Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Musings

It's 109 degrees outside and it's 7:25pm. My brain is as fried as my flesh. I love the heat and the sun and the smells of Tucson's summer, but usually the monsoon rains cool things off in the afternoon. We're in a dry spell right now, though, due to issues with high pressure systems over Mexico. Or New Mexico. It was already scorching hot when I read the paper this morning and as I said, my brain is fried.

So, random thoughts today:

If I were stuck on a desert island with only one artist/group's music I decided it would be Paul Simon.

Some people should not be allowed to drive - the ability to see over the top of the steering wheel should be mandatory. Of course, here in Arizona your driver's license is renewed when you turn 65. Til then, you're good to go. As my Boston First Cousin warned me upon hearing of our move to Arizona : Be careful of the tarantulas, the scorpions, the javalinas and the elderly.

Why does a yellow jacket (a predatory wasp, according to Wikipedia) land in our pool every afternoon at 3:30, rest for a bit with his wings straight up in the air, and then fly up over the house. He never goes out west toward the wash, or north or south toward our neighbors. Always east, over the house.

"Don't get naked at work" is really good advice. Did Royal Pains really have to end that way this week?

Socrates taught that some people are not ready to leave the cave and face the world as it really is. The journey down and out of reflected existence and into a knowing space is a hard one. At the time the Big Cuter was explaining it to me, as we lolled on noodles in the pool this afternoon, it was somehow making me feel better about moving G'ma into the pod-castle. But my brain is fried and now I can't remember the path I took to the smile I felt.

Have a wonderful weekend, and don't forget that it's not a bad idea to leave a comment if something I've written moves you to do so. I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's YOUR Body After All

Personal responsibility is an issue near and dear to my heart. Hearing President Obama urge Americans to take charge of their health made me smile; it was so parental and so true. "No, you'll spoil your appetite" No, you can't have THAT for dinner" "Yes, carrots are a healthy snack" "Didn't the doctor explain that ice cream gives you a tummy ache because you're allergic to milk?" Parenting thrusts ordinary humans into the roles of nutritionist and pharmacist and ER nurse, and does it all without training or support. Sure, you can look on WebMD (what I would've given for that when the Little Cuter's 2 month old body was covered with the world's most awful rash!) and read the labels and use your brain, but most of it comes from experience.

And if your experience has been watching your parents shove Big Macs into their faces while driving 2 blocks to the grocery store for chips and soda then that's what you're going to pass on to your kids. The saddest part of walking through the food court at the mall is watching obese parents and their rotund children carrying trays laden with goo. I have to restrain myself from slapping the trays out of their hands; if looks could kill, the food court would be tiled with chubby bodies.

G'ma and Daddooooo never exercised until they were in their 70's and arthritis and hip replacements forced them into it. Dadooooo was proud of his upper body's ability to get him up the 17 steps to the attic without being able to really bend at his hips. Just try to do 17 dips in a row on an uphill plane and you'll see that his pride was well-founded. Installing the chair lift during his final illness was harder for him to bear than the illness itself. "Use it or lose it" had been his mantra, and the lift was a physical reminder of his inability to follow his own advice.

G'ma, on the other hand, thinks that exercise is something designed for other people. Ask her to show you her current physical regime and she'll raise her pointer finger a few times while smiling sweetly in your direction. When I called to tell her that I'd run 5 miles for the very first time in my whole entire life, her response was classic G'ma : "But didn't you sweat????".

She's a good listener and incredibly obedient, though, so she was an All-Star in her Fall Prevention Class at the physical therapy office last year. It was hard and her muscles ached, but she was competitive enough to push through the pain and complete more reps than the octogenarian in the next chair. Following the class with a brownie was less than optimal, but, as she reminds me on a regular basis, life without chocolate is not living at all. As long as her weight is stable, who could begrudge an 86 year old her favorite foodstuff? Not I.

Tuesday's Wall Street Journal quoted a recently discharged hospital patient at a 4th of July picnic: "I told the girl, 'I'm going to have a hot dog. If I'm dead in the morning, I'll never know.'" Except that she wasn't dead, she was back in the ER. And someone was paying for her inability to say no. She's in my age bracket, so my health insurance premiums include her indulgences as well as my trips to the gym. And while the doctors and nurses are fixing her up, resources are being expended on someone who'll be back again soon. And again. And again.

Similarly, smokers think that lung cancer will just kill them. But, no, you don't wake up dead one morning. Instead, you drown in your own fluids in a noisy and decidedly uncomfortable fashion. Snickers for breakfast lead to diabetic amputations. Drinking soda instead of milk 3 times a day provides your bones with all the opportunity they need to lose mass and shrink your skeleton to a shadow of your young adult self.

It's hard to recognize the truth of all this when you are young and feeling invincible. That's where parenting comes in. And now, it seems, the government may be stepping into the equation as well. At one Town Hall meeting after another, President Obama has been preaching the gospel of patients' responsibilities as well as patients' rights. Paying physicians for keeping their caseloads healthy (as opposed to paying them for the number of visits and tests done) only works if the patients are ready to accept their role in the process. Building financial incentives to stop smoking or lose weight or join a gym into health care reform is my favorite part of the whole scheme. (Well, maybe my 2nd favorite... right after coverage for pre-existing conditions.)

I wonder if Americans are ready to be responsible for themselves in this way.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

OHS Class of '69

40th high school reunion is coming up - do I type My or Our or My class's ? They are 3 very different things, and it is all very confusing.

I'm going to skip over the whole "where did the time go?" and "how did I/we get so old?" stuff and get right to the nitty gritty - what will I wear?

Actually, that's the easy part of the whole thing. It's the people part that's weirding me out.

TBG is sending me off to The Big Apple alone, and I'm just as glad. We met years after high school was over (so over) and he's not a piece of that action. My date is My True Friend (MTF) and we've run out of ways to say that we can hardly wait. Her aunt's apartment or the hotel I found - it doesn't matter. Staying 3 days or 4 days or maybe even 5 is sounding better and better as the date draws nigh.

Ours was an accomplished class (... and all the children are above average.....) and there are one or two really famous people who'll be attending. I'm not sure that anyone knew back in 1969 whose star would rise or whose would fall. Big Shots went off to college where they were promptly relegated to Little Shot status; they were freshman boys, after all. Pretty girls drank too much and partied too hard and bad things happened. People who flourished just under the radar became household names. We turned into dentists and lawyers and authors and activists and we were right in the middle of the Boomer Generation. Paths had been paved, but there were many roads yet to travel. We were young at the right time, there's no denying it.

