Friday, March 30, 2012

And Then, One Day......

There's an interesting theme going on over at Time Goes By this week.  Sparked by an op ed piece in the New York Times, the conversation is almost equally divided between those who think the old geezer should be allowed his aches and pains and those who are tired of hearing him and those like him whine.

Rain wrote about it, too.  She's always been a source of comfort and a nudge in the right direction when I needed it so I scurried on over to see what she thought.  No, 60 is not the new 30; it's different and that's fine.  Be positive but accept the reality; what else can one do?  She says it eloquently and thoughtfully; click through and read her for yourself.  I agree with it all.

I went back through some old posts on G'ma, and I found this.  I wrote it after I told her that I, her eldest and most durable child, had intersected with bullets. 
Can you see why I am going to school on being an old old person from my mother? No guilt. No over-wrought screaming. No anger. Nothing but acceptance and love and laughter. She doesn't dwell on what she's lost. She enjoys what she has. She's funny and interested and not furious at what is missing. She exists in the here and now, and makes it a better place for those in her aura. There is much to be learned from her, and I'm soaking it in like a sponge.
The notion of accepting myself for who I am while wondering who I am and how I got here is one I've been stuck on since getting shot.  Now that I stop and think about it, the sudden onset of my introspection is probably not all that different from the moment that G'ma noticed that she didn't remember much any more.  It was just there one day.

I'm reading Jane Gross's memoir/handbook of caring for her aging mother, A Bitter-Sweet Season.  In the first 39 pages I've stopped a dozen times, struck by the fact that I had been there, done that, wondered that, too.  As she says
...middle-aged daughters do this all the time.  I never noticed until I became one of them.
That's it, exactly.  On either side of the equation, the sagging skin, the creaky joints, the slowing down, the dependent parent..... they are all part of our every day until they become all of our every day. And you don't notice it until it's upon you.   

When did I get this old? Daddooooo used to ask.  That's the question at the center of it all.  If I knew when, perhaps I could have done something to avert the inevitable.  If I'd seen it coming, perhaps I could have changed.  If.... if.... if if's were skiffs we'd have a navy. 

If I've learned nothing else over these last 15 months, I've become certain that perhaps and if only are the least useful words in my vocabulary.  Seret 's mantra - It is what it is.  Smile, and move on. -  is the shorthand version of my answer to myself when my brain decides to wander down the well-worn paths of second guessing myself. 

Putting the smile on my face makes an immediate difference.  It's a proven fact.  Once I've turned my frown upside down I find a fork in the road, one leading to a better place, one reminding me that I Am and that is a good thing, even if I am lumbering more than I'd like, if I'm developing jowls, if my mother doesn't remember my name.  Everyone else has a similar issue, or they will soon enough.  There's no reason to burden others, or myself, for that matter, with the tsorris (an exceptionally useful Yiddish word meaning troubles). 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mad Men.... and Women

Mad Men is back, and CTVW, my window into the world of the single-20-something-in-NYC, doesn't get the hype.  According to her Facebook status, she watched the previous seasons on DVD and the opening episode of Season 5 on Sunday, and she's unmoved.  How can that be?

Good television is hard to find.  Rich content, thoughtful videography, stylish set decorations and sharp dialogue is a rare combination these days.  To my mind, Mad Men has all of that, and more.  What is my young cousin missing?

Sally Draper, 14 in 1964 just as I was, wears pajamas just like I did.... pedal pusher pants with a row of faux lace at each cuff and a matching top with a cap sleeve and lace.  Her reaction to the curve of her step-mother's naked back in her father's bed - a long look, no words, no facial expression - was exactly what I imagine I would have done in her situation.  We were not empowered then, we teenage girls.

I'm not talking about the sense of entitlement endemic to American middle class middle schoolers these days.  I'm talking about an innate sense of what is appropriate and what is out of line and the recognition that my thoughts on the matter are relevant.  Dad left the door open, Sally saw what there was to see.  No one gave any thought to her reaction; she was not the most important person in the space

Dad offered breakfast and the house was calm and peaceful, but no one asked Sally how she felt.  No one ever asked me, either. I was never the issue. Jennifer Getzinger, the director, gets it right.  The camera holds Sally in the corner of the shot, still as stone, polite but watchful, as the inexplicable roils around her, couched in suburban bliss.

It's the women who grab my attention in this show.  They don't know where they fit.  There's no slot in the social order for the married mom who wants to leave her infant son at home and return to the workplace.  Her mother worries that the husband won't allow her to work.  Repeating that phrase aloud, rolling it around in her mouth, allowing her reaction to flash from her eyes to her mother's startled face, Joan sets herself apart from traditional roles.  Mom is not amused.

I wonder if CTVW can understand just how serious Mom's objections were.  I wonder if she can imagine a time when the little woman was just that.  I know that my mother can. I know that I can, too.

Don's French wife, Megan. is similarly adrift.

Some may say that her risque birthday song was merely a foreigner's inability to read her American audience.  I think that's too simple an explanation.  I think she misread her place in society.

