Friday, May 26, 2017

Medicare and Me

I'm very proud of my red-white-and-blue-Official-Old-Person's card.  It makes me smile whenever I see it lurking in my wallet.  It made me smile when I handed it across the counter for my 3-D Mammogram and for my flu shot and for my very first Wellness Check.

Yes, I had a Medicare Wellness visit, just as I will every year until I am no more.  I can choose my doctor (a lovely, young, gerontologist with enough debt from med school to keep me practicing for a long, long, long time).  I have no co-pay or deductible.  It's a gift from the government (if you choose to think of Medicare as a privilege and not a right).  It's my right.

It's also very weird.

Apparently, the physician is not allowed to examine me.  The Nurse Practitioner took my height and weight and blood pressure and pulse and left me, fully dressed, to wait for the doctor.  She entered and reviewed my two sided questionnaire (Are you afraid of falling?  Do you have someone to talk to about your needs/fears/concerns?  Is there someone you can ask for help?  Do you have trouble remembering your medications/appointments/schedule? ) and then she let the bomb drop:  she is not allowed to touch me.

No deep breaths with the stethoscope pressed to my back.  No light shining in my eyes or my ears or my nose.  No palpating of my glands or my carotid artery.  No little hammer to my knee.  Nothing.  Nada. Rien.  Zip.

She thought it was as strange as I did, but, she explained, the research showed that it was not cost effective for physicians to lay hands on their patients in these annual Wellness Checks.  What they'd discover by touching and feeling and looking wasn't worth finding, we supposed.

And then, it got weirder.  While physical contact and natural observation were deemed unneeded, an EKG was deemed imperative.  And so, I got naked and left the gown open to the front and the NP came back in and attached the leads and ran the test and I dressed myself and prepared to leave.... until the doctor herself came back to talk to me.

One of my readings was seriously awry.

Had they taken my blood pressure right then, well, who knows?  I could feel my pulse pounding in my throat, my temples were red and about to burst, my heart was beating faster and faster.  I wasn't feeling that delighted about my Wellness Check after all.

The doctor reassured me that she was not worried, that the most probably explanation was a faulty lead or a poor connection. Still, it was mandatory that we follow up and so I received a referral to a cardiologist (The nicest and the best one in town, she told me) who I'll see this afternoon.

I had no symptoms.  The doctor isn't worried.  I should be fine.  This is precautionary.  Blah blah blah.... I'm scared and I'm wondering and all that money we saved by not having her touch me with anything but the EKG seems to flying out the window as I head to an undoubtedly much more expensive investigation of my health than is really needed.........  I hope.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Newseum

We walked and we gawked.  
Candidates for the Director's job were in the building.  We saw none of them.

We walked past a Naval memorial which I found impossible to photograph, so I looked across the street and saw The National Archives.... or what turned out to be the back of the National Archives.
That's the thing about Washington, D.C.  There's always something to see.
Perhaps the best view of a lot of it is from the balcony of the Newseum.
The view goes on for miles in the other direction, too.
It's a perfect frame for the Newseum itself.  You look out to the seats of power and wealth and pockets of despair and then you go inside, to see how it is reported.... how it was reported.... a long long time ago.
1660.... this was hot news.  The article is sincere and concerned and is no weirder than reading about Pippa's wedding last weekend.

The reason Daddooooo saved his WAR IS DECLARED newspapers (which disintegrated when I tried to rescue them) was to record a moment in time.  This ad had me wondering if Mr. 13 might have signed on for this... if not for loving his mother so much.

There were Pulitzer Prize galleries and small theaters and a Comics gallery with Pogo
who made me smile and begin to sing, sotto vocce, Deck us all with Boston Charlie......

Of course, there was the serious side, too.  
This is the Times Square Bomber's car.
The actual car.
And those artifacts were found in and around the vehicle.

The serious stuff lent itself to reading rather than photographing.
The schoolkids (and there were lots of them, color coded by t-shirt) were amazed and appalled and surprised by that which was part and parcel of my life and I smiled and felt old and experienced and full.  I suppose that's a pretty good epithet for a splendid afternoon.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Encore Chorale, or Revenge of the Grown-Ups

Our trip to Washington was designed around Auntie M's performance at Constitution Hall.
I'd never been to the venue; I knew it only because Marian Anderson was not permitted to sing there. TBG had never heard his big sister in a vocal performance. His favorite childhood memories include marveling at her ability to play anything with strings, and play it beautifully, but singing was something new.  When she issued the invitation, the combination was irresistible.

And so Mr. I-Hate-To-Travel was persuaded to get on a plane, causing his daughter to wonder if Dad knows that FlapJilly won't be there when he lands.  Yes, he knew. He knew that his sister asked him to watch her sing, and he wasn't going to let physical discomfort and psychological angst prevent him from attending.  

And so plans were made, friends and relatives were contacted, tickets and reservations were secured. The flying was what flying is these days and we were tourists and gourmands and then it was time to listen.

Encore Chorale started as a research project, The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on the Physical Health, Mental Health and Social Functioning of Older Adults. The gerontologist behind it proved all sorts of wonderful things but it was her husband who convinced us of its worth.  "The singing is so good for her; just look at her!"

And it is true.  Auntie M, with all her health issues, is positively glowing these days.  She has a fancy new rolling walker/chair/carry-all to go with her flowery-if-some-what-dented cane and between them she goes everywhere and sees everything.  And she looks good doing it.

And so did her fellow choristers.

800-some older aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas and teachers and coaches and neighbors and friends took the stage, after 150-some more regaled us with The History of Rock and Roll.  We were smiling when they took the stage, we were smiling as they sang, and we were smiling when they finished.  Some of it was familiar, some of it was new, all of it was presented with skill and talent and joy.

The conducting was magnificent.  Elegant and enthusiastic and having just as much fun as those they were prodding and cajoling and quieting and elevating and oh, denizens, our faces were breaking from smiling so hard.  