I think I'm better now than I was then. Certainly, I'm happier with myself. I've earned every wrinkle and every grey hair and I'm not ashamed to show them to the world. "I am who I am" sounds better today than it did when I was 17. My worries are fewer and my psyche is more peaceful and the things which I allow to intrude on my bliss are unavoidable as opposed to being thrust in my face in the hall after English. This reunion won't be tough; I'm in a good place and.....

And that's when I pause and begin to fret. Yes, fret. I know, I know..... it's been 40 years for crying out loud and what was was and what is is but somehow, for high school, what was still is.

(Did you ever read R.D.Laing's The Politics of Experience ? His rant on my experience of you will leave you with the same kind of headache that my last sentence just provided.)

Anyway, maybe that's the thing about high school. You never really leave it behind. The Cuters compared their college teachers to their high school teachers. Victories on the playing field live just as large today as they did 42 years ago for TBG. SAT scores are remembered and class rank is gloated over and somehow it almost matters just as much today as it did then .

What was still is? Perhaps more than we'd like to admit that it does.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Reliable Informant

I am many things to many people. Mom. Friend. Hiking Buddy. Babysitter. Weighlifting Partner. Wife.

Recently, though, I seem to have added another title - Reliable Informant.

There were inklings of my new status while I lived in Marin. Around election time, people would begin to ask me "Who should I vote for?" Not "For whom are you voting?" Nope, they were asking me for the name they'd put on their ballot. We've all done it. Does your neighbor work in the courthouse? I bet you've asked her for recommendations on judges and district attorneys before you made your decision. I looked at my questioners in the same light. They knew I attended School Board meetings even before I was elected to serve. Closeness to the operation in question seems to be the go-to point when information can't be found elsewhere, I guess. And so often, especially on small local boards, the ability to get along with one another is the difference between success and or dissension. Having watched the players, I was an obvious person to ask.

Then G'ma fell and entered the hospital on her first night here in Arizona. She was tired, and in pain and incapable of answering the doctors' questions. She knew enough to tease the ambulance driver when he radioed in that they were transporting an "elderly" woman, but she was hard pressed to do the math to figure out her age. Her birthdate and her social security number were firmly fixed in her memory, but not much else that they were asking was available to her. She knew it was in there, she just couldn't access it. I have never wanted to diminish her by answering questions in her stead; now I was forced into the role by color coded hospital workers with paperwork in one hand and needles in the other. Allergies? Surgeries? Medications? It's a good thing G'ma kept it all on a list in her wallet

(If you haven't done this for yourself stop reading right now and do it. Don't worry.... I'll wait til you get back.... Believe me, you never know when you'll be the patient in the ambulance.... you probably won't have a lot of time to prepare.)

Anyway, the admirable hospital personnel aimed their questions directly to G'ma, while accepting my answers as her own. Over time, I began to recognize the answers she could give herself and the ones she needed me to supply. We had our routine down pretty smoothly by her second hospitalization; she'd glance at me and I'd step in, defusing any tension by introducing myself as "her reliable informant".

And then there was the issue of sharks and the San Diego vacation. The Amster and her boys were planning a week-long trip to an oceanfront apartment, but the 6 year old was frantic. He'd seen Jaws at the home of a friend and he knew just what would happen when he went into the water. After she got over her fury at the friend's mother for allowing her baby to be exposed to an obviously inappropriate for his age film, she began the process of reassuring him that she, his mother, who loved him and cared for him and carried him under her heart for 9 long months would in no way endanger his health and well-being by putting him in an unsafe situation. He stared right through her, not buying a word of it. She talked up the joys of the waves and the sand and the shells and the exhilaration of swimming in an endless pool of water and all he could do was shake his head. No way he was going in the ocean. He had seen the movie.

Over bench presses we discussed the dilemma. Having been through a similar experience with the Big Cuter, I was pressed into service. Picking him up from the Kids' Club at the gym after straining our pecs and triceps for an hour, we waited at the Juice Bar for our smoothies. Mr. 6 was leaning against my leg, a most serious expression on his face. No doubt about what he was thinking - his little brother was babbling on about the ocean and the sand and while Mr. 6 still had his head stuck in Bruce's maw. Or maybe it was his arm on which Bruce was chomping. Regardless, he was freaked.

"So, Mommy tells me you saw Jaws," I said, still rubbing his back as he leaned harder into my thigh. "Y'know, my boy was worried about sharks, too, when he was small." His head perked up, just a little. "REALLY???" This was obviously a kid who'd been fed similar lines and was wise to the tales. "Sure, since he grew up near the ocean he was worried about sharks all the time. And he knew people who'd been bitten, too." That got his attention big time - and had the added advantage of being 100% true.

Spinning my story in a matter-of-fact voice, I related the high schooler's afternoon on a surfboard "way far out in the water", his noticing the shark, his frantic paddling, and the rescue efforts (evacuation helicopters landing on the beach and all) and hospital care for his many bite wounds. "So, he died, right? He was eaten up, right?" Back again to the rescue and the helicopter and the hospital and the recovery. "Well, in the movie they all died," he retorted, certain of his facts and that my story was another attempt to delude him into thinking that the ocean was a safe place for a 6 year old. He KNEW BETTER, and his face showed his conviction.

"True," said I, "but that was to make the movie better. After all, attaching balloons to a house can't really make it fly, can it?" A small smile began to appear; the first glimmer that he was beginning to distinguish between fantasy and reality. That's not easy for a little one, especially in his media saturated world.

"You know that I grew up in New York, right? Do you know what's right next to New York? The Atlantic Ocean." "And we are going to the Pacific Ocean," he murmured. "Yes, and my parents took me to the Atlantic Ocean all the time. And that's the Jaws ocean, y'know." All of a sudden he was really really interested in my monologue. "And I used to be as scared as you are, and as my boy was. But once I knew the facts, I really liked the ocean." SURE, said his face, what makes you think I'll believe THAT?

Undeterrerd, I plowed on. "Do you want to know the facts? Or do you still want to be scared?" "Facts, please." And so I spun a tale of safety being tied to never being the swimmer who's the furthest from the shore. How watching to insure that there was always some out beyond you made you responsible for your own safety - a crucial point for an older brother who needs to be in charge at all times. How sharks were lazy and stupid creatures (what else would think a license plate made tasty chewing?) who would take the first meal presented to them, so having a buffer between you and the beast's rows of teeth made sense. I rambled on in a matter-of-fact tone of voice, sharing knowledge but not addressing his fears. And gradually, he stopped leaning into me and his shoulders came out of his ears and he turned to his little brother and said, "I'll be in charge of watching for people further out than we are" and that was it. His nightmares vanished. His enthusiasm for the vacation returned. And he had a new fact in his arsenal.

I was, officially, his Reliable Informant.

I think I'm liking this title.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oh, Beautiful, for Spacious Skies.......

