Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Travel Day.... ALL DAY

The least expensive way to get from our house to FlapJilly's house includes a ninety minute drive to Phoenix.  Allegiant Airlines flies out of Mesa Gateway Airport, off to the side of the megalopolis.  A one-way ticket takes a passenger directly to the tiny South Bend airport for as little as $72, if you catch the sale on the right day.  You pay extra for everything  - a reserved seat, a bag in the overhead bin, early boarding, soda or chips or pretzels or lunch - but the planes are new and the seats are comfy (if you aren't too wide or long), the flight attendants are helpful and friendly, and the planes are always on time.

The down-side is that the planes fly between those two cities only on Monday and Friday, and the flight to South Bend leaves Mesa at 7:30 in the morning.  So, today, we set our alarms for 3:55am and were in the car by 4:15, TBG at the wheel.  I navigated us successfully to the parking lot, we found a great spot, shaded by a tree, and we shlepped the suitcase through the pouring rain to the terminal.

I took off my shoes and walked barefoot; suede and water are not a good combination.

There's an Arrivals/Departures display right inside the doorway.... and it did not share good news.  For the first time since we've been traveling this route, there was a problem.  Our plane would not be leaving at 7:30.... the board read 11am.  Discovering this at 6am was quite unpleasant, to say the least.

And so, we waited. The plane which was to take us had never left Pasco....and don't feel bad if you've never heard of Pasco, because no one else had ever heard of it either.  Apparently, it's a tri-city area in the state of Washington.

We waited. TBG stretched out over several empty seats and napped. I read The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas, my go-to on the Kindle when I have time to kill but no appetite for a story.  We waited and ate and waited some more.  We didn't have little kids to corral or an appointment to make, so we were relatively sanguine about the delay.  But it kept getting longer and longer.

Finally, the plane arrived, passengers exited, we entered, and I turned off my phone.  When we landed, safely, three hours later, I turned it on again to find that Allegiant had sent me two $50 vouchers via email.  No explanation.  No apology.  Just $100 in my inbox.

All of a sudden, I didn't feel all that bad about the delay.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Happy (almost) Birthday, FlapJilly

I'm on my way to pay obeisance to the loudest Princess I know.
courtesy of JPetersenPhotography

I'll keep you posted on our adventures.

If you need more verbiage, here's where I was three years ago, just before she was born.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I'm Just Wondering

Thanks, Little Cheese, for alerting me to the fact that this had yet to appear!

I've tried to come up with an explanation, but I can't.  It's a question no one has asked.

Believe me, between the New York Times and the Washington Post and the various on-line aggregators I bring to the table, and the televised talking heads of all descriptions who are TBG's companions most of the day, we hear and see it all.  What we miss generationally, Big Cuter is happy to provide.

Still, I seem to be the only person who is wondering, and that makes me wonder why I'm wondering... and why they are not... and who are they, anyway.

Obviously, Mr. Trump knew that he'd be seated next to Mrs. Abe; he brought a Japanese/English translator to the G-20 dinner at the center of the latest kerfuffle.  Didn't anyone wonder about the rest of the seating arrangements?

Who decided that it would be a good idea to put Melania Trump next to Vladimir Putin?

There are so many questions that fall out of that one.  Did the Trumps ask for it as an excuse for the bro-mance between the boys to continue in public?  Was the G-20's Social Secretary having a bit of fun?  Did Vlad the Bad make a request?  

Why am I the only one who seems to care?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How Am I Doing? A Progress Report

This is a tale of a splinter, a pool, and a hip.  

I decided to swim as my aerobic activity.  Sunscreen applied and soaked in, I wrapped my robe around myself and stepped onto the coir doormat.... and a pricker made itself at home in the sole of my right foot, the one that lives below the bullet holes.

I hobbled over to the pool, descending gently on one and a half legs.  I soaked and poked and prodded and pulled but success eluded me.  So I swam my laps, got my heart racing, cooled down, and hobbled back and found my tweezers.

I sat down, crossed my leg, and confronted my lack of flexibility. 

On the steps in the pool, in the water, I could bend enough to examine the situation.  On land, trying to open out into cobbler pose, I was an utter failure.

On a chair, with my ankle resting on my other knee, I tried to look at my wound.  I failed.  I sighed.  

I took a deep breath, entered my Pilates Space, folded my ribs and bent my spine in a gentle curve.  Slowly, steadily, with oppositional energy flowing between my hip and my rib cage, I lifted myself up and over.

And then, there it was.  

The sole of my foot was available for minor self-surgery as my hip groaned and creaked and cracked and made all kinds of unusual noises.  Remembering my RIC physical therapist's admonition to Assess the threat value of the sensation, I recognized that although it was weird and loud and scary, it didn't hurt.  Since she'd reassured me that I was incapable of doing further damage to myself unless I fell off a building, I kept pressing out and down and tried as best I could to ignore the cacophony.

I pressed, I pulled, I tweezed... twoze? ... and I was splinter-free with my hip turned out to a position it hadn't assumed since I was perforated, six and a half years ago.  It's been a long time coming.  I'm very glad it's here.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Stating The Obvious

I'm watching Republicans telling me that Obamacare is failing, that there are counties with no insurers, that premiums are predicted to rise 30 or 40 or 50 percent.  Our President is gleefully blaming the failure of the exchanges on his predecessor.

There is so much duplicity, it's hard to know where to start.

The iconic image of an Insurance Guy starts and ends with boring.  Actuaries love the predictable; they make money by betting on the likely outcome.  They factor in every teeny tiny variable before they decide that you ought to pay them $684 every month.

Right?  No one disagrees thus far?

So what happens when the Federal Government can't decide how much of the rug they are willing to pull out from under the system?  Insurers pick up their policies and go home.

It's obvious.  Why can't they say so?  Is it because, after 7 years of complaining, they didn't have a plan to repeal and replace the ACA written and ready to go?  Seven years is plenty of time, even in Washington.

And where are the Democrats?  If ever there were a time to be working on the fixes, necessary with any piece of major social legislation, it is now.  Since nothing is being legislated in public, I hope that the work is being done in private.  When the dust settles, I want a reasonable offer on the table.  