I looked around at the 30 and 40 somethings taking cell-phone-videos of their singers.  I looked at the school kids, swinging their legs, mildly amused,  well-behaved yet wondering when it would be over. And it dawned on me that this was the grown-up's revenge.  Their children were watching them on stage, just as, once, they had been watched, themselves.  It was a lovely circle, forming there in my head.  

The Headmistress of The Cuter's elementary school was wont to repeat, "Parents will sit on kindergarten size chairs for two hours to watch their child perform as a head of lettuce."  Encore Chorale is much, much more than a vegetable, but the comparison is not that far off.  

It was amateur artistic expression at its finest.  It was those who wanted to do something gathering together to share the joy of doing it together.  The music was intricate and interesting and they sang it with precision and attention to detail and with joy.  There was so much joy.  Our hearts were as happy as our ears. 

I was thinking of those tiny chairs on which TBG and I watched mice and Pilgrims and all manner of adorableness as we left the hall, every bit as happy as when I left a piano recital or Peter Pan thirty years ago.  This performance was more polished and on a far grander scale, but the feelings were the same.... with one difference: I was very thankful that the grown-ups were in charge this time; the chairs were much more comfortable:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Vacation Day Snippet

Scarlett and I spent the early afternoon walking around New York City watching Richard Gere totally inhabit the role of Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.   

We met The Girls for a late lunch, talking television and gardening and agreeing that the shoes in my trunk really did need to be returned.

I read some of Wuthering Heights, the required text for Wednesday morning's class.

I made a delicious dinner.

I watched TBG's Cavaliers lose in the last second of the playoff game.

And that was my vacation day, which I'm ending by encouraging you to see the film, to read Emily Bronte's oeuvre only with a genealogy close at hand, and, should the state of our Union begin to perturb, please consider, as a balm for your soul and a smile for your face, SNL's slate for the next Presdential race, The Rock and Tom Hanks.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Little Cuter's Special Day

That's my girl on her first day of school.

My girl, the one who has had a smile on her face from the moment that first bite of real food - a deep dish Chicago pizza crust - crossed her lips.  She wanted to join the party, and once she did, she's rarely found it wanting.

She had always been a wonderful kid; now she is a wonderful grown up. 

Remembering..... I stand in her kitchen, wondering where the splatter screen might be hiding, and she laughs, gently shaking her head, and, as she tells me it is no where because she doesn't have one... and I flash to G'ma standing in my kitchen wondering where my aprons were stored.... and to my own, gentle laughter, as I gave the same reply.

It's a memory from my adulthood, and now I have it from the other side.

And still, she's my little girl.  She's the one who read all the Babysitters Club books and those pink ones about the ponies and who listened to Rosalind-the-Bookseller's suggestions that she expand her horizons and then she became an English major.

She's the one who was surprised that everyone else in the 6th grade hadn't figured out the simplest thing, Mom.  If you don't fight with anyone then you can sit anyplace at lunchtime.  
You are a smile surrounding my heart, Little Cuter.   

Happy Happy Birthday to YOU!

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Little Bit of Housekeeping Love

Back in 2014, and not without controversy, Maria Shriver worked with Marriott to encourage hotel guests to leave a small gratuity for the housekeepers, on the theory that you interact with them as you do with the bellman or the doorman or the concierge, all of whom you tip without question.  Some said Marriott was asking the guest to pay the maids, but I disagreed.  I never thought the point was solely financial; I always included a Thank You! with my money on the bedspread.  

TBG and I left a happy, grateful note for a lovely room and a five dollar bill atop one of the four pillows on the bed, smiled at the housekeeper as we assured her that we were finished and the room was hers to with as she wished, and went on to friends and family and museums and food. 

We brought them all back to our room to rest before driving to dinner.  As they sorted themselves out on arm chairs and desk chairs and walker seats TBG and I stood in amazement.  Our room had received a lot of extra love.  Having chosen the green option, we draped our towels over the rack, signalling that we'd use them again, and expecting to find them drying in place when we returned. Handy on the rack near the sink when we left were two hand towels and two washcloths, exactly what we needed, 

We returned to this:
We hit the jackpot in the hand towel department, which was fortuitous since we had guests.  
The bathroom, too, was overflowing with housekeeping's largesse.
It wasn't only the 4 fluffy new bath towels which replaced the three adequate ones we'd left hangin, but the hand towels and washcloths in every shape and nook and cranny that put me over the edge.  I began to giggle but then I heard TBG laughing and calling for me to Come and Look!

I went. I saw. I smiled.
Yes. There are seven pillows on the bed. There were four when we left.

I'm not even going to describe what happened the next day with the toiletries.

Give and ye shall receive.
What goes around comes around.
Be Kind.
Do unto others.....

Whatever the reason, we both slept incredibly well on sheets placed with love.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

He's a Fine Man

TBG and I know Robert Mueller.  He's smart.  He's quietly powerful.  He has a good heart and a strong moral compass.  He is compassionate.  He loves this country and the rule of law.  He's exactly the kind of person who should be Special Counsel - whether you love this President or hate him.

He visited me - twice - during my first few days in the hospital, I was awake the second time; when he and his entourage left I snarked to my FBI Liaison Lady that it must have been a PR stunt. She got up from her chair and into my face.

"Oh, no. Absolutely not.  He came twice.  Twice.  The Director of the FBI came to see you twice because he cares about you and what happened to you."

She sat down and smiled at me and it was then that I realized that I was involved in more than a shooting in front of my grocery store.  This had national importance - a Federal Judge had been assassinated.  A member of Congress was clinging to life.  Some of those asking me questions, with their suits and guns and earwigs, were County sheriffs and detectives. But some were US Attorneys and FBI agents and their boss was in the room.... and it was my room.... and he came twice.

That's not all.

