Friday, December 31, 2010

Words Words Words

I admit it, denizens.  I am frazzled.  Fried.  Toast.  Stick a fork in me; I'm done.

The absence of Cuters and sunshine have combined to give me a case of the blahs, and I really don't need to share them with you.  My usual method of writing - to let my mind wander and my fingers follow along for the ride - will not yield anything worth reading, I fear.

So, for the new year, I leave you with words, mangled and otherwise.  I promise to be back in 2011 with more serious rantings and ravings.  For now, though think about the fact that....

You can be listless, but if you are full of energy does that mean you have list?
This came up in my first he's sick and I don't know what to do phone call to the pediatrician.  In my frantic description I said that Big Cuter was listless.  Sensing my over-concern, the doctor asked if he had had any list in the morning.   It took me a minute, but I was able to laugh.... kinda sorta not really..... but the thought has never left me. 
If you are feeling empathetic toward your fellow man, you are said to commiserate.  By the same token, if you are alone with your sorrows do you miserate?
This morning, Little Cuter and I were emailing about the weather and missing each other and how we were feeding one another's angst and feeling vaguely guilty about it when she put a stop to the whole thing by saying that she didn't need any help, she could miserate with the best of them.   I'm still laughing.
Re leaves itself open to many of these silly things.  Can you  juvenate by exercise and diet?  The fact that you can re-juvenate yourself must imply the existence of a state of juvenation, don't you think?  How can you go back to the original place again (the definition of the prefix re) if you were never there in the first place? 

By the same token, when building a brand new house are you in the process of novatng?  Again, if an old house can be re-novated it had be novate at some point, didn't it?

These are the kinds of things I think about when there's snow in them thar hills

the view from my front yard looking at the Pusch Ridge on December 30, 2010 at 4:30pm

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Changing the Rules

Every relationship has its rules.  You are on-time or you are relaxed about showing up whenever.  You share a toothbrush or you each have your own vanity.  One cooks and the other cleans or gardens or repairs or sits on the couch.  It doesn't matter what they are, but the rules are there.  Like manners, they make the world go 'round.  

What happens when one participant decides to change the rules?  

On a practical level, take Elizabeth from Season 10 of The Biggest Loser.  Those of you who read the sidebars might remember that I love this show.  It's a triumph of mind over matter... lots and lots of matter.  Elizabeth went home and moved in with a boyfriend whose diet consisted of pizza and beer, with frozen chicken tenders for variety.  She tried to fill the refrigerator with fresh produce and healthy carbs.  When she showed up for the finale six weeks later, the boyfriend was conspicuously absent from the audience.  She'd changed the rules in a very overt manner and he bailed.

When the rules are more subtle, the changes are often even more dramatic.  G'ma and Daddooooo had an extraordinarily contentious relationship, but the nature of the hostility changed over time.  As G'ma grew more assertive, Daddooooo became more and more flummoxed.  His behavior began to change; I wish I could say for the better.  But there was change and, on some level, that was good.  It didn't make it any easier to be around, though.  As a young adult watching the scenario play itself out, I learned a lot.  Now, as an older adult, I can see similarities in my own relationships and I marvel at the fact that, no matter how hard we try, most of us end up becoming our parents.

Now that's a scary thought.  
Take a minute.  I'll wait.

Dating has always had its own peculiar set of rules.  There were courting candles burning on Victorian mantles, establishing the father's right to limit the length of the visit.  There were lavaliers and class rings and letter sweaters exchanged, and each had its own set of expectations and meaning.  The Cuters didn't date the way I did; groups were where their social lives hung out.  One-on-one experiences, like movies or dinner, were only for couples.  

Now there is internet dating, and an entirely new set of rules.  The Hotelie and Biker-Boy met and married thanks to one of those sites.  They are attractive and educated and delightful people who, though they shopped in the same grocery and ate at the same restaurants had never seen one another.... nor would either of them have approached the other without an introduction.  But the website protected them from revealing too much until they were each ready to do so, like a 21st century duenna.  There were opportunities to flirt and to chat and to retreat.   If someone broke the rules, it could be reported. 

That's the problem with on-going relationships - there's no one to whom you can complain if one of you changes the rules without permission.  You had established ground rules.  You liked those rules.  S/He changed the rules.  You are left emotionally unprotected.  

I'm not talking about a change of heart; people fall out of love and there's nothing that can be done about it.  Moaning, pleading, crying..... listen to Patsy Cline right here if you don't know what I'm talking about

I'm talking about the fundamental underpinnings of the relationship, be it boundaries or structure or veracity or deception.  There are things which are discussed and things which are ignored, and as time goes by those standards become more and more a part of the warp and woof of the duality.  That's what makes it unique and wonderful in its own way.

What happens when the parameters are shifted?  What do you do when things change?

When one party makes a declaration of love while involved in what had been a casual and friendly affair, what is the other to do?  Not everyone is marriage material.  Perhaps this was one of those times. 

When Sundays-in-the-park are transformed to Sundays-with-the-NFL, when dishwashers are suddenly not loaded and laundry is left in hampers over-flowing with curiosity about what the next step will be, relationships begin to crinkle around the edges.  These are small statements which have large consequences.  Sometimes they can be ironed out.  Sometimes the new, deckled look is better for both of you.  Sometimes you just have to say good-bye.

Why can't people just leave well-enough alone?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Voice

JES left a lovely comment on yesterday's post.  It gave me a frisson of joy and a moment of reflection - I am not used to thinking of myself as a writer who is admired by others.  I enjoy my time on the keyboard, and I am not embarrassed by my output, but the fact that JES, who has written one book and is writing another, and Maid Marian, a widely published author of many novels and short stories translated into 17 languages, have each encouraged me to write a book gives me cause for pause.

Maid Marian paid me a great compliment early on in The Burrow's existence.  She told me that I had a voice.  It's funny how what may have been a throw-away comment from her was so meaningful to me.  

I've always had a noticeable voice.  Ask anyone who has ever heard it.  I was lost at the Grant Park Fourth of July concert in an audience of over 1million people.  I had no idea where TBG had placed the blanket, and I'd been looking for a long long time.  When I tripped over the same family for the third time, I asked them to cover their ears, I drew a deep breath, and I shouted his name.  And there he was, across acres of humanity, pointing to the sound of my voice.

The Cuters could find me in any museum; they stood quietly and listened.  Waiting for my giant wine glasses to be bubble-wrapped today in Tommy Bahama, a gym rat friend walked by and laughed as she hugged me, saying "I'd recognize that voice anywhere." 

It's not that I am loud, although I am.  There's something to the tone, the timbre, the resonance that enables my words to carry to the back of a large and noisy auditorium.  I'm the one you want if you're having trouble gathering the attention of a crowd.  I think that a large part of the reason miked theatrical performances irk me is the fact that my voice can carry. 

There's a bit of New York, though I've not lived on Long Island for 40+ years.  TBG's unaccented Cleveland tones haven't done much to mitigate the intensity of my early years, but Chicago and California have smoothed the edges.  I now have r's.  But every vacation to my parents' home returned me to my children talking so weird, Mom

But it's not my speaking voice that was being complimented.  It was the voice that speaks to you as Ashleigh Burroughs, the voice that does not exaggerate, does not embellish, does not use any of the verbal tricks the real me employs in my everyday conversation. 