However, I don't think that now is the time to be talking about it.  I agree with Woodrow WilsonNever … murder a man who is committing suicide.  The Republican Party is doing a fine job of imploding all on its own.  

It's too bad that real people are being affected.  As a screenplay, it's fabulous.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Speaking Truth to Power... Or Trying To

OFA and Indivisible and Planned Parenthood all wanted me to visit Senator Flake's office to weigh in on health care.  Then I heard President Trump threaten to fund a campaign against my Junior Senator because he's not yet come out in favor of the BRCA.  I was ready.

Under overcast skies, I drove down Oracle, put on my turn signal, and waited at the divide for the traffic to subside.  Waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and then I noticed a big guy in a bright yellow shirt standing in the middle of the entrance to the parking lot.  He was going to be smashed by The Uv unless he stepped out of the way. I checked and my turn signal was blinking away.  He had to know I was coming his way..

The traffic eased and I hit the gas.  He moved just enough for me to get through and raised his hand as I drove in.  I braked, rolled my window down just a bit, and heard him ask Can I help you?

No, thank you, I replied.  I didn't need help.  I knew exactly where I was going/

Why are you here? he wondered.

I swallowed my rage; it's a public parking lot, with a credit union and professional offices and there's never been a security guard questioning my existence before.  I smiled through gritted teeth as I said, To see my Senator.

Why? Are you here to protest?

I'm here to see my Senator.

Oh.  Okay.  Park in the back and when you are done, leave the premises immediately.

What if I were here to protest?

I'd ask you to park off the property and stay on the public street.

I drove on, found my OFA contact on a bench outside the office, and I loitered for a while.
I made my comment, had my picture taken for a We Were Here collage, and talked about the major protest that the owners of the property feared.  None of the organizations with which we connect had announced any plans to converge; OFA was scheduling people for 10 minute segments throughout the day, but that was all we knew about.

Something struck terror in the heart of the Senator's landlord and he hired polo shirted protectors for his tenants.  Poor fellow.  All he got for his efforts was a stream of white haired voters expressing their opinions in the context of civic engagement.  There was not a screamer or a rioter to be found.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Bad Things Are Easier to Believe

A high school friend texted, wondering when we'd see one another again.  She's out on Long Island and I'm in the Sonoran Desert; it's not as if we can drive to the diner and catch up.  We have a stronger connection now than we did then, distance not-withstanding.

We renewed our teenage friendship at our 40th high school reunion, eight years ago.  Bob Iger was there (he was voted Most Enthusiastic by our Senior Class, back in 1969) but none of the boys I cared about attended.  Not my 9th grade boyfriend, who ditched me when he invited Roomie to the Spring Dance.  Not my Senior Year Boyfriend, who slept around that summer, while I was in Europe.  Not My Best Friend, with whom I played Connect Four for hours on his bedroom floor, with whom I exchanged five page, hand-written letters all through college, whose wedding I attended, and who I haven't seen since.

I have those memories stored at the top of my brain's Things To Think About box, directly below the tests I struggled to complete, the invitations I didn't receive, and the birthday corsages I missed. It's a pile of unhappiness, and I don't understand why it's still so present.

I haven't been in love with that short, blonde, smiley face for 54 years; how can it still hurt this much?

Do you do that to yourself?  Do you stockpile the hurts and the slights and your own misdeeds, taking them out for a stroll every now and then?  Sometimes they are brought up indirectly; the corsage memory came from watching Van Heflin in Kid Glove Killer last night.  Some of them live close to the top all the time, butting into an otherwise lovely afternoon, reminding me of being left out, alone, unloved and unwanted.

At least that's how it felt at the time.

Zoloft helped with some of it.  Ativan comes in handy, too.  But the newsreel of my life, passing on a continuous loop through my head, seems to trip over the times I listened to G'ma and Daddooooo fight, over the slings and arrows of teasing and bullying and wanting what I didn't know how to get.

That's really the crux of the matter.  I wasn't happy with what I had.  I wanted more.  What it was, I didn't know.  I just knew that it wasn't what I had, right then, in that place, at that time.

It was 50 years ago.  It feels like yesterday.  Julia Roberts was right; those bad things have staying power far beyond their worth.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Reward

I began to clear off my desk.  It is now possible to see the actual desktop... in some places, at any rate.  The remaining piles are a more neatly organized incarnation of the previous disaster site.  Everything that is out needs to be there, at least for now.  Trust me, it's true.  I know it may not look like it's true, but it's true.

The pile of comics need to be framed; they won't get wrinkled sitting on top of that stack.  The crayons go to Prince Elementary School; they'll melt if I put them in the garage on the Prince Shelf, and if I put them in a drawer I'll forget about them.  The stack with the smiley faces is for FlapJilly's birthday, the save the date card and Paul Ryan's home address (700 St. Lawrence Ave, Janesville, WI 53545 if you want to drop him a line) are reminders of actions to be taken, and I'll admit that my excuses become a bit more feeble as you get further from my chair, but, as I said at the start, it's only a beginning.

As a reward, I'm fleeing the scene.  I'm going to read a novel and go to Pilates and not think about the mockery the French are making out of DJT's love of pomp and circumstance, not think about laughing when the MSNBC talking head said that Donnie Junior "is just stupid,"  not think about anything but the blue skies and the (relatively) cooler temperatures and the amazing lightning storm last night, not think about how weird the word lightning looks... not think about anything at all.

Have a wonderful weekend, denizens.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Signage - A Snippet

Yesterday it was 30 degrees cooler than it had been the week before.... and it was still stinking hot.
There is barely any traffic on the roads, so my eyes were free to wander.
There are lots of churches along the routes I travel; their signage serves as both landmark and amusement.
They are also sources of information.
In case you think that is a typo on the screen, look at the permanent, stone markers below it.
I do love precision.
I am tempted to take them up on their offer and check them out.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Remember DJT's 400 pound guy sitting on his couch?  The one who hacked the DNC emails and tampered with our elections?

