Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Too Pooped to Pop

Breakfast with old friends just may be my favorite thing in the world.  An omelette at Yolk and two hours of conversation with people I've known since my 20's was the perfect start to a long and stressful day.  We covered hip replacements and politics and John Corzine as we devoured Eggs Benedict and english muffins and green tea.  It was wonderful.

I spent the afternoon at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, being evaluated and examined and pronounced perfectly healed and in need of continued exercise and massage and pilates.  I must stop referring to my injured leg pejoratively.  Apparently, there is research showing that thinking bad thoughts increases inflammation.  Seriously.

Nance asked yesterday if I had any suggestions to make traveling while damaged more palatable.  I have none.  I am slower than anyone with whom I walk.  I am achy and sweaty and every step is a major event.  Everyone walks faster than I do.  Uphill is worse than downhill, but the difference is marginal.  Asking those with two working legs and hips that swivel freely to slow down or to wait while I recover is part and parcel of going anyplace with me.

I fork over cash to cabs without hesitation.  I sit on every bench.  If there is something to read along the way I read it.... slowly... carefully... as my muscles relax and my body temperature returns to normal.  It isn't the way I normally traveled, but it's my new reality and I've come to embrace it.

I really have no choice.  No matter how much I wish my quads weren't frozen and my glutes weren't screaming the reality is that they are.  I have to take a moment and nothing can change that.

The key is to remember that those you love are willing to adjust their pace to your needs.  They are glad that you are on the planet to share the joy of the adventure, even if the adventure is somewhat circumscribed by your limitations.

Kelly, PT extraordinaire, taught me to evaluate the threat level of the pain I feel.  The clicking that's been driving me nutty is ligaments moving over a protuberance and is neither dangerous nor destructive.  It's just noisy.  I've been imagining it as bone scraping on bone, further destroying the joint.  My imagination is creating anxiety which creates pain which creates anxiety which... well, you get the picture.  I spent the walk from the hospital clicking and ignoring.  It was a struggle, but one that I anticipate will become easier with time.  At least, that's the plan.

My legs are the same length and my gait needs reorganizing and I'm on an onward-and-upward trajectory.  Touring with my family isn't as peaceful or as speedy or the same as it used to be but I'm there to enjoy  it.

So, Nance, that's my suggestion.  Redefine your disability as an opportunity to stop and smell the roses.  If you have to rest on the bench while your grandson frolics on ahead, so be it.  You'll catch up eventually.  Being too pooped to pop doesn't mean that you can't take some joy from the fact that you are there at all. After all, you have a grandson..... JEALOUS!

Monday, January 30, 2012


Typing that title, I remember standing at the blackboard (in the dark ages, before white boards were replaced by smart boards) and arguing with the teacher that traveling had 2 L's, not one.  I was fairly adamant about it, as was she.  Richard Levine opened the dictionary and told us that we were both correct as I watched the teacher shake her head and erase my extraneous (in her eyes, at least) L.  She was the teacher, she was in charge, what did we know, anyway?  Fifth grade was a hard year.

Travel(l)ing with a leg and a half is hard, too.  Brother and 2 of the 3 women in his life took me to the National Zoo on Friday morning.  It was 60 and sunny in DC; the rain clouds were gone by the time we met up at my hotel and it was a glorious day for a walk.  By the time we got to the end of the hotel's approach road (it was much too long to be called a driveway) I was exhausted.  We piled into a taxi to save my hip for the hippos.  $10 to cover 4 blocks; disability is expensive.  

We saw the cheetahs stalking the zebras.  Their habitats are next to one another, which seems vaguely hostile.  The zebras were calmly munching their hay as the cheetah paced and sniffed and watched and was thwarted by the moat and the electrified barrier separating their domains.  I know that they exist beside one another in the wild, but this just seemed mean.

The great apes were in rare form, pulling lettuce out of balls-with-holes suspended from the ceiling.  Extra-long pointer fingers are very handy when your palm is the size of a large paperback book and the hole is 3" across.  The baby grabbed lettuce and shared with the grown-ups; good manners are apparently a cross-species trait.  

Staring into the eyes of the silverback, thinking about the Harry's Law episode where the client wants to establish an ape's personhood so she can adopt an escapee, Brother and I pondered the joy and the sorrow of watching our genetically related neighbors living behind plexiglass.  Zoos do that to me - I am never sure just how I feel about the whole on exhibit thing.  

The zoo, like Washington itself, is not flat.  The animals have lots of room to roam, the paths are wide and nicely paved, and there are benches along the route.  That was a good thing for my achy hip and me.  Brother began to worry as the sweat began pouring down my cheeks; was I in pain and keeping quiet so as not to disturb our lovely morning?  Not at all; walking is sweaty exercise for me. I feel every muscle, every insertion, every contraction and expansion.  I compare and contrast as I attempt to duplicate on the right what my left side is doing without effort; sometimes I actually succeed.  Being questioned about my rolling gait serves to remind me to balance my hips and use my foot and ankle.

Strolling didn't used to be this hard.

There's an O-line between the Great Apes's domain and the Think Tank. I know. I know. That sentence doesn't make much sense. It would have been equally opaque to me before Friday. The O-line is a series of towers and wire-ropes over which the apes travel to the research station 200 yards away. In the Think Tank, keepers and scientists are analyzing the thinking patterns of their charges. With computerized picture-matching exercises the animals behind bars perform for those uncaged. It wasn't very crowded and we were an interested audience as the volunteer docent followed us from area to area, bringing us up to date on the latest in primate research while holding a plastic ape-skull under her arm.

The only thing missing was Daddoooo. He would have loved it.

The clouds had rolled in while we were inside, and Kyle-the-orang utan (yes, it's two words in Borneo-ese and, respectfully, at the Zoo, too) had to be coaxed outdoors. Across the wires he went, resting on the towers with their electrified bases to keep him atop and not on the path below. The keepers warned us to stay out from under the wires; orang utans urinate at will and she didn't want us to take a smelly shower.

I was, once again, delighted and sad. Kyle was swinging and loping and stopping and looking and doing the bidding of the humans who keep him. The science being done at our National Zoo will change our perceptions of what thinking really is. I just wish there were a way for our genetic neighbors to help without being held hostage.

On the other hand, there aren't many predators lurking in the shadows, waiting to snatch an ape-baby for brunch. Like most of life, it's a trade-off.

I had to be back at the hotel for a 1:30 meeting so we started uphill at noon. Sweaty and smiling, I set benchmarks for distances I would travel. If I could get to the next intersection I'd allow myself to rest. If I could get to the benches I'd let myself sit. Brother and the ladies were accomodating and understanding and appropriately sympathetic. There was no coddling, but no one was pushing me, either. Good relatives are to be cherished.

We rested while watching the cheetah (or chiquita as one employee called them) pace and the zebra chew and I had a chance to marvel at the wonder of a free animal exhibit right in the middle of town. Washington's full of magnificent freebies, but I do believe that the National Zoo is my favorite.

Oh, yes, we did take a cab back to the hotel. My hip was definitely done for the day. I didn't feel sorry for myself, though. I'd walked for two hours and heard Brother wonder why I was setting such a speedy pace. Impressed that I was confounding and not annoying, I merely smiled and reminded him that I was, in fact, a speedy little devil.

