-Elect.

I thought that not watching the inauguration was another boycott designed to do nothing, to make me feel good about doing something which would, ultimately have no effect at all, that it was Mr. Trump stealing my American experience from me.  But now, still feeling the buzz from the fact that a vetted, responsible, news source with editors, chose to use a clip from Saturday Night Live to represent the incoming President, I'm thinking that maybe they have a point.

The man tweeted.
He watches.
He cares.
I can't get to him any other way.

Friday, December 2, 2016

What Was THAT?

Sitting quietly on the couch, the tv humming with a TBG-approved sporting event, my eyes and my self  buried in a Tana French novel, there was peace and serenity.

CRASH!! TinkleTinkleTinkleTinkle.....

We were on our feet and frantic.  It doesn't take much to set off our PTSD, and loud, unexpected noises are triggers for both of us. Our heads were swiveling around, trying to locate the source in a house whose curves and angles and open floor plan distorts locations and flummoxes even the most efficient seeker of sound.

There was nothing on any of the kitchen counters; we'd cleared them and emptied the dishwasher and nothing was out of place.  Nothing could have fallen.  The cabinets were shut; nothing fell out of them.  Looking inside and on top failed us.  Then, we looked down.

The floor was scattered with shards of glass.  They were everywhere, but where did they originate?  The Thanksgiving decorations were neatly stacked in the niche; none had taken flight.  The kitchen table was bare and so was the island.  Then we looked up, because we realized, at the same time, that there was a dark spot in the breakfast nook.

A light bulb had exploded.

For no reason that we could discern, our Sylvania Long Nec 75W/130V/WFL item J788 had flipped its lid.  The entire glass shielding the bulb was strewn on our floors while the rest of the mechanism remained firmly ensconced in the can in the ceiling.

We dragged in the tallest ladder and TBG took his achy breaky knee up to the offending recessed can
His hand, swathed in a thick leather glove, untwisted the remainder of the flood light and handed it down to the plastic bag I was holding up high.

That lasted a few seconds; it was so hot that the bag began to melt to its surface. After quickly dumping the bulb carefully into the sink, we stood back and stared.  The glass was missing and the curved base surrounding the tiny bulb was cracked on the back.

How this happened remains a mystery.  We never noticed it until it exploded all over my tiles.

As we swept and wet-Swiffered and vacuumed and wiped with paper towels and then did it all again, we found ourselves repeating an awful refrain:
What if we'd been having dinner? (as I wiped glass from the tabletop)
What if FlapJilly had been strapped into her chair? (as I brushed tiny glass pieces off a seat)
What if....
What if....
What if.....
Having avoided death once in my life, I know that this is probably not the worst thing that could have happened.  But it's pretty close, especially for those who can't escape quickly, for those who are, unwittingly, below the disaster, for those whose PTSD was released by an unexpected and very loud report.

I'm sending this post to Sylvania; I'll keep you posted if I get a response.  We did replace the bulb, and it seems to be settling in very well.  But who knows when another light might decide to create some excitement on its own?  I can't sit under an umbrella in my own house.  I just have to put this in the Shit Happens file and try not to worry whenever I sit below my ceilings.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Something Easy You Can Do

I agree with Rain, a denizen, that individuals boycotting companies to make a political statement is unlikely to make a difference, in policy or the bottom line.  I wrote the post, and I wrote the emails, and I talked it up to my friends (once again, preaching to the choir), but inside, I was sighing.

And then I read that Kellogg's is pulling its ads from Breitbart News.  Their reasoning turned my boycotting frown upside down:
"We regularly work with our media-buying partners to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that aren't aligned with our values as a company," Kellogg's said in a statement. "We recently reviewed the list of sites where our ads can be placed and decided to discontinue advertising on Breitbart.com. We are working to remove our ads from that site."
CNN/Money goes on to describe Steve Bannon's hissy fit, which includes calling his views mainstream America and calling for a boycott of his own.

And so, denizens, here's something wonderful for you to do.  Buy some Frosted Flakes or Rice Krispies or TBG's favorite, Special K.  Indulge in a box of Pop Tarts.  Can't eat that stuff?  No problem.  Personalize a box for someone who can
 
Surrounded by healthy eaters?  How about some Pringles socks or a Corn Flakes cup?
Have I just solved half your gift giving problems by directing you to their website?
That was not my intent, but feel free to thank me.
What I wanted to do was give you a feel good moment, to counter a Breitbart-fueled revenge campaign.  The other side makes most of the noise.  It's up to us to talk back.  So......

