Tuesday, September 30, 2014


A very nice man came to interview me today. 

I had totally forgotten that he was coming.  I usually check my calendar for the following day before I go to sleep; last night I didn't.  I went to sleep thinking that I was meeting Miss Vicki for lunch and meditation, that I'd spend the morning finishing the boxes I created when I cleared off the desk. 

Sitting at that desk, I watched a little white car cruise up the street, back up, pull into JannyLou's driveway, drive past my house, back up again, turn into my driveway and drive down one side and then around the bottom of the U... and not reappear in the window on the other side. In my nightgown, I went to the garage, opened the door, and asked if I could help him. 


He unpacked his equipment while I threw on some clothes.  Future generations may be interested to note that the blouse I am wearing on the tape I created for historical purposes should not be considered an indication of what a serious, thoughtful woman might wear.  It was comfy, it was clean, and it was quick.  By the time I got back to the courtyard and invited him into the house, I was in a lather.

He'd been sent by the January 8th Memorial Foundation to create a record of what I remembered about January 8, 2011.  He wanted me to tell my story, in whatever way it tumbled out of my mouth.  As he connected the microphone to the battery and set the tripod so that the light was just right, we talked about music.  I'd seen Mavis Staples this month at The Fox; years ago he'd spent time with Miss Mavis and her sisters and Pops, interviewing and soaking it all in.  He was willing to share his stories, and it made it easier to share mine.

And share it I did.  I relived it all.  I held her hand and I flew in the medevac helicopter and my cell phone and its messages became evidence for the FBI.  I'm not writing it here again.

In fact, I'm not writing much here at all.  I've tried to right the universe by meditating, by sharing FlapJilly photos with strangers, by holding my husband and sighing.  I'm going to try the pool and some sunshine, and if that doesn't work there's always Stoli in the freezer.

I'm too deep within myself for much in the way of conversation, it seems. I'm trying to be mindful and non-judgmental and compassionate to myself....... I've got nothing left to share.
If you're new to The Burrow and want to read the story from the beginning, 
go to the sidebar and click on the 2011/January link. 
You can search in the white box in the upper left hand corner of this page for the label
Getting Shot.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Maybe It's Just Me

I only saw it from the other side. When I wrote about seeing a holstered handgun at breakfast, all my questions were directed at him.  Was the world such a frightening place to him?  Were the eggs looking back in a threatening manner?  Was he fueling up for robbing the cashier instead of paying his check? 

I never looked inside myself.  I assumed that I was right.  I couldn't understand how anyone could see the situation in any other way.  That's never a promising way to begin a conversation, but I wasn't trying to have a conversation.  My way or the highway, buster, and don't look back. 

Then Brenda Starr wrote about our breakfast in her weekly newspaper column.  She expressed the same outrage and dismay you found in The Burrow. She has a much broader readership than I; we both have a few frequent commenters who keep us on our toes.  There were some pieces of an ongoing conversation about the right to bear arms in Southern Arizona which sent me en pointe right away.  I wasn't prepared to be surprised.  I wasn't ready to hear a reasoned argument for bringing your weapon into a coffee shop. I couldn't imagine that such an argument existed.

I was wrong.  A responsible sounding gun owner said that he could never forgive himself if he left his weapon at home and found himself in a situation where that weapon could save his family. He could never survive the guilt, knowing he had the means to protect them, but had chosen not to carry it.  That hit me right in in the heart.  I spend some part of almost every day wondering what if.  I don't dwell on it, and some days it's not part of the equation at all, but I wonder if I had been armed and trained and carrying if I would have been more alert.  I was standing behind the shooter.  If I had been paying attention.... and surely I would have been paying attention because I was carrying a loaded weapon in a public place.... then....

I let that percolate for a day or two.  He'd opened my eyes to another perspective, one I had never imagined I'd find.  I got it.  He seemed like a good guy (ok, here's the link to the Ray Rice post), a sane person, one who wondered why, if I felt that way about seeing guns on the streets, why in the world had I moved to Tucson?

And so I thought back to why we moved here.  The Wild West was a big part of it.  I loved Gabby Giffords' re-election ads, with her cowgirl hat, jeans and boots, walking the scrub with mustachioed sheriffs with big belt buckles and bigger hats and even bigger guns.  It is wild country; I have peccaries strolling through my front yard. 
These are not cuddly beasts.  They eat spiny cacti for breakfast.