I guess Daddooooo was around after all. That's what he used to call me.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Marriage Plot - a review

I just finished reading The Marriage Plot. Jeffrey Eugenides's story follows three twenty-somethings as they graduate from Brown and dip their toes into the world of adulthood circa 1983. Their paths are unpaved and unwashed and uncertain. The two men are damaged and their female love interest is just about perfect and life goes on around them as they struggle to figure out which direction their futures will take.

Living with mental illness is the spine of this story, although an argument could be made (as I did to myself before I put fingers to keys this afternoon) for marriage or the-search-for-one's-true-self as the over-arching theme. But the characters' intersection with religion and marriage are impacted by Leonard's manic-depression. His illness is untouched by anything.

Drug therapy and academia and private school girls and Mother Teresa are all on the receiving end of Eugenides' reproving tongue. Class differences and financial security, alcoholism and recreational drug use, scientific investigations and literary allusions, needing and avoiding parental units – when I organize my thoughts on the novel in this way I wonder how I managed to make my way through it. It seems so depressing.

Being married to depression, as Madeleine describes her relationship with Leonard, is hard to read about. I found myself screaming (silently, since I was in the airport lounge), urging this bright and talented young woman to extricate herself from the situation with alacrity. The world was her oyster; what made her tie herself to madness? And then I found myself hollering at Mitchell, agreeing with him that bathing suppurating wounds in Mother Teresa's Home for the Destitute Dying was probably not the way he wanted to spend his summer. I had compassion for him, running up the stairs and out into the sunlight, leaving the needy behind, taking care of his own soul first.

He was disappointed in himself. I thought he was taking a healthy step forward. It was the same step that I wished Madeleine would take, too.

And then Mitchell fell under Leonard's spell, just for a conversation in a back room at a party neither of them was much interested in attending, and my perspective was altered. As Mitchell began to see what Maddy loved, I, too, began to let go of my anger.

It's no one's fault. Mental illness happens. The consequences are brutal and difficult and they have sharp, jagged edges on which everyone gets caught. When suicide seems like an acceptable response, when running from the unsolvable presents itself as the healthiest solution, it takes an author with the delicate touch of Jeffrey Eugenides to bring it all together in a simple, elegant, all-of-a-sudden-but-I-saw-it-coming conclusion.

It's a book about doing the right thing. That's a subject about which I've been thinking a lot, lately. The Marriage Plot gave me some pointers on how to proceed with my examination of the subject. I'll keep you posted on my progress. For now, I'm going to work on loving my fellow man while maintaining my own personal space. I think that's the lesson I was supposed to take away.........
This was going to be a two book review; Walter Mosely was on Fresh Air as I drove to the airport and I bought his latest book for my Kindle Fire. Amazon made it all too simple to part with $9.99 so that I could have the book right here right now. My plan was to read it on the first leg and to srite about it on this, the second leg, of my trip to DC. Unfortunately, the Kindle ran out of juice and powered off somewhere in the middle of Chapter 10. I am sitting here staring at a small black device which is hiding my book behind a lack of power. I cannot remember ever being so frustrated. So, denizens, I apologize for a shorter than usual post today. I knew I should've stuck to books on paper. Grrrrr.......

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Hero

She's the feel good story of the day.  I'm honored to be attached to her coattails.

"I miss you" was the operant phrase, and for the first time I saw on Rep. Giffords' face just how big a toll this decision was taking.  Saying goodbye is never easy.  Leaving a good job isn't either.  Watching her sit and stand, faux-clapping and looking brave, my heart was heavy.

Literally.  I never knew that phrase in such a visceral sense before watching my Congresswoman mount the stairs to the Speaker's chair.  My hip hurt for her as she lugged her unresponsive side up two or three of the biggest highest most torturous steps ever created.  She teetered.... I gasped.... and TBG and I both exhaled "Oh, Mark!" as our brains went immediately to her husband, entrusting the safety of the person he cares most about in the whole wide world to John Boehner and Debbie Wasserman Schulz. 

Sometimes you have to have been-there-done-that to know just how anxious even an astronaut might be in a moment like that.  I could feel the vibes across town from the other 11 survivors and their families.  She's one of us and we need to be sure that she's safe.  

Sure, there's an odd election cycle created by her decision; I'm not averse to more conversation on the direction our country should take.  Besides, Congresswoman Giffords resigned so that I could be represented, so that my voice could be heard.  It's vaguely unseemly, it seems, (sorry, I couldn't resist).... it's awkward to second guess a woman for whom this decision has been all consuming, don't you think?  If Gabby thought resigning today was the right thing to do, I won't question her judgment.

I wrote more about Gabby for BlogHer.  Click here if you want more of my thoughts on her retirement.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Attiring the Bride

I'm on my way out of town this weekend. My travels will take me to Washington, DC and Chicago.  I have to stop in Chicago; Little Cuter and I have a date to shop for wedding dresses. 

For most normal mothers and daughters, this would be a moment of great joy and delight.  Much girlish giggling and motherly adoration would be dispensed.  Ball gowns and 20' trains and veils with flowery halos holding them in place would be examined lovingly.  The moment would be the culmination of years of wistful drooling over the Vows section of The Sunday New York Times.

Unfortunately for us, we are missing the bride gene.  We are stumbling in the dark.  MOTG saw the look of distress on Little Cuter's face last summer and with her gentle and loving assistance, other venues and locations were considered and rejected.   Her mother-in-law-to-be helped my little girl shift perspectives and find suitable alternatives which ultimately led to a smaller yet every bit as wonderful event that we will host in the Fall. Without MOTG's guidance, we might never have moved on. With her in our lives, we smile and relax into her zen space, emailed to me in response to my post worrying about the weather in September
If it rains, we will get wet, but the kids will be happily married and we will have something to laugh about in years to come!
Happily married kids.... who could ask for anything more?

Now we just have to be clothed.  Shoes have been discussed and decided upon. A hairstyle was crafted over Thanksgiving.  I know she doesn't want a ball gown (think Cinderella) and I heard her mention something about wearing a shade of white and feeling sorry that J Crew didn't have a bridal outlet here in Tucson but I'm not going into the shopping spree with any more facts than that.

I think that's fine.  It's not my dress, not my wedding, not my day.  We're not even going shopping in my city.  I wonder why I'm so stressed? 

Perhaps I am channeling my own wedding dress shopping experience.  I grew up knowing that Daddooooo would be making my gown; after all, he was the owner of Independent Bridal Gowns, Inc.  Margie-the-designer would design it and the old Italian man behind the gigantic wooden cutting table would lay out the fabric and use the world's sharpest shears to scallop the material and I would sit on a high stool, with tiny scissors in my hand, cutting along the edges of the lace medallions which would adorn my dress.  "The Girls" - 50 year old ladies in support hose - would stitch it on their black and gold sewing machines and then the beader would get to work. 

In the end, when it was finished and Al-the presser had ironed it smooth, I'd twirl in the showroom, the three-way mirror reflecting me back to myself over and over and over again.