It is the voice that is preserved forever, for the great-grandchildren I may never know but who will have a window into my life in the early 21st century.  I think of that when I begin each post.  I've saved every letter anyone has ever written to me; I value the written word.  Taking my words out in public, though, was a leap of faith.  "No one would be interested in what I have to say" was my fallback position.  But The Cuters convinced me to try and now, as 2010 ends, I find that I have written 555 of these essays. 

555 windows. 

555 thumbprints. 

555 love notes to the ether.

555 connections.

Thank you all for listening to my voice.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wearing Nice Clothes

Many many many years ago, Big Steve picked me up for the trip down to campus.  He'd done it before and would do it again and each morning would sound exactly the same. "Hi Thanks for driving I love this music" which was always true and always made me happy.  Big Steve's second career is managing a venue in a college town; if ever a person were made for a job this is it. 

But this morning was different.  This morning I was dressed to the nines.  I remember the outfit to this day: navy polished cotton trousers topped with a subtly patterned see-through voile long sleeved blouse, left open to reveal the cream colored shell (do you remember that particular article of clothing?) underneath.  I had a belt and matching shoes and trouser socks and my earrings were powerful and perfect.  I'd blown out my hair.  I was impressive.  At least to myself.

But Big Steve was not impressed.   "Why are you smiling?" What are you wearing?"  No fashion plate himself, apparently my dress up clothes had freaked him out in a way I'd not ever seen before.  I laughed and told him about the interview or the presentation or the something or other for which I was attired, concluding with "I'm smiling because I like how I look in nice clothes.  I feel better."

Apparently this was just more than he could bear.  This was 1975.  Fewer and fewer of us were left in the tie-die and denim overalls and flannel shirt brigade with the passing of every year.  Jobs were in short supply and sacrifices were going to be made; the Golden Gopher cut off his pony tail and moved to Gary, Indiana to take the job which was offered to him.  We were all feeling fragile and wondering how to pay the bills.  Dressing up might have seemed frivolous to him, but to me it made a statement.  I did feel better when I wore nice clothes.  The clothes themselves were imbued with pretty, I thought.  My posture was better and my hair was shinier when the clothes were good.  I knew it for a fact.  I repeated it to him as a fact.  

And if ever there were a boy-meets-girl moment this was it.  His stunned face quickly turned to disdain as he sputtered "Listen to what you are saying!"  Full of moral certitude and outrage, he was trying to deflate my bubble of beauty... and for a moment he almost had me.  Didn't I take pride in my appearance every denim-ed day?  Did I need the outer trappings in order to feel good?  Where were my hippie-dippy values?  Had I succumbed to the ever encroaching disco-ites?   

But then I  remembered that I was right and he was clueless and unaware of how stunning I felt because, after all, he was a guy and he had that poor broken chromosome which left him tottering on just one leg, while we, lucky females had two legs to stand on.... one for the facts and the other for the feelings.

So I laughed and I said of course I felt good and it was nice to have a different look and that as long as I had to be considerate of the appropriateness of my outfit to the event I was attending I might as well have some fun with it.  And, no, it didn't mean that I needed the clothes to fulfill my sense of self.  It didn't mean that the clothes were going to define me, though they might get me through the front door.  

That was the point, really.  Just like that old Head and Shoulders commercial, you only get one chance to make a first impression.  My natural charm and personality could take over once I got the audience, but sometimes it was necessary to be just a little bit more superficial than my social work colleagues wanted to be.  I recognized it for what it was, and I was comfortable with it.  For a while, I got to play dress up.... and I loved it.  I was 8 years old and at home in my attic wearing the pink satin can-can costume with the ostrich plumed hat, or the soft folds of Pandora's toga and I looked great.  

Do clothes make the man?  Maybe, maybe not.  But that morning, they certainly made this woman.

Monday, December 27, 2010

This Week

This is an odd week.  It's in between. It's at the end.  It's afterward.  It's the last. It's filled with comings and goings and staying put.  There is no pressure and party pressure and mostly there is cleaning up.  Lots and lots of cleaning up.

I like it when Christmas and New Years fall on the weekend.  With a shopping deadline of Friday there is a pleasing symmetry to the tasks I face.  All the gifts must be wrapped and all the groceries in the house by the end of the week... because even though it's been nearly 40 years my life since it had to be, my life is still governed by a scholastic calendar.  Friday is the end of the week; Saturday and Sunday are the respite before the week starts again.  So, when the holiday is on a Saturday my internal sense of what's right is already in rest and relax mode.  

My trip to the pod-castle Christmas morning was a non-stop glide and slide over the empty roads.  The Schnozz likes to rev up in each gear.  It feels like a cleansing, a shaking off the old and filling up with the new.  First feels tighter than second, which is much more conservative than third.  Third can be quick or steady or very very slow but fourth and fifth and sixth are nothing but power and forward motion.  When the elderly are exiting the giant discount mall around the corner, there is no opportunity to let the gears have their way.  But on Saturday,  with a bright blue sky and a warm sun above me, there was only pavement beneath me and before me.  The lights obviously knew that I was having a moment, because they fell green far in advance of my arrival.  Not that there was any reason for them to be paying attention; I was the only car on the road.

There were no cars in the WallyWorld parking lot, and none in front of Barnes and Noble, either.  There was a lonely gray station wagon in the middle of the mall's lot, and I wondered if a designated driver had given a drunken stranger a ride home on Christmas Eve.  The Greek restaurant stood alone in its asphalt lake, and the first Walgreens did, too.  But this is Tucson and there's a Walgreens on every corner and the one next to G'ma had a few cars parked by the door.  Was it medicine or scotch tape or cigarettes that would make someone shop  on December 25th?  I was reveling in the fact that there was no place to spend my money, no business which could be transacted, no obligations except those engendered by love and proximity.  It made me vaguely sad that there was commerce being transacted.

Of course, I was delightfully, thankfully, joyfully happy that there were people at work in the pod-castle.  I bring candies and cookies and brownies and I always remember to say Thank You for helping my mom but it never seems like enough.  Their wonderfulness allows me to enjoy my life.  G'ma is happy and  I am unburdened because some of the caregivers have to work on Christmas Day.  They are not engaged in commerce, though.  They are sharing love.

There were smiles and Santa smocks and lots and lots of chocolate and G'ma wondered why everyone was so happy.  A chorus of It's Christmas!! brought her right back to the present, and put a smile on her face, too.

This week tends to do that to people.  State employees here in Arizona are taking an unpaid furlough day and I'm sure that no one will notice.  Not much is expected as the year winds down.  In colder climes vacations must be planned and executed; here in the desert we wait for people to come to us.  It's very liberating to be suitcase-less, to have only pick-up and drop-off responsibilities at the airport.  I can sit in the sunshine in my own backyard and reflect and review.  I can ponder my new year's resolution and plan one for 2011.  I don't have to do anything this week.  I can finish up and get ready but there's no reason that Tuesday can't look a lot like Monday or Thursday.  It's that kind of week.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Merry Christmas

With MUCH LOVE and gratitude for joining me in The Burrow every day,

with thanks to Laura for providing the link

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Repeat Performance

(Republished from last year.  I hope you liked it then as much as I did.... and still do.)

