Thursday, June 30, 2011

G'ma and the Electric Chair

She rolled off the couch, for crying out loud.  I can't keep her safer than that, now, can I?  

Since she was the only person there when it happened, we will never know for sure what caused her to fall off the pillows and hit her head on something with a squared-off corner.  Our best guess is that her feet became entangled in the Horace Mann blanket she keeps on the couch.  When napping is your primary form of amusement, having a coverlet nearby is a necessity.

I'd been whining about this to anyone who would listen and all I heard were rueful laughs.  Nope, there wasn't anything else that I could have done.  Nothing at all.

That is, until I sat at the lunch table with Fran and her family.  They had had the same issue and had solved the problem through shopping.  I was intrigued.

They removed the couch that Fran had brought from home, the couch from which she rolled onto the floor and on which she spent most of her days sleeping.  They replaced it with a reclining chair which fit her like a glove.  No lolling to one side and two conveniently placed armrests from which to elevate herself to a standing position.  Sleeping now happened in the bed.  

I received familial confirmation that this might be a good idea and so Brother and Niece, the Younger and I took G'ma to the Lazy Boy store last Sunday.  We started with the inexpensive  recliners, the ones with the wooden arm on the side.  Low tech, low price, and much too much for G'ma to maneuver.  She just doesn't have the arm strength or the power in her shoulders to operate the lever.  The effort required was too big.  

The next group of chairs were twice the price and they were motorized.  A round button on the outer edge of the seat was pressed to raise and lower the feet.  When she pressed it further and the head began to dip she screeched and stopped pushing and we stepped in and righted her and got her out of there as fast as possible.  She was just too small to be safe.  

That left us with the most expensive option, three times the price of the first option, and, of course the one that put a smile on our mother's face. 

First of all, it was blue, just like her eyes.  She likes blue.  When she sat down the headrest fit perfectly behind her neck and her knees bent just at the end of the seat.  As the "Aaaahhhhh" escaped her lips, her family smiled as her son said "My mother has just bought a chair."  

It is a very clever piece of machinery, with a remote control attached by a self-fabric rope to the pouch on the side of the seat.  The remote contains a toggle switch with two choices - up and down.  Up brings the feet up and the head down, down puts the feet down and the head up.  It's counter-intuitive to G'ma but she was enjoying the ride she was taking as she figured it out so I'm not worried.  

When it came time to stand up our saleswoman instructed our mother to continue pressing the switch down.  The seat back continued to move forward, and the lumbar support began to join it on the journey.  G'ma was gently propelled to an almost standing position, her walker within easy reach of her hands.  

No more pressing on her damaged shoulders as she tries to rise from her couch.  No more tangled tootsies as she tries to stand up.  We will velcro the chair control right next to the tv remote control and she'll have everything she needs right there.  Nothing sharp on which to fall lurking right next to her perch.  She'll have the end table from her living room on Long Island right next to her chair, and her puzzles and deck of cards within easy reach.

I'm almost ready to forgive my sibling for spending the last two days of his time with me regaling friends and strangers with the amusing (to him) fact that he had bought his mother an electric chair.  

G'ma got it the first time he said it; "Are you trying to get rid of me?!" was her immediate response.  

There's no doubt whose son he is.   Good thing I love them both.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hotel in the Desert

The first shift has left and the second is ensconced.  The hosts are suffering a bit of familial whiplash as we move from my brother to his sister within the space of an hour or two.  Who's in which bed with how many pillows? Who knows?

What we do know is that we are surrounded by love.  Brother fixed some things and improved some others and kept us laughing.  He is no longer amazed that we don't share his level of interest in carpentry and plumbing and HVAC maintenance.  He knows we are grateful for his help and that we never fear that he is intruding upon our territory.  He loves doing it and we love watching.  Everybody is happy.

Thus, it should not have been a surprise to me that he drove a 10 gallon can of goo across America and wore the work clothes he'd packed while he applied the goo to the silver stuff in the closet that contains the machinery which keeps our house cool.  Whatever it is and whatever he did, it now works in a more efficient manner.  

We thank him for solving a problem of which we were unaware, but I'm a little bit aggravated that I have to remember to ask the HVAC guys to check it out in September.  Why is that every repair invariably involves more chores?  

G'ma was delighted to see him and was pleased to remake the acquaintance of Niece, the Youngest.  This was somewhat upsetting to Niece, the Youngest, this most obvious of signs that her grandmother was less than she had been.  I pointed out to her that she had been out of the country for 12 months and had not seen her grandmother for the 12 months before that and given those facts I'm not sure that her uncle or I would have recognized her had she walked past us on the street.  

It didn't mean that we didn't love her.  It meant that she had grown up and was no longer the girl we'd last seen.  She was a college senior, fluent in languages and well-versed in theory, sorting out her future.  G'ma remembers little girls with flowing untamed hair and a shy smile  when she thinks of her granddaughters.  She's happy to be pleasant to an adult who seems to like her, but the details of the lives her grand-children live are no longer accessible to her.  

