Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Local Government That Works

The County is turning our 2-lanes-no-shoulder cross street into a 6-lanes-with-amenities major thoroughfare.  As I've told you before, this makes me both happy and sad.

Since they started earlier this summer, there has been an explosion of caution cones and yellow earth moving equipment in and around our neighborhood.  This is not an entirely bad thing.  The trucks are an interesting combination of enormity and delicacy.  They pick up exactly the chunk of concrete they are intending to grab and they deposit it on a pile of debris which is scooped and dumped and carted away by vehicles whose tires are taller than The Schnozz.

They don't drive those machines slowly.  Watching a tractor trailering a water truck easily half a football field long zoom across the road in front of your bumper, swaying and bouncing and careening is not something you forget.  Trust me.  

There are a variety of private companies working on this project.  There are also several government agencies involved, doing the work and over-seeing the work.  Last week somebody made a rut at the end of my street.  

It was "a giant depression, a hole, an axle-breaking asking for a law-suit water holding ditch" there at the intersection, as I told the County on the phone and in a subsequent email.  I suggested that "someone should fill in the accident-waiting-to-happen on my corner."

I didn't have much hope that anything would happen.  The woman I knew was in a meeting and I was talking to a new-to-me-human.  I'm not much good with service personnel when I'm peeved.  I have a hard time keeping my irritation with the situation from bleeding into my interpersonal telephonic interactions. 

I'm not proud of myself and I'm working on it and maybe the work is coming to fruition because when I complained again the next morning I was rewarded with an email and a phone message and an update on what had caused the problem, what was told to the workers, who was responsible for the outcome, and what she had done to ameliorate the situation until a permanent solution could be put in place.

Her email was concise.  It answered all my questions, even the ones I didn't remember to ask.  I was in awe.
When her plan went awry the next day (a lack of asphalt is a lack of asphalt..... there's really no substitute) she informed me that no one could do anything until my problem was resolved.

That is constituent service.  The road project is overwhelmingly obnoxious and will be going on forever and ever.  It's nice to know that someone is listening to me whine.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Random Thoughts

There's no Monday Night Football tonight.  Are all the men watching Bachelor Pad?
Karina Bland writes a wonderful column for the Arizona Republic.  This past Sunday she wrote about Christina's mom.  If you have a box of tissues nearby, click here.
Did you know that installing a dance floor over an in-ground swimming pool involves scaffolding?  Neither did I, until this morning.
Planning my garden for perfection-a-year-from-now involves trees and pruning today to see what it will look like a month from now and plotting the angle of the sun.  It is so much fun; I almost always have a smile on my face.  I just wish Little Cuter and MOTG  were here too.  As LC's email demanded this afternoon: Be Closer!
We got a lesson in not putting all our eggs in one basket this morning when Comcast went out.  The land line and the internet and the television - gone.  Comcast comped us two days of service and restored everything within a couple of hours. Everyone was friendly and helpful and generous.

And then I remembered that I liked Comcast last June, too:
I met a unicorn today.  

Actually, there were two of them.  They rang my bell on time.  They were clean and made eye contact and had firm handshakes.  They let me say my piece and agreed with what I'd said and then they didn't bother me until the job was done.  They explained everything that they had done, and went back with me to check that it was perfect.  They brought me a replacement part for an item which was "too hard to push" and left me another if this one should fail.  The entire operation took less than an hour, and when they were finished I had a new phone carrier using my same phone number and internet connectivity that is much faster than what I'd had in the morning.  On top of it all, I will be saving about $1500 each year by making this change.

What?  Good service?  Helpful technicians?  Friendly well spoken young people?  Yes, indeed.  When I told the Little Cuter (my first caller after the switch) that Comcast was here and that they were wonderful, she announced that I had discovered a fanciful, unimaginable, never seen in real life creature -- "Tell them they are unicorns... with a shiny horn."
We are fans.

I know.  It surprises us, too.  But it is true.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Land Line

"Hang on. I'll get her."
There were outlets already in the walls.  The one I saw first is on the corner, right where you turn to get anywhere else in their new house.  The kids had no idea what it was.

"It's for your home phone," was perfectly clear to me but was met with blank stares by Messers 6 and 8.  "You attach a phone.... um... a big plastic box with a cord that's attached...." and they were gone, off to use their computers, devices which fit in the palm of their hands and could be purchased by the careful hoarding of allowances and birthday gifts.  A box with a cord... not in their world.

I started to say "When I was 8..." but by then only Elizabeth was interested in my reminiscences.  She's a kind-hearted child and has yet to grow tired of my stories.  I worry about over-talking her but she promises to tell me when I become boring so I share what it was like when I was a girl.

I guess if I want to be a grandmother I'd better embrace the entirety of the package...and that seems to include feeling every one of my 59 and one half years.  Yesterday was my half birthday.  The next 6 months are an inexorable count-down to an age when even I will have to admit that I'm probably a grown-up by now.  So I sucked the angst back into my core and I fed her a stream of consciousness tale that went something (actually hardly anything) like this:
My mom remembers being among the first on her block to have a phone.  She lived next door to her best friend, Gladys, in Brooklyn, where next door was literally the very next door, attached to the other side of her 6 flat.  
G'ma's house in Brownsville, circa 2011
Back then there were no chain-link fences separating the two halves of the building, and the girls could sit on the ledge and dream.  Her father and Glady's father built it together, the one a paper-hanger and the other a painter but each fresh off the boat and pretty proud of themselves.  As well they should have been.
She remembers putting in a hat-pin in the front hall mirror when the phone rang as the radio was announcing that the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor.  I imagine the princess phone sitting on my night stand 
was as strange to her as the land line is to you.  And even though I've turned that simile on its head I hope you follow my drift.  These are reminiscences, after all, and we old people have a tendency to wander and get confused.
AT&T used to own all the telephones in the USofA.  Hard to believe, but it's true.  Homeowners could rent the devices from the company, but, just like the cable box of today, you had to return the set when you moved.  Want some more?  It was considered stealing if a homeowner added an outlet without paying AT&T for the privilege.  Yes, they made it a crime to redecorate your home.
My favorite old phone story is of Daddooooo taking out his rage against the machine, against the man, against the fates and mostly against the phone company itself which had the audacity to tell him what he could do within the confines of his own home.  When the world seemed most out of control you could find my father on his hands and knees, wires and tools in abundance, hooking up another outlet.  They were in his closets and in his bathrooms long before 5 star hotels ever thought of the notion.
Every parent raising kids in the 1950's and '60's and '70's has a story which includes "but the cord doesn't reach to the bathroom....." The phone belonged to the whole family; G'ma's parents paid extra to avoid having a party line.... which was kind of like an un-filtered twitter of your life... and only the luckiest kids (the ones with the smartest parents) had a Children's Line listed in the phone book.
Which brings us back to the beginning of this post.  I called Amster on the house phone and Mr. 8 picked it up.  I only know it was he because he told me so after I asked.  We are going to have to work on telephone manners, it seems.  I asked if his mom was around and he said
 "Sure. Hang on. I'll get her."
And I gasped, because that was a sentence I hadn't heard in a long long time.  Hang on.... and I was right back to being 16 and literally hanging onto the cord of that princess phone, talking to my sweetie and twisting the coils around and around and then the other way and sproingggg and by the time Amster got to the phone I didn't need to ask if I could borrow a different piece of her life for today's post.  I'd found it when Mr. 8 answered the phone. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Have You Started Your Holiday Shopping Yet?