After you've shopped, or even if you don't, why not go to Kellogg's Contact Us page and thank them for standing up for real mainstream America, the America that is inclusive and respectful and kind.

I did.
I felt better afterwards.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Betwixt and Between

I love writing the cards and baking the brownies and decorating the packages and dropping them off in the post office, one by one down the chute, smiling as I send loving thoughts to the recipients.

I love putting out the pillows and the candle holders and the door hangers.  I love watching my house move from TBG's Episcopal sparseness to his mother's Christmas-on-every-surface.

There is nothing I relish more than an afternoon in a comfy chair, with a good book in my lap and liquid refreshment by my side.  It's even better if the sun is out and the temperatures are in the 60's -Tucson's version of winter - and if the book is #10 in a 20 book series, and all the remaining ten texts are on my bookshelf, on loan from the library, just waiting to be read.

And that's where I am right now.  I have something from every column of my Smile Through December spreadsheet, and I don't know what to do.  I punted, earlier in the day, by getting my nails done.  Out with October and November's orange; in with December and January and various shades of red.

That was an easy choice.  Now, I have to decide whether to bake or to decorate or to read.   This is much harder.  It's a good thing that it's time to leave for Mr. 11's 6th grade basketball game.  I can put off my decision until after dinner, because I am the Designated Super Fan for my young friend.  He cannot be disappointed; I'll figure out what to do this evening once I finish cheering.

So much time.  So many choices. Such a lovely problem.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Easing Into It

Big Cuter says I never send him brownies any more.  We'll see if he reads this and reacts with a smile.

I have something to send Megan, frequent comment-leaver and fierce woman incarnate, and it seemed silly not to send her brownies, too.

Not-Kathy and Dr. K know the holidays begin when my brownies arrive; it's early this year, my friends.

And, perhaps, my treats will arrive at R-Square's before their lands on my doorstep.

It's Brownie Season, and I'm happy.

I will not ruin it by thinking about that which I cannot change (ie. President-elect tweets) having done what I can to make my voice heard (emailed my Senators re: Jeff Sessions for anything).

I will smell the baking and write the cards and start the season off with a full heart.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Extra Week

Thanksgiving was early.  Chanukah is late.  This is an extra week.

My holiday season revolves around the baking and distribution of dozens of boxes of brownies. The fact that I didn't bump into December this weekend means that this is an extra week, a week which has no assignments, a week in which can be used to compile and prepare.

It's a luxury I rarely experience.

This year, as always, I lost the Brownie List.  Not the hard copy I always print out, the list of names I can check off as cards are written, labels are printed, and boxes are packed.  No, the list that Little Cuter created for me a decade or so ago, the one with the addresses, the Official Brownie List.

I searched this PC and documents and Gmail messages and came up empty.  There were links to folders which had been deleted.  There was no Brownie List.  My girl attached it to the plaintive email I sent.  I realized that it was a Google Doc..... easily accessible from anywhere... as long as I was signed in.

I may save a Brownie List file with that information to help me next year when I forget and begin looking again.

With the list on the screen and 2015's hard copy on my desk, I began to update my USPS address book.  I created a Brownie List and checked to be sure that all the addresses were up to date.  I went back to the Google Doc and color coded the entries for Christmas and Chanukah and Both.  I sorted the ranges by columns, which made me inordinately happy.

I have a pantry filled with Bakers Unsweetened Chocolate and giant bags of walnut halves.  I have new 8" square pans, purchased this summer, on sale, in a moment of forethought and planning. There are a few last minute items - flour and sugar come immediately to mind - but I'm as well organized as I've ever been.

And, I have an extra week.  I think I'll go online and apply for Medicare.  I have the time.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Thanksgiving (Re)Collection

I've been re-reading Thanksgiving posts, and smiling a lot. Here is some of the joy.   I'll be back to reality on Monday; I'm taking the weekend off.
*****
Memories Then:
..... of full bellies lying on the couch, begging for relief, as Hough's creamed spinach wound its way through an overloaded digestive tract.....

..... of my first niece, a veg even as a toddler, eating cucumbers for dinner and feeling just fine.....

..... of walks around the neighborhood, wrapped in scarves and hats culled from the front hall closet, surrounded by all ages and temperaments, mellowed by tryptophan

On dinner in Cleveland Heights at Nannie's house:
We'd sit in the dining room, using it, for once, as more than an inconvenient space between the kitchen and the tv room, sideboards groaning, waiting for Nannie's yearly screech. 

Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without my mother-in-law jumping up from the table, just as the first fork was lifted and yelping, "Oh, shit... I burned the rolls!"
Memories More Recent:
Thursday Afternoon: "What time are you getting your mom?"
"Oh, SHIT, I forgot about G'ma!"
*****
I, math challenged, asked G'ma how many ounces were in a cup. TBG wondered why I needed to know.  

"I don't want to measure them out, I want to know how many are in the box." Big Cuter went further. "She wants to do the math.  I know that's weird coming from Mom, but...."

They laugh at my foibles and love me nonetheless.

And my mother, my dear, demented, forgetful mother, knew, without missing a beat, that there were 8 ounces in a cup.  And she was surprised that I didn't remember that fact... and that she did.  

I know she's in there somewhere.
For this year and every year:
There were fewer people at the table, but just as much love.  We are here.  We are fed.  We are happy.

Thanks for being part of the wonder that is my life.  Each and every one of you makes it that much sweeter.  Who needs pie?  I have all of you.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Statement of Fact

For my happy, healthy family, here and there,

For my friends, near and far, old and new, and old-and-found-again,

For the abundance of goodness I see every day,

For the richness of the world I inhabit,

For the fact that I am here at all, 

I am truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all !

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What I'm Doing - Part Three

RE: The President Elect

His phone call with Mr. Abe was on an unsecured line.  Surely this is as disturbing as Mrs. Clinton's use of a private server.

His businesses are intertwined with the business of the nation, and his children (who cannot really run a "blind trust" for him, now can they?) are in the room making policy even as they plan to run the businesses after the inauguration.  How is this not a conflict of interest?

His DC hotel touting their space to diplomats - how is this not Pay for Play?

I am quite concerned about the integrity of our government.  I hope that you will pay close attention to these matters, as you have to Mrs. Clinton's emails.

That's what I wrote in the space provided at the Blow the Whistle tab on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's website.  I signed my name, and the site assures me that I'm safe:

 Any personal information you provide us will be kept in strict confidence.

That's what I did on Sunday. After tackling retailers on Saturday, I spent the next afternoon targeting Congress.  I was much less successful.  

Apparently, the only way to contact a member of Congress by email is to be a resident of the district. Enter a non-congruent zip code and you get an error message that makes you feel small for asking the wrong grown-up for help.  At least, before asking for my zip code, Rep. Mike Turner had the decency to apologize:


Regrettably, I am unable to reply to any email from constituents outside of the district. 

There are no email addresses listed on the official web pages of the House of Representatives.  The administrator makes it very clear that the central network will not forward emails.  They suggest searching each Representative's web presence if you want to send an email.

Good luck with that.  I tried.  Google email Rep. Chaffetz (the Committee Chair) and see how far you get.  I'm beginning to see why Hillary used a private email server.

I started to call every member on the Committee.  The mailboxes were full, or phones were unanswered, until I got to Rep. Farenthold who gave me space for a rambling message about conflict of interest and our President-to-be.  

I re-read the post which inspired me, and thought about the second paragraph.  

I decided to wait until Monday and call the local offices of the remaining members.  If they're not in DC I bet they are home, checking in with constituents.  Maybe there will be someone answering the phones there.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What I'm Doing - Part Two

I wrote this missive to my Congresswoman:
Dear Rep. McSally,
Silence=Acquiescence.
Hatred, division, and vengeance have no place in civil discourse.
Can you stand up for women, and our right not to be groped?
Can you stand up for the First Amendment, and the right of cast members to speak truth to power:
You took on the Air Force and won; I admired that.  Are you brave enough to speak out for others, too?
I await your response.  Mr. Trump's behavior is often inappropriate - will you call him on it?

I took my letter (handwritten, on my embossed stationary) to a Pantsuit Nation Tucson Meet Up 
on the street in front of Rep. McSally's office.  
There we stood, men and women of all ages and descriptions,
holding signs and smiling at the cars passing us by.
I joined them after thanking the Tucson Police for their presence in the parking lot nearby; they were looking out for us and that made me feel marginally safer.  Drivers slowed to read the words.  The sky was overcast but kept the raindrops at bay.  It didn't feel as if anything would change, but it felt so good to vent.

When my hip told me it was time to sit down, I made my way up to the 5th floor and the Congresswoman's office.  There, I sat down with  CJ Karamargin, her District Director.  I met him when he was still working with Gabby Giffords; I teased him about moving to the dark side as we walked to a big table in what I think was Rep. McSally's personal office.  He said It's not that dark.  

