Friday, September 28, 2012

Random Thoughts - The Wedding Edition

Daddooooo always said "By definition, all brides are beautiful."  Ours was no exception.  Her J Crew couture was simple and elegant and comfortable... right down to the side seam pockets in which she placed her hands midway through the ceremony.

There's a sentence I never thought I'd type: She put her hands in the pockets of her wedding dress.

Why does that make me smile?
We rented the tables and the linens and the lighting.... the lighting which I was sad to see being packed up and taken away.  There were hanging globes with LED votive lights inside, twinkling lights dangling from the lower limbs of the palo verde under which the guests were gathered. 

Ludwig from Frostings told me where to get them and you know that the next time you drop in for cocktails or a late night swim they will be there to greet you.

My house never looked lovelier.
Little Cuter and I agreed on "the look" early on in the planning.  Saturday night we were living the dream.  It was home. It was elegant. It was casual. It was yellow. There were fairy lights sprinkled in the pool and in the trees and on a trellis and it was magical.

The first quarter moon announced the beginning of Fall behind random wisps of clouds. Tucson is a dark skies city; the stars were dancing right there, over our heads, as we boogied down below.
We danced to the music until the sheriff showed up.

Yes, denizens, Little Cuter had the second party in her life where the cops were called.  Apparently, there's a 10pm noise ordinance in Pima County and our loud speakers were disturbing the peace of people who lived two neighborhoods over.  The sheriff and I heard each other perfectly, standing in the front courtyard.  The music was inaudible to us.... but not to crotchety neighbors, it seemed.

I was willing to pay a fine, but when he told me that jail time was involved if he had to come back I broke the news to the bride and groom and the DJ (and shouldn't he have known about this? I'm just sayin.....).  A grimace, a tear, and then the kids continued the merriment, somewhat less raucously but still filled with glee. We sang, we talked, we laughed and the last guests left the party at 3:45am.

Every wedding has something.... who else has the law?
I will post pictures the moment they are available.  For now, I'll leave you with the wedding announcement (names redacted to protect the blog-onymous) which will run in the newspapers of everyplace we've ever lived:
Ashleigh & TBG and MOTG & Big Bob announce with joy the marriage of their children, Little Cuter and SIR, on September 22, 2012.  At the home of the bride's parents, in Tucson, Arizona, our families were united at sunset and under the stars, not so quietly. The happy couple and Thomas the Wonder Dog will make their home in Aurora, Illinois.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fifteen New Relatives in Fifteen Minutes

It's not something that gets talked about a great deal at weddings.  The focus is on the bride and the groom and the life that they will be creating together.  The extended family is there to share the love.  That's their role and, for the most part, they stick to it. 

I, however, embraced the whole expanding family notion with open arms and a willing heart.  I've created my own family out of the friends and colleagues I've met along my way.  My girl, the bride, was looking for more.  SIR brought them with him, in abundance.

There's MOTG, her mother-in-law, who manages to soothe the savage beast residing in my child with a smile, a touch and a gentle word.  "You have attitude, Mom.  She is just love!"  Those words didn't hurt my heart, they made it grow.  If it takes a village to raise a child; I'm appointing MOTG Mayor of Little-Cuter-ville. How wonderful to have another woman who loves my girl as much as I do and who now has standing to do something about it. 

Big Bob is deeper than you'd imagine at first glance.  Patriarch and provider and master repairer of all things damaged and in disrepair, there's a gentleness in his soul that is profoundly touching.Watching him watch our children join their lives together was nearly as moving as the ceremony itself. He's a big guy with a big heart and he's not afraid to share the love.  He and TBG stood together on Saturday night and I watched them nodding and beaming and chatting up a storm and my heart was full.

SIR's sister takes credit for bringing the kids together, and I totally agree.  She invited Little Cuter to her wedding to Eric-the-Red, and my girl was recognized by one and all... not as the girlfriend, but as that girl.  Six weeks after his sister was wed, SIR and my daughter were a couple, not just best friends any more.  Somehow, Mel knew that her love would envelop them and convince them and reorient them and she was right and we are grateful.... oh, so very very grateful.

Little Bob and his brood drove all night from LA to share the joy.  Two sets of pre-teen twins and the warmest most wonderful wife in the world braved the Grapevine and the I-10 to frolic in the Misty Pool at the Omni and act as ushers at the wedding.  The boys practised offering their arms and guiding gimpy moms to their seats and even though their services were less than necessary at the wedding they were trained and ready to perform.  Dancing and flipping and smiling until they collapsed in a puppy-like-heap on Douglas sometime after midnight, they were shining examples of what is to come.

It was easy to see why they looked so happy; no one could be around The Goddess Diana and be anything but content. Some women bring comfort in their wake; Diana embodies it in her soul.  She listens deeply and returns warmth and goodness and a comforting joy that (obviously) I am having difficulty putting into words.  I think that's because it's not about the words... it's about the aura.. and hers is golden and inviting and I want some right now!  Little Bob gives the world's best hugs; I'm thinking that his Goddess bride has been giving some lessons.

There were so many cousins, so very many cousins.  There were A-Girls, three young women who have enhanced Little Cuter's life with their antics and their love from his side.  There were the Maryland girls, one nursing a cold and one filled with stories and laughter, from her side.  There was the youngest one who cut short her fellowship trip to return for the wedding "because it was the right thing to do."  She may say that, but I know that she came so that she could see for herself what she predicted ten years ago at a Maryland bat-mitzvah: my girl was the first cousin in her generation to be married.

We had brothers and sisters and grandmothers.  We had friends.  We had no obligations, no business acquaintances who had to be invited.  This was a wedding filled with people who wanted to be there, and no one else.

And they are all mine!
I know you are all waiting for pictures.  So am I.  As soon as they are discovered, they will be posted.  I promise.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"By the Power Vested in Me....

by my sister going on the internet..." is the way the ceremony ended.... in laughter and tears of joy and the immediate expansion of our family.  The fact that our son presided over the event was incalculably wonderful.  Truly, denizens, it doesn't get better than that.

The groom and God are re-examining their relationship.  The bride was raised a non-religious believer in a higher power.  The machatunim are regular church goers.  TBG and I had had our fill of formal religion by the time we met in college.  Finding an officiant who would be acceptable to everyone was one of the (many) things I worried about.

I volunteered to find whatever kind of human they wanted; living in the town in which they'd be married made me the obvious choice for the chore.  Amster could have secured the services of a local judge, but the bride and groom were looking for more than a legal connection.  They wanted a spiritual piece to their ceremony, too.  Our family would have been fine with a religious leader of any persuasion, as long as he passed muster with the rest of the group.  His parents were just agreeable as all get out.  Only the decision was unclear.

One evening on the phone with the bride-to-be, we were waxing eloquently about the wonderfulness of her brother.  He's smart and funny and loves his little sister with every fibre of his being.  We've often commented that he's the most mature of the lot of us.... as I type that I realize that I've been saying it for nearly all of the 29 years he's existed on the planet. He's comfortable with himself and with public speaking and almost without thinking I wondered aloud if he should be the one to declare them husband and wife.