Nannie taught me well:
If you see something perfect you should buy it, even if the event (birthday, wedding, Christmas) is months away.  
One year, when the Cuters were young, I had finished my entire holiday shopping by the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  I spent a blissful December wrapping and baking and shipping and not shopping.  But that was only one out of 5 decades of holiday seasons which have left me in a frenzy, creating and locating up until the very last possible moment.  

This year I began even before the MOMA Holiday Catalog arrived.  There is nothing contained within those pages which would disappoint me.  It's hard for me to shop anywhere else once I've looked through it.  

But even the NYC marketers must think that August is just too soon for Santa.  I am the only one who's focusing in that direction right now.  Or so it seems.

Take last week, for example.  I followed link after link, being amused and amazed.  I saw it, I liked it, I ordered it.  It was August and I was on my way.  

Now, you may not want to be that well prepared.  You may like running around the mall.  I get it. I go one Saturday in December just to feel the energy.  But I've taken to doing my shopping in small local stores and on-line.  I just don't have the endurance right now for mega-shopping. 

The hard part about on-line shopping is that browsing is either impossible or overwhelming.  At least it is for me.  I find myself going back to my old favorites: Mental Floss t-shirts and tchtchkes from Uncommon Goods.  But you probably know about them even without my pithy analysis.

So, denizens, I am going to share my on-line shopping secrets with you.  Every Friday from now til Thanksgiving I will be offering gift giving advice/suggestions/links.  No one is paying me for this.  I've just found them and want to share them.  I promise to sprinkle the goods with words of wisdom and whimsy, because that's what the header promises.  But these are just too good to keep to myself.

I bet you don't know about Garish Rubbish.  Longtime readers may remember Mei-Mei's MoyaToyas.  My childhood friend describes herself as a fertile imagination married to a warped sense of humor. I just think she's fun.

to an up-cycled birdhouse with an attached mother-in-law apartment,
Mei-Mei makes me smile.

She's selling her goods on etsy.  Click on over.  Even if you don't shop I know you'll have a giggle.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Faithful Place Review is Live

If you click here the interweb will take you to BlogHer where you can ready my in depth review of Tana French's mystery, Faithful Place.  Today's main post is my personal backstory; the book is profound and fun and quick and well written.  Click over and see for yourself.

Faithful Place

BlogHer has sent me many books to review.  I've been disappointed with most of them.  Chick-Lit has never been my genre of choice and, perhaps because we are a network of women, the selections from Penguin have all had a decidedly female bent.

Except for The Kid, they ones I've read have had women protagonists. Even then, I could argue that his mother's presence is palpable on every page and that they are, together, the heroes of the story. And The Kid is a story about family and love and acceptance and if those aren't women's themes then I don't know what are.

For the most part, the books have happy endings, though happy is a relative term.  There's just enough angst to make them fodder for book clubs; some of them even had questions at the end.  They purported to inform me about the quality of relationships and the lessons to be learned from those against whom we lean or bump.  There are lessons, and they are about redemption, and everyone feels good at the end.  I can handle worse.  It's just not on offer.

And then I received Tana French's Faithful Place.  You'll have to wait til BlogHer publishes my review in their Book Club, because that's the deal we've struck.  But I can tell you here that I loved it and that I learned from it and that not many of those lessons are about redemption.  Tolstoy was right; happy families are all alike.... but don't worry, this is not a story about a happy family.  There is nothing alike about the Mackey clan.

If they didn't feel so real they'd be caricatures.  If the dialog weren't begging to be read aloud the Irish-isms and street slang would be annoyingly disorienting.  If I hadn't learned to turn off a part of my soul when I was a practicing social worker I wouldn't believe that Francis's compartmentalization could be so complete. But they were and it was and I had and this book brought it all back to me, going 90 as they say on Faithful Place.

I could tell you the geography and name the inhabitants of the street.  I know who lived on the even side and who over-decorated for Christmas.  I can smell the night air and I can feel the creepiness.  And I can hear the dysfunction, bouncing against the lace curtains.  It wasn't exactly my life, but it was close.

That dysfunction , that knot in the belly, that sense of responsibility whose flip side is guilt - it was my family, albeit on a far grosser scale.  The feelings were every bit as real, even if the level of abuse was far beyond that which we experienced growing up.  But the fragility of being all together in one room.... just typing it gives me a crawling feeling on the back of my neck.

Would Daddooooo decide to tease one of us to the point of tears?  Would G'ma decide that she had had enough of whatever she had had enough of?  Would my brother be late or would I feel an uncontrollable urge to annoy my little sister just enough so that the lid would fly off the smoldering cauldron which was pretending to be our Friday night dinner?

I used to explain living in California as being as far as I could get from my parents while still being in the continental United States.  When I was 40, my dad made me cry 4 times before 11 o'clock one morning.  He had no idea why I was sobbing as I put gas in the car.  My mother's passive aggressive needling was enough to push the most patient of people over the edge, screaming with delight at being out of her reach at last.  36 years ago right now, the night before our wedding, my future father-in-law solved the problem by turning off his hearing aids and smiling at everyone.  I couldn't wait to escape.

Over the decades, most of us have mellowed and pretty much all of us can stand to be in the same room at the same time .... though not for very long, and not when there's anything important to be discussed.  I can only imagine the scene if, as happens on Faithful Place, a suitcase and a bag of bones were to turn up.

Isn't that what a good book is supposed to do.... let you take it into your life and make it your own?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pat Summitt

She's right up there in my pantheon of "if I weren't me I'd be..." women. Right up there with Sally Ride and Sandra Day O'Connor, women who did what they wanted to do even if it was really a boy's game.  Millenials may have no interest in hearing about Title IX, but it changed the landscape of after school activities forever

 All of a sudden, tall girls with hops had someplace to go.  And when they grew up and still wanted to play they could apply to the University of Tennessee and hope that Pat Summitt would take them under her wing.

It wasn't a very comfortable wing for most of the time.  There were high expectations and compliments were few and far between.  She'd grown up with a tough father, a hard to please man whose standards redefined impossible to meet.  There was a lot of him in her coaching style, it seemed.

 But if a real problem arose, if there was a need, if help were required, Pat Summitt was there.  Her style -focused and driven - and her inter-scholastic rivalries - Geno Auriemma's Connecticut Huskies no longer play the Lady Vols in the regular season - have led to a perception that she is crusty.  Perhaps she is.

 But I've never heard anyone talking trash about her.  Partisan rivalries aside, she is a well-respected member of the coaching fraternity.  She's won more college basketball games than any man or woman who's ever coached the game.  In 39 years she's led 8 teams to national championships.  She has a stare that could stop most anything in its tracks.