Unfortunately, the business went bankrupt before I tied the knot.  I had to shop in a store.  Daddooooo had maintained a relationship with a shopkeeper nearby, and it was to her that I went, picture from Bride's Magazine in hand, with G'ma and Daddooooo hovering in my wake.  She had the dress, I loved it as much in reality as I had in photography, I was happy and twirling.

My parents looked stricken.

In retrospect, it's fairly obvious that they were reeling.  This was not how they had imagined my wedding planning would unfold.  I noted their discomfort and moved on.  They were never really happy, never far from anger or disappointment, so this was nothing new.  Had I wished for it to be a  special occasion I might have been sadder.  But I knew what I was getting into when I plopped myself down in the back seat of Daddooooo's Oldsmobile (with the orange duct tape still covering the rear light I'd smashed the year before) as we set out on our shopping adventure.  I just wanted to get through the afternoon without anyone being brought to tears.  In our family, that was a successful outing.

I know Little Cuter and I won't make one another cry.  We've gotten pretty good at letting the other know when she is approaching the edge of acceptable behavior.  I'll be so happy to be on the back end of my trip, surrounded by the love that only an engaged couple can shower on a maternal unit, that I won't even bat an eyelash if this is the dress she chooses.
Credits: Robert Schlesinger/EPA
 If it rains, she'll be perfectly attired for the pool.
And, after all, it's not my wedding.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Random Thoughts

The San Francisco 49'ers lost a heart-breaker Sunday night.  Big Cuter can now attend his conference (in Paris... poor baby) without feeling that he's leaving his team in the lurch.  Personally, I am reveling in the success of a quarterback who actually graduated from college (a semester early) with Deans' List grades.  Smart rules!
The Fox Theatre was going to be the venue for Sunday's movies-in-the-afternoon-with-the-girls because I thought that the original 3:10 to Yuma was on the schedule. Turns out that Russel Crowe was going to be on the big screen, not Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. I was looking forward to seeing an old movie in an old theatre and sharing the joy with Elizibeth, my favorite teenager. Instead, we shifted our sights to the local mall and Marky Mark. Am I the only one who remembers the hoopla over his underwear ad in Times Square?
I am now the proud possessor of a Kindle Fire.  Big Cuter taught me how to turn it on.  He did the registration.  Yesterday, I spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out how to download a library book.  I started out with a specific title in mind but after a while I was willing to take anything that was more interesting than a tool manual.  I don't have a touch screen phone or other portable device, and maybe that was part of my problem.  I couldn't find the internet and once I did find it I couldn't type in the search box and then the links wouldn't open and when I began entertaining fantasies of throwing the thing across the room I went to the bookshelf, took down Three Theban Plays, and immersed myself in the ancients. 

I may make an offering to the Oracle at Delphi before I begin to tackle it again.
The finches have begun their migration back in our direction.  I am no longer fretting that I never got to removing the berry pods from the crepe myrtle outside my window.  There's a frenzy of finches gobbling sustenance and swaying on the thin branches of my un-pruned plant which they see as their own private delicatessen.
photo: Congresswoman. Giffords' Office
Gabby Giffords held the rest of that Congress on Your Corner this morning. You remember, the one that was interrupted by bullets on January 8, 2011?

She was frail and tentative as she walked into the conference room in her soon-to-be-shuttered brand new office, but her smile lit the room as she was introduced to those of us who were standing in line that morning a year ago. 

What a loss. What a waste.  She is better than I had hoped and no where near ready to return to Congress.  Accepting her change of status with grace cannot have been easy. 

I shook hands with a real hero this morning, denizens. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Right Stuff

Go ahead. Watch it. Your boss won't mind, I'm sure. Just lean to one side and let her look over your shoulder at those luminous eyes, let him hear that strong and fragile voice.  You'll share a sigh and move on, knowing that you just saw someone do the right thing.

In a political environment filled with vitriol and blather, Congresswoman Giffords gives us two minutes of warmth and promise.  Barbed wire never looked this good.

If wishing could make it so, this video would be Gabrielle Giffords announcing her return to Congress. If determination and grit and will were enough... if there had been .....if only. Alas, as Gabby says, we can't change it.  

In between football and Joe Paterno and Marky Mark at the movies, Amster received a text and an email and JannyLou left me two messages.  The news was traveling like wildfire.  I sat in the dark booth at lunch, eyes pressed to a smartphone, as my Congresswoman said goodbye.

She belongs to herself and to her husband now.  The piece that she shared with her constituents is closed to us now.  She has no obligations, no responsibilities, no duties to perform.  She has one job and one job only - to heal. Her path is long and rocky and requires her focus. The journey cannot be rushed, only coaxed along, urged to move onward in a positive direction.  Time will tell.  Until then, and from then on, she must be vigilant in protecting her gains and resisting the losses.

Having heard this message quite often over the past 13 months, I know it's not easy to integrate.  It took Gabby as long as it's taken me to figure it out, it seems.  Coming to terms with what you cannot do right now no matter how much you want to do it and want to do it as well and as simply as you were able to before... well, it's a big one to swallow.

I'm all bent out of shape over hiking and gardening and heavy lifting.  No one but my family and friends is affected by my inability to perform in those arenas.  My heart aches for Gabby, whose decisions reverberate in households all over the county.  It's tough enough to handle within the confines of your inner circle, but when governance is involved there's another layer entirely. When she's not at work, neither is my civic voice.

So, take your time, Congresswoman.  Concentrate on the things your therapists suggest and don't worry about us.  We'll be fine.  Relax into your early 40's with an emphasis on re-establishing yourself on firm footing and come back to us when you're ready.  We'll be there, just as we are now.

In the meantime, thanks for those smiles at the end of your video.  I'm hitching my spirits to yours, if you don't mind.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Magic of Massage

Shannon came into our lives at UMC, in the ICU.  Arriving at the hospital before 7am, she was the only massage therapist able to get past the security guards and up to the floor where the families were gathered, overwhelmed and under-prepared, struggling with surgeries and breathing tubes and fear.  She set up her table in The Zen Room, a quiet place for families to escape the hubub of the machinery which was saving the lives of someone they loved.  It was dimly lit and silent. 

TBG found his way there sometime between my first and second surgeries.  I imagine he'd had a meal or two in between doctors telling him what else they were going to do to me.  He and Little Cuter and SIR never left me alone, and the strain was taking its toll.  Walking down the hallway, spying Shannon and her table, he went into the room and began to heal.

For a brief moment, it was all about him.  How was he doing?  What parts hurt him right now... or, the shorter list, which parts were fine?  A few probing questions, a gentle invitation to get comfortable, and my husband was connected to therapeutic touch and his own grief.

It was a magical moment.  For both of them.

Shannon Leigh Haskie hasn't had an easy life.  She knows what it took to get to where she is.  She feels your struggles and your worries and knows just what your body does with them.  Her strong hands tackled the sorrow in TBG's heart as she manipulated his tendons and ligaments. 

Providing a safe place - to relax, to let go, to submit to another's touch - that is, for me, the essence of a great massage.  Shannon's got it down.  Just ask my husband.

