Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's Just Another Day

My birthday doesn't mean that much to me any more.

That may not look like a startling statement, but I assure you, denizens, it is.  I am known for celebrating my Birthday Month; what else is there to do in February in the winter in cold climes?  Lunch and music and breakfasts and hikes fit easily into the 28 days allotted to my celebration; all my friends and relatives could be accommodated with ease.

The sun always shines on my birthday, just as it is now.  I could make plans without fear of weather interfering with the festivities.  The world knew that this day was different, and Mother Nature never rained on my parade.  She knew, too.

I celebrated for 365 days the year I turned 50.  I had t-shirts created commemorating the wonderfulness of it all.   They were distributed to everyone with whom I shared an adventure that year. It's much more fun to distribute the love than to be the only one on the receiving end of the present train.

The first birthday after I was shot marked the beginning of my change in attitude.  The Golden Gopher and Babs, his wife, drove down from Phoenix to spend the weekend.  We tried to do something other than obsess about the fact that I was there, on the couch, marking another birthday.  We really tried.  We failed... miserably.... completely.... totally.

We sat in the living room and cried.  We remembered other years, parties we'd created and attended over the decades, and we cried.  They'd not heard the story of January 8th first hand so we began with the robo-call and ended with the Sheriff's Deputy,a first responder eleven days before, greeting me in my driveway as I came home from the hospital.  We cried.

That was the day it really hit me: I almost didn't have this birthday.

I am the luckiest woman you know.  I have no ostomies, no paralysis, no brain damage.  I am here, on this earth, to complain about my aches and pains.  I limp.... for now.... and if it's forever then it's a forever that I am here to share.  I'm not dead.

Somehow, that statement makes the actual anniversary of my entry into this world seem vaguely irrelevant.  I was given a second chance at life that morning in the ICU at UMC.  I was pulled back from the brink.  I could celebrate that as my birthday, but I won't.

I've come to see that Rocky is a very wise woman.  She raised her children with this adage: The only thing you really can control is your attitude. Sure, I'd like to be racing up Blackett's Ridge with Miss Vicki, or pushing Mr 9 in the Testarosa cart Daddooooo created for the Cuters, or walking across the gym floor without pain.  But, as I respond when asked how I'm doing, I am here to complain about it.

The sun came up and I was here to see it.  By definition, it's a good day.... kind of like a birthday everyday.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lunch with the Heroine's Creator

She got me through the holidays, Kate Shugak did.  The boys were immersed in football involving all manner of replays and Red Zones and mental acuity.  I hung in there as long as I could, but even I had to admit defeat.  Finding Kate on the Kindle introduced me to a new heroine and a new author and kept me occupied for days.  I read nineteen of nineteen books in the series straight through; I received the twentieth today from the hands of the author.
The luncheon was held at Scottsdale Community College
whose Culinary Arts department grows its own produce, it seems.
 Broccoli florets were just beginning to percolate
while the Texas Tarragon was spent.... 
or, perhaps, harvested for dinner last night. 
The mesculum reminded me of G'ma telling Daddooooo that the salad I'd lovingly crafted from farmers' market produce was "garden clippings; shut up and eat it."
The dining room filled with Danamaniacs, Facebook friends who love Dana.
They were hugging in real life.  It was fun to watch.
Dana Stabenow had as much fun as we did, it seemed.

A good writer of fiction must be a good listener, I think.
Dana Stabenow certainly proved that today. 
This reader had a list of questions, each of which was answered with care.
 The words are important, and she used them well.
 It was an informal setting, a place where everyone had her say.
The food was creative and delightfully served.
The owner of The Poisoned Pen bookstore was our hostess.
My photography didn't do her justice, so you'll have to make do with this picture of her necklace.
I was obsessed.
Dana Stabenow is going to be at the Tucson Festival of Books, March 8 and 9.
Since you couldn't join us at lunch today
perhaps you'll treat yourself to her presence next month.

I know I'll be there. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Am I Right?

A woman I like and respect has put me in a bit of a pickle. Typically, on the questions she asks, the concerns she raises, I don't hesitate to chime in.  "Kids like rules" and similar aphorisms clutter the comment box on her blog and on Facebook.  I believe everything I write, and I am always certain that I am correct in my thinking.  She's always seemed happy to hear my advice, my opinions, my suggestions.  I'm not sure how she'll respond this time.  Then, again, I'm not sure what I'm going to say. 
"Tween son keeps offering to make me a margarita. I have either done a really bad job as a parent, or a really great job."