I have known this for a very long time.  It's been a while since I've seen someone face it for the first time.  The loss, the sorrow, the fear, the weirdness of it all; G'ma is old and Niece, the Younger is up close and personal to the indignities and the absurdities of it all.  She is also seeing the grace and strength and courage it takes to get through a day you can neither plan for nor remember.  That G'ma smiles through this amazes me and I tried to let that shine through.  But there's no doubt that it was hard.

Of course, the fact that she's still sucking on her dentures just adds to the amusement.

For the most part, though, we four were peaceful and content, spending hours in the pool and on Douglas, telling stories and asking questions. The answers were long, and involved, and required back-stories which were happily inserted.  It was the perfect family chatter. and it was lovely, simply lovely.  

We drowned our sorrows over their departure in french fries and then there was his sister, Auntie Em,  walking up to the little gate and it was smiles and kisses all over the place.  There's our nephew and our brother-in-law and there are all kinds of configurations of hugs going on and the temperature is in triple digits and we don't really care because they are here and we are glad.

Inside, once again on Douglas, ice water in front of each one of us, we began to tell stories whose content required explication and whose provenance was disputed and exactitude was provided and, once again, it was the perfect, lovely, simply lovely family chatter that you don't realize you have missed until it's right next to you, on the couch, smiling at an old, familiar tale.  

Being well-brought-up adults, neither party planned a visit of more than three days..... yes, guests, like fish begin to smell after...... but we wouldn't mind if they kept themselves on ice for a week or two more.  There's still a lot to talk about.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Lovely Day

He should write stories about these people, he says.  The Frog Man, the couple who can't make up their minds, the clients he fired after showing them dozens of houses and watching them walk away from 9 contracts.  My brother is a generous, smart, funny man who tries to pay his bills by selling houses.  It's an ever changing market as we all know, and he's on the cutting edge of the economic changes our recession is causing.

He's driven 1800 miles across the country to visit his mother and me.  He'll be driving 2100 miles north to Yellow Pine, Idaho tomorrow, his youngest daughter in tow.  There is a golf tournament up there on Saturday.  You carry only one club in this event; your other hand is used to hold your beer.  Apparently, there are not enough straight paths to create anything longer than a 3 par hole.  Trees act as barricades and the golf balls must be orange since white ones get lost in the wildflowers.  He's not much of a golfer; my niece is his caddy.  He's having such a good time thinking about it that I don't have the heart to wonder why he's driving 2000 miles out of his way to drink beer with his friends.

That's the wonder of my brother.  There is nothing that's too outrageous, too surprising, too silly for him to consider.  In high school he asked a girl to join him on his boat.  She wasn't expecting him to show up at her house with an Abercrombie and Fitch Outfitters inflatable yellow float-ready craft strapped to the top of Daddooooo's Oldsmobile.  She was even less enthusiastic when she found out she had to paddle if they were ever going to get back to the dock.  He couldn't understand her dismay.  He had fully expected her to enjoy it as much as he did.

I gave him my Chevy when I bought my first new car and he kept it running, adding oil and gas in equal amounts, until it froze into an icy patch in the front yard of his fraternity house.  After the spring thaw, he sold it to a family needing reliable transportation...... reliable being a relative term.  He showed no remorse; he'd kept it running and the new owner could, too.  He's always had a car and a pick-up truck in his driveway, because clients won't ride in the truck and he just needs to have one handy.  And no, he won't help you move.

He has a store of terrible jokes.  He remembers the name of every server and cashier and salesperson he encounters, and engages them in meaningless but smile-inducing conversation.  He is a repository of useless information.  He grows tomatoes and giant pumpkins and several different varieties of lettuce.  He's the beadle of his synagogue, a wonderful father, and a creator of wooden toys and boxes and door stops.

He's the only brother I have and I love him.  A lot.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dear JenniJazz,

Okay, Girlfriend!  You are on - for catching up and Subway lunches and transportation to manicures or radiation treatment or wig shopping or whatever.  I'm calling you the day after you get home from watching your kid compete on the international stage. 

How nice of your cancer to allow you to travel.  How very very convenient of it.  Seriously, I'm thrilled that you are going to the event; I just hate that you are traveling with the knowledge that disease is not now a part of your life.

And yes, that was a Freudian slip - my brain wanted to include the disease, my heart typed not.... which is exactly where I'd like it be be in relation to you - not.

You Suzi-Sat at 7am so TBG could make an airport run.  You brought me carry-in and sat at the table and told me secrets from your past as I revealed some from mine and we made a very unlikely pair, you and I.....

Until I remembered that I've always had a pretty, energetic, blond woman in my life.  At every stage there's been someone whose background and talents and interests are far from mine and yet with whom I form some mystical magical instantaneous I can tell her anything bond.  We laughed about it as you left that Saturday morning, agreeing that we were, in fact, two of the only people we knew who could be asked yesterday to do a favor real early today and who would say "I'd be happy to!" and be believed.  