Weeks after I was discharged, when my family allowed me unfettered access to Facebook once more, I groaned aloud at another unknown-to-me-person friended me.  I had gotten used to rejecting these requests - which arrived in alarming numbers as my public persona grew and grew - but this time I said the name out loud:  "Who the hell is Shannon Leigh Haskie?" as I groaned and went to reject the request.

TBG's voice interrupted my pattern. "Friend her right now!" said he.  The delight on his face was mesmerizing; I couldn't tear my eyes away from the absolute joy he felt upon reconnecting with the woman who had given him his first moments of peace.  It was magical.

I friended her and we chatted and then TBG talked as I typed his words of welcome-to-our-lives and we set up a time for her to bring her healing hands to our home.... for the friends and family rate because that was all I could get her to agree to accept .... she, wanting to heal us for free.... her compensation being the renewed strength and lightness we felt after her hands left our bodies.

And, denizens, let me tell you that  after her massages I glide across the living room floor, carrying heavy plates and sloppy glasses, and I feel no pain.  She puts her fingers in-between the layer of stickiness and stuckness and pressing-on-itself-ness and I breathe deeply and suddenly there's a release and I am moving like an unperforated person once again.

Though she's the mother of a (pretty remarkable) teenager, I still feel like she's a kid; I offer advice freely.  And she listens.  I have rarely encountered a person who is so willing to accept a challenge to what she thinks is right.  She has a strong inner compass, and never shies away from the hard work that needs to be done to get to the place that she wants to go.

Can you tell that I think she's really special?

Today is the grand opening of her studio - Precision Touch Therapy - and she's offering $40/60 minute massages to introduce herself and her two (totally fabulous, Cortiva trained) colleagues.  This is not your usual massage, Tucsonans.  This is therapy.  These hands are intelligent, thoughtful, precise and helpful.  They work with you to figure out what is needed and how best to approach it - another Goldilocks moment, it's neither too hard nor too soft.... it's just right.

The studio - created by her landlord, IKEA and her lady electrician - has Meisha at the receptionist's desk and all the toys and bells and whistles you'll find at La Paloma and The Ritz.... for a much more reasonable price.  Heated towels and neck rests, scented oils,  heat packs and candle light and it's all included in the price of the massage.  It's an intimate space.  You're not given a number, you're escorted to your room or the totally comfy couch, offered water... and anything else you might need.

Nestled between a coffee shop and a Subway, you can fuel yourself on either end of your treatment. The coffee shop is having its grand opening tonight, Friday the 20th.  Shannon will be in her studio if you stop in to say Hi.  Tell her I sent you.... I guarantee you'll get a great big hug.

*friended - sent a message asking for access to my on-line Facebook life

Thursday, January 19, 2012


For some reason or other, I came to the keyboard this afternoon thinking about sledding.  Perhaps it was the season's worth of snow CNN showed me being dumped on Seattle today.  Perhaps it was JenniJazz and her pooch striding out on the road in front of my picture window.   Perhaps it's the fact that it is January, the middle of winter, and my body is longing for puffy flakes falling on my face. Whatever its genesis, I have the distinct feeling of missing the snow. Little Cuter's email last week said it best
I love how it quiets the city down and makes everything look like Narnia.
Don't get me wrong,  there is no way that I want to live with ice underfoot and feet of crystals to be shoveled.  But every once in a while I get to remembering.....

G'ma putting on her woolen hat with the earflaps and her red flannel jacket with the zillions of pockets and lacing her shoes up while sitting on the steps in the front hall.  Daddooooo was tossing gloves and scarves and mittens down from the top shelf of the closet as Brother begged to be let back into the house.  Unfortunately for him, the front door didn't open if the closet was in use; Daddooooo was fond of stating, in stentorious tones, that two things can't occupy the same space now can they? It made us all nutty.

Once we were dressed and in the car - no seatbelts or front seat restrictions to worry us - Daddoooo invariably disappeared, checking or rechecking or generally making a nuisance of himself.... as G'ma made abundantly if silently clear.  By the time he returned, the grown ups were doing a pretty good job of putting a damper on our enthusiasm, but kids and sled and snow are a pretty unstoppable combination when it comes to glee. Our trips to Bethpage and the hills of the golf course were usually pretty gay affairs.

If it were a Sunday, the Metropolitan Opera would be on WQXR.  Daddooooo would conduct; "Two hands on the wheel, Herbert"  is my acoustic backdrop to opera on the radio to this day.  G'ma continued to kvetch, we continued to squeal, and shortly we were in the parking lot, finding a space right at the entrance to the park because G'ma has the most amazing parking karma on the planet and no one can be in a bad mood when you are out of the car and on your sled while other families are still driving around and around.

Yes, there was a bit of schadenfreude attached to the whole scene, but such was my life on Long Island in the 1950's.

According to about.com, the highest elevation on Long Island is at Jayne's Hill (a.k.a. High Hill), which rises to an underwhelming 400 feet above sea level.  We're not talking black diamond runs on our flexible flyers, denizens.  Daddoooo would start us out pulling our own sleds, but my little sister was too slow and my brother refused to follow a straight path (some things never change, even over decades) and I thought they were all delaying us on purpose so before long he had us tied together, one sled behind the other, all three of us hollering MUSH as he pulled us across the frozen tundra. 

G'ma stayed in the clubhouse, drinking hot chocolate and wondering when we'd be done.

Flexible Flyers were the Ferrari's of the hill, and we had 2 of them.  Our third conveyance was Daddooooo's original sled from his childhood.  Its black runners were just a little bit bigger than the Flyers' and the steering was just a little bit stiffer.  There was a curved seat back and an extremely soft rope which, closing my eyes just now I could imagine in my hands.

Instead of lying on my stomach, face inches from the snow, steering with my palms on the rudder, on Daddooooo's sled I was upright, feet securely braced, steering down the hill with the rope in my hands and my eyes scanning for the bottom.  Was it the SUV of sleds?  Probably.  I loved it. 

We knew the back way to the best hills and those times in the trees were special for me.  We'd arrive at the top of the hill, spared one trip lugging our sleds behind us.  We'd take a moment to scope out the scene.  Who were the crazy kids, going sideways in front of the rest?  We'd avoid them for sure.  Where were the little kids, likely to be going much too slowly to make lining up behind them worthwhile?  Where was the fastest lane... the bumpiest lane.... the longest ride?  Which one would take me past Daddooooo, who would try to pull my hat off as I flew by? 

Up and down and up and down and I never remember being tired or cold.  I was alone on the hill but safely under my Daddy's watchful eye.  I was going fast and I was in control.  Sometimes we'd pile on top of one another, the kid at the bottom doing the steering as those above tried to stay put. It was marvelous.

Someone was always hungry or thirsty or needed a bathroom and G'ma was waiting and we could stop at Nathan's on the way home so when it was time to go it was time to go.  We were sleepy and red-cheeked and falling on one another in the backseat as Daddooooo took the turns just a little bit too quickly so that we could continue to feel the sleds going left and right and bUmP and hear the whooosh and feel the cold and why not roll down that window because we're all overdressed anyhow?

