Monday, October 31, 2011

An Absolutely Lovely Day

Sometimes, it all just seems to come together.  The weather, the people, the events, and the travel all line up in perfect harmony.  Life feels good.

I awoke without needing the alarm.  My favorite gym clothes were clean.  The soaker hose was still attached to the connecting hose so watering the un-irrigated, newly planted Texas ebony tree was simply a matter of turning the faucet to the right.  It was nice to get to the gym without stones in my shoes and cactus prickers in my hands.

There was a parking space right in front of the door.  My favorite greeter was behind the desk and Amster and the Littlest Little One arrived right on time.  The LLO gave me a warm and mushy kiss on my neck, leaving lots of pink lipstick to prove that she'd been there.  Her hug, filled with excitement and love, was balm to my soul.

We worked our legs, doing squats and quad curls and calf raises while we caught up on our lives.  Blending two families involves lots of negotiating, therapy and the re-evaluation of some hard-won truths.  Creating competent children takes a village and a school district and friends as well as all the parental and grand-parental units; it helps if most of them are operating from the same playbook.  Since Amster and I know that our way is always the correct way, we are shameless in our disparagement of those who are on a different page.  It's nice to have company who agrees with you.

I was gifted three school photos and another pink kiss and then it was off to Costco and the grocery store and then home with Hershey's Kisses and Kit Kats and Smart Water and Diet Coke.  I was tempted by the Droid display, but Big Cuter has assigned himself the task of re-phoning his parents so I merely gazed as I pushed the cart by.  I found hearing aid batteries and shelled walnuts and was next in line at the check-out.  Things were definitely going my way.

TBG came home to unpack the heavy items from my car; lifting them from the shelf to the cart to the trunk to the garage floor was the most that I could manage.  I had that thought and then I stopped myself in mid-self-pity:  two months ago I wasn't able to lift them at all.  I have to stop concentrating on the can't parts of my life.

My playmate's UU* meeting ended early (apparently something of a rarity for those talky liberals) so I raced to meet her at the Dairy Queen.  Blizzard (she) and strawberry milkshake (I) in hands, we drove The Schnozz to the Pasqua Yaqui reservation south of town where their outdoor amphitheater was hosting the Desert Bluegrass Association's Annual Festival.  There weren't more than 200 of us there; with room for several thousand we had our choice of seats and spaciousness.  I knew it was going to be a good day when we both opted for the front row.

To our right were an older-than-we couple with a shiny red motorized scooter that seemed to serve each of them quite well.  Had the UU's talked longer I'd have had more time to gather my gear and my camera would have been in my hands instead of on my desk.  Alas, you'll have to envision them toodling off to the rest room or the soda vendor, the one remaining watching closely until the vehicle and passenger were out of sight.  To our left was an even older gentleman who moved not a muscle until our program fell at his feet and, in one graceful gesture, he bent and retrieved and returned and sat still once again.

My UU playmate, newer to Tucson than I, was struck by how old this crowd is.  I hadn't really noticed.  I'm becoming a real Tucsonan; I was looking at the varieties of cowboy boots walking rather than the age of the wearers.  We sat for 4 hours as Steve Smith & Hard Road, Blue Highway, Kickin Grass Band, Crucial County and the Titan Valley Warheads strummed and picked and fiddled... oh, my, did they fiddle.... and sang the old songs and many new songs and mostly we were just boppin' along, clapping or tapping or swaying.

The breeze was soft and the temperatures were in the 80's.  The amphitheatre is covered and the wooden seats have arm rests.  Mr. K's Barbeque was the main food vendor, and the smell of smoking meat wafted over the crowd when supplies needed replenishing.  The performers were locals (there are - or were -  Titan missiles just outside of town) and Kentuckians and New Jersey-ites and they were all very grateful to be part of the fun.  When Kickin Grass sang My Grandfather's Clock I could hear the Cuters in the back seat of the car in Chicago, chanting along as the clock stopped...... never to toll again.... when the Old Man died.

A grandmotherly vendor said "I know you" in that tone of voice that lets me know that I'm in for a hug and a teary smile.  Fifteen minutes later we were all best friends, her son, the youth pastor, and his wife promising to come up to Tucson for the anniversary events in January.  Walking away, my UU playmate asked if that kind of thing happened often.  Hearing "Every day" she just shook her head.  My reality is often very different from that of the unperforated; I tend to forget that.

I bought a CD and we found The Schnozz in its second spot right in front of the door of the day and I listened to tales of life in central Mexico as the mountains turned pink and purple and the traffic moved smoothly over newly paved road.

It was an absolutely wonderful day.
*Alison commented below that UU was a new term to her.  It's shorthand for Unitarian Universalist, a religious group which, according to my playmate, is full of people with lots to say.  Thanks for keeping me honest, Alison!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Shopping By Skinflints

I was ready to plunge into the nifty tidbits my favorite little girl sent my way when the title stopped me in my tracks.  Skinflint is an interesting word, or was to me, at least as I saw it up there on the monitor.  I'm always amused when my fingers do something that my brain doesn't recognize.  Reading the Phaedo for class this week I'm considering everything in terms of recollection; how did that get up there, anyway?  Saved, as always, by the interweb, I found the Online Etymology Dictionary  which quickly demystified the whole thing.   Sadly, it's just word soup.... someone who would skin a flint to gain an advantage.  Now, that is being tight with your money.

Many of us are feeling skinflint-ish these days, I fear.  It's hard to buy extras when necessities might be a struggle.  Random gifting, unnecessary trifles, the times call for more than that, I think.  Nurturing those thoughts but not sharing them, I whined to Little Cuter this morning that I was suggestion-less.  I can't find the picture for the post I wanted to write, and without it there's really no point.  Super-Girl to the rescue, Little Cuter offers you these sites and suggestions, as relayed and edited by her ever grateful maternal unit.

Seems like, these days, it's taking a village to write a blog post.
First, LC sends you to ebay for their Daily Deals.

I've just spent a delicious half hour wandering through Tools, and Tech Deals Under $20, and Gifts and Gadgets.   It is quite possible that someone in my family may receive something like this in December.

But if you are trick or treating on Monday and it's going to be cccccold outside, perhaps this might be an acceptable way to stay warm while begging at doorsteps.