 Anything but early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.

 She found out in May and reports have it that she tried to punch out the doctor who delivered the news.  She's planning to coach this season, knowing that her assistants have her back.  She's my age and she knows the general direction that her life will take and it's not a pretty picture and she's waking up each morning determined to go to work and do her job.

 Every time I think that the world is done throwing curve balls for a while, there's an earthquake in New Jersey.  Pat Summitt's news sends me to my own vulnerability, to Gabby's deficits, to success and fate and karma.  My sense of control is an illusion; I am reminded that man plans and God laughs.

But Pat Summitt is showing up for work on the court they named for her.  She's doing what she loves and not letting the diagnosis get in the way of what she wants.  She may not be doing it as well or for long but she's not doing it alone.

She inspires


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't Throw THAT Out!

My pantry was organized this morning.  MaryLynne organized and designed and lifted and cleaned.  She sorted and categorized and stacked.  She wondered what I thought about this or that, and, for the most part, we agreed.

Then she picked up the silver ice bucket.  The ice bucket that has nooks and crannies and creases and which never really shines, no matter how much silver polish and elbow grease is applied.  The ice bucket with the lid that has never closed all the way for as long as I can remember.  The ice bucket which sat in the corner of the dry sink in G'ma and Daddooooo's foyer for a long long time, until it was moved to the hutch, covered in saran wrap to keep it from tarnishing.

That never made much sense to me, either.  Akin to Aunt Lilly's plastic covered couches, it told me in no uncertain terms that this was an item that was waiting for an Important Occasion before it would be unwrapped, but that it was too impressive an item to be stashed away in a cabinet.  People should know that I own it; just don't make me invest much energy in maintaining it.  As I said, it never made sense to me, either.

But it's been sitting in my house since I moved G'ma out of her Long Island manse and into her New Jersey apartment.  It fit nicely in one corner of one of the boxes I was sending to myself, alongside mementos and tupperware.  Arriving in Tucson, it moved from the kitchen counter to the vase shelves to the floor of the pantry, where it sat, taking up space, until MaryLynne arrived.

She hefted it - it's not an insubstantial weight - and turned a questioning eye my way.

I was stuck.

We'd been ruthless up to this point.  The pantry contained only those items I knew that I would use again.  Granted, some of them were on a shelf reachable only with a ladder and a prayer, but that's why I have kids and a husband - there's always somebody taller than I am who is willing to lend a hand.  All the plastic and paper picnic-ware is together in the Target chest of drawers in the garage.  The real party stuff, the hand-me-downs from Nannie and G'ma, the holiday presents and housewarming gifts, those are on shelves behind cabinetry in the kitchen.  I'm very careful when I open those doors.  Nothing inside is replaceable.

And then there's the ice bucket.  It's much too fancy for a bar-b-que and not perfect enough for an upscale shindig.  In any lighting, the dents and the tarnish are more visible than I'd like them to be.  The fact that the lid doesn't quite make a seal in what should be the closed position makes it more of an avatar than an actual usable item.

I am storing an artifact in my pantry.

This does not please me.  I am on my way to what we lovingly and respectfully call Episcopal Decor.   It's a minimalist approach, where only the bare essentials are on display.  This is in direct contrast to Jewish Decorating, which involves an over-abundance of tchotchkes, of trinkets, of family photos askew on the walls.  Keeping the ice bucket seems like the first step in the wrong direction.  I'm learning to love a clutter-free environment.  Hanging onto this thing....

But, of course, it's more than a thing.  It's the memory of tossing my keys into the well of the dry sink and trying not to hit the ice bucket.  It's noticing that wrapped carcass as I got the silverware from the drawer in the hutch just below the nook in which it rested.  It's wondering why they had it and why they kept it if they never used it.  It's a piece of my outlook on the world when I was 10 years old.

I can't make myself put it out in the garage. It's too tall for the lower cabinets and too heavy for the upper shelves. There's no room for it in the pantry, which now contains useful items only.  There is no space in there for memories, for relics of my past. I don't have an attic or a basement.

So, for now, it is sitting on the kitchen counter, not really taunting me, but not all that quiet, either.

I think I might consider its fate while rubbing it down with silver polish and gloves.   I'll be listening carefully, just in case it has something to say on the matter.  My past often does.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pity Party Patter

We've been checking in with one another fairly regularly, my pity party partners and I.

Maybe it's the time of year, fresh with the scent of the first days of school.  Our daughters and our friends' daughters and our grand-daughters are all headed out the door with new backpacks and freshly straightened hair while we sit back and nurse our wounds.  It was good to be young and carefree.  It was good not to worry about bullets or cancer.

There are legs which won't cross and binders which cannot be removed and there's that radiation rash that makes any movement at all an issue to consider wisely.  We are get-up-and-go girls when we're not being ravaged by disease or disability.  Finding our energy sapped, our nerves fraying, we're living embodiments of the fact that it has, in fact, got-up-and-went.

Not every day, of course.  We have our moments on the tennis court or at the Convention Center or walking the hallways in the mall.  There are times when our conditions are not our primary focus, when a sunset or a  good story or a meal or a phone call will take us out of ourselves for a while. We are not wallowers by nature.

But nature threw us a change-up, and we were, all of us, relatively unprepared.  We were fit - emotionally and physically - before disaster struck.  I'm not talking about that piece of it.  We had and have amazing support systems which reach out far beyond our expectations.  Our finances can handle the strain.  We are sophisticated in the ways of the medical establishment and we are fierce advocates on our own behalfs.  We are women, see us roar.

What we missed going into this, what has gobsmacked us and left us reeling, is the homely reality of the thing.  This really and truly and absolutely and without question happened to us.  It's not a dream; we have the scars to prove it.  We hurt in unusual places and those pains remind us of the enormity of it all.

My right quadricep is announcing its presence with authority as I type these words; I don't remember ever considering that muscle before January 8th.  JannyLou and JenniJazz have interesting interactions with their dermal layers and have become experts on lotions and clothing and positions to lessen the sensations.... the sensations that don't go away, but just become more insistent, more annoying, more deafening reminders that we are not well.

We will get well.  That is the plan.  We will be obedient patients.  We will follow instructions.  We know that.  But as they say on reality tv, it's the journey that matters.

We can safely say that this journey sucks.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Tucson

In our family, we celebrate birthday weeks or months.  One day is just insufficient to share the love.  When I turned 50 I had a year-long birthday celebration tour; the occasion seemed to demand it.

So what to do for my adopted home town, which celebrates the 236th anniversary of the founding of the Presidio de Tucson on Saturday?  Nerthus organized us into a Blog Carnival so that we can each celebrate in our own special way.  I'm just having a hard time figuring out what my way should be.

1775 is an arbitrary starting place, since there have been inhabitants here for over 4000 years.  But the Spaniards brought documentation and a written history began to take shape and suddenly there was a town in the desert.  Saturday is its birthday.