There was a brief pause followed by a general outpouring of appreciation of the brilliance of my suggestion..... at least that's how I remember it.  She made the call to ask if he'd agree, and his answer was perfect: he was thrilled and honored and delighted to be asked and of course he would do it but first the kids should check with SIR's parents.  My boy didn't want to be in the middle of something that might make anyone uncomfortable. 

That's who he is; he sees the other side as quickly as he sees his own. It's also what made him a fabulous officiant. 

His words were inclusive and reflective and told a story with a moral swathed in the gauze of love.  There were no instructions, there were no commandments.  There were retellings and remindings and the fact that almost everyone there knew at least one of the tales he told made it all the better.  Sitting circle-in-the-round in our backyard, with the sun setting behind him, I watched our family and friends nodding and grinning as he spoke. He'd culled stories of love and affection from family and friends, and he wove them together into a quilt of love.

When he recited Spencer Tracey's final speech from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, he gave them the only advice of the evening.  "The onIy thing that matters is what they feel...and how much they feeI...for each other.... And if it's haIf... of what we feIt...that's everything."

Love is the answer, he told them, as he pronounced them husband and wife.  They kissed, we clapped, some cried, everyone smiled, and they danced off the stage to The Beatles.  Listen, and feel the love..... just as we did. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

To My Son-In-Law

Dear SIR,

You were right and we are grateful.  We are so very, very grateful.

This was a weekend filled with merriment and love.  It would not have happened had you not insisted. Watching your bride walk down the aisle was a memory you wanted to treasure forever.  You wanted a wedding. We are so glad that you did.

When I suggested that Little Cuter kidnap you and elope, I could see you in her response.  "MOM,"
she said, with emphasis and with love, "deceit is probably not the best way to kick off a marriage!"

In her words to you on Saturday night, she spoke of how you understand her and care for her as she really is... without artifice.... just herself, vulnerable and open.  She's absolutely right; deceit is not a part of that recipe.  There is no need. 

You love her for who she is, and you wanted to share that love with everyone.  She looked at practical uses for the money, you kept your eye on the prize.  That the prize was our daughter makes TBG and me the luckiest in-laws in the world.  You knew, you wise and sentimental man, that some things are worth the effort and the energy and the time.

And so, time after time these last eighteen months, you talked us off the ledge. With your smile firmly planted in our brains, we planned up a storm.  Your happiness led us to abandon all resistance, although we reserved the right to whimper from time to time.

Everything you promised us came true this weekend.  You were absolutely, 100%, correct.  We had the best time, the most fun, felt so loved..... and it's all because you knew better than we did that the energy invested would be returned to us a dozen times over.... maybe a dozen dozen times.... or more.

You knew that the synergy of your love and our families and our friends would create an extra-special environment.... and it did. As Dr. K told TBG, you've set the bar for weddings... and that bar is very very high.

Sitting circle-in-the-round, watching one another and you, everyone was sharing the love.  It reflected off the smiles and the laughter and the sunset.... because you two timed the ceremony just right... promptly at 6pm.  You may be the romantic, but my girl makes things run on time. 

You and yours were open to Big Cuter officiating at your ceremony; I can't think of a finer way to cement our relationships.  This weekend truly was about blending families, about extending families, about gaining new brothers and sisters and moms and dads.  Hearing my son address his sister and his (new) brother just about exploded my heart.

Who knew that so much joy could be contained in one small woman?

You are still SIR... always will be.... but the verbiage underlying the acronym has changed.  You are now my Son In Reality and I am a very happy girl.

With Love,
MU (Maternal Unit)

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Afternoon After

Sitting on Douglas with the best sister-in-law in the world and her daughter surrounding me, there's not a sound in the house.  The televisions are on, but very quietly.  TBG and I have re-defined tired; we're trying to nap.

If the weather gods were appeased by any one of you, we send our thanks.  There were just enough clouds to create a fantastic sunset and a glare-free ceremony.  The breeze was gentle and the lights hanging from the trees cast a gentle glow, blowing quietly, making soft shadows on the driveway.

There was so much love, denizens.  There were so many friends and roommates and co-workers gathered in our house, it was a veritable tableau of our lives. They came from Los Angeles and Indiana and Illinois, from New Jersey and Maryland and Brazil.  They had heard about one another, they knew each other's stories, and last night they were face to face.

It was amazing.

We spent the day primping. Jesse started on their hair before noon.  The texts were flying fast and furiously. Friends were arriving and wanting to know if the men-folk needed ties, if the ceremony was at 5:30 or 6, if she was happy.

The answer to that last one should be self-evident.  

There is more, much much more.  It was the most wonderful event I have ever attended. If I could keep my eyes open, if my fingers were able to move around the keyboard, I'd be telling you all about it.

For now, know that it was perfect. I'll tell you more tomorrow.  Right now, I have to go to sleep.

Friday, September 21, 2012

They're Coming In From Everywhere

One bridesmaid is here, two more arrive in the morning.  Sons and daughters and their spouses and some children have made their way to the desert.  Aunts and uncles and old friends are checking in and getting settled.

Let's get this party started!

Little Cuter and I spent the day buying the finishing touches - little gifts and silver shoes, conditioner and mini-cupcakes, a garter and a comb for her hair.  We started out with smiles and ended up exhausted.  She's napping as I type.

The desert is dryer than Chicago, and it's higher, too.  The air is thinner and the breathing is more difficult.  With the change in seasons comes a change in the allergens in the air; MOTG may need more than one allergy pill to get through the weekend, TBG has a migraine, my eyes are itchy.  I'm glad monsoon has disappeared; I forgot the scratchy throats that come with fall.

Still, the sun is shining, the clouds are high and fluffy, and love is in the air.  The stress we're feeling is normal when hosting 80 of your nearest and dearest.  We know there is no one who will find fault with anything we do; we just want to make sure that we don't overlook anything.  The rest will take care of itself; everyone here is sharing the love.

We're missing grandparents, but taking steps to include their presence, albeit subtly.  Daddooooo's tallis will be there, as will TBG's family bible. SIR's grandmother's brooch will be pinned to the inside of Little Cuter's dress.  The party favors are set up for display and distribution in the white metal doll carriage Nannie bought for her youngest grandchild on the last shopping excursion she ever took.  We love the ones who are here; we honor those who are not.

This afternoon we went through boxes of her childhood dreams - little glass animals, pogs, weeblies, candles, and beanie babies.  Some we will save for her children to admire when they are here.  Most will be taken to Goodwill.  I may try my hand at selling some of it on ebay; that decision will be made long after the party is consigned to history.

We are heading to the nail salon for a mani/pedi extravaganza, then off to a family dinner which now numbers seventeen.... and counting.  I'll drive to the airport to pick up Intrepid Cat and Niece-the-Youngest and deposit them at JannyLou's.  Then it's off to sleep... perchance to dream.... with visions of sugarplums and smiling brides dancing in my head.