I've had it. As G'ma would say, "It's enough already". The whining has to stop. Yes, times are tough for new graduates. Yes, only 20% of those who applied for jobs this year will be working after their commencement exercises are safely enshrined on Facebook, if my alumni magazine is to be believed. Yes, we're in a recession and society is in a mess and Americans are dying in wars on foreign soil and gee whiz it sounds a lot like when I was a new college graduate in 1973. And when I finished grad school in 1975. Prospects were dim, and there were a lot of us looking into them.

The Peace Corps would've been an option were I not committed to a man who hated to travel. Besides, making money was, all of a sudden, not such an unpalatable objective. Not lots and lots of money necessarily (though that turned out to be pretty nice, too) but enough money to pay the bills with some left over to save and some to spend. The American Dream. And it felt just out of reach.

As I imagine it also felt to my immigrant grandparents, who, in addition to learning their 3rd language (English, after Russian and Yiddish) had to make their way in a society that was a mess while Americans were dying in wars on foreign soil and they were surrounded by lots of others in the same pickle.

So, I began to wonder : Might that not be, in some way, a part of the American Dream?

"America's not easy. You have to want it", Andrew Shepard reminded the White House Press Corps. America's a state of mind as much as it is a zip code or a flag. I'd never given it much thought before this summer's rash of History Channel shows on the Revolution, but the danger the signers of the Declaration of Independence faced was real. Sure, some went on to fame and fortune and higher office, but others were burned out of their homes or died in debtor's prison or lost their lives.

"A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state" does not mean that I want to be drafted. I'm perfectly happy to let those whose paths lead them to serving in the military follow their notion of bliss. I will honor and respect them but no way am I joining them. I'll do my work for America in other ways - by volunteering and donating and by raising wonderful children who will continue to do good in their own turns. And I'll do the real heavy lifting - I'll take a stab at understanding the ideas and ideals behind America, and then I'll try to live up to them.

When the Big Cuter's Selective Service form arrived 3 months before his 18th birthday, I hid it in my desk. For weeks. I never stopped thinking about it, but I couldn't give it to him. I kept waiting for the Voter Registration form to arrive; I'd give them both to him and feel better about America. It didn't arrive, so I went to the post office and got one. Handed them both to him, with tears in my eyes. Told him that I would support him if he didn't want to register, and that I'd go to Canada with him if that's what he wanted. And he looked at me as if I'd grown another head next to the already bizarre one he was talking to and he said "Give me those. The tree of liberty is fertilized with the blood of patriots." Shut me right up. Yes, sir. Stunned. Proud. Frightened. And I had to laugh, because once again parenting had shown me that I wasn't really in charge of very much at all. I'd taught him to love America; he'd come up with defending her on his own.

All this is in reaction to a contributor to the aforementioned alumni magazine. She's a streaker and smart and possesses all the arrogance - pay a fee, get a trophy - that being parented by people like me has given her. Yes, she has a sense of entitlement and she deserves it. No, getting into an Ivy League school wasn't the hardest part of the process - STAYING IN was. And she did. With honors. And now the real world is on her doorstep and she's bummed. She worries : "I fear that my generation will see our dreams stifled by jobs they dislike but had to take."

Jobs like the ones my great-grandparents took to put bread on the table? Like the one Daddoooo took to keep the family business going? Like the one I took to keep us off food stamps? Graduate School is NOT a retreat; it's never a bad idea to garner another credential. And maybe your first (or your second or your third) job won't be exactly what you'd dreamed it would be. Living your dream may take a few years, or attempts, or cities, or partners. So, maybe you ought to be looking at what you're doing outside of that filler job. Life is what happens while you are making plans so recognize that and take advantage of the rest of your life.

Because the streets are not paved with gold, as the 19th and 20th century immigrants found out. But there are opportunities if you're willing to work for them. And work doesn't necessarily end up being fun. That's why they call it work. It's not always interesting or enlightening or stimulating or motivating but that doesn't mean that your aspirations are unattainable. They are just out of reach.

Which, the more I think about it, is what makes America special - that striving, that seeking, that sense that things can be better if we work on it just a little harder. That's the American Dream.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


(This is Friday's post. Blogspot is having issues with the scheduling feature.....)

There's a lot of moving going on in my family this month

The Little Cuter and SIR have commingled their possessions in an apartment which, according to her brother, "is perfect in any and every way that an apartment can be measured". Their move was easy for me; I made them new return address labels and sent them a gift card for Target and I was done. SIR's parents and friends provided the manual labor, and the kids paid for the whole thing themselves. It was a first for me, not helping her move in, and I will tell you that cheering from the sidelines is much kinder on the manicure than moving the boxes myself. I will admit to a bit of jealousy while I thought about SIR's mother helping to set it all up, but I got over it pretty fast.

The Big Cuter is transporting himself from the right coast to the left as I type this. His currrent status is "retired" and he's reveling in his last 7 weeks of freedom before starting law school. I didn't have to move him out of his high-rise in Virginia; he packed his belongings in 6 hours the afternoon before the movers were due to arrive, and he supervised their 90 minute removal of his goods to their truck while playing computer games in the bedroom. Not exactly the game plan I'd have devised had I been there, but I wasn't and it got done and, once again, my manicure was safe. I'll be joining him on the last leg of his road trip to get him settled into his new digs ready to take on the role of a One-L without any domestic worries. Or, as he put it, "You can buy me all those things you think I need that I don't even know exist." But that's three weeks from now, and will, no doubt, be fodder for future post. He's on vacation, why should I worry about it?

Younger brother and his wife sold their house in Maryland last week and now have a new domicile which meets both their requirements - a shorter commute for her and enough lawn to justify a riding mower for him. I cannot imagine how they packed and moved everything they've collected in the past 20-or-so years. He took half of G'ma and Daddoooo's basement and attic and garage detritus home with him when we sold their Long Island manse, unloading it into his garage in the middle of the night in an effort to avoid detection. They have a pottery wheel and a shop-class's worth of power tools and every cooking and crafting and creative accoutrement you can imagine. Were they ruthless? Did they purge? And more important - is he changing his land line's number from the one which mirrored their old street address? I always thought that was so cool.

And then there's G'ma. Papers have been signed and discussions have been had but I've done nothing concrete. I have to change all the addresses I just finished changing after her last move. I have to cancel and restart cable and the newspaper and the utilities and I have to find the information on the Jitterbug phone and I have to decide what she's taking and who's going to cart it there and all I can do is wonder - Am I Doing The Right Thing? Yes, capitalized. Yes, with angst attached. No, there's no way out of it that I can see. I have to get comfortable with so many pieces that I ought to write a list. And I would, if that wouldn't make it seem all the more real to me.