You brought me sunshine and happiness and a glimpse of the normal world outside my cocoon and then you were gone, taking the carry-out trash along with you.  Easy-peasy as Mr. 6 tells me.  Easy-peasy indeed.

And now cancer has reared its ugly head, right in the middle of what might have been a really really nice summer.  The nerve.  I am peeved on your behalf, just as Tucson hurt for me in January.  I want to hug you, just as the lady in Target wanted to hug me last week.  It might make you feel better.... I would hope that you could feel the love .... but I also need to reassure myself that you are here and okay.

Believe me when I tell you that I know how taxing it is to take care of those who care about you.  Everyone says they want to hear about it, and your friends are asking without thought to the gossip value of the information, and you know that they would take the time to hear it but ......  

You need them to be strong for you to lean on; you can't complain when the facts are so encouraging : it's early and there is good news on the treatment and the prognosis is excellent.  Sometimes you can share just how very very bummed you are about the whole situation, but then your listeners feel an obligation to cheer you up, to solve your problem, to show you the light at the end of the tunnel.

Those who love us can't leave us in a puddle of sorrow and walk away; we don't surround ourselves with callous fools.  So, the sunny side of the street is where I always end up walking when they are around.  Because most of the time that's where I am anyway, and because it serves no purpose to wallow in public. I just know you are doing the same thing.

But sometimes that's just not going to cut it.  Sometimes I don't want my problems solved.  Sometimes I just need to take them out for an airing.  We cheery people need a little bit of angst, too, don't we?

Solidarity..... Been There, Felt That .... Little Cuter says that's what should come back to her when she calls to talk about her day which was filled with calamity and woe.  This is just another example of her innate brilliance and her ability to intuit what psychologists spend years proving: Misery Loves Miserable Company.

Stanley Schachter proved this in 1959, and I learned it in Psych 101 in 1969 and I'm proving it right now, with JannyLou by my side.  Janny-Lou's diagnosis came mid-way through my non-weight-bearing recovery and there was nothing for us to do but laugh.  And then cry. And then wonder when the next shoe would fall.  Then we heard about you.

So, I'd like to invite you to join JannyLou and me in our "Whenever We Need It Pity Party."  

I get the whole upbeat thing, as you well know.  I know that it will help you beat this every bit as much as will the radiation and the surgery.  I believe that profoundly.  But sometimes you just wake up to the realization that it sucks and you don't want to depress your family or friends who certaimly will listen but who are already so sad that they just can't handle one more drop of it.  

That is when you pick up the phone, go into a closet, close the door and make the call.  We will agree with you that it is unfair, unhappy, rude, and should go away RIGHT NOW.  

We get it.  You can be whiny and complaining and nauseatingly specific about your physical or emotional self and we'll agree with you that you are absolutely right to be so furious at the world.  After a few minutes we'll all feel fine and go on our merry ways.  

Fast Eddie calls us the Bobbsey Twins.  How about the 3 of us as The Anderson Sisters?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Floating on a Pillow of Love

I am happily too tired to type.  I am exhausted, denizens.  Plum tucker'd out.  Too pooped to pop.

I spent the day at a Thank You party at the hospital.  I spent it walking and hugging and walking and hugging and keeping my distance as much as I could from the media... most of whom I now hug and greet by name .... and hugging and walking some more.

All the guests wanted to see me walk.  Everyone was thrilled.  Totally and completely and marvelously thrilled.

They had seen me filleted and bloodless and wounded and broken.  They had seen me en-tubed and swaddled and crying for my Mommy.  I couldn't roll over or breathe on my own or do anything but be tended.  I am alive because they made it so.

So, I walked.  I walked for each and every one of them, each and every time they asked.

The cameras caught the hugging and crying and smiling and laughing and not one of them caught me walking.  And that was perfect.  Because the afternoon wasn't about me... or Randy... or Mavy.... or only in as much as we were the people under their care.  As Dr. Joseph said on camera tonight, these folks are there for all of us, all of the time.

There are many reasons to love Tucson.  The University Medical Center is just one of them.... and I am here to tell you so.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Freshman Orientation

I'm watching her float on the raft, her purple bikini complementing the turquoise and blue of the water and the sky and the raft itself.  She has her smart-phone in one hand and she's texting with the other as the breeze blows her from wall to wall to wall to wall.

It's a delicate balancing act when she needs a drink - there is gentle paddling and soft pushing and no help is needed as she maneuvers herself and her device over to the cold water bottle I just brought out from the 'fridge.

Tomorrow is orientation at the UofA and Kitty, the little Wildcat, will be a freshman.  I'm wondering what she's thinking as she lies there, motionless, french manicured fingers and orange painted toes peeking out of the water as she floats in my backyard.  I knew her when she was in diapers and now she's going to train to be a nurse and I don't know where the years have gone.

Not-Kathy, her mother, is doing business on the phone in the house.  I am typing to you.  Our lives are continuing.  She is starting her new adventure.  There's a different vibe.