Weaponry is not an altogether inappropriate response.
So why did it seem completely acceptable to me in 2006?  Why was I more willing to adapt to different mores then than now?  The commenter was right; the guns were here before I was.  Who am I to step in and tell him what to do?  His family has been here for generations.
He was right.  I was wrong.  And then I saw the solution. We completely agree with one another.  We just don't know it.
We both think that it is permissible for well-educated, well-trained adults to carry firearms.  He was not packing an Uzi, so I assume that his handgun carries sufficient fire power to calm his fears.  Given that he is responsible and not looking for trouble and living in Arizona, and that he's not a stalker or a domestic abuser or...... that's where I think there is overlap.  I can't imagine that a responsible, well-trained, not looking for trouble citizen of the Copper State wouldn't want to assume that everyone else who is carrying a weapon into the coffee shop meets that same standard.
That's all I'm asking - keep the guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them.  Yes, some will slip through and no, it's not a perfect solution, but had everything gone as planned but not funded and therefore not done, our shooter's rejection from the armed services for mental instability and drug use would have been available to the salesperson who legally sold  him a gun.  With those facts, no purchase would have been authorized.  Even the Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in my district thinks it's right to include these things in regulations. I'm giving my unknown interlocutor the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he agrees, too.
We weren't talking about long guns.  That is a separate issue. 
Then there is my reaction to seeing that gun.  Another comment referred to the concealed weapons which are all around me, in fanny packs and back packs and under bulky sweatshirts.  That was a startling image, and I was anxious for a few days... but only for a few days.  I wasn't prepared to be that stressed all the time.  It was the opposite of Mindfulness, a state I've been actively cultivating of late.  I refuse to let the shooter occupy that much of my life.  I will not be frightened out of living my life.
I am cautious.  I seek out security guards and thank them for their help in keeping us safe.  I know where the exits are.  But those are things that a more prudent person might have been doing all of her life.  I never noticed anything.  I was rarely put off by appearances.  I have good reason to be more skeptical, more observant, more self-protective.  I'm on-guard when I'm out in the world, even when I don't know that I am. 
Should that be someone else's problem? 
Today, sadly, it is, because I have no way of knowing that the man at the other table isn't out for coffee before committing a heinous crime.  I don't know that he is certified and qualified and verified.  I just know that he is carrying a weapon.
I wonder what the commenter would do if someone else were open carrying.  Is there a secret handshake or eyebrow raise signifying that you're trained?  I'd like a hologram on every holster, with a device I could carry assuring me that the gun enclosed is worn by a person who knows what she's doing.
I moved here, into their space.  I have to respect that. 
I was shot by a young man who  never  should have had access to a gun.  They have to respect that.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Meditation 106 - In Real Life

Miss Vicki came with me last Monday.  She'd tried to sit before, on her own, but found it difficult to concentrate.  Tempting her with lunch at Prep and Pastry beforehand, she was willing to try Yogi Marsha and the group at UAMC.

Over chicken and brie on focaccia and roasted beet salad, once we got the ice tea situation squared away we talked.  Her life is changing and, as always, I had an opinion on everything.  Luckily, she sometimes finds my opinions to have value; she always encourages me to speak openly.

Yes, denizens, she's a brave one, indeed.

When she told me that her mother had once said the same thing, we both took a moment..... and then we moved on.  As she drove us down to the hospital parking lot, encountering the first ever traffic jam at the entrance gate, she wondered what the group was like.  Settling, introducing, listening, sharing, meditating in the silence, first sitting, then sharing, then, usually, walking ever so slowly and mindfully, every piece of our soles touching the earth.  Yogi Marsha knows that the mind wanders; she encourages us to notice the distraction without judgment and then to return to our mantra and our breath. 

Just typing it calms me. 

As I was describing the process, I had an epiphany.  I have acquired a particular skill set in these Monday meditation sessions.  I used it, unconsciously, without planning, without even realizing that I was engaged in mindfulness until I was talking to Miss Vicki several days later. 

It was a two-fer, for sure.

It happened during a small group Pilates session.  We were four women, veterans on the equipment, capable of Level 2 and Level 3 pieces, and I was on one end of the row.  Understanding my body's limitations, the instructor gave me a baby-sized version on the piece the other three would be doing.  I was shown some intense, small, pelvic movements and admonished to deepen the crease of my hip as she turned to the other three. 

Balanced Body Reformer
That's the equipment we were using - the reformer.  Developed by Joseph Pilates during his time in a hospital recovering from war wounds, the combination of springs and pulleys allows the student to enhance her performance while maintaining strict control.  At least, that's the plan.  I was standing with my left foot on the ground, my right toes curled under as my right heel pressed against those headrests in the middle. I was facing the raised bar. My job was to curl and extend my pelvis, without moving the carriage.  As always, as I was admonished, as is most difficult for me, I concentrated on deepening the fold between my belly and my thigh. 
Easy it is not.  As I watched my classmates standing on the black mat, one foot on the raise bar, moving the carriage back and forth, maintaining posture and balance  and core strength, I realized that I was crying.  Through the sweat pouring from my forehead and my scalp, coursing down my face were very salty tears. 
The teacher's back was to me; the others were trying not to fall.  No one noticed.  I noticed.  I said to myself, "I am crying."  I looked around my heart and explored the insides of the tears for a bit, but I didn't attach much emotional content to what I found.  It was just there.
We moved on to our other sides, my tears subsided, my self-pitying moment passed, and life went on.  I remembered crying. I mentioned it to TBG.  It wasn't a big deal.  It just was.
In describing Yogi Marsha's approach to Mindfulness and Meditation to Miss Vicki, I flashed to that scene on the reformer, and I had an aha! moment. I had been mindful of the fact that I was crying, but I didn't judge.  I was neither angry nor sad nor anything other than crying.  I wandered around the why's and the why not's for a little bit, but again, I didn't judge.  And then, I moved on.
All of you who have known me for any length of time must be shaking your heads in disbelief.  I am the most judgmental person I know, especially when it comes to judging myself.  That I hadn't chastised myself nor felt sorry for myself nor reminded myself of how far I'd come meant that I had been truly in the moment, mindful.
I felt better all afternoon.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Friends

They met when my friend joined the Board of a social service agency devoted to the needs of homeless women and children.  When she decided to move to Tucson, my friend put us together. 

"You know I love connecting smart, Jewish women," was the final line of her email. It made me smile; I so rarely think of my friends' religious affiliations.... perhaps because so few of them have any to speak of.  My friend was right, though.  Five minutes into our first conversation, my new friend and I were sharing Yiddishisms and giggling at shared memories. 

You can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take the New York out of the girl.

We met at my favorite French café, home of the best tuna sandwich in Tucson.  I have always thought that finding the best tuna sandwich in a new town turned the strange place into home. Ghini's seemed like the logical place to meet. 