It's a series of hurry-up-and-wait moments, staged against a backdrop of commitment and love.  We've waited eighteen months for this weekend to arrive; it's going by much too quickly.

The ceremony is at 6pm on Saturday night.  Take a moment and think of us, watching the sun set as our children join their hands in marriage.  It doesn't seem quite possible that the little girl who wouldn't let me comb her hair is now the woman at the center of all this marital attention.

I can't help it.... my brain has an earworm... a song that just won't quit.  I'm sure you know what it is before I embed the video below.

I don't know where the time went.  It doesn't matter.  The right now is pretty special.  I'm so glad everyone is here - and you are all out there - sharing the joy.

My baby is getting married.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Weddings, Families and Vulnerability

It's really starting, denizens.  The machatunim are on the plane, en route to Tucson as I type.  My usual afternoon blogging time will be filled with familial joy; I'm trying to focus my brain on the words I want to share this morning, and I'm scattered.

Brene Brown would be impressed with me.  The author of Daring Greatly, she's big on being kind to yourself, on knowing which of the little voices shouting in your ear deserve attention - or don't - and she's full of suggestions on how to open your heart and protect it at the same time.  I couldn't be reading a more timely book.

Weddings provide many opportunities for hurt feelings.  Brown's research on bullying and vulnerability and the should's which surround us would have been helpful as decisions were being made.  Little Cuter and I are fairly confident in our ability to be true to ourselves without damaging others, but the definition of other was different in this case.  Everyone had a stake in the event.  Everyone had an image of the event.  Everyone had an opinion and no one wanted to hurt any one's feelings. 

The morass was deep.  Brown's answer made me laugh; she quoted The In-Laws.  Trying to avoid a hail of bullets, Alan Arkin advises Peter Falk not to run straight for cover, but to serpentine.  Zigging and zagging, taking control of the situation and turning it on its head for your own advantage, being an active participant instead of a recipient of slings and arrows.... we serpentined our way to this weekend and everyone is still in love.

I'm thinking that the bride and groom deserve kudos and, perhaps, a mention in Brown's next treatise.

The kids really didn't have too many disagreements before they became engaged.  They approached the big day with quite disparate expectations and it could've been ugly.  Instead, they trusted one another, they were open and honest about the why's and the feelings, and they listened.  They really and truly listened to the words and the thoughts and the emotions behind the other's why's and here we are, eighteen months after he gave her the ring, creating an event that makes everyone smile.

Daring Greatly is research based, written by a social worker, and filled with advice and stories.  Brown quotes Harry Potter and Jerry Spinelli and herself and, while the book is sometimes difficult to grasp if you haven't read her previous work (as I have not) her basic premise resonates with me. TBG and I deal with many of these issues as we wander through the maze of media attention.  There's lots more to say, but I'm in Weddingville this week so it will have to wait until the party's over.

For now, let me leave you with this quote from the chapter describing her research process:
Traveler, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk.
That sounds like fine advice for people starting a new adventure.... like marriage.... or being in-laws.
I received the book and a stipend to write this review; the thoughts are all my own, as always.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Final Touches

I thought I was done.  Really, I did.  Then, I woke up.

The painter came to touch up the back doors; why did we notice their deteriorating state last week and not last month?  Patty came to clean and polish and change sheets and smile at me; her calm demeanor helps .... a lot.  Little Cuter and SIR are adding to the Wedding Weekend Timeline and, when I asked when something was happening I was referred back to that document in no uncertain terms.  The girl is organized and I had better get with the program.

That's okay, I didn't mind being chastised.  She did it with dignity and aplomb.... kinda.  PLEASE REFER TO WEDDING TIMELINE WOMAN! was the final line of her email. I love it when she refers to me as WOMAN! (it always has an exclamation mark).  I know that the answer will be obvious and that I've missed something that was right in front of my face and that she is smiling as she shakes her head and wonders how I managed to survive the last 60 years with such poor observational skills.

My fingernails are painted, but my toes will have to wait until the morrow.  TBG wanted to escape to the gym so I came back to babysit the painter.  That gave me a chance to find out from Patty that we need Ajax and 409 and dish soap and so it's off to the grocery store I go, once again, to fill the larder with basic supplies.  My head has been awash with white satin bows and wired ribbons; the basics didn't make the cut for space in my brain.

I have to remember to aggregate the vases for the centerpieces and drop them off at the florist.  I have to lay out G'ma's clothes for the weekend and make sure that the pod-castle staff has the timeline, too.  Jesse will blow out her newly styled hair right before the family photos are taken.  After that, she'll be looked after by the various family members who've traveled to Tucson to share the love. 

Luckily, there are a lot of them. 

JannyLou and Fast Eddie are turning their house into a Wedding B&B for us; Patty will be busy changing sheets before and after our event.  We've been having a good time organizing the arrangements; foam memory pads and guest beds must be assigned and it was all going smoothly until we couldn't decide if Shawn is a boy or a girl.  The planning devolved into hysterical laughter; it's still on the list of things to be done.

Last week, G'ma watched as JannyLou and I made asparagus soup.  The plan was to freeze it and see how it tasted/if it separated/if we wanted to create gallons of it for the brunch on Sunday.  That was a fine plan, had I remembered to defrost the damn thing.  It's sitting on the counter right now, thawing its little heart out.  I don't know if we'll have time to make more before the wedding; it may just be a dinner accompaniment for TBG and me tomorrow night. 

Not all plans end in success.

There are welcome bags to be delivered and a hair accessory to be purchased and then, I think, I'm done. 

Of course, that might all change when I wake up tomorrow.

Weddingville is a busy place right now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The In-Laws

No, not the movie, although it's appropriate for my life this week in Weddingville.

The machatunim will be the first to arrive in town for the festivities. 

The who?  The what? Once again, Yiddish comes to the rescue with a word for the parents of your child's spouse... your kid's in-laws.  Shouldn't a language which has created linguistic contortions like Muzak and Ms (no punctuation, please) be able to come up with a word for that relationship?  I'm just sayin'.......

I knew I liked them before I met them; my girl would go up from school to visit and return to Bloomington calmed and well-fed. What more could a Jewish mother ask?

She slept in on Sunday mornings or joined them at church, enjoying the music and the family time. She's a questioner, my girl, and his parents were always willing to answer.  For a kid who grew up without formal religious training, it's all new and something to be examined and explored.  His regular life adds new dimensions to hers, with no effort at all. It's a parent's fantasy come true.

Last year we laughed when I pointed out that our kids are probably the only couple whose mothers were each sporting Cub's gear in their profile pictures on Facebook.  We comment on the same posts and send smiley faces or hugs at the same time.  We didn't know one another before, but that doesn't seem to matter.  We've ended up in very similar places.

We're both Master Gardeners, though her thumb is decidedly greener than mine. Our extra-efforts are directed toward schools and little kids and our husbands and we're not embarrassed to admit it.  She updates her pictures more often than I do; she and Big Bob have their arms around one another, more often than not.