One wonders what possessed those first settlers to choose this dusty part of the country as their home. Willa Cather's My Antonia has the best description of this, which I could find if I looked for it but which I will paraphrase thusly - Antonia is in the field, staring at the vast expanse of low grass and big boulders, as she tries to figure out why her West Coast bound ancestors chose to stop their journey in the middle of the plains.  No water, frigid winters, howling winds... what was the attraction?

I could look at Tucson with her eyes, too.  The ground underneath is uncompromisingly stingy; it's coarse and packed and doesn't support anything that's broad and leafy.  Hot is an understatement.  Chaotic weather systems are defined by our monsoon; there are still 6 light poles out on the main road through our part of town after Tuesday's 20 minute deluge.  There's an ocean 400 miles to the west and a bay 200 miles to the south but otherwise there really isn't a refreshing, just-hitting-the-land-after-traveling-the-seas breeze to be found.

There are scorpions and tarantulas and rattlesnakes.  There are javelina and coyotes which prey on our pets.  Our prettiest trees and cacti have long sharp pointy spikes that make getting up close and personal with nature a relatively perilous pursuit.

We have a non-functional local government; the Republicans couldn't find a candidate to run for Mayor. The FBI is investigating our downtown redevelopment agency for spending millions of bond dollars with barely a result.  Our school kids have to pay for full day kindergarten and teachers are begging for tissues and pencils.  One could think that we have little reason to celebrate.

But one would be wrong.  I've decided that my birthday tribute will be a list of the things that I couldn't do anyplace else I've ever lived.  It will be a list of the things I love about my adopted home town.  You may not be able to fly here directly from very many places, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to make the trip.

Why?  Well, how about

  • Being nourished by the love of total strangers
  • Wearing shorts and flip-flops in January
  • Parking for free around the corner from the Rialto, then sharing the Tuvan Throat Singers and Bela Fleck with my son from the front row of the balcony
  • Counting on a dry late Fall day for an out-door wedding 
  • Practicing yoga and pilates at my gym, with Miraval teachers on their days off
  • Raking instead of mowing the front yard
  • Living in a small town of 1,000,000 people, where everybody knows my name
  • Watching a bobcat sun himself by my pool
  • Smelling the musty, musky, not-really-sweet-but-not-quite-burnt-either creosote bush just after a storm
  • Seeing the clouds bump into one another right before the lightning and the thunder
  • Meeting the HVAC repair-man who grew up next door to Judge Roll and who played with his children; there's never been more than 2 degrees of separation since we moved here
  • Sharing an international community, 65 miles from the border, a place where parking lots often sport more Sonoran than Arizonan license plates
There's more, much more, that's wonderful but not unique to Tucson.  I know, because I've spent decades in some pretty special places.  But for me, for right now, I can't imagine living anyplace else.

Happy Birthday, Tucson, with love from one who loves you.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hey, Cousins

Do you remember the conversation at IntrepidCat's Bat Mitzvah?

We were standing in the hallway, waiting for Daddooooo to be found for the family picture.  Not a surprise, waiting for my Dad.  The world's most easily distractable human, it wasn't unusual that he was missing.  The picture had been his idea, but that, of course, made no difference. He was lost, not where he should be, having an adventure someplace other than where we were waiting.  G'ma was stewing and steaming and looking for him.  It was strangely comforting to have this little domestic dispute at the end of a lovely family gathering.

His absence gave you all time to realize that every one of his grandchildren was standing in the same place.

We couldn't come up with the last time that had happened.  There was the mid-1990's, when Daddooooo was going in for brain surgery and all but the California cousins - my kids - were gathered in Oceanside for a "Bye Bye Brain" party.  One or the other of my kids managed to get to some of the other celebrations, most of the cousins were able to get to a Seder or two, in New Jersey or Maryland, but the whole crew never managed to travel to the far reaches of the continent where my family and I were dwelling and so this event, this homey and loving and simple and special party was truly a gathering of the clan.

You all liked one another.  There wasn't any teasing or ostracizing or ignoring or pandering or poking... well, there was some poking but what else could we expect from 7 kids between the ages of 6 and 16?  You were all wearing those wonderful T-shirts, created especially for the occasion.

Daddooooo was still MIA and you were all mindfully milling around and enjoying one another's idiosyncrasies and I was reminded of family gatherings when I was young.  The Cohen Family met at Chanukah every year, all 8 of the still-living siblings of the oldest generation with their children and grand-children in tow.  There were a lot of us - 141 cousins were counted at one point.  We ran around and under and through the grown-ups, avoiding Aunt Evelyn's cheek-pinching fingers, enjoying Uncle Jack's slightly racy jokes, grabbing snacks from unsuspecting fingers and giggling away into the corner to savor our stolen treasure.

There was never a question of "when will we see them again?" - the holiday would come around next hear and we would pick right up where we left off.  Time may have passed, but we would always be there.

And now, a generation later,  we are scattered to the 4 winds.  We are in Hong Kong and Los Angeles and South Carolina and Israel.  Some of us are dead and some of us are ultra-religious but the last time I attended a gathering of that group there was animosity and jealousy and back-biting and annoyance.  Perhaps those things had always been there, hidden from my purview.  I wouldn't be surprised.

But that afternoon in Harrison, wandering between a country club and a backyard, surrounded by kids-who-had-grown-up-to-be-judgmental-adults, I longed for the care-free laughter of those holiday parties.  We weren't looking for things to annoy us back then.  We were just looking to annoy other people... older people... our relatives.

And here I was, 30 years or more later, the grown-up amongst young cousins, loving the scene.  The kids were trying to get my goat, a phrase from those long ago parties that resonated still, decades later.  Random tickles, bad jokes at my expense, secrets shared behind mouth-covering palms - the next generation was picking up where we had left off.  I was in heaven.

And then one of you asked about the next time you'd all be together.  The eldest were off to college and leaving for family gatherings would become even more complicated.  Graduations would be celebrated, but many of them would occur during finals or vacations for one or more of you.  Holidays would be celebrated within the bosom of your nuclear families; traveling to G'ma and Daddooooo's house for Thanksgiving was a tradition that never really took hold for us.

"A wedding," one of you said.  You'd all show up for a wedding.  And who would be first, one of you wondered?  Big Cuter was the oldest but the consensus, without a pause or a hesitation or a bit of discussion, was LITTLE CUTER.  She turned pink but the rest of you were certain.  She had the social skills and the looks and the love to start the pathway towards the next generation.

I know you didn't think of that then, but I did.  I saw you all as grown-ups, shepherding your own kids into the semblance of a loving portrait for the camera, just as I was attempting to do now that my own dad had finally reappeared.  You were all shapes and sizes and you were looking to the future.  You saw yourselves as connected and as a part of something on-going and wonderful.  You were planning your future, and it was going to take place at my daughter's wedding.

And now she and SIR are up on The Knot.  She's written the story of their meeting and their engagement.  They've chosen a date and a venue and I want to alert you to watch your mailboxes for a Save The Date card.