In her own words, Little Cuter will tell you that every day they post awesome deals for almost half off really cool merchandise that you might actually want to buy. Most of the time it's free shipping, too.  

I'm interrupting this post for an important message: there's a really good point in that first sentence.  I no longer spend time on sites that tempt me to spend money on foolishness.  I can be separated from my money by a pretty picture and a well-written spiel; I stay away to stay solvent.  Finding a site with merchandise that you might actually want to buy at a price that is much lower than anywhere else, that's the place to shop.

Next, I introduce a new-to-me site which, were I working and in need of wardrobe replenishment would be, I think, the only place I'd go. Shop It To Me refers to itself as your free personal online shopper.  You fill out a quick form letting them know which designers and brands (ranging from Eileen Fisher to UGG) in which sizes are of interest to you and they do the rest.  Of course, to me, the rest includes deciding and purchasing and paying and gift wrapping and card writing and USPS shipping of the completed item, but in this context it refers to the emails they send you when they find sales on your stuff on-line.  I'm already planning how to spend the time I'll save by using this

Little Cuter wants to remind you about GAP and Old Navy, both of which email exclusive deals to members from their websites.  If you're reluctant to buy frivolities, how about a new pair of jeans?  I don't imagine there are many in my readership who wouldn't appreciate that.  A quick trip to the closet for the size and style number of your loved one's favorite pair coupled with the discount offers ought to be just right for someone on your list.  I usually like to shop those stores on December 26th, since everything is so drastically reduced.  But if you want something for under the tree or after the candles are lit, these old faithfuls may be where you want to look.

Finally, having already weighed in on the value of experiences as gifts, my girl would like to remind you to look at GroupOn and Living Social for experiences and the like.  Is a salon offering a deal?  Buy two and take your girlfriend for a mani/pedi together.... and if that girlfriend is 9 or 10 and you think of Christina-Taylor and me, why that's okay, too.  Sometimes the simplest things put the biggest smiles on a person's face.  Buying tickets to a children's show or a museum event and passing them along is another way to save money and share the love.  If you take the kids and give mom and dad an afternoon off, even better, don't you agree?

I'm going to look for that picture and post it next week.  For now, as we come closer to November, let me remind you that our goal is to be finished by December 1.  Have you ordered your cards yet?  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Have you seen this, denizens?

TBG and I were channel surfing and even the magic fingers tickling the remote were stunned and immobilized by the last 15 seconds of this ad.  Is Mark Bloch, Herman Cain's campaign manager and COO of The Friends of Herman Cain really blowing smoke?

I just don't get it.  If I were The Onion, I'd create an add like this.  Did no one in Mr. Cain's campaign ever take a course in literature?  Has no one there ever hear of allusion?  taking a drag on a ciggie may make you feel like a real man (more on that below... believe me, lots more on that below) but you've left the viewer while blowing smoke ... which The Urban Dictionary defines as  giving a gratuitous and insincere compliment, possibly to deceive.

If that's not the perfect definition of a campaign ad, I don't know what is.  The in your face nature of this one is just so blatant, so insulting, so perfect.

Perfect, you ask?  Yes, perfect, I reply.  Perfect because we are talking about it and any publicity is better than no publicity in today's political climate.  Some of us are actually paying attention to the words, but my guess is most of America is fast forwarding or muting through most of these commercials.  The image of an old white guy with a cigarette might just draw the wayward eye back to the screen.  It's certainly caught the attention of my fingers, and those of Slate and Time and many of my bloggy and Facebook cronies.

I hate feeding the frenzy but I can't let it go by.  I tried.  I really did. But then I found this one

and my fingers refused to stay still.

It's long, I know, but it's so awful and manipulative that I watched in amazement for the whole 3 minutes and 42 seconds. I'm not sure I was breathing; it felt more like gasping.

If you can't devote the time, or you're at work and can't be caught watching, here's a brief precis:  The main character is international film and television star Nick something or other, a fact he reveals at 2:05 in the video.  Before that, you see him riding up to what at first blush looked like an outhouse but which turned out to be the home of a damsel.  The guys hanging out near the door spit and scratch and give Nick crap for carrying yellow flowers.  His response?
Why's it always got to be about color?  What are you guys..... liberal?
I suppose that makes my noting that it was the black guy spitting on Nick's boot racist.  Honestly, I just don't know.  The only certainty I have is that the long shot and then the close up of the saliva dripping was less than pleasant.  Almost as unpleasant as Nick's ending voice over about empty phrases like hope and change and snarky references to community organizers reading lines on a teleprompter written by others just as he forgets his own line and has to ask for the cue.

Is he promoting stupidity?  Inability to remember?  Lack of competence to do his job?  It's not like it was a hard line, either..... Ok, punk, get real shouldn't call for extraordinary acts of mental gymnastics if you are really an international film and tv star, should it?

His tagline is "I stand for Herman Cain because Herman Cain stands for us."  Aside from the obvious grammatical inconsistency (there's no one else in the frame and his conversation has been all me and I) I'm not sure what the message is.  Herman Cain represents those who do their jobs marginally?  Herman Cain represents those who use their fists to solve their problems?

Neither of these ads has the I'm Herman and I approve this ad verbiage; PAC and SuperPAC monies must be involved.  But each of them has Mr. Cain's fabulous smile (c'mon, we can disagree with him and still think he has a pretty face, can't we?) grinning from ear to ear through chubby cheeks right out at you at the end.

He seems as if he's a likeable guy.  The fact that his 9-9-9 plan is simple to understand doesn't mean that it is appropriate for our country, even if he smiles when he describes it.  I'm glad he built a business.  I just wonder what 25% of Republican primary voters are supporting this morning.  He has a muddled perspective on abortion and no real knowledge of foreign policy or even foreign countries.  He has no history (that I can find) of having weighed in on the issues in a substantive way.  And now, with the opportunity to speak to America and offer to lead us he is relying on blowing smoke.

If there's someone out there who can explain this to me, I am all ears.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Friends from Old Places

Nathakes made the match, and she knew what she was doing.

We'd been trying to get together for several months.  Schedules and illness and life in general kept getting in the way.  They flew in last night, though, and the dinner we'd had on the calendar for a month or so was actually going to happen.

I decided at the last minute not to wear my cowboy boots

 I walk better in my Chucks.

