Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Back To School Love Fest

Once again, GRIN delivered Back to School treats to every elementary, K-8, and middle school in the Amphi District.  This is what my car looked like once everything was loaded.  
The blue IKEA bag behind the goodies was necessary - there were lots of cakes and brownies and more cakes and cookies and muffins and fruit tarts and fancy cupcakes and more cakes and cookies and even some Hostess products.  

How does this wonderfulness happen?  

Vera - a manager at my Albertsons.
 She smiles at me in July and agrees to have supplies for me in August.
The store provides some, she provides some, and this year other staff members donated, too.

Year after year after year she does this.
It's for the kids.

It's that simple for her.... and for me.... and for every grateful face I saw in every office for 3 hours this morning.  Doing good for the little ones is its own reward.

But Vera deserves her own special reward, and this is all she'll let me offer.

You are very special.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Everything Breaks At Once

Last night the bbq refused to light, although the click-click-click (repeat for 8-10 seconds) of the igniter was perfectly fine.  This afternoon, even the clicker was gone.  I can make burgers and hot dogs inside under the broiler, but they are not the same.  I'd just as soon have tuna fish for lunch.

When I swam this morning there was no water draining from the spa into the pool itself like there usually is.  It was a signal that there was something amiss, but the temperature was perfect and the sun wasn't over the roof yet, and my swim was wonderful (thank you for asking).  When TBG got home, not only was the water still nowhere to be seen, the thermometer read 129 degrees.

The pool itself was certainly no where near that; it's delightfully brisk in these triple digit afternoons, and that suits me just fine..... as long as I don't think about kicking and pulling through unfiltered liquid which is potentially housing bugs and bacteria of all shapes and sizes.  

The handyman has been requested and the pool guy informed of the disastrophe that awaits his weekly visit.  It's unsettling when things don't work, but everything that can be done has been done.  Anxiety is not helping, yet here it is.

Normally, I'd go out for a swim to recalibrate my emotions.  That's not happening.  I think I'll have that tuna fish now.

Monday, August 2, 2021


Jennifer Lopez is hawking a product .  I'm not sure what it does or if it is valuable, but if it will make me look as good as she looks, I want it says TBG with laughter in his voice.  It's true that JLo seems to have defied aging by all observable standards, but it didn't seem funny until he went on.

Twenty years ago, Cindy Crawford was seen by TBG in person at the Denver airport.  She remains the most beautiful woman I ever saw - without wearing makeup - she was stunning.  She was also seen by TBG on a late night infomercial hawking a skin care product.  

She was using melons - as an ingredient and as a prop.

She put two melons on a counter - the one she sources from and another, random melon.  Ten days pass, and the other melon looks like you and me, and her melon is perfect.  

I'm not sure why, but I'm still laughing.  

I don't think we're cantaloupes (under- or over-ripe) yet.  I'm leaning more toward honeydew.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Mr. Pack Rat

How unusual - NOT!  You have droppings in your courtyard, just like everyone else in Tucson.

That was the gist of my conversation with the lovely lady who answers the phone these days for Mr. Pack Rat.  After agreeing that the only way to fully protect my home would be to install a plexiglass dome over the entire property - and a lengthy and laugh filled discussion of our business model - she found an opening the very next day.

Well, that's only perfect, said I.

And so, this morning, hours earlier than promised, Eric came to inspect the scene of the crime.

Yes, those are pack rat pellets adorning my threshold.  I considered taking a picture, but some of you are eating breakfast right now and I'd hate to put that in front of your oatmeal.  Small, oblong, dark black - I left them in place so that the technician would have evidence.  

He says I can sweep them up, now.

He combed through the rosemary bushes inside and outside the pony wall.  He found piles of bougainvilla flowers, but they are disorganized, not neatly packed as in a nest.  He thinks the rat was sitting amongst them, chewing on the plant products he'd nibbled off my containers.  It didn't seem like a nest.