We were sitting on the steps in the main hallway of Annie's Washington manse, watching the girls play in their fantasy land, when Big Cuter asked the question.

Not "How does the seed get into the egg, Mom?" No, that happened just before the Fullerton exit on Lake Shore Drive in a raging snowstorm on barely plowed roads when we were already 15 minutes late and traffic wasn't moving.

Peacefully watching the girls, the sunshine through the magnificent beveled windows making rainbows which I thought we were busily counting, out of his 7 year old mouth came this:
"Santa's not really real, is he, Mom?"
He noted my pause, and, ever the adoring big brother, his face took on a serious cast as he looked over at his little sister and reassured me:  
"Don't worry. I won't tell her. She really believes he's real."
What followed was a precise analysis, continent by continent, time zone by time zone, of the why-nots of Santa's voyage. He was quietly demolishing every possible rational explanation for his existence, yet he was still insistent that we not destroy his sister's illusion.
"She loves Santa, Mom. I mean really loves him."
I remember the intensity with which he informed me of that fact. It moves me still. I knew right then that he'd always be there for her, no matter how silly she might be.

She was 10 or 11 when the subject of "when you stopped believing in Santa" became acceptable conversation amongst the girls in the back of the Audi on the way to tennis lessons. The Little Cuter announced
"Of course there's a Santa Claus!" 
and the case was closed. I never heard anyone mention it again in her presence. No mothers called to ask me if it were true. She never said that anyone teased her about it. She knew it as a fact, and, somehow, within her 4th or 5th grade universe, that made it inviolable.

Was she so powerful that no one dared to defy her? Perhaps. Were they surprised that one of them was still stuck in child-like wonder and struck dumb at the concept? Unlikely. I like to think that Santa himself had something to do with it.

Because what I said to the Big Cuter, after his rationalizations had come to an end, was that they were all true but they were all meaningless. Because the reality is that Santa is joy and love and family and caring and friends and warmth and giving and thanking and everyone ought to believe in that. He bought it then, and he buys it now.... at 27.

The Little Cuter is flying home tonight and the holiday can't start without her. Just before we all go to bed, it's her job to read The Nativity out loud. We revel in the gorgeous illustrations as we laugh at Joseph pushing Mary up onto the ass

and giggle at the anatomically correct baby Jesus

and smile at each other as we remember that births and beginnings are wondrous things and that some traditions never get old...... even though we do. Every year is a reprise of the last, and each one is full of love.

Then we each grab a copy of "the Night Before Christmas"

and listen as she grins her way through it. Chiming in on "To all a GOOD NIGHT!" we'll hug and go off to dream of sugarplums dancing in our heads.

I hope she looks out the window of the plane as they reach their cruising altitude. I'm sure that Santa will point, wink and wave.

from Robert Sabuda's The Night Before Christmas Pop-Up Book

The Nativity is illustrated by Julie Vivas, published by Gulliver Books/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich with text from the King James Bible

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Paragraphs may be beyond me at this point.  I had hoped to be finished with wrapping and mailing and baking by this week.  My plan was to sit on the couch, admiring my tree and my son and my perfect manicure.  My reality is that Little Cuter's room is still covered in wrapping paraphernalia, G'ma's caregivers have yet to be rewarded for their kindnesses, and my nails are in a sorry state of disrepair.  There are more brownies to be baked and the Costco wreath needs to be replaced and I was at the post office once again today.  I'm not unhappy... except for my nails.
The stamp machines have been removed from the lobby of my post office.  The line to interact with a sullen human (I am not stereotyping, I am speaking from personal experience) behind the counter was 20+ people long and the line for the APC was barely moving.  I was third in line for 15 minutes.  The little girl behind me wasn't all that fascinating and I'd forgotten my book in the car.  I was getting dangerously close to boredom when two 20-somethings came in and went through every emotion imaginable as they perused the lines, the clock, their stack of white envelopes and the absence of a stamp machine.

The mom behind me and I sent them to the grocery store down the block where, by the time they drove and parked and went in and bought and affixed the stamps they would still be finished before they'd have reached the front of either line extant in the place that exists to enable the use of the postal system.  I'd have gone on a snarky tear, but I'm enjoying the season too much for that.
I think I've accumulated all the foodstuffs necessary to feed the family over the holiday.  Standing in front of the Yukon Gold potatoes Little Cuter requires for mashing, I was obsessing over the difference between a jewel yam and a garnet yam.  The former was a prettier shape, but the latter was more expensive.  My expression was cause for concern to a young woman also standing amidst the starches and she smiled and surprised us both by saying that she had just learned the difference and that each has its own virtues but the garnet has more carotene.  I was stunned.  I am usually the one proferring arcane bits of information to total strangers; it was quite wonderful to be on the receiving end for once.
And finally, thanks to Ronni Bennett and Saul Friedman over at Time Goes By for this:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Aa-shu Dekei-oo

Big Cuter and I sang along with the Tuvan Throat Singers and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones at the Rialto Theater last night.  Had there been an aura-camera in front of us, I am certain that there would have been but one halo of wonderful light surrounding the two of us.  We were each with the other's perfect person for that moment.  

I bought the tickets in September, as those of you who keep track of the information in the sidebar can attest.  I found Bela Fleck on Pandora, and liked the sound enough to click over and see what it was.  His banjo picking is clear and precise and quick, and even if  "the banjo isn't a real instrument," as Victor Wooten, the Flektone's tonsured-with-dreadlocks bass player snarkily smirked, he sure does make pretty music on it.  He's been nominated for Grammy's in more categories than any other artist, and I'd give him a statue in each and every one of them.

We were sitting in the balcony, always the right choice at the Rialto.  Floor seats are folding chairs smashed too close together on a totally flat floor.  Unless you're 7' tall, sight lines are non-existent.  But up in the loge, there are cushioned seats with arm-rests, and the rake is such that even if that 7' person is right in front of you there's a good chance you'll still see what's happening down there on the stage.  Big Cuter and I sat in the front row of the second section, with a low ledge for jacket and foot resting right there in front of us.  We were right up near the ceiling, as close to heaven as we were likely to get in Tucson this season.

Big Cuter noticed it first - there was no one actually playing the drum kit.  There was definitely percussion, but there did not appear to be a musician creating it.  I wondered if it were taped, but that just didn't feel right.  The girl to my right pointed out Futureman, the Flecktone standing stage left, and told me that he was making the music... with the small wooden whatchamacallit around his neck.

The whatchamacallit was also called the Vegetarian Electronic Porkchop, but the liner notes from the cd I bought call it a drumitar.   Futureman (aka Roy Wooten) invented/created/developed/played it... sometimes with his left hand while using his right more traditionally with brushes or sticks on the drums themselves.  For the most part, though, he stood upright, assuming the posture of a guitarist as he created drum sounds from a (it looked like wood) gadget hanging around his neck.  It was odd.  It was delicious.  It was unlike anything we'd ever heard or seen or thought of before.

It was just like the rest of the concert.

Three or four songs into the program, four men in odd dress walked out on the stage.  Big Cuter looked at me.  I looked at him.  In one voice we said TUVAN THROAT SINGERS???