That's exactly the kind of example I am glad that SIR had set for him as he was learning what it means to be a husband. I have no doubt; my girl is in good hands.

In the movie, Alan Arkin, a mild mannered New Jersey dentist, starts out terrified and ends up enraptured after an impromptu vacation with Peter Falk, a CIA operative with a wobbly relationship to the truth..... or maybe not.  The two could not have been more disparate but it didn't matter; their kids were getting hitched and so were the families.  What started out as a favor for the machatunim ended up in front of a firing squad... but you'd better see the movie to fully appreciate the journey Arkin takes from skepticism to appreciation. 

We showed it at Who's Beth's bridal shower back in the 1980's.  I liked it then and I like it now because it's a wedding movie where the wedding is the least important part of the film.  Instead, it's the relationships, the emotional connection, the trust and the belief that, when push comes to shove, you've just inherited a whole new set of people who've got your back.

When MOTG's grandsons sent me get well cards ("I am sorry you got shot" is still my favorite sentiment... thanks, boys!) I knew that she was hovering over the spelling and the drawing. I could feel the love.  She knew that there was nothing that she herself could do; SIR was there representing her part of the team and that was enough..... but not.... not for someone like us... so she went to the kids and filled my heart with joy.  At a time when I worried that I'd become toxic to children, she sent me little boy love.  Those cards were taped to the hospital walls, right at the foot of my bed, comforting me.

Most important, she loves my girl and thinks her boy made a very smart decision when he asked for her hand in marriage.  That's enough, right there.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Week from Now....

This time next Sunday, it will all be over.  Between now and then there's nothing but love.

Little Cuter is the wisest bride I've ever know.  "If it's not done yet, it's not getting done," is her motto and she's sticking to it.  If there's something we've forgotten, or overlooked, or ignored, well, that's just too bad.  We are ready to be participants.

Of course, hosting the event does mean that I'm on-call until this time next Sunday.  But the calls will be from people who love the kids, and the questions will be related to sharing that love.  Being in charge has never felt so good.

Perhaps that's because I'm really not in charge.  I'm a helper in my own home, putting on a party for family and friends.  Little Cuter is planning her wedding, assigning tasks and approving expenditures.  I make suggestions; she makes decisions.

I did my first "mother in law thing" yesterday.  Will there be golfing?  Inquiring club owners want to know.  My experience with golf involves windmills and clown faces and the word mini; SIR is the man with the plan.  So, I forwarded the email from one to the other, and took myself out of the loop entirely. I didn't ask him first; SIR received the notification cold.  To his credit, he's said nothing about it....... perhaps he's already come to think of me as family.... and this is such a mother-ish thing to do. 

I love it.

I can't stop telling people why I'm buying foam board and ribbon.  My daughter's getting married on Saturday and my grin is threatening to explode off my face.  Everyone asks the same question first: do we like the groom?  YES.... and his family, too.  I'm saddened by the number of times the questioner shakes her head and rues the fact that she can't say the same thing.

We are lucky and we know it.

Elizibeth and I spent the weekend packing welcome bags for the out of town guests.  There was much printing and rolling and ribboning and tying and labeling and packing and delivering.  Alone, it would have been a chore.  Together, we were making pretties for Little Cuter's wedding.... though most of her conversation revolved around SIR.  She's fourteen; boys are important in her life.  I was having no problem extolling his virtues; the man owns cordless power tools and, with his father, installed my girl's washer and dryer even though the power was out. 

It's Daddooooo incarnate and so not TBG; I admit to a soupcon of jealousy.

Because getting married wasn't enough of a change in their lives, the kids bought a house last week. They have new stuff in a new house and a new relationship and the granddog is ecstatic.  He has a backyard and a long rope until they build the fence and there are all manner of smells and sights to inspect.  My girl loves her commute and her guy there, first in line to pick her up, just like her mommy was first in line at middle school.

She may be on her way to being Sadie-Sadie-Married-Lady but she's still my baby at heart. The fact that SIR knows that, respects that, adores that, and acts on that is how I can respond to that question with the biggest smile my face can handle.

There are lots of wonderful people in this world.  My family's getting to connect itself to a lot of them.  More on the rest of the bunch as the week progresses.  There's no sense in my trying to take my brain anyplace else than Weddingville.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bombs, Blame and Bombast

So, there was a firefight.  It enveloped the US Embassy in Bengazi.  Our ambassador three others died. 

It didn't take long for the brouhaha to spread to the political arena.  Candidate Romney, ignoring years of precedent enjoining those on the stump from criticizing Presidential actions during international incidents like these, lambasted Mr. Obama's State Department for apologizing. 

Here's what caused the controversy.
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.  
Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.(
Probably not the strongest condemnation of an assasination, I must agree.  An anonymous source said that the statement had not been vetted by the State Department before it was issued. The NYTimes has a timeline, which makes it obvious that the Embassy was trying to forestall a firestorm, rather than apologize after the fact.

Later in the day, Mr. Obama was much clearer:
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.  
While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.(
Religious freedom is right up there with the things I love the most about America.  I learned about the Quakers founding Pennsylvania and Roger Williams fleeing Massachusetts's Pilgrims and founding Rhode Island as an island of religious liberty in elementary school and was fascinated by the power of religion to create political divisions. I worried about the non-believers and the dis-believers and the un-believers and the mis-guided-believers living in the wrong part of the colonial expanse.  There were so many opportunities for missteps.

I think that's what the Cairo Embassy's statement was trying to say. The First Amendment doesn't abrogate your responsibility to be respectful of individual differences. You have to be polite.  That's what grown ups do.

After the attacks, the President took it one step further.  He spoke about the violence.... the senseless violence ... and the outrageous attack. Because what happened in Benghazi wasn't freedom of religion vs freedom of speech vs political weakness.  Nope, it wasn't that at all.  It was four people going in to work, assuming it was going to be a regular day, and ending up dead.

That's not the way we solve problems here in the USofA, at least not now, 223 into a constitutional government.  Without that tradition, with a government based on sand and whim, with damaged institutions and an uneducated populace, throwing rocks at an Embassy probably makes some sense.  The guys who showed up later, the ones with the mortars and the rocket propelled grenades, they are the ones to whom we are all unequivocally oppose(d).

And so, on and on it goes.  Politics intervenes, high horses are ridden, postures are assumed, and, in four families tonight, there is sorrow.

Rest easy, those who lost loved ones that day.  Beyond the noise and the vitriol, there are those of us sending you healing vibes and warm thoughts.  Those four Americans were in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.  That is what we will remember.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It Doesn't Happen Every Day

The US Attorney's office called last week.  Were we free on Wednesday?  Director Robert Mueller III, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, would be in town.  He'd be delighted if we could stop by the Federal Courthouse at noon to say "Hi."

When the Director of the FBI asks you to tea, YES is the only acceptable response.  At least, it seemed that way to TBG and me.

