Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Google is celebrating felafel.  The Google Doodle made me laugh out loud - little round balls of fried chickpeas encouraging one another to join the fun in the pita pocket lined with veggies.  There is no looming mouth full of teeth ready to destroy their happiness, there's only joy.

That's exactly how I feel about felafel - only joy.

We first met in 1969, the summer I spent in Israel.  We landed in Haifa after sailing across the Mediterranean from Greece.  The food on the ship had been recognizable; the food in Greece was not.  Italy had been strange forms of pizza and under-cooked pasta.

Try to remember that this was 50 years ago.  Gyros were exotic.  Al dente was a concept yet to be embraced.  Fast food was a hot dog or a pretzel from a cart in New York City.  Otherwise, we sat down and ate at restaurants. 

Israel was filled with street vendors.  Nothing looked familiar and everything smelled delicious.  We were free to wander on our own, picking up lunch where we found it.  I found felafel, and fell in love.

Doused with garlicky vegetables, covered in yogurt sauce, dipped in hummus.... I ate it all.  As a mid-morning snack it was just enough to get me through to the later-than-I'd-like-it Teen Tour lunch.  While my friends spent their afternoons eating chocolate covered everything they could lay their hands on, I devoured those crunchy nuggets with reckless abandon.

Greeting me at Kennedy Airport (just 6 years after JFK's assassination, we were still getting used to not calling it Idlewild) G'ma was stunned. 

"Gad, you're fat!" was the first thing she said to me.

 After not hearing her voice for 10 weeks (remember, telecommunications were exorbitantly expensive back then) I was stunned right back.  I'd always been the skinny kid, the one who could eat anything and never gain a pound.

My shorts hadn't shrunk so that I couldn't zip them.  Those felafel had taken their toll. 

Being in love is hard, sometimes.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Piano

Bubba bought me a piano when I was 6 months old, because "Every child should have a piano," (with the "Duh!" implied). I carted that piano around, from Oceanside to Staten Island to Chicago to Tiburon. I'd play it every once in a while, but it was mostly a remembrance of my grandmother's love.

I kept it tuned, and watched Little Cuter enjoy herself immensely, sitting with perfect posture and curved fingers, making music. Moving from teacher to teacher until the last one left to run a nursing home business somewhere in the Midwest and her interests turned to other things, without her the instrument became a piece of furniture.

HansO, our handyman-cum-twenty-something-role-model-and-friend, took it for his mother. It was hard to say goodbye, but I knew it would be loved.

Besides, no matter how many lessons G'ma paid for, no matter how much I really wanted to learn, no matter how much I tried to catch the beat, it didn't take long for me to recognize the sad truth - I can't carry a tune in a bucket, with the lid on.

I tried out for chorus in elementary school; two or three of us didn't make the cut. G'ma sent me to voice lessons with my piano teacher, an ill-fated if well-intentioned venture. I remember standing by her piano in her dark and overwhelming living room, trying to make the notes on the score come out of my mouth.

I failed. Over and over again, I failed. Strangely, I don't remember being embarrassed, just relieved when the hour was over.

Today, driving my usual path through town, I noticed myself singing a tune from the first song book. Out loud, with gusto, "Oh really, O'Riley, You are a fine policeman," came out of my mouth. I felt G'ma and Bubba (who thought I was really talented, lurking in the kitchen to listen because I could not play with them in the room) in the car by my side, nodding appreciatively.

I was 8 with an 8 year old's issues.

I wasn't there very long, but the memory is still hanging around. Maybe Bubba was craftier than I ever gave her credit for.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A Master Teacher - A Snippet

There are long minutes of intense, concentrated, focused work interspersed with grown up conversation.  It's the perfect combination for me.

She's wise about bodies in general and mine in particular, noticing things I feel but can't pin down.  It's never you are weak here; it's always engage this and use the breath.  I'm using what I can until the rest catches up, and catch up it will.  Pilates is all about symmetry; it feels awkward to be left behind.

Today, we reorganized a piece of equipment to accommodate my shorter than the usual client's leg length, and laughed about how proud of it all we were.  You Tube videos were mentioned.  Then she had me lay down and rest my legs against the re-positioned bar and I discovered that it's possible to rotate to turn out with ease when it's your lower calf and not your ankle bone resting on the steel cross-piece.

Did I mention that she pays attention to detail?

I'm usually sore when I leave, but it's the well-used-all-over feeling of a good work.  A hot shower or an epsom salts bath leaves me invigorated and refreshed and knowing that my body is capable of more than I know.  I'm lucky to have someone to unlock it for me.

Friday, June 14, 2019

On Flag Day - Today and Years Past

Parts of this have appeared in some form or other in The Burrow already.

