Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back Up

That's my role.  I'm not in charge of anything.  I'm not responsible for anything.  My job is to pickup the slack.

Their Iowa friend had already called the bagel shop by the time I arrived.  No, they don't deliver, as he'd requested, but I was happy to take the lox and bagels we both knew Little Cuter had craved for nine, cured-fish-free, months. The cashier wrote a love note on the brown sack containing our breakfast; it's impossible to avoid the joy a newborn brings.

I watched the pediatrician examine and the photographer photograph and then I left the kids alone. Bonding is easier when you're not worrying if Mom is comfortable in the upright chair.  I spent a lovely late morning on the porch, reading Jane Eyre.

The beauty of visiting the home of an English major is that there is always something wonderful to read.  I'm starting at the top right corner of the guest room bookshelf; by the time Flapjilly graduates from high school I should be finished with the tomes on the second floor.

I offered to bring them lunch and received an order for Chipotle by text.  Google Maps brought me to the general vicinity; my eyeballs managed to find the restaurant on the left despite the voice from my phone insisting that I turn right.  I was the only patron, so fumbling with an unfamiliar order didn't disturb anyone.  The burrito maker was delightful; she laughed at my feeble attempts to be coherent.  I explained that I was a brand new grandmother, that the food was for the brand new parents, and suddenly there was a lot more cheese on the food.  With congratulations ringing in my ears, I delivered the foodstuffs, ate my burrito, and left them alone.

I went to the grocery store, but my intention was to give them space.  Being a long term houseguest requires attention to such things, I think.

After the lactation counseling and the post-natal testing and the mom check up they loaded the car with their clothes and laptops and cameras and blankets ... and the baby.  SIR installed the car seat perfectly; the firefighter who checked it last week was quite impressed.  Flapjilly must have liked it too; she slept all the way home.

And now, four hours later, she's still asleep.  Thomas the Wonder Dog is quite curious about her, but even his almost-but-not-quite intrusive sniffing doesn't disturb her.  She's supposed to eat at least every four hours, but I'm sticking to the "never wake a sleeping baby" mantra G'ma recited to me when I was a new mother.

 Of course, as soon as I typed that sentence she began to cry.

I made my own daughter a grilled cheese sandwich and green beans on the side.  I loaded her dishwasher and tried not to annoy her by answering questions not directed my way.  The dog is protective and SIR is attentive and this first evening at home will be over soon.

It's your first everything, little one, and our's too.  We're doing the very best we can.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Meet Miss FlapJilly

Born July 29, 2014, amidst so much love that there was barely room to breathe!
Mother and baby are happy and healthy and doing just fine.
Grandma can't stop smiling.
She is perfect and gorgeous,  with her Mommy's mouth, her Daddy's nose,  and TBG's feet.
There are no words......

A Bigger Project

I was told that there were enough diaper covers to last a lifetime.  

I was informed that there were enough little bonnets and berets and turbans to match every outfit she would ever own.

I was told that the small baby blankets were lovely, but frustrating.  Mom wanted to snuggle with her newborn, not just wrap her in love.

I created some sweaters, but making something that has to fit an actual human being is a challenge for me.  My garments were too long and too short and too wide and too narrow.  Looking at them in the closet, I wonder what I was thinking.  Unless my granddaughter is built like a square, those sweaters may look a bit odd.

So, when Little Cuter sent me a link to a round, ripple afghan, I agreed to try.  She chose the colors.  I was to do the work.  

And so, I began.  The pattern was for an intermediate crocheter; I think I am still an advanced beginner.  I had a terrible time determining exactly which hole was awaiting the hook.  Changing colors was challenging as well; it took several starts before I figured out how to start a new row without the old color encroaching.  I don't mind ripping out stitches. The activity itself is satisfying; doing it over and over again doesn't bother me at all.  I am amused by the action; the finished product is less important than each individual stitch ... because each of those stitches is filled with love.

After a while, though, the whole project became frustrating.  I put it aside and made something else, but Little Cuter kept asking about the round blanket.  I can deny her nothing as she is baking my granddaughter.  I picked it up again.

This time, I paid attention.  I looked at the stitches as I created them.  I counted between the changes.  After a few rounds, the pattern began to emerge.  Once I saw how it worked, my brain could relax.  The piece took on a life of its own.

That life was one of explosive growth.  Going around and around, increasing by two stitches in each section, time was passing and nothing was happening.  I went from finishing a project in a day or two to returning, day after day, week after week, to the yellow and the grey and the white.  

Around and around and around I went.  TBG was freezing, putting on a sweatshirt every evening as I, underneath the ever increasing afghan, was warm and toasty in air conditioned comfort.  After a while, it was large enough to share.  His toes could nestle under an edge.

Determining the color pattern was a joint effort.  I made another trip to Michaels for more yarn; the beauty of a huge afghan is that matching the dye lots is somewhat less important ... which was a good thing because the originals were no longer available.  I went to two different Michaels to collect what was needed ... I can deny my child nothing, even when it entails shlepping around town in triple digits.

Tonight, sitting on her couch, her toes replacing her father's under the edge of my work, I knotted the last stitch.  Congratulations ensued, and then I began the finishing.  It was simpler than I had imagined it would be; the pattern lent itself to the needle quite easily. I was smart enough, half way through, to leave very long tails so that I could avoid having to weave short ends with a tiny hook.  The needle is much much faster, and oddly satisfying in a "am I done with this yet" kind of way.
And yes, I am done with this.
Now we just need the baby.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lazy Day

I couldn't fall asleep last night.  I tossed and turned and changed pillows and blankets and I wasn't anywhere near relaxed.  Then, I rolled over to the side of the bed on which Thomas the Wonder Dog had taken a nap, smooshing the covers into a wrinkled mess.  He was long gone, but his aura must have remained; I fell asleep immediately.

I'm in Illinois, awaiting the arrival of FlapJilly.  I filled a giant rolling suitcase with assorted shorts and skirts and dresses and shirts and every pair of summer shoes I own... because there was room and why not.  TBG hefted the finished product and concluded that I was very close to the 50 pound weight limit. The scale at the airport concurred; 46.9 pounds was the digital conclusion.