The fact that she only had to get onto her main cross street and drive west added to the attractiveness. She's relocated from New York City; she didn't own a car.  "I suppose I'll get used to driving everyplace," was her kind way of saying that she misses the buses that stopped outside her apartment and her work and her grocery store, that the subways that whisked her uptown and down were much easier to navigate than a 2,000 vehicle on unfamiliar streets.

She agreed that the lack of late night dining options, and the total absence of dinner delivered from anyplace serving anything other than wings and pizza, were bigger bones to pick.  She'd never had to find parking in a crowded downtown, so my screed on Tucson as a parking friendly downtown would have fallen on deaf ears.  I kept it to myself.

We shared family histories and dying mother stories and sisterly interactions.  We didn't get to our brothers.  I know about her best friends and their children and she knows about mine.  We touched on work and style and furnishing her new house, but what I remember most from our two hours together is how much we laughed.... and cried... and finished one another's sentences.

I think you'll be hearing about her a lot.  I'd better come up with a good blogonym.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"But how is your soul, sweetie?"

It's wonderful to have someone to ask a question like that.  TBG was concerned.  I'd spent all day in court, listening to she did this and he did that and they weren't the other.  It's a friend's personal matter, and, though I offered a small amount of testimony and rebuttal evidence, I'm not the main attraction. 

"Why did you stay all day?" he wondered.  I was finished by 10:30; I got home just before 6.

I asked myself that question several times during the afternoon.  That which is so obvious to me must be proven, step by step, email by email, text by text.  I try to imagine myself as the judge, listening to strangers, trying to decide who is credible and who is inept lying.

Yes, lying.  I had my illusions shattered when false testimony was given after an oath was taken.  Swearing to God ... for me it was a benign and meaningless reference, once I didn't mind averring.  It meant what it meant to me and to my listeners, and that was okay for me.  But this oat was sworn by a religious person, one who goes to church on Sunday, whose parenting style came from a program recommended by her church elders.  It had to mean something to her.... or so I thought. 

What she said was untrue, and I proved it today with pictures and physical examples.  It was obvious to me that I was telling the truth.  But there's the pesky matter of that judge.

He sits on the bench, listening to tales of woe.  He was interrupted four times today in order to break for hearings on Orders of Protection; he was the on-call judge.  He went from our tragic situation to a more immediate ones, hearing explanations and reading threats and agreeing with one woman that yes, perhaps marrying the man after he'd been convicted of shooting two police officers might not have been the smartest move she'd ever made. 

He listened and took a note or two.  His face is inscrutable, except when he's peeved that his cold is bothering him once again.  He's respectful to the witnesses and his court staff.  I wish he would just let me tell him, in ten words or less, what is wrong and what he should do to fix it.

Instead, I sat quietly, listening to testimony, checking my email, doing a crossword puzzle, finishing a Sudoku, waiting on the Group W bench in the hallway as the judge heard the third and then the fourth set of petitions for safe keeping.  I came to the conclusion that it's a sad day when you have to go to court to solve your problems.

I wish they would just listen to me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I looked good when I woke up in the morning.  Bed Head was tamed into submission.  My favorite Fabletics yoga pants were clean and on top of the stack , my favorite black top was similarly situated.  My pedicure was still unchipped.  The outside was good to go.

Inside, a combination of analgesics -aspirin, turmeric, Advil - and energizers - BComplex and caffeine laden green tea - had me gliding around the living room.  I was wearing sneakers, which always helps my gait, but there were internal changes I noticed as well.  Nothing was sticking or poking or prodding. 

There haven't been that many days where all of this has come together; I was lighter than air.  I walked through the bagel store with nary a lurch.  I walked up the staircase to Pilates without pausing on the landing which accommodates the turn.  I wasn't holding on, either.  I held my head high and my back straight and my sacrum reaching to the ground.  I was a posture goddess.... at least that's the way it felt.

Capitalizing on the feeling, I practiced standing with both feet evenly weighted as I studied the new items in the little store across from the Welcome Desk.  Bringing mindfulness to my stance has been a way to integrate my meditation practice into my daily life.  Waiting in line at the market can be an exercise in alignment. I'm rarely impatient as I check out, these days; I'm too busy organizing my quadrants.  I brought that same intention to my faux shopping, turning around my center to greet a classmate, making the movement a twist instead of a try-not-to-fall turn.

I think this is what is meant by integrating exercise into your daily routine.  I was complimenting myself on having that thought and on living that life and on getting to where I am now as I strode through the gym, on the way to the restroom.  A class was just beginning.  The students and teacher were standing, facing the mirror in front of which I had to walk.  They all smiled at me as I went by... big, joyful, happy smiles.

It was a watershed moment.  These women had seen me for months, some for years, as I hobbled across the studio floor.  My gait is smoother once I've gotten going, but the first fifty feet or so are an example of woman-trying-her-best-to-figure-out-where-her-appendages-belong.  It is many things.  Graceful is not one of them. 

But that day, everything was different.  My arms were swinging alternately with the movement of my legs, which may not sound like much to you but which is a huge accomplishment for me.  My head was perched atop a long neck, my pelvic floor was engaged, I was pushing off my back foot, rolling all the way through the entire sole and coming up and over my femur moving smoothly beneath my repaired acetabluae. 

I was walking.  I had witnesses.

An hour later, our workouts finished, those students and I met at the shoe cubbies.  We were still smiling at one another.  I felt great.

"Is he yours?"

"How old is he?"

"He's so little!!!"

I was quite confused.  FlapJilly is female, and there are no pictures of her tattooed on my forehead, nor screen printed on my tank top.