Maybe he wasn't made up out of the candidate's imagination after all

Maybe The Donalds were sharing a laugh about the guy from the Miss Universe pageant who was offering up information on Hilary.

As I type this, no one knows what The President knew and when he knew it.

In this bizarro world, it's easy to believe that Rob Goldstone was exactly the character DJT had in mind.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bonjour, TBG

It's that time of the year, again.  TBG arises before the sun and watches young men flying up and down mountains on quarter inch tires, their knees pumping efficiently, their fans cheering wildly.  It's the Tour de France, and he doesn't miss a moment.

Do you know a cyclist?  Do you know a serious cyclist who has not had an accident?  Everyone we know who cycles outside has a story - the road rash kneecap that is permanently freckled with asphalt that cannot be removed, the tire track on her leg from the SUV that crashed into her tandem, 37 stitches repairing a face transformed into hamburger, fractured body parts ranging from the pelvis to the shoulder to the skull, and all those concussions.  That's just my immediate family and friends, and I'm sure I've forgotten some of them.

Needless to say, TBG doesn't ride outside anymore.  We are not looking for any more surgeries, any more rehab, any more blooded people. He misses the speed and the scenery and the adventures, but he's more than satisfied with the safety and security of a stationary bike in the gym.  He's cycling 250 miles a week, indoors, with no risk of falling.  He gets his fix on outdoor cycling during the Tour de France.

If I want to be with him, I'm watching it, too.

It's not an onerous chore. NBCSports has invested more money in their coverage as the years have gone by, and the production values have soared.  The Live Production TV website says it best:
The core of the race coverage is the use of five high-frequency wireless cameras on motorbikes, two journalists reporting from motorbikes, and images captured from two helicopters with Wescam gyro-stabilised camera systems. The five cameras on motorbikes capture the drama and beauty of the race from within it while the helicopters cover the race and also capture much of the beauty of the French countryside that is such a large part of the production. At the finish line nine additional cameras are in place to capture the dramatic reactions of racers finishing stages and during time trial stages and like the prologue in Liege, hard-wired cameras are placed on the course. Also new this year is a camera mounted on the Tour de France race director’s car.

Are you feeling Trumpian this morning?  Did you skip that italicized block of print because it's too dense and there are no pictures?  Here's their graphic explaining it all:

I'm not sure I'd want to be the guy hanging on the back of the bike, hoisting a heavy camera on my shoulder:
And what does all that technology bring us? The beauty of the French countryside is part of it.
So is the action.
All those cameras on all those cars and motorcycles (yes, we wonder if smelling exhaust fumes is the most efficient way to cycle in first place) give TBG up close and personal lessons on positioning and power.

There's strategy, like how to make a sharp left turn, 100 meters from the finish line, in the rain, and the commentators describe it all in excruciating detail.  It's a good thing they are skillful.  Phil Liggett (play-by-play) and Paul Sherwen (analyst) have been calling the race together for 32 years, and they are very, very good at it.  They speak the languages, and pronounce the names of the castles correctly.
There's camaraderie and intelligence and every once in a while a phrase will make us smile.  When's the last time you heard someone talking about a situation coming to fruition?  They are weaving a story as we watch what is essentially a very boring sport - spandex clad men whose knees go up and down and up and down and up and down.... except when they are going sideways 
I've learned a lot, too.  I've heard what it's like to be in the middle of the peleton, the large group of cyclists following the leaders.
I've learned to read the graphics on the screen, to recognize the significance of the special shirts,
and to appreciate the teamwork involved.  It's still too hot to go outside here; I'm getting my outdoor fix from the tv this week, with my sweetie by my side.  It's not a bad way to spend July.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Putting Myself in Time Out

Miss Levine, my favorite kindergarten teacher, would tell unruly five year olds that everyone needs a moment, now and then as she was escorting them to a seat in the hallway, with a book and a hug and a smile.

I took my own moment this weekend.  I unplugged from everything except FlapJilly on Facetime.  I watched no talking heads. I read the newspaper, but only the light-hearted and personal pieces.  I caught up on the comics.

I read a novel and did a crossword puzzle or two and I cooked with yummy veggies and fresh artisan bread. On Saturday, because Scarlett and I had agreed to watch Sam Elliott's moustache together, and on Sunday, because Brenda Starr and I had a date to play games and eat crepes in the morning, I left the house.   There were no prolonged good byes; it was too hot to stand in the parking lot.

And so I spent a lovely weekend; the only problem I encountered was running out of lives on Candy Crush Saga.  I wrote no letters, signed no petitions, called no elected officials.  I expressed no outrage.  After all, everyone needs a moment, now and then.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Romantic Composers

In June, amidst surgeries and heartaches, Scarlett and I spent two blissful hours each Thursday listening to snippets like this:
You can listen to it the way her audiences did; just turn it on in your living room.  She preferred playing to small groups.  Close your eyes and imagine her fingers dancing over the keys, while Johannes Brahms sits in the corner, slyly smiling.

Did you know he was such a good looking young man?

Neither did I.  I'd only seen the scary old man pictures.

Tannis Gibson, Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the UofA, showed me a side of the composer hitherto unknown and unconsidered.   She talked to us about the interpersonal and the technical, the instruments and the times, the performances and her own experiences. 

It was a magical month.

She shared her favorite performers, and sometimes I recognized the music:
Listen past the scratchiness; it's from 1938.
Imagine the fingers floating.

They were all there, those who turned the world of Classical music in a new direction.  Chopin and Brahms, the Schumanns and Liszt, Felix Mendelsohn and Fanny Hensel ... what, you haven't heard of Fanny Hensel?
Don't be surprised, we talked a lot about the treatment of women, too.  At the same time that women abolitionists here in the USofA were told to stay off the main stage, were told that females speaking in public was inappropriate, so in Europe were these talented women relegated to smaller, more intimate, more appropriate venues.