The plane ride was fun because I was surrounded by grandmothers.  My seat mate shared picutres of her four daughters and three granddaughters and the lady across the aisle and I shared stories of our pregnant daughters and the hours flew by, filled with love and longing.  I was the only one of us on our way to visit; they were jealous.

They were right to want to be me right now.  I am surrounded by baby stuff - stroller and car seat and jungle play mat and baby bathtub and a closet full of tiny pink clothing.  FJ's room is Little Cuter's favorite spot in the house; there's a peaceful, loving vibe going on that will only increase over time, I'm sure.

The kids are finished nesting.  There are no projects left undone.  The furniture has been refinished and the pictures are hung and the muslin giraffe print sheets are on the mattress.  Sassy, SIR's lovey toy from his own childhood, sits right in the middle of the crib.  She'll have to move once the baby comes home; nothing can be in the sleeping space.  No blankets, no toys, no nothing.

That's just one of the many things that have changed in the 30 years since I was a new mother.  There are dual, electric breast pumps replacing the manual suction device I used.  (Yes, it hurt.  Yes, it was uncomfortable.  Yes, it was necessary.) There is a video monitor and a baby swing that plays music and vibrates ... at three different speeds.  The stroller has shock absorbers; they didn't feel they needed the model which had headlights.

I'll be here until they ask me to leave, or until the wedding we're attending in Carmel at the end of August is imminent. If I have to leave before she's ready to throw me out, I'll come right back. I'll be doing laundry and grocery shopping, vacuuming and feeding the dog.  I'll be the errand-girl and the "If only I had a ...." provider.

Now, if the baby would only arrive so I can get started.

Friday, July 25, 2014

On Our Way

My hair is cut.  My nails are done. The clothes are in a laundry basket on the floor of my closet, awaiting transfer to the big rolling suitcase.  My reading material and crossword puzzles have been considered and collected; I'm still vacillating between a vast array of totes/carry-ons/purses.  I have the yarn and the crochet hooks for the extra-large blanket the kids requested sitting in the closet of the room I'll be occupying.

My granddaughter and I are on our way.

The baby is descending nicely, thank you for asking.  Mom is in love with yoga's cat and cow poses, and credits them for keeping everything moving in the right direction.  They promised that she won't deliver today or tomorrow, but I am very glad that my plane ticket puts me on the ground in Chicago tomorrow night. 

Little Cuter still can't really get her head around it, or so she claims.  I think she's as close to it as it is possible to be.  There is no real preparation for the all encompassing nature of motherhood.  No one can explain how odd it is to have a piece of your heart residing in another, much smaller, much more demanding, much needier, much more vulnerable being. 

There's your human ... the one who lived under your heart for almost 40 weeks ... who must now face the world without the comfort of her mother's womb.  She'll be out there and you will be responsible as the world becomes filled with worries and delights. 

Just thinking about it has my eyes filling with tears of joy. I've never felt this way before.  My baby is having a baby .. and just moments ago, it seems, she was tiny and beautiful and mine.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Noticing G'ma

She's everywhere these days. 

Sitting on my desk is a picture of her playing with a goat when she was 21.  I never knew that woman.  Wearing short shorts and a midriff revealing blouse, her hair in two braids, she's completely in the moment, not wondering what others were thinking, not judging herself.  She was a wonderful mother but she was never like this.

And yet, when I think of myself I conjure images of college and building sand castles and reading in bed by the light from the hallway and in none of them do I have grey hair.  My thirties and forties are filled with pictures of my children, and myself in relation to my children, but the visions are of the kids ... not of me. 

I have no idea when my hair tilted more toward the white than the black side of things. The face I see in my mind's eye is filled with more color than the one the mirror reflects.  It's younger.  For the first time, I am wondering if this young woman is the one that G'ma saw when she thought of herself.

That's not who is visiting me these days, though.  These days, as I wait for my granddaughter to enter the world, I'm accompanied by a very real sense that my own mother is here, waiting with me. 

She's the content old lady who agreed to whatever I suggested.

She's sharing the love that I feel every minute of the day, surrounded as I am by pictures of FlapJilly and Little Cuter occupying one body.  My phone rings and there they are, the girls on the lock screen and G'ma hovering just above my head.  The combination is eerie and lovely at the same time.

Yes, it is as weird as it sounds.  I don't live my life this way.  I'm a fairly grounded individual, for the most part, I think, usually ... and yet I have been having conversations with my mother, I have been crying on her shoulder, I have been missing her and consulting her and noticing that I'm doing it as I'm doing it.

Perhaps there is something to the notion of crossing over to the other side.  Perhaps she's finishing up the work she started the day she died ... the day the pregnancy test revealed the existence of a new life.  She's watched over my girls as they've grown ... creating parking spaces where there were none with her personal parking karma ... leaving me with the knowledge that she was paying attention, up close and personal, while I was so far away.

Now that the baby is just days away from arriving, now that I am packing to join the prospective parents as we wait, together, for her presence, my own mom is coming to say goodbye. 

I'll always have her with me, but her work here is nearly done.  Just as when I kissed her goodnight for the last time, the intensity of her spirit is almost overwhelming. 

I can't prove it.  I feel it.  That's good enough for me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

She Was Riding on the Bus

"Do you want to tell me about being on television? The teacher told me to ask you about it."

"Not really......"

She's always at the studio, amusing herself while her mom exercises.  Dressed to the nines, with hair accessories matching her outfits, her smile as big as the sky.  She dances to the rest room, streaking past our sweating bodies, trying to become invisible.  That is impossible; her personality fills the room.

Not wanting to be too pushy, I left the conversation at that.  I'd done what I'd been asked to do; I posed the query.  We were both satisfied, but her maternal unit was having none of it.  Pressured by her parent, she relented.

"I was on that bus in Oracle, on my way to camp."

That bus.... the yellow school bus GOP Congressional candidate Adam Kwasman and his fellow protestors were trying to block ... the one that they feared was carrying disease ridden, gang prone, undocumented children.... children who were terrified, according to the candidate, who saw their faces through the windows. "This is not compassion," Kwasman said.  I wasn't sure whether he was talking about the decision to bus the kids to Oracle or his own behavior.