We are expecting to see each and every one of you.  After all, this plan was made years ago. And you promised.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Carousel

From Facebook, an update from a high school friend :
Fun day with my nephew and 4 year old great-nephew ..... a ride on the original Nunley's Carousel.
In a flash, I was a kid and I was there, waiting not that patiently for the previous ride to stop spinning so that I could get onto the black horse, the best horse, the one with the hot pink rose and the flaring nostrils.  The one reared on her hind legs, fierce and proud and gorgeous.  The one on the outside, in front of the bench on which I used to sit, paralyzed with fear, until the black horse spoke to me.

C'mon, denizens..... I was 8 and tiny for my age.  Those stirrups were at my eye level for a very long time.  Imagine how high up the saddle seemed.  It took some courage for me to mount the steed.

I can feel the concrete of the pavilion beneath my feet and hear the bells clanging on the skeeball games because that was always where I stood to wait for the previous ride to end.  It was quieter back there, in the netherworld between the pinball machines and the robotic fortune teller.  It allowed for more flexibility should I need to make a gigantic move to one side or the other, if the black horse happened to stop anywhere but right in front of me.

The amateurs stood in front of the open doors, near the white wooden ticket booth with the single window and a view of everything except maybe the flying airplanes in the back.  Someone from the Nunley family was behind that window, every time I visited.  And I visited a lot.

There was a 6 car ferris wheel with enclosed cages and a view of the parking lot.  There was a roller coaster  with a maximum vertical drop of 6' or so.  You could sit in boats that went around in a giant kiddie pool, and your mom could walk right next to you if you got scared, unless you could convince your big sister to ride with you.  At 5, feeling superior, I remember demanding the right to honk the horn and steer most of the time.

There were cars on a track and go-karts that were arm-propelled and twirling tea cups which were always good for a belly ache.  I seem to remember something behind the planes and the roller coaster, but the memory is hazy.  (If you remember, please comment!!)

There was mini-golf attached to the amusement park, and that was always good for a laugh or an argument or two.  It was always hot when we played there.  I was terrible. It didn't matter, because there was always a ride on the carousel before we went to get Carvel and then drove home in a sweaty stupor.  Whether I was 5 or 15 the story remained the same. Whether Daddooooo or a date was driving, I was filthy and exhausted on the ride home.  It felt fine.

And all this wonderfulness is tinged with not more than a little bit of sadness, because by the turn of the century there weren't any Nunley's willing to take on the responsibility of maintaining their little bit of heaven in these litigious times and so, like many things on Long Island, it was sold off in pieces and replaced with condominiums and a 7-11... or a strip mall... or a box store... and I don't know because it would hurt too much to drive past the corner.

And the carousel?  Well, that's what was elided from the opening quote.  My friend and her guys were at the Children's Museum, outside of which rests our memories.  It's an historical artifact.  My life is in a museum.

I'm thrust back to 11th grade when, upon asking G'ma where Patton fought, I found myself face to face with an enraged woman bearing some slight resemblance to my normally placid maternal unit and this woman was screeching at me that "This is not history! This is my life! My brother fought with Patton! IN ITALY!"

I want to fly to New York right now.  I want to stand in front of the carousel and tell people that it only cost 1 ticket and if you caught the brass ring you got to ride for free.  And yes, it might be kinda sorta dangerous I guess if you leaned out too far and forgot to hold on and your legs had no strength at all.

I'm sure that's why here, as an artifact, you won't find a yardarm with a semi-circle cut-out at the end, that special 4 inches of wonder, holding out a chance bit of metal that might, just might, if you were quick and careful and most of all lucky, just might be your ticket to .......

Well, to much more than just another ride.  You'd caught the brass ring.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

1st Day of School

It's mid-August and the kids have been in school for a week already. Summer vacation as we knew it is long gone, just like a phone that plugs into a wall socket and needs a cord in more places than most students today have ever seen before. School used to end around my brother's birthday, June 22, and it always started on the Wednesday after Labor Day. That gave families time to get home from the long weekend or the whole summer, do a load of laundry and lay out school clothes before the year began.

Now, resorts can't find college-age staff to work after August 5th and it doesn't really matter because there aren't any school-age kids romping in the pool anyway. They are all dripping sweat as they walk from the bus to the classroom; air conditioning has a tough time competing with 250 little bodies opening and closing doors as rapidly as their schedules demand. .

I brought treats to the staff at Prince Elementary for a 1st Day of School LoveFest; I had to shed my colorful, Official Grandma jacket because it was just too hot. Kids were wondering why my face was wet; does anyone have a polite description of flop sweat?.

I have a hard time thinking about school without leaves changing colors in the trees. I need an excuse to wear a sweater if I'm going to be carrying books.... or asking children I love to carry them. This school year just jumped up and surprised me. I'd planned to take Messers 6 & 8 to buy backpacks and suddenly we had 2 days to do it or they'd go to school un-bedecked. .

Mr. 8, predictably, chose a licensed product. Elizabeth tagged along and chose purple with black slashes; it's mature in a child-like way and perfect for her. Mr. 6 studied the offerings, listened to the advice flung his way, learned about another section of backpacks somewhere over by furniture and told us that if he didn't find anything there then I will get this plaid one which he did. Six years old and he's already learned to avoid mass marketing and trust what pleases his eye. I do love that little boy.

I haven't noticed much of an up-tick in traffic on the roads, which is surprising. School buses and soccer practice carpools usually take up a lot of space on our streets. Perhaps people are avoiding my construction plagued neighborhood. or perhaps I've learned, over the last 5 years, to avoid bus routes and traveling between 2 and 3:30 in the afternoon when dismissal and after-school activities make the roads an impassable nightmare. Or perhaps I'm just more mellow and am not as bothered by traffic as I've been in the past. .

So much else in my life has changed, why not my road rage as well?.

Amster's kids are taking the bus to school, which would be a good plan if the bus driver remembered to stop and pick them up. The kids giggled and Amster seethed as she followed the bus to school the 2nd morning of classes. The driver had picked up Elizabeth an hour before.... she was paying for the service.... this was unacceptable....her boys will certainly know how to argue their point as they grow up..

And that's really the point about the first day of school - the grown-ups are modeling appropriate behaviors for the kids (one can hope) and the kids are (without a doubt) soaking it all in. School is a rite of passage. Everyone has started as a new kid. Frantic mornings and tearful goodbyes and late arrivals and solemn handshakes - I saw them all at Prince last week as I remembered them from my past and from the Cuter's more recent experiences..

I remembered waiting for the bus in my yellow dress with my name-tag pinned to my right breast - kindergarten was going to be great. I remember walking around the corner to the high school, my bangs scotch taped to my forehead because of course it was humid on the first day of 10th grade and my normally straight-to-my-eyebrows bangs were curling up to my center part. I remember walking across acres of grass and bridges and more grass and entering a lecture hall and turning down the attached-to-the-chair-desk and realizing that I was in college and it was very very cool. I remember walking into the first meeting of the School of Social Service Administration's Class of 1975 at the University of Chicago and recognizing that there were 5 people with pony-tails and denim overalls sitting in the last row and that they would be my friends for life..

The first day of school marks the end and the beginning and it's more than a meme or a theme or a recurring nightmare. It's part of the American paradigm. I hope you and yours had/have a good one.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Success Is Measured....