Beyond that grandchild reference, I didn't know what was little or old or whose.  I was flummoxed, and I suppose my face reflected my confusion because it all became clear when Maggie brought out her teeny tiny puppy.... the one sleeping on the desk in the studio in this picture taken the next week...
and the one who had followed behind me, trotting happily, tail wagging, face wobbling from side to side, as I walked in front of four women who were smiling at me because I had such a cute little beastie in my wake......
and, for a moment, I was sad. 
"Oh.  I thought you were commenting on my excellent walking," said I, with a mopey face and tone which was noticed immediately by the instructor who smiled even more broadly and said, "Oh, yes, that too!" and I felt a lot better right away.
Happy is very good place to be, even if I have to drag life's cursor by the scruff of the neck in order to get there. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Random Thoughts - The Fall Edition

Ever since I left Chicago for California, I've had an ache in my heart.  I look around me for the red and gold and purple leaves on the trees... and I see none.  I inhale deeply, and while the scents are fresh and clean and geographically specific, there is no desiccating mustiness in the air. 

Daddooooo would gather the leaves in the bag attached to the lawn mover, letting me stand between his hands as the detritus swirled around my feet and legs and chest.  He'd lift me out, then dump the bag over my head.  The more he swept, the bigger the pile grew, and the more neighborhood kids arrived to jump and fling and bury ourselves underneath, jumping out to scare the littler ones.

Cactus paddles and mesquite's spiky branches just won't lead the a similar experience.
One of the barrel cacti keeled over and died last week.  I noticed it while going out for the morning paper.  Lying on its side, spiritless, empty, weighing nothing, it is harboring an interesting assortment of little beasties underneath its rotting corpse. 

I'm leaving it for Ernie's guys to remove.  The thought of a colony of many legged creatures festering in my garbage can until pick up day is more than I can bear.
That got me thinking about compost.  The Sonoma County compost facility is one of my favorite places in Northern California.  It smells great - full of life and decomposition and nutrients.  The texture of the piles, some of them three or four stories tall, is soft and even and absolutely luscious.

I'd love to compost here, but no one can guarantee that the pack rats won't chew their way into the plastic bins of the rolling composter, nor that the coyotes won't pry their way through the slats of the wooden separators of the open air bins. 

I have enough interesting wildlife outside the pony walls; I don't need to encourage it inside, where I live.
There's a den of some sort in the wash between my house and JannyLou's.  I'd love to know who's living inside.
Even though the temperatures are still in the 90's and the pool is tempting, my sleeveless blouses are looking much too summery for September, nearly October. 

It's a psychological thing.  Acclimating to the West Coast, I learned to decide that some colors were for Fall/Winter and others were Spring/Summer.  It's time to put the lavender and yellow away now, and bring out the forest green and oranges. Black seems to go both ways, though. 

My pink and white polka dot sneakers will be washed and put away, along with the pink Converse and the white Converse.  I think I'll treat myself to a new pair this Fall.... after all, I always got new shoes at this time of year.... for going back to school.....
..... and I'm going to school again, starting October 1st.  I'll be reading tragicomedies, covering authors I've managed to avoid in six decades of literary browsing.  Ibsen, Pirandello, Ionesco.... I'll keep you posted in the sidebar as the semester progresses.

We're starting with Amphitryon, written by Flautus in the first century BC.  I wonder how comedy will translate after two thousand plus years.... but that's the beauty of Fall, and a new semester.  There's so much to figure out.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Levels of Preparedness

Home alone in the early morning.  Sitting at the desk, catching up on emails and looking for strappy black sandals to wear to a wedding next month.  Watching the walkers and the puppies and the bicyclists and the garbage trucks.  Feeling content.

A white mini-truck drives by slowly.  Backs up. Disappears behind the corner of the house and then reappears, even more slowly.  Repeats this maneuver again and parks.  There's a small sticker on the door panel; the words are too tiny to reveal his affiliation. 

Out of the truck, he's cruising my front yard.  Eyes downcast, he's very interested in the ground beneath his feet.  Sticking a long metal pole into the planting holes of my opuntia, he carefully retrieves it and moves on to the mesquite tree. I can sit no longer.

Galumphing to the closet, I find shorts and shoes.  Rushing is still beyond me; I thrust my feet into dressy slip-ons because they were the easiest foot coverings close at hand.  I locomoted - it looked nothing like walking - out the front door, down the driveway, and across the berms.

"Can I help you?"

"I am looking for your water meter.  I found a rattlesnake."

Two or three steps backwards... hand to my chest.... eyes as wide as they can be.... "Better you than me," was all I could manage.

He was just about to put his hand under the concrete slab protecting the meter when he heard the rattle.  I encountered him as he was returning with a shovel.

"I'll let him live if you want.  Usually, I kill them."

Death in the morning was not on my original agenda, but it quickly moved to the top of the list.  The next door neighbors rousted a rattler yesterday morning; I saw them outside and stopped to wonder what all the excitement was about.  We love many things about our neighborhood, slithering snakes are not among them.

The execution took two or three strikes with the shovel blade.  A hole was dug in the open space across the street, and a burial occurred.  My meter was read. Goodbyes were said.  A post was written.

It was a very productive morning.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communitiess

Ronni Bennett writes on aging over at Time Goes By. She's the standard by which I judge elder blogging, and she sets a high bar.  On Monday, she wrote about aging in place, rounding out the conversation with the notion of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities.

It's a lovely concept: high rise apartment buildings in NYC where the residents have aged in place. Everything can be delivered in NYC, at any time of the day or night.  Public transportation is readily available outside the front door; there's no need to have a car so it is no disaster when you're unable to drive. Repairs are handled by the building management. Everything is familiar, because you've lived there forever. 