You might have seen it on tv ... the protest signs, the angry faces, the news vans, and the bus crawling past adults with poster boards and fists in a rural community on the outskirts of Tucson. 

Turns out that the bus was filled not with immigrant kids, but with local YMCA campers, on their way to an adventure.  My little friend was one of them. By the time she got the basic story out, she was surrounded by fascinated grown-ups, all eager to hear it from an eye witness.

What was it like?

It "wasn't scary ... it was funny ... we all took out our phones and started to take pictures and filmed it ..." 

Apparently, there was a cow in the road, too.  Bovine protestors is a new wrinkle in the public debate; our little friend was delighted to share a piece of information which no one else knew.

And then she paused, and we waited, and she looked me right in the eye and said
"Some of the signs were mean.   
One said 'Go Back to Mexico, you Brats!'  
How did he know we were brats?"
And so it goes.  She took it personally, profoundly shaken, not stirred by the vehemence of rational argument but hurt in her heart by an anonymous grown-up.  If those adults are looking to change hearts and minds, they're failing.

We talked for a while about being part of a national event.  "What happened to YOU?" she asked and Christina-Taylor was with us for a while before we were back to the weirdness of total strangers being privy to an incident in which you were a major player.  People talking about it and us over breakfast.  People imagining our lives ... our lives ... when we weren't all that special.  She just got on the camp bus.  I just went to the grocery store.  I made a point of the fact that those with notoriety are people just like us, because we are also people with notoriety and we were just regular people until ... and we laughed at the circularity of it all.

I encouraged her to write it down and told her I'd send it along to Brenda Starr at the local newspaper.  She told me about her friend who was on tv that night, "but they didn't want to talk to all the kids ... just him."  The crowd around us reassured her that we were all interested in her story, that we'd all read it, that she had something to say and we wanted to hear it.

That's about the most positive outcome I could manage from an absolutely awful affair. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Keeping It Together

He's unworthy of her.  No one disagrees with that piece of the equation, not even he.  Somewhere beneath the destructive behaviors is a kind heart and a giving soul.  Unfortunately, he always seems to get in his own way.

When she asks, he's there ... but she doesn't want to have to ask.  She's not asking him to read her mind.  She's perfectly comfortable telling him when she is in pain, when she needs comfort, when his support is the only thing that will make it all seem right.  Those are the times when there are new heartaches, new situations, new needs. 

But certain things just come with the territory.  Family life includes child care and discipline and entertainment and supervision.  None of it should be a topic of conversation.  It should go without saying.  For a while, it seemed like a men are from Mars, women are from Venus issue; moms being hardwired to worry.  Over time, it became obvious that he wasn't paying attention to picking up the slack, let alone taking an active role in anything remotely resembling active parenting.

She was doing it ... because it had to be done.  She'd never use the kids to teach him a lesson.  Wives 1 and 2 own the patent on that.  Besides, she loves the kids and the time she spends with them; to her, it's the least onerous requirement of family life. 

It would be nice to have a true partner, one who was less demanding than the most demanding of his children. It would be nice to have confidence and trust in the one who pledged to share his life with you.  It would be nice to plan a vacation rather than a separation.

For now, she's keeping it together.  It's all she can do.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Random Thoughts - The Sunday Editiion

When did August become Autumn?  On our mall walk this morning Brenda Starr and I saw shoe stores filled with browns and blacks with nary a sandal in sight.  School starts on August 4th ... and that's not a district with year-round classes.  The temperatures are still in triple digits.  The summer blooming Texas Rangers have just hit their peak, matching the crepe myrtles in my courtyard that herald the height of the heat. 

School should start after Labor Day.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Prep and Pastry outdid itself this morning.  We met Cali Grammy after our walk, and marveled once again at all the babies and pregnant mommies and the wonder of seeing one another after several months.  Grammy apologized as she snapped pictures of our food; "I'm one of those people...." didn't phase us at all.  We moved silverware and napkins and glasses and you are rewarded with these:
 I was encouraged to include protein along with my fruit and croissant/donut topped with strawberry glaze... real strawberries... no artificial sweetener after-taste or gloppiness in my mouth ... so I asked for a scrambled egg ... which was perfectly cooked and garnished with a pea shoot or three.
We split the pastry.
Cali Grammy waffled between the varieties and settled on these creamy and gooey fruit covered French toasts. She didn't talk much after they arrived on the table; I think she liked them.
 Meanwhile, Brenda Starr ordered the tri-tip sliders she's been eyeing since we began eating there.  She, too, was quiet once she put top on the cheddar cheese biscuit.
To no one's surprise, I kept right on talking.
James Garner died, and I am blue. 
He is ... now was ... on the short list of people with whom I'd like to share a meal. Along with Robert Mitchum and Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, his name in the cast will guarantee that I'll at least take a chance on watching the movie. 
He always seemed comfortable in his own skin; Murphy's Romance seemed more autobiographical than fictional.  He was married to the same woman since 1956, which doesn't surprise me at all.  His politics were left of center and his smile melted my heart.  He was the best Maverick ... and I'm willing to argue the point. 
He will be missed.
What do you do when the Bridal Registry is completed and you've yet to buy a gift?  The happy couple live many states away; I knew him as a college student when decorating choices were dictated by availability and portability.  Past history is no help today.
I can guess at their color scheme by examining the choices they made.  I can be creative and hope they like my choice.  Or, I could send an email and ask for guidance.
It's absolutely lovely to have this at the top of my worry list.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Going to Hell in a Handbasket

Where to begin? 

Presidents Obama and Putin were on the phone discussing the US sanctions when the news broke about another Maylasian Airlines plane ... this one shot from the sky ... despite Ukranian separatists' denials ... with hundreds of innocents on board.

Is it a problem of command and control in the field instead of at headquarters ... if there is a headquarters that a jumpy junior officer shot first and asked questions later?  Is it a plot against the airline itself ... not a far-fetched idea from a woman who enjoys reading international thrillers?  Is President Putin lighting the wick of a global conflict? 