It was an NPR moment made real.  We'd heard them on All Things Considered driving home from school one day, and we'd sat in the car in the driveway to hear the conclusion of the piece.  It was otherworldly and strange and impossible and suddenly, without warning, there they were on stage right before our very eyes.  We couldn't stop smiling.  At one another.  At the stage. At the audience.  Were there five other people in the auditorium who knew what was in store for them?  I can't imagine that they were.  Listen

if you are interested in the throat singing, start at the beginning.
if you want to hear Jingle Bells, skip ahead to about 3:16 and prepare to smile

It was really something. The entire audience was giggling, then trying to sing along, then giggling some more.  Bela on his 5-string banjo and his one-man-horn-section Jeff Coffin accompanied the Tuvans on their their igil and byzaanchy and doshpuluur and kengirge and shunggyrashHonestly, thoughthey were no weirder than the drumitar.  

The Rialto is a bare bones venue, but the Flecktones brought production values to the evening.  There was a gentle light show, with snowflakes and geometric shapes wandering the walls and ceiling.  The sing-along, in Tuvan, was coordinated with the lights, which illuminated the audience when it was our turn to chime in with Aa-shu Dekei-oo.  The players were introduced by spot-light, and the mood was in turns dramatic and giddy and concentrated as the colors changed from blues to reds to greens.  It was pretty special for Tucson.  For anywhere, really.

No, the throat singers did not come all the way from Siberia just to sing Jingle Bells. They came back after intermission and sang songs about fast horses and beautiful women and then some songs about beautiful horses and fast women.  They seemed to be having as much fun as we were.  Jeff Coffin played two saxophones at once (really, he did) and Bela Fleck sat on a high stool all alone on the stage and talked to us through his banjo and the music was absolutely marvelous.

This was a holiday concert, and hidden among the notes were Silent Night and What Child is This? and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, but mostly we watched the most accomplished jam band I've ever seen.  These are extraordinarily talented musicians, as well as being consummate performers. The music wound around and into and over and through bluegrass and classical and Tuvan and it occurred to me that traditional music sounds the same the world over.  Throat singing originated before there was language yet it blended right in with ancient Christian hymns played on modern instruments.  Is there a deep-seated sense of sound and rhythm that defines us as humans on the planet?  It certainly seemed so last night. 

Jingle All the WayThe holiday tour is over, and the throat singers are returning to their home on the steppes as I type.  The Flecktones are doing their Christmas shopping.  Big Cuter and I are annoying the hell out of TBG, because we've had the Jingle All The Way cd blasting on the stereo all day long. 

Perhaps you had to be there?
What do you think?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday, Sweaty Sunday

The thing you have to keep in mind as you read this post is that I cannot dance.  I missed the piece where the angels were handing out rhythm.  I can't carry a tune in a bucket with the lid on top.  I was sent to piano lessons until I absolutely refused to leave the house to take them; I knew how the songs should sound and I knew that I wasn't even coming close.  I was much happier listening to my teacher play.  I love to sing along to the radio, although, according to Little Cuter, I am always a beat or so ahead or behind.  These traits combine to make my appearance on the dance floor a triumph of desire over vanity.

I also don't do aerobics classes.  In fact, I have never done aerobics classes, even when I could have bought those cool leg warmers to wear to them.  I don't have much in the way of aerobic capacity, and I don't spend much time developing it.  When we first moved to Marin I went to a jazzercise class.  At the end, the teacher asked if I would stand in the back of the class if I came again; I was so far off the movements that I was confusing the people behind me.  I never went back. 

All this is prelude to "How I Spent My Sunday Morning" this week.  Smiling Shannon and Miss Barbados have been encouraging me to join them each week for a workout which leaves them drenched in sweat and filled with joy.  The room is packed and the energy is high and they promised that I wouldn't be embarrassed because nobody was really looking at anyone else.   
"Oh, like in yoga - it's my practise?" 
"No, more like you're trying to keep up and breathe."
So, when the morning-sun-warmed-air beckoned me to do a tiny bit of gardening, I indulged myself in some random digging and clipping and watering in the name of all of you who are freezing and wearing parkas and I delayed going to the gym until class-time.  The boys were just stirring as I was leaving.  Laundry was humming.  NFL RedZone was beginning to pulsate on the television.  

I went to Zumba.  And neither Smiling Shannon nor Miss Barbados were there.  I wasn't the oldest person in the room, but it was close.  The child standing between my body and the mirror was wearing a Santa hat.  I couldn't imagine that I would need to cover my head; being cold was the last thing that worried me.  A cursory glance at the other participants revealed only one familiar face, and she was engaged in a lively conversation at the other end of the room.  I was alone and I was going to dance. 

Musette, our teacher, has wild black hair and hips which seem to be connected to her waist and thighs with bungee cords.  I've never seen anyone's upper and lower legs move in so many different directions at the same time, and that is before I figured in what her feet were doing.  Through it all, her arms were moving in counterpoint, further confusing the issue.  She was loudly and startling surprised to find that three of us had shown up the week before Christmas to try something new, she told us that there wasn't a lot of instruction, and then she turned on the music and began to move. 

Squats and lunges are familiar, so the first thirty seconds of the warm-up was well within my comfort zone.  After that, all bets were off.  I managed to turn in the correct direction almost all of the time.  I'll give myself credit for that much.  Beyond that, I couldn't do the pony when I was in 6th grade, and I've not gotten any better at it over the intervening decades.  And that was just the first move.  There were ball changes and samba steps and a few other contortions that were well beyond what my feet and I were managing to stamp out.  But we were moving around, and shaking our tootsie rolls and I couldn't believe how much fun I was having. 

The songs are 3 or 4 minutes long and there's enough of a space in between to wipe your face and grab a drink.  Two liters was just enough to keep me hydrated, but next time I'm bringing an extra towel.  We were jumping - I can't remember the last time I jumped - and we were swinging our hips and thrusting our arms and mostly I was focused on Musette's feet.... and trying not to crash into the girl in the pink top who was dancing next to me.  I was never out of breath, but then, again, I'm not sure that I was working at 100%.  A good deal of energy was going into keeping track of what I was supposed to be doing. 

At the end of the hour, we cooled down with a belly dance.  Please do not try to imagine me during this phase.  It was not pretty.  But the slower music and more languid movements gave me a chance to notice the other participants.  There was  50-something Chinese gentleman in the back row; the only bit of testosterone in the room.  There were the young moms and the UofA coeds and the women-of-a-certain-age, who come in all shapes and sizes and colors and who surrounded me after the music stopped.
"Did you like it?"   "Isn't she wonderful?"  "Can you believe how sweaty we are?"
And, best of all,
"Will you come back?"
Aerobic capacity is something which can be improved.  Fun is something that should always be sought.  Yes, ladies, I'll see you next Sunday and the Sundays after that.  Apparently, it doesn't matter that I can't dance.  I can Zumba......... and that's just fine.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Random Musings

This is the first holiday since the Cuters were toddlers which will include no electronics.  There are no DVD's, no computer games, no remote controlled vehicles - neither airborne nor with wheels.  I have no small devices which require arcane sizes of batteries which I usually forget to buy. 