Neighbors see newspapers in a pile outside an unopened-for-a-few-days-door.  A faltering step on the way to the mail room might prompt a comment by the doorman to a visiting relative.  It is community in the fullest sense of the word; un-intrusive but observant, ready to lend a hand. If only everyone could afford to live in New York City......

When I was in high school, my grandparents moved from their home on Hessler Avenue to The Butcher's Co-op on the oceanfront in Far Rockaway.  There were young families and retirees, the rent was reasonable and the location was gorgeous.  True, there was no place to walk for groceries, and the market within driving distance was peopled with sketchy characters who frightened me even at the height of my 20-something-I'm-invicible-ness.  It was described as a transitional neighborhood; that was a very kind description.

Within the pink buildings themselves, though, there was a thriving community.  We recognized faces in the elevator on our every-Sunday-visits. An occasional aunt or friend from the old neighborhood would move into the building, and Grandma and Grandpa would be sure to show us off to them when we met in the elevator.  It was the woman who lived next door who told Daddooooo that his mother was yelling obscenities from the balcony, who was worried that her neighbor might catch cold while she was scolding the sky.

I'm making a NORC right here in Tucson. With JannyLou and Fast Eddie next door, we installed a lighted pathway between our driveways. We all have keys and alarm codes for both houses. We share a cleaning lady and a masseuse and regular how-cheap-can-we-eat meals out on the town. We return garbage cans and pick up mail, along with the help of the new family on the other side. 

This is their "forever house," which is comforting. Those kids are useful for plant watering...ah, Christina.... and succulent covering and it turns out their mother goes to the same hair salon that I use. This may become useful if I can't drive myself; it won't feel burdensome to ask for a lift if she's headed that way already.

This has me thinking about Bubba's remark after spending a long weekday alone with the infant me and the silence that was a suburban New York neighborhood.  G'ma said that when she walked through the door Bubba thrust the baby (that would be me) into her arms before declaring that she didn't know how anyone could live out there. "You could die in the middle of the street and no one would come by for hours to find you."

Not here, I won't.  I have my NORC.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What We Do For Love

Little Cuter has about had it.  FlapJilly loves books, loves the turning pages, loves the feel of the cardboard in her hand, loves the bright pictures, love the closeness with her mommy... but Mommy is getting a little bit tired of the insipid verbiage accompanying all that wonderfulness.

I listened.  I commiserated. I nodded sagely, even though she couldn't see.  And then, I began to recite:
On buses ... and in cars... people come to the airport. 
They come to ride in big jet planes.
She laughed.

It's a foundational story in our family, the afternoon the infant Big Cuter had a runny nose, and I gave him a double dose of Dimetapp, and, afraid that if he went to sleep he'd be so drugged that he'd never wake up, I read "Airport.... by Byron Barton" over and over and over and over and over for hours and hours and hours on the sunny couch in the living room.  A bibliophile even as a baby, I was confident that the kid would stay awake as long as I was willing to read, and I was right.

The only problem with the plan was his absolute refusal to hear anything but "Airport... by Byron Barton.... On buses... and in cars... people come to the airport...."

That memory is 31 years old.  It's tinged with equal amounts of love and frustration.  And so it was that I took myself to Barnes and Noble and browsed the 0-3 aisle.  I skipped Eric Carle's Hungry Hungry Caterpillar and its sisters; she has duplicates of many titles already.  I wanted to be original, so I skipped the series Beautiful Annie began, Jennifer Adams' babylit books.  Anna Karenina is a fashion primer, Wuthering Heights takes on weather, and Frankenstein teaches anatomy. 

They are fabulous, with the simple pictures babies love, focusing on big eyes and bright blocks of color and words worthy of an English major, but I was trying to strike out on my own.

At the risk of ruining FlapJilly's surprise, I'll show you what I found.

Big bright and bold was my mantra, and Lots of Spots fit the bill perfectly. The poetry about turtles swimming and flat flounders with eyes topside and toads jumping will give Mommy a chance to act things out and vary her tone of voice and introduce new words and keep her sanity all at the same time.

I saw Adam Rex at the Tucson Festival of Books.  He was charming, self-effacing, and full of mischief. 

This one might be a bit much for a not-quite-two-month-old's attention span, but maybe, just maybe, they'll get to the end when Chu sneezes and wreaks havoc and smiles.

Smiling is a good thing.  I read this book twice before adding it to my stash.  I hope the girls like it as much as I did.

And finally, there's Little Fish, who's alliterative adventure as they splish and splash and swish and softly swim themselves to sleep can be accompanied by the finger puppet fish face coming right through the middle of the book.
Grandpa found the whole thing quite disturbing.
It made me laugh, and so I'm sending it along.
After all, disturbing is better than boring.
Isn't it?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Nanny State and the NFL

We live our lives out loud. For years, social scientists wondered how to extract personal data from the general public; it never occurred to them that their subjects would volunteer that information if only given the chance.  Even private communications can be widely disseminated.  There's no need for history to comb through stacks of legal papers to recall Adrian Peterson describing his son's wounds; the texts are sent 'round the world with the click of a button.

I'm still reeling

Both Steven A Smith and Skip Bayless, morning ESPN commentators who normally make my skin crawl, said this morning that they each were beaten with belts and switches by their fathers.  Neither one of them thought it was appropriate discipline - then or now. I found myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with those I usually abhor.