It must have been an interesting conversation, don't you think?

And then there's the invasion .... or incursion ... into Gaza.  TBG wonders what Hamas hopes to accomplish by shooting rockets into Israel. Beyond drawing attention to themselves, I have no answer. Those rockets are, for the most part, repelled by the Iron Dome.  If their intentions are to kill Israelis, they are failing.  If their intention is to stir up the world, they are succeeding.

Through it all, civilians are suffering, on all sides.  Mothers of slain children are chastising their countrymen for acts too terrible to imagine.  When I heard the story, I was stunned.  Jews don't do that sort of thing ... that phrase resounded through my head for days.  It's not how I was raised.  I may have harbored homicidal thoughts toward my shooter ...  now and then and not very welcomed when they came ... because I didn't like seeing that side of myself.  They were thoughts, though, and never in any danger of becoming actions.   Even the death penalty was more than I could handle.

And I grieve for the families of the three Israeli boys, kidnapped and killed and mourned across the globe.  There was a memorial service here in Tucson; I didn't attend.  I can't cry in public ... not any more.

I drove around town today, dropping off donations and reselling books and sending packages and having lunch and checking out wall-beds and coffee table repairs ... and I saw nary a rocket in the sky.  I didn't worry about tuning my radio to the emergency alert channel.  I drove without cares and I tried to imagine what it would be like to live in a world where tomorrow is truly not promised ... where there are forces actively engaging in events designed to end your life.

I have to think that the people are being very poorly represented by their leaders.  I refuse to believe that people are just evil.  I refuse.

PLEASE use restraint when commenting. Everyone is wrong and everyone is right and people are dying ... and that's the part I just can't stand.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Colbie Caillat and Me

It seems that I am at the forefront of a new trend.  Colbie Caillat told Elle magazine that she's tired of being Photoshopped.  She wants to be able to walk out the front door without makeup and without judgment.

I've been doing that for years.

Big Cuter says I have spoiled him for all other women, since it takes me no time at all to get ready to go.  I search for my keys and my phone and my wallet - you'd think I would have learned to keep them in the same place by now, wouldn't you? - and I'm out the door.  I don't own any makeup to put on. My hair is wash and shake and finger comb to dry.  I like everything in my closet these days and the temperature is always hot so there aren't that many decisions to be made. I can be up and in the shower and in my clothes and out the door in less than ten minutes, if I have to.  I don't look that much different when I have an hour to prepare. 

Colbie Caillat told Elle that she worries about disappointing her fans.  That's akin to a first grader freaking out when he sees his teacher holding hands, wearing shorts, walking near the zoo.  You get over it.  If her music is dependent upon her appearance, if her listeners can't appreciate its value without imagining a glamour puss mouthing the words, then she might have a point.  But I've been enjoying her for years and have never given much thought to anything beyond the sound.

No one should have to be on all the time.  Celebrities should be able to run to the corner store and grab a paper (does anyone do that anymore?) without worrying about being on the cover of the supermarket tabloids.  But, since my should's don't rule the world, those in the public eye have to punt.  Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis in part because he had enough money and influence to allow her to live a life out of the public eye.  Buying an island or a mega-yacht isn't possible for most, so they worry.

I suppose I could worry, too.  I have gone beyond clean-and-pressed, washed-and-dried, nothing-more; I wore makeup on special occasions until sometime in the 2000's.  I know I didn't move any to Arizona in 2006.  The rest of the wedding party had their makeup done and they looked lovely.  I brought my face to the party, clad only in sunscreen.

My samples go straight to Elizibeth, who regards them as manna from heaven.  Then, again, she's 16 and trying to decide what she looks like.  Face paint is just one variation, for now. She knows I think she's gorgeous when she rolls into the dining room with bed-hair.  When pushed, she'd probably admit that she knows it, too. 

That's where it gets tricky. 16 and hiding behind war paint?  We are not alone with our insecurities, the opening opines. And then, there's this:

Do they like you?
Do you like you?
I like you.

This is one of those posts which ends up in a different place than I'd intended. I'm glad to know that I am on the cutting edge of a burgeoning trend.  This video prompted lots of comments and likes and shares on Facebook, so it obviously touched a nerve.  It's never been a big deal to me, one way or another.  I'm not very good at it, I'm lazy, it's an expense I can avoid..... I have lots of reasons but the biggest one is that I just don't care about it that much. 

I do, however, always wear good underwear, because Bubba was right.  You never know when you're going to end up in the hospital.  Trust me on this one, denizens, even if you are reading this as you are applying mascara.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In the Mail...

....came the Costco Magazine, featuring an illustrated article on myofascial release strategies, including the deep tissue work which has been so helpful in my recovery.  As we age we tend to dessicate, inside and out.  As our fascia dry out, they become adhesive, clinging to the tissues around them.  Separating them from others and themselves is something we should all be thinking about, because we are never too young to take prophylactic measures. 

I took that information with me to meditation several weeks ago.  I sat on the floor, legs extended, arms by my ankles as I leaned up and over my fourth and third quadrants (lower abs to pelvic floor), sinking into the pose, just as Costco advised.  After 15 minutes of clearing my mind and not judging the thoughts which entered and left, my forehead was closer to my kneecaps than it ever had been before.  My fingers were well beyond my heels, and my spine had no knots or kinks. 

It took me a while to regain an erect spine, and even longer to stand up and rejoin the group on my chair.  But it felt great to be so much taller..... a sentence which started out to read It was great to feel so much taller but which is truer as first presented.
...came a letter from Robert S Mueller, III.  He apologized for taking so long to respond to my letter as he retired from the FBI.  He sent his thoughts to my family and said a thing or two about "the circumstances of that tragedy" and I smiled.

It's not often that remembering January 8, 2011 makes me smile, but thoughts of former Director Mueller always do.  He was a kind and gentle presence in a sharp and painful process,  He knew all of our names and our stories and he held my hand ... not shaking it, but holding it, as he apologized for the fact that this had happened on his watch. 

There was not a doubt in anyone's mind that he truly cared.  How often do you get to say that?  Can you see why thinking about him makes me smile?