Acupuncture was suggested by Marcus the Master Manipulator. Acupuncture was not something I'd ever longed to do.. or have done. Pinging needles in my ear and my hip just didn't float my boat, excite me, fill me with enthusiasm.... nope, I wasn't looking forward to it at all.

 I went in a skeptic and I left a believer. Explaining that her goal was to move my Qi (my favorite Wordscraper trick, pronounced chee, the life force or energy) more freely through my body. Since I've been describing my hip as being stuck and bunched up this sounded like a good plan. I just closed my eyes and tried to breathe through the sensation of a tiny prick in my ear... and then another... and then another and then I just decided to go with the flow and before I knew it there really was a flow. .

Serena added some Reiki energy work and if you promise not to laugh at me I'll tell you that I could really feel stuff moving around inside and outside my self. It was tangible. The snarky New Yorker who started this blog is ridiculing the New Age believer who she sees writing these words today but I don't care. I know it was real. I was there. .

It felt good while it was going on and it felt even better as the day went on. I moved off the table with alacrity and dexterity and almost no thought at all. That was a change. I entered the gym and let Marcus put me through my PT paces as I amazed myself - I wasn't concentrating on moving, I was just doing it. .

Four hours later I paraded myself in front of TBG's smiling face. We were giggling like idiots and it was wonderful. I was walking. Not lumbering nor listing nor holding myself stiff and protected, but actually strolling out to the living room without a care in the world. .

I was a success. .

I considered scheduling another acupuncture session to see if I'd be able to fly.... the results were that striking... but I woke up the next morning and felt even better than I had the night before. I zipped around the gym with Amster and Elizabeth, carrying 15 pound dumb-bells and 20 pound E-Z curl bars without giving it a second thought. There were hugs from those who were glad to see me up and about again, but for the most part I was just one of the crowd. .

I was a success. .

Elizabeth followed me around on my errands before we ended up at the other gym for a mat pilates class. We'd walked through the post office and the library and the grocery store, depositing and purchasing as we went, never once using the handicapped parking sticker to place my vehicle within easy reach of the door of my destination. Distance wasn't an issue. Mat class was challenging, but I did my best and that was enough. I felt great. .

And I realized that I was starting to measure my success in a different way. My one-legged squats are a little off-kilter, but I don't care. Dr. Boaz won't let me do weighted squats at the gym, but I don't care about that, either. Today my hip is pinching me and walking is a chore, but even that's not weighing me down. .

Why? Because I did it and I know that I can do it again. .

8 months have passed and yesterday I let a Saturday morning go by without once thinking about Christina-Taylor or Safeway or guns or blood. She is always in my heart, but yesterday she wasn't in my head. And that, too, is a measure of success. Accepting the little advances, the small steps forward, the brief moments of peace, these are the markers of my success now. .

There's nothing as dramatic as giving up the walker, or the cane, or the portable commode. There's just a quiet relaxation into this new phase of healing. Allowing myself to remember the smiles and not get bogged down in the aches and giving myself credit when I manage to accomplish them both - that's success as far as I am concerned.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cloudy Thursday

It took me 3 long lights to go one short block this afternoon. I wasn't in a hurry and NPR was blathering about Democrats and Republicans but I really don't care any more so I turned it off and put The Schnozz in neutral and watched the sky. The clouds were building up over the Catalinas and they were much more interesting to me than the decline and fall of the global economy.

The minor intersection just outside our neighborhood is being transformed into a jug-handle/dedicated right turn/4 lanes and a median strip extravaganza.

There's a mobile cement factory at one end of the project, and every single caution cone and paddle-on-a-base in the state of Arizona is lined up left and right of what used to be my street sign and a stop sign.

 Now, that peaceful corner is a construction site

Yesterday, there were mounds of dirt 15 feet high at the peak lined up like mini-pyramids to my left. 

Today, there's a dirt road. Granted, it's a nice dirt road, as far as dirt roads go, but it's still a dirt road.

At least now I can see the on-coming traffic from that side; those mounds made better doors than windows as my Bubba used to say.

This construction project has caused me to consider my relationship with Tucson, the place.

I love living on the less developed Northwest side of town. We're north of River Road, so that puts us outside of the Tucson city limits. Towns to the north and west of us have made noises about annexing our little corner of paradise (we have a nice big mall that pays taxes and doesn't send anyone to school) but there's never been any reason to change our unincorporated status.

For me, this has less to do with financial reasons than it does with my sense of place. I moved to Tucson, not to Marana or Oro Valley. Just as my 435 phone prefix was assumed in Tiburon (thanks for reminding me of this, Little Cuter), here I just need the last 2 digits of my zip code when a cashier needs it to update whatever it is they update. The first 3 are understood. I'm a Tucsonan. I belong. 

Marana started out rural and is moving toward suburban. Oro Valley is vacation homes and planned communities and they're still arguing about whether or not to build a town park. There's not much of a sense of community to either town, as far as I can tell. But Tucson says cowboy boots and cacti and The U and single story adobe houses and palo verdes in native soil yards and 2 lane roads outside my neighborhood's pony wall. 

This new, gigantic, well-paved, art bedecked causeway will be beautiful and functional but it will also be soulless. I already miss the scrub brush that was bladed one afternoon while I drove by helplessly. If I were able bodied I'd have pulled over with my tools and taken the poor destroyed plants home with me. I have never felt so damaged, so lost, so furious at my situation as I was that afternoon. I couldn't save them. 

Once it is finished, I will have no worries about flooding to the east or potholes to the west. I will never have to stop as I turn south, and coming south my left turn will involve a series of bizarre maneuvers that are familiar to people who drive in New Jersey 

This was how it was sold to us.... I kid you not.... have you ever driven in New Jersey? My sister says that the coroner designs their signage to keep business flowing.... but apparently we will be heading right to turn left and all I want you to know is that I will miss the tecoma on the corner. Its blooms let me know that summer had really arrived. 

I'll be traveling on a suburban through-way. Although the quality of my ride will improve, and my tires will be grateful, I know that I'll be missing the pavement bleeding off into the unpaved shoulder. I'll appreciate the bike lane and the smoothness, but it will feel generic. 

 I'll be missing my funky desert outpost.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

There may be something to living a clutter free life.

I do feel calmer when I walk into the closet which was organized and has managed to stay so.

My desk is the antithesis of the closet.

Let's see.....
call the dentist for G'ma's dentures
change the doctor appointment
write a check covering the co-pay for G'ma's visit to the ER
reserve those books from the library
call the artist who offered to help with my logo
and that's just what's right in front of my nose.

No wonder I can't think creatively. My life is interfering with my thought processes.

The saddest part about this situation is that I wrote the previous paragraphs several weeks ago and they are even more true today than they were back then.  I am certainly not part of the solution.  I am definitely part of the problem.  In fact, I can tell you that in this one rare instance, I have no one to blame but myself for the state of affairs that lies in front of me.