Sexy worked then (think Marilyn Monroe serenading JFK) but there was something sordid and unacceptable attached to the frisson of passion and lust.  Her co-workers admired her beauty and sex appeal;  showing it off in a public display, as a wife, stretched the boundaries of what was permissible... understandable.... explicable.

The series has explored birth control and abortion and extra-marital sex; I wonder if CTVW can relate to the fear, the frantic sense of what will I do, the lack of options that were the back story I and women of my generation were able to supply without missing a beat.  She and her age group know no one who's had a back alley abortion, who couldn't find contraception, whose options were circumscribed.  Given what's going on in State Houses all across the country, she may well find out soon enough.

The beauty of Mad Men is that all of that is there.  It's hiding behind the girdles and the white cotton gloves and the smiles on the faces of the black women proud to be leaving their resumes for a non-existent secretarial job.  Betty Friedan had Joan and Peggy in mind when she railed against the under-utilization of half the potential workforce.  Gloria Steinem endured stilettos and a bunny tail, seeking the truth behind the Playboy mystique.  Joe Namath didn't show up in pantyhose on television for another decade; such gender bending was unthinkable in 1964.

Is that really so hard to imagine, CTVW?  Do you know that I was not allowed to wear pants to school until the fall of 1968.... my senior year in high school?  Until the late 1960's, girls (not boys) had parietal hours at Cornell - be in the dorm by 11 on weekday nights or collect demerits.  Boys in the girls' dorms?  No way they got past the lobby lounge, with the piano, the couches and the housemother.
Females required protecting; society took that responsibility seriously.

Now, with Rick Santorum touting contraception as the root of sexual promiscuity, I am struck by the absence of outrage from the demographic which would be affected most immediately if his perspective became law.  Where are the young women who depend on Planned Parenthood for medical care?  It's always been there, so it always will be... is that the refrain they hear?  I and my cohort are here to tell you that these were hard won victories, that life was very very different before Roe v Wade, that how the world looks at you depends upon how the law defines you.

Take a closer look at Peggy and Joan and Sally and Megan.  Consider their options, or the lack thereof. Notice the way they are marginalized, objectified, diminished and demeaned.  Pete is peeved because Trudy is no longer the fashion plate he married, no longer the supportive help-meet he needs to further his career.  She just doesn't understand, he moans on the train.

I spoke aloud to the screen as he paused for a breath: Neither do you, buddy.  Neither do you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Addressing Springtime

It was hot and sticky in Chicago.  TBG and I wore shorts as we strolled down Michigan Avenue.  We looked like tourists and we didn't care.  There were others out and about who were similarly attired.  Khaki shorts and polo shirts were visible at every street corner. 

Granted, my pink polka dot sneakers were just a bit outre

but they certainly made me smile.  When I'm walking these days, every little bit of levity helps.

Levity.... laughing but also a nod to levitating, which is what I'd like to do when I'm walking.  Pounding on the pavement isn't as much fun as it used to be.  But, I digress.

Had I realized that the sartorial differences would have been so stark, I'd have taken photographs.  At the time, I didn't notice it at all.  Coming from Tucson, where comfort rules and bright colors are de rigueur, I wasn't startled by the prints and stripes and bright tight jeans on the pedestrians we passed on Chicago's streets.  There were large women in big bold stripes striding through the cross walks.  There were hip twenty-somethings with odd socks and brilliantly shiny tops.  Lunch at RL, Ralph Lauren's upscale eatery across from the original Water Tower, the demographic was older but the palette was the same. 

Dressing for our flight to NYC, I chose black wrinkle-free pants and a tidy grey and white striped top.  Exiting the taxi in front of our hotel, I felt as if I were wearing neon.  Every person on the street was in black.  White shirts merely set off the somber attire.  It was 70-something-degrees outside, the sun was shining, and these people were dressed for a funeral.

It only got worse.  I had packed for warm temperatures and sunny skies in a Tucson frame of mind.  My multi-colored short-sleeved shirt was inappropriate in so many many ways on the streets of Manhattan..... and I just didn't care.  It was amusing, watching New Yorkers deny the advent of spring.  The tulips might be blooming, the park benches full of lunch time diners, the breeze a gently touch on their shoulders, but their clothes reflected none of it.

Black sweaters over black trousers.  Black blazers over black blouses above black skirts.  Black on black scarves and ebony leather purses and I wondered if it was all a reaction to the dust and the grime a very big city creates.  There's a cavernous sense to Manhattan which is missing from Chicago; perhaps there's a connection to the darkness there.  I'm just not sure.

Visiting MOMA on Saturday brought a few bursts of color,  An embroidered jacket here, a Peter Max inspired scarf there, orange and turquoise sneakers on teenage art students.... but they were all attached to humans wearing black.

Ignoring Spring, denying oneself the joy of pastels, it made me sad.  I'm not judging. I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chicago: A Love Note

Spring in Chicago looks like this:

Spring in Tucson is more prickly.
I have to say, I miss the tulips.
They are not very successful in our Zone... whatever the USDA is calling it these days.
We don't have enough cool hours for the bulbs to fully mature.