I've always liked Flag Day.  No parades, no speeches, just my flag outside my front door.
This is the weekend, in 2017, when Little Cuter and I helped Gabby celebrate the Commissioning of
the USS Gabrielle Giffords.  

It was a girls' trip to Galveston, a time to feel good about America, sunny days and balmy nights filled with liquid refreshments and many desserts, Jon Bon Jovi and my first experience of Mark Kelly's ability to command a room.

They don't choose just anyone to command a  Space Shuttle, whispered the distinguished gentleman standing behind me in his be-ribboned Navy Whites.
Gabby was gorgeous and happily wind-blown that weekend, leaning against her handsome husband. I know the effort behind each one of the steps she took, from the bow to the stern.  She knew we were watching, and she didn't want to let us down. She marched on, smiling, unwavering, determined.

It's not only the doing which inspires me, it's the attitude : There is no yesterday. There is only tomorrow. Be bold. Be courageous. Be strong.

That she can still believe in America, that her husband is willing to step up to the plate and do something, that helps my heart on Flag Day.
Daddooooo was quite annoyed at the American flag patch on my jeans shorts, back in 1970 or '71. He felt that using the flag to cover my tush was the height of disrespect.

Of course he was right; the Flag Code prohibits such behavior. Then again, it also prohibits all the machinations the NFL puts it through in the name of patriotism. I wonder what he'd say about that.

Back in 2015, though, I wondered how he'd react to soccer fans, with their flag clothes and their flag faces
This year, watching the Stanley Cup and NBA championship series,, I've heard a lot of national anthems, which has gotten me thinking about the The Star Spangled Banner. 

I've never liked it, as music or narrative until Col. Bill's wife sent me a video from Smithsonian Magazine. It told me the story of the very real night when the continuing proof that our flag was still there meant the difference between survival or failure for the fledgling United States of America. 

Listening to retiring St. Louis Blues' Anthemist (yes, that's a job) Charles Glenn tell that story made the hairs on my arm stand at attention.

I'd still rather sing America the Beautiful or God Bless America, but I'm appreciating Francis Scott Key's work just a little bit more these days.
The Smithsonian Channel tried to convince me that Betsy Ross did not design and or sew the American Flag.  

I'm sorry, but NO.  

G'ma and Daddooooo took us to Fredrick, Maryland, where we looked up at her window and imagined the flag going proudly by. 

It certainly felt real to me. I was 9 or 10.

So, can you show me the label?  Do you have a receipt?  Until I can hold the proof in my hand I'm choosing to ignore your reality.

It's my privilege.  I have a flag to wave in case you disagree.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Little Cuter wondered what books I liked as a child.  Answering her was a lovely trip down memory lane.

Arlene and I read Little Women over and over and over again in the 5th grade. I wanted to be Jo March, sitting in my attic, writing a book, twirling my long brown hair as I thought. I wanted to marry Max Baer, the older, smarter, wiser, exotic, teacher. I wanted Laurie as my best friend, next door, loving me in a way I couldn't return, aiming his ardor toward my younger sister, a more perfect match for his sensibilities.

I lived in her life for a very long time.

The Pink Motel was a book from the Weekly Reader Book Club. The cover was pink and the mystery inside piqued my interest in the genre that has lasted for 60 years. The old lady who lived in the motel the kids and their parents inherit has become my role model. She was silly and engaging, unusual and crafty, willing to listen to the kids as if they were her peers.

Plus, she believed in eating dessert first. That has always seemed practical to me. You'll always have room for all the sweets if you do it that way.

I read Les Miserables in the 5th grade, too. I plodded through the unabridged edition, amazing my peers and flummoxing my teacher. I couldn't understand the viciousness of the pursuit - he had a hungry child, for crying out loud. That injustice sat at the root of my Social Work practice.

I had a collection of Washington Irving stories, a beautiful hard bound copy of fairy tales from Shirley Temple, and Favorite Poems Old and New. Those were my long term go-to's, the books I could pick up when there was nothing else to read. I loved the long form poems, like The Highwayman, and Edgar Allen Poe's Annabelle Lee, and all the limericks, and e e cummings, who amused me before I realized just how subversive he was.

I remember Gr'ma and Bubba reading me Snip, Snap, and Snurr and Hans Brinker and The Silver Skates... and is it a real memory that those images seem to take place on cold winter afternoons?

I liked reading Dr. Seuss and A A. Milne's Pooh stories and poetry to Uncle Jeff and Aunt Jeannie when we were very young. James James Morrison Morrison Weatherbee George DuPree's lost mother story was one of the first poems I memorized. It ws only when I read it aloud to 5th graders last year that I recognized how sad a story it is.

