Monday, January 22, 2018

Grandma's Garden

The garden sits at the corner of the walkway from the cafeteria and playground.  
The students line up, quietly, against its southern wall before they are allowed to play.
The fence is low enough to clamber over; it's not to be touched.

In comes Grandma, with soil and trowels and excitement.
It's hard to contradict the playground aides, but I really did give these girls permission to climb on and over and on the bench where, with sandpaper and a delicate touch
they cleaned out decades of dirt from a sign that lived in G'ma's garden.  
Bigger kids with longer reaches soon joined the party.
We set to work, amending the beds.
There were starter flowers, newly planted but lacking love and attention.
We had lots of that.
After scraping away the random detritus,
("No, you don't need gloves.  Get dirty.  It'll feel good.")
they spread a top coat of organic planting mix 
from edge to edge.
The first crew worked as partners, with almost everybody remembering to stay off the wood frame.
My large bag of planting soil wouldn't cover the beds very deeply, but with a light sprinkling of water from the world's smallest watering can, the droopy plants we met when we began were perking up by the time the whistle blew. 
Nobody asked me for a sticker.
Everybody said Goodbye!! and Thank You, Grandma.

It was a good day in the neighborhood.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Planting With the Big Kids

You can tell at a glance, can't you.
There were Yes, Grandma and Why Can't I? kinds of kids.
There was the hose that attacked the gardener.
There are those who are thrilled and the one who's not quite sure.
Self selected, they are as gender and racially balanced as the school itself.
Together, we planted alyssum and basil, dusting the existing soil with newer, fresher, organic planting mix before we raked in our teeny tiny seeds.  Then, with the world's smallest watering can filled at the world's slowest drinking fountain, we sprayed the beds with water, focusing special attention on the plants another class had installed.  Watching them perk up with just a little bit of love and attention was an immediate object lesson ... on so many levels.
*****
Somewhere in the phone that's more of a compendium of my life's work than a device on which I can talk to my friends, the phone whose replacement is on the hall table, the phone that has eaten my photos, lies the larger and grander story.  I have the entire weekend to retrieve it for you.
See you on Monday, denizens.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Technological Glitch

I have edited photographs for today's blog.

I have verbiage at the ready.

All this exists on my phone, the phone which sent me to the Don't call me a technician; they only train us so much fellow at the Verizon Store this afternoon, the phone which is having serious issues with my pictures.

He changed my SIM card.  My photos were still playing hide and seek.

He ordered me a new phone, which will arrive tomorrow before 8pm. He told me to bring it back and they'd set it up for me, while assuring me that none of this would cost me any money.

So, there's a great picture post of me planting with the bigger kids in the garden today..... and as soon as I can retrieve it you'll be able to read it.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

School's Starting

I played my last hand of cards for 10 weeks this afternoon.  I'm changing my Pilates schedule next week.  The courses I chose are beginning; my free time is now full of pdf's downloaded to The Box.

10 weeks seems like forever, but it's really only until the middle of April.  There's a week of vacation in mid-March (coinciding with the Tucson Festival of Books, in case you are planning a trip), but I said good-bye to the Happy Ladies who would be returning to their northern full-time homes when their snowbirding season ended, well before April.

Time has a way of smooshing itself together into a lump when you're retired and have no kids at home.  School reimposes a sense of order.  It also keeps me from reading for pleasure until I've finished my assignment.  TBG is a good scold ("Did you do your homework this week?") and the material is engaging, but Boccacio is not James Patterson.  He requires a bit more thought and concentration.  I'm racing through the last of the library books before I go cold turkey.

I'm ahead on my assigned reading, and will try to get further along before the first class next Tuesday.  I'm still debating the virtues of downloading the pdf's vs reading them on the iPad.  How many trees must die for my education?  Doesn't the research ("the research" is a close cousin of "they say") show that I'll retain more if I hold a paper rather than swipe pixels? 