This is only relevant because I'd told her I'd be wearing the boots and corduroy shorts.  We'd never seen one another before; I was worried about recognizing them.  

We parked and walked and arrived 8 minutes early, entering the restaurant's patio behind a couple we really hoped were not to be our dinner companions.  Worrying, we closed the gate behind ourselves and looked up to see a smiling couple waving in our direction.  

They looked just like us, albeit somewhat less careworn.  There was a lot of It must be them It is Are you Oh, we wondered if going on in the beginning. They hugged and hand-shook appropriately and we agreed that sitting outside was preferable.  They'd arrived that afternoon from Chicago; 85 at 8pm was quite tempting. 

Without any awkwardness, we plunged right into the details.  Why Tucson for a second home?  Where were you before?  Why?  Kids?  Jobs?  And weaving through the conversation was our concern over the absence of our waiter.  Three ice teas and a water didn't seem to warrant 30 minutes of waiting, especially when two of us had just arrived at altitude and had to keep hydrated.

We loved the same things about Tucson, it seemed.  The ache in my hip made an ache in my heart when she said hiking as the first thing she liked to do here.  Yoga, but not Bikram, is on her list, too.  She seemed genuinely surprised that I wanted to help her find classes; she'll soon figure out that that's what makes Tucson special.  We're all in this together.

It was fun to listen to her concept of distance; as new homeowners in a new neighborhood everything seems far.  Another reason to love her: when I said that long distances are easily traversed on quiet streets with few traffic lights and gorgeous vistas her response was classic Tucson - The drive is half the fun.

I can't wait to take her to Tombstone, past Texas Canyon alongside I-10
The guys were both in the business; there will be lots to discuss later on. I told her where to find decent produce and ground beef and we laughed about the options available to a true Tucson locavore.  Bicycling and rehab and politics and where are those pizzas anyway and then......

..... in the middle of another conversation, where did you grow up was on the table and it turns out that she and I were one year apart at the same high school.... that she grew up next door to my 6th grade boyfriend.... that my brother knew her brother and that we could find one another in our yearbooks... which both of us had close to hand right here in Arizona, thinking that we were making new friends when we were really rediscovering old relationships..... kinda sorta.

Some things, it seems, are just meant to be.

Welcome to Tucson.  I'm working on your blogonyms right now.  Nathakes has very good taste in friends.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Although it has been a while since I've posted on my recovery, the rest of the world has been quite involved in my progress.  As we approach the anniversary of the shootings, the opportunities for comparison, condolences and consideration of consequences have multiplied exponentially,  My calendar is filled with meetings about event planning and my in-box is filled with inquiries.  Each and every one of these situations includes a reference to healing.... specifically, my healing.... more pointedly, my hip.

It's very odd when others take a proprietary interest in your getting well.  The cashier in the grocery store is as proud of me as I am of myself when she sees me bending over and lifting the heavier items out of my cart.  Another perforated attendee and I compare our problems remembering to utilize our ankles and our toes as we walk.  It's hard to escape, hard not to focus on the fact of getting shot.

A costumed young man wore a bandolier of bullets around his neck at a fundraiser TBG and I attended last Saturday night.  Granted, it was M*A*S*H themed, and most of the costumed guests were in scrubs or fatigues, but my body began to quake the moment I saw his outfit.  It wasn't physical pain; my heart was aching and my whole self was responding.

Bullet wounds (mine at least) don't hurt very much in the long term.  The startling shock of seeing an exit wound scar on my shoulder blade as I'm doing lat pull-downs will always hurt, I'm sure of that.  But the physical pain was never an issue for me.  Had I not shattered my hip, I imagine that days could pass without my remembering that bullets had penetrated my body.

Sigh.  It's a nice fantasy, isn't it?  I go there sometimes when I need a break.

Unfortunately for me, the hip is an integral part of the human skeleton.  It's recruited in every position I've found.  I know this because it tells me so, sometimes quietly, sometimes quite loudly.  Sometimes it's a little bit of warmth that creeps up and around my glute, curving down to the top of my femur, settling almost comfortably in the acetabulum Dr. Boaz so excellently repaired.  Sometimes it's a sharp stabbing nothingness that leaves me stumbling as femur and socket dance around a bit before settling back into place.

I've been told that nothing I can do short of being drawn-and-quartered will separate my femur from my socket.  There are times when I truly don't believe that is true.

Every once in a while there's a tingling in the numbness that decides to transform itself into sharp-toed ants walking on pointed stilts across my lower thigh.  Last week the outside of my kneecap was throbbing for no reason that I could determine.  As I try to balance my hips and approximate symmetry in my gait, my inner and outer thighs alternate verses. The chorus is always the same This too shall pass.

As in child-rearing, every stage is terrible until the next one comes along.  Every stage seems to last forever and then, just when it seems impossible to bear for a moment longer, it's been replaced by something which, while not really better is, at least, different.  Change is good, even when it hurts.

I try not to complain.  I try not to make my physical self the center of attention.  But after class, when I stand slowly and then don't move until I settle into myself, as I am static while others are mobile, it's hard not to notice.

And then I remind myself that I am here to feel the pain, that I can articulate my emotions and write them here for you to read, that I will heal.  I look back on my first three months on Douglas, quietly allowing the world to go by, as my one and only job was to heal.  Now, in the last three months of my first year afterwards,  I smile at the memory of the applause I demanded when I was able to lift my kneecap 2 inches off the pillow on which it was resting.

Progress is measured in small doses.  Two steps forward and half-a-step back isn't really all that bad.  The changes are interesting if uncomfortable.  And, I am getting better.  Really, I am.

Thanks for asking.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Found It!

My holiday spirit, that is.
For a while, I though I'd lost it.
But Amster's kids located it while she was at Wally-World this morning.

Messer's 6 and 8 remembered the drill from years past.
They chose the clothes they wanted to use, and began stuffing.

Some of us worked diligently at our assigned tasks.

Others were more interested in collecting bugs.

or in stacking towers.

Proving, once again, that the toy is less important than the box in which it was delivered, that box filled with styrofoam and empty space and imagination.  These pill containers I've salvaged from G'ma kept the Littles occupied while Mr. 8 did some serious problem solving.  A precise young man, he did not appreciate the fact that his stuffing was coming out of the shredded jeans.

The fact that I had an entire container of brand new safety pins just added to the fun.