It was a month long immersion in a world I rarely visit.  Thankfully, I have a list of suggested listenings (of which these are just a few) to keep me company until my next journey into the unknown.  I'm definitely an old dog learning new tricks.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Ranting and Raving

I haven't done this for a while.  There's a lot that's stored up.  Feel free to come back tomorrow if you don't want to spend the next few minutes being aggravated with me.
When did it become appropriate to take your foot off the gas and coast to the red light, even when that red light is three blocks ahead?  Being in the left lane (aka the FAST lane) only exacerbates the problem.  While you are saving a teaspoon of gas, I'm missing the opportunity to enter the left turn lane before the sensor goes off, thus missing my green arrow.  What you've saved in coasting, I've used in idling.

Net net, we both lose.
How is it possible that members of the public mistook NPR's line-by-line tweets of the Declaration of Independence as attacks on the President?  The line which drew the most outrage, according to Guns.com, was this: A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. 

That was said about mad King George, so, perhaps it is understandable that NRA supporters saw the shoe fitting and were defending DJT's right to wear it.
How can Circle K's gas prices differ so widely across my town?  

Up here, on the Northwest Side, where land is available and the roads are 6 lines wide, where we are unincorporated and have no local government closer than the county to levy a tax, regular gas is ten cents more expensive than it is downtown, on the approach to the highway?
And then there was the news.  Steam was coming out of TBG's ears.  He couldn't believe how easily the commentators were letting DJT off the hook.  His tweeting (about Mika, but that was just the last straw in a week-long tweet storm; it could have been anything) was reprehensible, it was unPresidential, it was demeaning the office, it was embarrassing the nation, it was sexist and disgusting and the world needed to hear his opinion.

So, he spoke, I typed, we tweaked and three days later, on July 4th, in the prime real estate of the bottom right corner of the Letters to the Editor page of the Arizona Daily Star was this:

We are grandparents. We are are Americans. We are patriots. From all three perspectives we are disgusted by the President's ad hominem tweets. Bullying is never okay. It is an abuse of power, and the greater the power, the greater the abuse.
TBG and AB

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Oops.... I Forgot

I had a lazy day, read a book, swam, lifted weights, made a yummy dinner.
What I didn't do was blog.

Hope your day was sparkly and wonderful!
courtesy JPetersenPhototgraphy.com

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July

(reprise edition... yes, you've read it before)

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

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

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

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

Through it all, the flags were flying. 

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

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

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

My America

I saw this
and I was disgusted.

I saw this response tweet from Mika
and I giggled.

Then I remembered this
and I realized that I, too, have been sucked into the morass.

I miss the Obamas and their ideals.
I'm going to try to live up to them.
After all, this is my country, the land that I love.
I won't participate in its denigration.
I'll try to keep my head up, my thoughts positive, and my energy engaged.

That's my plan, and I'm sticking to it.
On this 4th of July Weekend, I'm rededicating myself to the inclusiveness that is My America.
I'm off to buy more sweets from the Syrian ladies,
 recent immigrants trying to establish themselves as bakers.  
This is My America!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Parenting Middle Schoolers - A Snippet

I tipped our rafting guide $50.
I think he was shocked.
I said, "You made my kids smile!"

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Wedding Anniversaries

There seem to be a lot of them going around, lately, it being June and all. Big Bob and MOTG still look like the high school sweethearts they were.  Crowds connected to Fast Eddie and JannyLou are cruising in Alaska, celebrating the blending of their families 40 years ago.  

Today, G'ma and Daddooooo would be celebrating their 67th aniversary, married, as G'ma would ruefully remind me, on a Thursday because of something about Counting the Omer.  As a child, I wondered how she let herself be pushed around; she was The Bride after all.  As an adult, considering her socialist upbringing, her parents the least Jewish Jews I knew, as I wondered why she let religion decide for her.  Today, I wonder who paid for it.

They were married at the Waldorf Astoria... when that meant something.  There was a ballroom and there was dancing to a live band.  There are lots and lots of pictures of people none of us remember, all of whom look like they are having a fabulous time.... all but Daddooooo who was, of course, scowling at the camera for most of the shots.  

Should she have turned and run then?

I asked her once, after an awful scene of some sort or other, why she stayed.  Her answer wandered around finances and children but she was working and her kids were grown and I wasn't having it. I pressed her and she stiffened.  "We made a commitment and that means something."

They made their peace with one another, with G'ma learning tools to handle the behaviors no therapist would declare she could treat.  "You don't expect him to change very much, do you?" she was asked... more than once... as the decades wore on.  Still, they persisted.

I have no doubt that he loved her, to the best of his ability.  I'm not so sure that my mother was comfortable with the whole concept of love, whether she brought that to her marriage or ended up there after a bumpy ride.  I do know that when I was 7 or 8 I slipped notes into the hands of all 4 of my grandparents and both of my parents, requesting that, on the count of 3... or 5... or something.... they kiss.

There was an awkward silence.  There was no kissing.

And so here I am, judging from the outside that which can be truly known only from within.  The long-term marriage itself takes on its own place in the relationship,.  Did any of the adults in that room, all of whom I loved to distraction, smile when they turned out the lights, crawling into bed beside one another?  Was it the public display of affection they disdained or was there something more, something my parents brought to our suburban tract home in 1953?  

Whatever the reason, they were married until death did them part, bringing joy and angst in equal parts, I think.  It wasn't the happiest of marriages, but it was theirs and they are the only parents I had so it's the only time I can celebrate the union that created me.  Thanks, Parental Units.

Congratulations to everyone else!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

More Civic Engagement

The 90-something woman in a wheelchair talked about her WWII vet husband, living in a VA facility, supported by services provided through Arizona's Medicaid expansion.

The nicely dressed 40-something woman wore her Planned Parenthood button proudly on her chest; she held dozens of pink postcards destined for the Senator's desk.

The 60-something gentleman carried a sign:  Sen. Flake, Choose One:  ⌧ Leader ⌧ Lackey

The 40-something lady on crutches swung her legs through the open door and into the office with a smile on her face and fervor in her heart.

I was there, too, 60-something and sweaty, carrying a letter written on my personalized stationary.  They know my story, but I continue to repeat it.

For all of us, the facts remain the same.  Our lives would be quite different if the ACA is repealed.

Yes, it's falling apart, but that is, in large measure, due to the uncertainty surrounding continued funding.  If I've heard it once I've heard it a thousand times: insurance companies like stability.  It's easier for them to pull out than to manage the chaos.