And so it goes. New addresses, new states, new caregivers, new roommates, new bus routes, new grocery stores, new cable companies.... so much change......... Stop the World.... I want to Get Off!

Dad In Chief

I'm smitten. TBG is, too. We have a special little place in our hearts just for him. It's both a parental pride and a communal pride. We proud of him and we're proud of America and it's really nice to have our default position be something other than cynicism.

And we're not embarrassed nor are we hiding it. The Schnozz still has my first and only automotive political bumper sticker firmly affixed to its rear bumper. It's fading in the Arizona sunlight, but the red white and blue is still there. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm wearing my (possibly the most comfortable in the entire world) Obama t-shirt as I type.

All this is prelude to my rant on his press conference tonight. I can't get away from it - there is no way on God's green earth that President Bush could have/would have/had/has the intellectual chops to do what President Obama did tonight. He's not afraid to stop and listen and while his answers may be long, they are never long-winded. He asserted his Presidency without a smirk or a boast or a sneer. He said "I am the President" and he meant it. "This is my house, now," with a big laugh and then a rueful smile defused, for a moment, the horror that is Professor Henry Louis Gates and the Boston Police Department .It also sent a pointed statement of fact. When he didn't know he admitted it and then promised - "I'll have an answer for you" . And I believed him. He's the Dad In Chief.

Dads know that rules are good, no matter how much we may chafe at them. In his pitch for financial regulatory reform he spoke of how, "unconstrained, taking greater and greater risks" the financial markets and the players therein acted like children without any boundaries while bringing our economy to the brink of depression. In response to repeated demands that he tell America exactly what sacrifices each and every one of us, individually, in our location and with our particular condition will have to make and when in order to make his health care plan come true, he tried to avoid the bait and then, finally, said we couldn't have ice cream sundaes every single night. No matter how much we thought we needed them. The x-ray taken at the orthopedist's office on Tuesday will just have to suffice in the Physical Therapy Office on Wednesday. There's really no reason to repeat it, even if Medicare will pay.

Dads rein us in when we overreach- "..this kind of spending we just can't afford" - and cosset us when we are scared - "...fear of change..... the Devil I know is better than.....". They adopt our slang without really noticing it - the pause as he said "...a enormous..." and you know he doesn't misspeak that way and then you realize that he was about to say "a Ginormous..." and you just have to laugh. And Dads like it when you laugh at them that way. It makes them feel loved.

And listening to him, I feel a fatherly embrace. His cadence, the way he draws me in and out and teaches me something along the way, the fact that he expects me to be able to follow his ideas, and that he goes out of his way to insure that I do, his respect for the audience and for himself -- I have no problem leaving him in charge.

This is how I remember G'ma describing her reaction to FDR's Fireside Chats. We are living in exciting times, my friends. And if you don't agree, please please please don't tell me. I'm really liking this new, un-cynical-about-politics, me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keeping in Touch

{ *'s are defined at the end of the post for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about}

I haven't been in a "fastest growing" sector of a demographic in a long, long time. Now, however, I am apparently quite trendy. According to Inside Facebook, women over 55 are the fastest growing sector of the Facebook "audience".

Initially, Facebook was as foreign to me as Twitter is today. The Big Cuter was amongst the first to join, back when you needed a college email account to belong. The Little Cuter borrowed my .edu address and she, too, by her senior year in high school, was publishing information about herself on-line. TBG and I didn't do a very thorough job monitoring the content; we spent more time worrying about her social life in the real world than we did with her on-line activities. Facebook seemed "classier" than MySpace, and the problems with MySpace had not reached the critical mass they later assumed. We were very clear about not revealing specifics, and she was old enough and mature enough to be trusted. After all, she would be leaving for college in a few months and then all bets were off. If we hadn't inculcated good behavior into her by the age of 17, we were hosed no matter how much we pried. Were we giving ourselves an easy out? Perhaps. But parents have to trust their instincts and so we let it ride.

During their college years, it felt intrusive to create my own Facebook page. Cyber-space was their bailiwick. Except for frequent reminders about drunken posting, I stayed away.

Once the Little Cuter left the Big 10, though, she invited me to join. She was tired of having to email her photographs as attachments if she wanted to share them with her parents. My Picasa account was easy to use, but it was an additional step. So, I bit the bullet and created an account. Figured out quickly that without a picture I looked like a weird-o.... and then I had to find a picture. My brother drew a pink goatee and glasses on a picture of himself taken in 1959 (very very cute!) and posted that. I've seen pictures of pets and off-spring and various forms of flora and there are some attractive avatars floating around in the 30-something demographic. I opted for a shot that reminded me of happy times and moved on to the next decision.

How much information do I reveal? I started small - home town, college alumni group - and I'm still not sharing much. When I decided to add "married" to my status, it popped up on my friends' walls* as "is NOW married". The Cuters were quick with questions regarding their legitimacy and wondering why they hadn't been invited to the ceremony. Guess I should've included it in the first place, huh?

For a long time my only friends** were the Cuters. Random adults from my past would occasionally friend me*** but I rarely logged on unless there were new photos to be seen. Over time, I began to notice that other women of a certain age were making reference to their Facebook pages. I realized that I'd been thinking of which picture of G'ma I'd put on her Facebook profile when she moves to her pod-castle and has help to check it out. As my 40th high school reunion draws nigh (and yes, some days it does feel as apocalyptic as that reads!) I'm receiving friend requests from people whose names I have to look up in my yearbook before I ignore**** them. (There's a psychic victory inherent in denying access to my life to people who didn't give me the time of day 40 years ago. Let them ask. I'm not replying.)

My family and real friends, though, are a treat to follow. I share bits and pieces of the lives being led by my nieces and TBG's cousins and I'm constantly amused. Speeding tickets, baby pictures, vacation memories and complaints about rainy days and lost cell phones and crowded buses are windows into the lives of people who are separated by distance but held close by love. They're the kind of random details you pick up by osmosis over the dinner table or the backyard fence or on the car-pool line. They are immaterial and irrelevant and mundane and I love them.

Early in the decade, the Big Cuter's favorite professor allowed us to sit in on one of his lectures on de Tocqueville. Citing the Frenchman's fascination with the American obsession with joining groups, he opined that this feature of American life was being destroyed by cyberspace, by the forming of electronic instead of human connections. Even then, and especially now, I beg to differ. I'm not talking about Second Life or role-playing video games; I'm talking about my real self using the ether to connect with my extended family and friends. I'm not hiding behind anything, I'm out there with them. And they are out there with me. We know more about each other than we would if we weren't reading about each other's adventures. But it's more than that. It's asking and being allowed in. It's letting your friend define herself and showing you that definition. It's closeness over distance.