Unnamed but not unloved, our creations were transported to the front yard.

Where serious arranging

and re-arranging took place.

Then, of course, it was time for posing.

All in all, it was an absolutely perfect Sunday morning.
I'm typing and looking at this fellow right now.

Life is good.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Gift for the Whole Family

Sometimes it's just easier to do one big thing.  Friday Shopping Secrets understands this, and would like to offer some suggestions.  Just remember that little ones like something to open now; I'll be appending ideas for those who cannot experience delay of gratification.  Never fear, denizens, I've got you covered.

I'm a big proponent of experiences over products.  I remember holiday hikes more than what gifts were presented when the Cuters were 8 and 10.  The infamous Christmas of '96 is notable for the absence of appropriate batteries and the crushing misery which followed.  I suppose this counts as an experience; the feelings are certainly more memorable than the actual toy itself.  At least for me.

For several years we instituted a walk through the open space between turkey and dessert on Thanksgiving.  We'd pass neighbors and friends and smile through the introductions of nieces and grandparents and sons-in-law-to-be and then we'd move on, each group self contained yet interconnected.  It reminded TBG and me of similar walks through his parents' suburban neighborhood with his dad by our side.  He never said much, but his pleasure in our company was palpable.  In retrospect, I'm sure he appreciated those early evening strolls much more than the sweater vests and long sleeved polo shirts we sent him as tangible expressions of our love.

Actually, I know that is true.  After his death, we found years of those gifts in his drawers, still folded and pinned and tagged.  Never worn, because he was frugal and wouldn't unpack a new item until its predecessor had begun to fray.  The man had the same pair of shoes for 25 years; shoe trees were his secret.  He was happiest when his family was close and safe.  He lived for the experiences.  It's a lesson we've taken to heart.

So, my first suggestion is Get Up and Move.  Tell the family that walking around the block is their gift to you. In everything except a blizzard this shouldn't be an issue, no one cares how many layers or how silly or how far... it's the experience.  Be sure to take pictures and throw snowballs and ooh and ahhh at the neighbors' decorations.  Drag little ones on sleds or in wagons or on shoulders when they get tired, but walk further, or in a different direction, or out on one side of the street and back on the other - just so that it's special.

I'm smiling just thinking about how much fun you'll have.

Family vacations are another good option.  If your crew can do as modern brides and grooms do, the travel part of the holiday can be postponed to the summer months.  That leaves you months and months for planning and plotting and preparing and excitement.  If funds are tight, it gives you more time to save.  And if kids learn to put off their happiness until it can be shared with others who love them, all the better.  I've never been one to let a teaching opportunity pass me by.

Cornell Adult University is where I'll send you first.  Ithaca, New York, centrally isolated and nearly impossible to arrive at in any but the most convoluted manner, is a summer haven of greenery, water sports, wine tasting and intellectual stimulation.  Once you get there you don't need a vehicle; the Cornell campus is easily walkable.  Should you want to venture off campus, someone in your class will be able to give you a ride.  It's that kind of a vacation.  There are 4 weeks of offerings for adults (the 2012 schedule is not yet available) and age segregated programs for the kids.  Children share a room with a sibling or a new friend, depending on their age, your choice, and the program they choose.  Counselors are with the kids from 8am til 11:15pm; you pass on campus and in the dining hall like happy ships in the night.  Breakfasts are family affairs, so you get to catch up on all the fun that everyone is having.

Looking for something less organized?  How about a multi-family house rental along the coast?  TBG's cousins invited us to spend a week with them at Sunset Beach, North Carolina,  when our children were all very small.  We pulled shorts on over swimsuits when we needed to dress up, grilled dinner outside every night, and played cards and Monopoly til the wee hours with the wee ones taking their turns just like the grown ups.  We were spending no more money on vacation than we would have at home - everyone has to eat, after all.  We shared the cost of the rental which, for a week's stay, was much less expensive than hotel rooms would have been.... and it was a much nicer space.  No one seems to mind sharing a room with 3 sets of bunk beds when you've been playing with your roommates all day long.  By the time their heads hit the pillows they were out for the count.  The ocean is free.... and tiring.

Need an adventure closer to home?  How about leaving a local map and a marker under the tree for everyone who can fit into your car.  Each recipient chooses a location and everyone else agrees to go with a good attitude and a smile.  The Cuters and I did this when we first moved to Marin; bookstores and pet shops and small museums gave us adventures, map lessons, and time well spent together.

Still at a loss?  How about the beach in winter?  The playground with snow?  The fishing pier without fishermen?  Take an August outing and transplant it to the winter months and laugh at yourselves as you scrape the snowflakes off the picnic tables.  I guarantee that the memory will last longer than the Alaska Barbie you buy for your 8 year old.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Meetings... Oh, So Many Meetings

I promised myself that I would not attend meetings.  I was moving to a new town, a new state, a new set of connections and none of it was going to revolve around meetings.  I don't like meetings.  I don't do well in meetings.  I tend to annoy those around me with my discomforted sighing and eye rolling as discussions wander aimlessly and time trudges by.  I really shouldn't go to meetings; no one benefits from my presence.

That promise was tested early and often.  Creating a newsletter seemed to require attendance at board meetings.  Interviewing high school seniors for my alma mater required attendance at board meetings.  I was beginning to feel a bit of mission creep so I began to set my boundaries more definitively: if I wasn't on the agenda I didn't show up.

This made those who presided over the meetings happier than they would have been if I'd been there, even if they were unaware of the gift I was bestowing by not attending.  The minutes were fine with me.  I didn't mind missing the under-currents which preceded those written words; those under-currents were why I didn't want to be at the meeting in the first place.

This week has been filled with meetings, and I was on the agenda of all of them.  There is much planning going on in my life right now.  I've watched three different women lead three different meetings and I never wanted to twitch or bitch or moan.  What needed to be accomplished was accomplished and it was all done within a timely manner.  I'm wondering if I have to rethink my opposition to meetings.

Tuesday's agenda assigned time slots to speakers; the Logistics committee didn't seem bothered by the fact that they were allotted one minute.  The meeting began on time and ended on time and there were 35 people in the room and everyone got to speak at least once.  Decisions were made and diversions were cut short and by the end I had covered my copy of the agenda with personal notes and ideas to take home and expand for my own purposes.  I'm actually looking forward to our next get-together.  I'm wondering if I am already rethinking my opposition to meetings.