And then, of course, there was the stationary itself.  A half sheet embossed with his name alone in a serif font, in big and small capital letters, in black at the top of the short end.  The watermark is straight down the center of the almost-but-not-quite-too-thick paper.  It made my smile even wider.
....came a thank you note from a good friend.  She lives here in town.  We email and text and phone all the time.  Yet, she took the time to use a pink, deckle edged, folded over note card (yes, I do love stationary) upon which she penned words of gratitude and friendship.

Some old habits, ingrained since childhood, die hard.  This is one I am glad is showing staying power.
.... came an AARP card.  Actually, it was two cards, one for me and one for my spouse.  My spouse has been ignoring these requests for two years longer than I have been, following his lead since the gesture matched my own desires. 

But this week he looked at the shiny red surfaces of the plastic rectangles and thought aloud that, maybe, we should sign up.  He said they were the only people who advertise anything about Medicare Supplemental insurance plans. 

I bit my tongue.  Medicare is his issue first and I am leaving it in his court.  I don't understand it and I don't want to undertake the investigation.  Therefore, I didn't mention the stack of ads accumulating in his Medicare file folder.  He'll get to it when he gets to it.

Meanwhile, I am frowning over joining an old people's club.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rillito Downs Farmers Market

They made a big splash in the local papers, moving from St. Philips's Plaza and landing a mile or so further south, at the racetrack, in a decidedly more income-diverse neighborhood.  JannyLou and I decided to check it out on Sunday morning.... although, to be accurate, I decided and asked if she wanted to come along. 
I sighed when she said she'd already had breakfast; Prep and Pastry was on my mind all morning.  With memories of Marin's extravagant Farmers Market at the Civic Center in mind, I skipped my usual yogurt and granola.  I was hoping for a fresh pastry.
It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood, one of those big sky, big cloud mornings G'ma loved.

 Parking was free and plentiful and close.  JannyLou and I took the cloth grocery bags from The Schnozz and crossed into the Market. 
Locally grown is a small universe here in the desert Southwest; these ranchers drove two and a half hours to hawk their wares.
That's Star on the left and Barbara on the right.  They know every ounce of feed that their animals ingest; $7 per pound ground beef is on my list the next time we need bbq'ed burgers. 
The veggies were colorful
and plentiful.
Does the variety surprise you? 
It's not Marin, but it is fresh and home grown.
Are those not the most gorgeous squash you've ever seen?
Curcubits do very well here.
So do heirloom tomatoes.

I strolled past the flower seller; it's much too hot to put anything into the ground right now.
I was thirsty,
and there were so many options.
Emu oil, taken from locally raised emus, fascinated us for a while. 
The mint seller was friendly and helpful and JannyLou and I shared a 2-for$19 promotion.
I took peppermint tincture, she took spearmint.
I rubbed some on the back of my neck and felt cooler immediately.
TBG liked it on his swollen and achy kneecap, too. 
There were very expensive eggs
and jams and jellies galore. 
and popsicles.
I was hoping that these were from the juice of the prickly pear cactus, or that the name was an homage to our most prevalent opuntia, but the dots on the uneaten popsicle on the sign looked too much like glochids for anything to entice me to stop. 
There were lots of helpers, from soup
to salsa. 
Some were human.
I was thrilled to find Sven the Knife Sharpener; I will be taking my entire inventory to him.
Sven stood next to the sweet treats, but they didn't tempt me.
It was hot and I was tired
So were the Indian caterers.
In cooler weather, I will be bringing home some of these for dinner. 
But on Sunday, with the sun blazing and my skin frying, tomatoes and peppermint and some roasted peppers for pasta were all I could imagine.


Monday, July 14, 2014

I love it when people cook for me.  One of the perks of getting shot was home cooked meals delivered six days a week.  Every night, TBG and I dined on something new and interesting which I did not have to think about, or shop for, or prepare.  Everything came in disposable containers; had we eaten on paper plates there wouldn't have been any clean up at all. 

I didn't appreciate the effort it took for G'ma to live up to Ladies Home Journal and Daddooooo's mom, the world's most judgmental mother-in-law.  G'ma wrote out the week's menus and went to the Kosher butcher once a week, collecting minute steaks (arguably the toughest cut of meat on the poor dead beast) and chickens and ground beef.  If it was Tuesday, it was spaghetti and tiny, rock hard meatballs with Ragu heated up on the stove.  She became a better cook once the kids were out of the house, but I never entered into the "My Mom is a Better Cook Than Your Mom" contests. 

I didn't hide my dissatisfaction with culinary arts from my husband-to-be... a fact of which I remind him on those occasions when my efforts in the kitchen lead to less than salubrious results.  It's hard to put in all that time and effort only to be disappointed with the results.... and we were often disappointed with the results. 

Then Big Cuter sent me a link to Blue Apron, with a coupon for one week's free meals.  I ignored it.  I continued to ignore it even after he asked about it.... the second time.  Neurasthenically avoiding housework, I clicked through to the website and found, within five minutes, that three meals from the categories I'd not eliminated in my profile (tending to TBG's fish allergy) would be delivered sometime between 8am and 8pm two Wednesdays from then.

The delivery service brought the crumpled but serviceable, very heavy box to my front door.  TBG took it the rest of the way.  In the kitchen, I unpacked sealed packaged of chicken and ground beef and plastic bags of bulgar and rice and paper and plastic containers of all shapes and sizes
holding heirloom tomatoes and garlic and shallots and those microgreens.
There were chayote squash and non-fat Greek yogurt and a truly phallic cucumber I really should have photographed.  We put cold stuff in the 'fridge, stacked the dry ingredients in a lovely basket, and dined that night on an organic chicken brought over by JannyLou. 

Thursday, Big Cuter and I put our speaker phones on the counter in our kitchens 900 miles apart, and began to cook.  Not more than ten minutes into the process, my son said "Maybe this can be our thing, Mom."  From then on I really didn't care if the meal was tasty.  My heart was full. 