So, today, we drove downtown after our morning work-outs.  We parked in the lot all the way across the street and walked up to the front door.  This trip was a far cry from the first time we'd driven to the venue.  Then, TBG was pushing me in a wheelchair.  Crossing a street was beyond my capabilities; I was immobile.

Today, we left the car in a shady spot and strolled across the road construction and the uneven pavement and I barely used my hiking pole.  TBG, vigilant as always, watched with concern bordering on panic as I traversed the uneven terrain.  I walked on, oblivious to his worry.  I was amusing myself by remembering how far this seemed a year ago.  Today, I was tired but triumphant.

The first time we entered the Federal Courthouse, we ran the gantlet (and yes, I know that you probably think I mean gauntlet but The Grammarist gives me permission to use this Americanization of the word..... besides, a gauntlet is a glove and there were none in sight.  There was, however, an ordeal... or gantlet)..... now, where were we?

There was a gaggle of reporters and cameras clustered around the entryway last year.  This morning there were none.  Our meeting was a private one, not announced to the media or other groupies.  This doesn't happen every day.

We went through the metal detectors and my earrings and bracelet were wanded.  The last time I met these security officers, I melted down into a little puddle of goo, sobbing in the seat of my wheelchair as the guards asked me to lift up so they could check for explosives or other weaponry. I had been anxious before; that put me over the edge.  As the tears streamed down my face, TBG and Mavy and the Victim Services staff were there, with tissues and hugs and reassurances. 

As Mavy and I hugged our hellos today, we laughed at how far we've come. I'm strolling the hallways instead of being pushed.  So what if I'm limping; I'm here to do it and that's what counts. When we held hands that first time in the courtroom, the future was uncertain, the outcome unknown.  Today, the Director of the FBI was coming to town to talk to us about the verdict, and the process which came before. A year had passed and we were almost done. It seemed like yesterday and it seemed like forever.

There's a lot of security when a Director comes to call.  There were a few more faces in the room, and the armed ones were standing by the doors.  Not that anyone was expecting any trouble, but the Director was coming to town and we were taking no chances.  This time, though, it was comforting to see the familiar, stoic, concentrated stares of the two men who've become familiar over the year.  Quintessentially FBI in their demeanor, they were no longer fearsome.  They were our guys

Director Mueller came in the back way, and hugged and shook hands and thanked the crowd.  I realized why there were so many more people in the room - the boss's boss's boss was in town and it was an event not to be missed.  I'd give anything to have missed the opportunity .... to have 1/8/11 be just an ordinary Saturday morning.... to be anywhere else but there..... but, I have to say, given that I am where I am and there's no way out of it..... it was very cool.

I admit it.  I'm star-struck.  I was just a little bit impressed with myself.... until it was my turn to say hello.

I extended my hand and began to say my name in introduction when I was enveloped in a hug by a man with tears in his eyes. "Suzi, how are you doing? Are you doing well? I think of you often," and that was all I really heard because I couldn't be anywhere but right there, in the moment.  There was no I should remember this because I was feeling the feelings and there wasn't anything else.

I've gotten a lot of hugs over the last twenty months; this was one of the top ten. 

I'm sure he made the rounds of the rest of the room, shaking hands and meeting the team. There might even have been some more hugs. I know that photographs were taken, because I was focused on the flashes as I tried to put the moment in perspective.  The Director of the FBI knew my name, my story. 

He sat in the middle of us all and wondered what we wanted to say to him.  We complimented the prosecutors and the agents and the helpers and the system and he turned it right back around and complimented us and our town.  We sat there, nodding sagely, as he extolled Tucson's virtues to a chorus of that's true...uh-huh...that's right.  We have grown stronger and kinder and more connected since that awful morning; it's nice when an out-of-towner notices.

Mary laughed that her 14 year old son is now considering becoming an FBI agent, and Director Mueller replied that he's always recruiting.  Were I 40 years younger, I might sign up to work for him.

Before he left, he invited us all to visit the next time we were in Washington, DC.  I wonder if Mr. 7 and Mr. 9 might be up for a road trip?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ten Days and Counting

The monsoon is drenching half of Tucson today. The other half is dry as a bone. I got my hair cut in the sunshine and drove to PT through torrential rains. Accuweather's extended outlook promises dry and sunny for the wedding day; that's all I care about. 
Little Cuter admonished me this morning – "Don't get frantic, Mom!"  

I think I will print that email and save it for her... and her daughter... when the roles are reversed.
G'ma vacillates between wanting a new dress and feeling comfortable shopping in her own closet. Big Cuter, the officiant, needs vestments.... which I, apparently, promised to create for him. TBG promises that he's been thinking about what to wear, but he hasn't made any decisions. I just have to put the rhinestone bling on the tips of my pink Converse and look for a hair ornament for the bride.

These are manageable tasks. It's nice that the planning becomes easier as the day comes closer.
My sister is worrying about getting to her car in the dark at the end of the evening. She and my nephew were confronted by javalinas when they were last here, years ago, and she's not looking forward to repeating the experience. No, there is no valet parking.... this is Tucson, not New Jersey. I promised that someone would go and get the vehicle for her.

This is a problem that I can solve. She better not come up with anything bigger.... though I have a feeling she'll try.
We've established the final guest list and have a solid head count for the catering and the seating. The flowers have been ordered and tweaked to reflect the bouquets and the allergies and the colors which have impinged on the planning. SIR is in charge of the beverages, Jesse the hairdresser has the whole day blocked off, Patty is set up to help the servers in the kitchen and serve as the keeper of the Master Agenda.

I'm beginning to believe that this will happen.
What is left? I am still dancing the anti-rain dance and worrying every morning, noon, and night. I am taking no chances. Feel free to participate in the “It Will Not Rain on September 22nd” experience in whatever way feels comfortable to you. Elizibeth and her steady hand will help with the personalizations of the gift bag goodies this weekend, as we stuff them with the treats sent by MOTG and Big Bob.  The paraphernalia is gathered; assembly is required. This is the fun part..... finally!

Manicures and pedicures and massages and golf games must be arranged; who and when and where must still be determined. Final yard touch up is scheduled for Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. My containers are enjoying the extra irrigation provided by Mother Nature; I only have two or three plants which bear replacing. The garage is cleared and cleaned and TBG couldn't be happier.  In fact, the entire manse is looking pretty damn fine, if I do say so myself..... and I do.
I'm starting to enjoy the process.... that's a place I never thought I'd find. As Little Cuter wisely mused last week, at this late date anything that's not done isn't getting done so why worry about it at all?

She's right, of course, and my intention is to follow that advice.  

Just one thing, kiddo: I'm still obsessing about the weather.  I can't help myself.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Who Is She?

"I am NOT an Old Lady", she said.

JannyLou and G'ma and I were at what passes for a deli here in Tucson, chowing down on pastrami, turkey, and salami-and-eggs because that's what G'ma said when we asked her what she wanted to eat.  The fact that she's craving salty food might be coupled with the fact that her feet are a little bit swollen; I'm talking to the doctor in the morning. Today was girls' time. We weren't worrying about anything.