I'm not complaining.  I'm just noticing. 
Once again this year, Little Cuter asked for UGGS for Christmas and once again we tried to order them on-line and once again that didn't happen so now it's cold and snowy in Chicago and it's too cold for her to leave her apartment and go to the store and get them.  Seriously.  I'm so glad she'll be coming home to warm up.
Big Cuter is watching his hapless 49'ers on Thursday Night Football as his adoring father watches him watch them.  I'm surrounded by boys being boys.  The balance is shifting and now there are two of them and the house just feels different.

Again, I'm not complaining.  I'm just noticing.
The lights are on the tree and there are boxes of ornaments on the shelf and I am enjoying the couch and talking to you.  I'm taking a break from elfing tonight.  I have to pace myself as we round the corner and head for home.
I have a long set of lights on an 8-function switch.  This is exactly the kind of thing that appeals to me as Daddooooo's daughter; it's such a geeky thing.  I had it set on migraine-inducing-ever-increasing speed until the fans grew concerned.  I gave in and chose a gentler setting.

Why did I think of it as giving in? It's because of the rule we have about decorating at this time of year, a rule devised by Big Cuter several years ago as a means of negotiating a truce between his parents, one of whom was about to launch the heaviest object she could lift at the head of the on-the-couch other.  The rule is simple:  If you are not going to help, you can't give advice.  You can only give compliments.

There are far fewer conversations which end in aggravation since we've adopted this credo.   I give it to you with love and affection.
Big Cuter came with me to my last class on Wednesday.  There were 17 of us sitting in a circle discussing The Poem of The Cid and the nature of the heroic epic and I was, once again, enjoying the fruits of the education for which I paid.  Many of us will be together in Morality and Religion in Early Modern Europe in the Spring term.  We're reading British Moralists - Thomas Hobbes, David Hume and John Locke.  I've done it before and I'm amazed that I'm doing it again; these are not the easiest tomes I've tried.  But for two hours every Tuesday I'll try to stretch my brain.  I'll keep you posted.
For now, though, I am going to enjoy my ornament-less tree and my son's scoreless football team and the fact that my daughter is considered a powerful force in her organization, according to her annual review.  I'm going to revel in the thank you's for my brownies which have been arriving in a steady stream of love and friendship and smiles.  This is my favorite time of year and nothing is going to make me sad.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'm The One

I'm the one. I've always been the one.  I didn't realize it until I came home from college for Reading Break in December of my freshman year (10 days off over the holidays and then back to campus to study for and take finals - what kind of vacation was that?)  to find that absolutely nothing had been done for Hanukkah.  The kids had not been organized around gifting their elders, and no one had considered what to do about G'ma.  There was a general sense of something is missing but neither my siblings nor my father could figure it out.  G'ma was organized (of course) but the rest of the family was stuck in neutral.  I made lists, I assigned duties, we drove and shopped and wrapped and were ready for the first night, but it was not the most relaxed way to start the season.  I asked and asked again how we had arrived at this state of affairs, but no one had a clue.    By the time G'mas's birthday and Mothers Day rolled around I was prepared for their inactivity.  I sent detailed instructions to my little sister and commanded her to make things happen. 

Though others were closer, I organized a 25th anniversary party for G'ma and Daddooooo.  When G'ma needed surgery and no one could figure out how to care for her and Daddooooo at the same time, my planning skills were called upon once again.  Inexplicably, I was the voice of reason.  No, he would not stay alone in a no-tell-motel near the surgery center.  No, she would not take a taxi there and back.  No, he could not be relied upon to do even the minimal caretaking she would require.  I made reservations and secured home care and informed my siblings and then I flew home to watch my plan unfold.  I don't know why no one else was able or willing to take action, but they weren't.  Perhaps I made it too easy for them.

I know that my way is better than your way.  No matter what your way might be.  My way is simpler, cheaper, faster, friendlier and just generally on a higher plane than your way.  I understand the ins and outs of my plan and I'm willing to make the arrangements to insure that it is doable.  While I am comfortable relying on others for the implementation, the structure is all my own.  It just seems to work out better that way.

So, today, when I decided that it was time to buy our Christmas Tree, I had a plan.  The youth group at a local church sells them for cost plus a donation and the kids are cute as can be as they "help" out in the yard.  Unfortunately, there were no kids there at 1 o'clock this afternoon.  The nerve of them, being in school when I wanted to shop.  I dragged Big Cuter to the lot at the Y, but it didn't open until 4. 

I was peeved.  The problem with being the one, the planner, the decider, is that when plans go awry there is no one to blame but myself.  And I am pretty good at berating myself.  I'm excellent at it, in fact.  So, I dropped Big Cuter off at home and went out alone, in search of arboreal splendor.  It was better that he not witness his mother's melt-down.

The local farm which hosts the pumpkin patch in October has erected tents in several strip mall parking lots within a 2 mile radius of our house, under which they sell greenery.  They hold a plethora of trees which add immeasurably to the pleasure of parking at the grocery store.  But their prices are just too high to enable me to enjoy the fir without cringing.  Having struck out twice already, I was ready to bite the bullet and just do it, though.  Enough was enough.  I had plans to go to the gym and put on the lights and make a nice dinner and they all depended on having the tree in the house by 3.  I was grumbling, and that's never a good sign. 

I didn't make the light at the entrance to the mall and I was sitting in The Schnozz, stewing and steaming and being generally unpleasant to myself, when I realized that I was at the corner where WallyWorld lurks.  Figuring that Christmas trees were a staple like bread and milk and eggs, I wondered if the quality would be high and the prices low.  I made a right-on-red and parked amidst the trucks and SUV's and small Fords with Mexican license plates.  The garden center had a sign announcing that the fresh trees had arrived, and two steps in through the door proved them right.  Trees were everywhere.

In most lots, the trees are unwrapped and take up space and you can tell if the trunks are straight or if there are gaping holes on one side or the other.  At WallyWorld they are wrapped and stacked in pens, organized by height.  In Marin we had a 12' tree; our Tucson trees have been smaller.  It's funny how as the kids get bigger the decorations get littler.  Jerry, who announced that he had been selling Christmas trees at WallyWorld for 10 years, pointed me to the 6'-7' stall and we began to caress the branches.  These were very fresh trees.  There were no brown leaves, no unusually shaped branches, no gnarly trunks.  There were dozens of strong straight full and lovely choices, all netted up so that you couldn't really tell what they looked like.  But Jerry had a knife and strong hands and he willingly unwrapped one or two so that I could choose. 

I took the price tag to the cashier inside and practiced examining the concept of patience (an old but stalwart New Year's Resolution) as I waited behind a woman who was apparently unaware that the merchandise had to be out of her cart and on the check-out counter in order for her to leave the store.  Sliding her credit card was another ordeal, but I was distracted by paying attention to my roiling stomach and my screaming head and trying not to let the waiting make me screech out loud.  On the outside, I hope I looked calm.  Inside, I was a wreck.  Finally, it was my turn to hand over the cash and obtain my receipt. 

Jerry had re-netted the branches and cut off 1" from the bottom of the trunk and he lifted the tree into the back of The Schnozz because he was not allowed to tie it on the top of my car.  With the back seats folded down there was only about 4" of greenery protruding from the rear. He tied the trunk lid to the license plate without skipping a beat and I was on my way. 