Right now mother and daughter are discussing the wisdom of carrying a cell phone while floating in a pool.  Kitty is confident and Not-Kathy is worrying and in truth it's so much more than the damage to a portable communications device which is being discussed.  She is going off on her own.  Mom won't be there to protect her.  There are a lot of lessons still to be learned; cell-phones-in pools is just the tip of the iceberg.

We've covered drinking and STD's and sororities and the marching band and they've only been here for an hour.  Mom's got opinions and so does Kitty and I am enjoying my perch on the outside looking in.  Not-Kathy is right, of course, except that it's not her life.  Kitty is stubborn and that's her prerogative as she leaves high school behind and strikes out on her own.  It's not entirely unreasonable that Kitty wants to see a football game from the stands instead of while holding a snare drum.  Mom's not wrong to encourage talent especially when she knows that the kid loves playing.

I'm having a good time watching.

Kitty will leave tonight with a list of the professors I've loved in my Seminars on campus and my cell phone number.  Our door (and our pool) will be open to her whenever she feels the need.  Or is in the mood.  Or is lonely.  Or bored. Or wants a quiet place to hang out and sort through her thoughts.

We have no expectations of one another.  We're forging a relationship out of scraps of shared people and places.

The fun is just beginning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Savanna and Hope Become Semi-Famous

I made a lot of new friends after January 8th, but few of them have touched my heart as much as the 5th and 6th graders at Stockton Elementary School.  They wrote to me in pencil on lined paper with perfectly readable penmanship.  Their addresses were in the upper right hand corner and the date was above Dear Mrs. Hileman and I loved them even before they shared their hearts. 

They read the newspaper every morning and Christina's story touched them.  They knew that she would want me to be happy and that she was glad to have me as her friend and that I shouldn't worry too much while I was healing as quickly as they wished I would.  They were sorry I got shot.

Is it any wonder that I fell in love?

Turns out that their teacher graduated from my high school a few years after the Class of 1969 and I went out into the world.  He sold real estate until he found the good life teaching small humans.  His emails are filled with warmth and admiration for his charges.  He's delivering an old-fashioned education and I know what that is because we both came up through the same school system.  Say what you will about our generation, we knew how to spell and how to format a personal letter and we read the newspaper and these students can say the same thing.  

As I said, an old-fashioned education.  Some things about the 20th century might be worth saving.

But I digress. 

The 6th graders in the class graduated this week. Two of them wrote  and read a beautiful poem  in memory of Christina Taylor Green, as their teacher told me in an email today.   My 5th grade pen-pal helped make the poster.  I'd show you the poet's entirely fabulous face except that I haven't asked for permission.  If it comes, I'll post it.  

For now, she will simply be mysterious.  In the 6th grade so much is mysterious that this might just feel ordinary.  I don't know.  It's hard to be true to yourself when you are in the 6th grade.  It's often dangerous to reveal deep emotion.  Sometimes you feel anonymous and wonder about your place in the world.  

Sometimes your place in the world is shaken.  Sometimes something really really awful happens to someone almost your age.  Someone so close to your age that you can remember when you were that age. And you're not that old to begin with.  

When something like that happens, some of us turn to words.  

For all these reasons and the hundred more you are thinking of right now I'm publishing Savanna and Hope's poem. 

Enjoy your summer and have fun in 7th grade, girls.  The best is yet to come.

Christina Taylor Green

A young girl…
A young soul…

Wanting happiness…
Nothing but happiness…

Should still be here…
Too precious…

Her life was taken…
But her soul remains…

` Her love of this world…
Was more than words could say.

We shall not forget…
A perfect life…
A perfect soul…

By Savannah and Hope

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just When I Thought I Was Out of the Woods.....

I remembered that I am my mother's keeper.

This reminder came in the form of a ringing telephone at 11:25pm.  Caller ID told me it was the pod-castle and at that time of night I knew it couldn't be good news.  

"Hi, Pod-Castle.  How is my mother?" 

The stunned silence on the other end of the phone was less than comforting.  Her "Oh, she's fine" was even worse.  If she's fine, what are you doing calling me at midnight?

No sense in getting angry at the help, though, so I waited for her to introduce herself and tell me that G'ma had been calling for help and was found on the carpet alongside her couch, blood pouring from her head.

Head wounds bleed I can hear my mother reassuring me in my mind as I try to wake up enough to process the situation.  Mommy would know that I'd be getting anxious right about now; it was nice of her to insert that thought to calm me down.  

No, they hadn't called the ambulance.  Yes, G'ma was alert and oriented - well, as oriented as she usually is - and not in too much pain.  Perhaps, there might be a bandaid that would work.... ummm.... and the pause at that moment made the decision for me.  The caregiver would call the EMT's;  I would get dressed and be over in a minute.

TBG offered to drive me but this wasn't a two person job.  This was a job for a pushy New Yorker who knew that if she just walked into the ER talking to the EMT's she could ignore the Ambulance Personnel ONLY sign and stay by G'ma's side through the whole event.  This was a job for a small person, one who fits on small plastic seats and, by propping her legs up on the edge of the patient's bed, can say honestly that she is comfortable.  Besides, he's spent enough time watching medical types working on someone he loves.  