I went to the pod castle after finalizing the flowers for the wedding.  I was feeling relieved, un-burdened, list free.  G'ma was, to my surprise, sitting on the couch in the family room, surrounded on each side by what passes for a handsome man in her arena, participating in the group exercise class. Olga, she who cannot be refused, was tossing an inflated globe to the residents.  As it bounced and arced and was caught and returned, her gently accented English spoke of the cruise they'd be taking that afternoon.

No one wondered if the tickets had been purchased.  No one asked about the itinerary.  No one was processing her words.  So much of what goes on in my mother's life is new to her - no matter how many times she's been-there-done-that-heard-that-been-told-that. She's decided to accept that as a fact.  She doesn't rail against it; doing so wouldn't help her remember any better than she is right now, as she reminds me on a regular basis. The fact that this young woman was telling her that she was boarding a ship in a few hours made no impact at all; it was incomprehensible, as is so much of her life these days. She sees no sense in being pissed at the whole thing.  It is what it is.

I am so going to school on being a very old person on my mother. G'ma is living proof that there's no age limit on being the exemplar.

I sat in the comfy recliner in the back of the room, reading Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose on my Kindle, as the air-filled-globe was tossed and that cruise kept on coming up. Following the shoulder shrugs (careful of G'ma's fragility in that area) and the toe points and flexes,  Olga had them touch their toes and their knees and try to touch the ceiling and by the time they were leaning forward on their chairs to aim for the furthest post for the ring toss she'd moved every bit of them without a single grunt or groan.  All those gentle stretches and my mother was right there, in the middle of it all.

I've spent hours trying to motivate her.  Olga, apparently, has the touch.  I'm not complaining, I'm just sayin'.....

Vern wanted to go back to his room; Olga left to aim him in the right direction.  Norman missed the post with his ring and, not missing a beat, G'ma told him to "bend down and pick it up.... she's not here... she won't know!"  To an encouraging chorus of miscreant octogenarians, he did just that.  They may not be sure where they are or what they're doing, but getting something over on the teacher seems to be hardwired in the American genome. 

After decorating the September calendar that adorns the hallway, much like that in an elementary school classroom.... and I try not to feel sad... or to go there.... because G'ma thinks it is a pretty thing on the wall when she bothers to look that way at all.... and I go back and forth feeling sad and lonely and delighted with her spirit and the joy she takes in the mundane.

I try not to conside the fact that anything beyond the mundane, the here and now, is also beyond her ken. If she's not sad, how dare I be?

We went over to JannyLou's house and then we went out to lunch and we were talking about the wedding and the party and if G'ma wanted someone to watch over her and that's when she told us, in no uncertain terms, that she is NOT an Old Lady.

Old Lady.  With capitals.  It's a state of mind, not a state of being.  She's 5 months from 90.... that's old in anybody's book.  She can't remember her address or the year or my name most of the time, but her attitude is still around.  She manages to annoy me in the same ways she's always annoyed me, and she is able to comfort me in the old familiar ways, too. 

Character is immutable. I'm not sure who she is right now, and neither is she.  But we do agree on one thing - she's not an Old Lady.  Not yet. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fall is in the Air

The phone rings and TBG jumps up.  "I'll get it," is out of his mouth as his feet hit the floor.  It's Big Cuter.  There must've been an amazing play.With The Red Zone automatically presenting the most fascinating sequences from all the games currently being contested, there is little if any down time.  There's always something to watch. 

I used to enjoy sitting on Douglas with TBG, the game a droning hum of testosterone until the fans erupted and I could look up from my book or my crossword puzzle or my Sudoku and enjoy the replay.  We could chat during commercials, or as the refs were reviewing the play; I was part of the experience.

Now, when there is always something wonderful to see; when the screen is split into three or four segments, when the announcers direct your eyes to the upper right corner, there is little time for wifely chatter.  I'm welcome to stay..... if I want to watch.

September 9, 2012   2pm
Hence, I am in the library, watching the clouds amass over the mountains,and typing to you. 

I can watch a football game, as I proved last night.  The unranked UofA Wildcats defeated Oklahoma State's #16 or #18 Cowboys...

Google is just as confused as I am.  These are the first two links that popped up when TBG and I couldn't remember ....

SB Nation‎ - 14 hours ago
Bleacher Report‎ - 14 hours ago
Such is the lot of the woman who enjoys but is not obsessed with football.  Even the facts are elusive.
But, back to last night.  I had the Kindle and the puzzle and a book I'm supposed to be reading and reviewing for BlogHer.  There was a ready to be enjoyed peach cooling off in the fridge's fruit bin and some Baskin Robbins chocolate chip ice cream if I happened to feel the need to indulge myself.  We'd had a lovely dinner with fellow Cornellians and the evening stretched ahead, invitingly relaxed and filled with lots of time to do all the things I had planned for myself as I sat beside my sweetie and let my mind wander.
The Wildcats were down two touchdowns in the opening minutes and I was relieved; it would be a blow out, I wouldn't have to worry about the outcome, I wouldn't be distracted by the game.  Then, our home team woke up.
With a final score closer to a basketball than a football ending, there was a lot of action to watch.  Last week, the local paper ran an article castigating the student body for leaving at halftime; keggers are more fun than the games have been of late.  Last night, the Zona Zoo was packed til the final tick of the clock.... and then the quarterback and half the team ran to the band and led the victory song.
No one wanted it to end.  We were hooting and hollering and high-fiving and I got nothing done.  It was 11:30 when the last interviews were over and we were no where near ready to sleep. 
Yes, we are fair weather fans. Without a real home team, we allow ourselves to be fickle.  When there's a loss, we assuage our hearts by assuring them that we really don't care.  In fact, I really don't care.... except when there's an interception and the ball is recovered and run into our end zone for the third time by the kid who went to high school up the road from here.
Fall is in the air..... I'm going to have to adjust my viewing patterns appropriately.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cleaning Myself Up

BlogHer wants to know how makeup, dressing up and strutting your stuff help you feel fabulous, confident and ready to rock the worldThe first time I read the prompt I laughed and clicked on through.  Then I became The Mother of The Bride.

The event belongs to my little girl.  My outfit is much less important than her guest list and her smiles and her wedding dress.  Watching her try them on, in the warehouse carnival get me out of here atmosphere of David's Bridal or in the more subdued environment where we found the one she loved, I began to get the feeling that, perhaps, I might be able to respond to that prompt after all.

There won't be any pictures of the clothes we selected; those will wait for 15 more days before they are revealed to the world.  What I can share is the wonder of putting them on.

Neither of us is a shopper.  Neither of us dresses up that often.  We're t-shirt and sweat pants girls, though our guys tell us that we clean up quite nicely, thank you very much.  We have stunning photographs of ourselves when we're all dolled up; they don't really look like our regular selves at all.

Maybe that's the ticket - the difference between the everyday and the extra-ordinary.  Some women treat each day as if it were a fashion show.  Others of us are just glad that we got there, primary parts covered, ready and willing to do our work.  For us, what we look like is less important than what we accomplish; that's the way we were raised.