But, cook we did, from our laminated instruction sheets.  They left nothing to chance.  There was a picture of everything about which one could wonder... and wonder I did.  Often, and with feeling.
First step was to wash and dry the produce.  Then there was chopping and mincing and dicing and medium dicing and Big Cuter startled me by remembering the conversation we'd had when he was 9 or 10 and scoffing at the notion that there were actual directions for cutting something up. 
His enthusiasm for the knowledge and the memory of our sunny California kitchen kept me smiling as I spent more time than I usually do preparing more ingredients than I usually have into a dish that looked more elegant than anything I usually create. 
It was tasty, too.
The next night I struck out on my own, creating Pan Seared Chicken Breasts with Cucumber Salad. 
There was little or no conversation at the table.  As Daddooooo would have remarked, "The silence is a compliment to the chef."
I took it with a smile.... and that's how we ate.... smiling... right up until we looked at the kitchen.

The first night, cooking with Big Cuter, we madeFilipino Beef and Squash. I was too overwhelmed to add photography to the endeavor.  The pictures for this post are from the second meal, for those of you who are keeping track of such things.  


Friday, July 11, 2014

Random Thoughts on Sports

Does that rhyme in anyone else's head?  Probably not, if you were born in a state where R's are pronounced.  My Long Island heritage has replaced the last four vowels with an aw sound.

I'm wondering what it sounds like in FAMBB's kitchen right now, as she tries this, over coffee, in a Boston dominated Oceanside twang.  I hope she's smiling as much as I am.
Is LeBron going back to Cleveland?  Inquiring home town fans yearn to know the answer.  TBG, a self-admitted fair weather follower of most professional teams, can't seem to resist a little bit of a smile when the talking heads review the reasons that the world's best basketball player will return to the Rust Belt.

His mom must have a vote.  His childhood friends, the ones who head the various arms of his business empire, are from Akron, too.  TBG tells me that someone said LeBron wants to raise his kids where his mom raised him.  Miami fans are unforgiving boors who booed and walked out of the last home game of the championship series well before the final whistle.  The Decision Debacle is the only mark on an otherwise unblemished professional career; perhaps LeBron wants to make amends and cauterize the wounds he left behind.

Personally, I really don't care. 
For some reason, perhaps age, perhaps ennui, perhaps the activity itself, I found myself sitting on the couch for 90 or 120+ minutes at a time, watching the FIFA World Cup.  Without commercials or lengthy pauses in the action, crocheting was out of the question. 

Little Cuter's big blanket (magazine is there for scale) is growing more slowly as the matches take up more of the hours in the day.  Like hockey, there is no looking away from the screen, hence there can be no repetitive knotting of yarn.
The Netherlands played and lost and TBG was obsessed with the connection between Dutch and Holland and Netherlands.  My smartphone to the rescue - but stop a moment and see if you can make a distinction before I repeat what a not-quite-exhaustive Internet search revealed.

The Netherlands is the main country of The Kingdom of The Netherlands, which includes three (quite lovely) Caribbean islands.  North and South Holland are two of the twelve provinces in The Netherlands.  Dutch is the name of the language, and is what the natives are called.

The Netherlands translates as The Low Country, but The Low Countries include Belgium and Luxembourg and the surrounding area. 

Now you know.
Watching most sporting events in this house means that I am reading or working a crossword puzzle and crocheting.  I can see the colors moving across the football field, I can watch the players run the basketball court, but I can't see the patterns unless I'm pointed their way.

After years of watching recreational and high school soccer games, though, I have a fairly decent understand of the game.... for someone who never played.  I can see the triangles as they race down the grass, I look for an off-sides call when someone strays too far downfield, I know when it will be a corner kick or if the goalie will grab it and toss it away. 

I'm not an expert, but I know what's going on.  That's more than I can say for myself on Sundays in the Fall.
Lindsay was the star mid-fielder on Little Cuter's youth soccer teams.  Everytime she headed the ball, her mother would sigh.  "There go another million brain cells," she'd say, behind rueful laughter. 

Lindsay's gone on to medical school and doing good deeds in the world but I think of her every time a perfectly coiffed futball player connects his forehead to an oncoming sphere.

Should the players wear protective headgear?  Will more protection mean more dangerous plays, as better helmets have lead to more lead-with-your-head tackles?  Watching players return to the pitch after head-to-head collisions, shaking their craniums from side to side, trying to clear the cobwebs which are blurring vision and clouding thoughts, I wonder as I watch.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mary Barra, GM, and The Gang of Seven

While still the Editor in Chief of Automobile Magazine, Jean Jennings put together The Group of Seven - women from all over the USofA with an interest in cars and things automotive.  She hosted us at the Detroit Auto Show in February, 2013, and we fell in love.... with the cars, the experience, and each other.  The group hug at the end of the evening was one of the all time great ones.

I missed the second gathering while tending to G'ma and her broken leg.  A third gathering never happened; Jean lost her gig at the magazine, worked on television, and is now enjoying life and planning her next step.  The rest of us have kept in touch, sporadically.  We've hoped for fast cars on a track and road trips in vintage convertibles (or that new Corvette) but we're still waiting.

I have managed to maintain a relationship over time and distance and absence, though, with Anna Eby, who's perfect for Big Cuter in every way except that she is geographically inappropriate and doesn't own a television. We're Facebook buddies.  We started Project Keychain to support Saudi women in their struggle to drive.  I donated to her cause and she raised enough to rappel down the tallest building in Austin.... without her signature high heels.  She's one of those happy accidents which brighten my life.

Anna writes a car-centric blog.  Motorista is photo filled and light-hearted.  There may be more about racing than interests you, but her style is delightful and her attitude nearly matches mine.  This week, she took on Matt Lauer's interview with Mary Barra, the CEO of GM. She wrote about it before, chastising Lauer for wondering if Barra could be effective both as an executive and as a mother of two.  This new post, though, posits real questions to Ms Barra, questions about the future of GM, the handling of the recall, her vision for the industry, and a nuanced query about being a woman in a man's world. 

I was intrigued.  I'm all about questionnaires these days.  I wondered what the answers might be, and, having a free morning, I tried to pass them up the food chain to Ms Barra herself.