My judgmental parental self said Bad Job almost immediately.  First, I had to take a moment to read the statement again. This didn't seem like sharing-a-snippet-from-my-adorable-child's-life; to me, it seemed that she was truly wondering.  To me, that last clause had a raised eyebrow and a questioning tone.  I like this woman.  I respect this woman.  I wanted to answer her honestly.

All the comments were positive, laughing, sharing similar personal tales. A nine year old who knows which glasses hold which liquors.  A son who topped off a wine glass and asked for a tip.  I've been following these same people and their comments for several years, now.  I've never been so much on the other side, until now.

I was ready to start typing, and then I read the comments again.  They were light-hearted and sharing that end-of-the-day-and-I've-had-it parenting space over a glass of wine or a margarita.  My friend has blogged about her margarita machine, so I know it's her alcoholic beverage of choice.  I know that the machine is colorful and makes a great noise before producing a fluffy and tasty concoction.  I know my friend sips and smiles and is happy as she raises her glass to her mouth; how could I be so churlish as to deny her son the opportunity to bring her such joy?

Have I turned into the grumpy old lady who sits by the side of the pool, yelling at the kids to be quiet?  Am I missing a happy piece to the puzzle?  I've been thinking about it since Saturday, and still I'm not sure.

We didn't have alcohol at playgroup, even though it was from 4-6pm.  I was a strong proponent of dry team parties, to demonstrate to the young athletes that grown ups could have a good time without imbibing spirits. I rarely won that battle, but I always felt comfortable making my case.  

I'd give the kids a sip of whatever I was drinking, if they asked.  They never liked the taste.  Of course, I never made margaritas.  My bar tending skills extend to pouring liquid into a glass and not spilling.  Mixed drinks are beyond my ken.  Little Cuter was a fan of the Virgin Colada and the Shirley Temple, but more for the sweetness than the mocktail nature of the drink. I certainly never made one at home... I'm just not that talented.

So there's my friend, wondering if she's led her lad down the path of wreckage and ruin, fearing she's created a monster margarita maker, an enabler of her .... her what? There's nothing wrong with a cocktail at the end of a long day... or a short day... or any day if you're not driving and you're not getting drunk.  She's an adult.  She can make her own choices.

She'd be giving her son the opportunity to make her smile, to present her with something she likes. He offered to do it for her, he's demonstrating his love, he enjoys the process... what is my problem?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bowl-A-Thon 2: Wherein We Colorize

I've written the prelude here.
We had so much fun creating, we decided to return to decorate.
We didn't know how complicated that would turn out to be.

It was cold outside
but the activity was inside the gym
 and GRIN was there to help.
 The bowls we'd created two weeks ago had been fired.
They were waiting for us .
One of those is mine.  
Rest assured, it is not one of the ones to which your eye was immediately attracted.
I am many things; an artiste is not one of them.

 Our first task was to sand the pointy spots.
There were to be "no little pieces which might break off in the kiln".
There were a lot of "No" and "Don't" instructions.
On some level, it was quite intimidating.

 Some sanded quickly.
 Some were quite precise.
 Some stood and some sat
Some protected their lungs with masks.
 There was a lot of dust accumulating on the tables.
This picture was taken only an hour into the all day event.
I probably should have worn one; I found ceramic dust in unusual places all day long.

 After the sanding, came the washing.
Small sponges, not too much water,
 always smiling.
 Then came waxing.  
Wax repels glaze.
Where the wax is, the color won't be.
This process was a lot more complex than you can imagine.
 We needed a supervisor to talk us through it.
 It required concentration.
 And, though it doesn't look like much here,
this waxer was justifiably proud of her achievement.
After all that, the actual glazing was almost anti-climactic.
Wielding tongs as a dipping tool,
or a toilet bowl brush as a stirrer,
 our guide led us through the intricacies of dipping.
 Notice how the hearts on the left and the entire bottom on the right are free of glaze.
Taking time while waxing was rewarded with a "Good Job!"
One is never too old to hear that.
 The objects could be dipped on the bias.
 They could be dipped once in grey
and then a second time,
after it was totally dry,
 in darker blue.
Chicago Gal and her grandson were seriously paying attention.
There are so many ways to involved kids in your life.
I love it when GRIN and church and kids and fun overlap.
Tipping the edges of the bowls required a steady hand.
That white glaze kept trying to increase the size of its footprint.
 Neither Miss Vicki nor the glazing supervisor knew why the glaze changed color on the bottom,
but neither was complaining.
Of course, Miss Vicki was pretty giddy from the beginning.
 After the dipping was done, the finished products were set on a table to dry.