And it's fun.

*wall - the home page to which notes are appended as if the wall were a bulletin board
**friends - those with permission to view my site
***friend me - ask for permission to view my site and be listed as my friend
****ignore - reject the friend request without having to do anything more than click ignore

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Can't Win

The Little Cuter is very wise, sometimes. "Don't go to sleep with an open issue" and "It's better to deal with it than to worry about it" were hard won lessons she's taken to heart. When she sends them my way, I know I should listen.

With the Little Cuter's advice firmly affixed to my shoulder, I told the girls that G'ma will be moving in 2 weeks. They were gracious and loving and we agreed on references and help in finding new employment and promises to visit and stay in touch.

After a while, I got a little choked up. G'ma was there in a heartbeat - "It'll be fine. Whatever it is, it will be fine." Once my mommy, always my mommy, I guess. So, I reminded her that she'd be moving to her corner suite in the pod-castle and that I was worried about the decision. How sad was she that she was leaving the rest of her dining room furniture behind? "Really, honey, what's in there? Family pictures come for the walls, and then, honestly, will I remember what's gone?" I'm not sure if that makes me feel better or worse. But I decided to focus on the feelings behind the words, and they warmed the cockles of my heart.

"It's beautiful and new and private and you have a view of the mountains and the clouds and you can go to breakfast in your bathrobe just like you always do." And her response showed me why I can never hope to get out from under being her daughter and thus swept up in spite of myself into our decades old dance. Just as I was relaxing into the fact that she loved me and trusted me and couldn't really make the decision herself and that every day is a new day and she loves me and trusts me and then she says, after thinking about breakfast in her robe in the dining room, not Oh, good not Finally! not Just like home. ............

Nope, MY mother does her half-smile and shakes her head. "Oy, what a sight we'll be."

Monday, July 20, 2009

What Time is It?

Does anybody really know what time it is?

That is not only a lyric from an old rock and roll song that I never much liked, anyway, but it is, apparently, a valid scientific question. At least the Science Channel thought enough of the question to film a really cute Brit flying around the world with his camera crew and his accent that was made to be imitated and his search for time.

I wish I had seen this when my younger brother was in high school. Frugal with his time as well as his money, he saw no reason to be in the building before his first period class. Homeroom, he felt, was optional. The attendance lady saw things in a different light, and their on-going tussles are the stuff of legend. "Mrs. Lemon, the hairdryer wouldn't work and it's humid outside and you know how Little Sister gets when her hair's not right so I couldn't leave until I'd fixed it." She'd sigh, and hand him his Late Card. He'd dutifully fill in the next empty line with his excuses- kidnapped by a band of roving gypsies , the refrigerator was running and I had to catch it - and stealthily shred the card as he neared the 10th (talk to the vice-principal) line. "Mrs. Lemon, what did you do with my Late Card? That last one had some good stuff on it." I wish he (and I) had known that physicists think that no one has the right to say what time it is. It would've been perfect for them.

I've heard of the fabric of time, but it's always been in a literary sense. Now, I come to find out, Einstein's theory involves thinking of space and time as similar entities. If space is "over there" then time is "over there" too. Or maybe over here. Or both? I'm not quite sure. But Albert Einstein (the first and only poster boy I ever hung on my bedroom wall) saw them as the warp and woof of our universe, woven together in an elegant tapestry...... ok ok ok...... but I have been watching the Science Channel and that's how they talk.........

So, time and space exist together and are smooshed by gravity. Time moves slower for you if you are closer to a large object than if you are further from the pull of the object's gravity. There's something about moving faster through space making time seem like it's moving slower for the people standing still, but that piece has been a mystery to me ever since Professor Silverman brought it to my attention in Physics for Poets back in 1971. You'll have to search elsewhere for enlightenment on that part.

The cute Brit found a slo-motion camera and filmed himself doing all kinds of goofy things with his face and his hair and water as he made a point which I lost in the joy of watching his cheeks sway side-to-side. I was able to see the tensile strength of water (an important concept in gardening - especially desert gardening) when he pricked a water balloon and the camera showed it holding its shape even as the cover shrank into the middle of the water's mass. That was quite cool but I'm not sure what it has to do with time.

Time could also be grainy, according to Fay Dowker, a theoretical physicist at an English college which looked to be older than The United States of America. She sees the moments of time unfolding and creating new moments as a perpetual rolling out of the future. She spoke about this as people punted on the river next to the tree under which they were lolling. She didn't know what time it was, either.

While I may not understand the underlying science, I know that one's idea of time is skewed by where you are. Daddooooo died at home, in New York, late on a Saturday night,. By the time the hospice nurse arrived to pronounce him dead, the clock had struck 12 and his coach had turned into a pumpkin. That is to say, his death certificate read Sunday morning. It was the law. It wasn't true, but it was legal. It doesn't really bother me. It would be a different date on the Mayan calendar or the Julian calendar and it moves around crazily on the Hebrew calendar (which the funeral home gave us to remember the anniversary - and how crazy is it to think you'd forget the day your dad died, unless the calendar they wanted you to use bore no resemblance to anything you encounter in your day to day life). For me, though, he died on the Saturday before Thanksgiving between the first and second commercials on Law and Order.

That's a moment in time.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Locus of Control

I've written about this before, and I'm sure I will be writing about it again.

Today I selected an apartment for G'ma. She wasn't with me, though she did see it yesterday. I decided when she'll be leaving her current space and "transitioning" (apparently, the elderly do not "move", they "transition") to her pod-castle. I didn't ask her if she wanted to rush right into it or wait a month or so. I looked at my calendar and I picked a date. She'll have to give up some of her furniture (as she shrinks so does her living space, it seems) and though I'm sympathetic to her feelings of loss, I've also given her no choice in the matter. It is what it is. Because I say so.

And I'm uncomfortable with the power. That's an unusual state of affairs for me. The gavel was one of my favorite parts of being President of the School Board. I know that the world would be a better place if I were in charge. I never played dress-up as a princess; I was always the queen. And yet, here I am, making decisions for someone else and not liking it at all.

I consult with my siblings. I talk to my friends. I think and cogitate and ponder and review and rehearse. But, ultimately, I am alone. It's G'ma's life and somehow I'm in charge.

I don't mind the helping part. I love her. She's not cranky or crotchety or demanding of my time or my presence. She's glad to see me when I arrive and lets me leave without a pocket full of guilt. Her needs aren't that onerous, and we both like watching Mark Harmon smile on NCIS ("most initials on television"). Always up for an adventure, she'll go to any movie or try any hole-in-the-wall restaurant...... as long as it doesn't interfere with her nap. She's never wanted to be a bother, and she isn't.