Who knew that pack rat nests were fancy?  Not I, certainly.  There are 5 nests outside the back walls, but there's been no infiltration into the back yard.. This is good news - we don't like finding little rat bodies floating on the surface of the pool.  Our drainage openings are well constructed, too; nothing is living inside the walls themselves.

After a thorough inspection revealed no clues, Eric suggested 2 live traps placed in the courtyard for 2 days for $50.  Their permit requires them to check the traps every 24 hours.  Eric is confident that he'll capture the varmint the very first night.

We'll be entering and exiting through the garage door until the beast is captured and the traps are gone.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Happy Birthday, FlapJilly!

Mama, next weekend I'll be 7.  

It's true.  I was there when she was a backache the night before she was born.  It can't be labor, Mom; the baby's not due until next week - that was the first grandmotherly comment to be dismissed out of hand.  

It's also a touchstone moment - babies don't often do what they're supposed to do when they are supposed to do it and good parents, like Little Cuter and SIR, learn to roll with it..... even when it includes projectile pooping.  It's amazing how well you can control your gag reflex when it's your own personal human creation looking up at you through her screams.

And then the random screams become burbling sounds of discomfort and the solutions, though always changing, are, eventually found.  Smiles and laughs and recognition; food smashed all over your face and hers, adventures in the real world, and, always, WHY??

School friends and cousin friends and encountering the outside world on her own - and making a place in it for herself.  She's grown out of babyhood, living firmly in childhood, and enjoying almost every minute of it.

Opinions are formed.  Music is now a shared experience -Taylor Swift, please.  Reading chapter books starring glittery unicorn princesses, finding balance while making turns on a scooter, cracking an egg without dropping any shell into the bowl - her body and her mind are exploding.

She's 4 feet tall - and proud of every inch.  

Today is her special day.  Deliveries and purchases and plans have been made; thinking about them while we talked today made her shiver with delight. 

Happy Birthday, darling GrammaDaughter.  Grampa and I love you very, very much.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Watching and Weeping

I watched the most manly men wipe tears from their eyes.  I listened as they retold their stories.  I was mesmerized by their bodies and their language.

These were big guys, with ribbons on their chests and fidelity to their oaths. In their hearts, they were broken.  

Name calling.  Eye gouging. Kill him with his own gun.  

I found myself leaning forward, hands gripping one another.  I wasn't crying, I was watching and learning.

I remember..... 

I remember, too.  

At least the deniers were few and far between back in 2011.  The most powerful moments this morning were those damning the elected officials who said it was all love and happiness.  Let them go over to Donald Trump's house, if they're so full of love.

They are looking for the truth.  They called out the former president.  They gave the Committee their wish list - who and what needs to be brought to light.  

And then it was finished. 

I took a little trip to the outside edges of PTSD this morning.  It was a reminder of how I felt every day of the former guy's presidency.  I hope that America can do justice to those defenders of the Capitol and its inhabitants that day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Exile - Books Worth Reading

I didn't realize that last month would be filled with stories of exile, and yet, it was.  I didn't plan it that way.  The universe provided the material and I drank it up.  I'm a little les anchored in my personal space, but in a good way.  Thinking makes it so.  

My rolfing therapist handed me this, and told me I would love it.

She was right.  I looked at the world with heightened sensibilities after seeing it through the eyes of a young girl growing up.  Why she and her father are alone in the world seems less important than the lessons he's teaching her, until the outside world intervenes and changes everything.  Modern conveniences take on extra dimensions, the simplest tasks are revealed as bewilderingly complex, and through it all there is a serenity and a hopefulness baked into the protagonist's DNA.  

Read it, then breathe deeply.  You'll feel the difference.

I reread Nora Ephron's Heartburn as a palate cleanser; her snarky prose still makes me laugh.  Then I picked up Madeline Miller's Circe and was, once again, in exile.
The Olympians and the Titans fight like the Hatfields and McCoys, and Miller makes them seem just that real.  Another young woman alone on an island, although this one consorts with Hermes and argues with Zeus.  Did you ever wonder about Scylla's origins?  Have you thought about Minos's reaction when his wife gave birth to the Minotaur?  And why would he name the beast after himself, anyway?  Those and so many other mysteries are described and explained and made real.... even as I knew they were not.