As I drove home, I ruminated about being the one who is in charge of these celebrations.  While sometimes I resent being the laundress and the cook and the shopper in chief, I never mind being in charge of the holidays.  I know that things will be done the right way.  I know that I won't disappoint myself.  I know that timetables will be followed and everything will look just the way I want it to look.  If the price for that requires that I be the one, then I'm willing to pay.

After all, if I don't do it, there's nobody else who will.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stargazing With My Boy

GuillotineBig Cuter and I stayed up really really late last night.  The moon was waxing gibbous (growing larger and more than half lit) so we had to wait for it to set before we could see the Geminids meteor shower.  We played Guillotine for hours, and, for the first time in a long time I had a 4 game winning streak.  Suddenly it was 4-1 and he decided that we should play "best of 11" and promptly won 6 in a row.  How he does this is a mystery which, I surmise, will remain unsolved until the end of time.  I'm going along nicely, slamming him with cards that will cost him points and turns and opportunities, and then, in the blink of an eye, with the shuffling of the deck, with the movement of the planets around the sun, he beats the crap out of me.  I'd have been sad except that I had those 4 winners in a row bolstering my ego and because I love him.  TBG had  been long a-bed when he triumphed that 6th and final time, so his celebration had to be non-verbal.  It was certainly not peaceful.  Arms were raised, fists were clenched, smiles were stamped on his face and a little bit of chair-dancing ensued.  If we are only as happy as our unhappiest child, and since Little Cuter is still freezing herself while working and schooling in Chicago, I took pleasure in my son's delight.  He may be 20-something, but when he wins he's still my little boy.  Come over and play with us sometime and you'll see what I mean.

We had the Sky Spy article from the Arizona Daily Star next to us on the kitchen table, which is how we knew about the waxing gibbosity of the moon and the fact that it was going to set "a little before 1am on Tuesday, giving dark skies until near sunrise at 7:12.  For a while, it seemed that I was going to crash and have to set my alarm for 5am to see the streaks in the sky.  But a Coca-Cola propped me up and the beautiful night drew me out to the lawn chairs just a little bit after 1:00.  Big Cuter was wearing socks and shoes and sweatpants and a t-shirt and a hoodie; I was barefoot in a t-shirt and jeans.  We were each wrapped in a giant comforter, lying on our backs, staring straight up at the sky.  It was heavenly.

After several summer stints at Aviation Challenge,  Big Cuter was able to identify many of the constellations and stars twinkling above us.  Of course, the Geminids are named for Gemini the Twins, a constellation which neither of us could find.  The sky is big and surrounding and we were worried that we were looking in the wrong direction when all of a sudden there was movement that started and stopped just overhead.  We both "Oooo"- ed and smiled and relaxed back into the experience.  Every 30 or 40 seconds we'd see flashes of light moving quickly away from the Gemini Twins.... or where we assumed the Twins were hiding.  Sometimes they were long, sometimes they were quick, but they were always fabulous. 

One of the things that irritates me is the fact that the light that we see as representing the stars themselves actually represents the stars as they were millions and billions of years ago.  I want to see what they look like now; I don't like the fact that what I'm seeing happened ages ago.  I live in the here and now, why can't the stars?  I made my nephew laugh when I told him this last year; Big Cuter was merely surprised.  He loves the fact that he is experiencing John McPhee's concept of Deep Time , albeit on a celestial rather than a geological plane.  The notion that he can see what happened eons ago appeals to him.  It just freaks me out.

Basin and RangeFrom deep time, a concept I first brought to his attention while reading Basin and Range aloud on a road trip from Chicago to Ithaca when he was 8, we moved on to the nature of light and space and relativity and time.  He began to school me, and I loved it.

He took physics his junior year in high school, and once the senior slackers left in May to do their we've-gotten-into-college-and-we-can't-sit-in-a-classroom-anymore-internships for the last 6 weeks of classes the teacher was free to explore the more brain stretching pieces of the curriculum with the 4 remaining students - all juniors who were going on to bigger and better and harder math and science classes in the fall.  I think that my mental skills are more in tune with those slacking seniors than with the kids who were going on to AP Physics and BC Calculus, but that didn't stop Big Cuter from sharing the knowledge that Tucker put in his brain.  Sometimes the rewards of paying for an education come back to shower you with joy a decade later.  This was one of those nights.

He noted that chemistry might make the biggest explosions, but physics had the coolest toys.  The school was very expensive had extensive resources and the kids were able to do experiments that proved the veracity of the stuff that makes up our world.  Or at least I think that that was what he was trying to teach me.  I was trying to follow his description of how calculus describes the physical world, of how and why we need to measure the spaces beneath curves (feeling pretty proud of myself that I knew what a sine wave looked like), but it was late and I was tired and there were meteors shooting in the sky above me.  It was hard to take my eyes off the stars to watch his hands describe the concepts, and holding them in my head without paper and pencil was a challenge.  So we moved on.

The fact that light is both a wave and a particle is something that has astounded me since I heard about it. Lorentz's Contraction and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and the fact that the simple act of observation can make something be other than what it is when unobserved .... we covered it all.  He told me about the wonderfulness of taking advanced calculus and advanced physics at the same time, about how the one informed the other and made them both more marvelous.  We laughed about experiments shooting nerf darts onto cd racks and remembered the smart kids who shared the experience with him.  Every once in a while I'd glance over at his face, which was alive with the wonder and the excitement of the intellectual challenge of explaining the cosmos to his science-challenged maternal unit.  I stayed with him through most of it, but I still have a few sticking points.

For example, my puny 3-dimensional brain has a hard time understanding how time and space can be the same thing, but not really.  He unwrapped himself enough to use his blanket as an exemplar of the warping of space by mass, as if that would make it clearer.  I've seen similar descriptions on The Discovery Channel's science shows, and while I can retell it to you quite cogently, I haven't the vaguest idea of what it really means.  I never got past page 43 of A Brief History of Time; he took it along as vacation reading.  Our conversation covered warp drive and worm holes and the Twin Conundrum (where the twin shot into space ages more slowly than his earthbound sibling) and every once in a while I thought I caught a glimpse of understanding. Newton and Einstein and the confluence of equations and the physical world bring him great joy.  He likes knowing how things work, feels comforted by the fact that there is order to the universe and that that order can be found in mathematics.  He loves to share his facts.

He's a perfect teacher - he sighs as he gets to a difficult part and then finds an analogy that will appeal to me.  He reassures me that the concepts are spoken of more than they are understood, and that our brains are just not constructed to have easy access to them.  I had a little headache but mostly I was suffused with love.  To think that this human lived under my heart for 9 months and is now explicating the universe to me under a blanket of down below a blanket of stars .... it warms the cockles of my heart.

True, the Geminid Meteor Shower was marvelous.  The real miracle, though, was on the lawn chair next to me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I Am A Slacker

Actually, I am besmirching myself unfairly.  It's just that I didn't start on any of the things on my To Do List until 4 o'clock this afternoon.... and the things on the list were important things.  Things which needed to be done.  Today.  Things which could not be put off until tomorrow for a variety of important reasons.  Things like writing The Burrow so that you could sip your morning coffee and read it.  

Instead of working on the newsletter or reading El Cid or wrapping holiday presents for the caregivers in the pod-castle (which, in all honesty, can wait to be done tomorrow) or making sure that there were milk and eggs and Diet Coke for Big Cuter's arrival tonight, today I hiked.