A week or so after I came home, the mail carrier brought me an embossed envelope and the nicest note, welcoming me home, hoping I was doing well, and reassuring me that he was thinking of me and mine and would do what was needed.  It was handwritten, in cursive.  It was signed Bob.

A real mensch, as G'ma would say.

Several years later, after the trial and the sentencing and the incarceration, the Director returned to Tucson.  His mission was to thank the professionals who had worked on the case; his pleasure, he told us, was meeting with us, the survivors and the families.

He said that after he stopped hugging me.  I introduced myself and before I got past I'm he said Suzi, oh, of course and then the hug began... and went on.... as he patted my back.... as I felt safe and valued.

There were some prepared remarks and he answered our questions and he told one of us to have her son contact him if he did want to be an agent and then he was gone and we were left in his glow.

And today, when I posted a three sentence version of this on Facebook some of those who were there weighed in, agreeing that he was fair and impressive....and some of those agreeing read Breitbart News.

I'm just sayin'.....  he's a fine man, no matter what your politics.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Visiting Washington, D.C. Vol. 2

There were more pictures from our visit to the Portrait Gallery than fit comfortably in one post.
One of them is this view from our hotel room, kitty-corner across the street.
The museum is unusual in The District; it stays open until 7pm.  Intrepid Cat tells me that it is a popular meeting spot for 20-somethings after the rest of the Smithsonians have closed, and it is true that the atrium under that white dome stuck on top of the otherwise elegant if stolid building was filled with her age-mates when TBG and I wandered through at dinner time.  
It's an absolutely beautiful building, at one time the largest open public space in the city.  There are galleries and mezzanines and winding staircases of all dimensions and construction.  Marble and polished wood, stained glass in the windows, lintels and frames carved with love.  
Even the doorknobs were special.
Coming up and then coming down, we smiled at this lovely sight.
It was a much more welcome place to feast our eyes than the photos we found in what we began to call The Ego Gallery.

 LL Cool J took up more space than Marilyn Monroe, Babe Ruth, and several presidents combined.
He's inescapable, positioned on a pass-through wall, all brocade wallpaper and glower.
Joining him in the Look At ME! gallery was everybody's least favorite NYC mayor:
looking all together too pleased with himself.
We wandered through Presidential Portraits and Signers of the Declaration of Independence.  
We paid homage to Ben Franklin.
We admired the tables decorated for a formal party that evening and then we were done.

Out into the light drizzle we went, in search of dinner.  
Shake Shack was grimy, Gordon Biersch too noisy, but Pi Pizza was perfect.
To hear TBG tell, it was the best pizza he's had in a decade, served by the world's best waiter.  
I was so tired I could have been eating cardboard.
Back out we went, breathing the city air into our airplane-infested lungs, looking around our neighborhood for the weekend, and there was the Verizon Center, with a gigantic video screen congratulating the Capitals and encouraging the Wizards and advertising airlines and I'm not sure what else because I studiously avoided paying attention to it.  
It was there when we went up to our room, so we drew the lacy curtains and watched Jason Bourne on Showtime, reveling in the adventure.  
From the sublime to the ridiculous, with good pizza in between.  
Life is good.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Visiting D.C.

It was nice of the DC police to bring a motorcade to DCA to greet us.
It was rainy and the taxi line was stalled until the dignitaries departed.  We waited and were reminded why we live in Tucson. Big City traffic, so many people, attitude galore.....thoughts about our plans and  family and friends awaiting us kept smiles on our faces.  Our taxi driver took us to our Marriott in the heart of the District - across from the American Art and Portraiture museum and the Spy Museum and the Verizon Center and so many delicious choices for an early dinner.  We unpacked and took palliative medications and headed out, past the Farmers' Market vendors under their tents, and into the pictures place. 
American heroes surrounded us, from Elvis
to Shirley Temple. 
 There was an exhibition of war journalists' photos, but we weren't in the mood to see young people damaged by death, so we continued out into the main galleries, admiring the portraits of those 20th Century Americans deemed honorable enough to be included in the nation's portrait gallery.  
We had Colin Powell looking powerful,
and Kate Hepburn looking relaxed.
Jose Limon, dance master, stunned me with his cheek bones.
Marian Anderson's poise and power stopped us in our tracks. 
That we planned this trip in order to  hear Auntie M sing at DAR Constitution Hall, where Ms Anderson was denied permission to sing because of the color of her skin..  well,  that just made the portrait even more special.
There was more,so much more, but this reimagining of Washington Crossing the Delaware, created by Asian American artist...... was the star of our afternoon.
More tomorrow.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Travel Day

It rained on Tuesday and it was cloudy on Wednesday.  I wore long pants - in May! in Tucson! - and still felt a chill.  That weather is following us cross-country as we fly, on Thursday, to Washington, D.C. Auntie M will be joining her chorale on stage in Constitution Hall, and we will be there to hear it.

I have comfortable walking shoes and I have attractive walking shoes and I have serviceable hiking shoes and I think I'll need all of them every day.  I'm sure I have a raincoat, somewhere, and I know that there's a collapsible umbrella in my car-basket, but I'm glad this is not envisioned as a sightseeing trip.

It's family first and for that we can certainly be inside.  I will finally get to the Newseum, which has been closed or moving or under renovation every time I tried to visit in the past.  There are other museums surrounding our hotel, free ones (unlike the Newseum, as Brother has reminded me), which can serve to amuse us when we are not being amused by really good relatives.

But, the plane leaves at 5:59am and I have to make a decision about those shoes.......

And just how dressed up does a Senior Citizen get?  Brother wears sneakers to everything; TBG has been seeking my reassurance that he can do the same.  Why, I wonder, am I so reluctant to take my own advice and Be Comfortable?

I'm leaning toward taking them all; I get one free carry on, after all.

Friday, May 12, 2017

What's a Citizen To Do?

Chris Matthews just asked the question that's been rattling around in my head all week - How is this  happening in America?