He called his current boss a moderate Republican, which, in this day and age, is probably true.  He listened, we laughed, and he promised to send me the Facebook post or maybe he said it was a Twitter Tweet which Rep. McSally posted after the Access Hollywood video was made public.  He promised that she was offended and he was sorry that I had missed the news.  We discussed there is too much to read and not enough time but I was able to make the point that I knew where Jeff Flake and John McCain stood but I had no idea what my third voice in Washington said.  

She's all I have.  She needs to make a statement that I can show my granddaughter.  Rep. McSally took on the Air Force and won (reversing their policy that women deployed in the Middle East must cover their heads when leaving the base) and now I need her to stand up for me, and my girls.

Again, he assured me that the post was out there.  I gave him my email address and, sure enough, there she was, calling the candidate's behavior disgusting  and appalling.  

I left the office and drove to Prince Elementary School to warm the cockles of my heart.  All this political action left me feeling empty inside.  I think it is possible to say that the Democratic candidate's policies are flawed, the Republican candidate's policies are more reflective of my own views, and the Republican candidate's behavior is reprehensible and cannot be condoned or supported.

Of course, that's just me.  Rep. McSally never endorsed or denounced Mr. Trump.  She decided that it was okay to be silent on the subject.  She didn't think I needed to know, but I did.  She's good for Southern Arizona, but I couldn't cast a vote for her without knowing.

It's not my fault if I can't figure out where my elected representative stands; it's on her shoulders to inform me.  I pay attention to what is presented.  She's sent mailers reminding me to vote.  She's posted and mailed pictures of herself meeting with constituents and holding hearings on Women in the Workplace.  She's wondered about border security.  All these things are well and good, but they don't address the immediate concerns facing our nation right now. 

Call it alt-right or white supremacist or nationalist or kakistocracy, there is business taking place in the corridors of government which demands, at the very least, a comment from a moderate Republican woman who speaks for me in Congress.

She's been re-elected.  Perhaps now she will speak so that I can hear her?  There's not much standing between me and the people in power.  I am afraid and I need reassurance.  If a moderate Republican can look at Steve Bannon and Lt Gen Mike Flynn and still stay silent, then I'm even more terrified.  

My plan was to call the local offices of the members of the House Oversight Committee to ask them to investigate the many conflicts of interest (meeting with business partners from Mumbai as the latest example) our President-elect is creating.  I'm exhausted and wrung out.  I'll make those calls tomorrow.

Monday, November 21, 2016

What I'm Doing

I spent Saturday sending emails to strangers.  Every time I hit SEND I smiled.  Big Cuter, comfortably ensconced on Douglas-the-Couch, wondered what was making me so happy.

I'm hitting him where it hurts the most, and it feels great.

What was it?

#GrabYourWallet was created last month in response to Trump's bragging about sexual assault. They created a spreadsheet of companies carrying Trump branded products and encouraged consumers to contact the retailers with this message:

I'm a customer/fan of your brand. Unfortunately, I'll no longer be able to shop there because you do business with the Trump family.  If you were no longer to do so I would consider returning as a customer. Since Ivanka has campaigned so passionately for her father, I feel that her brand, too, has become politicized.

This was something I could do, right then.  I wouldn't have to wait on hold, or be told that voice mailboxes were full (see tomorrow's post).  I could type and cut and paste and make a statement.  The boys were watching football; I had company as I made my voice heard.

I told Bed Bath and Beyond that I would miss them and their coupons and their friendly employees.  I told Zappos that I'd look elsewhere for Little Cuter's winter boots.  I complimented Nordstroms for delaying Christmas decorations  until after Thanksgiving but said that carrying Ivanka's jewelry was a deal-breaker for me.  I told Neiman-Marcus that their catalog went unopened into the recycling because I could not, in good conscience, shop with them this year.

Zappos! got back to me right away:

Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to provide us with feedback! I respect your position on the Ivanka Trump brand, and I will certainly pass this feedback on to the appropriate teams for review. We take all feedback with open arms to help us improve our customer experience and learn and grow as a company.

HSN, which I glimpse only as I flip through, looking for Property Brothers, is sorry to lose me as a customer:


HSN is proud to be accepting of people with differing views and opinions. This is true of our customer base, and certainly the brands and personalities we bring to our wonderful customers.

I assure you that I have made the proper department aware of your concern and suggestion. Our marketing and management team always take our customers concerns very serious, and it will be reviewed.