The Midwest is just perfect for Holland's most famous export.
The merchants along Michigan Avenue pay to install seasonally fantastic displays along the sidewalk.

 From a distance or up close and personal, they soften the cityscape.
I expect flowers when I stroll through a park.
I love the tingle of surprise I feel every time I stroll down Chicago's upscale shopping district.
Someone took the time to remind me that there is earth beneath the concrete.

I feel the need to say "Thank You."

Little Cuter and SIR live in Boys' Town, a decidedly funkier neighborhood.
Filled with great restaurants and nail salons, several gyms and a hat store dating from the 1800's, there's no lack of nightlife or shopping opportunities. 
A public school sits smack in the middle, right on the main street.  Its parking lot hosts the Saturday Farmer's Market.  I had my first bacon cupcake there, and I mourn the transformation of Jane Addams' Hull House Center* each time I visit.

But mostly I am transfixed by the flowers on every street corner.

It's hard to feel hassled by traffic or the crush of pedestrians when a wrought iron bench puts you in front of this random planter.

Urbs in Horto..... City in a Garden.

It's about the most perfect city motto I know.

*From CBS Chicago Local News.  Here's the link to the whole article.
The original Hull House settlement was displaced by the construction of University of Illinois at Chicago campus in the 1960s, although the mansion remains as a museum on the UIC campus at 800 S. Halsted St.

Afterward, Hull House moved its operation to a former American Legion Hall at 3212 N. Broadway in the East Lakeview neighborhood, which became the Jane Addams Hull House Center.The Broadway facility offered art classes, adult literacy courses, child care and theatre programs to the working class residents of the neighborhood, the Chicago Reader recalled. It also became the home the Lakeview Pantry free food pantry, and several theatre companies, including the Steppenwolf.

But the Hull House Association decided to sell the building in 2002, and it was remodeled to become the fashionable Lakeview Athletic Club.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New York, New York... It's a Wonderful Town

We stayed on Wall Street for the weekend. TBG spent hours pointing out where this used to be and where that once was, while I became fascinated with the details.
This was the view outside our window.  Our hotel,  Andaz Wall Street, is the height of NY minimalist design. There was nothing extraneous.  There were no frou-frous. It was glorious. 

The City, though, is filled with geegaws.
There are random faces and swirling columns going no place, and if the bus hadn't stopped right in front of the doorway I'd have been able to show you the extensions of the window treatments you see in the center curved lower window. 
It was outstanding.
Sam's Felafel had the longest line of any of the food trucks on the park.  Sitting on a bench, surrounded by tourists and a serious police presence,
 I wondered if the architect imagined shorts and sandals striding in front of his decor.  The buildings seemed to call for bustles and parasols and horse drawn carriages.

Freedom Towers are going up on the site of the World Trade Centers.
I love the fact that they are reflective, bouncing back the energy and the reality and reinforcing the notion that you can knock us down but we're coming back twice as good as we were before.

The construction process is fascinating
and very patriotic.
And the buildings will be beautiful.
This was all we saw of Occupy Wall Street.
New Yorkers tell us that the police stand shoulder to shoulder around the outskirts of Zucotti Park each night, keeping the Occupiers out.

Possibly the coolest address in The City - #1 Broadway.

Right at the edge of Battery Park, in view of the Statue of Liberty, I had to giggle when I saw the sign.  The owner obviously knew what he had.

We went up to the Museum of Modern Art and saw self- portraits
and old favorites
and wondered just what this FIGURE is doing....
driving a car?
easing an aching back?
sitting in the dentist's chair?
As you can see, TBG was enthralled.
This was my favorite...
I felt as though I was in the apartment on the other side of the alleyway, peeping into the lives of strangers.

It seemed apt, feeling that way in this busy overcrowded city...
where strangers let you photograph their children drinking in the culture.

I couldn't live there, but I certainly do like to visit.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Josh and Cara Are Getting Married

We've been planning this weekend for 30 some years. Friends with the parents of the groom, it has always been our intention to dance at our children's weddings. This weekend we'll get the chance. Josh and Cara are getting married.

Reggie's been planning and thinking and organizing and fretting and smiling from ear to ear for a year or so. Getting along with the in-laws has made this all much easier, if easy can be used when planning a rehearsal dinner in NYC when you live outside LA. Small decisions and big decisions all received the same careful attention. Josh is doing this one time and one time only... it's going to be perfect.

While she was Suzi-sitting, Reggie and I gave lots of thought to the decorations for the rehearsal dinner. Catalogs and Google were perused and items considered and discarded as we interrupted ourselved with memories.....

Big Cuter and Josh in diapers, jumping on a bed in Acapulco. They were so little; when did they grow bigger (much much bigger) than their moms? The two boys going eyeball to eyeball with the iguanas which lived in the greenery surrounding our casita's patio; it was a toss-up – who was more scared of whom? Or should it be who was more intrigued by the other? These were very curious boys.