These are the quandaries of my life, it seems.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Snippet of a Walk

Amster and I agreed to meet for a slow hike (my terms) Sunday morning.

We ended up at the Sweetwater Wetlands; it was the first result on my hikes near I-10 and Orange Grove search.  I wanted to walk around Silverbell Lake, but I was distracted by The Google and forgot to read the description before Amster's SIRI-With-A-British-Accent directed us to the parking lot around a corner on a street we'd never seen before to a place I hadn't intended to be.

It's a lovely spot, and I would have taken pictures, but early morning is apparently a prime time for birders.  Birders are solitary, quiet folk.  Amster and I were neither of those things; every time we rounded a bend and saw binoculars pinned to eyeballs we shut up, turned around, and walked the other way, trying not to disturb anyone.

I was trying to keep up the pace; pausing for a photo felt not only intrusive, but lazy.

We saw the parking lot several times; the third time was the charm and we drove home.  It wasn't very long and it wasn't very hard but for 30 minutes or so I was strolling with a girlfriend, enjoying the great outdoors.

Life is good.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

Acceptable Immigrants - A Snppet

"Can that possibly be true?"

That was Anderson Cooper's question after reports that people in the White House don't think DJT's shithole countries comment was a problem.

While laughing and wondering my mind began wandering to the only Norwegian we know, the Golden Gopher, who spent his working career resettling refugees.  In all the years, in all the trips to all the camps and all the centers, in all the stories he told, I never heard him mention resettling a fellow Norwegian.

I don't know if that means anything.  It just made me smile.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

I Want My Own Pete Souza

Pete Souza, the Chief Official White House Photographer for Presidents Reagan and Obama.  The one who shadowed and recorded the precious moments, able to bring you back in one glance to a moment in time, a moment worth remembering.  I wanted someone to do that for me, today.

I spent two hours having those moments and they were all camera-ready.  Unfortunately, I travel alone and am rarely able to take anything but a posed picture; I wasn't about to leave three 5 year olds with a pointed metal trowel while I stood back to capture the scene. 

So, you'll just have to imagine thirty or forty little faces peering over the low fence, trying as hard as they could to keep their feet on the ground and not on the lower railing.  They're trying to get a look at Grandma's hands, the ones holding the roots up for inspection, standing in the garden they so desperately wanted to stand in, too. 

But rules are rules and the garden rules have yet to be codified.  It's enough for me to know that the Playground Aide does not want the kids in that space, no way, no how. Until we can figure out a way to keep little feet out of the planting beds, stepping into the garden will be a privilege, not a right.

And so there I stood, choosing some to dig the tiny hole, and some to shake the rooting hormone onto the roots, and some to fill the tiny bucket with water, and one to gently water our Truffula Tree.  He moved the little blue bucket slowly around the outer edges of the hole, never letting the water puddle up too much in any one spot. 

The kids and I watched in awe. 

Pete Souza would have had a field day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Day After

It hit me today, like a ton of bricks.

8am found The Pilates Diva and me marveling at how far I'd come, given that 7 years ago at that very moment I was bleeding internally, drugged insensate, and expected to live.  She's known me Before and After, she has very high expectations, and she's a mom and a wife and a daughter.  She understands when I say that yesterday should be the best day of my life, because it's the day I didn't die. 

And then we stopped nodding our heads and sighed.... because, of course, there is so much more.

I should have gone to Prince after that, and I didn't. True, it was raining and the plan was to plant, but I could have made it happen, if I'd tried. But I didn't want to put a smile on my face as my hip hurt and my heart ached.  I wasn't in the mood to be cosseted.  I was in full wallowing mode.

I went to a Mindfulness and Meditation session instead.  All that mental calmness and reminders not to judge, but to observe with an open mind, to ride the wave and walk with purpose, emptying my mind of shoulds and might haves and whatevers left me face to face with the fact that I just didn't know what to make of anything. 