I can't blame them.  I can blame President Trump and the Republican Party, including all three of my Federal, elected officials.  Martha McSally's amendment requiring government officials to use the AHCA has vanished from the Senate's proposal.  I've not heard a peep from her about that.  Sen. Flake was Gabby's friend, he saw her suffering, he doesn't think that universal health care is a good idea.  Sen. McCain remains skeptical, but I've heard no proposals from his office, one way or the other.

All of us outside Sen. Flake's office this morning had ideas.  We shared them, in writing, with the 20-something young man behind the bullet-proof glass.  We shared them with one another, smiling at our activism and its results - as we were parking, the news came over our individual car radios that Mitch McConnell failed to rally the troops.  The vote is put off until after the recess.

And so, there is more work to be done.  Indivisible and Move On can aim you in the right direction, whether it is calling or writing or protesting with signs and chants and microphones and bullhorns. In addition to being the resource for all things trails, American Trails provides a screen shot view of all the links and phone numbers you could possibly need; they even show you how to address your MOC.  Resistbot will type up a fax for you and send it on its way; it doesn't require an app or a download.

None of the calling or writing takes more than 5 minutes.  While you're waiting for the coffee to perk, the toast to toast, the carpool to arrive.... make use of the time and feel good about yourself and become a part of the solution.  

And this goes for those of you who might think that Repeal and Replace is a good thing.  Your voices should be heard, as well.  I've been looking for you, fruitlessly.  I often feel as if I'm preaching to the choir, here in The Burrow.  It may be possible, on this issue,  that the choir is the entire population of the United States.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Gardening in the Desert

It's where I put my plants, so it's my garden.  I try to ignore the fact that it is prickly and brown and dependent upon enormous amounts of supplemental irrigation just to stay even, let alone put out flowers of any color or substance even though it's summer time and that plus garden should equal earthly delights.

Not so much here in Tucson.  I went out early this morning, before the heat brought out the snakes after the bunnies and coyotes had finished their rounds.  There's a sweet spot for the sun then, too.  It puts both my front and back containers in the shade.  Without my gloves, I surveyed the scene.

Pieces of the irrigation system are mal-functioning; I left the tools to repair the situation outside overnight.  The Bic lighter was out of fuel so I couldn't heat the tubing; I thought that the sun alone would soften it, but that didn't happen.  I cooked dinner and forgot about the breech I'd created when the lighter failed.  This morning I was privileged to watch as the emitter-less tube, waving aimlessly,  disgorged a stream of (hot) water.  I knew that it was futile to attempt to stopper it, but the water flying in my face as I tried cooled me off and made the whole thing feel marginally less wasteful.

I aimed the tube into the watering can and moved on.

That which has been consistently watered is quite happy.  That which suffered during the 24 hours the system was shut off (I did it and forgot to turn it back on) has, for the most part, come back to life.  The plants whose leaves curled brown and fell off, the branches brittle enough to be snapped, those were pruned and planted in the live here or turn to compost pot.  Those which the bunnies and prairie dogs pruned in the name of nutrition and hydration (there's water in the xylem and phloem, after all)  joined them.

I watered and fertilized everything, using the manual setting on the controller and remembering to reset it to automatic when I was through.... I think.... I'll go out and check after I finish writing this.... because that's one of the main lessons you learn when you garden in the desert - mistakes can be costly.

I'll be up tomorrow morning, continuing to help things limp along.  There is always something to do.  I just wish that the temperature would drop out of triple digits so that I could do it.

Monday, June 26, 2017

I Just Wanted to Look at My Calendar

It should have been simple. A right click on the 3x3 square in the top right corner of the write-a-new-post page of Blogger, my fairly-seamlessly-integrated-with-Google hosting site for The Burrow, should have done the trick.

Instead, I got this, reprinted here for your amusement:
Meet your Google Assistant
Ask it questions. Tell it to do things. It’s your own personal Google, always ready to help.

I thought that's what I had.    Now, instead of connecting me to my calendar, Google was selling me products.

Heeding Big Cuter's admonition that there are no unanswered questions, Mom; that's why we have The Google, I can tell TBG how old Shirley Temple was when she made Fort Apache (19) without missing a scene.  I know if I'm free for lunch next Tuesday without being tethered to one hard copy of my calendar.  I can write to you from many platforms (even my iPad) and Google takes care of the back office pieces.  I am grateful.  

I'm willing to have ads in the sidebars for the freedom to roam the world's knowledge, while keeping that which I need close at hand, at no charge.  I have no problem with data collection; I don't do anything that would cause a problem to anyone should it become public.  

I'm boring.  As long as my numbers are safe, I'm happy to share that I love Hanna Andersson almost as much as FlapJilly loves Minnie Mouse.  They both pop up with delightful regularity as I browse and read and click.  Is someone making money by selling that information?  I don't really care, as long as my interwebs are free and fast (which is why net neutrality is such a big deal, but that's an issue for another time, written by someone else).  It feels like a fair trade to me.

But I draw the line at talking to the tv or the computer.  I have turned off Lenore-the-Lenovo's microphone enabled assistant.  We don't talk to our tv remote control.  I don't want them listening to me.  It's on all the time; how do I know what's being recorded?  There are things I say out loud with the door closed that I don't necessarily want to share with the world.  I find the thought of an inanimate device responding to my requests to be a bit unsettling. 

I tripped myself up right there, in this rant... because I love pushing the microphone on my phone and asking her a question.... and hearing her answer out loud makes me smile.... and I realized that this argument is going nowhere fast..... and then I laughed.

It's not a right click that brings up the calendar; it's a left click.  Finding fault with Google because I couldn't remember which piece of the mouse to hug just doesn't seem fair.  And, there are actually some very useful tips over there on the right click side of The Google Apps .

I have no excuse, beyond the fact that it is about a zillion degrees outside and my brain has melted.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Simple Solution

Our gym has been under-going a refurbishment.  It's been closed for several weeks; we've been Wandering Jews, working out at the chains' other locations, running into familiar faces in strange locations.  Without a routine, a rhythm, a usual pattern of where-to-walk-when, my weight workouts have suffered.