It takes remarkable forbearance for TBG to approach the desk.  He's a put-it-away-immediately kind of guy, and I am the antithesis.  I never finished digging through to the bottom layer when I attacked this problem last Spring.  I was full of myself then, reveling in the fact that I could sit and lean and move just enough to actually accomplish something.  I was more about the event than I was about the outcome and I'm paying the price for that today.

I wanted the contact information for a BlogHer'11 attendee and it was almost simpler to go through the BlogHer website to find her than it was to look through the mess on my desk.

The cordless handset for the land-line (yes, hopelessly wedded to the 20th century... that's us....) was lost for a day or two, buried under papers and boxes and notebooks and calendars.  That's a list I made without turning my head.

There's no reason for the Cooling Mineral Gel Tea Tree Pain Reliever to be on this desk.  No reason at all.  If I used it here, on myself or applying it to another, my keyboard would rise up in revolt.  I refuse the interior scent at the car wash, I don't have Glade (candles or plug-ins or otherwise) perfuming my air, and I don't think I want a menthol burst every time my fingers tap a key.  And yet there it sits, right on the corner, taking up just enough space, wondering as I do what it's doing there.

I have a package I want to mail to Mei-Mei for her MoyaToyas.  I've got books to reshelve.  I have a gift for Mrs. Crayola. There's a snazzy new post-it dispenser just waiting to be admired.... except I can barely notice it amidst the chaos.

The printer rebels as the paper curls upon exiting; yesterday's mail is blocking the tray.  I have swag to mail to Big Cuter and bills to be paid and bottle tops to recycle and court-related papers to be filed.  I think I am in over my head.  I need help.

I'm going to use the second Silent Auction prize I won at the Arizona List luncheon and get this taken care of once and for all.  I'm hiring a professional to straighten it all out.

I'll make the call as soon as I do some minor clearing..... it's really too embarrassing to let anyone else see it like this.

(Yes, I do pick things up before the cleaning lady gets here.  Sigh.....)

I fear that I am hopeless.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What I Learned Last Weekend

Walking is possible when I am motivated. Marcus the Master Manipulator is correct when he says that the insert in my heel will straighten my gait. I trekked and I wobbled but mostly I got where I was going without too much discomfort. I learned to engage my deep belly and butt musculature and to release my quads and to relax. Well, maybe I didn't learn to relax but I began to consider the concept in relationship to clenching of muscles in my walking apparatus. It's a start.

TSA checks are superficial at best. My 3.5 ounce tube of Arnicare went through without a hitch, although it was buried in my suitcase and not encased in a clear plastic bag which I'd removed from the rest of my belongings. My lap top was removed from the case in which it had traveled unimpeded through that same checkpoint just months before. Signage was negligible and attitudes were indifferent and smiles were hard to come by. I learned to smile through it, focusing on the fun ahead and letting the crap roll off my shoulders, which were striding through the airport with alacrity.

Serendipity is my friend. Little Cuter and I sat alone at each and every meal. At first. And not for long. No matter how much we tried. At one of the dozen or so discretely attended buffet tables in the bright and airy and unimaginably gigantic, seats-3000+ people-at-comfortably large-round-tables Sails Pavilion we filled our plates with fruit and oatmeal or salads and poultry and plunked ourselves down at the nearest available empty table. She went to get us iced tea (half a football field away) while I massaged my hip and remembered to engage my pelvic floor and my posture-muscles and lift my head and neck out of my shoulders. She came back to me, sat down, and within a minute others asked if they could join us. We met Kerryn and linked up with Nerthus that way. We talked child welfare and surviving bullet wounds with Rachelle, and the politics of abortion for Millenials with Sarah.

Nerthus was right last month when she predicted that:
(s)ome day after one of those glorious mornings where we awaken to another day .... I will meet you and we can chat for a minute or two about things not violent, processes that inspire, being in love with the use of words on a page, or being damn fine women of a certain age.
We did all of that and more and how she found me in that sea of women I will never know. I do know that I am glad she did.

Serendipity put us at a breakfast table next to Morra and Cynthia and suddenly I'm connected in a personal way to women who do work which I've admired from afar. And it seems that they admire me right back. I've learned to accept the compliments with grace and then to turn the question right back so that I can learn what you do and why you do it. It's interesting that as the world becomes more interested in me, I begin to find myself less interesting. Can I be learning humility? Am I becoming less ego-centric? Is it because I've never been surrounded by so many like-minded humans who are as curious about me as I am about them and who are individually and collectively wondering what we can do for one another?

This is a great classroom.  I am learning a lot.

I'm finding out that some big companies really do care about how we live and play today. In addition to raising daughters who encourage her to follow her own dreams (don't you love it when they parrot back your wisdom?), Pepsico's Indra Nooyi is committed to both Fun for You and Good for You.... just like the rest of us if we are honest with ourselves.

It was refreshing to hear her take on what she drinks ("Pepsi - full on, not Diet") and how she manages 300,000 employees. It was that kind of an event, a perfect blend of the personal and the professional, of girl talk and strategic planning, of parental and personal pride.  I'm not sure if a more testosterone filled room would have enjoyed it as much as we BlogHer's did, but her standing ovation showed me that I was not alone in feeling empowered.

I learned that I am not the only one who heals through typing.  Some of those who do too came to listen to my panel and some of them were Voices of the Year (be warned - have tissues nearby if you click on this link) but all of them touched our hearts and encouraged us to look at ourselves from a slightly different perspective.   I learned that I am not alone.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Further Adventures at BlogHer '11

Yes, I am dancing with a Scrubbing Bubble.

Yes, I am leaning on the world's largest toilet.
(Did you know that Charmin now has a Strong variety? I don't really want to think about that right now.)

Yes, I am exchanging thumbs up with a Dole banana after acquiring an Egglands Best reusable grocery bag.

And yes, that would be my hand in the grasp - or what approximates a grasp - from a can of Pringles.
He was the only one with visible air holes in his outfit.  The rest of us were really really warm.

Claudia Potamkin is my most thoughtful interviewer since Brian Williams.  She got it without being maudlin.  As always with a good questioner, I learned more about myself than I knew before I began.

And this is Laurel House, whose red panties were only part of the fun as we talked about Benefits from Bummers.   And if that's not the best way to describe my life since January 8th I invite you to try your own hand in the comments section below.  Laurel writes - check her out and revel in the joy.

And, yes, I did actually participate in the event, with Sarah Manley and Liz Henry.  Sarah's kid dressed up as Daphne from ScoobyDo and 46,000+ comments later she's still blogging.  Liz is a cyber-sleuth and tech-geek who has one of the best decorated lap-tops on the planet as well as an ear for the perfect question to move the discussion along.

I'm going to have one more post on the words that were said at BlogHer '11, because many of them moved me to a new way of considering the world.  All three posts together will serve as my official thank you note to Lisa and Jory and Elisa for throwing one of the best parties I've been to in a very long time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

BlogHer '11

Little Cuter and I hobnobbed with the best of them this weekend.

We found a girl for her brother (you know who you are!) and spent hours surrounded by a host of women who completely got it, whatever it was at the moment.

We were inspired and uplifted and heartbroken and loved.