That curiosity led Josh to collect a multitude of graduate degrees in the Southeast. It's not easy to live so far from your children, as TBG and I can attest. It makes it easier to have them so far away when you know that they are surrounded by love. And Josh and Cara have lots of that.

He's a trailing spouse to her dream job, and luckily they are both as happy as clams. Good work and good people and now they are getting married. Registered for housewares and camping gear, their lives together will be filled with adventures and domesticity. It's a perfect combination.

Hotel reservations were made 5 minutes from the festivities' venues. The rehearsal dinner should end in time for us to watch Indiana trounce Kentucky (you heard it here first!) in the Sweet 16 and the wedding on Saturday doesn't conflict with anything we really need to watch (sigh.... it's the only up-side to Georgetown's loss last week). Old friends will be there to share the joy... and the basketball. We haven't watched sports with Orb Kcrob for decades. We can hardly wait.

Spending two days with our own bride-and-groom-to-be on our way to NYC has put us in a celebratory mood. How lucky we four parents are – our kids are on their way to a lifetime of love and devotion and friendship and happiness and we're sending them off with a fabulous party. Alongside the new clothes and the registries and the menu planning and the logistics we're floating on the love.

And there's so much love. Watching Little Cuter and SIR tend to each other with delicacy and compassion filled our souls. Listening to Reggie describe her kids with similar adjectives and smiles did the same. We've avoided a landmine – we like our children's choices. I can't imagine what we'd do if our kids chose a partner we didn't like.... or worse, one who didn't like us.

Instead, tomorrow Reggie and Bob will welcome a girl into their all-boys lives, a talented, beautiful, thoughtful and kind girl who loves their son to distraction. Shared passions and interests and expectations and attitudes will send them on their way with full hearts. The best wishes of family and friends will ring in their ears long after the orchestra has played the last dance. Memories will linger and life will go on and, in a few months, Josh's parents will come to Tucson to watch our kids join their hands in marriage.

Where has the time gone? I'm not quite sure. What I am sure of is that love makes the world go round.... and TBG and I are going to be surrounded by it this weekend.

Best wishes, Josh and Cara. We wish you joy and happiness and eons and tons of love.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hot Time... Summer in the City... in March

How is it possible that Chicago is hotter than Tucson?

TBG and I are dripping... exhausted.... overcome by the humidity and the crowds.  Little Cuter's building hasn't turned on the air conditioning yet and we are perched on the edge of the couch, faces straight on into the fans.  We've forgotten how debilitating the combination of high temperatures and water in the air can be.

We took the bus downtown this morning and did some serious shopping.  We had a plan to hang out with Not-Kathy, but it flew out of my brain as we left the vertical indoor mall and were confronted by a wall of heat.  The 147 Express bus was 7 minutes away (according to the very helpful digital display on the outside of the shelter) and I nearly melted.

Thomas the Wonder Dog is energy-less.  Lying on the couch, snuggled close to the humans, is his usual modus operandi.  Right now he is in the shade on the hardwood floor, in front of the stationary fan, tongue lolling and lungs heaving.  He's hot, too.

My brain is fried.  My fingers are damp.  The box fan is blowing on my left arm and my right elbow-pit (the other side of my elbow.... well, what would you call it?) is coated with a sheen of sweat.  I've been trying to type to you and my brain is melted.

Come back tomorrow, denizens.  There's a post full of love on its way.  For now, think cooling thoughts of your faithless correspondent.

I'm sorry.  I'm, just too hot to type.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Do You Hug?

I hired Linda.  We shook hands to seal the deal.  TBG and I  ran into her at the movies two days later. She hugged me.

H David and Zanner were our friends for years.  He greeted me at the door with an enveloping bear hug.

I didn't like either one.

G'ma and Daddooooo didn't raise touchy-feely children.  G'ma says that the first unsolicited hug she received from me was when I came home from college for Thanksgiving vacation my freshman year. She remembers me pulling away from snuggles and cuddles..... I don't remember them on offer, to tell the truth.

Perhaps my reluctance to get up close and personal for a greeting stems from Daddoooo's habit of ending every hug with a potch en tuchas.... a gentle smack on the buttock.  I knew he loved me. I never understood the smack.

My parents did teach me the value of a firm handshake.  Five fingers clasping five fingers firmly, a squeeze designed to announce my presence but not intended to damage, eye contact and a smile - this was the way to greet someone.  There was physical contact, but there was also distance.  This was hello not you're swell.


I didn't notice much hello-hugging in college or graduate school.  Big Steve once commented on the awkwardness he felt when dropping me off at my apartment; we were too close to shake hands but not close enough to kiss goodnight.  I didn't notice discomfort; I was comfortable with a wave and a smile.  Something made him look for more.

I'm sitting in a school as I type to you.  Big brothers and sisters are hugging their siblings with reckless abandon; it's a way to get out of line without incurring the wrath of the aides.  But I'm also watching 6th grade girls see long-lost-since-2nd-period-friends and fall into an embrace.  Eyes wide open, they scan the room, watching their friends' reactions to the hug.  It's less about the hug than it is about being seen giving one.... or, even better, getting one.