G'ma has no sense of style.  Every time I relied upon her to create an outfit I could wear in public, I wondered why I had done so when I put it on.  She's a wonderful woman with many talents; sartorial splendor is not one of them.  My college wardrobe consisted of jeans, flannel shirts, and 2 formal dresses for the big frat parties to which TBG proudly escorted me.  I took that same sense of style with me to graduate school.

Big Steve, driving me to campus one morning, commented on my "fancy clothes."  I was assisting at a conference; I was wearing tailored navy polished cotton pants, a cream shell, and a gauzy over blouse.  My shoes had a little heel.  I felt elegant and educated and professional.  "I like looking nice every once in a while," was my response to his less than welcoming remark.  "Do you hear what you're saying?????" was his comeback.

I knew where he was going.  We were part of the hippie clique at social work school; we wore overalls and had long long hair.  Most of the other students were designer clad; we chose to concentrate on other things than our attire, probably because none of us had any extra cash to acquire more fabulous garments. My one dressy outfit, the one I wore that day, did just what BlogHer suggests: I felt fabulous and confident and ready to conquer the world. 

To Big Steve, though, I looked nice every day.  He thought my casual clothes were perfect.  The fact that the outfit lifted my spirits was clouded in dissonance for him. The clothes don't make the man; they are irrelevant.

Not true.  I tried to explain it to him all the way down Lake Shore Drive to Hyde Park.  He wasn't buying it at all.  The clothes didn't matter.  I was shallow to think they did.

It was the mid-1970's, denizens.  We were all very certain of everything back then.

I kept that conversation in the back of my mind for years.  Everytime I put on a dressy outfit I marveled at the fact that I looked taller, almost statuesque..... even in flats.  I wondered why I liked looking at myself in the mirror, all dolled up, hair lacquered, eyes painted..... who was that girl, anyway?  Whatever she called herself, she was stylin' and I was admirin'.

When my daughter donned the dress she loved, her face changed.  Her posture righted and her eyes sparkled.  Her body relaxed as she stood there, elegant and comfortable and gorgeous.  Absolutely gorgeous.  Suddenly, all the wedding angst was gone.  In its place were love and smiles and relief. She was ready to rock the world.

I have something in my closet that would make me happy to wear to the wedding.  I felt no pressure when I shopped.  I browsed the boutiques I like here in town until I found something that made me smile.  I'll recount that adventure another time.  Here, I'll tell you that when I put it on I felt the weight of the world lift from my shoulders.

Dressed like that, how could I have anything but the most wonderful time?  I felt fabulous and confident.... and the outfit had a lot to do with it.  I don't know why, and I don't care.  Big Steve may be right, I may look nice every day.  But on September 22, I'm going to look great and feel even better.

I can hardly wait.
There's a sweepstakes over at BlogHer.... click on through and enter here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"I can't wait to see what a Pilate is."

Today was the day that she found out. 
Ten girls from the Sports Conditioning Class and ten girls from regular PE joined Kyria Sabin, Fletcher Pilates Master Disseminator and volunteer extraordinaire, for an adventure on the floor.  And what an adventure it was.
After some initial paperwork
to support the program evaluation component,
the girls were introduced to their bellies and their feet.
Rocking forward and back, finding the spots beneath the ball of the big toe and the pinky toe and the center of the heel, challenged balance and got the students up and moving.
Curling into a little ball
loosened and stretched the spine.
Kyria demonstrated the Pilates way to get to supine on the mat.
and down they went.
They made X's on the floor while Veronica showed them how to st-re-tc-h
and thought about using their abdominal muscles to flatten out the curve in the spine.
It sounds complicated, and it is. 
Those muscles are way down deep in there; sometimes they are hard to find. 
I know this because I have been looking for them for years.
90-90 is a classic Pilates position.
There's a tendency to bring the knees too far forward or too far back,
but a correcting pair of hands was never too far away.
From there, feet were flexed
and bridges were made
and there were smiles.
There were lots and lots of smiles.
This is hard work, though it doesn't look like much from the outside.
Sometimes you need to learn from one another, especially when one of your own manages to articulate every vertebra in her spine on her way down.
At the end of the hour the girls were talking about wearing yoga pants next Wednesday because jeans just don't make it when you're trying to bend.  Shirts will be long enough to cover tummies. 
And, there will be socks.  There are always socks.
Thanks, again, to Balanced Body for the equipment, to the administration of Amphitheatre Middle School for their willingness to open their doors to us, and to Body Works Pilates for making it all come together. 
Getting shot wasn't all bad if something this wonderful is part of the result.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Quit Yer Bellyachin'

It actually sounds more like "Kwitcher belly-a-kin..." with the emphasis on each of those last syllables and a pause, pregnant with menace, at the end.

Is menace too strong a word?  Not really.  Not if you were the child with the problem and Daddooooo was the first responder.  Kvetching, the Yiddish catch-all for complaining, whining, whimpering, pouting behaviors, was unacceptable in my house.  The problem arose over what, exactly, constituted kvetching and what was a real complaint.

If the blood was flowing, you were allowed to holler.  You had to stand still while the damage was assessed and repaired, but a modicum of sniveling was permitted.  When I put my hand through the shed window in a futile attempt to dislodge the swollen door and put my bike away before it rained, I was 13 and much too old to cry.  I jumped up and down, my eyes rolled in their sockets, I yelled and screamed but I did not cry.  I was not bellyaching.  I was cut and bleeding and I needed stitches.... or that's what the pediatrician told G'ma as Daddooooo had my wrist over the kitchen sink, blocked from my view by his body, as he taped and bandaged my flesh together for the trip to the emergency room.

The surgeon was quite impressed with my dad's handiwork.  "Is he a doctor, your father?"  "Nope, he makes wedding dresses; seams are second nature to him."  That conversation was followed by an hour in the waiting room, while space was made to repair my small damage while larger problems were rushed in before me. 

The butcher who'd severed his thumb and was holding the digit in his other hand was seen before I was.

The old lady wheeled in on the stretcher, moaning and clutching her abdomen, received faster attention.

The boy throwing up as he walked in the door was whisked away before he could expose us to his germs.

I began to kvetch.  I wanted to know when I'd be seen and why it hurt so much and how come no one gave me any attention and finally Daddooooo had had enough and he turned to me and said, quietly, with a smile tinged with disapproval, "Aw, kwitcher belly-a-kin...." and I knew I'd be okay.  My pain didn't rise to the standard. It wasn't a real problem. It was belly-aching.  I stopped worrying about my hand falling off my arm.
I'm thinking about this today because I've been kvetching since I rolled out of bed this morning.  The muscles on my outer thigh are being recruited for the first time in a long time and they are not happy. 

Nope, not happy at all. 

The iliotibial tract and the tensor fasciae latae are spasming and seizing and clutching at one another for dear life which results in my leg deciding that any movement at all would be a very bad idea.  My brain says "GO!" and my leg says "NO!"  And so, I kvetch.