Is it possible that the Director of the FBI told the subject of an investigation that he was not the subject of an investigation? The President of the United States cited three instances where that happened.

The Vice President and the White House talking heads spent yesterday telling us that the decision to fire Comey was the result of the analysis presented by the Acting Director..... even though the Acting Director has vehemently denied that he should shoulder the blame.  Today, the President took full responsibility for the firing.

Did the FBI ask for more funds for an investigation that the Deputy White House Mouthpiece, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, claims is winding down?  I'm watching Senators promise to continue their investigation, listening to talking heads telling me that the rank and file of the FBI are battening down the hatches and forging forward, and the Executive Branch is claiming that it's a tempest in a teapot.

The Administration is planning to send thousands of troops into Afghanistan.  Russian media had access to a Presidential meeting that American media did not.  A Commission has been created to investigate Trump's claim of millions of illegal votes denying him a win in the popular vote.  And the subject of an investigation fired the person doing the investigating.

Where is my America?  Where are the checks and balances? Why didn't the Senate Intelligence Committee ask Mr Rosensteinto clarify the Comey firing?

And why does the DCCC keep sending me emails asking for money? What have they done for me lately?  Politics is local these days.  Individuals stepping up to the plate, defending our own interests, is all that is left for us.

So.  Here's what I suggest.  Bind your anxiety, harness your passions, and step up to the keyboard. and takes you to your elected representative's webpage.  There's a Contact button on every page, sometimes at the top, sometimes all the way at the bottom.  Click through, fill out the form (try to decide which category Possible Impeachment falls under) and send your message on its way.  JannyLou and I have been visiting our Senators' and Representative's local office, sharing our concerns with District Directors, leaving notes when they are not available.  They tell us that contacting them everyday is not annoying..... it is welcomed.

And so I've been screaming at the television and typing to Congress.  I an fuming while listening to NPR and then I pull into Jeff Flake's parking lot and share my fury with the poor sweet young thing behind the bullet-proof glass.  And, I'm encouraging you to do the same.  It's all that is left for us.... because this is what a citizen is to do.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Anxiety - A Snippet

Relaxed and gliding easily across the hallway, loosened by my massage, with no particular demands on my time, I was blissfully calm.

TBG's "UNBELIEVABLE!" brought me right back to reality.  An hour later, the nurse taking my blood pressure wondered why it was up around 146/90.  We agreed to blame the machinery, although I had no doubt that it was more of Donald Trump's handiwork.

Poor Jim Comey, finding out he was fired because the televisions behind him said so.  Poor Jim Comey, finding his law school classmates agreeing on his love of the limelight.  Poor Jim Comey and his tummy ache.... we are all suffering for his distress.

The talking heads are having a field day with this shitstorm... and shitstorm it most certainly is.  They are creating scenarios and explanations and long term reasoning and strategy and I'm getting hoarse from screaming that which is obvious, which has been obvious since the beginning of his campaign, since The Apprentice, since he decided to become a brand.

The Donald is interested in one thing and one thing only - The Donald.

Comey was getting headlines.  Sally Yates schooled Ted Cruz.  The FBI wanted more money to investigate the fake news about Russia.  Firing the FBI Director would certainly change the narrative.

The fact that the White House is surprised that Democrats aren't jumping for joy with this announcement is another example of just how tone deaf they are.  There are serious issues here - a President disparaging judges, a Vice President disparaging an entire state, a Majority Leader refusing to investigate that which needs investigation, and a serious lack of heroism from the Republicans.

It's a defining moment - for them, for us, for our country.  I wish I weren't so pessimistic about the outcome.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trip Planning

I have a tummy ache.  It's not physical, it's psychological.  It's absurd.  I'm planning a fun getaway with Little Cuter and my stomach is in my throat.  It's not fun at all.  There are so many moving pieces.

Did my reservation for the event arrive in a timely fashion?  I mailed the preprinted postcard, but I spent last night - at 2, at 3:17, at 4:46 - worrying about the sanctity of the mails.  This morning  I sent a follow-up email, just to be sure.

Little Cuter and I are meeting in the Houston airport.  Do I want to save a little bit of money by arriving 3 hours after she does?  Not really, not at all, no I don't.... but the frugal me is worming a hole in my gut as I contemplate spending more than I must to get where I'm going.  Convenience is everything to me these days; I just hate to pay for it.

The car rental was going to be easy.  I'd pull up all the sites, enter my data, and choose the least expensive way to drive two hours to Glaveston.  Sure.  At one time I had all my car rental membership codes on a pink spreadsheet.  this morning, all I can find is the list of credit card numbers.  Even that is useless; I created it when we were still living in California and most of the cards are cancelled or expired.  I am certain that there are discounts if I ma enrolled. I am certain that I am enrolled.  But Enterprise wants me to input my member number before I can change my (forgotten) password and if I had the member number I'd probably have the password, too, but I don't have either and my language is not fit for polite society right now.

Hertz had me sign up all over again.  I opened the Dollar and Alamo sites, stared, signed and closed them.  I don't have what they want and I'm too peeved to deal with what they need.  I want the Enterprise rental anyway; it's ne-third the price of the on-site companies.  I just have to figure out how to arrange it.

The hotel was a simple matter.  The event has a home page with links to two suggestions.  One is right on the beach and half the price; wer're confirmed for a two queen bed room at a reasonable rate, with a request for foam pillows and a room away from the elevator.  That took five minutes, including comparing the two properties' amenities.  I dawdled a while, enjoying the photos of the pool and the ocean.  That was my happy break, before I went back to the airline conglomerators and the individual sites and tried to find a way to make the travel less onerous.

I failed.