The 7th and 8th graders cross the threshold arm in arm, backpacks clacking against one another as they try to squeeze through the entrance.  They won't let go.  Had this scene taken place in my middle school, rumors of a sexual attachment would have spread like wildfire.  Today, here in Tucson, big hugs are social currency.

I taught Messers 6 & 8 the value of a firm handshake when they were 3 and 5, the same way that I taught the Cuters - through bribery positive reinforcement.  Every time someone commented on the firmness of their handshake, a coin  tangible reward was transferred from my pocket to theirs. The handshake itself carried no reward in their lives; the shiny penny made it so.  Now, 4 years later, they are content with a compliment.  The coin is a rare and treasured prize, delivered randomly as a variable reinforcement, with love and pride.  Graduate school did teach me something after all. B. F. Skinner may have been a lousy parent, but he certainly understood the basics of rote behavior.

Rote behavior is what it is, as all manners ought to be.  Unthinking, obvious, reliable, natural, expected.... manners make the world go 'round.  If everyone defers to the elderly and then the female passengers, elevators empty quickly.  It's the same principle as yielding to the car on your right at a 4-way intersection.  There's no value judgment involved; it's just the right thing to do.

The curtsey and the bow involve lowering one's head to another; that feels demeaning to me.  The hug involves a lot of physical contact; that feels intrusive to me.  The handshake is comfortably in-between.  It's another Goldilocks Moment..... not too close, not too far, but just right.

If you need more, add another hand to the first.  Cornell's President David Skorton did that to with me last month and instead of being crushed against his shirt front I was looking into his face and seeing with my own eyes what his hands were telling mine.... it was a silent conversation that didn't need any more physicality than 3 hands.

I'm just sayin'......

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


That's me at my college graduation in 1973.

My hair was loooong, wasn't it?  If I tipped my head back just a little bit I could sit on the end of my pony tail.

Half-back like this or wildly flying around my face or pulled low in a leather thong, my hair defined me.

Arriving at the University of Chicago for Orientation as I began my social work education, the room was filled with well-manicured, perfectly coiffed men and women.... until I looked to the back and saw a row of men with hair as long as mine.  Like a semaphore signal, their tresses were calling me.  Here were kindred spirits, sitting with the only other woman in overalls.  We're still friends to this day.

Spending the morning at Prince Elementary School's Jump Rope for Heart last week gave me the opportunity to revel in what long hair is doing these days.

There are, of course, long braids decorated with colorful ties. 
I remember G'ma pulling and brushing and gathering all the lost strands of my tresses into the tightest of tight pony tails every day before school.  I could feel her with me all day long, every time my hair swished and reminded me that it was there.

No one took the time to try this, though.

Nor this
Nor this

I wore silver barrettes when I needed to look dressy, but I never had anything approaching this
or this
or this

The hair didn't interfere with the running and jumping and racing.

It was there for the enjoyment of those on the outside... especially the other girls.

The boys were oblivious.

"What are you taking a picture of?  Her head?" said he.
"Her hair...her beautiful hair," said I.
"Really?  Why?" he wondered.

As TBG reminds me, women do their hair for other women.
According to him, there has never been a group of men who, upon seeing a beautiful female, exclaimed in one voice "What fabulous hair!"

I, on the other hand, spent a morning doing just that.

Monday, March 19, 2012

First Weekend Round-Up

Denizens of The Burrow pool results:  After the first two rounds Jenny Hileman is in the lead.... by A LOT!

I can barely formulate a sentence that doesn't reference basketball. Grocery shopping and dinner preparation and blog posting have all taken second place to March Madness.  My heart has soared and sunk and I'm ready for a break from whistles and free throws and large young men adjusting their too-log shorts on national television.  

It's the first Monday after the first weekend of competition and it's time to take stock of the situation. Some of us are happier than others.  

Did anyone else notice that the printed brackets from ESPN's Tournament Challenge have a very tiny font size?  Would it have been so difficult to use 12 instead of 8 and turn the whole thing to a landscape orientation?  Even McDonald's recognizes that an older demographic is tuned in; have you seen this commercial?
I'm just sayin' ......

The weekend started awkwardly, nomenclature-wise.  The field of 64 teams was expanded several years back to include a 65th team engaged in a play-in game with the last team chosen, the 64th ranked team in the land.  That play-in game has spawned offspring and is now considered the first round of the tournament.  No one told ESPN's bracketologists; those play-in games, the ostensible first round, are not included in the challenge.  

Fans everywhere.... okay, fans on Douglas..... were quite confused to hear announcers referring to second round games on Thursday and Friday.  Not making it out of the first round no longer has meaning.  Some things should not be changed.  Typical of the NCAA, though, to fix something that wasn't broken.