I had no answers for the questions people were asking.  I didn't know how I was doing, now, around the anniversary, when the public is energized by the dedication of the Memorial  and the shooting is on everyone's mind.  I wasn't judging, I was noticing.  I wasn't faulting myself for having those thoughts while recognizing that I had to listen to them.

I should have played cards in the afternoon, but I didn't. I just didn't want to talk to anybody. Instead, I took James Patterson's latest Michael Bennett book out onto the patio, and I read the whole thing in the sunshine.  It distracted me from my self-absorption, and I thanked it as I closed it and my eyes and lay there, thinking, pondering, examining.

I'm not sure there are definite answers.  For now, I'm going with Little Cuter's description - It is ODD.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Taking Care of Myself

I stopped at the garden store for pots and plates and soil, then drove to the scene of the crime and and had a good cry.  

There were some local news cameras and a radio reporter and an odd truck proclaiming the need to Reunify America in red white and blue paint.  I declined to talk on camera, hugged and reminisced with the Store Manager and her Assistant, both of whom had been there that day.  After we admired the store's small and perfect memorial, I was off to do some good.

I read The Lorax to every kindergarten classroom last Fall. Today, we began to plant and to care. In each and every classroom, we smelled and patted and poked and watered and hugged. It was exactly what I needed.  

The students were oblivious to the significance of the day.  Grandma was in their room and they were happy  The teachers gave me extra special hugs and smiles, and understood when I told them at recess that I was coming into their classrooms that afternoon and I was going to interrupt them and I just needed them to nod and say yes.  Understanding, loving, kind, and thoughtful souls that they are, they laughed and told me not to worry, to barge in anytime.  

Is it any wonder that I love this school?

We began with the basics - this is a plate, which goes under the pot (not a cup or a bowl... especially since it has a hole in the bottom.. giggle.....).  
Then on to the big bag in the middle of our circle, which was filled with soil, not dirt .  
There were kudos to the one or two children in each room who knew the difference; soil is special dirt that gardeners use, gardeners like their nanas and mommas and aunties. 
I sent them each a special Hi! from Grandma, from one gardener to another.  

We passed the big cup around, and everyone got to scoop some soil into the pot.
(Yes, that is a tiara on her head.)
Some scoops were very large and very funny,

and some were just enough to finish off the whole pot.
I brought tulip bulbs from home; not seeds, they were bulbs, bulbs-but-not-light-bulbs as several teachers reminded us. They bloomed indoors last year and had begun to sprout new growth in the maybe you'll survive basket where they'd spent the last season or two.  We poked holes and I set the bulbs in the soil, amazing the scholars with the notion that a flower lived inside that small nugget they'd held in their very own hands.

The bulbs are not fish.  They do not swim.  Therefore, they should not be over-watered.  We squirted a few squirts from the water fountain, found a sunny place near a window, and stood back to admire our work.  I promised to check back every day for the first few days, reassuring the faculty that I hadn't just dropped another chore in their laps.  I promised the kids that next week we'd plant seeds, that someday they would be able to take plants home, and that tomorrow I'd bring a Truffula Tree from home and we'd plant it in the garden on the playground.

But mostly, we were together.
I"ve said it before and I'll say it again:
It's impossible to be sad when 5 and 6 year olds are hugging you.

Monday, January 8, 2018

January 8th

The event.

That day.

What happened.

When I got shot.

I know exactly what I was doing on January 7, 2011 and on January 8, 2011.... right up until about 10:15 in the morning when I began to fade in and out... talking to CTG.... though I'd left her behind on the cold sidewalk.

I talk to her a lot, with less sadness as the years go by, but with the same amount of longing.  She'd be a pistol at 16, driving to school and to practices and to good deeds and to games, where she'd wave to me in the stands as she warmed up.  There's a hole in the world, now that she's gone.

TBG noticed that I'm not hiking my hip quite as much these days; my gait is approaching real walking. 