A knowledge of the gods and goddesses helped me.  Having read the Iliad and the Odyssey I had a ready made place in my brain for the questions Miller raised.  Bringing Penelope and Telemachos front and center at the end turned those stories somewhat askew - and I loved it.

I sighed when I read the last page.

From Little Cuter's office at Notre Dame, I took Call Me Zebra,

a fantastical picaresque, a jumble of quotations and philosophy and history, and a sad sad story of a young girl uprooted from her Iranian homeland and deposited in the outside - alone, well-read, but poorly prepared.  This is not a light read; every sentence is laden with meanings.... many many meanings.  There are references to literary figures unknown and known to me; at times it seems that the author's boundless knowledge has vomited upon the page.

But Zebra's internal journey, her commitment to discovering the why's of her exile, her single minded focus on expecting the best from everyone and schooling them when they fail to meet her standards, kept me gong through the rough spots.  

It's hard to dislike a book when a one of the main characters is a suitcase.

Yuval Noah Harari's Saipiens

tells humankind's history through comics.  The author visits laboratories and cave paintings and fossil finds while teaching evolution. It's easy to pick up and put down, giving you time to ponder.  The drawings are complex and full of random fun - the background characters in the airports and train stations deserve your close attention.  This one could be shared with middle and high schoolers; it's sure to provoke conversation.

And now, I'm going on to the newest translation of the Aeneid, by Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer
It's readable and enjoyable and maintains the meter and rhythm of the Latin (or so the reviews and her introduction told me; I'm not a Latinist so I can't say for sure.)  After all these stories of exile and displacement, I'm happy to return to the mother of all these adventures.  

All the same questions present themselves - Why not go home?  Where is home?  What if home no longer exists?  Is the journey more important than the destination?  What does all this tell me about myself, beyond what it says about the characters contained within its pages?

It's been a great month of reading.  I hope you like some of these - and that you tell me what you think in the comments sometime.

Monday, July 26, 2021

An Entirely Unusual Experience

The Olympic Games began, and no one seems to care... except, perhaps, for the Japanese people who are protesting outside the venues.  Their country is hosting an international super-spreader event and they are peeved.  Akio  Toyoda refused to attend the opening ceremonies even though he's CEO of Toyota, the major investor in the games.  That was probably a smart move, given that masking was sporadic and vaccination uncertain.  I'm not sure about Japanese politics, but Toyoda's absence made a statement that even I could understand.

The Opening Ceremonies were in stark contrast to the Chinese games'.  Instead of masses of humanity beating drums in sync, there were shapes and lines and solitary dancers exercising in white bloomers while colored lights played on the arena.  It was artful and somewhat interesting but we turned it off when the camera focused on a person on a treadmill.... for a very long time..... until s/he fell off and lay in a hump.

It wasn't a ball or a reclining figure - it was a hump.

The US gymnasts and swimmers stayed away - standing for hours among possible vectors for the disease the day before their events were contested seemed like the smarter move.  The swimmers gathered for their own ceremony, locking arms in a giant circle and singing the national anthem.  It was a wobbly circle and  the voices were somewhat off-key - it was nothing less than reminiscent of color war at summer camp, and in that, it was heartwarming and welcoming and a sweet way to start off a weird Olympics.

It's on the television all day long.  We watched archery. Robin Hood would be perplexed by these bows and arrows, although the targets look just the same as the ones he shot at against Matt of Sliwa in the movie.

We watched the men's 8's and 4's and the women's 8's - that's rowing for the uninitiated.  These are not multiple scoring events, yet the  long pull and glide across flat water was oddly mesmerizing and exciting.  We found ourselves rowing along with them, wondering if one arm was bigger than the other since it was doing most of the work.

These are the thoughts one has when sports slips from the front of the brain into the mush in the middle.  We were brought back to reality when the commentator began to describe the role of each pair of athletes - strength, guidance, technique are equally divided between them.  