Sunday NFL Countdown is a collection of older and wiser talking heads.  Except for Mike Ditka, who was, as usual, clueless, these men were all appalled, but none of them were as passionate as Cris Carter.  Carter had his own troubles off the field, and was waived by the Eagles in 1990 after failing 3 drug tests.  He turned his life around, returned to the NFL, and retired 12 years later as the league's second all time receiver and a recipient of the 1999 NFL Man of the Year Award.  He's thoughtful, articulate, and in this instance absolutely right. 

If you are at work and can't watch the video, here are two takeaways.  The first, after recounting his own mother's beating him:
"This is the 21st century. My mom was wrong… And I promise my kids I won’t teach that mess to them....You can’t beat a kid to make them do what you want them to do.”
The second, while discussing what should happen:
"We don’t respect no women. We don’t respect no kids...Take them off the field because they respect that.”
It shouldn't be that hard to get the message through, but obviously it is.

The NFL has an opportunity before it.  There's a chance to make a difference, to take a stand, to educate and advocate and make things better.  Pink accessories are a good reminder in October, but what about some blue (child abuse) or purple (domestic violence) as accents?  NFL funded womens' shelters come to mind, so do parenting classes along with the how to manage your money and fame classes offered to newbies.  If they didn't learn it at home, then it's time for the NFL to step up and take the lead.

Yes, it's the nanny state.  Just as the schools checked my mother and her classmates every day for clean hands and their heads for lice, assuming that immigrant families' standards of cleanliness differed from Americans, the NFL is now in the position of having to explain proper behavior to its community. 

We do not beat on women and children.

It's an easy sentence to remember.  All the NFL has to do is put the weight of The Shield behind it.  Perhaps someone might want to mention this to the Minnesota Vikings, who changed their minds after a sub-par performance last weekend.  Adrian Peterson is practicing with the team and will play on Sunday in New Orleans.  I don't know how a loving father could share a locker room with a man indicted for child abuse... how you can rely on a person who could do such a thing... who didn't see anything wrong with what he did.....

I'm still reeling.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The NFL Should Be Worried

Big Cuter is appalled.  He's having a hard time justifying his love affair with professional football in America. 

His Sunday-on-the-phone-talking-football-with-Dad call was tinged with sadness.  The Carolina Panthers allowed Greg Hardy to practice with the team this week, after a judge found him guilty of domestic violence, Sure, he's appealing, but right now he's a convicted felon... how can they let him play? How can his 49'ers allow Ray McDonald to take the field when there are pictures of his pregnant fiancée's bruised arms and neck all over the internet?  "Pay him and sit him out, but don't put him out there....."

There was pain in his voice. Sports aren't supposed to showcase the ugly underbelly of society this way.  Not in such a concentrated period of time, with such abhorrent, visually revolting, morally repellent actions.

Adrian Peterson's abs have been the source of much sighing. The notion of him standing over a screaming 4 year old.... his own screaming 4 year old... and swinging a tree branch... over and over and over and over on his back and his legs and his scrotum, is horrifying.

As he admitted in a text to the child's mother, "I got kinda good wit the tail end of the switch.”   Don't call it a switch --- it was a part of a tree.  Don't diminish the action with gentler terms - his child was bleeding because he couldn't stop hitting him with a branch.

This is not admirable behavior, and the Minnesota Vikings are benching their star running back until the situation is examined more fully.  That's one small ray of hope in an otherwise dismal arena.

"Sundays are for football."  Agreeing with that statement has been a prerequisite for all my son's long-term relationships. The International Church of Big Cuter has, as its most auspicious holiday, the NFL Draft... or, perhaps it's the opening game... or the Super Bowl.... I just know that it's NFL related.

He's not that invested in the college game.  Being a Georgetown graduate may have something to do with that.  He loves college basketball. He's followed the NBA's Chicago Bulls since his childhood and Michael Jordan's ascendancy coincided. He's knowledgeable about soccer these days, in a way he would have scorned a decade ago.  None of this fandom comes close to his relationship with the NFL.

He has home and away jerseys for his 49'ers; I know this because I bought them for him.  I have been banned from the room if the team was doing well before I arrived; I never messed with the karma.  His brain is a repository of statistics and analyses x's and o's.  He loves the game and the product the NFL has created.

That is, until this afternoon.

He was almost apologetic about spending the day watching grown men run into one another.  He was looking at them as human beings rather than as a team. He was questioning their morality, their heroism, their character.

The NFL should be worried.... very very worried indeed.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Missing My Mom

There is so much going on in the world, in my world, in my head right now that I can barely see straight.  Most of it is good, some of it is challenging, all of it requires reflection.  My plate is so full I can't finish one post before I get distracted by another.  I have three partially written essays awaiting my return.

I'm procrastinating by thinking of G'ma. Her own biggest regret after losing her own mother was that there wasn't another woman who wanted to see her grandbaby's pictures as much as she did.  I'm feeling her pain right now.  I've switched my screen saver to FlapJilly doing a push-up (yes, she is only 6 weeks old; haven't I told you that she is extraordinary?) and I can get lost in her eyes and her smile for much longer than is productive. 

TBG comes by and smiles, but then he goes off to do other things.  G'ma would, I know, sit by my side for as long as I wanted to smile back at the image on the screen.  We'd have talked about everything and nothing and seeing my siblings in a certain glint in the baby's eye and the afternoon would pass with me explaining her relationship to the infant on the monitor.

"Little  Cuter.... SIR... you were at the wedding....yes, you were at the wedding..... "

I can't look at the clouds in the sky without hearing her telling me how big they were and how gorgeous they were and wondering how many times she'd repeated herself but wasn't it true that they were huge and the sky wsa so very blue?  Yes, Mom, it was true, and I was glad that you were in the front seat next to me to notice it.