For that matter, I wasn't all that thrilled to be back in a hospital setting either.  I tried to nod off as we waited for CAT scan results but the beeping and paging sent me right back to UMC and my most uncomfortable nighttime moments.  I opened my eyes and kept reading The Help.

They did what they needed to do and were friendly and competent if not efficient and I took the hospital gown off and helped G'ma into a soft pink fleecy night gown and we drove her home to the pod-castle as the sun was rising.  She was remarkably chipper; I was extraordinarily tired.  She got into bed and fell fast asleep quicker than I was able to get comfortable on her couch so I went home to my own bed and crashed.

The last two days have been filled with phone calls and worries and spot-checks and complaints and she's still in that nightie and the pain is getting worse.  Deep breaths are the worst.  Lying still is the best.  

It's a good thing that she's usually on that couch anyway, I guess.

I brought her Hershey's Kisses because what is life without chocolate?  I'll take her to her doctor tomorrow, he of the Birkenstocks and blue jeans and smart phone and earrings.  He'll be kind and thorough and just as intrusive as he needs to be and I will feel comfortable with the plan we formulate before we leave his office.  

Until then, I am not really here at the keyboard.  Some of me is focused on this post, but most of me is wondering about G'ma.  My mom.  

She was bleeding and it made me sad.  She used to be indestructible.  She was never sick, she never broke a bone or needed stitches.  The time she aimed the hairspray into her eyeball was her only trip to the hospital.  She was Mommy. We got sick or injured - she did not.  

And now she's old, as she tells me when I ask her how she is.  Mr. 8 thinks that I am really old, horrifyingly old,  but he doesn't know the half of it.  My new friend, Elizabeth, all of 13 and the certainties that entails, thinks anyone over 29 is old.  60 is on my horizon and that sounds old, but I think that old is when it's more effort to do than to be.  When you are old things are done for you and to you and you are grateful.  When you're old, your get-up-and-go seems to have got-up-and-went.

And there's a serenity to the space G'ma is occupying right now that is out of my reach.  She hurts, but if she stays still she's okay so she'll stay still and watch Elizabeth and Essex on TMC and the staff will check on her safety and well-being and medication has been discussed by the nurse at the pod-castle and by the doctor's office and by her daughter and she will smile and say thank you and drift along, watching the world.

She's in it but not really of it.  She's a recipient instead of a participant.  And she is happy. I don't understand it.  I am worried and she is the one who was bleeding.  She lives this life and I worry about it.  

Just when I'd gotten my thoughts about myself lined up in a semi-acceptable pattern, there's G'ma tossing them up in the air again. When will I learn?  You're never out of the woods..... sometimes you find a path...... but Frost's two roads diverging are more like an Escher than a Grandma Moses to me right now.

I keep looking for a map and there isn't one.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Oh, My

I didn't sleep much last night.  G'ma fell off her couch and we spent the early morning hours in the Emergency Room.  Everyone was very nice, not everyone was very efficient, and it was 5:34am before I had tucked her in back at the pod-castle and pulled out of the parking lot on my way home.  

The sun rises very early at this time of year.  I didn't need my headlights.  I did need my pillow
A 22 year old Irish lad with a crooked grin and big bear of a dad won the US Open golf tournament on Sunday.  According to TBG, this is the first of golf's Majors.  Apparently, winning it is a very big deal.  For my part, it was nice to watch golf without Tiger, whose peccadilloes and never-ending-never-healing injuries (after using performance enhancing drugs, perhaps?) distract me from the foliage and the clouds.

Golf is a pretty game to have as a backdrop to writing to you.  
We are thinking about traveling east for a class next month.  The topic isn't all that attractive but we've had this teacher twice before and there's no reason to assume that the sessions will be anything less than fascinating.  Besides, we just got a letter from the director of the program telling us they've had us in their thoughts.

There are lots of reasons to do something.  Often, the side pieces are more interesting than the main event.
 I packed care packages for our warriors at the Democratic Party Headquarters on Friday morning.  Donations had poured in, and we were able to create "hygiene" and "food" boxes for more than 200 servicemen and women.  I learned about the Red Cross's efforts to support the troops, heard about the bickering behind the scenes at the last Committee meeting, learned how to access apps on an Iphone, and personally flattened a garbage bag full of recyclable boxes.  I have no one serving, don't know what the Committee was and I don't have an Iphone - yet I was a happy camper.

It was just like envelope addressing and stuffing parties for the PTA.  Walking around those tables, filling, writing, folding, making idle conversation - those were some of the happiest times of my life.  Seriously.
I don't know how I missed The Help when it was the rage of every book club in the world, but I did.  I am half way through and I can't concentrate here because my brain is with Skeeter and Minny and AibileEN and Mae Mobley and Miss Celia and I'm so tired that my fingers just made alphabet salad on the screen when they collapsed of their own weight.