Monday and Wednesday were smaller, more intimate gatherings.  Specifics were discussed and assignments were made.  Skills were discovered and put to good use, and questions were answered right there and then.  Putting names to faces, sharing the air, getting a sense of one another without the buffer of the keyboard - it actually felt pretty good.  The quiet student in the corner was actually taking copious notes, participating in her own way.  Minor concerns were eased before the passage of time between emails made them morph into major issues.  We were quick, purposeful, and finished in no time.  Perhaps there is something to meetings after all.

Once the last one was finished for the week, I took myself and some bags of Hershey's Kisses to see G'ma. These meetings have been interfering with my visiting schedule; I was glad to have a chance to drop in and deliver sweets.  Though it was nearly 11 when I arrived, she was just completing her morning ablutions.  While waiting for her to come out of the bathroom, I read the minutes of the pod-castle's Resident Council Meeting and was brought up short when I saw her name on the list of attendees.

G'ma had actually left her pod-castle and walked across the plaza to another building.  She represented her fellow residents.  She participated in the world around her.  All of a sudden, meetings are looking pretty good to me.

According to the minutes, the discussion centered around satisfaction, concerns and suggestions.  Norman is happy living in the pod-castle and has no problem with anything.  I'm relaxing just thinking about him.  Though Virginia attended the meeting to just listen, Duane thinks that some caregivers could do a better job and be more friendly.  Rather than being concerned that someone is mis-treating an elder, I read that and felt comforted that he was able to express a negative opinion and see it in print the next day.  If everyone were totally happy I'd be looking at the KoolAid to see what happy drugs are contained therein.

Bruce would like to see more games, especially checkers and dice and I'm wondering if shooting craps is a pod-castle approved activity.  To Gary, everything is very good and Dora thinks that everyone...takes good care of her and I'm left feeling warm and fuzzy about placing G'ma in the pod castle, especially when I get down the list to William, who is very happy but sometimes would like to be left alone.

So would I, William.  So would I.

And G'ma?  What was her contribution?  Apparently, she has no complaints and is very content.

If meetings can accomplish all that they've brought to me this week, I am definitely going to think more highly of them in the future.  I've learned, planned, grown, listened, plotted and greeted.... and my mom had it read into the record that her life is good.

Thank you, meetings.  Thank you very much, indeed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where's My Halloween Spirit?

I've missed a lot this past year, at least as far as holiday decor goes.  My Valentines Day box, the Easter bunnies, the American flags for Memorial Day and July 4th..... all undisturbed in the garage.  I missed them, but not enough to direct someone else to place them just so.  Maneuvering them off the shelves myself was impossible, and anyway, my one and only job was to heal.  I gave myself a pass.

Now it's the middle of October.  Halloween is 2 weeks away.  I have one pillow, 

one candle holder

and my blinking haunted house

That's it.  No rows of orange plastic pumpkins lining the stairs; there are no stairs.  No wheeled ghosts or goblins or scarecrows to trip on; no children have been in this house for ages.  G'ma has all my straw decor; TBG claimed it made him sneeze.

I managed to save these for the powder room

but it's a far cry from the days of crescent moon shaped soaps and tiny erasers in the shapes of bats and cats nestled amongst black and white stones in the soap dish.

Even TBG remarked that my decorating is more restrained this year.

I found this fellow and managed to stick him in the courtyard

but I know that the first big gust of wind will carry him over.  Alas, that's not enough to motivate me to get out and push just a little bit harder.  What will be will be.  It's only decorations.

And I believe that until I look further out toward the street and don't see a scarecrow.  We recycled a week's worth of newspaper yesterday, so even if I had the energy to create one I am missing the key ingredient for the stuffing.  I found the clothes for him, neatly washed and folded on top of box #1, waiting to be displayed against the big rock out front.  I just don't have the oomph.

My cheetah... he really had the moves
Am I old?  Am I tired? Am I decrepit? Am I missing some kids to help?

Yes and no and really, who cares?  Does it really matter?

The new improved relaxed and confused me is just accepting that it is what it is and I am moving on.

Seret taught me that years ago, and tonight, as she's cooking for my kids and I'm thinking about Halloweens past, it's a good memory to have.

I'm just going to enjoy sitting on Douglas, snuggling with my sweetie.  I'll make a scarecrow next year.  
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Santayana and I Were Wondering

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George was right.  If we don't look backwards we can't understand our future.  If we're smart, we'll examine the past and learn our lessons.  Wouldn't that be nice?  Not likely these days, with the elevation of ignorance over knowledge (see the global warming "debate" or minimum-wage earners lusting after Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan as exemplars) but I'm an optimistic sort of a girl these days, so I thought I'd take a chance and share my thoughts with you.  

Perhaps you were as ignorant as I was when it comes to the history of Ancient Rome.  The Cuters, with more than a decade of Latin between them, were always more articulate than I on the subject.  Big Cuter brought his painted miniatures to explain Caesar's battles to his high school classmates; the visuals made all the difference.  I'm finding that age and cynicism is making the difference for me right now, and I can't resist the urge to let you in on what was going on back then.

I wonder if the parallels strike you as forcefully as they did me.  

Plutarch lived at the turn of the Christian Era and wrote biographies and comparisons of influential Greek and Roman leaders.  They are compiled under Lives and The Fall of the Roman Republic, the Penguin Classics edition of which is the source of these quotes.  He is eminently readable and the stories are those which underpin much of our shared consciousness; Shakespeare cribbed from him shamelessly. Truth or fiction, they have been a standard reference for every classicist's class I've ever taken.  

It might be because his stories are relevant to our own history.  For example was Fortune who had presented him with a perfect opportunity, a great theatre in which to play an active part himself; and so he displayed every kind of bravery.  It was a hard war, but he was not afraid of any undertaking, however great, and was not too proud to accept any task, however small.... (H)e won much affection from the soldiers by showing that he could live as frugally as they did and endure as much.  
Do you see George Washington at Valley Forge?  Do you see him leading his men, astride his white horse, at the front of the charge?  Not convinced?  How about this:
...(W)hat a Roman soldier likes most to see is his general eating his ration of bread with the rest, or sleeping on an ordinary bed, or joining in the work of digging a trench or raising a palisade. The commanders whom they admire are not so much those who distribute honours and riches as those who take a share in their hardships and their dangers...
Plutarch was writing about Marius (157-86 BC) but you could've fooled me.

