Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Conflicting Values

I hate it when Doing The Right Thing gets in the way of Doing What I Want.

When I wore stockings, the Gentlemen Prefer Hanes ad campaign forced me to write a sternly feminist letter to the company, forswearing their brand forever.  

Unfortunately, they were the hose that fit me most perfectly, at a price point I could afford (especially on sale at Macy's), with a look and feel that I loved.  I kept up my outward disgust while sporting the product.  I laughed at myself as I shopped.

Then, there were grapes. I was appalled that my supposedly woke sister and her friends were happily munching on anti-labor grapes.  They'd never heard of Cesar Chavez; they spit out the seeds and moved on to watermelon.  Lettuce was a little harder to enforce, because the labeling was uncertain.

I'm sure that we figured something out about the roughage, though I can't remember exactly what it was.  I know for a fact that those were the last grapes bought that summer.

Daddooooo made G'ma return the perfect wooden skirt hangers because they were made in West Germany.  His antipathy for the country apparently waned as he aged; his favorite car turned out to be a Volkswagon Rabbit.  Volkswagon.... a People's Car..... a Nazi car, a phrase I tossed at him once and once only.  He was flustered.  I was surprised that he didn't have a ready answer.  We never revisited the topic again.

That was all then.  Chocolate and the Cubbies are now.

I did some research, until I couldn't stand it any more.  Here's what the WaPo has to say about it, in a June 2019  article titled Cocoa's child laborers
Mars, NestlĂ© and Hershey pledged nearly two decades ago tI am  using cocoa harvested by children. Yet much of the chocolate you buy still starts with child labor. Behind much of the world's chocolate is the work of thousands of impoverished children on West African cocoa farms.
Not-Kathy promises to investigate ethically sourced unsweetened baking chocolate but my brownie recipe has remained unchanged - and much loved - for decades.... and it depends upon a Nestle product.  Not-Kathy's promise came right on the heels on my wondering aloud if I had to abandon making brownies in order to be a responsible human being.

After all, child labor is..... well, child labor.

Chocolate, all 4 of them replied to me in one loud voice, is CHOCOLATE!

So, I've seen where their boundaries lie.

What about sports?  Big Cuter got a Sports Divorce (predicated on facts which might change and thus result in re-establishment of the relationship) from his beloved 49'ers after they treated Colin Kaepernick so poorly, but that break up was tempered by the whole Football as America's Blood Sport meme, coupled with the concussion and CTE admissions.

I am faced with a more troubling dilemma.  

President Trump is coming to Chicago for a fundraiser with Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts. read the headline in last week's Chicago Tribune.

I wrote to all the companies on the Ivanka's-stuff-sold-here list, refusing to shop there until they stopped being a venue helping to enrich the Trumps.  I advocated for boycotts related to Breitbart and Fox News (the Fox Sports channel is included in our basic package; I avoid the conflict by amortizing the cost and recognizing that any protest would be futile).

But my Cubs?!?!?!?  Can I give up my Cubs because their owner will use the monies he earns from their success to support that which I find insupportable?

I suppose that if I buy no more Cubs gear I can still cheer for the laundry... divorcing those who own the team from what the team means to me.

Can't I?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Probably Not What They Had In Mind......

...... or was it?

I love the jams and aiolis from Stonewall Kitchen (like Soldier Field, there's only one of them).  The fruit spreads are natural and seasonal (I'm opening the strawberry rhubarb right now).  The savory spreads are made with oil instead of mayonnaise; it feels somehow less decadent to lick the spoon clean because of that.

I could only find them at our local Breadsmith , and their selection varied.  So, swallowing my desire to shop local, I went on-line. 

It was lovely.  The site was easy to navigate, I found it simple to meet the minimum for free shipping.  I have emergency house gifts available if I need one before I need the contents myself.  I was content.

And then the package arrived.  It was filled with those problematic white poofy peanuts, the ones you never send to a young mother with a toddler and a dog, especially if they are coddling gifts wrapped in glittery tissue paper.

It also contained this set of instructions, which I'll retype below for those who don't want to enlarge the screen.
We're good inside and out.

Not only do our products taste
 great, but they're also shipped
in eco-friendly materials, like our
packing peanuts, which are starch
based and fully dissolvable in water.

Would that that were true.

This was a big box.  There were a lot of those theoretically fully dissolvable eco-friendly peanuts in there.  Having wreaked havoc on my kitchen plumbing by pouring starch down the drain (every Thanksgiving as I peeled potatoes into the disposal and clogged the pipes until one kindly plumber showed me the folly of my ways as I watched him clear out the u-joint)  I was reluctant to up-end them into the sink itself.

Instead, I took a handful and tossed them into a big pot of water.  And I waited.  Seret and Mr DreamyCakes and TBG waited with me.  We watched as nothing much happened.  We looked back as time passed.  This is as good as it got: 
I collected the scum and tossed it in the trash.  It may be eco-friendly, and I may not be on the greatest terms with the pack rats and the javelina in the neighborhood, but I wouldn't subject them to whatever that is in the strainer.  