I read all the blue hardbound biographies of famous people as children that lined my 2nd or 3rd grade classroom; I can still see the pen and ink illustration of Jane Addams imagining Hull House. I wanted to be her. I read about Albert Schweitzer and Tom Dooley (whose works never revealed his CIA connection) and Florence Nightingale - helpers all.

Were there books about adventurers or entrepreneurs? Perhaps they existed and I ignored them. Looking back over what I've written, though, perhaps I sought out those stories that felt safe, that applauded family, that comforted.

Or maybe those are the ones I remember.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

My First Big Trip

My grandparents wanted to send me to Israel.  My mom said my older cousin had to go first.  Of all the grandkids, we were the only two to benefit from their largesse; I don't know why the others were left out of their generosity.

My cousin and her parents found a Teen Tour; my parents sent me on the same one.  We probably should have investigated the situation more thoroughly.  The introductory meeting was held in a close room, on folding chairs.  No effort was made to have us meet our fellow travelers; we sat with our parents, listened to the lecture, then left.

The tour leaders had never been to Europe before.  They were a young married couple who were fighting out their early struggles in full view of 20 or so teenagers.  Not an easy situation for anyone, their behavior compounded by the fact that they weren't very smart people.

They let our Israeli tour guides take us on an all day hike without telling us where we were going.  I'd have worn sneakers instead of floppy sandals had I known that we'd be mountain climbing.

They let us roam freely through Amsterdam and Rome and Florence and Milan, free to be chased by young men through alleys, free to get lost and wander aimlessly through sketchy neighborhoods, free to go to discotheques with young men we'd met in a cafe.

It was freedom.  It was terrifying.  

We stayed together in Athens, seeing the sights with no guide to explain things.  The leaders were supposed to be explaining things, but they were arguing and didn't seem to have much time for us.  I soaked in the sights and the smells, but never got to taste the real food.  The leaders were not adventurous eaters; we spent most of our mealtimes in pre-arranged hotel dining rooms, eating bland copies of American dishes.

One thing we didn't do was drink the water.  Coca Cola was my liquid refreshment all summer long except in Israel where orange juice was the preferred beverage.  There were fruits everywhere in The Holy Land; my digestion worked overtime.  I became closely acquainted with a variety of rest rooms; few of them resembling anything I'd been used to at home.

We traveled through Israel on public buses, reminded to keep our hands and arms inside the windows at all times.  This was good advice since the oncoming traffic passed mere inches from us. There were soldiers on every street corner, our bags were checked when we entered most every establishment,  yet three of us on a Scavenger Hunt managed to talk our way in to Teddy Kollek's office.  There we chatted with Jerusalem's mayor, interrupting his pastrami on rye lunchtime.  He gave us lots of souvenirs, encouraged us to Make Aliyah (move to our homeland), and sent us on our way with a handful of nuts.  

I saw the art in Italy and the red light district in Amsterdam.  I communed with the Greeks and sailed on the Mediterranean.  I missed my boyfriend terribly.

It was a Big Trip, which got swallowed up in the rush to go to college two weeks after I returned.  Somewhere, there is a box of memorabilia, but I don't really need it to remember those days.  I took 30 something rolls of film, and there are two shots of me - one in the train station in Karlsruhe, Germany and one in an unidentified airport.

The evidence may not prove it, but I really was there.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Do I Believe People Can Change - Snippets

We had a friend, TBG and I, a dear, kind, thoughtful, funny, smart, devoted friend.  He cheated on his first wife with his second wife, who was surprised and angry when he cheated on her with his third wife.  Somewhere in there we lost the connection, right around the time that I realized that he would never change, that he wasn't someone I could trust to tell me the truth.

He'd always take the easy way out - avoiding the subject, or me; lying; denying culpability; trying to cute his way out of situations he created himself.  We told The Cuters that he was fine for Saturday night, but when Monday morning rolled around he was the last person from whom to take advice.

When Little Cuter began dating in high school, she knew to steer away from those who disappointed her.  She'd seen, up close and first hand, how some grown ups just repeat the same, self-destructive patterns.
I had a friend in high school who, when I rediscovered her a decade ago, proved to be the same happy, thoughtful, friendly person who loved everyone and was loved in return.  She lost a twin, her parents, her sister, and a few husbands and jobs along the way, but her attitude was upbeat and positive then and remains so to this day.

Her basic character is carved in stone.
Daddooooo wouldn't listen to Christmas carols - not in the car, not in the house.  Yet he watched me decorate a tree in my own living room, and, as I finished, he said I get it.

He wouldn't let G'ma keep the wooden hangars we'd bought (on sale!) because they were stamped Made in West Germany, yet he loved his diesel Volkswagon Rabbit more than any car he owned.