I'll consult with my traveling companion and confirm the flights adn the car and then I'll try to put the trip into the Planned and I'm Excited box in my brain.  Right now it is stuck in the Have I Covered All my Bases? bin.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Anatomy in Clay

I first encountered this at the Pilates Method Alliance International Meeting in 2013
I've been nagging to have it brought to Tucson since Kyria and I were there in Fort Lauderdale.
Last Thursday, desire and opportunity collided.
I sat beside my PilatesStrong mentor, gazing at my own personal plastic skeleton.
I wish I had named it..... but there really wasn't much time for random thoughts.
We were instructed to create 3 or 4 flat pieces 
and tubes of varying diameters
while we introduced ourselves to one another. 
The eleven other students counted Pilates Professional among their list of accomplishments.
I was the only one unversed in anatomy.
It didn't seem to matter.
Speaking without notes, asking questions and repeating material and reminding us of that which she'd just told us, Dallas encouraged us and gently corrected us while moving us along in our study of the torso in three dimension.

We rolled small, perfect clay balls as she taught us about the vertebrae.
The cervical vertebral bodies have pointy protuberances which allow them to fold over one another.
The lower you go the bigger and thicker they become.  They tilt forward and backward and have holes through which nerves travel.  And between them are the discs, which we created by flattening our small balls and then wrapping it with a round or two of the thicker tube.
With reckless abandon, we placed our disc between two vertebra and pushed them together.
We were all squirming, just a little, feeling it in our own spines, as we rolled and coiled and pressed, in groups of 3 and 4, until we had an entire spinal column, replete with nerves and a chest wall, before us.
And on it went. We created muscles with striations in the appropriate directions
I learned about the bones and the muscles blown apart by my shooter's bullets.  As we connected fatter tubes from pubis to pelvis to femur, my entry wounds began to throb.  I traced their intersection with 9mm bullets in my hip, in my thigh, in the origins and the insertions, of the muscles whose striations I was carving. 

"No wonder I limp!" 

Understanding why I have trouble lifting my thigh alerted me to changes I could make to my gait. I'm imagining the structures I created, even as I struggle to remember their names.  I'm acutely aware of their presence and their function, at least in a general sense, just as Dallas promised.  Given a test immediately after the class, there would be no difference between those of us who learned with clay and those who did not.  But, over time, we anatomical sculptors would retain a lot more.  

It's been three days and I'm remembering more and more. I spent some time this afternoon communing with my diaphragm, considering its connection to my organs and ribs and vertebra. Breathing is much more interesting since I spent a day playing with clay.

 Last night, after eleven hours of driving and sitting and driving and sitting and driving and standing and finally getting home, after no exercise at all, I was done... put a fork in me... where is my comfy place?  Watching me from across the room, TBG, my staunchest supported and most honest evaluator, complimented the pace and ease and evenness of my gait.... without being asked (as I do when I'm feeling particularly coordinated).... with a big smile on his face.    

It was an intellectual exercise with immediate, practical applications.
And it was really a lot of fun.
Obviously, you don't need a scientific background to appreciate the program.
They travel all over; you should check it out.

(And no, this is not a paid post.)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Happy Birthday, Big Cuter

Mothers Day and my becoming a mother coincided on this day, 34 years ago. On a sunny Sunday morning, after a furious, rain swept night, face up and looking around, there emerged a little human we named for his Grandpaw.

Those eyes have been open and searching every minute of every day, from that first May 8th until now.  Ever curious, he hated going to sleep. He couldn't let go of the day, afraid that something might happen and he'd miss it.  He invented FOMO.

He's not an experimenter, my son.  Never was and, perhaps, never may be.  He watches and observes and, when he's understands it, he moves. He never toddled; he ran.  

He skipped picture books and went straight to Edgar Rice Burroughs.  TBG left for a business trip in the middle of Princess of Mars and I was reading my own novel; there was nothing to do but read it himself.  No pictures, elegant language, tiny print.... none of it mattered, none of it except what happened to Dejah Thoris.

He hasn't been without a book since.  One year he gave away his table and desk; his birthday present was the delivery of enough bookshelves to fill the space they left.  

He's also never without an opinion.  He enjoys his own company and that of anyone who can support a coherent argument, who will play a board game, who will eat a pizza or drink an interesting beer while watching the Warriors.  

With insouciant humor, he's forgiven the imminent tardy-arrival-due-to-my-negligence of his birthday socks, but his expiation can't obviate my maternal guilt. And so, to my boy who loves verbiage, I gift this post, all 290 words of it, with love, as a more timely birthday gift.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Do We Want To Have a Country?

Who are we as a people?

Do we want to live as individuals, grasping for power and wealth, unconcerned about anyone or anything unless it touches us directly?

Do we want to have a country?

The Several States,_or_Die
Where is the melting pot?  We brought our troubles to these shores and, yearning to breathe free, we became Americans, of various origins and ethnicities, to be sure, but Americans above all.  The several states, founded by Quakers and Pilgrims and the Dutch and the English, agreed in 1776 to unite despite those differences.  Those were serious differences, you're going to Hell kind of differences, but the notion of a country was, ultimately, an idea worthy of preservation.

It wasn't an easy conversation.  Families were divided, friendships were ended. But the conversation itself, The Federalist Papers, Thomas Paine's Common Sense, was fascinating.

This is an important conversation, one that we need to have, as a nation, from time to time.  It takes a major stressor to engage us, something like Joseph McCarthy or Kent State or 9/11 or the election of Donald Trump.  It's painful and it's necessary and it seems to be inevitable.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

On Facetime With My Girls

Little Cuter had issues (don't we all?) and I encouraged her to vent.  I'm her Mom; sympathetic ears are  my specialty.  I've learned to avoid trying to solve anything. I concentrate on the emotion behind the facts.  I'm always on her side.  She can talk as long as she wants to, needs to, feels like.  My capacity is boundless.

So she explained and she quoted and she described.  She defended her actions and she watched me nodded in agreement.  I was having a great time.  My kid was confident enough to stand her ground, to demand civility and respect, to begin to consider her options because she is valuable and she knows it and if others can't see it then it's not the place she's meant to be.