But she's also not as much of a participant in her life as I wish she wanted to be. OK, so maybe signing her up for piano lessons without asking her first was a bit much. But how am I supposed to know where to draw the line?

It's the reverse of having teenagers. G'ma's looking for less independence and less autonomy and less responsibility as she grows up.

That looks odd, doesn't it? Were you expecting what my brain thought --- growing old ---- as my fingers typed growing up? When do you stop growing up and start growing old? Is there a plateau period? After his parents died, TBG was struck by the fact that there was no one between him "and the abyss". Is that the moment when you stop growing up and become an adult? Is that the period of stasis? Even a 5 year old is growing old, yet you'd never say it that way, would you?

And is that the source of my angst? That I want to be growing up and having my Mommy care for me? Perhaps. But more than that, I think it's the loss of possibilities for G'ma. Her short term memory issues confound her ability to control more than her immediate, personal space. She guards that space jealously, rebuffing offers of help and assuring me that she'd be fine alone in her apartment Tuesday night. And she was. And she enjoyed her alone time. But I was anxious about her when I went to sleep and I was more anxious about her when I woke up. And I need to sleep. And she doesn't want to be a burden.

She asked me, recently, how she should explain the presence of her "girls" to the other residents in the Old Folks Home. She's afraid to be alone, but she doesn't want to advertise her weakness. I told her to smile ruefully and say, "They make my children feel better."

This next move will make us feel better, too. And maybe that's how I let myself off the hook?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On Hold

I'm on terminal hold. "Your wait for the next available representative will be at least 15 minutes", the computer voice told me. I suppose I shouldn't have gotten so exited when the receptionist took my call after only 4 minutes on hold; I'd waited 17 minutes for her earlier this morning. Now, if the girl telling me that she appreciates my business and that I should hold for the next available representative would just stop annoying me, I could get on with my posting without interruptions. But, not, not only do I have inoffensive guitars setting my teeth on edge as I wait, but just as I start to get going on this post I hear her voice and, for an instant, I start to smile and think I'll actually be talking to a human. Then I have to listen to her repeat her 3 sentences. And I am distracted. If this post reads less fluidly than most, blame being on hold.

I used to get to my office 2 hours before my official start time, just to get my work done. Being a hospital social worker means that you spend most of your time on hold, waiting for approvals or information or data or answers to questions that really aren't that complicated but have been made so by bureaucracy. May I? How long until...? Is she covered for this? Then to whom should I speak? Where is the....? Is there availability? Nothing could move forward until the answers were in hand, and the people with the answers were at the end of the phone line, keeping me on hold. So, with my 2 hours of peace before the day's tumult began, I would collect all the questions that went to the same officials and begin to dial. After a while, I began to know which civil servants were at their desks as early as I was, and sometimes I was actually able to accomplish 15 minutes worth of work in 15 minutes of elapsed time. Mostly, though, I was listening to inoffensive music and waiting.

It's a funny kind of anticipation, being on hold. After a while, the debate begins. Do I hang up and get on with my life? Or have I invested so much time in the process that I'd be foolish to abandon it. Speaker-phones help; I can type and listen to the music at the same time. But being a prisoner at my desk has never been my favorite way to spend an afternoon, and the waiting means that I am not the master of my own fate. At least not right now.

Stacey finally answered my call. While she couldn't speak directly to my issues (G'ma hasn't filled out a HIPPA form for this company, yet, so I'm not an "authorized agent") she was upbeat and clear and helpful. I know what the policy won't cover (G'ma's assisted living care) and what it will cover (in-patient skilled nursing care or 1200 hours of licensed home care) so I really don't have a solution to the larger issues we're facing, but I'm on my way. The HIPPA and claims forms are in the mail. I can check off one more item on the list of "Things to do to get G'ma moved". And I have a direct extension for Stacey so there's a chance, albeit a small one, that the next time I call I won't have to wait on hold.

And if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Utah I'd like to show you.......

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


G'ma's moving.

Living in her apartment in the Old Folks Home hasn't turned out to be as independent an experience as we'd hoped it would have been. She fell the first night she was in Arizona, and her first six months here were a nightmare of drugs and falls and rehab and surgeries and hospitalizations and home care. Even with a Life-Alert button around her neck and directions to and from the dining room taped to her walker, being alone didn't feel safe. Not to either of us. After several missteps, we found the perfect solution in 3 Mexican sisters who've adopted her as their own. Birthday parties, bbq's, movies, trips to the mall - G'ma was included in all of it. Their children loved having another grandmother with whom to share their treasures and their ouchies, and G'ma loved the attention.

If only it didn't come at such a high price. You don't want to under-pay your caregiver, whether a babysitter or someone looking after your mother. You want to give them time off for doctor appointments and court appearances and anniversary dinners and 2 week vacations to see their mother. You want to be sure the pantry is stocked with their favorite chips and sodas and you have to be sure to invite them along when you're going out for dinner or to a show. They are always around - which is a good thing and an annoying thing. A quiet evening without them doesn't mean you can avoid paying them for the time. Suddenly, dinner and a movie with G'ma becomes a pricey expedition.

And she really doesn't need someone staring at her 24/7/365. Now that the narcotic analgesics are a thing of the past, she's stable on her feet and comfortable moving around in her own space. She still can't remember how to get to the dining room, or whether she's been to the dining room, but she can find NCIS or Law and Order on her basic cable package and making a snack of milk and cookies is still within her capabilities. Somewhere between full-time caregiving and total alone-ness lies the answer.

If only our society were set up to provide what she needs. I pondered and searched and questioned and read and listened and then, one day, I heard Bill Thomas on NPR and I began to smile again. His thesis is simple - the elderly feel more comfortable in a home-like environment. Old people should not have to share a toilet with anyone else. Systems should respond to the residents' needs, rather than having the residents adapt to the system. He calls his small facilities Green Houses and they are popping up all around the country. While not inexpensive, they are much less pricey than full-time in-home care.

So, after getting her blood drawn and having pizza and salad we visited a new pod-castle for the elderly. 5 one-story buildings, each with 16 apartments, 4 on each leg of an H. The kitchen is in the center of the pod, the heart of the house, just as it should be. There's a living room with comfy furnishings and a fireplace, a multi-purpose room with a huge flat screen tv, a game table and a computer ("We LOVE helping residents read their grandchildren's emails!") and a back yard (astro-turfed) and a front yard and rocking chairs all over the place. Her apartment will have a shaded patio, expanded basic cable, and the coolest window shades I've ever seen (no strings - you push or pull from the center and voila!). She can sleep til 10 and they'll make her breakfast when she strolls down the hall. If she doesn't like the main course at dinner, they'll make her something she does want. Guests can join her for any meal without charge ("You wouldn't charge your company for dining at your own home, would you?") and the grandkids can sleep on her sofabed for as long as they care to visit. Her Life-Alert button can be pressed, not only for emergencies, but to ask for a milk-shake or for company. Loneliness, the bane of the elderly, is vanquished.