We will definitely hate to see you go. You have been such a wonderful customer for so long.* I would greatly appreciate if you gave us another opportunity to provide you with quality merchandise that will exceed your expectations.

*Given that I've never been an HSN customer, I am skeptical of the veracity of the rest of their statement.  Still, my voice was counted.

Jet.com made me sad even as it engaged me.  I've written about them .  They are bright, kind, energetic young people but their ability to disconnect capitalism from politics was somewhat disheartening:

Thank you for reaching out to the Jet Heads in regards to your feedback.

We recognize that people really want their voices to be heard right now, and we appreciate you sharing your views with us. We don’t feel that offering a company’s product means taking a political position**, but of course we’ll respect the choice you make as to whether or not to continue shopping with us. We appreciate your business as well as your feedback!

**Of course it does, Jet.com.  You provide a platform for others to use.  You are the gatekeeper of that platform.  If something offends you, you have the right to refuse them.  If something offends you and you do nothing, you are acquiescent.... as am I if I continue to do business with you.   

There were 50 some companies on the boycott list.  There were also companies which could be complimented, companies like Home Depot which has Discontinued below every single Trump branded lamp on their website.  Their CEO may have supported Trump, but the company isn't doing business with him any more.

I only heard about it this weekend.

Even if DJT hadn't won the Presidency, I'd have abandoned those retailers for allowing a reprehensible human to enrich himself while using their platform.

I stopped buying Calvin Klein products when he popularized the heroin chic look.  I told Hanes that gentlemen might prefer them but I found their advertising offensive.

Once again, I can let my money speak for me.

Of course, Big Cuter wanted a new shower curtain ... and Bed Bath and Beyond is on the list.

Sigh.  I hate it when my principles crash up against my life.

And that must have been what the list's creators were thinking when they included Amazon.com on the spreadsheet.  Working parents have supplies delivered, grandparents have gifts delivered, everyone has something delivered so I was pretty sad about saying goodbye to Amazon until I searched and found Jeff Bezos's desire to send Trump into space.  He said that the President-elect's plans will erode democracy around the edges.  I was feeling encouraged.  I searched the site and found 7,252 results for prayer rugs.  I decided to write and express my feelings, but I can't separate myself from the Borg; I'm an Amazon Smile customer for life.

I'm doing what I can.  That's all that can be asked.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Sick

Little Cuter has bronchitis.

FlapJilly screamed for an hour after pre-school yesterday.  DOUGHNUTS!!! DOUGHNUTS!!! DOUGHNUTS!!!

TBG has had a chest cold for nearly two weeks, a cold I'd been fighting with Zicam spray until I decided that I was healthy and stopped medicating.  Now that cold is back, with a vengeance, and my throat is scratchy and my head hurts and my tummy isn't happy at all.

But what's making me sick is Kris Kobach insisting that registering enemy aliens, or potential enemy aliens, or just Muslims in general is based on long-standing legal precedent.  Korematsu v United States was the 6-3 Supreme Court decision allowing for the registration and, ultimately, the internment of Americans of Japanese origin during FDR's administration.

Antonin Scalia had this to say on Korematsu, back in 2014:

“Well, of course, Korematsu was wrong,” Scalia said. “And I think we have repudiated it in a later case. But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.”

He predicted it.  Trump's transition team is talking about it.  And I am sick about it.

But, for this one, I have a plan.  

I'll register along with them, just as the Dutch did with the Jews in the 1940's.  I've always cherished the notion that common folk took a small but significant step to express their displeasure with an unwelcome regime.  They were thinking that all Dutch lives mattered, even ones who didn't worship Jesus Christ.  They were willing to stand in harms way to make their dissatisfaction known.  

It's scary to think about, but all disease has an element of terror attached to it.  The fragmentation of our society is sickening.  I'm pledging to take steps to combat the infestation.

I can't believe I'm writing this post.  What has happened to my America?  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Reading Corner

"I learned something right now.  I don't usually learn something but I learned something right now."

Thus spake a 2nd grader, a young man who was working on distinguishing between the long and short vowel sounds.  We read the often used words as I tried to find examples of that-which-passes-for-rules in spelling the English language.  Two consonants after a vowel make a short sound (except when they don't) was simple enough, and so was an e at the end of the word makes a long sound.

It got tricky when we got to cage and case and mice and nice.  That c is quite a problem (as was quite, but we'll get to that later.)  If it's cage and case why isn't it mike and nike?  The e at the end of the word was the clue, and his face when he realized that the e at the end makes the c an s lit up the classroom.