It was just about perfect. I wished that Christina had recovered from her wound and was able to join me. She'd have loved the hoopla and the attention and most of all she'd have loved the swag. I mean, really, what's not to love about cow pants:
There were, as always when you travel, some pieces that didn't go just right, but it was hard to complain when the temperatures were in the 70's and the sun was shining and the breeze was blowing and those crispy white fish street tacos were on the table in front of us.

Everything was very very very very very... well, you get the picture, far away from everything else. Kinda sorta like we used to say that everything at Cornell was uphill... from everything else. I trudged football fields of pavilions and ballrooms and hallways. Little Cuter pointed out the connection between adrenaline and my ability to locomote. When I was jazzed, I was motoring. When I was tired, I limped. I took advantage of the pink walkway before the horrible flight of stairs between the hotel and the Convention Center to wallow in self-pity. That was really enough. I left my troubles there.

I was interviewed and I watched others be interviewed and I got a chance to tell my story of instant fame.

It was a grown-up special interest camp. It even had yoga. And we got to keep the mats. Thank you, Pfizer. We really did pfeel pfine all day long:

But now I am exhausted, depleted, feeling the altitude and the schlepping of bags through the airport. Dinner is on its way and my feet are going up on Douglas. I'll be back tomorrow with another episode in the exciting adventures of Ashleigh, the Intrepid Conference-Goer.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bloggy Fest

Little Cuter and I are in San Diego, along with 3000 other bloggers and assorted hangers-on, for BlogHer '11. BlogHer is the network that brings you the suggestions for other posts in my sidebar. It's the network that sends me books to review. And it's the network that supported Little Cuter after she posted Tough, the post which blasted me to mini-stardom.

Suddenly, my readership was through the roof. More important to my family, though, was the love that came from BlogHer itself. Lisa and Elisa and Jory were there for her, offering themselves as resources for whatever she needed. It was an indication of things to come.

Gabby went home from the rehab hospital and BlogHer asked for my thoughts... thoughts for which they were willing to pay me. Financial compensation for my efforts - BlogHer was certainly following through on its promise to empower me. I walked on a cloud for a week.

I don't know what the algorithm is which brings me Meg and Jo and all the rest of the not-really-Mommy-but-not-totally-political-either bloggers and which sends Nance and her rants a completely different set of posts. I do know that I've made lots of new friends by being reminded to check back to these blogs. While Nance is recovering from a minor-we-really-hope-it-helps procedure, Meg and Becca and Sarah will all be there.

We are part of a community, Little Cuter and I. We have strangers who love us and who are interested in our progress and who will support us and listen to us and laugh with us and send us advice and love and hugs. We learn and expand our horizons and we do it within a structure designed to enhance our experience. We are rewarded and covered with bling.... bloggy bling being those badges you see in the sidebar.

There's a larger sense of accomplishment when I consider the fact that I am a valued member of the BlogHer community. I'm supported and encouraged and syndicated and featured and my words are spread through the blogosphere through a network of like-minded individuals.....and individuals who may look at the world through a different pair of bifocals than do I.  Walking through the lobby and the pool area we are surrounded by women on laptops, commemorating the event as it is happening.  We are in it and of it and we're loving it.

There are serendipitous happenings, too.  I told Little Cuter that one person to whom I really wanted to speak was Jane Goodwin.  She's funny and writes brilliantly about the day to day of classroom management and I've never disagreed with one of her rants or screeds.  She sets high expectations for her students and herself.  And, when Little Cuter and I arrived early for the prep session for the speakers, there she was, the only other person who had arrived that early.  I knew I loved her even before I realized that she, too, was terminally punctual.  We introduced ourselves and hugged and I complimented her and she was gracious in her acceptance.  We talked about schools and kids and blogging and I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually in her presence.  Her speaking voice is just like her bloggy voice.

Little Cuter and I walked through the Expo Center and interacted with her peers who had marketing degrees which were being put to use by giving away swag - mugs and cereal and shampoo and water bottles and key chains and pens and stationary and Allegra and t-shirts and the most fabulous pair of cow pants which, if she weren't asleep in the other bed in our room here at the Marriott Marquis,  I could download the picture she took from her Iphone because yes there is an app for that, too.

Perhaps we will extricate it from the device on the morrow; look for it and more on BlogHer '11 on Monday.  Right now, I have to go to sleep, too.  All this fun is exhausting.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Bionic Woman

I have a headache from the sound of the keys clacking.

I had to flee the sound of the carts clicking over the concrete outside Wally-World this morning.

I am becoming my father....... and I really need to become my mother. I've been saying that I should take lessons from G'ma on aging with grace; perhaps this is one of them. I am wearing bi-lateral hearing aids.

From the front and the side they are basically invisible.  I'm not concerned about a change in my appearance. From the back, I think they blend into my hair quite nicely. They have a handy dandy silver travel case, and the UofA Audiology Clinic set me up with a few weeks of extra 312 size batteries.

Apparently, batteries have numbers as well as letters. Who knew?

Did I mention that my camera makes all kinds of interesting clicks and whirrs and beeps that I noticed for the first time just now when I took that picture of my ear? Let me be quick to reassure you: there are some definite upsides to these things.

There are flutes in the opening music to whatever TBG has on everyday at 5:30. Who knew? There's another note in the early morning bird songs, a higher, sweeter tone than I ever remember hearing here before. TBG says that my voice is softer and more modulated.

I was fine for conversation before I added gadgetry to my wardrobe. Normal adult voices were well within the excellent range on my audiometric exams, and as long as I was paying attention I had no problems. No one knew that I was slightly impaired. But last night I went into the bathroom, down the hall and through the bedroom from the living room, and I could hear the words on the tv back where TBG was still lounging on Douglas. That was a new experience for me.

Are you wondering about the volume on the television? I asked TBG to set it at the lowest possible level for his own personal comfort. I was fine, with the devices inserted or with them resting for a viewing in the palm of my hand, as long as I was in the same room. This distance hearing thing was quite interesting and brand new.

This afternoon  Messers 6 and 8 sat in the back of my car, chattering away as we drive to buy new backpacks for school.  I could hear every single word.  They sat at a high table, away from Elizabeth and me, yet I heard every word they said.  There were kids playing inside the gerbil maze at Mickie D's; I couldn't see them but I could hear their laughter.  I began to fall in love with these things right about then.

But I wonder, still.  Can I teach this old dog new tricks? Can I take the time that Ellyn and Olga reminded me to give myself as I accustom myself to the annoyance of having something in my ear? I like to travel light. My morning routine takes 7 minutes if I am in a rush - and that's from bed to car. Will I resent them?

This is where I have to make a choice. Am I Daddooooo, who wore them with annoyance and petulance and made them the center of his existence and therefore the center of the existence of anyone and everyone who was within his orbit? Or am I G'ma, who, in the same situation, would put a smile on her face, insert them and forget about them so that everyone else could forget about them, too? Having lived my life out loud for so many months, it's a more layered question than you might imagine.

I'm leaning toward my mom, with a dash of Dad for a little spice. After all, they are pretty cool little things.