I was 8.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Joy Embedded in 2 Mini Book Reviews

It has been such a long time since I've had a chance to read for pleasure.  In the last year gunshots and recovery and a consequent lack of concentration found me, for the first time in my adult life, with no novels on my "to be read" shelf and no desire to find any to fill the spaces.

Once my brain started to function again, I found myself taking two Humanities Seminars at the UofA.  Between the history of the fall of the Roman Republic and an exploration of humans' expression of consciousness I barely had time to keep up with Doonesbury.  Once classes ended for the semester, I was busy with brownies and holidaze and family and taking a quiet moment for myself was out of the question. 

Then, suddenly, everyone was gone and the house was back to normal and the Stroll and Roll was planned and executed and I had time.  My first stop on my first regular day was the Nanini branch of the Pima County Library.

The literary gods rained ambrosia on me.  James Patterson.  John Lescroart.  Geraldine Brooks.  The first two newly published oeuvres - January 2012 means hot off the presses - and the third a novel I'd missed reviewing for BlogHer last year.  I clutched them to my bosom and made a beeline for home.

I didn't check my phone messages, didn't look at email, never got the snail mail from the box out by the road.  I took Mr. Patterson and Ms. Paetro, his co-author, out to the back yard and fell blissfully into the life of the world's most gorgeous and effective private investigator. 

Private: #1 Suspect was a good place to start after so long a hiatus.  James Patterson's plots involve me from the first page, and the characters are so well drawn that I never find myself wondering which one is married to whom and who's the lawyer and who drives the Cooper.  He writes about individuals and conveys their quirks with a minimum of exposition; he defines the maxim I try to live up to: show, don't tell.

Every sigh has meaning.  There is nothing extraneous.  I am never tempted to skip ahead to see if anything is going to happen; something is always happening.  Plus, it all happens within 2 or 3 hours of reading time.  I'm blissfully unaware of my surroundings for just enough of the day. It's a Goldilocks Moment - just right.

Just as my favorite television shows have more interesting back stories than weekly plots (ie. White Collar), the loves and lives of the folks attached to Jack Morgan reappear in this second installment of the series.  Their images are here on my desk as I type to you - Colleen and Tommy and the woes and worries they carry.  It's telling that I'm in the middle of another novel right now and yet Private's characters are with me still.

And what might that other novel be?  The Hunter is John Lescroart's latest slice of San Francisco, and it's every bit as readable as the rest of his work.  Once again, the back stories are as vivid as the main plot line - couples have split, families have grown - and the characters are sitting in the black leather chair, waiting for me to stop typing and re-join them as the fog rolls in.  San Francisco is every bit as much of a character as is Wyatt Hunt, another absolutely gorgeous and wildly successful private investigator.  The story is told with love and care.  Harshness is tempered by love in a realistic if improbable situation. 

Is that possible?  Can something be improbably and realistic?  I'm going to cogitate on that for a while and then go back to my story.  It's nice to have someone else do the heavy lifting for a while.  I'm going to relax and be taken wherever Mr. Lescroart's intertwined-between-books characters want to lead me.  I know I won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Feeling Safe - The Arizona Rangers and Me

photo: Darlene Danehy

Last week's Stroll and Roll was an unmitigated success. Throngs of Tucsonans joined GRIN and the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation for three hours of exercise and side-walk chalk and hugs. It was a magical way to make lemonade out of lemons, and TBG and I were determined to do just that.

Photo : David Sanders

I admit to a certain level of trepidation, though.  My last outing on a sunny Saturday morning in early January didn't have a happy ending.  This year, though I would be more wary, I was carrying a heightened sense of alert... alarm... okay.... fear.  I was scared to go out in public.  I was going to do it, but I was going to be scared.

That was the case until I ventured west of the freeway to the offices of the Pima County Department of Transportation, home of some of the loveliest public servants with whom I have ever had the pleasure to work.  After rolling up the maps and finalizing the list of things I had to do before the sun set, I couldn't resist any longer - I had to ask Marshall Beaty about the badge and the pictures on his wall. 

 The photographs he had were similar to this one
which I copied from the website of the Arizona Rangers just for you.  Mr. Beaty had one with his granddad (or great grand.... I was so awestruck that the facts are just a little bit blurry)... a real original Arizona Ranger. 

Yep, I was sitting across the desk from a real Ranger, a Ranger descended from Rangers, and he has the shiny badge on his wall to prove it.  This is real history, denizens, and I'm here to share it with you today.

Plagiarizing once again from their website, the Rangers were created because
(w)hile some of the criminals (who escaped detection by law enforcement and civilization) continued to operate as lone wolves and others work in bands, certain isolated areas of the Southwest - by reason of their location - tended to become gathering points for outlaws. Frequently there was a sort of loose organization among those who gathered in a given area and sometimes the organizational setup became so well formed as to constitute a gang.

It was for the purpose of ridding Arizona of such individual criminals and criminal gangs that the Arizona Rangers were created. Their objectives were to hunt down and capture the lone wolves and members of the gangs, to clear the areas in which criminals congregated and make them safe for settlement by law abiding citizens and to discourage the riffraff of the rest of the country to seek refuge in Arizona.

The Rangers also acted as a state police force to help enforce law when local authority was overtaxed. And they supplemented the activities of the then inadequate United States Border patrol.
I especially like the part I highlighted  - discouraging the riffraff is a damn fine idea if you ask me. 

I imagine it's 1903 and Sgt Clarence Beaty is chasing desperadoes through the wash behind what is now my house.  I looked at his son's son's son and saw the same determination, the same confidence, the same desire to make my town safe for settlement by law abiding citizens.  Marshall suggested that I assuage my fears by calling Lt.Col. James (Spud) Hester, the State Adjutant.  The Rangers, he was sure, would be glad to help.

And they were, denizens.  Yes, they were.  All volunteers, who supply their own uniforms and weapons and transportation, they are committed to providing support for those youth organizations and activities which contribute to the development of youth in matters of good morals and good citizenship (and) to support activities which, in the judgment of the voting membership, are deemed to be of benefit to all parties involved.

 Look at my husband's face as he is thanking the Rangers for being my personal protection detail.  Is there any doubt that there is benefit to all the parties involved? Those guys in the big black hats totally understood why we needed them there.
photo: Darlene Danehy
We're talking to Captain Leigh Lundberg, the Company Commander and my personal hero of the morning.  He and his men never left my side. 
photo: Darlene Danehy

The last tenet of the Rangers' creed is to engage in activities which tend to keep alive the traditions of the Old West.  How's this for an old western photo?
photo: Little Cuter

Thank you, Arizona Rangers.  You had my back and I appreciate it more than words can say.

photo: Darlene Danehy

Monday, January 16, 2012

We Just Sat There

Spending the morning at the VA Ambulatory Surgery center shouldn't have been an emotional experience.  Amster was having a pin removed from her foot and I was transportation and emotional support.  She's got a spasm in her neck and 4 kids to supervise this evening, so I'm on duty til everyone is asleep.  The morning piece was supposed to be the easy part.

There weren't enough chairs for the waiting family and friends. No one standing was older or more infirm than I am, so I remained comfortably ensconced in my oversized arm-chair, feeling no guilt at all.  The WWII vet smiling at me across the room, the young couple sharing the tiny love seat, the older couple holding hands as he waited to be called - we were a lovely, calm, relaxed group of 25 adults and one sleeping infant sharing a space.