That proved to be impossible. 

The GM website is, as expected, all about product.  I can contact product specialists, I can complain about an issue, I can learn about innovations, I can read biographies of corporate executives, but if I want to communicate I am stuck.  There's a land address and a phone number, but no one to give me an email address. 

In a 21st century world, I find that hard to fathom. Ford has an email form that pops up when you search Contact Ford.  Honda's contact page follows GM's path; there are land addresses and phone numbers but no way to send anything electronically.  Loews's Hotels (I'm planning an October getaway so I was on the site anyway) doesn't give out emails, either.  Perhaps I am setting my expectations too high?

I went back to and tried the chat service.  At 9am Pacific Time, this is what I found:
Thank you for visiting Our chat services are currently unavailable. Please try back anytime M-F 8am-11pm, Sat 9am-11pm, and Sun 12pm-9pm ET.
At noon, I found Louis on the chat line.  "Is there a way to send Mary Barra an email?" I wondered.

"Thank you for contacting us today! I'm sorry, there is not a way to email Mrs. Barra directly," was his reply.

After studying the MRS. for a while, and smiling as I did so, I came back to The Burrow to figure out how I feel about the whole thing.  My fingers are confused. It's a big company, with lots of employees and customers and suppliers.  The line must be drawn somewhere.  I just wish I could find an entrĂ©e so that Mrs. Barra could respond to Anna's line of inquiry.

It would be so much more informative than knowing that she can work and parent at the same time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

From Rehab to Exercise in 3.5 Years

At some point, I moved from doing rehab to exercising.  I never considered the distinction before I lived it.  They are really not the same at all. 

In rehab, you work your injured areas every day, sometimes twice or three times a day. You set a goal, identify weaknesses and strengths, and create opportunities to enhance performance.  While the same can be done when starting an exercise regimen, most people don't take it quite so seriously.  Most people don't keep records of their recreational sessions in the gym or on the bike path or running track, although that seems to be changing as FitBit and phone apps make keeping track more convenient.

For me, gym time was my time. I listened to my body and did what it told me to do.  Back and biceps, then chest and triceps, then legs and glutes and shoulders... each group twice a week, and one day off to recover.  I never did legs two days in a row, and certainly never three or four or five days in a row.  I was maintaining and building.  Repairing required a different strategy entirely.

So much of my early rehab was intentional rather than actual.  I knew that I should bring my inner thighs together when standing, activating my upper magnets in Pilates-speak.  I struggled because it's hard to engage a muscle which you cannot feel, especially when it's surrounded by other muscles you cannot feel.  The numbness from my hip flexors to my kneecap rendered mind-over-matter an impossibility.  Still, I thought about it every time I placed my foot centers squarely and evenly on the floor. 

Prof. Harold Hill was right; the Think System does work.  When time had passed and I regained sensation, my body knew just what to do.  It was startling the first time the adductor engaged; it knocked me off kilter and I slid not-that-gracefully to my left before I righted myself and saw a big grin on my face in the mirror.  All that preparation had been worthwhile.

Exercise becomes more difficult the more weight or time you invest.  You can up the ante by adding more plates to the bench press bar or doing more squats or laps.  Rehab becomes more difficult the more progress you make.

t doesn't get easier; the aggravation just moves around.  Each new accomplishment puts stress on a different muscle group, reminding me that fixing one spot doesn't mean anything at all, in the overall scheme of things, because each little spot is connected to other little spots and there will always be more spots to uncover and improve. 

But one day all those little spots did make a difference, coming together in a lovely whole that was my entire quadriceps flexing and my ankle feeling the pressure of my toes pushing off the earth and my femur moving freely in the socket and, without pain or effort, I was walking across the room and out the door and all day long I was using my leg.

All that rehab paid off.  I was walking.  There was still a little hitch-in-my-gitty-up, as a gym rat friend phrases it, but the hitch is looking less like a lurch and more like a hiccup. It felt good to be back in the gym, in the weight room, carrying the weights without worrying.  I was doing old work-out routines.  I was exercising.

I was also continuing my rehab program.  Two private and three group pilates sessions, yoga, walking, home programs from both pilates and yoga, swimming.... something every day and most days two or three different experiences.  I was getting stronger, and I was aching more and more.  My limp was reverting to a lurch.  I hurt all the time.  Arnica and Advil and Bayer were my friends once again, and I worried that I was going backwards.

And then, I slept in one morning.  The studio was closed one morning.  My yoga instructor was rafting in the Grand Canyon. I went to the gym one morning and did light, repetitive, slow, long, stretchy pieces.  I swam gentle laps and lolled on the noodles in the pool.  I gave my body a rest.

And now, it seems, that I'll have to reorganize what has worked so well for me for so long.  I'll have to be certain that Pilates doesn't concentrate on the same muscle groups every day, because I can really use them now and they get tired and sore and they need a rest.  My experiences are no longer intentional.  They are real. They have consequences.  I have to pay attention.

Getting better is hard work, that's for sure. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Meditation 105 - A Substitute Leader

I am wedded to the process, it seems.  I knew that Yogi Marsha was sending someone in her stead on Monday, and I went anyway.  There were six or seven of us when I closed my eyes, and ten or eleven when I opened them; far fewer than usual but enough to keep it from feeling creepy.

For some reason, my feet reached the floor today.  I was slouching, seeking a curved spine to avoid crushing the gunk accumulating in my hip. As the humidity makes everything swell, I become increasingly less mobile; I spend a considerable amount of time during the day looking for a position that will put some distance between the various parts of my self.  I send my thigh out toward my knee.  I lift my lower ribs up and off my pelvis.  I engage my spinis erectus. I relax my hip flexors.  It's exhausting and I never know whether it's the act of concentrating on all the rest or if I've actually created space that leads to a lessening of the throbbing.

That throbbing would be distracting, I feared.  It's hard to go within when the body is making such a racket.  I tried to listen with my full attention as the leader introduced herself and her colleague.  I caught half of it; I was too busy sitting in comfort... or the best approximation thereof.  But then we were all sitting with our eyes closed and her cadence hadn't changed and I was catching every third or fourth group of words and I was vaguely aware of being in the room but mostly I was inside.