We watered the in-ground lantana with the remaining starchy liquid.  So far, the plant has survived..... as have the rest of those peanuts.  I'm trying to resist the temptation to pack my Brownie List with them..... and share the wealth with my friends and family.

What's wrong with crumpled brown paper?  This is more trouble than it's worth.

Monday, October 21, 2019

No Comments. I Could Write Nothing Else Tonight

I haven’t seen her in months.  Today, she arrived at the neighborhood bbq as TBG and I were making new friends.

I hesitated, but only for a moment.

I walked over as she wrote her name tag, smiling at her son as I drew near.

I hugged her, pressing my face gently into her hair as she continued to look down.

Hi, it’s good to see you, or some such banalities were exchanged and then I walked away, collected TBG and our folding chairs, and left.

It’s all I can do for her.

I can still smell her shampoo.  That has to be enough.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Too Much Fun

We ate.  We walked.  We swam.

We talked.  A lot.

We did a 15 minute meditation, then we ate some more.

And now it's way past my bedtime and we're still at it.

I'll be back after the weekend. Right now, I'm needed on the couch.

I'm having too much fun to create coherent sentences.

Thursday, October 17, 2019


There are some people who fill the holes in your life so perfectly that it seems like magic.  Two of them are coming to us this afternoon.  They are in a rental car driving down from Sky Harbor Airport, and I am ready.

I have the provisions they requested; it's so easy to shop when instead of coffee she tells me Whole Foods Allegro.  It took two stops and some searching, but almost everything they need is here.  I cannot be blamed for adverse agricultural conditions devastating the mini-cucumber crop; the English cucumbers will have to suffice.  Otherwise, I have a wide selection from the categories she suggested, and the exact items when specified.

Every step down every aisle of every store gave me joy.  In class yesterday, the professor discussed the Russian concept of the Hearth Angel; that's just what I felt like today. I straightened and prettified and fluffed and plumped.  I rearranged and reconfigured and tested it all.... which led to this purchase.
I thought the bedside lamp was broken until I discovered that the plug was controlled from the switch by the door.  That's convenient for some things, but neither the reading lamp nor the clock was well served by it.  This covers up the door controlled outlet and offers a wide variety of insertion points.  It was the finishing touch on my preparations.

Now I just have to wait.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


I've been walking around in a grumpus mood for the last few days.  I have a heavy weight on my heart.  Everyone I love is relatively healthy and relatively happy; I have no new complaints in the personal department.  That means I am in one of those rare moments when all is at peace, and I should be too, except, I'm not.

It's Donald Trump's fault.

I open the paper (yes, the physical paper, delivered to my driveway every morning before sunup) to the local news about the roads, skipping past the front page battle over Tucson as a Sanctuary City.  I smile at the comics I find after purposely avoiding the second section, the one with the National and International news.  Those are headlines I need to avoid if I want to stay moderately sane.

I told TBG this afternoon that I was sad for the Kurds.   And I am. 

But I'm sadder for America, for what we have become, for who we are as seen by the rest of the world.  Russian soldiers patrolling abandoned American positions is not the image I want in my head right now, yet it's on a continuous loop behind the talking heads.... and I can't seem to tear my self (sic) away from it.

I feel as if I need to bear witness.  I need to watch it and be horrified and and and and......  what can I do?  I called my elected officials;  even Martha McSally is appalled by the withdrawal.  I can't order the troops back in.  My voice has been heard.  I'm powerless, and I don't like it one bit.

Pence and Pompeo are taking their dog and pony show over there.  What can they say about the mess their boss created?  Just more noise, when what I want is less stupidity and hubris. 

Because when John Bolton is the sanest person in the story, you know I'm right to be a grumpus. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


That's the blend of ground beef I buy. 

That's also the balance between recovery and disability I face.  On the surface, that's a very, very good thing. 

I remember when I couldn't bend over to empty the bottom rack of the dishwasher.  Picking up a plate down there- let alone a stack of three or four of them - was impossible.  Once the plates were out of the machine, turning and walking the two or three steps to the cabinet was excruciating. 

It was much easier to concentrate on the top rack and let TBG bother with the bottom.  It's our division of labor even now, almost none years later.  When I'm alone, I can.  When he's there, why should I?

That's the dilemma of 85/15.  A physiatrist, looking at my Activities of Daily Living, would be delighted.  I can hear it now:  At my age.... with my injuries.... 85% is wonderful.

That last 15% though, that's all the fun stuff.

I gardened,   Getting up and down off the ground,  shlepping soil and plants and Little Cuter's gifted kneeling bench, filling the watering can and carrying it back and forth to the newly planted beds - none of that was fun for me.  It used to be. 

Yes, I was able to do all those things.  Yes, I did them with strength and balance and didn't have to stop to rest.  Yes, I couldn't do those things until recently.  Yes, I'm glad that I am able to do them.

But they exhaust me.  They make my hip hurt.  Going from sitting to kneeling and back again is, I find, an inherent part of my gardening experience.  Just thinking about the logistics, let alone the discomfort, keeps me in one position longer than is comfortable or compatible with the task at hand. 