FlapJilly was having none of it.  She was okay while we were focused on her, enjoying her smoothie and showing me the bunnies on her socks, running away from my tickling fingers.  But things began to deteriorate as soon as she and I began to disagree about her mother. My Girl vs NO! MY MOMMY! 2 year olds don't like to share and defining her mother as anything other than the personal property of FlapJilly herself was clearly unacceptable.

She was tired and Daddy was working sooooo hard that he wasn't home like he usually is and she must be growing because she was a non-stop eating machine and sometimes kids are just cranky.

She pouted and she frowned and she was generally unpleasant as Little Cuter and I talked on... and on...amid flouncing and interrupting.... until the little one was asked if she should be put in time out? A most emphatic shake of the head answered that.

Did she want to put herself in time out?  FlapJilly nodded with a solemn face as her elders stopped talking.  Seriously, she trudged down the hall and sat herself on the second step, taking a break.

Little Cuter kept talking and I kept nodding, but in the background was a rather loud conversation.... not clearly audible from my end but definitely aggravated and demanding and peeved as only an independent and disgruntled 2 year old can be.  To whom she was directing her comments remains a mystery; perhaps Thomas the Wonder Dog was nearby. Whatever was inside was definitely coming out.

Then, there was quiet.  The kid came shlumping back, flinging herself onto the couch.  There was flopping and giggling and there was tickling; then there was crying.  The grown ups said  I love you as the little one wailed in her mother's arms.

I hung up with love in my heart and a sense of wonder; I've never seen a kid who knew that she needed to absent herself from the scene.... and then did so.  She took care of business and came back to join the party, still tired, still 2, but much less aggravated .... well, somewhat less aggravated.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


Some women shop at Nordstroms.
Not-Kathy shops at the junk yard.

Yes, she really was that happy.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Playing Catch Up - Movies

Some movies can be watched over and over and over again, starting anywhere and stopping when something else comes along.  I looked at what we've been watching and realized that is the perfect description of April's viewing.

Dial M For Murder - Ray Milland is icy cold and  may be my favorite British policeman of all time.(John Williams is his name; you've seen him everywhere and always wondered, haven't you?) It's Hitchcock but never terrifying; it's a good, old-fashioned mystery told by a master filmmaker.

The Thin Man- All three of the films are worth watching, but this is my favorite.

Some Like It Hot- This film has changed over the years.  The gender bending was an amusing gimmick when I saw it 40 some years ago; in 2017 it's quite profound.  Joe E Brown's Well, nobody's perfect (when Jack Lemmon admits he's a man) and Lemmon's resigned slide back into his seat told me a different story this time around.

The Lady Eve- Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda and William Demarest and Charles Coburn and Eugene Pallette, with Preston Sturges at the helm.  It's perfect.

How To Marry a Millionaire- Watching Lauren Bacall sell off her rented furniture while trying not to fall in love makes up for the times I want to tell Marilyn Monroe to get over herself.

And then there were two new ones:
Knight Without Armor- Robert Donat and Marlene Dietrich escape Siberia in 1917.  The history lessons were as interesting as the plot.  Why do all Russia-based movies insist on having us watch people walk across vast empty cold windswept snowy expanses of nothingness?

Smart Blonde- How can you resist a reporter named Torchy Blane?  The movie begins in media res; I suppose the 1937 audience knew that the policeman was her boyfriend before the film began.  The plot is quirky and so are the relationships.  There are lots of them in the series.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Wide Sargasso Sea

Scarlett and Lady Jane and I will begin a five week study of The Brontes on Wednesday.  The Humanities Seminars' summer classes last for one month; the three sisters in the parsonage are our choice for May.  Jane Eyre, Violette, and Wuthering Heights from the Brontes, Wide Sargasso Sea from the 20th century.

PBS, fortuitously, ran a three hour biography of the Bronte family, To Walk Invisible, in March, and Scarlett and I spent a lovely afternoon watching (with subtitles, because otherwise it was incomprehensible) these three young women care for their dissolute brother and their father and their home while they were writing, always writing, because It's what we do.

They took their own stories and embellished the details, just as they'd been doing since childhood.  The juvenalia our professor provided as pre-class tantalizers echoes the PBS scenes of the children's fantasy play.  They were creating their own stories from the world around them as soon as they could remember a plot.  As they grew up, nothing really changed.  Work as a governess?  There's Jane Eyre.  Wonder about the creepy big house looming over the town?  It's Wuthering Heights incarnate.  The background made the well-known stories more layered, perhaps a bit more sinister.

And sinister is what we found when we picked up Jane Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys's backstory to Antoinette, Mr. Rochester's mad wife.  It had been my leave-in-the-car-for-when-there-is-nothing-else-to-read book for years; my copy was water logged and bent and unread past the first twenty pages or so.  Scarlett bought one for her Kindle.  Lady Jane purchased a pristine new copy.  None of us could get past the first few pages.

Lady Jane, whose recovery is not helped by negativity, loaned me her nice new book; her bookmark was nestled deep into the first section and she wasn't going any further.  Scarlett wondered if I was having trouble with the assignment; this was not an easy read.  I, having started and stopped several times, spent Friday wondering if I'd try again and then, nursing TBG's gigantic headache on Saturday afternoon, I took out my hearing aids, snuggled next to my dozing-to-the-basketball husband, and opened it up.

It's 171 pages long.  It ebbs and flows and I'd say it was like the ocean waves (banal) except there is no ocean in this Caribbean setting; there is only the river, deep in the forest, the forest the Rochester character finds so ominous and his wife finds so comforting.  Rhys's Caribbean is sensual and scented and beautiful and terrifying.  Set after Emancipation has come to Jamaica, the tangle of race and money and safety and beauty and love hamstring Antoinette, confusing and captivating and exposing her vulnerability.