Remember when our foreign policy was set by Nancy Reagan's astrologer?  Marius
...did in fact carry round with him in great state a Syrian woman, called Martha, who was supposed to be a prophetess.  She was carried in a litter and he made sacrifices in accordance with her directions.  She had previously sought an interview with the senate... and had volunteered to predict the future; but the senate would have nothing to do with her.  She then addressed herself to the women and showed them what she could do. Her most important contact was with Marius's wife..... (who) sent her to her husband and Marius himself was much impressed by her.
Is it comforting or frightening to see how little has changed in 2200 years?

Proving that I can find Democratic as well as Republican politicians to skewer, tell me if this doesn't sound like Bill Clinton to you.
...(P)eople thought that he was acting in a manner very ill-suited to his age; and he ... cheapened the reputation of his high office....
I'm seeing him jogging in too short shorts, stopping into Mickey D's for a drippy Big Mac, talking about briefs or boxers ... in short, reducing the stature of the Presidency by bringing it down to his stuck-in-his-youth distractions.  

It gets even better.

..(H)e seems to have been almost pathologically prone to sexual indulgence, being quite without restraint in his passion for pleasure.
I rest my case.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blues and Heritage Festival

JannyLou and I went to the Southern Arizona Blues heritage Foundation Blues and Heritage Festival.
 It was held at Reid Park's Demeester Bandshell, a structure neither of us had known about.

There was a sound system that went up with the event
 and there was a really big tent covering the roadies.

Actually, they weren't roadies since there was no traveling involved.  
Their t-shirts identified them as TP&R Sound Crew.

Nobody told us that there would be no chairs.
Nobody told us that there would be no shade.

Obviously, most everyone else had been there before
They came prepared.

JannyLou and I shared some shade behind these folks,

who came with side panels for their shade.

There were umbrellas everywhere we looked

including this giant red one right between us and the stage.

Since we were lying on the yoga mats we could kinda sorta see through the people and beneath the canvas.

It didn't really matter.  We didn't know the musicians and we didn't need to watch them.
The sound was enough.

The event attracted a certain demographic.
I really liked his shirt, but he disappeared before I could ask him for the details.

Our community radio station made a funny punny fan.
I'd have laughed harder had there been any left for us to enjoy.

There were very cool hats

and other assorted beings atop shoulders

We were too uncomfortable to stay to see Elvin Bishop, but we didn't mind at all.
We'd spent the afternoon outside, listening to live tunes, surrounded by Tucsonans.
No one recognized me.
Everyone was focused on the music.
It was a wonderful day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shopping For G'ma

Today we will not feel the loss.  Today we will not say "last year I'd have gotten her....."  Today we will not look backward.  Today we will accept what is and we will smile.

Smile with me as I suggest comestibles and experiences and no care goodies that will delight those who are marking the passage of time in the "I don't buy green bananas" department.

G'ma used to say that she was divesting instead of acquiring; her greatest joy was to send me Bubba's cut glass serving dish ("Be careful, sweetheart, I think it's leaded crystal.  I wouldn't use it too often, if I were you.") or Daddooooo's Shakespeare for Chanukah or my birthday or just because.  It didn't happen often; she wasn't a spontaneous gift giver.  But when UPS dropped off a thoroughly taped reused shipping carton addressed in her perfect printed penmanship I started to smile before I looked for the implements with which to cut through the brown and silver and transparent tapes.

She loved receiving pictures of her grandchildren, from whom she lived much too far.  After a while, she asked for the photos without the frames ("The house is beginning to look like a museum, honey.") so that she could layer them, one atop the other, and keep the most recent ones in view.  I'm sure that it helped to anchor her in time.  Realizing now that her memory must have been slipping long before any of us noticed, I wonder if she did this consciously, as a self-prescribed memory aid.  I do know that all the grandkids were grouped with their own parents on separate walls or side tables.

The gift idea?  Hie thyself over the river and through the woods with a set of un-framed,  brand new 5x7's or 8x10's or whatever your elder has on display right now.  Don't discard the current photos, just layer your new ones closer to the glass.  If you've thought to print them out with a message added via the wonders of Picasa or another on-line photo space, even better. I've labeled all G'ma's pictures with yellow post-it notes beneath each human.  I wish it looked more elegant, but it gets the job done. It might be fun to add talk bubbles including the person's name.

Part of this gift is the time you spend, talking about the who's and the when's and the where's.  The gift of time as conceived  by Not-Kathy and Dr. K seemed like the perfect gift for his mom last year.  Every other Sunday is what they offered, and she, in her 10th decade, accepted with glee.  Whatever she wanted, whatever she needed, she had their undivided attention twice each month.

At least, that was the plan.  Turns out that, in reality, Mom was much too busy to accommodate her accommodating children.  "Oh, dear, no, I can't see you this week, I have plans to........" And so it goes.  The kids get credit for a great idea whether his mother has time to fit them into her busy schedule or not.  It's a win-win.  And it would have been that way had she been available every for every one of those promised Sundays,.  Time is in short supply for all of us; I don't think there's anything more valuable to share.

For most of us, though, time is something we cannot share in any more directions than exist right now at this moment.  This is where two birds/one stone comes in pretty handy.  If you, like I, are designated to send holiday cards with for an elderly relative this may sound familiar:
Who is this going to? (The same person it was going to when I handed it to you ten seconds ago.)
Why am I doing this? (Because you always send these cards.)
Didn't I just do this a minute ago? (Yes, to someone else.) 
Let me suggest an angst-free way out of this mess.  As they say on their website,
 (w)ith Paper Culture's Mail & Message service Paper Culture will print, address (both return and recipient), stamp & mail your cards on your behalf for only the cost of the stamp.  
 All you have to do is order them.  Compare this scenario to the one above:
Aren't these great Hanukkah cards?  (No, no one has sent it to you.  I wonder which  one you want to send.  For Hanukkah.  Yes, it's December already.  I know, there's no snow, but it's Tucson..... yes Tuck-sun... I love you, Mommy.)
Which one appeals to you? (At least for G'ma, we've still got likes and dislikes under control.)
No, we don't know those children.  They are part of the advertisement.  We can put your face there if you'd like. (Cue "I take a terrible picture you know that oh dear GOD don't do that please" rant.)
That's all.  She chooses the card she likes, you fill out the forms and send in the addresses and you have spent quality time with your loved one while not wasting it with time-consuming reminders that even signing her name is a major under-taking these days.  Why dwell on what is not?  Make the most of what is.