I'm going to apologize for a short post, close Nellie the Notebook, prop Kathryn Stockett's book on my belly and see how long I last.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Or what about She/He, or I/Me.  You/I is tricky, too.

How would you use words to describe the difference?  Two English language learners, fluent in Spanish and Nepali but struggling here in the USofA, bright eyed and totally confused by my chattering, were wondering the same thing this morning.  While the rest of the class moved from station to station, we three tried to find a way to differentiate between in and on.

Eventually, we resorted to visuals.  The tiny tie-dyed super ball we were using for mine/yours went into overdrive with in/on.  We began with a red plastic box and created ramps out of small envelopes on which he rolled the ball til she saw that it was in.  Then it was her turn but she didn't want to try so we gave her the camera and worked on big and small as she decided which button to use to take the picture.  

I stopped filling the silences with meaningless verbiage.  I encouraged her to wait with her answer until his light dawned and the answer spilled out of his mouth and we were blessed with the world's biggest grin as he got into the game and the ball went on her head and in his fist and on the table and suddenly we were the center of attention as our neighboring table tried to find more unusual in's and on's.  

We went around the table, the three of us, discussing me/she/he/I/you/her/we and by that time we were well past shyness and far into I can do this.  We had some fun with write and ride and made the distinction between the T and the D quite precisely.  Much giggling ensued.  

The teacher's grateful glances reassured me that my free form lesson wasn't getting in the way of some grand pedagogical plan, so we began to roam the room, asking permission.  "May I take your picture, please?"  Self-confidence, manual dexterity, politesse, I/you... those are the lessons I saw, and I wasn't looking that hard.

Finding just the right sentence construction, the right tenses, the right pronouns took some concentration and a fair amount of time.  I was worried that I'd put my charges in an awkward position, asking them to struggle in front of their friends.  

I needn't have worried.

There were no sneers from the other students.  "They've all been there themselves," was the teacher's explanation for the quality of the laughter we were sharing.  The other students were more than willing to go along with the show, shaking their heads with smiles on their faces as I refused to allow them to accept an ungrammatical request.  There was some tickling and some face making and lots of encouragement. There was no attitude.

As for the three of us, we had nothing but fun.  There was frustration but no embarrassment.  They sat with me for 90 minutes and never once did I see a yawn.  I've never felt as appreciated.  

These aren't my Cuters but they are my kids.  They are Sudanese and Central American and Native American and Nepali and Texans and they are our future.  It reminds me of my parents' tales of the public schools in the 1920's and '30's.  They were Italians and Greeks and Germans and Jews and they learned to brush their teeth and conjugate verbs in the same classroom.  

What do the public schools do?  They create Americans.  How dare we deprive them of resources?  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gabby's Out

I read the good news in an email from an editor at BlogHer who saw it on Twitter and wondered if she could pay me to write about my thoughts.  

Once I pulled myself off the ceiling and stopped grinning so hard that I couldn't see past my puffed up cheeks I typed back a very happy Yes! and started thinking about recovery and leaving the hospital and who I am and what is left for us to do and it didn't take me very long at all to create this post.

I can't cross post it so that you can read it here, but I can give you a sample to tempt you to actually click through and read the whole thing on BlogHer.  There's nothing to sign up for, no cookies installed on your machine, just one more step to read what I wrote.

I'd post something else here except Gabby being released from the hospital is exactly what I want to tell you about today and my best work is here.

Here's your teaser:
Rehab exposed me to a different kind of pain. It's not broken bone pain or nerve damage pain, at least not just those kinds of aches. It's all that and more, because it shouldn't have happened to us and it did and it's wrong and I want it to just go away right now. There's an emotional overlay that a regular hip replacement wouldn't have. I keep telling the world that it is askew ... it's not listening.
Click on this sentence and read the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Getting Fit - Again

Let's work out on Saturday morning.  Call me when you are on your way and I will meet you there.  I will warm up on the recumbent bike while you impress me with your speed on something and then we can see what we are capable of accomplishing with the weights.  
That is part of the email I just sent to Amster.  Between me getting shot and she preparing and then trying her first case as first chair, the months have flown by.  She'd given up her gym membership around the holidays when she was saving for a down payment but life has intervened and the house search is on hold and we are both uncomfortable in our own skins.
We did this once before and we can do it again.
It will require discipline and determination and, as Amster barked it, that Army mojo.  We are good for one another in that way; we don't allow excuses.  When we are working out we are committed to the process.  We keep track of repetitions and the number of plates on the bar and we rotate the parts we work.  We chat up a storm, but only when we're walking between stations.... at least most of the time.  Certainly, when when one of us is holding the weights we both are focused. 

Life is filled with meaningful occupations with which I could choose to occupy my time.  If I opt to spend 90 minutes of my day in the gym I am going to work out with good form and real intensity. Otherwise, I might as well be doing something else.