The Happy Ladies' Club has spawned a plenitude of groups which cover ground on foot.  Some walk on on city sidewalks, some take flat, short trips on easy terrain, and some of us hike.  Today there were four of us and our intrepid guide, Mme. Hiker's long-suffering husband, Monsieur H.  We met at 8am in the parking lot to carpool to the

and the Coronado National Forest.

What, you say?  A forest?  I thought this was the desert.  And yet there are many forests here in Arizona, and one of them happens to be about 30 minutes from my home.  In the 1930's the CCC built a road 3.8 miles up into the canyon, a road on which the tram wends its way
from the visitor's center to Stop Number 9.  From there, we 5 departed and began our climb up switchbacks and across boulders and between giant slabs of stone and along the edge of a drop-off none of us wished to explore any more closely than from the path.  Miss Marjorie tried to careen down it head first, but luck and her poles and her palms precluded that particular adventure.  I wish I had a photo of her knee; the pants didn't rip but I have to believe that her bruise is all the colors of the rainbow right now.  

The tram ride was breezy and cold, but we folded our fleece the moment we alighted.  We have the weather the rest of you desire - 80's and sunny with a slight breeze to keep you cool enough.  It was 2.5 miles to the place we stopped the first time we did this hike, and another mile to the raging-river-which-is-now-a-gently-flowing-brook which thwarted Miss Marjorie and me last spring, and then another half mile or so to our destination, Hutch's Pool

The deep blue in the foreground is the reflection of the sky.  The water itself is that which is reflecting the branches and the rock faces back up at us.  There are waterfalls at the very end of the cove, but my Nikon was, again, thwarted.  Monsieur H had his super deluxe Sony with him and, perhaps, he'll share some that I can post anon.  For now, imagine 5 hungry and footsore travelers, one with a finger swelling more and more by the second, sitting in the shade of the sycamore tree and its gigantic falling leaves.  The water was cool and shallow and feet and fingers were soaked and frozen and refreshed and then it was time to walk back.

There really are seasons here.  I took some photos to prove it to you.  Scroll down for a snippet of autumn in the desert.

And then, there was the moon

Can't you see why I couldn't look at that list?  This was just so much more fun.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I can think of dozens of ways to divide the world's population, but one of the most profound divisors is this:
When you walk into a room do you turn on the television?
I'm home alone tonight and there's not a sound in the house except for the muted thumps of Nellie's keyboard.   There are the usual house noises, the ones you ignore until the power goes out and you realize that the refrigerator's humming is a constant you've come to accept as background noise.  There is nothing else.

It is absolutely heavenly.

TBG's family always had the tv going.  They played cards in front of the tv, they read the paper in front of the tv, they had family arguments in front of the tv.  Nannie spent her last years at home firmly ensconced in her recliner.  That recliner was possibly the most comfortable piece of furniture I have ever had the privilege to be enveloped by.  Placed strategically so that she could see the kitchen and living room and dining room as well at the tv, she read and napped and talked on the phone to the continuous chatter of Cleveland television.

It made me nuts.

G'ma and Daddooooo moved the television to the basement as soon as portables were commonplace.  Before that, the Motorola console occupied pride of place in the living room.  It was big and brown and had a strange grey hooded thing protruding from the back.  I watched Captain Kangaroo and Howdy Doody on that set.  G'ma bought me my first interactive video game for that tv; a plastic sheet which adhered to the screen and on which I could follow along with Miss Nancy and my pals on Romper Room by using the special marker and drawing on the tv itself.  That sheet had a special smell which I can kinda sorta almost but not quite conjure up, but which I know I would recognize in a heartbeat.  

After we painted the basement, using up all the extra paint left in the garage, the console was out and my grandparents' portable made its way down the stairs and onto the wheeled stand we'd purchased just that afternoon.  My grandparents had received a color tv from their rich son; we were delighted to take their cast-off electronics.  The channel changing knob made a satisfying click with each turn.... all 13 of them for the 13 channels we had.  And no, Cuters, there were no remotes.  Whoever was unlucky enough to be sitting closest to the tv was the one who got up to change the channels.

Still, the tv was in the basement and the family action was upstairs.  If we were downstairs watching tv we had a good reason to be there.  G'ma would fold laundry while watching, and there were certain shows we never missed.  Daddooooo thought that Emma Peel was drop dead gorgeous and he never missed an episode of All In The Family.  He wanted Archie for a friend.  Bonanza and Ed Sullivan were staples, but we never just turned on the television to see what was on.  There was always something more interesting to do.

My older cousin next door loved the 4 o'clock movies, but even her grown up presence wasn't enough to make me want to sit still for two hours when the sun was out.  In high school I had friends who were addicted to soap operas, who raced home after school to catch their stories.  G'ma and I did develop an obsessive relationship with Peyton Place, it's true, but for the most part I was on the phone instead of in front of the screen.

I'm trying hard to be non-judgmental.  There are some people who need constant chatter and connection to the outside world, who need noisy external stimuli to keep them focused and happy.  I'm just not one of them.

And now, if you will excuse me, I am going to open a book and enjoy the serenity.

At least until TBG gets home and turns on the tube.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Some Gifts for You

This is the season of sharing.  It is also the season of overwhelmed givers of gifts.  I plead guilt to being one of them right now.  It's after dinner and I've been running all day and I have not had a thought in my head.  Not just a thought worth sharing.  Literally, there have been no thoughts.

So, I have decided to introduce you to some of my favorites here in the blogosphere.  I've mentioned some of them before, but today I am giving you links to some of my favorite posts on some of my favorite sites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
John Simpson's blog is writerly.  Although there is the occasional lagniappe, most of his posts are nice, long, settle-back-in-the-couch-and-get-comfortable reads.  He has a few recurring themes, but the musical posts are my favorites.  Everyone knows the melody
to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, but JES knows the story.  Click on over and you will, too.
Joann Mannix is a famous blogger, and yet she finds the time to stop by The Burrow to visit.  Her posts are long and funny and honest and transcend generational boundaries.  Read sentences like these, written to her 16 year old daughter on the occasion of her first date
I know you won't believe any of what I'm telling you because you think I entered the world as a mom driving an SUV littered with smashed up goldfish crackers and half empty bottles of Gatorade.
But the thing is, I too, once cared more about my hair than the state of the world.
 and you'll see why both Little Cuter and I love her.  Plus, she has the best blog name ever: Laundry Hurts My Feelings .
100 Proof Stories are small, intoxicating stories of 100 words or less.  My favorite category is Kind of True, where you find gems like Words as Volatile as Dynamite.  But don't overlook Overheard  and Not So True either.  When I need a break from my own verbosity The Inadvertent Gardener is my go-to-girl. 
And then, of course there are my stalwarts, my touchstones, my first two clicks of the morning.

Time Goes By's Ronni Bennett is who I want to be when I grow up.  She's personal and political and crotchety and I love her.  Every day is different, if you're not turned on today, go back tomorrow and see what's there then. 