Okay, I'll be honest.  I've only gone to one other gym one time during the renovations.  TBG, however, has made the rounds, from 1st Avenue to Marana to Oro Valley, experimenting with different bikes in different rooms, lifting with strangers instead of old friends.  It's not the worst problem in the world, but it made a difference in our lives.

So, when My Yogi sent an email announcing the reopening on Monday at noon, my heart soared.  I anticipated balloons and snacks and lots of cheerful worker bees roaming the gym floor, explaining the new equipment and leading me to that which I couldn't find.  Once again, I'd have a cozy workout location exactly one mile from my house.  I could get into a routine that would work; stopping at the gym on the way home is much easier when the gym itself is on the way home, too.

But, as with most things LA Fitness, the plan went awry.  I organized my Monday so that I was hydrated, fed, finished with my errands, and in the parking lot at 12:05pm.  The door was open, but there was no bunting.  I parked, wondering why they were letting the air conditioning flow freely into the outdoors.  Upon closer inspection, as I untangled my headphones, I noticed buckets and tools strewn across the entryway.

Working out next to worker bees always makes me uncomfortable.  I feel guilty indulging myself next to someone who is vacuuming or painting or installing for a living.  But I was there and I was dressed and I was ready to see the new digs..... until a friend turned back from the doorway, shoulders sagging.   I rolled down my window to hear "It's not going to open until 5."

I went home, deflated.  I gave myself mental credit for showing up, but my body did not reap the benefits.  TBG and I went out to lunch, planning to attend the delayed opening later in the day.  Wisely, I called before I drove over.  The phone went directly to a recording that told me, over and over and over again on a never-ending loop, that my call was important and they would get to me shortly.  Did I mention that the recording repeated itself endlessly?  I listened for a while, in futile expectation of a connection, before I hung up in frustration.

I drove to pick up dinner at the restaurant we were going to go to after we'd worked out, the one that shares a parking lot with our gym.  Again, the door was open, construction equipment strewn about the entrance, and disappointed exercisers turning away in frustration.  5 was as useless a time frame as noon; they were still working.  I smiled as I passed, noting the chairs still covered in plastic.  This gym never fails to disappoint me.

I went to Pilates on Tuesday morning, considered going to the gym, just to see if it was actually open, and spent the day doing other things... including a massage that was heavenly.  Ms Magic Fingers and I laughed; I'd worked my traps and triceps in Pilates and, because I'd not been in the gym in two weeks, they were the object of much attention by her fabulous hands.  I was sorry that the rest of me had not had the same opportunity to become stressed.  I promised that I'd go to the gym this morning, no matter what.

And so, I did.  After the audiologist and a quick errand, I stowed my treasures in the glove compartment and entered my brighter, cheerier, cleaner, new gym.  The mini-lockers, the ones that hold a wallet and keys, are now back by the locker rooms; I stowed my stuff and worked out.  Some of the equipment was different, some was the same, some was missing, and none of it was where it had been before.  I lifted and I sweated and I smiled at old friends.

When it was time to go I turned the little dials to the code I'd entered, and pulled.  Nothing.  I tried the other code I always use.  Nothing.  I spun the dials, tried again, failed again.  I asked for help and found myself alongside the maintenance staffer whose key couldn't open it, either.  The Operations Manager's key didn't work.  The Facilities Guy (his term, not mine) was at the southeast location, a long drive away from our northwest situation.

"I don't know what to tell you," was the OM's response.  No offer of a cab home.  No offer of a phone to call a friend.  No apology.  No concern beyond the fact that their keys were unable to solve the problem.  I began to look for a power drill.  I really wanted to go home.

Another member, faced with the same situation, was more sanguine.  I felt the steam coming out of my ears, but I tried to remain polite, channeling The Cuters who tell me that I'll get further if I don't scream at everyone.  Shortly, there was no one to whom I could direct my outrage.  The OM disappeared, after telling me that all the other lockers opened and if I'd only put in my combination correctly my door would open, too.

Thanks.  Blaming the victim, especially when I'm the victim, is not the way to win my heart.  I entered the correct code.  The problem was with the door and their keys, not with my memory or ability to roll a dial.  I began to reframe my morning, changing plans as I added hours of waiting to my day.

And then, there was chatter behind me.  In Spanish, but with gestures I could clearly understand, one of the painters was describing exactly what I'd suggested to the maintenance worker at the start of the issue.  Pry the door open.  With me standing by, full of encouragement, they used two screwdrivers inserted in the seams to bend the back of the door, then the bottom of the door, then the side ... and poof, there were my wallet and my keys.

The sanguine fellow who'd been waiting beside me asked for the same treatment; I left as they were working on his unit.  I didn't get far, though.  I returned to make certain that Jose, my painter friend, was not in trouble for breaking into the locked unit.  The OM assured me that everything is fine, but I've been around LA Fitness enough to know to check with the people who are actually affected by management decisions before I relax and let an issue go.  Shaking Jose's hand once again, I listened as he thanked me for my concern and insisted that he was fine.

I'll buy my own lock and use a larger locker from now on.  I'll smile at Jose whenever he's around.  I'll check to see if they've fixed anything when I work out tomorrow.  I won't be using the mini-lockers any more.  That's the best way to deal with LA Fitness.... on my own terms, watching out for me and mine, and not expecting very much in return.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Happy Birthday, Brother!

He's younger than I am.... a fact he delights in sharing.  He's still not Medicare eligible, so I worry about his GERD diagnosis and continuing health care and pre-existing conditions as I try to remember that it's only 2 years and 4 months that separate us.  He'll be old soon enough.

He stopped shaving a while ago, and now sports a full beard.  Not many men look better with a lot of facial hair; my brother is one who does.  He doesn't scratch it or pull at it or play with it.  It sits there, on his face, making him look distinguished and delightful. He's all about balance - work, family, friends, exercise, religion, sex, learning, adventures all have a place in his life. Eschewing the razor is just another way he's made his life conform to his ideals.