He was ornery as a child (I saw his report cards) and ornery as an adult, but he was always open to learning.  Did he change?  On the surface, perhaps.  But buying the Rabbit seemed, to me, at least, to speak to a deeper shift.
Does it have something to do with locus of control?  Do you feel that you can be responsible for the things that matter, or are those things largely out of your control?

Was our philandering friend so certain that life would continue to screw him over (and he did not have an easy time growing up) that he tossed caution and veracity to the winds?

Is my girlfriend so confident in her ability to influence the currents of her life that she doesn't waste time moaning and groaning, but just gets on with the work at hand?

As for my father, I cannot figure him out at all.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Happy Birthday, Gabby

It was a fundraiser for Mark Kelly's Senate race, on the Saturday of Wear Orange for Gun Safety weekend.  Or, as my favorite t-shirt at the event read: United In Favor Of Not Getting Shot.  
Cameras and rapt attention greeted former Congressman Ron Barber (now Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick's District Director) who waxed eloquent and was waxed eloquently upon before Gabby got up to greet us.
She's doing better every time I see her.
The applause never gets any quieter.

The candidate recited his stump speech, touching on all the areas I care about, getting a round of cheers when he mentioned science and facts.  
I'd heard it before, so I thought about the scene, instead.  
I thought about how lucky we were to be there at all, watching the woman I saw sliding to the ground so many sunny Saturday mornings ago.
I saw her watching her husband talk about their first date ,at a maximum security prison in Florence,
and feeling the love. 
Look at him looking at her. 
It was almost enough to take away the pain - of TBG watching the corners and the exits, of missing CTG by my side, of wishing we were gathering for a Presidential bid for Gabby, of hugging those in the club no one wants to join, of feeling our losses all over again.

But then there was cake
Yes, there are holes.
But there are also moments of contentment, of coming together, of doing what people do when someone they love has a birthday.
We sang as she blew out the candles.

Friday, June 7, 2019

A Tree Grows in Tucson

I figured out that my new(ish) phone has an Add Text feature in the photo editing app.
These are two volunteer trees, pooped out by some animal exactly where I'd have planted them myself. The photo seemed ripe for digital experimentation.
Thanks for indulging me.

But what I really wanted to show you is this.

Driving out in the morning, I stopped to admire the healthy green glow of plants I'd nurtured for a decade or more.  There was nothing particularly unusual about the scene.
This afternoon, pulling the trash can up the other side of the driveway, I saw this.
Where there was nothing, there was now a stalk.
My agave, a tiny fellow when we first met, has given birth. 
I'm resisting the urge to identify the bottom of the shoot with my new toy.
I'm trusting that you can see it nestled in the middle of very spiky protective aunts and uncles. 
Up close and higher up, the nutrients are gathering. 
Up there is the burgeoning flower.  It will be yellow and tiered and not really all that attractive, at least when viewed from a distance. 

 I'm not sure how I'll feel about it once it's mine.  At the moment, I'm an anxious doula with close ties to the family.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Elizabeth Warren's Got a Plan

She's tugging at my heartstrings, talking about child care and job choices and being rescued by Aunt Bea; not everybody has an Aunt Bea.

They're laughing at her trademark I've got a plan for that, but it's obvious she has the smarts and the drive and the experiences to back them up.  TBG thinks some are economically unfeasible, and I'm not educated enough to argue the point.  I'm assuming they are as possible as almost everything in Congress these days; I look at them as Intentions in a Perfect World.

I mean, really.  It's hard to argue with asking for two cents on every dollar over fifty billion dollars earned.  Can she really fund universal child care and pre-k and pay those teachers and care-givers the wages they deserve?

I hope so.  It's a laudable goal.  I'm willing to let her try.

That's Gov. Inslee's plan, my well-sourced husband told me, in no uncertain terms.  And he's done it, too.  It's my plan, too - bringing the manufacturing jobs for solar and wind power has been a sticking point for me for a long time.  It's so obvious, and it doesn't happen.  If I were conspiracy minded......

But, I digress.

I'm not sure it's a bad thing that the candidates are learning from one another.  In a perverse way, Donald J Trump has been good for American Democracy.  We are paying attention, we are participating, we are examining our choices and making our own decisions, unfiltered, right from the candidates mouths.

As for Senator Warren, her passion  runs deep, and so do her thoughts.  Is she shrill?  Was Eleanor Roosevelt nasal?  Will America choose to vote for another blonde older woman?  Or a looks younger than she is woman of color?  Or a gay millenial?  Is she too Establishment?  Is he Progressive enough?  Can she appeal to.........

And it's only half way through her town hall and I'm exhausted.