Little Cuter bemoans the fact that her brackets are "all Norfolk-ed up," and she is not alone. Missouri highly touted... by TBG at least...was defeated by Norfolk State in the real first round.  The Norfolk kids have played together since middle school, following a pipe-line from NYC to Virginia and advanced to play Florida in the second round on Sunday.  They might not have been as talented, but they were much more of a team than Missouri was that first afternoon.  Plus, their dads in the stands had the most awesome headgear. I can't believe there's not a picture of the yellow and green plaid fedora and that very special ball cap lurking anywhere on the interwebs.
Number 2 seed Duke fell apart against Lehigh, and we could hear the cheers from The Ballerina's living room across the country; both her kids are Mountain Hawks. Coach K spoke of the incredible highs and terrible lows associated with the game but I'm not sure that was much solace to his players or to those of us who had his Blue Devils playing in the championship game in New Orleans.  

In the sartorial department, Baylor will be inflicting these neon uniforms on our eyeballs for another round, it seems.  Even the socks glow in the dark.  I'm not sure whose idea it was, but they played well enough that blinding the opponent with your outfit seems to be a bit of overkill.

Did you know that Belmont has the highest SAT scores in the tournament this year?  I've never given them much thought as much more than an annoyance through which my preferred team had to pass, and pass the Hoyas did only to be spanked in the second round by a feisty NC State team.  There was a collective sigh from The Hilltop to The Mission as Big Cuter and his classmates watched their team go down to defeat.  And there's that damn L/G appliance commercial with the cheering Georgetown fans in the opening sequence which runs after every time out, taunting the faithful.  My poor boy....... 
My Hoosier daughter, on the other hand, is having a very different experience.  Indiana basketball has a storied tradition, and coach Tom Crean has assembled a true Indiana team. Mr. Basketball 2011, Cody Zeller, is a freshman with a future and he's surrounded by teammates who know how to play the game.  They pass more than any other team in the tournament, and, for the most part, they make their free throws.  With those fundamentals, and the heart they showed by sticking with VCU until they won on this gorgeous 15-footer with 12.7 seconds left in the game, they go into the Sweet 16 riding some serious momentum..... at least in this house.

UNC has so much talent that we switched over to Keira Knightley falling hopelessly in love with Mr. Darcy rather than watch Creighton try to keep up.  Sometimes these games really are men against boys. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, their point guard broke his wrist in the contest.  It's his non-dominant hand, though......

Ohio University played the University of South Florida in a game only an alumnus could love.  There were neon shoes and over-weight parents and the surprise of seeing OU advance to the Sweet 16.  This part of the schedule allowed us to make dinner and have a leisurely cocktail hour and take out the garbage and clean up the dishes. Even the most rabid fans must tend to the activities of daily living.  

One of the OU players hails from University Heights, Ohio, home of TBG's high school which led us to Philip Richard's memoir of their graduating class, University School, 1972.  These random connections are some of my favorite parts of the Madness.

The commercials became tedious - NAPA Auto Parts and The Three Stooges movie and several video games - and our heads were beginning to spin.  It was obvious that the only people still able to maintain interest in basketball after 4 full days of games were boys ages 13-30.  After watching Kansas pull ahead in the final seconds, crushing Purdue's spirit while making The Bride and The Groom, Jayhawks themselves, very very happy, we turned to the DVR for a story.  There was another game finishing up, and we checked in at commercials, but, for now, we were done.

We'll be back next week with another thrilling update.  For those of you who are bored to tears with sports, tune in tomorrow for a more appealing post.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Whenever someone asks me to explain the thinking behind a Jewish ritual - think Kosher or No Work on Sabbath - my brain heads right to Passover.  I'm not the only one., as secular as it gets, tells us this when searching for cleansing the house for Passover:
Before Passover, the house needs to be cleaned so that all chametz (leavened products) are removed. Don't forget the bag of baby crackers in your diaper bag. What about the Purim treats your 3rd grader has stashed away in her desk? Gotta lift the sofa to get all that popcorn vacuumed up. While you are at it, you might as well throw some Spring cleaning in there - get out the summer clothes and put away the winter blankets and coats.
Do you think there was Spring Cleaning in the shtetl?

Here in the desert, with a winter that lasts about 6 weeks if we are lucky, the need for quick access to lighter clothes comes suddenly.  Last week Amster froze at Mr. 6's soccer practise; today it will be in the 80's.  Suddenly those dark sweaters and corduroy pants are much less appealing.  It's time to remove the chametz of winter from the closet.

Costco had vacuum bags on sale; 14 of them in all shapes and sizes were strewn over Little Cuter's bed last winter as I carefully folded and placed t-shirts and shorts and white cotton cover-ups in neat stacks and then shrunk them to a fraction of their former size. 
This bag contains the contents of four cubby holes filled with clothes.
It fits in the corner of her closet, leaving those shelves open for the items she and SIR bring with them when they come (all too rarely) to visit.  Having empty shelves waiting for guests is a good thing. 

The garden requires spring cleaning, too.  This year I hired help; weed removal is hard for my still-gimpy-self.
Round-Up will work on killing these weeds, and I can carry the container and spray to my heart's content.  Getting the dead stalks out of the ground will require the assistance of my gardener.  Spring Cleaning was less expensive when my body did what I asked of it.