CNN, broadcasting from a tiny flat screen in the corner above the Family Consult room, seemed like a good choice to me.  Politically middle of the road, it is easily ignorable in the way that a show-with-a-plot might not be.  Perhaps it's that TBG has the news on as constant background noise at home, but I was oblivious to the content as I checked my email and read Nance's take on Highly Sensitive People and JES's review of my friend Booker T  It was a calm and peaceful morning. 

Gainfully occupied on Nellie the Notebook, I was only aware of him after he stood up, but there he was, a 30-something-vet-with-a-limp, asking the television what the fuss was all about.  Why shouldn't those Marines have urinated on terrorists?  What was the problem? 

And then, turning to the rest of us, he nodded and included us in his rant by saying "Right?"

We sat there.  Each and every one of us just sat there.  I watched as this damaged young man sat back down and shook his head.  I noticed that we were all shaking our heads.

The young couple on the love seat met my eyes as we mouthed "NO!" to one another.  But it was a silent disagreement.  The WWII vet's wife and I exchanged rueful sighs and shrugs, wondering what possible good could come from such a disrespectful event, but we were quiet.  No one responded to the question on the table.

Had we been sitting closer, I might have engaged him in conversation.  I might have asked the why's and the when's and gotten nearer to figuring out how he could imagine that lowering oneself to one's  basest parts only serves to diminish, not enhance.  I probably wouldn't have changed his mind, but I would have tried. 

This morning, from across the room, I just sighed.  I knew that even were I sitting right next to him I would have kept my head down and my eyes on the keyboard and I would not have said a word.  Not a single one.  I'm not looking for any arguments these days. 

And as I sit here, typing and ranting, safely at my keyboard, out of harm's way, I wonder if this isn't the most profound change in my life over the past year. I am actually thinking before I speak. This is a good thing. I am considering whether or not my actions will result in my injury and that is also a good thing. I am examining the world around me and deciding if I should procede... also a good thing.... or so I thought.... but I'm fairly certain that before being perforated I might not have spoken directly to the shouter, but my disapproval would have been more noticeable. 

I would not have let the moment go un-noted.  Were Christina-Taylor with me, our conversation about the issue would have been respectful but not hushed.  Or so I imagine.  I'm not angry with myself, I'm not berating my lack of action, I'm not anything other than surprised at the turns my life has taken. There is no roadmap.  I'm making it up on the fly.

Time passed and so did our moment and soon CNN moved on to other stories and the young couple and I discussed their generation's ability/desire/need/expectation to live life in public.... out loud... assuming that everything will find its way to everyone else one way or another.I quoted Daddooooo's maxim: If you don't want it published on the front page of the New York Times then don't do it. They nodded in agreement.

So, given that mantra, given that I have a forum (albeit not quite The Paper of Record), and given that I have my response already prepared, here, in the spirit of better late than never is what I would have said to him:
I would not be surprised to learn that these 4 Marines were once pretty nice guys.  War changes people in profound ways.  But some things ought to be hard-wired, it seems to me.  Whether it's Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder giving you good advice, or your grandmother wagging her finger in your face, or the fear of embarrassment in The Grey Lady's headline, I think that if we trust you to hold a weapon in our name, we ought to be able to trust you to know right from wrong. 
And if you're not sure, because, perhaps, the fog of war has skewed your perspective, then can't we at least trust you to err on the side of caution?  No matter how full your bladder was at the time.

That uniform represents me and mine.  Your actions most certainly do not.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Channelling Daddooooo

My dad was really good with little kids.  I mean, he was really really good with them.  He knew just what to say, he knew just what would be interesting, and he was never afraid to allow them to push themselves to the limit.  In the workshop, as the parent of one of those kids, it was hard to watch as my little one wielded a saw.  Her look of triumph as the wood fell into two neat slices almost kinda sorta made up for the fact that my heart was lodged permanently in my throat.

I was on CBS last week, sharing the love with Ms. Levine's English-language-learners, and watching myself climb up the ladder to the loft bed we use as a cozy place to read I just had to laugh.  There was no way that taking myself up there, in my cowboy boots, with a thigh that resists coming parallel to the floor, was a good idea.  But the kids were up there and so was The Snowy Day and we know that book and my presence was requested so up I went.

Do you think it might be genetic?

My dad was the grown-up playing stickball after dinner in the street with the kids.... up until the kids grew to be about 8 or 9 and began to realize that he was changing the rules so that he could win.  As the older ones drifted away from his nonsense, a new crowd of younger siblings took their place.  I watched as the littlest little ones looked on in awe as he handed them a hammer and a nail and a block of wood and let them loose to wreak havoc on the garage floor.  As he respected their abilities, they lived up to his expectations.  I don't remember anyone ever being injured.  I do remember quite a few birdhouses being crafted and painted on that work bench.

There's a piece of Daddooooo in GRIN, too.  He was never one to sit around, watching the world go by.  He was always busy.  ADHD?  Somewhere on the autism spectrum?  His immutable character?  Born in 1916 he was never diagnosed as anything other than obnoxious, though those report cards with straight A's in academics and straigh 0's in conduct might have given someone an idea that there was a screw loose somewhere.  Instead, he was left to his own devices.  Some were more successful than others, and the ones that were most successful were the ones which involved people decades younger than he.

For a few years, his best friend on our block was the 5 year old grand-daughter of the lawyer across the street.  She'd ring the bell at 7am, wondering if Herbie could come out to play.  Those were times when his face was a seamless mask of joy.

As I bought sidewalk chalk and reassured TBG that both the Sheriff's Department and the Parks and Rec people had signed off on its use on the pathway, I felt my dad at my shoulder, bolstering my position.  So what if there was a bit of a mess.  Were the kids having fun?  Yeah?  Then what were we worrying about?

Though the students in Ms. Levine's room are unaware of it, my dad is with me there, too.  He's the guiding force not only behind my climbing an inappropriate ladder but in asking the kids to help me get down.  We got me into this predicament, we'd better get me out of it.  No, we didn't need help from the grown-ups.  This was our problem and we'd solve it ourselves.  I promised not to fall.  Through the laughter and the tumult and the anxiety of the reporter and the crew who were watching me put myself at risk at (they surmised) their request, only I knew why I was up there.

Daddooooo was watching to see if I could do it.  I was not going to disappoint him.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Maya, Dr. Fry, and Me

I seem to be a sucker for poetry in the wintertime.  Last year it was Billy Collins.  Today it was Maya Angelou.  I'm thinking of making this an annual mental excursion.  My brain is a-twitter with the rhythm and the rhyme and the grace and the depth of Ms. Angelou's words as spoken by William Fry, Ph.D.
The Happy Ladies Club monthly luncheon speaker, Dr. Fry, according to The Learning Curve brochure, is an award-winning literature professor.  From my personal experience this afternoon, I can add brilliant interpreter of the poet's words.  It was a pleasure to be in the room with him.

He read us They Went Home:
They went home and told their wives,
that never once in all their lives,
had they known a girl like me,
But... They went home.