Some of the participants couldn't get enough.
For a small fee, containers of glaze could be purchased
 and designs could be painted on the unglazed bowls.
Some artists were painting atop designs the creator had carved into the original design of the bowl.

while others created their own pictures.
Some took short breaks to enjoy the tools in new and wonderful ways.

 But mostly, there was love.
And now, a shameless plug for a worthy cause:

The bowls were made for Tucson's Interfaith Community Services Food Bank fundraiser.
Called Empty Bowls, a $15 ticket buys you lunch and a bowl of your choice.
Food is donated by local restaurants.
The bowl is not food-friendly; it's a reminder that someone, somewhere has an empty bowl,
and an on-going Thank You from ICS and the families it serves.

It's happening at the Chinese Cultural Center on Saturday March 16th from 11am-1:30pm.
Click here to purchase a ticket on-line.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Random Thoughts - The Brother Edition

Brother is putting away the ladder, having added a remote doorbell to our existing system.  This is after spending yesterday defragging and otherwise improving the health and well-being of my desktop and my netbook. He also fixed G'ma's telephone, which had been broken for a month or more.

He had the good grace to tell me quietly and privately that it had been unplugged, though he couldn't refrain from laughing as he said the words.  That's a repair that even I could accomplish.
I played on the desktop last night. I've been unable to turn it on since November.  I spent a delightful few hours syncing and organizing and, once again, not saving my photos to a thumb drive.  Then I turned it off and went to bed.  It refused to turn on this morning. Brother thwacked it and blew on it and shook it and decided that it needed more care than he was able to provide.  He and Ryan at Computer Renaissance spoke geek for a while, and then told me to pay for a $60 diagnostic.

In situations like these, I do what I'm told.
He came to class with me today.  We had a substitute. By the time the teacher had hit his stride, we were up to Euripides's Medea.

Compelled by the gods to love Jason, she led him to the Golden Fleece, chopped up her brother, poisoned her rival, threatened the king, organized a refuge for her exile, and murdered her children.

Is it a feminist screed?  Is it a parable about the Peloponnesian War?  Is she evil or just "the other"?  Was there anything admirable about Jason at all?

Only Brother spoke up for the man.  He made us laugh, he stumped the professor, he gave us cause to pause and think a moment.

It's fun when your guests steal the show.
He's reading Little Women.  He's not finding it all that enjoyable, but he's started and he's going to finish.  He bought the larger print edition, the one with the pink cover.  The man has no shame.
We spent an enjoyable hour in the hardware store, collecting the pieces for replacing my lime-encrusted automatic timer and irrigation connections to the raised bed.  For the first time, I knew more about what we were viewing than he did.  The friendly helper didn't mind his questions, as I basked in the knowledge that, for once, we were in an aisle within my comfort zone.

Of course, I was lost as he discussed the inner workings of the doorbell extender.  I didn't really need to follow it; he promised that all I had to do was use my ears.

That, I can do.
He re-worked G'ma's phone bill and he'll tape the plug so it can never be dislodged and I'll get him to replace the hardware on her dresser which I've been meaning to reattach for months.  As he said when he was here in 2011, "some people like to fix things and some people do not."

Guess which side of the scale TBG and I rest upon.

It's good to have a brother to balance it out on the other.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's Wrong... So Very, Very Wrong

This is not supposed to be happening on my windshield.
 I live in Tucson, in the desert.
The signage is not supposed to be covered with snow. 
 My sneakers should not be leaving prints in the snow.
 The Schnozz should not need a handkerchief.
It's so very, very wrong.

Brother and I drove up to Biosphere 2 this morning.
A lovely lady from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho took our picture.
She was trying to laugh about the snow following her to Arizona,
but her shorts-clad companions were not amused. 

Neither was I.
Yes, that is snow on my polar fleece.
It's just wrong.
The succulents were being very brave, covered in all that snow.
 The prickly pear cacti seemed to huddle together for warmth.
If this doesn't look like a scene from the northern plains, 
perhaps all those cowboy movies have led me astray.
But it's not.  It's just off Rte 77 in Arizona.
Brother didn't want to bother with his coat when we decided to eat instead of tour.
Mistake.... BIG mistake.
 The tables at Carlotta's tried to cheer us up,
 with their images of warmth and sunshine.
But even this flowery water cooler 
couldn't make up for what was waiting for us outside the thrift store.
 I felt as disgruntled as this barrel cactus looked.
 That's the view from the front window right now.
Yes, that's snow.
It's so very, very wrong.