It's the vulnerability which haunts the book, which she recognizes and is helpless to combat except when she (why? oh why?) acquiesces and the story tumbles on to the ultimate and awful conclusion.  Except that the raging fire which ends both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea is as freeing to Antoinette as it is to Charlotte Bronte's Jane; I found myself smiling as I closed the back cover.

It took a few hours on a sunny afternoon to finish what I tried to stop reading several times along the way.  The book takes you deep into awful places in the soul.  It exposes fleeting thoughts of generosity and desire and disgust with equal weight and measure.  While I couldn't help but judge their actions, I could also find myself completely understanding their motivations.  Deftly, without much description, Rhys defines them and damns them.

This isn't an easy read.  There are times when it is almost too painful to turn another page.  I kept looking at page 171, wondering how soon I'd arrive.  When I got there, though, I wanted to start it all over again.  This is a work of literature - and work it most certainly is.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Non-Apology Apologies

How's this for manipulation:
 I  will take all this blame for your horrible life, if you just please try and realize... that I never meant any harm on you guys.

Trust that the facts are not in her favor, that you guys are teenagers, and that she started it.  Yes, the grown up's feelings were hurt and she went for the jugular. And then she defended it, and herself. You guys saw through it and called her on it, not with any hope that she would listen, but to speak up, with love and admiration, for themselves and the other objects of her scorn.  Watching resilient kids discover their power is both heartbreaking and exhilarating.  That's the only silver lining I can find in the whole sordid mess.    

The grown-up is making deals, is demeaning the pain, is seeking forgiveness.  She's the definition of a tricky person."

Have you seen the story about the kids who saved themselves from a child abduction? They recognized that the man asking for their help was a tricky person.... because grown-ups don't ask kids for help.  

"I'll take the blame if" is not accepting responsibility.  

It's her reality that matters, not theirs, since she never meant any harm. Taking the blame does nothing.  Blame and Responsibility are separate and unequal rungs on the ladder of Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?  Of course she will be blamed; she was the grown up and you guys were little children.  Could she be implying that somehow you guys were to blame?  I never met the woman.  I really don't know.

This is only one sentence.  The entire diatribe would make for an interesting case study; every sentence is rich with irony and pain.  I'm choosing to be happy, so I'm leaving the story with you. I'm going out to fertilize my flowers, the way good parents nourish their children, with just the right amount of good food and fine music and intelligent conversation, even though it's hot and I'm tired and I still have to cook dinner.  I'm putting their needs before my own, because that's a good foundation for parenting little ones and, most of the time, bigger ones, too.

I'm glad you guys have found safety and security and love and good food and fine music and intelligent conversation.  I'm leaving the nastiness right here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

More Books

Another installment of What Ashleigh's Been Reading, aka Playing Catch Up.  I hope there are a few items which pique your interest, too.  Be sure to comment (anytime, on any post) if you've read the same things.

What You Break- Reed Farrel Coleman lives on Long Island and writes about Long Island and the characters could have lived next door to me.  There is nuance and there is anguish and there is just plain rage.  It's one of the best police stories I've read in a long time.

Eleven Little Piggies- The woman can write.  Strong women and a love of the land are front and center in this surprisingly touching mystery. 

Kept Woman- Karin Slaughter really loves her characters, and so do I.  This is a series which should be read from the start; if you've done that, you know just how wonderful their stories are.

Heartbreak Hotel- Jonathan is my favorite Kellerman.  The psychiatrist and the detective and the crime are the focus, and the client is sui generis.

Humans, Bow Down - James Patterson and Emily Raymond with Jill Dembowski; illustrations by Alexander Ovchinnikov.  YA at its best doesn't pander. This Robots Gone Wild dystopian fantasy was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Music Trivia

Lady Jane has taken up temporary residence in a brand new place, recuperating from 8 very long and painful days in the hospital.  She doesn't need daily physical therapy, she doesn't need oxygen ,nor does she need help with her medications.  She is too weak to do much walking and talking; cooking and cleaning are out of the question for the immediate future.  A sociable person, she'd wither on the vine if she were home, alone, using all her energy to struggle to the door to welcome visitors.

The Case Manager at the hospital wanted her to go to a Skilled Nursing Facility to receive treatment; this would be covered by Medicare.  But Lady Jane knew that her PT needs would resolve once she was mobile.  She didn't need daily treatment, she needed to get up and get moving.  The Case Manager reminded her, rather sternly, that Medicare would not pay for the kind of place we were describing.  Imperiously and appropriately, Lady Jane said she would pay her own way.

"I can't travel anymore.  This can be my vacation." 

And she's using it just that way.  I found her in settled in her room in a comfy, padded armchair, reading by the open patio door. A gentle breeze, the cooing mourning doves, the color returned to her previously ashen cheeks - we were a happy twosome.  The facility is brand new; she couldn't arrive until they ordered a bed and dresser.  The hot water heater had issues and so have a few of the meals, but the salads we ate the first evening were scrumptious and filling and the staff is willing and courteous and she has no complaints.

She has no complaints.  That says it all for me.  I'm helping her coordinate her care, so I have a semi-professional interest in the outcome, but mostly I like her a lot and I want her to feel safe and comfortable. We were congratulating ourselves on planning this part of her life so brilliantly when Raul knocked and was granted admission.

Raul, a bearded, nattily attired, Hispanic man with a deep Southern accent, is the Community Life Director.... although it took us a moment or two to decipher exactly what he was saying.  Please don't tell me that immigration is only a border issue; wherever he learned his English, it came with a drawl as thick as Lady Jane's Carolina roots.

Once we figured out the where and the what, my friend politely declined his offer to escort her to this afternoon's activities: a community meeting with the Ombudsman from the Pima Council on Aging (the County watchdog agency) and, right afterwards, a Music from the '30's and '40's Trivia Contest.