My kvetching worries TBG, so I try to keep it to a minimum when he's around.  He is hyper-vigilant regarding my recovery, and keeps his finger on the pulse of my aches and pains.  We've decided, with Becky the PT's agreement, that as long as the pains keep moving around we have nothing to fear.  We label them sensations instead of pains and, by assessing the threat value of the sensations I am, theoretically, able to move on.

That would be swell if it didn't hurt so damn much.

I see Daddooooo at moments like these, shaking his head because he knows I am better than that.  I can rise above the discomfort.  I don't have to annoy those around me with my noise, my belly-aching.  TBG's response is to get me to do squats or leg lifts or standing stretches with my arms overhead; he won't tell me to shut up, but it's hard to whine when you're exercising.  The men in my life are right, of course, but sometimes I need a little sympathy.

And that's where I was when I opened the paper this afternoon and saw this guy.

That's Matt Stutzman, who won a silver medal at the Paralympics in London over the weekend.

According to
USA TODAY, his other competitors, including the athlete who defeated him for gold on the final arrow, are in wheelchairs but have the use of their arms.

The picture itself stopped me in my tracks. My legs are both attached to my body and I'm just trying to get them to do what they are supposed to do. This athlete is missing his body parts, and is using his teeth in ways neither God nor nature intended. How does he do it?

USA Today tells me that he carefully places the arrow with his left foot, aims the bow with his extended right foot, contorts his body so he can pull back the cord with his teeth and releases.
I stopped kvetching at that moment.
Contorting my body.... carefully placing....these are things I can do.
So what if it hurts.
Matt says that his "goal was to inspire somebody, even if it was just one person, with my positive attitude......Never say never. If I can do this, with no arms, anything is possible."
Daddooooo is right; it's time for me to stop kvetching. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day

I always feel sad that people have to work on Labor Day. It doesn't seem right on a holiday that, according to the Department of Labor's website,
is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.
That has a fairly Marxist ring to it, it seems to me.  But, since the holiday
constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,
I decided to participate in the promotion of that prosperity by going to the store.

In my defense, I spent the morning clearing out more and more of the accumulation of crap detritus remnants of childhoods past stuff boxes and shopping bags and recyclables from the garage. In the afternoon, I distributed them around town.  I didn't do any shopping until I got to the nursery, and with a wedding-at-home in less than three weeks that counts as preparation rather than mere commerce.

G'ma's Pesach dishes (the special ones that have never been soiled by leavening) went from the floor to Goodwill, along with the electronic typewriter Big Cuter used to fill out his college applications back in 2000.  I could see G'ma's translucent chicken soup with larger than life matzoh balls floating next to the teeny bit of carrot that got through the strainer in my hands as I carried the bowls I was donating to a stranger the soup to the Seder table.  There was something more delicate about those dishes, something softer and prettier than my parents' usual scenery, something that touched my heart as the box and the bag and the memories went onto the cart in the parking lot of the Donation Station.  I was less sentimental about the towels and books and assorted this product will make your life easier items I bought before I realized I'd rather pay someone to do that particular chore than do it myself.  Again, in my defense, I did try each of them at least once.

Those things ended up at Goodwill only because they were rejected by Bookmans, the used book and, on occasion, used stuff emporium.  Although they bought back the hard covered books I'd bought with store credit the week before, my memories junk was just junk to them, too.

More bedding plants were purchased and no there will be no photos because this is all in preparation for the grand unveiling at the arrival of the bride and groom..... my baby and her young man..... the little girl just yesterday..... and so, though it be Labor Day, I shall labor on, beautifying and making new memories.... because that's really so much more important than the stuff.  That which I love the most I carry in my heart; nothing could induce me to live this far from my children were that not the case. 

I go to plant. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Today Should Be the Last Day of Summer Vacation

School should start the day after Labor Day.  Families should gather for one last day at the beach/the park/the ballfield/the river and eat hamburgers and toast marshmallows and catch fireflies as the moon rises over the neighbor's chimney.  Fourth of July seems like ages ago, the air is a little bit cooler, the days a little bit shorter, and it's time to get back to work.

Here in Tucson, kids have been in school for a month.  It's just not right. 

In honor of Labor Day, I am taking the day off from creating a new post.  Instead, I'm reviving an oldie but a goodie, from August 24, 2009.  Read and enjoy and say thank you to someone who works for a living. 
The First Day of School

Daddooooo always gave us a new pencil the night before the first day of school. It had the logo of his business, fancy green calligraphy and a point that was sharpened to the teeniest tiniest most perfect tip. It made you want to get to school the next morning just so you could write with it.

We got new shoes for the first day of school. Gym shoes were just that - shoes you wore in gym class. They weren't worn in the classroom and if you hadn't grown, last year's model would work just fine. But you definitely got new school shoes, along with a new purse or lunch box depending on your age and gender and a haircut and 3 new outfits. I suppose we out-grew or ripped or otherwise mutilated clothes which had to be replaced, but I don't remember much beyond the 3 new outfits and the shoes.

If you had a smart mom, which we did, you'd already bought the basic school supplies a week or so earlier. The notebooks had to be the right thickness, and the lines on the paper the exact shade of blue. Our 3-ring binders with light blue cloth covers and a printed label inside the front cover where you wrote your name and new grade started out pristine and ended up ravelling at the edges and covered in doodles and notes and memories of the year transcribed as they happened.

Personally, I preferred the 48-count box of Crayolas to the 64-count. In third grade we were allowed to bring ink pens to school. Real ink pens, since ball-points were a rarity (Bich and the Biro brothers created the clear plastic stick pen in 1952, the year I was born). You could bring a fountain pen and an ink jar or you could use a cartridge pen with disposable plastic ink cartridges (some things never change). Lavender or turquoise or black or royal blue inks were all acceptable; red was only for the teacher.

Beyond providing my pencil and a good luck hug and kiss, Daddooooo's role was to leave in the morning before I got up, just like he did every morning. Getting to school was a G'ma and kids operation and he only got in our way. Routine, down to the last possible minute, was the key to a successful departure. Thinking ahead and trying to stay calm were laudable goals, but doing the same thing the same way every morning was the secret.

There are all these little things that Moms do at the beginning of school. They make sure you have pencils and a backpack and notebooks and lunch money. They worry for you so you can enjoy those last few days of summer. They tell you where you have to be and when you have to be there and they get yelled at if you aren't on time so you don't have to worry because Mom is taking care of it. And Mom's relaxed, because she knows just how slow you'll be and exactly how late you can sleep and she won't let you down.

That's my fantasy, anyway. The reality was somewhere closer to "she'll be really pissed at you if you don't get in the car right now" combined with "I really really hate to be late" with a dash of anticipation and anxiety thrown in for good measure. But Mom's there in the middle of it.

The year seems to start in September not January, for me. The sense of newness, of wonder, of the dream not sullied by reality - I remember it as a student and as a parent.