He wears sneakers everywhere; they are comfortable and who are we to judge.

He drives a Chevy and a pickup truck and a Miata, a recent addition that makes him very very very happy.  He carries a collapsible bike in his car, and cycles near and far.  He doesn't believe that large metal tubes should fly through the air; his car takes him where he wants to go when he wants to go there.  He's driven back and forth to Chicago more times than I can count; he always tries to stop at Little Cuter's house on the way.

"I love Uncle Jeff!"  she says.

"SIR is one of my favorite people," he tells me in front of family and friends.

They make my heart sing.

He spent three hours in a toy store searching for exactly the right gift for FlapJilly.  He donned a headlamp and crawled under the kids' deck to help repair the solar lights on the pergola.  He bought a much-too-heavy-to-lift-without-help power tool in a garage sale in Indiana or Ohio or someplace off a highway on his way hither or yon, and dropped it off with SIR who he knew would love it.

They've bonded over home repairs and parenting daughters and loving their wives.  SIR sent him to a White Sox game with corporate tickets for the area behind home plate; Brother's still kvelling and telling the story to anyone who will listen.  The love goes both ways.

And today is his birthday.  I'll call and sing and send him a card and I'll remember to tell him that he is special to me in a way that no one else can claim.  He's known me and liked me for all of our lives.  We've laughed and cried and celebrated and mourned and vacationed.  He's sent letters I'll save forever.

He's the best little brother I've ever had.  Today is his day.  Lift a glass and send him some love.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How Do You Pronounce It?

My kids have been teasing me about this for years.

I pronounce Donkey to rhyme with Monkey; they both have short-U sound.

This is an endless source of amusement for my children,  They pronounce it with an ON instead of my short-U.  Of course, this means that they should also be calling that cute furry creature scampering through Queen Elizabeth's castle in Sea Hawk a mONkey.
Don't you agree?  Munkey and Dunkey.... no one calls it a mONkey, now, do they?

Do you?  

There are pronunciation guides which purport to put this problem to rest.  This one and this one seem to agree with my offspring.  If only my parental units were still around to explain the realities of growing up on Long Island to my Chicago and California raised kids.  They'd understand it in a heartbeat.... before reminding me how weird Daddooooo and G'ma talk.... that New York accent gets them every time.

Just a little something to mull over on Wednesday.  It's 120 degrees outside, according to the thermostat in my rental car; my brain is stuck at the monkey/donkey dilemma.  It's too hot to think more deeply that that.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

She's Moving

We met when I was coming out of hibernation.  My only job was to heal, and so I lay on Douglas, the couch, for 14 weeks, watching the sun move across the horizon as the days and months passed.  Getting up and getting out was a major production, especially once my Suzi-Sitters were gone.  I needed help at every piece of the process - off the couch, over the thresholds, down the path, into the car (somebody do something with my assistive device, please), being driven and then reversing the process to arrive at my event.

The event had to be something really worthwhile.  Showing up at Prince Elementary School to judge children's photographs was really worthwhile.  I fell in love... with the school, with the kids, and with the Assistant Principal, Tanya Wall.

I don't usually include real names in The Burrow.  Blogonyms are used to protect the innocent and the guilty alike.  But this is different.

This is a tribute to a Wonder Woman, a Kindness Crusader (second from the right), an educator and a parent and a friend.  This is a story about GRIN, and how a well placed foot in my keister kept the ball rolling when it faced deflation and despair.

This is a tale of a true American hero.

She started out in Wyoming, and that's where she's returning.  The kids are grown and on their way, and it's time for a change.  She's taught and she's administered and now she's taking those skills back home.

She will be missed.

When all seemed lost, when no one signed up, when interest flagged, Tanya was there, propping me up.  Just because it's hard doesn't mean it shouldn't happen - she reminded me of that whenever things looked bleakest.  We will get this done, she promised.  And we did.

She convinced teachers and administrators and students that Pilates in the Classroom was a worthwhile endeavor; the GRIN/BodyWorks/Amphitheater collaboration happened only because she believed that it would.  Now, five years and counting, we are part of the PE Curriculum at Amphi Middle School.  It's only one of the lasting impacts Ms Wall has had on her students.

She ran AVID, supporting those students who were looking for a more structured path to a more favorable future.  She saw potential where others saw problems.  She put herself at risk - chaperoning middle schoolers on a three day trip to Ft. Lauderdale must qualify one for hazard pay - and she took time from her weekends - picking up and transporting and returning three otherwise-rideless-teens to Pilates practice every Sunday for months - and she never stopped smiling.

Just because it's hard doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.  I don't know many people who talk the talk and walk the walk the way that Tanya does.

She moved on from Prince and Amphi Middle to the more upscale K-5 school where she'd taught before I met her, before she began pursing her administrative career.  They loved her there as much as we did at Prince and, although the details were different, the challenges were the same.  Teachers and parents and students have issues no matter how much nicer the cars in the parking lot appear to a casual observer.  Parents don't live together, English isn't a primary language, violence is seen as a solution instead of a problem.... all that mixed in with lost sweatshirts and forgotten homework and families who certainly know what's best for their child, even if everyone else disagrees.

Her office's glass windows face the parking lot and the main office; she sees things coming and going.  The walls are covered with student art and upbeat reminders and a diploma or two.  It's the official time out space for kids who are too stressed, too defeated, too angry to be anywhere else.  Ms Wall's energy is a Zen Blanket for those in need; you admit your errors while feeling the love.

Isn't that the definition of an educator?

She's someone who steers you along your path, opening doorways and windows to spaces and places you've never considered, but which look pretty interesting once she shares her enthusiasm.  She's a Yes, you can! person in a What do I do now? world.  She's got a hug and a smile and an encouraging word for everyone.... but don't think that she's a pushover.  There are rules and there are standards and they exist for everyone in her aura - colleagues, parents, students, and friends.  She has high expectations and boundless energy.  She's a reader and a thinker and a doer.  She sees the need and constructs a solution, bringing others along, happily in her wake.