Catching up on the phone today, Heidi and I marveled at the passage of time since she was my Suzi-Sitter, driving us everywhere, though she was terrified by the traffic on Tucson's surface streets. 

Has it really been 7 years? 

It feels like yesterday and it feels like history and it's always a fact. It's with me, the prickly pieces usually resting in their box in the back corner of my mind, the consequences tickling the edges of my consciousness, the background noise of my life.

I'd do it again.  I'm not sorry we went. 

I wish it had never happened.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Stroll and Roll

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That's why I started the Stroll and Roll 6 years ago.  

My idea was to have Each One Take One - every grown up grabbing a youngster and ambling along CTG's path.  I envisioned school kids and Assisted Living residents and middle school bands creating lively chaos on Tucson's northwest side.

For the most part, except for the bands, that's what happened.

I was a committee of one until the day of the event, when GRIN volunteers and participants in Cornell Cares Day stepped up to the occasion and gave out shirts and chalk and hugs.  
It was an exhausting process, but one that helped to bind my anxiety as I struggled with the oncoming anniversary of the worst day of my life. As long as I was busy, I wasn't dwelling in the sadness..

But then the busy overtook the sadness, and became a crushing weight of its own.
The permitting, the arranging, the gathering, the sorting, the signage, the publicity.... I'm sweating just typing it out for you here right now.  By last year, it had become a party for my friends; I knew 99% of the Strollers and Rollers.  I decided that I had reached the end of my tenure as the doyenne; I was done.

No one begrudged my stepping down.  Everyone understood.  Some people were sad, and one was sad enough to step up and do something about it.  Pat Maisch, my hero, the woman who grabbed the magazine as our shooter was trying to reload, the mom who shook her finger in his face and yelled Look what you've done!, the citizen who was arrested for calling Shame on you! from the balcony of the Senate to the members below, who voted down a gun safety bill, the person who carries the mantle of January 8, 2011 wherever she goes - Pat Maisch asked if she and her group of women of a certain age could take it over and keep it going.

I agreed with a smile.  We met in the Fall and I turned over all my paperwork, my scribbled notes, my contact sheets, and my advice.  I've spent the weeks since that meeting baking brownies and writing letters and reading books and visiting FlapJilly and not once did I worry if something had been filed or paid for or organized.  It's been a wonderful lead up to an awful anniversary; I was so right to let go of the planning.

And then, today, in response to my quarterly GRIN email to my volunteers, wherein I had explained the change, I received this from Pat:


Suzi, thanks for the shout out. We welcome any GRIN members who want to participate in the Stroll and Roll. We are an unorganized group of activists who want this event to continue in the vein you started.
And, thanks for your work in starting this touching and meaningful Beyond event. Forever grateful for your excellent idea to remember those killed and wounded, both physically and emotionally,  on January 8, 2011. This event remembers all but certainly focuses on the youngest taken that day....beautiful, little, nine year old Christina-Taylor Green.  What a spitfire she would have been at 16 years old. 
So ask your GRINNERS, from me personally, to join the fun and celebrate the lives of those who are now only with us in spirit. 

If you're in Tucson on Saturday, January 13th, come and Stroll and Roll with us.  I'll be there, as a participant, with plenty of hugs to spare.  The details are in the link.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Sharp Knives - A Snippet

I ordered 4 new Cutco knives as my holiday present to myself this year. 

The delightful salesman, the brochures, the instruction pamphlets, my own mouth all warned everyone that the knives were new and very very sharp.   BE CAREFUL we all repeated.

So, I should not have been as surprised as I was this morning as the new extra long slicer went through the bagel much faster than its predecessor, the old bread knife, had ever done.  Unfortunately, my thumb was in the way of the blade as it found its way, seamlessly,, flawlessly, sharply, and swiftly to the other side.  It got there much faster than I'd planned for.

I need a band aid! led to Do I need stitches? led to this A+ job of bandaging by TBG:

The wound is contained, the pain is gone, and I think I've gotten out of doing the dishes for the foreseeable future. 