I've been using the golf cart garage (yes, they build then that way here in Tucson; the entrance is off a pathway, not the driveway) as my potting shed and, until I lost my mobility it was a usable space.  Humans could actually walk on the floor.  Now, I am embarrassed to show you this photo
I think I may wait until my offspring return.
Don't you think this is a bit much for a recovering ambulator?
It's sad, though, since my favorite pruning shears are somewhere in that mess.

Without an attic or a basement, the garage becomes the staging area for items which are on their way to the repair shop, or Amster's house, or Goodwill.
Perhaps this Spring Cleaning energy will motivate me to take the empty prescription bottles in the black bag to the homeleess shelter, and to distribute those Stroll and Roll T-shirts in the big box, and let Amster store the Hanukah platters until next year's party.  I have to decide whether to ship G'ma's dishes (in the smaller box) to a back-east-niece or to give them to Not-Kathy's UofA freshman for her next year's apartment.  And that white bag full of lids really should be dropped off at the Aveda salon (did you know that Aveda collects those lids that recycling doesn't want and reuses them to package their products?  All you have to do is drop them off at a salon which promotes Aveda products).

Will public humiliation create a cleaner living space here in the desert southwest?  Time will tell.

For now, I'm heading over to BlogHer to read the expert's advice on Spring Cleaning.  I may even enter the sweepstakes while I'm there.  C'mon over and join the fun.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Healing Outside the Box

March Madness entries must be made by 12noon ET today!
password:  theburrow
Andrew Weill told me to make a list of things that make me happy over the course of a week, and then to read that list every night, before I go to sleep.  He says it will make me happier, and that that happiness will last for six months.  I just might give it a try.

I'm not the kind of person I seem to have become the kind of person who takes advice from a speaker at a book festival.  I am opening myself up to all kinds of interventions these days.  Making a list and checking it twice doesn't seem all that ridiculous right now.

Having determined that stress and anxiety and fear cause inflammation, I began to take glucosamine and turmeric, two natural anti-inflammatories.  I allowed myself a moment of self-congratulation when Dr. Weill included them, along with melatonin, as the only supplements he would recommend.  After listening to him talk about just how much Omega 3's he thinks I should ingest (2-4 grams per day) I can't call it a supplement; for him, it's a food group.

"Social connectedness breeds happiness," said he, as I looked at Elizibeth to my left and Ms. Rochester to my right, the three of us in a room of hundreds of like-minded people.  Typing it to you, now, sends a warm rush down the center seam above my sternum..... I'm sharing that muffin as you're reading these words.  Are you smiling as much as I am?

My acupuncture studio separates the treatment areas with sheer drapery, not opaque walls.  You are on the table alone, but the energy of the room washes over each and every client.  It might feel creepy, but considering the fact that the treatment involves hammering steel pins into your head, "creepy" is relative.  For me, there is something wonderful about the communal aspect of the healing.

Ms. Rochester and I went to a restorative yoga class last week.  We were 20 strangers in a too small room but somehow we made it work.  The postures were seated or flat on the mat, with bolsters and eye cushions to soften the tensions of the day.  Part of the joy was the rhythmic breathing I began to notice about halfway through.  Without direction, we were inhaling and exhaling as one.

Today I tried a new modality - Chi Nei Tsang (CNT).  As with most Asian healing practises, the explanation doesn't leave you much closer to the experience than you were before you read the words.  For example, this is how my practitioner describes it: CNT... helps bring all the major systems of the body into balance through focused work on the belly...(i)ncorporating breath, touch and Chi Kung.

No, I do not know what Chi Kung is.

I do know that lying on the padding on the floor, close to the earth, feeling her fingers following my meridians, I began to relax and let go of tensions so familiar that I kinda miss them now that they are gone. There were hot stones and gentle tuggings but mostly it was two people focused on healing the damage that bullets had caused.  We were strangers, but we were entwined.

Dr. Weill is right - social connectedness does lead to happiness.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Politics... and a reminder

A quick reminder to check in at The Burrow's NCAA March Madness Bracketology site.  Enter your picks and join the fun.  The link is here; the group's name is Denizens of The Burrow, the password is theburrow.

Picks must be made before the start of the first game on Thursday at Noon, Eastern time.
As the economy recovers  (albeit too slowly for most) and the jobs numbers get better and companies seem ready to spend the dollars on their balance sheets, the Republicans seem to have decided that social issues are the way to win the election in November.  Waging war on women's reproductive rights seems to be a sure-fire way to alienate many independent voters and female voters and enlightened male voters and sends a crippling message to young women who may be fiscally conservative but still interested in retaining control over their bodily functions.
Turnabout is fair play, it seems.  There have been similar items around the country, but TBG called me in to watch Ohio State Senator Nina Turner talking about the bill she introduced in Columbus last week.