The pod castle is expanding, according to the signage out front.  I still feel The Schnozz drifting into the turning lane as I approach from the north or the south.  The pull is still there, and so is the heartache.

There's nothing to be done.  It's sad but not tragic.  She was finished with a good, long life and it was time for her to go.  She did so on her own terms, surrounded by her own stuff.  She knew she was loved at the end.  The funeral was a great party, one she would have enjoyed very much.

None of this makes the ache in my heart go away.  I can hear her in the back of my head, telling me to get over myself and get on with my life.  So, thanks for listening, denizens.  I'm off to finish three posts, make dinner, take a swim and a shower and do some laundry and feel as busy as my mother would want me to be.  Wallowing lasts only so long.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Random Thoughts

I saw 9 To 5 yesterday.  I didn't like the movie when it debuted in 1980; it felt like a heavy handed way to make an obvious point.  As a fundraiser for Arizona List, a committee dedicated to electing pro-choice, Democrat women at all levels of governance, it was brilliant.

Today's news has more on the former President of Pima Community College, who left his job after the sexual harassment complaints against him became more than anyone could stifle. Monday night, a friend reported that a female Fox newscaster suggested that Janay Rice should have taken the stairs. Women still earn less than men doing similar jobs. In-house day care is a fantasy for most employees. 

I'd have been depressed, but Beautiful Annie is wonderful company.
I was on the playground at Prince this morning.  It is a much mellower place at that time of day.  Everyone is clean and almost all shoes are tied and no one has had time to aggravate anyone else.

I was doing the usual, handing out stickers and hugs, when a group of 3rd graders encouraged me to give a sticker to the child hiding around the corner.  Sensing a shy student, I went quietly, with an open heart... and was greeted by a hooded figure grimacing at me from behind mesh eyeholes and a gory visage.

The kids loved my shriek.  So did I, once my heart stopped pounding.  We all agreed that third graders can be very surprising.
Pilates instruction began at the middle school this week. It's our third year, and we're old hands at the game. We move the piano out of the way, stack up the folding chairs, and place the mats on the floor.  Since it was the first day, each girl received a new pair of colorful, no-show, no-matching socks. 

I am not above bribery to get what I need from the kids.
A friend is recently married.  She's had her own business for two decades.  She and her first husband had different last names.  Her children from that marriage have their father's surname. 

Today, on Facebook, she appeared with her husband's name attached to hers.  I don't want to ask and be perceived as judgmental.  I'm just surprised, without any judgment at all.  That's a hard sliver of life to share.
FlapJilly kept Little Cuter awake last night, and they were both feeling the pain this morning.  As my daughter and I talked about Thanksgiving plans, my granddaughter was cooing in the background.

I know I've told you that she is brilliant and gorgeous and strong and loyal and all together perfect in every way, but I must add to that list the fact that she has an absolutely delectable little voice. The fact that that little voice kept my child up half the night, chirping even as its owner's eyes were closed, is irrelevant to me. I could listen to it all night long.

Being a grandparent is so much more fun than being a parent.
There is more NFL related bloviating to be had, but right now I'm enjoying the pictures of my grandchild too much to be bothered.  Look at this face, denizens... just look at this face:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Respect Yourself

Miss Vicki and I went to see Mavis Staples on Friday night.  The whole thing was completely glorious.

There is free street parking after 5pm in downtown Tucson, a fact the street person resting under the bank awning noted as I examined the parking meter.  He complimented Miss Vicki's new Subaru, agreed that Tucson is very visitor friendly, and then asked if we could help a brother in need.
Having spent the afternoon testifying in Amster's custody suit, I felt the need to right the karma in the world.  The ten dollar bill on top of my wad of money went from my purse to his hand, both of us agreeing that it was his lucky day.  In a world where grown ups lie under oath, a random good deed helped to straighten my outlook.

Miss Vicki was worried that we'd forget where we left the car, but the library building, one block south of our parking space, was an excellent landmark.  Leaving her tenderly cared for vehicle on the street, we walked to 47 Scott for dinner.  I love restaurants which use their address as their name; it makes finding them very simple.  We shared bread and oil, soup and kale salad and peppers stuffed with black beans, and just managed to get in under the two minute warning for happy hour.  Cocktails taste much better at half price.
The stroll to The Fox Theater was a busy one; everyone downtown was headed our way.  Sharing a loveseat in the loge, we discussed the advantages of sitting in the second row versus the first.  Below us, the front row people could rest their feet and their drinks on the ledge ... until the usher asked them to remove their cups so they didn't fall down on the people on the first floor.  They also had to deal with the light fixtures blocking their view of the stage.  We, one row above them, were quite comfy.
The opening act was performing for the second time in their careers; we're not looking for their third outing.  The lead singer had been a member of Silver Threads, a trio of beautiful voices and odd instruments.  Her new group is still finding its way.  They couldn't get off the stage fast enough for our liking.
An hour after the show began, the lights dimmed and guitarist Rick Holmstrom led the band onstage.  I would have paid to see him perform a solo gig; his guitar was magical.  Sister Yvonne joined two back up singers, a bassist and a drummer, but Miss Mavis was front and center and definitely in charge.
There were covers of Buffalo Springfield and Funkadelic and Lauryn Hill tunes.  Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and The Weight now have new "best ever" versions in my head.  We clapped along with Freedom Highway as Miss Mavis reminded us that she and her Pops had marched from Selma with Dr. King, that she was a warrior and was still a warrior.... and the audience roared its approval.