Standing up and seeing the work from a distance creates a similar situation.  So does needing a drink from the garage refrigerator and kissing my husband when he comes out to admire my work, both of which I did and both of which led to loud announcements of those feats.

The announcements were along profane lines not suitable for a (mostly) family-friendly blog.  I was pissed and I didn't mind letting the world in on the secret.

And that is all it took.  I let it out and then I laughed at myself because 85% is better than 0% and I have miles to go before I sleep so who knows...... maybe next year I'll write about how 90% aggravates me.

Thanks for letting me rant.  I feel much better now.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Happy Birthday, Daddooooo

A somewhat altered version of a previous post or two.

It was always very confusing - was his birthday the 12th or the 14th of October?  One of them was Columbus Day and the other was Herb's Day and to this moment I'm still not sure, especially since the bureaucrats moved Chris's Day to the generic second Monday.

He was a confusing person, so this is not surprising.  I never knew if I wanted to hug him or throttle him.

Deaf-as-a-door-nail, hearing aid batteries constantly squealing or dying or resting comfortably in the breast pocket of his plaid wash-and-wear shirt, he monopolized conversations so that he would know what was going on. That works well until your audience hits second grade or so; after that, it becomes a full fledged "Herb Attack."

I know this because I have been guilty of them, myself.

His tales were fascinating.  If the facts weren't really facts, well, they should have been.  He went to City College with Richard Feynman.  He lived down the block from Jonas Salk. He knew every cobblestone, every cornerstone, every brick and street sign in Manhattan.  Serving as tour guide in The Big Apple made him about as happy as anything else I can imagine... and I've been sitting here thinking about it for a while.

Surrounded by his grandchildren-of-a-certain-age, those who were sentient but not yet sarcastic, he could sit for hours, regaling them with stories about the chickens they raised in the backyard on Hessler Avenue; about the boat he and his brothers built one summer... the boat that almost floated; about the time it rained frogs; and about all the times he got into trouble at school, because he just wouldn't stay still.

He probably deserved a diagnosis or medication; born in 1916, he was "just being Herbert." He continued being just himself, sui generis as I called him in the obituary I wrote for the New York Times, until the very end.

He died at home, between the first and second commercial of the 10 o'clock episode of Law and Order on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving.  There's some confusion about the date, since the hospice nurse didn't get there to sign the death certificate until early Sunday morning.  Like his birthday, I need cues to keep the date straight.  Like most things Daddooooo related, this is not now nor has it ever been easy.

The funeral home attendants gave her a moment in the hallway before they wheeled him out the front door.  G'ma leaned over, kissed him, and then admonished him, one last time: "Behave yourself, Herbert!  Don't give them any trouble."  The paramedics were bemused.  My mother looked right back at them.  "If you'd known him, you'd understand."

Happy Birthday, Herb, you strange and singular father of mine.  Happy Birthday to YOU!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Another Day in the Garden

No matter what else is offered, bugs always entice them.
Under the tutelage of a Garden Leader, the soil around the onions was gently disturbed,   
with fingers rather than the blue plastic tool, 
the cosmos seeds were placed 3 by 3, covered by replacing the disturbed soil, 
the cosmos seeds were placed 3 by 3, covered by replacing the disturbed soil, and then, ever so gently, they were watered in. 
The wrens' wooden houses are a constant source of amusement.  
The fact that examining them requires climbing the tree may have something to do with this.
There is only one hose, and it sprung another leak this week.  
The watering cans are just as much fun. 
The rakes are also a big hit, especially because collecting the detritus allows the shovels to be put to a Grandma Approved use. 
The rakes create dust, which settled on our tomato plants, so the answer was "YES!"  when she asked if she could "water them from up here?" 
Our purple pitcher-ed Gardener brought us seeds from her own Grandma's stash.   We tossed the ones marked "Not For Human Consumption" because we agreed that some kids will try anything and it would be better not to take any chances.

We planted another packet among the red onions (where she's watering)  and saved the rest for later.  They finished watering while I wrote Nana a thank you note and took this picture with a big smile in my heart.  

Thursday, October 10, 2019

What Is THIS?????

I was going to share my gardening adventures in today's post.  
We had a lot of fun.

But then this happened, and I just had to share.

  After school, I had a meeting with The Garden Guru and his Irrigation Guru to discuss the 5th Grade Garden Project.  It was busy in the lobby where I waited;  Teacher Conference week brought students and parents and siblings who were coming and going in every direction.

I received many many many hugs.
I was introduced to many grandmas and mommies and aunties and daddies and sisters. 
And then I heard one 5th grader say What is THIS?
This????? I replied.
THIS is a telephone.
You can't take pictures with it.
You can't type on it.
You can only talk.

A moment of reflection, followed by
How do you use it though?  How do you dial?

So, I showed him the buttons with numbers on them.
I picked up the receiver and showed him where to talk and where to listen.
And when you're done, you put it back in the cradle, like this.

He thanked me for the lesson and moved on.

I stood there, feeling old.