The bill mandates notarized certification
that physicians (have taken) specific actions before prescribing such drugs, including giving a cardiac stress test and making a referral to a sex therapist for confirmation that “the patient’s symptoms are not solely attributable to one or more psychological conditions.”
“We want to make sure that men, vulnerable, fragile men, who are not capable of making decisions for themselves, understand all of the side effects and the implications of these types of drugs,” Turner 
told Bloomberg News .

This comes close, but not close enough.  Personally, I'm looking for legislation circumscribing the situations in which circumcision is allowed,  We have to get them protecting their own before we can hope that they'll protect ours.
Our highways and by-ways are strewn with political signage in the run-up to the special election to fill Gabby Giffords' vacated House seat.  The largest signs are for Martha McSally, who may be the smartest of the bunch but who's still much too far to the right for my tastes.  Fellow shootee, Ron Barber, is unopposed on the Democrats' side; he doesn't have a single sign at all.

Jesse Kelly, who narrowly lost to Gabby in 2010, chose not to participate in the newspaper's q&a sessions.  He has the most signs of anyone.
The early poll results from Mississippi and Alabama are showing a 3-way tie, or close to it, anyway.  Mitt started out as someone I wouldn't vote for but wasn't afraid of (sic).  recently, he's come out to abolish Planned Parenthood and stop all funding for contraception. 

Just what the world needs, Mitt:  more unwanted children. 

I'm becoming afraid.... very very afraid... because even this wasn't enough to convince 60% of the voters that he's conservative enough for them.
Game Change, HBO's telling of Sarah Palin's role in John McCain's campaign was a real eye opener.  I cannot  believe that I am typing this, but I have new-found respect for Governor Palin. 

I know.  I know.  I was appalled and furious with her every utterance during the campaign, especially when she was quoted as being proud of her teenage daughter for carrying her baby to term.  HBO's carefully researched re-enactment has Sarah (I can call her that... it's how she answers her phone..... she's just a soccer mom who wanted to make a difference as John McCain tells her at the very end)... Sarah and Todd revolted at the notion that they would take pride in a teenage pregnancy. 

My favorite part, though, was the one that made me see her as a good parent.  Asking her middle daughter to pray with her for success in the up-coming debate, she has to smile when the 3rd grader cocks her head and reproaches her: "Mom, that would be cheating!"

Her values are not my values, but I'd let that kid babysit for me in a heartbeat.  If Sarah can raise one like that, and another who calls her from Iraq to wish her luck and tell her that he is safe, well then I feel somewhat abashed that I was so hard on her.  A son in Iraq, a pregnant teen, a special needs infant, and no one in the campaign asking her a substantive question before offering her the candidacy.

Officious, know-it-all men who assumed instead of checking, thrust her into a situation where she was bound to fail.  The sorrow I feel is for the paucity of her early education.  She's not stupid, she's uneducated.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sweetwater Trailhead... and Beyond

This is where Miss Vicki and I turned around today.

It's a very pretty sign, isn't it?
The Happy Ladies' Club Serious Hiking Group (of which I was once a member) did the entire outer loop last week.... all 14.5 miles of it,
Today I managed about 10% of that, and, for the first time, I understood the wisdom behind
 "don't compare yourself to before"
My right now was pretty wonderful.

That's the path adjacent to the parking lot.
Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation gently developed this multi-use park
15 minutes from my driveway.
It's not Mount Tam, but it's mine.

I could pause and take a picture when a crested saguaro appeared.
There's not much change of elevation, which was a good thing.

When I got tired, I could stop and wonder what happened to this guy.

And what's this guy's story? 
He certainly has one, don't you agree?

Is he carrying a loaf of bread home from the market?
Is she holding her baby?
Are they pals, arm in arm?

Don't you want to wave right back?

Felix the Cat... the wonderful, wonderful cat....

We wondered, botanically speaking, what caused these furrows between the ribs.

We sighed over the wanton destruction done in the 1930's by a fool with a chain-saw.
Though he hacked off the tops of many of these saguaros, they just went ahead and grew some new arms.
I like their style.
Miss Vicki examined leaves and butterflies and flowers as she walked steadfastly behind me, making sure that I didn't fall down or trip or collapse in a heap.  Notice that she left her hiking poles in the car.... the better to catch me, if need be.
This mallow was the only touch of orange we encountered.

This white chickory was hiding under the brittle bush.

This is the up-close version of the yellow flowers in the next few photos.
Was this the volcanic rock Miss Vicki remembered from last week's adventure?
After several hundred years, they topple over and dessicate.
The root ball, such as it is, is the dark matter near the green bushes.
The long ribs of the trunk and arms are home to all sorts of little critters.
This web covers somebody's home, nestled beneath the saguaro ribs.

The damage goes all the way around this saguaro....
and has this wounded space that just begged for a hug.
Yet the cactus itself is tall and beautiful.
The desert is not for sissies.

We wondered about the apparently imminent collision of these two arms.... brothers in arms?
Coming back down the path, I noticed the twisted, perhaps growing to become crested, veining on the outer arm of that guy with the loaf of bread... or the world's largest pickle.
It was a beautiful day, and I was out and enjoying it.
Life is good.