At least that's the plan.  When we started, we knew the program needed incentives built into the original structure.  Our $200 jeans fit the bill very nicely.  Of course, by the time our bodies were worthy of the expenditure the temperatures in Tucson were nearing triple digits and jeans were out of the question.  Gym shorts were barely tolerable; just the thought of trying on heavy denim made us sweat.

This time we are starting a bit further down the road. We've both had and lost muscle and tone and stamina.  We are both hungry for what we know will be the immediate results: improved posture and digestion and mood.  Further out, we're looking at some weight loss and then maintaining a happy balance between figure and fun.  

We're on the Big Cuter diet: calories in = calories out and so what if some of those calories are french fries.  Life is too short and we work too hard to deny ourselves french fries.  Most of what goes in is healthy and we're going to be burning up those fat calories lickety-split.

I'm not sure how aerobic I can make the recumbent bike.  I wish there were one with moving arms; I'm not used to using only part of my body when I'm trying to work up a sweat.  It will be one more thing on which to concentrate; I'll make it a posture and upper body control exercise as well.  

I think I know what they meant, those well-meaning therapists and friends and doctors and strangers, those who warned me to avoid comparing my new self to my old self. I can't look to my old routines for solutions.  I have to look at my situation and be creative.  It does no good, no earthly good at all, to stamp and stomp and moan and groan.  Once the tantrum is over, I'm still in the same place.
Yes, LeBron, I go back to my same old life while you go on with yours. 

My life is different, is constrained, is less fluid...... but it is.  For now, I am looking at what I can do instead of what I could do.  Amster promises to carry the dumbbells until I feel confident that I won't break a foot - mine or another's - while transporting them from rack to bench.  We'll start slowly, with the basics, low weights, lots of good slow careful reps.  I think I'm going to bring a notebook and keep track of what we do. 

Ahhhhhh..... it's good to be back. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Discovery of Witches

Deborah Harkness just might be your newest guilty pleasure. BlogHer paid me to write a review. They send me funny emails about my work and I get to keep the brand new books, too. I'm having a great time writing them; hope you're enjoying reading them.

The Mav-eliers

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat in the National Basketball Association's championship series this week.  Dirk Novitzki's 7' self led the Mavs to victory, leaving LeBron James in his dust.

If you're not into the sports posts that paragraph should give you all the information  you need.  Come back tomorrow for something entirely different,

As for the rest of you, would you agree that what started out with sloppy and unimpressive performances transformed itself into a beautiful example of well-played team ball?  Dirk can't get the ball to drop?  No worries, Jet's got him covered.  The Mavericks' bench scored nearly as many points as did their starters; that is team ball.

Jose Barea claims to be 6' tall, but if that's true I want his measuring tape and I want it now. When asked why he was successful his disarming reply made short people everywhere stand up and cheer:
When I am dribbling I am close to the ground and those big guys they can't get at the ball.
Rick Carlisle started him and they won 3 in a row.  Watching LeBron flick him away, watching him bounce across the floor in an almost-but-not-quite acting foul and then get right up and play on made us smile.

LeBron wasn't smiling and everyone is wondering where he left his game. I go back to past posts I've written about how important the college experience is for these young men.  I think that taking a tall and talented and highly touted 18 year old and throwing dollars and adoration at his feet, asking only that he resuscitate the fortunes of a dying city... if that's not a recipe for disaster then I don't know what is.

This is a grown man who bit his nails while sitting on the bench, with a cameraman at his feet recording it for posterity.  My question was not "why doesn't he stop it?" so much as it was "why doesn't someone tell him to stop it?"  I found it impossible to watch him play while I was eating.

Cleveland couldn't win so he picked up and unceremoniously left them in the lurch.  He announced that there were but two options for his new team - championship or failure.  When confronted with questions after the failure from reporters who wondered if he took responsibility for his lack of success he was defensive and resistant and blamed the questioners rather than himself.

I think that when you make a promise it's fair to be asked about keeping it.  I think that people who look outside themselves (external locus of control..... one of the things I remember from Psych 101) run the risk of stunting their growth.  If some else has unrealistic expectations, expectations you cannot meet, then the issue lies elsewhere.  What bothers me (and most of the talking heads) is that improvement comes only from hard work, and hard work takes commitment and how can you cmmit to something for which you don't feel responsible?

Mark Cuban made a classy play, allowing the original and much loved first owner of the franchise receive the trophy from David Stern.  That way the two younger men did not have to pretend that being in the same room with one another was distasteful.  Commissioner Stern's mispronunciation of the MVP's last name is right up there with Robert Goulet forgetting the words to the national anthem - utterly preventable and laughably unprepared.  David Gilbert, the Cleveland Cavaliers' owner, needs to get over himself and stop stomping on LeBron.

That said, I do like the sign in a bar in Cleveland, calling the new NBA Champs the Mav-eliers.