Nance Meeker's Mature Landscaping is a slice of life with a hippie and a fighter pilot living in Myrtle Beach and, for a while, in San Diego.  There are families and photographs and philosophy and research ... lots and lots of research... Nance's finger in the dike as the world goes to hell in a handbasket.  And we're not really enjoying the ride, are we?  It seems that we were separated at birth; our lives have twisted and turned in remarkably similar paths.  She's my BFF - Blog Friend Forever.  If you like The Burrow, you'll love the landscape over at Nance's place.
Have a wonderful weekend, denizens.  Thiu-who-owns-my-fingers painted a Christmas Tree With Lights on each of my ring fingers this afternoon.  I tried to take a picture for you, but it's so sparkly that my Nikon was defeated.  You'll just have to use your imaginations. This is so not me...but then, again, it's so me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Comment Disaster

IntenseDebate is non-responsive.  Their fact page caused me to delete all your beautiful commentary.  I am furious.  I am trying to work with them to repair the damage, but they don't reply.  I will fix this, I hope.  For now, though, please keep trying.

And, IntenseDebate, if you are reading this: I AM AGGRAVATED!!!

A Ladies' Lunch

Not-Kathy's mom and I went to lunch today. She's back in town after fleeing Maine's wintry weather and I haven't seen her so I emailed an invitation to visit the new Janos restaurant downtown.  Her response arrived in my inbox almost before I hit send.  She was delighted with the invitation and with the experience and to see me and to get out of the house and I was overwhelmed by her joy.  I like to be reminded that the simplest things are often the most important.  I love that this time of year provides so many opportunities for them to happen.

I thought I'd be arriving at her house after my class on the Nibelungenlied was over at noon.  Unfortunately for the expansion of my literary horizons, I stopped to say good morning to G'ma on my way to the U and I fell asleep on her couch.  For 3 hours.  In my clothes.... including cowboy boots.  No blanket, just her flattened out couch pillows to support my head, but I was out.  The worker bees come through every 40 minutes or so in the morning, to be sure that G'ma takes her pills on time and that her breakfast tray doesn't arrive before she gets out of bed, and to remind her to shower and eat and prepare for the day.  Apparently, they walked past me for 3 hours and I didn't know it.  Was I snoring? I asked when G'ma made rise-and-shine-noises and I rolled over and saw where I was and what I was doing.  The aide just laughed.  But, as I tell the Cuters, my body was talking to me and it's probably a good thing that I listened.  I had energy and enthusiasm for the day which had been missing before my nap.

Having slept through the class, I hustled The Schnozz down the highway to Bert and Ernie's Sam Hughes Neighborhood home.  Bordering the University, 2 blocks from the stadium and 3/4 of a mile from the major auditorium, it's a city dweller's dream.  Some houses are rented to students and left to go to seed, but her block is filled with homeowner occupied dwellings, meticulously maintained and cared for.  There are block parties and political events and everyone knows everyone else's name.  It's a good place for two 70-somethings to spend their winters.  They bring Not-Kathy and Dr. K's dog, Buddy, in the car with them because the little bichon just hates those Chicago winters.  Buddy's bark is louder than he is large, and it is incessant.  "C'mon humans!  I'm down here! Notice me!"  I do, he shushes and I admire the most creative Christmas tree I've ever seen - a wooden trellis with striped ribbon running to a point at the top, with hand-crafted bells and hearts attached to the cross bars.  There are mini-lights and a fern or two but mostly it's an homage to the notion of a real live tree without much of the hassle.  I may consider switching,..... it sure looks like a lot less work.

Bert had 3 near-death experiences this summer, following the prior winter's near death experience in South America.  Septic Shock is not something you want to hear as your diagnosis - it can start anywhere and recur anytime and the treatment has to be specific to your sepsis and involves iv-antibiotics as well as pills.  They became quite familiar with the EMT's in their little Maine town in their cabin on the lake at the end of a narrow dirt road which dead ends at their property.  15 minutes is making good time from call to arrival; for Ernie, it was a lifetime.  But Bert's healthy now and back to running 6 miles and there's a glow in his cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes which had been overshadowed when last we saw him by the remaining terror of nearly dying in a foreign land.  He's regained confidence as well as strength, and he's now able to explain finances and bill paying and where things are to Ernie in the event that he should not wake up one morning.  Watching her tell me this story, I was struck by how close to disaster they had been, and how unshaken they appeared in the living room.  Once again, I am impressed by the inner strength of my elders.

We left Bert and Buddy to bond as we headed downtown for lunch.  I've been to Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails twice before and each time I sat at the same table.  Today I dropped Ernie off at the door because parking was in short supply.  When I returned after depositing The Schnozz I found her occupying my usual spot.  Janos was there, and I commented that I seem to have become enough of a regular to have a special table all my own.  His smile said it all - I was in with the in-crowd!  Long time readers will know how happy that kind of thing makes me.  For the rest of you - it felt great!

Yam and pineapple soup with little bitty peanuts floating around was followed by Laotian Chicken Salad with papaya and thinly sliced cucumbers and beans and other delicacies sliced razor thin and stacked in a presentation worthy of the cover of a magazine.  The ice tea - plain, brewed, caffeinated and not trying to compete with the flavors of the food by adding mango or peach or honeysuckle - kept coming and the food just kept getting better and better.  Our conversation covered Bert's sepsis and Dr. K and Not-Kathy's lives and their kids and his mother and work and college and Tucson and Rio Nuevo (our downtown renewal program which has funded the retirements of several consultants but hasn't really brought much to the area) and Gabby Giffords and Barack Obama and the state of social security and raising the retirement age and Americans' reluctance to save on their own and then we passed on dessert, split the check and drove over to Antigone Books.

I've written before (tho I can't find them easily enough to include them here) about how difficult it is to negotiate through the downtown area.  There are underpasses and overpasses and train tracks and vacant plots of land.  There are alleys and one way streets suddenly morphing into two way streets and then there is the construction of the new Tucson Electric Power office building right across from where we were parked.  My limited knowledge of how to get from here to there was useless.  All my roads were blocked.  But Ernie was a trouper, and we got to the bookstore and the parking lot and she laughed as I entered the exit and took the last spot.  Bert would never let her do that... and TBG would be screaming his head off if I tried it with him in the car, but the two of us just laughed, parked and shopped.  I do love women so.

Antigone has a feminist slant to itself, but it's also true to its namesake.  Antigone, Creon's niece, wanted to bury her brother according to religious rites.  Creon forbade it.  Antigone did it.  There's a sense of power and steadfastness and certainty to the play which somehow comes to life in the store.  There are Steig Larsson titles and Andrew McCall Smith and then there are feminist tracts and guides to widowhood (Ernie was in that section -- wanting to be prepared) and divorce and children and there were tchotchkes.  Lots and lots of tchotchkes.  My $99 bill included books for friends and myself, ornaments for the women I love, and free gift wrapping for La's Orchestra Saves the World, which I handed to Ernie to put under her very fabulous tree.

Ernie spent no money.  It's no wonder Not-Kathy is the most frugal person I know.  The acorn didn't fall far from the oak in that family.

We arrived at Ernie's front door and neither of us wanted her to get out of the car.  We were having such a good time.  We're a generation apart, I'm her children's friend, we are dealing with totally different life issues, and yet we are pals.  On our own terms, in our own way, we like each other unconnected to any of the ties which might bind us.

The sun was shining, the windows were down, and we were hugging and smiling and making plans to do it again and again and again.  We have become Ladies Who Lunch.