That's when he decided he'd learned something.  He went on to zip through the ce words, and enjoyed the story to which they were attached.  He showed great understanding when he substituted his for the.... he was hurrying because he wanted to find out what happened, and calling it his bag instead of the bag just showed comprehension.

Of course, I made him go back and correct the error, but he did so knowing that his mistake was a smart one.

It took 30 minutes.  It nourished me for hours.  I've committed to returning every Wednesday throughout the school year.  I'm going to rely on those little faces to bring me back to all that is right and good with the world.

It's not much, but it's a start, as I try to find my way through to whatever lurks on the other side.  It's hard to be terrified when you're totally happy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Gabby's Story

She continues to inspire me, each and every day. She's so much better now, stronger and tougher in her own words, which you can see in this video clip.  I tried to embed it, but the platform won't allow it.

She's comfortable in her own skin, and that's the part that moves me the most.  She's not tentative.  She's smiling and she's joking - with her husband and with her dog.  Her words are more fluent and her expressions more reflective of her inner self.

Aphasia, as Gabby says in this story, sucks.  The words are there; she just can't find them.  I cannot imagine the hours she's spent on her search.  My struggles to acquire a fluid gait pale in comparison to my Congresswoman's struggle to speak.

And yet, she smiles.  She leans into Mark and he squeezes her shoulder and they agree that looking backward is useless.  There is only tomorrow.  I've heard Gabby say it.  I've heard her mother say it.  In the clip, I heard Mark say it.

We haven't forgotten what happened, but we're not stuck there.  We are moving forward, dragging our reluctant and recalcitrant and frustrating bodies along for the ride.  We are more than our disabilities.  We are strong.  We are courageous.  We are bold

Gabrielle Giffords Continues to Inspire.  It's a bumper sticker and it's a promise to myself.

If she can be all those things, then so can I.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Spam in The Burrow

This was the only comment on yesterday's post:



با سالها سابقه در طراحي ،اجرا و خدمات سيستمهاي درب اتوماتيک و راهبند 
فروش،نصب و راه اندازي و خدمات انواع درب اتوماتيک (درب سکشنال - کرکره اتوماتيک - کرکره پنجره - درب ريلي اتوماتيک - جک پارکينگي - کرکره شفاف - رول گيتر - انواع راهبند و درب اتوماتيک شيشه اي... ) 
خدمات 24 ساعته و شبانه روزي حتي در تعطيلات رسمي 
مشاوره رايگان در تمامي مراحل

I read it on my phone, while waiting for class to start in the morning.  My Android doesn't have an easily accessible translation service, so I spent the day wondering.  What had the beautiful Persian writer been trying to communicate?  Was she as thrilled with my hike as I had been?  Was she taken with my photos?  Was she offering her perspective on the world?  And how had she found The Burrow?

Inquiring bloggers wanted to know, but life kept me away from home all day long.  With dinner re-heating in the oven, I sat at the desk and re-read the post.  No, there was nothing pertinent to a Persian writer, at least as far as I could see.  With mouse in hand, I copied and pasted the passage into Google Translate, and was rewarded with this:


*** The new company Gate ***


With years of experience in the design, implementation and service of automatic door systems and Barrier Sales, installation and service of automatic doors (sectional doors - Automatic shutters - Shutters - Doors rail automatic - Jack parking - transparent shutters - Roll POTGIETER - all kinds of barriers and doors made of glass ...)
Services 24 hours a day, even on holidays
Free advice at all stages

I can't imagine buying security doors from Iran, and yet that is what this new company GATE is hawking.  Still, there was much that was confusing.

According to a cursory Google search, Roll Potgieter score (t)he highest network security index for hard drawn wire structure made of iron and plated doors High elongation and impact resistance.....  and then the snippet ended and the link took me to another page of Farsi, with pictures of the rolling window and door covers.  

Jack parking was another conundrum, but Google was no help there, either.  There are Jack Parking Lots and people murdered in Jack in the Box parking lots but Jack Parking remains a mystery.

I'm wondering if they'd come on Thanksgiving if my garage door got stuck; they say they offer Services 24 hours a day, even on holidays.  I'm wondering what spam-bot found The Burrow and decided that security doors in Farsi was an appropriate comment.  I wonder if The New Company Gate paid someone to post that ad... and if they can get their money back.

However, should you be reading this in Iran right now, why not give GATE a call?  Tell them Ashleigh from The Burrow sent you.

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