I recognized it and let the thought pass away.

Without judgment, beyond a smile, I noted that my mind was relaxing. I had no idea how much time had passed. If it had been announced in advance, I'd missed it entirely.  Again, I had the thought, and let it pass.  I had no desire to open my eyes and find the clock; I didn't even form the thought.  I was as far from action as could be.

There was chatter outside the auditorium and it filtered into my space.  I was annoyed... then noticed the annoyance..... then noticed that I was noticing the annoyance.... and somehow the leader's voice was in my head talking about distractions and then I wasn't outside with the talkers anymore, if I ever had been.

When the bells chimed, I opened my eyes slowly and slightly.  We stood and raised our shoulders and our arms and I know I lifted my toes once or twice because I lost my balance and used that to regain it but the specifics are hazy. 

I know we sat down again after 2:30,  the official end of the session.  I know we closed our eyes and back I went to wherever it was that my still mind might be... but that's a thought I've had just now.  Then, I was as blank as I ever have been.

And now, two hours later, I am upright and pain free and breathing deeply and though I hurt when I walk I can sit without pressure and my musculature is engaged without struggle and I feel calm, truly calm, in the center of my ribs.... right about where the fist clenches when .... but why go there.... I just noticed that thought and let it go.

There's something in this mindfulness meditation that speaks to me.  That's for sure.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Random Thoughts - The Holiday Edition
The picture in Friday's post (reprinted to your left for those of you who are not daily readers) was not as relevant as it could have been. The holiday is so much more the picture on the right. 

I was reminded of this when Brenda Starr replied that she and Basil St. John always drink Sam Adams beer on July 4th, because he was a journalist and an agitator and a signer, albeit, according to, an unsuccessful brewer..

That was as good a reason as any to purchase a Summer Variety Pack for the four of us for dinner on Friday night.
Monsoon is here, in all its peculiar glory.  Lightning striping the sky, thunderclaps that startle and remind me why I limp, humidity causing everything to ache just a little more, driving on the highway with people who are terrified of the water bouncing on the newly paved surface.

It's a weird surface, the piece of I-10 around the Miracle Mile exit.  The water doesn't pool up, nor does it seem to run off.  It jumps off the pavement as if it's shocked, though.  There were thousands of clear jumping beans dancing in front of the headlights and it was totally mesmerizing.  The surface and the tires were gripping quite nicely, my new wipers kept the windshield clear, and I was as fascinated by the raindrops as were the other Tucsonans on the road, all of them obviously also year round residents because who would come to visit the desert when it's triple digits and so we never really get to practice driving in the rain until it descends from the heavens in buckets.

We all drove 5 miles under the speed limit and felt very virtuous about ourselves.  I know this because there was no tailgating, no speeding, no one hogging the left lane.  We were all taking care.
Mr. 9 and Mr. 11 went to a medieval themed camp last week.  They used power tools to create wooden swords.  And these were not ordinary swords.  These swords have leather wrapped handles. 

I understand the allure.  Big Cuter and his friends ran fiendishly through every house we owned, through high school, with real or pretend weaponry in their grasp.  Lasers and daggers and blades with handcrafted silver handles avenging murdered fathers and defending the honor of the realm, and always, at some point, this familiar refrain : Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.....

It was delightfully confirming to hear Amster bemoan the fact that Netflix really doesn't have any movies worth watching.  We groused about scrolling through the whole roster of suggestions in all the various genres, about how there are never any new options, about how only the most obscure selections from most actors are available. 

HBO Documentaries have ensnared us more than once, but they, too, are few and far between.  We've tried the British detective series (series-es?  I'm looking for something that seems more plural than series....) but our aging ears are reluctant to pick up the mumbling accented speech.  Yes, we could do closed captioning, but then how would I crochet? 
Such problems.  We've been listening to music and playing backgammon and watching the World Cup.  Life is good.

The Supreme Court may assault my sense of what is right and wrong, just as it did those who opposed Brown vs Board of Education or Roe vs Wade.  And yet, the world keeps on turning, elections change little if anything, and there is no weaponry in the streets.... unless it is organized by a fringe group, like Open Carry Inc. ...... because, unlike so many other countries, we still manage to solve our problems without resorting to violence... for the most part....  and only around the edges.

I'm always glad to wake up in the USofA.  Always was.  Always will be, I imagine. I spent all weekend having such thoughts, and smiling as I came to Woody Guthrie's conclusion, that this land is my land, agreeing with Irving Berlin and my grandparents who came here around that same time, that America, land that I love is a pretty wonderful place. .... warts and all.

Hope your weekend was wonderful.  Welcome to the rest of the summer.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fourth of July Memories

Sunburned at the beach.....eating hot dogs from the snack bar.... walking on the boardwalk as far as it went into the white sand, then hopping foot to foot back to the striped umbrella that was older than I was.

Stopping at Custom Bakers for yellow cake with chocolate icing... sneaking behind the counter to run my finger around the icing vat... smiling at the bakers.

Cousins in the back yard... playing Red Light Green Light and Red Rover Red Rover and Tag.... the tree serving as home and safety and shade.

Daddooooo at the BBQ, waving a spatula and warning us to stay far enough away from the flames so that we didn't get burned.... as his fire smoldered, carefully tended, coals evenly greying.

G'ma in the kitchen, creating salad and iced tea and standing on a step stool to reach the long straws that signified the start of summer.

Driving to Long Beach, sitting in traffic on the bridge over the inlet, parking and walking the boardwalk... with SkeeBall and The Fortune Teller and cotton candy attracting us and the parents agreeing to everything.

Finding a space near the railing, a bench for G'ma and a clear view to the ocean and the barge with the explosives.  OOOOO'ing and AAAAAAHHHHHHH'ing for twenty minutes or so, competing with the families around us for the most interesting exclamations of delight. 

Trudging back to the car, tired, dirty, sticky, smiling.

I can close my eyes and be right there, in that moment, salt air in my nose and sand between my toes and G'ma and Daddooooo in the front seat...........