Revenge is sweet.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Clean Closet

The closet was ridiculous.
It held the detritus of our lives since January 8th
It didn't go into the experience in a healthy state, either.  It had never recovered from Big Cuter's request for an old photo many months before I went out of commission for 5 months.
There was no longer any chance that items on that bottom shelf could be retrieved without putting yourself and the item in danger.
I did manage to keep the paper flat and semi-organized, but those photo albums were as precarious in reality as they appear in this picture.
The Halloween pumpkin emits a hearty chortle in response to loud noises.  We are not yet ready to be startled and startling it most certainly is.   I could take out the batteries and make it stop but then again I could also put it away where it belongs.  
Sigh.  You see how I got to this point?
TBG loves having a phone book.  I take no responsibility for that small portion of the chaos.
The knickknacks are neat and safe, but the games and the pads of paper and the random bills and the envelopes to be reused seem to have multiplied since I unpacked them in 2006.
It was obvious that I needed help.  

Luckily, a Sunday afternoon of closet organizing was offered as a silent auction item at  this year's  Arizona List Annual Luncheon and Beautiful Annie had invited me as her guest so it seemed only polite to bid generously on several items and that's the long story of how Sue came to me, be-gloved and smiling and kindly ruthless.
She made a huge mess all over the floor.
It was organized mess, though.  Everything is boxed with or piled near its compatriots.  It may not look like progress, but it certainly felt like progress. 
I found adhesives and cartridges mixed in with mice which haven't worked in years but which I cannot, for some reason unknown to me and mine, been able to discard.
The shelves were cleared and cleansed.
Garbage and recycling were contained.
Games were stacked.
Files were stored on high.
Boxes of photographs and scrapbooking materials sit on the floor , taunting me but out of the way.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Mother's Love

Monarto Zoo Lion Cub

Little Cuter was in a funk.  She clicked on and she was smiling.

I'm going to spend some time today staring at these two.

I'm not going to think about Congressional members (sorry, I couldn't resist ... the fingers just kept typing away.....)

I'm not going to worry that I'll never stop lumbering.

I'm going to think about motherhood and slurping away troubles and I think I might just take G'ma out to lunch and let her smile at me and take away my woes.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Remember that monkey shirt I wrote about while I was recovering?  Here it is again, 6 months and many wearings later.

It's gorgeous.  Simply perfect.  In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that the shirt was sent to me for review.  I didn't buy it.  I received no compensation other than the shirt itself.  The expectation was that I would write something wonderful about the product, but there was no penalty if I slammed it.  Publicity was the goal and I was happy to provide it if the price I had to pay was receipt of a free t-shirt.

Because I love t-shirts.  All kinds of t-shirts.  I rarely buy unadorned models; the shirt has to speak to me in order to make the cut.  Concert tees are annoyingly over-priced which makes the fact that I simply have to have one all the more irritating.  And yet I do have to have one.  Each and every time.  I know that wearing it later on will bring me back, if only for a moment or two, to the crush of happy bodies singing along with the band.  I'll remember the weather and the company and the way the music made me feel.  If I have to pay too much money now for the fabulous feeling in the future, well,  I'm okay with the whole thing.

I'm purging my closets now, as I come out of the fog of healing.  Doing laundry is literally a pain in the ass, since bending and grabbing the errant garment or two often results in TBG screaming "Are you okay???????" from the far reaches of the house.  Over time, he's learned that my screech is worse than my injury.  He no longer comes dashing to my side, frantically looking to save me.  This is progress..... and a digression.  Back to laundry and t-shirts.  There is a connection, I promise you.

As I fold each shirt I examine it for wear and tear.  I consider its emotional appeal.  Most of all, I evaluate its comfort level.  If it passes muster it goes into the cubby.  There's always been a treasure trove of cast offs from the kids and the spouse to cover my nakedness, as well.  Too big, very comfy, stained and ragged, these are the ones I love the most.  I can't give them away,  but eventually they become unwearable, held together by hopeful strands of fabric.  

If I can't wear it but can't bear to lose it into the quilt-that-I-want-but-don't-know-how-to-make bag it goes.  I have a fantasy quilt in my head, comprised of the logos from these much loved tees.  If Not-Kathy would ever move to Tucson I know that she would help me create it.  For now, I'm just collecting pieces. 

It's not an easy decision.  I had a good time at the Sausalito Art Fair in 2004, but the picture on the shirt is hard and cracked and it's never felt good to wear this one.

Into the quilt bag or off to Goodwill?  There are no holes or stains; I'm not embarrassed to hand it down to someone who could use it.  I can't really remember if that was the year I saw Rat Dog or Los Lobos at the Festival.  Away with you!

I have a lot of shirts that chronicle my children's education and sports careers.  For a long period of time I was a walking advertisement for private education and traveling team sports.  

I moved from their accomplishments to my own after that.  Master Gardening provided gorgeous opportunities to clothe myself

and interviewing prospective Cornellians did the same.

I've already shown you the panoply of t-shirts which have come after I got shot. 

And I could go on and on with a tour through my history and my adventures.

I love that my closet is a reprise of my life.  Names, dates, occasions - memorialized forever in wearable 100% cotton.