I spent some time wondering what my life would have been like had I known that small people with loud voices are perfect coxswains.

There was shooting, with rifles too heavy for the contestants to hold for longer than it took to aim and fire.  One round was all I could stomach; we switched channels and watched tall, fit women in skimpy bikinis play beach volleyball.  It was more fun to see them dancing across the hot sand than it was to have the end of a rifle pointed at my face

Women's handball.  Volleyball for both boys and girls.  Fencing. A road race that went on forever, and was repeated on every channel.  The American men's gymnastics.  The camera angles were odd, the announcers odder still.  Arcane points of order, incomprehensible scoring, competitions between Norway and Korea - we watched it all.  It's the background as I'm cooking, as we're Facetiming with the kiddos, while we're talking to Queen T and Big Cuter for an hour.

There's nothing that demands our full attention - perhaps Simone Biles will do that for us.  Not even the swimming could hold my interest for long; 400 meters is a long time to watch unidentified bodies move through a pool.

It's the production values that have suffered the most.  There is a blond woman with a British accent who shows up from time to time to tell us what we'll be seeing next.  Mike Tirico stands on a deserted patio in front of  perfectly placed bonsai trees on perfectly spaced tables and teases us with what's to come. Mary Carillo was there, subdued and not funny at all.  There are no personal profiles of athletes training in the far corners of the world.  There are videos of watch parties back in the States, there are after event Thanks, Mom! interviews, but not much more up close and personal stories than you'd find in the evening news.

Big Cuter likes the sports and dislikes the human interest pieces; I'm sure he's happier with this scaled down version.  I, on the other hand, miss the spectacle.  I miss the roar of the fans; the empty stadiums are creepy and seem to overpower the athletes.  The void is overwhelming.

It's an odd event in an odd time in our odd little world right now.   

Friday, July 23, 2021

Going Backwards

The last time we flew home from South Bend, we were the only people in the waiting area.  It was early June, we were vaccinated, we were sitting alone and far from the few other travelers who were leaving Indiana at 11pm, so we took down our masks and breathed free.  

We weren't worried.  If we believed the science and stayed home for 14 months, we have to believe the science when it tells us we are safe was our mantra. 

All that has changed in the past few weeks.

Of course, we masked up whenever we went anywhere with FlapJilly and Giblet.  If the least among us could not be protected we would take all the precautions we could - to protect them and to show solidarity with their predicament.

As soon as you get your vaccine, my love was the all too frequent answer to horseback riding and eating inside a restaurant and traveling to Arizona... and it shouldn't be.  If everyone who could get vaccinated did get vaccinated I could have taken the kids to the library when the weather turned ugly.  Not that we didn't have fun at home - SIR and Little Cuter have created a paradise for kids of all ages - but there is so much world out there to explore.  

In the airport on Wednesday we kept our distance and our masks and found ourselves aware of every cough and exposed nose.  I went to Costco that afternoon and I wore my mask.  JannyLou and I masked up when we went out to lunch.  We were very glad to be sitting at an out of the way table in the back.

This doesn't have to be happening.  People are dying who might have been saved.... who probably would have been saved.... and who certainly wouldn't have served as a host for who knows what other variants might be percolating out there and I am slowly losing my mind as this threatens to happen all over again.

Little Cuter hugged us at the airport and reminded us that If there's even the hint of another pandemic, you are coming right back here... or maybe we will come to you  - you have a pool.

 I want them to be able to visit rather than flee.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

A Travel Day

All the planes were on time.

We only had to walk fast through two terminals at DFW, and climb up the stairs to the SkyLink tram because the escalator was broken to make our connection.

We had no third person in the row on either leg.

The time change has us very confused, as does lack of sleep, breathing recycled air, and not eating very much at all.

In short, denizens, I'm too exhausted to have anything meaningful to say, although I read several fascinating books that I am anxious to share with you.  Tomorrow will be better, I'm sure.  For now, excuse me but I'm going to take a nap.