They said my house was licking clean,
no word I spoke was ever mean,
I had an air of mystery,
But... They went home.

My praises were on all men's lips,
they liked my smile, my wit, my hips,
they'd spend one night, or two or three.

and his outstretched arm at the end encouraged us to ruefully supply the refrain.  We were there with her, watching as They went home.  Dr. Fry had made it so.

Phenomenal Woman was another joint venture.  Picture a room full of women-of-a-certain-age, well dressed, well coiffed, and well fed, repeating Phenomenally ... Phenomenal woman, that's me. I tell you, denizens, it was really a moment.  Read on and hear us, smiling and nodding and feeling phenomenally phenomenal ourselves:
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
There was more, but my words are feeling paltry after reading and rereading Maya Angelou.

If you are looking for more of her work,  this is a good place to start.

I'll leave you with these two stanzas from Still I Rise. 
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
I'm going to be walking like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room from now on.  Want to join me?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Random Thoughts

It's quite lovely to be sitting on Douglas, dinner dishes cleaned up and Big Cuter on the phone talking Tebow with his dad, my fingers typing random nonsense to you.  I am reveling in this new year.
Ron Paul came in second in New Hampshire's primary and only Rachel Maddow wondered if the Republican Party was paying any attention to that fact.  Wanting all perspectives on the situation, we left CNN for Fox, lasted about two minutes and found Rachel asking if the platform might represent Ron Paul's views.  After all, nearly 20% of primary voters find him attractive.

I'm trying to remain calm as I contemplate President Paul dismantling our government.
My dentist has a sonic tooth polisher.  There was no pressing, no whirring, no tingling from my teeth to my toes when I went in for a cleaning today.  Instead, there was a gentle stream of water and a strong pulsing sensation but none of my usually sensitive spots sent me jumping or flailing.  Strange as it might sound, it was actually a pleasant experience.
School buses and left-lane-toads combined to make a 40 minute trip an exercise in patience and deep breathing.  As I try to consider what internal turmoil is fogging the brain of the 20-something tooling along in the fast lane, 10 miles under the speed limit, I am also trying to stifle the urge to honk my horn as forcefully as my palms can smack it.

Isn't it possible to be distracted in the right lane?
The construction project on our corner has raised the elevation of the road by 10'.  Sidewalks have been laid and curbs have been poured.  There's no pavement, but we have high hopes.  No one can understand why cement pipes 15' in diameter have been installed; obviously it's for flood control. But that intersection has never been flooded, not even in the 100 year storm of 2006.

This project was in the works for 12 years before construction began last summer.  I ought to check out the weather patterns back then.  Perhaps it was very very wet and they were very very worried.
John Huntsman misfiled his primary application and Arizona's Secretary of State has left him off the ballot.  Apparently, an un-notarized, photocopied form just doesn't make it here in the Grand Canyon State.  It will be too bad if his views aren't represented; he's a thoughtful, smart, polished man who might make it an interesting race were he to secure the nomination.
Fox is stirring up trouble by calling Romney's win disappointing because he didn't meet the commentators' expectations.  James Carville, possibly the scariest face on television, is smirking and Juan Williams is pontificating and TBG has My Favorite Year on the tube.

It's a no-brainer.  I'm going with Benjy Stone and Alan Swan.
There are some movies that every person in my family will sit and watch at any time of the day or night, no matter the mood or the weather or the astrological sign.  Late Saturday night found us providing our own audio accompaniment to Cool Runnings.  The absolutely normal things make me so very very happy.

Happy New Year, once again, to you all.  May it make you as happy as I plan for it to make me 
(That is one of those sentences to which my children reply,"Mom, we love you.  You make no sense, but we love you. )

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Feel Lighter

Happy New Year to one and all!  May it be full of merriment and wonder.

I know, I know, I'm a week late to the party. It doesn't matter, really.  I'll catch up.  But right now I am reveling in a sense of starting fresh, of incorporating but not dwelling in the past, of beginning the next chapter of my life. It helps that I'll turn 60 seven weeks from today.

Sixty is a big number but it's a meaningless statistic in terms of what is relevant to my life right now.  As almost everyone of my friends from January 8th said this weekend, every day is a miracle, a gift, an unexpected but gratefully appreciated bonus.  My line has been that "the sun came up and I was here to see it.  By definition, that makes it a good day."

Those good days have been measured against a backdrop of gunfire and death and pain and recovery. "It's only been six months....." "In a year....." "Look how far you've come since...." Understandable, but overwhelming.

Getting shot was a "master status," much as pregnancy is. No longer are you wife or lawyer or artist.... you are pregnant and that's that. Getting Shot is, unsurprisingly, a master status on steroids. There are expectations - real and imagined - and those expectations can come to dominate what is an uncharted landscape.

Another well-worn but useful maxim is "there is no game plan for this."  Maggie Morton, the Tucson therapist PBS used to segue between segments of Together We Heal, gave me permission to ignore the expectations.  She did not give me permission to wallow ... at least not for very long.

I am surrounded by caring healers who agree with her.  They encourage me to honor my emotions and then to find a proper place to store them.  The problem is, I have not been able to create a place in my brain/heart/soul to put them.  They've been rattling around in my head, popping up at random moments and generally getting in the way of everything. 

What to do with them has been the central issue of the last 12 months. Where should they land?  What possible use can they have as I look ahead?  According to Maggie Morton, taking action is a good place to start.

It has worked for me.  Those who admire the fact that I have been out and about this past year are treated to my bemused face as my mouth wonders "What else could I do? My alternative was to crawl into bed and pull the blankets over my head."  Apparently, this was a very healthy approach to take.  I love being validated on national tv.

The public nature of my perforation has complicated matters further.  I believe that this happened to all of us who live here.  I represent a certain perspective on the event, and as such I've accepted the fact that I am healing out loud.  I'm not anonymous and even wishing won't make it so.  Though I long for the time when a trip to the Women's Room does not include a "You're Suzi, aren't you?" from the person at the adjoining sink (as it did last night.... twice..), I recognize the fact that I've brought this on myself.  I've used Tucson as Tucson has used me.  Our hugs, our smiles, our prayers all go both ways.  I receive as I give without artifice or prevarication.  We are traveling down this path together, albeit without a roadmap or an agenda.

Actually, I have had an agenda.  I just didn't recognize it as such.  I told everyone that I would be walking without a limp by the one year anniversary of my hip surgery.  That's today, and I am here to tell you that it didn't happen.  But, since I am President of My Self, and since Roberts' Rules of Order specifies that the President owns the agenda, I have altered the program. 

This is how it happened.

TBG and I went to the Candlelight Vigil last night.  We brought JannyLou and Fast Eddie and Amster, the Tucsonans who got us through those first awful days.  The Tucson Symphony and Choir and Calexico and Gabby leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance could have been maudlin; Amster grabbed a stack of paper napkins since none of us had tissues. 

They went unused. 

Sitting under the nearly full moon, snuggled between my husband and my friends, behind the Bowmans, who saved my life, and in front of the family of Judge Roll, a lawyer about whom no one could be found to say a bad word, I was filled with gratitude and love and comfort.  There was joy in the somberness of the music, somehow.  I shook hands with the student composer of the third piece played by the orchestra and I was struck by how wonderful it must have been for him to hear his work performed professionally, in front of 2000 real people and countless millions more in the ether.