The owners are custom home builders with a passion for people. It's rare to find a facility where the doors all close flush to the sills and the carpet and tile is laid perfectly. And there's always one of them on-site. They schmooze with the residents and bring in their pets and their novels and their artwork to share.

Best of all, it felt good to us. Everyone who passed us in the hallways smiled and said "Hi!". Every single person. And they made eye contact. They didn't look like they had to be at work, they looked like they wanted to be there.

And G'ma wants to be there, too. She trusts my judgement, but she has her own opinions. It's nice when my judgement and her opinions coincide.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Kind of Town......

Chicago is........

the very best city in America. And it's just getting better and better.

The University of Chicago paid me with scholarships and fellowships to get my social work degree and so G'ma and I took off in Annabelle, my 1967 aqua Chevy Impala, for the mid-west. We drove through Ohio and Indiana and marvelled at the flat expanses of farmland and the friendliness of the inhabitants. We couldn't find the University and were appalled when the police officer told us we were right in the middle of it. I couldn't possibly live there --- it was just too scary. Dark, foreboding buildings and gangs of ruffians on the street corners were quite a change from Ithaca and the waterfall at the end of my block. I'd never locked a door in 4 years of college; now I was looking at 2 sets of security locks before I reached the elevator. We found me a studio at 53rd and Dorchester, a quick bike ride from my classes, and I protected myself with a whistle in my hand and Grandpaw's billy-club under the front seat of my car. I learned quickly - don't go home alone, park under a street lamp, chew grass so you can throw up if you are tackled by a nefarious stranger - and I became city-savvy and arrived at a certain level of comfort. Moving to the north side the following year helped a lot; though my neighborhood wasn't gentrified, the bad guys kept to the south side of Armitage and I was safe as long as I respected their boundaries.

Mayors came and went - Michael Bilandic and his inability to plow the streets during the blizzards of 1978, Jane Byrne moving into Cabrini Green to show the residents of the projects that she really did care, Harold Washington dying at his desk (wearing ladies undergarments) - and the city slogged along. We lived in Lincoln Park and Buena Park, in high rises and a greystone 3-flat and a single family house on a corner lot and we never stopped feeling like pioneers. We were committed to city living, but it wasn't always easy. And the city didn't do much to make it easier. Waiting for the bus was interminable, potholes wreaked havoc with our tires, and the school system ...... don't get me started.

Still, we loved it. The lakefront, concerts in Grant Park, the ethnic neighborhoods with their foods and fashions, 5 movie theatres within 10 minutes of every place we lived - there was no reason to leave. Then TBG got the offer he couldn't refuse and we were gone in a flash.

Now the Little Cuter and our SIR are making a home there, and that's only one part of what made it so wonderful last week. Richie Daley is 10 years older than I am, but he's still "Mayor Daley's son" and a kid to me. But the kid is doing a great job. Flowers adorn the median strips of the city's boulevards, and not just the ones in the upscale areas, either. Chain link fences are forbidden. The museum campus surrounding the Aquarium and the Planetarium and the Field Museum has morphed into a landscaped pedestrian paradise and has spawned a residential neighborhood on its western flank.

A safe residential neighborhood in the South Loop? When G'ma and I drove from Hyde Park to the north side in 1973 we came straight up State Street. The hotel doorman, upon hearing the route we'd taken, expressed his amazement that we had arrived alive. And now there's new construction - expensive new construction - right there.

There's a real restaurant at Oak Street beach, and acres of volleyball poles set in the sand at Fullerton and between the two are palm trees. Yes, palm trees in Chicago. Rooftop gardens as a means of energy conservation and pollution control was less surprising to me than the palm trees. Urbs in Horto is a city motto that is taken seriously.

Business was slow in the stores I ambled through, and the restaurants were less crowded than I'd imagined they'd be, but there was a vibrant energy that made up for that evidence of the economy's ailments. People were smiling at one another. The loud teenagers on the bus had the grace to look abashed when the grown-ups frowned. There was no trash on the streets and not much graffitti on the walls. Garbage cans are paired with recycling containers. Construction continues on the Ritz Carlton's hotel/condo project on North Michigan Avenue, just up the street from the (surprisingly not that ugly) Trump Tower.

Taxes are high but the living is grand.

Tucson is wonderful, but I'm feeling a pull.

Can I go home again?

Monday, July 13, 2009


I was surrounded by love last week. It came in different packages and sizes and sometimes felt like more than I could bear, but it was all love. And it was all good.

Midway Airport loved me. It must have, to be so worried about my health and hygiene. What other reason could there be for their announcements - every 5 minutes - reminding me to keep myself safe by washing my hands and covering my mouth when I sneezed or coughed. I decided not to be aggravated by the mind-numbing repetitiveness of it all and to take it as a sign that they cared. A lot. Often. Loudly. But, they cared.

Old friends loved me - they drove me to and from the airport without my having to ask. Volunteering to wait in the cell phone lot, to battle rush hour traffic, to interrupt their daily activities so that I didn't have to take a cab or public transit were nothing compared to the fact that they fed me, too. I'm not pleasant when I'm hungry and they knew that and took care of me, because they cared. Love involves knowing your history, too.

The Little Cuter's doorwomen (that's even more awkward than "chairwomen" but it's accurate) poured love all over me. Where was I coming from? How did I like the apartment? They watched as I waited for a cab in the dark, and held the doors for me and my packages and my suitcases and my very tired self. Their smiles reflected my own as we shared "aren't they wonderful" stories about the Little Cuter and our SIR; the love was palpable.

Hugging my kids when I haven't seen them for a while is possibly my favorite activity of all time. The familiar smell of her shampoo as I bury my face in the Little Cuter's hair never fails to slay me. Her hug is a strong, solid squeeze that lasts for a really long time. And we purr and sigh and rock a little, side to side, then pull away, look at each other, and start it all over again. There are always some tiny tears from my side, and her semi-scolding "MOM' when she sees them completes the package. She's right - we're together and I am loved.

I arrived on Mrs. K's 95th birthday and was invited to the dinner party. Grandchildren and Grandparents share a special love, and every "Gram" I heard warmed the cockles of my heart. It was an unconscious reflection of the attention lavished on the child in days gone by; now Mrs. K needed to be kept safe, and her granddaughter was right there, attentive but not hovering, respectful and careful and vigilant. It wasn't patronizing or infantilizing or dutiful - it was just love.