I stay away from Harry and David and other gigantically gorgeous boxes of fresh fruits.  Even the half boxes are more than TBG and I can finish before they rot, and making them into jam or pie is a chore instead of a gift.  I could give them away, but there are a limited number of venues where 2 pears is an appropriate gift. The Costco pre-wrapped baskets are the same thing.  Sure, wild sockeye salmon sounds great, until you've spent 15 minutes trying to open the package and find yourself standing there in a pile of fish oil with three slimy bites to show for your efforts.  Offer to pick up a favorite restaurant meal and share it in front of the tv.  No getting dressed to go out, lots of love and good food to share.

Individual cans of tuna, the pre-wrapped dishwasher packets, lighted magnifying glasses for every room in the house..... the list of things is endless if we put our minds to it.  What do you send? What do you want?  Please share.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Poor Raoul, or How I Rediscovered My Snark

I was beginning to worry that it was gone forever.  You know, that edge, that hostile piece of your reply which impels the listener to wonder just what part of New York you had lived in during your formative years.  The coarse, rough edge,the what IS your problem sense of entitlement because it's not that much that I'm asking.... just DO YOUR JOB in a timely, intelligent, thoughtful manner which does not insult my intelligence.

I'd lost that piece of myself after getting shot.  Nothing seemed to be worth getting that het up about.  The sun came up and I was here to see it - by definition it was a good day.  I worried a bit.  I fretted on occasion.  I never got pissed. It was never worth the effort.  Being content was simpler and felt better. I didn't need the snark.

Not until today.  Not until Walgreens By Mail, which is now called something else, decided to get in my way.  Not until my mental health was unhealthy because my prescription for Sertraline was not where it was supposed to be.  That is to say, it was not in my mailbox.  It is lost in fill-it-by-mail-purgatory, I suppose.  The only thing I know for sure is that my credit card has been charged for both the prescription and the 2 business day delivery surcharge.  Yes,  they made sure they got their money.

I am confused about a great many things pertaining to this situation.  For example, I have a message in my Walgreens inbox which is dated October 20, 2011.  To the best of my knowledge, that date is still in the future.  Yet Walgreens is somehow able to tell me that my credit card cannot be charged on that date. I wonder if, perhaps, my bank is smarter than my pharmacy-by-mail and recognizes that the 20th has a ways to go before it arrives.  As I said, I'm confused.

There's also the fact that I received an email telling me that my prescription had been sent by the United States Postal Service on Monday, October 10. That was Columbus Day, celebrated here in the USofA by the suspension of postal service.  And yet, somehow, my pills were sent on their way when no one was working.  More confusion.

Two business day delivery was guaranteed after I'd forked over $10.95. Sent on Monday, not a business day, that would mean Wednesday, today, is the second day and the pills should have been in my mailbox.  When they weren't, I called Walgreens By Mail's new name and listened to the automated system tell me that the pills had been shipped by the USPS on Monday (Columbus Day, remember?) and would be delivered to my home on the 17th.

Definitely not two business day delivery.

I needed to speak to a human.  That option was not available on the automated menu.  And there was nothing but the automated menu. Being a creative soul, I began saying HELP into the mouthpiece.  When that brought nothing I began to hit the Operator key over and over again; nothing.  Thanks to nothing I can figure out, the automaton said that it was time to get some help and we began to wait.

6 minutes..... 18 minutes...... loud music precluding putting the phone on speaker so I had it attached to my ear...... 24 minutes and I took out my right hearing aid to lessen the pain..... and then, 30 some minutes later Raoul had the misfortune to say hello to me.

Poor Raoul.  He's a nice guy.  In fact, he's the only positive piece of this whole situation.  But I was peeved and I was tired and I was in the right and the medication in question is designed to keep me on an even keel and it was not here.  The situation is getting kinda perilous.

It took me a moment to catch my breath; Raoul had to ask if I were there.  YES, I was there and if I could wait for (pause to look at the timer on the phone) 34 minutes to get a human he could and at that moment I realized that I was back.

The real me.  The snarky New York heathen I'd thought vanished in the maelstrom of January and beyond was there, right on the tip of my tongue.  For a moment, it felt really really good.

But while we'd been waiting, listening to noise with a pattern, TBG began to feel sorry for the person who would eventually answer the phone.  The longer I waited, the nuttier I became.  Waiting gave me time to consider that nuttiness and that's where I was when Raoul, poor Raoul, wondered if I were really there.

I re-identified myself (of course, even though I'd done it digitally at the beginning of the call lo those many minutes ago) and described the problem and asked that the extra fast that wasn't so fast fee be refunded and he agreed and was writing up the ticket and though he couldn't cc me or call me or email me directly on the notes he was sending to Accounting but if I would be patient I could have a reference number.  Of course, he couldn't give me the number until he filled out his forms.... and so I waited.

I waited.  And waited.  And then I got pissed.  Seriously and completely and totally furious with a company dealing with my health making me crazy, hiring a nice young man and making it impossible for him to do his job and leave me a happy customer.  So I took some deep breaths and got the Reference Number and thanked Raoul for doing a difficult job well.

To his credit, he never said a bad word about his employer.  He really did listen to what I said and he didn't ask a stupid or unnecessary questions.

But back to the snark.  Raoul told me that the drugs would be at my house tomorrow. How he knows, I do not know.  The fact that he was so certain amused me and annoyed me and gave me a few moments of true, New York, down and dirty attitude.  Of course he has no idea where they are or when they'll be here.  No one does.  It's funny, in a bad business kind of way.

And it's kinda nice to find something good in all this...... to find that I am not as different as I'd feared I'd be.  My old self is still in there, pushing at edges and absurdities and making me smile in a nasty sort of way.

It's also kinda nice that the softer me has tempered the poky pieces

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Archduke Ferdinand and Me

Dr. Mike Lippman, formerly of New Jersey and Emory University, is visiting Tucson this semester, bringing his fascination with the ancients along with his love for east coast pizza to the Humanities Seminars every Tuesday morning. 