She's a friend who has never disappointed me.  She will be missed.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Civic Engagement

The rent-a-cop took our picture in the courtyard outside Senator Flake's Tucson office.  I'm certain that I would outrun him in a race to shelter, but it was nice of the organizers to consider some small measure of security for our group meeting with the Senator's staff.  Jeff Flake is considered to be wavering on his support for TrumpCare; we were there to tell our stories and ask for his vote.

I'd begged off on the previously scheduled sidewalk demonstration; I don't feel comfortable being that exposed.  But following gunfire at a baseball game with chanting and protesting about health care seemed an odd mix to the OFA organizers; the sign waving piece was deferred to another time.

I was fine with an inside the office sit-down.  The office feels very safe to me; I visit there at least once a month to share an opinion or two.  I look around, as I always do.  I'm aware of places to hide, of escape routes, of unlocked doors and out-of-the-way niches.  It's second nature to me now, like breathing out and breathing in.  It doesn't interrupt the flow; it's just there.

After introductions and photo ops we went in to meet with the Senator's District Director, a lovely woman who always has a sympathetic ear.  She's smart and personable and thoughtful and she seemed touched by our leader's expressions of condolence and admiration for the Senator.

"He'd deny that he was a hero.  He would say that he did what anyone would do in that situation.  But yes, he was there...."

and she looked right at me.  I looked right back at her, eyeball to eyeball, and nodded.  "Yes, and now he knows.... and maybe he will take some time and think about the issue in a different light."

I didn't want to hijack the agenda, but the point had to be made. Being in the cross-hairs, feeling the bullets ripping through the morning air, seeing the blood, hearing the ambulances, experiencing that eerie quiet before the screaming.... it changed me in a visceral fashion, in a way that reading and hearing and watching could not.

TBG and I are mailing him a letter tomorrow, telling him how sorry we are that he's joined the club. No one wants to be a member of this club, yet here we are, survivors, those who were there, who lived it first hand, and who are here to tell the tale.

I wonder if his tale will be different now.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Thanks for Asking

My email, my Facebook, my phones (both land line and cell), the cashier at the grocery store and classmates in Romantic Composers...... every one wanted to know how I was doing.

I appreciated the love.  Really, I did.  Thinking of you right now made me smile.  Heidi's How do you keep your sanity made me smile.  All the heart emoji's warmed my real one, and the hugs and loving looks reminded me that life is good.

I was lucky.  I was in the South Bend airport, ready to board my first plane, when the news broke.  By the time I landed in Tucson it was no longer a breaking story.  TBG told me the facts as we left the lot; MSNBC on XMRadio filled in the personal stories of eye witnesses leaving the YMCA and hiding behind their cars.   I'd been eased into the idea of another shooting; I didn't make the connection to our Congress on Your Corner until I saw Mark Kelly on CNN later in the afternoon.

It didn't make me sad or scared.  It made mad.  This is the United States of America.  We do not shoot people who disagree with us.  We just don't.  We argue, we write letters, we protest, we hold rallies and we make personal visits to local offices.  Violence has no place here.

And so I'm irritated, which is a much better place to be than any of the alternatives.  I'm watching Republican Congressmen and their associates describing things that I've been saying for six and a half years.  Did they think I was making it up out of whole cloth? Did they think I was exaggerating?

Yes, it's terrifying.  I've been telling anyone who would listen that the moment is seared into my memory, that it has a quality unlike anything else, before or after.  And yes,  now there always will be a Before and and After for you and yours, as there is for me and mine.

Yes, it's unfair; you were only playing baseball.  Didn't I mention that I, too, was participating in an American tradition when the bullets began flying?  Do you get it, now?

So there it is; I'm disgusted.  Thanks, once again, for asking.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

In The End....

... it all comes down to guns.

Big Cuter called from San Francisco as we walked in the door.  "Just wanted you to know that I wasn't at the UPS facility today.... though I was on my way to the grocery store right near there when I noticed the streets were closed."

Auntie M sent a thinking of you email which I read as we were talking.

Gabby sent a copy of her official statement, talking about Congressional service and American values.

Moms Demand Action and Americans for Responsible Solutions and my Survivors Network all sent take care of yourself today emails, reminding me to check in with my emotional barometer, warning me about the 2 minute cell phone video airing on all the networks,  replete with the sounds of the baseball field shooting.

The sounds.... I was okay until the sounds.

Thinking back to six and a half years and one week ago, I remember the eerie silence.  There is no screaming in my memory.  There is quiet, an unearthly quiet, a quiet defining an absence of sound because the sounds preceding the silence were just awful.

On the radio this morning, a bystander reported hearing the noise of the bullets as they moved through the air; he called it whooshing.  I heart a bang and then felt the rending of the air as the bullets that struck Gabby and Judge Roll whizzed by me.  I can still feel it at my elbow, now, typing to you, safe and secure (I imagine) at my desk.

I wonder what the 10 year old hiding under the dugout bench, hidden behind his father's legs, will remember when he is 16.  It's an awful image for a grown up.  I can't fathom what a child will make of it.

And so it goes.  My son checks in with his college roommates, one living a few blocks from the SF UPS facility and the other living in Alexandria.  What are the odds, he wonders, and then answers his own question: with 154 mass shootings thus far this year, those odds are probably equally depressingly high.

Does a man with a domestic violence complaint (she never followed through and filed charges) and a visit from the police for discharging his high powered rifle into the woods behind his residential neighborhood really have permission to possess an automatic weapon?  His friend said he was a nice guy, always laughing.  Probably not always, I'd wager.

Children and educators are slaughtered in their classrooms. A Congresswoman has her brain shattered.   My little friend died.  Clubbing kids are mowed down while dancing.  Legislators and lobbyists are attacked on a YMCA baseball field.

In the end, it's all about the guns.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017

Distracted By Love and Unable to Blog

Commissioning the USS Gabrielle Giffords

Little Cuter and I went to Galveston this weekend to celebrate the commissioning of the Navy's newest warship, the USS Gabrielle Giffords.
This is a big, impressive vessel 
and the weekend was filled with other big and impressive events.
There will be more details tomorrow.
For now, I'm sunburned and tired and filled with pride.
For two whole days, it felt great to be an American.


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