Out of pure sorrow rose pure joy.

The whole night was like that.  I got to shake Gabby's hand, albeit 365 days late.  I was rewarded with a beaming smile and a brief, eye-stopping moment of contact between two who have been shot.  We know.  We don't want to, but we do.  We also know that failure is not an option.  We go on, because there are no better options.  And if we're going on, we might as well smile along the way.

Amanda Myers, my friend-from-the-AP as she introduces herself on the phone, wrote this about my participation in the program last night:
Suzi Hileman, who was shot three times, took the stage, hugged Giffords and walked to the candle area. She lit one, put her hands over her heart and mouthed "thank you" to the crowd.
And that's how I did it, denizens.  I looked out at 2000 faces filled with I-don't-know-what and whatever we were experiencing together, those of you in the audience and I,  it worked like a charm.  I left the stage, sobbed into TBG's arms behind a screen, took a deep breath, and returned to my seat in the second row 100 pounds lighter.

A weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  I don't know where it is, but it is not burdening me any more.  I am standing up just a little bit straighter, walking just a little bit smoother.  I slept deliciously deeply last night, as did JannyLou.  The knot in my stomach is an occasional visitor today, rather than the constant companion of 2011.  When it appears, I put it in the place resered for such things.  That place showed up last night, too.

I am living my life, informed but not dominated any longer by the events of last January.  I'm not looking backward to see how far I've come.  I'm looking forward to see where I can go.

It feels great.

Notes that I didn't want to include in the narrative but that I wanted to tell you :

Clip Art courtesy of http://tinyurl.com/6pj7quj

Together We Heal is well worth watching, telling the story of January 8th and the aftermath from an unusually personal perspective.  I know the people who speak; they are represented honestly and compassionately.  I love them all.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Stroll and Roll ... I Can't Leave it Behind

I am out of words, denizens. The media, my friends, my family... they've taken them all and left me with a semi-exploding head and a heart wrapped in warmth. I'm going to take the next few days to unwind from the Stroll and Roll and the memories and the celebrations and the candlelight vigil and the news reports and the emails and cards and phone calls filled with love and thinking of you and encouragement. I know I'd promised to leave this episode behind me, but......

I nearly ran off the highway after dropping SIR and Little Cuter at the airport this morning when I heard the NPR announcer segue from one story to another like this: "Susan Hileman took her ...." It was so sad to be alone in the car; there was no one to hoot and holler with. I keep thinking that I am used to the celebrity, but I guess I'm really not.

A lovely young producer from The State of the Reunion sent me to KUAT's studios on the UofA campus where I read, and re-read and read once more for good measure a love letter I'd written to Tucson at their request. Ron Barber, Pat Maisch, Pam Simon and Ross Zimmerman also read letters and the producers, Tina Antollini and Laura Starcheski, wove our words into a love note to our town.  The entire letter is reprinted at the end of this post.

Enjoy the first round of photos from the Stroll and Roll
 (Thanks Little Cuter for sharing your talented camera work.)

It was a beautiful sunny day, especially for bikes with streamers.  
Christina-Taylor's friends were media stars.
The lonely face painter (front left) watches 

as Jadiann Thompson of KPHO (in the pink... my new favorite television person) films the love.
An entire post on the Arizona Rangers is forthcoming. 
For now, here is a quick peek at a piece of my personal security detail

"Don't miss any opportunities" said this 94 year old,
Inter-generational experiences don't only have to be grown-ups and kids, it seems.  These two have breakfast together every weekend; the younger is the daughter of a woman who taught the elder.  
I love the connections as much as I love the shirt and skirt combo.
Volunteers in commemorative t-shirts at the end of the event.

The t-shirts are gorgeous and many of them are still sitting in a box in my garage.  If you are interested in purchasing one ($15 covers the shirt and shipping) send an email to suzi@grandparentsinresidence.com .Tell me what size you need; instructions will follow.
(NOTE ADDED April, 2018 - I still have a variety of t-shirts available. $15 donation, shipping included.)

The logo on the front of the shirt.


Dear Tucson,

I was shot on January 8th while holding my 9-year old friend's hand. She is dead and I am here.

Christina-Taylor and I were waiting to shake our Congresswoman's hand. We went from thrilled to damaged in an instant. What I didn't realize at the time was that the same thing had happened to the rest of you, too.

A week later, still an in-patient, I was wheeled through the vigil garden outside UMC. There were candles and flowers and butterflies and daisy chains and streamers and sculptures. There were hand made drawings from little girls and grown men. There were potted plants and bouquets wrapped in papers from California and Oklahoma and Yuma.

Luz de Luna's mariachis asked permission to serenade us...asked permission!..as if anyone could refuse a love song. The young man's voice rose high and sweet as the sun set and the guitarist strummed and their teacher blew 12 long low lovely notes that went straight from his muted instrument to my soul. It was a physical connection, and the maestro's wink at the end was an acknowledgment that we were attached on a visceral level. The song was about antigua, which was explained to me as being the old kind of love. Old or new, it was palpable. It's what I've felt every day since I got shot.

I moved through the path of offerings, feeling overwhelmed. I had thought that I would be anonymous. I was not. I was noticed. Looked at. Marveled at. Watched. Approached. I was hugged and prayed over and smiled at and my hand was shaken, my shoulder touched, my knee patted. And it still going on today.
This happened to all of us. I know that I am not alone. You were out there with me, Tucsonans. You with your teary eyes and your outstretched arms and your healing grace are helping me to heal. We are in this together. A madman tried to turn our desert town into a slaughterhouse and we just won't let it happen.
No way.
In the gym, at the bookstore or the deli counter, at the Sonoran hot dog stand or waiting at the post office, you look twice and then smile as I say Yes, please do. It's okay to hug me.” Cashiers at big box stores and fellow patients at physical therapy throw their arms around me and we share the love. I'm not sure who is helping whom, but I do know that it works for me.

This is who we are. We are Tucsonans. Old or young, Native American or transplanted New Yorker, we share a palpable sense of place. This is our home. When one of us suffers we all feel the pain. There are times when there are no degrees of separation between us.
This is our melting pot, our cultural stew, our place to be ourselves under the warmest sun, atop the driest earth.
We have the Catalinas and the Santa Ritas and the Pusch Ridge and we have each other. We have chosen hope over fear, civility over anger.
When people ask me if I am sorry that we moved to Tucson I shake my head and quickly disabuse them of the notion that there might be anyplace else I'd want to live. You brought us dinners and knitted us prayer shawls and you called to see if we needed anything from the market. You respected my privacy but pointed me out to your children as the hostess seated you. You told me that you were praying for me and I told you that it helped.
You are anxious to get involved as I move forward – and that is what I love most of all.
We're not going backwards. We're not stuck in time. We're not obsessed. We are bruised but not broken. We are healing, publicly and privately, and if I can help by walking tall then I'll stand a little straighter and walk a little longer. I'll do it for you.
I love you, Tucson, just as much as you love me.
Suzi Hileman