The readings are longer and deeper than many other Seminars have required, but I find myself referring back to Scullard when Plutarch has me scratching my head.  Did  Satullus really just tell the same story from another perspective, or had I forgotten who had bribed whom to achieve success on the battlefield?  It started out as a mystery and ended up as a parable and I wish you had all been there with me, denizens.  My head was spinning and my brain was stretched and 3/4 of the students were participants in a conversation that ranged from Eisenhower to Caesar to OWS.

Why are wars fought?  If you have a standing army, is it standing around looking for someone to fight?  Will a draftee fight harder or longer than a mercenary?  Is our current army composed of mercenaries? Since we are paying them rather than compelling them perhaps they are.  

And what about the veteran many of us heard on NPR this morning, speaking at the open mike at Zuccotti Square?  He had fought and he had returned and he was unemployed and adrift.  He'd done what had been asked of him, and he'd returned to a gaping void where his future had been promised.

In the ancient world, this was the beginning of uprising.

And so, when Professor Lippman asked for current examples of small events which might be magnified into larger issues, I went straight to January 8th.  Although the shooter turns out to be a looney tune (I'm sorry if I am offending advocates of the mentally ill, but he put a bullet in the heart of  my 9 year old friend and I often have a hard time sympathizing with his plight.  Truly, I'm sorry, but this is as far as I've gotten right now.  I'm a work in progress... stick with me.... I'll get there yet, I'm sure.)

Anyway.... back at the ranch...... on January 8th Christina-Taylor and I were engaged in the exercise of our civic responsibilities.  We had been asked by our representative to meet her on the corner and to tell her how government could serve us better.  At the time, I was struck by the civic nature of the event, of democracy in action, and I was quick to remind Christina-Taylor that we were not only doing something amazingly cool and exciting and fun but that we were also being Americans.  We were participating in our country's governance.

And we were struck down while doing so.

Now, I know and you know that the murder of Archduke Ferdinand itself was only the lit match which set off WWI.  If it's not one thing it's another and had the mad Serb not knocked off the heir apparent I'm sure there'd have been another outrage outrageous enough to start the fighting.  But I'm struck by the similarities between the situations.  Consider that Congresswoman Giffords was the heir apparent to the Senatorial seat vacated by John Kyl.  Consider that a mad man and a gun were involved.  Consider that the rich were getting richer both then and now, and that self-interest took precedence over civic good.  Consider that what was bribery then is lobbying now.  Consider that at the end of the melee Britain had lost a generation of young men and you begin to get a sense of the knot which was growing in the pit of my stomach this morning.

I'd written off Occupy Wall Street as a meaningless excuse to hang out in the sunshine.  Purposeless, planless, unorganized (except for food and water... we brought them up well, we hippie moms and dads) and incessantly banging bongos..... it was aimless and useless.  But then Nance got into it and that vet spoke this morning and I looked at the Plebs in ancient Rome and I wondered if this was just the sort of thing that irritated them to the point of trashing their Republic.

When my Cuters' age cohort are under- or un-employed, when their futures are not brighter than ours but frighteningly more limited, when government is at a standstill and there's no hope in sight, when even a young black man looks like an old white guy because he's in power and they are not, well, ArchDuke Ferdy, I'm beginning to feel just a little bit nervous.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Holding the Paradox

I decided that it was time to look January 8th in the eye and see what was back there, so I went to therapy and I searched.  There were tears, there was laughter and there was confusion.  Lots and lots of confusion.

Turns out I was not required to sort it all out.  Turns out that I could hold the paradox, one piece in each hand and not seek a solution.  The answer could be both and that would be okay.

It was nice to hear someone else say it, especially a person who'd been trustworthy and believable and helpful in the past.  Especially when it turns out that her website lists trauma as the first thing she's interested in fixing.... or exploring.... or teaching the person on the couch about as she smiles and suggests holding  the paradox in two hands, saying "Breathe."
(This is a "find a Russian bride" site)
I'm finding it interesting that both talk therapy and pilates focus on the breath.  I feel like Boris and Natasha - Out with the bad air, In with the good....  I'm sure there's a physiological reason for my enhanced well-being, but I am able to enjoy the sensation without knowing the science.

So much for my on-going struggle to understand everything that's going on around me.  Getting shot took that away from me pretty quickly.  The world had been fairly predictable til just after 10 that morning.  I was rarely taken by surprise.  Once I felt the first bullet whiz by me, once I saw Gabby slide down against the flags, once my brain told me that this is really happening, well,  I was keenly aware that something out of the ordinary was going on.

My brain screamed "NO!"

I had no frame of reference, no folder in my brain to open and seek the answers.  I had been pushed off the edge and only finding Christina and getting out of there made sense.  Or so they tell me.  I've lost 3 or 4 days of my life and the hole is scary.  I fill it with what I hope I did and with what others tell me I did and I am coming to terms with holding I have lived every day of my life  and I can't remember the most significant days of my life in my palms, equally weighted or one heavier than the other but both there and present and relevant and real.

Most times I find that my hands are out in front of me, weighing the facts and feelings, without my brain alerting me that my body has gone on without me.  I take it as a sign that I am healing, that deep down I am becoming conscious of the fact that this is just too big to be okay so few months afterwards.  I am comforted, having been given permission to examine the paradox without requiring a solution.  I am amazed at my ability to relax into the not-knowing-ness.

I wonder who I am and then I find my hands out in front of me, holding the old me and the new me, secure, not falling off the edge, easy with the knowledge that going to Law'n for my exhortations to a dying 9 year old does not make me foolish or shallow or unthinking.  It makes me human.  It reveals a piece of myself that is neither embarrassing nor exalting but just is.

I can wish that I had told her it was going to be okay and I can be glad that I spoke only the truth to her.  I can be furious with the shooter for aiming weaponry at innocent citizens while I am, in the same instant, heartbroken that his mental illness was left untreated.  It was much easier when it was just hate which was attached to my thoughts of him.

I am thinking about the impossibility and the necessity of holding both those thoughts almost every day.  The solution feels no closer, but the weights are feeling lighter.  The paradox still exists, but I have permission to examine it without judgment.

It's liberating, in a frightening sort of way.