Life is good.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Looking Back, Looking Forward

This is a weird week for me, the days between The End of The Holidays and The Day I Got Shot.  I'm never quite sure what to make of it.

I remember snippets of those days, some of them vividly.  I remember everything about the morning leading up to my intersection with bullets.  Frames from the movie run randomly through my head every day; it's not uncomfortable, it's just there.

And that's where I get stuck.  Some piece of me wants to go back and change something and make it all go away.

Not that I regret anything that I did; I'd do it all over again tomorrow.  It was a civics lesson with a happy child on a sunny, weekend morning.  We were on top of our game, CTG and I.  We looked good, and we knew it.  We were doing something worthwhile, and we knew it.  She was angling for treats and she knew that she'd get them and then there was a photographer and thoughts of an autographed picture and then there were bullets.

I'm still surprised.  Short, Jewish, girls from Long Island just don't get shot.... except I did.

I'm not all consumed with the situation.  Far from it.  In December I made a lunch date for the first Monday after the New Year, putting it into my Google Calendar without much noticing the date -January 8th.  That's progress, I suppose, or maybe it's just the passage of time.  I am surprised about it.... although I must admit that I forgot if it was January 11, 2008 or January 8, 2011 for a split second last week. 

Whatever it is, the day will come and I will medicate myself with the hugs and smiles of kindergarten kids at Prince Elementary School.

We'll plant Grandma's Lorax Garden, with donated seeds and soil.  We'll get dirt under our fingernails and we'll stand back and admire our handiwork and we'll plan for our veggie garden and, at some point during the day, I'll realize that I've managed to get through the whole week without breaking down completely.

At least, that's my plan.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Does It Stay or Does It Go?

I had that conversation with my holiday decorations last year.  I was ruthless.  Nothing that was chipped or in need of glue/a pin/a stitch or two made the cut.  A friend rifled through and culled what she felt was salvageable; the rest made a merry crashing sound as they hit the bottom of the trash can.

This year's decor took about an hour to install; I opened one box, filled enough of my house to satisfy myself, and only occasionally wished I had unearthed a certain platter.  The dining room table was Package Central, and still retains the look of Santa's Workshop on the 26th of December, but the rest of the house is cozy and bright, with pillows and candlesticks and treasures everywhere I look.

I don't want to take it down.  It makes me happy. 

On the other hand, I'll have help cleaning the house tomorrow, with someone else around to lift and carry what I cannot. 

 Also, it's TBG's birthday, and he'd love to have his pristine, uncluttered home returned to him for his present.  It's not that he doesn't revel in it, but the season has passed with the anniversary of his birth, as far as he's concerned.  January 2nd was the day everyone was traveling back to whatever and where ever.  No one was in the mood to party.  Everyone wanted the day to be over and done with.

His mother's birthday was December 26th.  
I've always felt that he came by his distaste for birthdays as a direct result of that fact.  

I'm having a hard time saying good bye to the Holiday Celebration Tour, I suppose, although the snowman and snowflake on my manicure look vaguely ridiculous today.  A week ago they were charming.  Perhaps that's the first crack in my armor, the first indication that I'm ready to pack it all away.

Sigh.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy Everything, Days 11 and 12

Happy New Year!  Was it wonderful?  Was it filled with fireworks (surprisingly loud booms at 10pm... were Tucsonans celebrating for New Yorkers who can't legally purchase them in the grocery store?)?  Did you watch hours of The Thin Man on TMC (we did!)?  Were you snuggled in front of a fireplace, sipping mulled wine (what IS mulled wine?) and snuggling with a sweetie?  Were you cleaning out closets or putting away decorations or were you in bed before midnight, nursing the sniffles?

Whatever it was, where ever it was, with whomever it was, I hope it was wonderful.

Your final gift for my Twelve Days of the Holiday Celebration Tour:

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