A bridal shower is all about love. It brings together friends and family and teammates and babysitters and the bride-to-be gets to show off all the trappings of her groom's affection without worrying about bragging or boasting. She's surrounded by people who love her and who want to get as close as they can to the love she's creating. The spatulas and the serving bowls and the cutlery and the linens and the flowers and the lingerie, in all their meticulously wrapped boxes and bags, were offerings at the altar of that love.

And after a week, leaving that love was, truly, almost more than I could bear.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Girly Girl Stuff

I'm a wash and wear kind of girl. My "out the door" time can be 10 minutes from "when do you want to leave?" until I'm in the car with my seat belt buckled. I have cleansing products but no make-up in my vanity drawers. My favorite dress is a $9.99 special from Old Navy; I wore it to the Cuters' high school and college graduations, and it was an old dress even then.

I mention this because the Little Cuter and I are attending a wedding shower on Wednesday. Pink invitations, party favors, fancy clothes --- a real girly-girl experience. If they'd let me wear jeans and my cowboy boots...........

I didn't have any showers when TBG and I became engaged. It was 1975, and people weren't getting married, let alone having showers. Nannie and G'ma were peeved that I wouldn't let them plan showers. They'd attended so many - they felt like they deserved some shower gifts, even if I were the one opening them. But I was living far from anyone they'd invite, and I didn't know them, and I said "No, thank you" as politely as I could.

To this day, though, whenever I wish I had a stand alone blender, or matching china, or a set of Waterford champagne flutes, I regret that decision.

On Wednesday we'll be drinking toasts to a bright future for a wonderful bride-to-be. I'll be in Chicago next week for the celebration and a visit with my favorite daughter in my favorite city. the Burrow will return to its daily posting schedule on July 13th.

Happy Independence Day to you all !!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Old Books

He asked about "old books" today, and it got me thinking about books and the Cuters.

I remember every detail of the Florida vacation that turned him on to reading; I was not that interested in descriptions of sword fights printed in 6pt type. But he was, and TBG was gone and what was a boy to do? So he read. And he read. And he read. When his high school friends marveled at his ability to finish in 1 hour what took them an entire night, his response was classic Big Cuter : "It's just like lacrosse, guys. If you practise, you get better at it." It was obvious to him, if not to them. And he loved the stories. Loved reading them and telling them and reading them again. And old books only get to be old books if the stories are good ones.

The Little Cuter fed her obsessions with books. Gymnastics books. Dog books. Horse books. She was the go-to person in the family for any questions appertaining thereto. The first chapter book I remember her reading is The Pink Motel - my hardback, pink copy printed by The Weekly Reader Book Club in 1960. I think that falls into the "old book" category, don't you? It's still on her bookshelf here in the desert; I know it makes her smile every time she comes home. Her handshake with Jimmy Carter is notable to her for the book she was reading at the moment. An English major, her "old books" include those she read for HOTEL* in Old English. (*History Of The English Language --- one of the all time great course names.) And now, I think, I've run this metaphor deep enough into the ground.

We have Nannie and Grandpaw's antique secretary in our library. No, not a Bob Cratchit kind of secretary; it's a chest beneath a drop down desk leaf (replete with blotter) beneath a glass fronted bookcase beneath a scalloped crown. The bottom shelf has Fireside Book of Fok Songs, published in 1947 and used by G'ma as she played the piano to her kindergarten students. It was an "old book" when I took lessons from it in grade school. On the other side of the shelf are Nannie's Tom Swift and Don Sturdy books, lovingly moved from Ashland to Cleveland to Tucson. A.A. Milne and The Wise Men of Helm were new books when I wrote my name in them in the 1950's, but they are worn and mussed now. The top shelf holds the green leather and gilt Koran given to Daddoooooo by a guard in the (deleted for security reasons) Embassy in the 1980's. And then there is my addition to the collection of soon to be old series books in hardcover - all the Harry Potters, read and reread already.

Old books. They don't need batteries. They always "work". They're quiet and unobtrusive and they feel good in your hands. It's like pulling a blanket right up to your chin on a cold night - it just feels right.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July in Tucson

There's a bunny in my courtyard. He's nibbling the leaves of the moorea lily. He's kind of scruffy looking; his ears have notches in them. Has someone been nibbling on them?

The monsoon has arrived. We don't say "monsoon season" because it's redundant - the monsoon is the season in which most of our rain falls. The monsoon start date is determined when the average daily dewpoint is 54 degrees or greater, according to NOAA. That is, it was up until 2008 when The National Weather Service decided that it would start, every year, despite the weather or the rainfall or the dewpoint, on June 15th. These people must be related to the fools who decided that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were both born on the 3rd Monday in February, thus depriving generations of school children the pleasure of having two 4-day weeks happening two weeks apart.

A bobcat just strolled by. Happily, he was outside the gate to the courtyard.

Anyhow, back to the monsoon. It's bright and sunny most mornings and early afternoons here in the desert Southwest. But along around 3 o'clock things start to change. The weather begins to come from the east and the south. It swirls around the top of Mt. Lemmon (the southernmost ski area in the USofA) and sometimes the clouds get stuck for a few hours. Eventually, the winds pick up and the thunder and lightning begin. Lots and lots of lightning, going diagonally and horizontally and touching the ground and each bolt appears oblivious to those occurring at the same time in the same quadrant of the sky. You can watch the clouds crash into one another and see them make thunder. Very very cool. Sitting under the ramada, watching the gods argue.

Sometimes, it even rains. You can see the storms falling out of the blackest clouds onto neighborhoods nearby. Last night it rained on G'ma's Old Folks Home but not here, a scant 2 miles north. And my crepe myrtles are wilting. I ran a hose to each one this morning and let them soak for 3 hours. That was long enough to get to a depth of ~15" and they're repaying my efforts by standing up straighter and turning their leaves to the sky. It looks much better this way.

The rains are unlike Marin rains, or Long Island rains, or Chicago rains. Imagine a fire hose with enough power to reach a 9th story window. Now, lay that hose on the top of my roof and stand back. There are 2 feet of rip rap under each of the downspouts; without that protection the force of the rainwater would carve a hole half way to China. This year I'm creating a rudimentary rainwater collection system. I inserted a faucet near the bottom of one side of an old garbage can which I have placed under a downspout in the backyard. Once it's collected some water, I'll wheel it over to the trees and open the valve ever-so-slightly so that it can drizzle its contents onto the parched earth. (I AM the Recycling Queen!)

The sun is peeking through the clouds, turning the mountains white and the palo verde tops yellow. There's bright blue sky behind the clouds, and a rainbow just appeared over Summerhaven.

Now, if it would only rain...............