Raul paused, smiled, and reluctantly shared the fact that nobody else was interested in Trivia, either.  They've only been there a few days, and they, like the building itself, are still settling in, working out the kinks, discovering how their days will go.  For most of the residents, this is their new home.  They will have plenty of time to explore.

Lady Jane, meanwhile, will rest comfortably in her chair, her tablet and her telephone and her book close at hand. (Well, her book was close at hand until she decided not to finish it.  More on that in a future post.)  She's awaiting the arrival of a desk, so that she can be more organized, but, in general, she's doing exactly what she should be doing after a lengthy and debilitating hospitalization - nothing.

Her only job is to heal.  I'll bring her a nightlight and pick up her prescription and bring her something yummy if dinners don't improve soon, and she'll sit on her chair, icing her aching arm, admiring her snazzy, new, fire-engine red walker, as her body readjusts.

It's a rest home.  And yes, it is exactly as comfortable as it sounds.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bump! The Third Installment

Apparently, what you see is not always what you get.  That's the mantra I'm repeating to myself as I try to come to terms with these words from the body shop guy: If you'd been rear-ended again, you'd have been in big trouble.  You really shouldn't be driving your car like this.
It's been a busy week since the damage was done;  I finally found time to visit the body shop this afternoon.  They are lovely, snarky, funny folks, so his serious tone required serious attention.  we went out to The Uv, he lifted the carpeting in the trunk, and I gasped.

The floor pan is bend.  Smushed.  Crumpled.  Crushed.  There's really nothing left of the car's structural integrity.  A tiny bump would have done me in.

A quick call to the other driver's insurance company secured me a bright red Hyundai Elantra from Enterprise, which did, indeed, pick me up and got me on my way with a minimum of fuss and bother.  I drove back to the body shop, unloaded my stuff, got groceries for dinner and came home, mildly peeved because I left the garage door opener in The Uv.  

There's nothing awful about any of it.  I see that as my fingers type the words.  But I was grumpy and grumbly and was unfit company for anyone.  I soaked in the pool and I swam a lap or two, and I walked a few, and I bent and pressed and pulsed and floated and gradually the yucks soaked away.  

Most of them, anyway.  The space where I placed the memory of the bump! the sound the adrenaline the loss of control, gone in a second but always ready for a comeback performance..... PTSD, the gift that keeps on giving.  It's only a fender, albeit a $6000 fender. I avoided the dire consequences.  It's a beautiful, hot, breezy, sunny Tucson afternoon and the trees are showing off their newly pruned selves in yellow abundance.  

I don't need to be sad; it accomplishes nothing.  I notice these emotions as intruders into my world more readily than I have before, and that's major progress.  I have all sorts of strategies to move beyond the threat and into safety, and they work very well, thank you for asking. I just wish I didn't have to use them at all.  

Really, I just wish that none of it had ever happened.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Earth Day

First published on April 21, 2009, a kinder, gentler time, for sure.

I like Earth Day. I was there at its creation, after all.

It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Initially, it was a touchy-feely alternative to the harsher realities of the anti-Vietnam War protests.

You wanted to do something, but war was such an uncomfortable subject and arguing against it made your parents wonder why they were spending tuition dollars while you were telling the lawfully elected President of the United States of America that you knew more than he did. With your picture in the crowd on the front page of the NY Times. At 18 years of age, no less.

But planting trees? Recycling newspaper? Not littering? And all this in service to Mother Earth. Who could be aggravated about supporting Mother Earth?

Earth Day had teach-in's. They were more fun than sit-in's, which invariably involved police and disciplinary action. They were less fun than be-in's, which owed more to Timothy Leary and The Grateful Dead than to anything political or practical. Teach-in's were earnest and had hand-outs and statistics and pictures of desolate landscapes ravaged by the cruelty of man. There was science and legislation and outrage and lots of tree give-aways.

Earth Day had no mandatory family gatherings. It required no gift giving, no card sending. You went outside and did something - cleaned a playground, weeded a median strip, planted one of those free trees. You felt good because you were doing good.

Now there is Earth Week and "We're greener than you are"is the new corporate mantra. Were this still 1970, there would be protests about the idea being "co-opted by the man". Instead, Sheryl Crow is designing re-useable grocery bags for Whole Foods and WallyWorld is selling them next to the discounted paper towels.

And Mother Earth is grateful.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Surgeons - A Snippet

"You have to really trust a man who takes power tools to your head,"  is the quote on the front page of today's Arizona Daily Star.

TBG and I smiled as he suggested that I tell you about Daddooooo and the brain surgeon.

We hoped that whatever was removed would also remove the most noxious pieces of my Dad's personality.  I thought of posing that to the surgeon on the morning of the operation, but I was stopped in my tracks by the piece of tissue paper stuck to the doctor's cheek.

He'd cut himself shaving.

Re-read that quote.

Brother and I could do nothing but try not to laugh.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Death of the Shopping Mall, One Store at a Time

Macy's is leaving the Tucson Mall.  They're not relocating.  They're just leaving.

The Container Store opened a brand new outward facing store a few years back, and Toby Keith dedicated a barbeque and music destination around the same time.  Now Keith's is gone, and so are two other restaurants which followed.

Sears is still there, though, and it was near there that I entered this afternoon, bent on replenshing TBG's dwindling (okay, empty) stack of chocolates with a pound of See's.

At least, that was the plan.  I was surprised that the store's website told me that it was closed when I Googled it on Easter Sunday; I assumed it was for the holiday.  But, no, that was optimistic.  In fact, after I parked the Uv and dragged my still-aching body across the parking lot and past the Hallmark and the Red Robin, I found that the store was, indeed closed - closed for good.

There's white butcher paper covering the windows, there's an open rear entrance providing a glimpse into a storage area filled with empty shelves and pedestal trays, and there's a sign on the door:
Store Closed.  Sorry for the Inconvenience.
I accepted their apology.  It wasn't much comfort for TBG's chocolate lust, though.


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