She turned 75 on July 10th. She needed help walking on and off the stage.  Once she took the microphone off the stand and shook her shoulders into place, she needed nothing at all.  Her voice was loud and strong and delicate and powerful and she articulated every lyric.  It was a bravura performance, capped off with the entire audience singing along with I'll Take You There.
She certainly did.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ray Rice

"I always thought of him as a good guy."

TBG, my go-to-guy for all things sports, said that in February, when the video of Ray Rice dragging an unconscious woman out of an elevator hit the airwaves. The woman was his fiancée, they were both drunk... it was another example of "Nothing good follows 'Late last night...'"

As background, for you denizens who rely on The Burrow as your sole source of sports information, in May, Rice was suspended for two games by the NFL.  After much hue and cry, much of it comparing Josh Gordon's season long ban for marijuana use to Ray Rice's slap on the wrist, Commissioner Goodell admitted that he didn't get it right on domestic violence.  A new policy was implemented. 

Ray Rice was a good guy, so he apologized.  They held a press conference. There he was, all 5'8" of him, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, apologizing to the team owner, the coach, the fans, the kids... but never once apologizing to his wife.
 Look at her face 30 seconds in; that's about as far as I'm able to get without cringing.  I won't even start on my rant about the fact that he didn't hold her chair for her as she sat down.  Obviously, that kind of behavior is well outside his comfort zone.

The fact that she apologizes for her part in the drama makes me want to take a shower, then offer her a ride to the nearest women's shelter.  It's classic behavior, on both their parts.

This morning, TMZ released the video of what happened inside the elevator.  I could link to it but I won't.  It's porn. In slow motion it looks as if the young woman is holding her arms up to protect her face before a fist flies across the screen and she collapses in the corner.  Ray Rice throws the punch, then stands quietly, waiting for the elevator door to open.  He makes no move to tend to her ... inside the elevator or out.

ESPN's talking heads are all in a dither.  So this is what domestic violence looks like... I'd heard about it but seeing it makes it all too real...Zero Tolerance .... you don't hit a woman ... the NFL trains these young men in anger management...

I'm glad they are finally awakened to the issue.  I'm hearing the sounds of women all over the globe laughing through their tears into their coffee this morning.  If we'd only known that you needed a video of someone famous......

Monday, September 8, 2014

Personal Space

I called TBG as Miss Vicki pulled out of the parking space downtown, last Friday night.

"Checking in?" she asked in a neutral tone; if there's judgment she's never oblique.

"Just letting him know when I'll be home."

"Call and let me know how late you'll be" was the kind of request that drove me over the edge.  Come with me if you need to know.  I'm a big girl.  What, are you my mother?  I'm not saying my responses were rational or correct or worthy of my otherwise impeccable status as a grown up.  I'm just telling you what they were.

Then, I almost died.

Suddenly, what was cloying and smothering was less about me and all about him.  Calling home with an approximate ETA, then calling back to say that plans have changed and we're going out for dinner is no longer a burden.  It's not intrusive; it's expansive

It's a gift I can give. It can unwrap the PTSD knot that still haunts him. 

I was a snarky New Yorker before bullets made me famous.  One of the ways all those people live in such close proximity to one another is by maintaining a sense of personal space.  You stand next to but not on top of the person next to you, waiting for the light to change.  Hugs were not part of the Hello-How-Are-You sequence when I was growing up.  A handshake was quite enough, thank you.

Then, I got shot.  My face and my story were widely shared; people wept along with me. They also hugged me.  Sometimes they asked permission, often, especially in the early days, they couldn't help themselves.  I was smothered against the breasts of strangers more often than I care to remember. 

I had two choices - to yelp and withdraw or to go with the flow.  I went where the love took me.  Shopping for a melon became an adventure in reliving the most awful time in my life.  I wasn't fast enough to escape inquiring shoppers, and I never developed a way to close the subject without engaging or enraging.  I felt as though I owed it to those who had held me in their hearts. 

Again, it was less about me and all about them.

Sunday morning, Brenda Starr and I walked and went out for breakfast.  We were waiting for the burro she was bringing home to Tim, chatting about everything and nothing when a middle aged couple walked in, she in jeans and a frilly top, he with a weapon holstered on his hip.

Brenda Starr told me to leave if I needed to, but I sat, and I thought, and I held myself back from asking him why in heavens name he needed a gun in order to eat eggs on a sunny Sunday morning... from asking him if he was licensed and trained.... from asking him if he was a good guy or a hungry bad guy waiting to rob the place after finishing his blue corn waffles. 

I had pieces of the conversation with the cashier and a waitress as we paid the bill. They didn't know what the owner's opinion on guns in the restaurant was, but they would certainly ask her ... in honor of Christina-Taylor ... and of what a shame it was ... and it's breakfast for goodness sakes.

Does his personal space trump mine?  Is his world that violent?  Must he be armed at all times?  Unless he has a badge, I don't feel comfortable sitting behind him and his handgun and his bullets and his turkey and sage sausage patty. 

What if he decided to hug me and the gun went off?

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Issue

It used to be education.  To my naïve heart, equal access to quality instruction seemed the obvious solution to all the world's woes. If we understood how things worked, if we saw the historical path which led to our current situation, if we held philosophers close to our hearts, peace would reign.

Oh, to be 15 again.

In college, reproductive rights pushed schooling aside.  I was enjoying freedoms, but there was a dark cloud hovering overhead. Birth control was available, but abortion was do you know someone and how much cash do I need?  Then, as now, I was appalled that men in positions of power deemed themselves worthy of deciding how my body should spend nine months.  No one asked the father of the unborn to carry that same burden.  It was that unfairness which spoke loudest to my late teen self.

Crossing the threshold into adulthood and self-support, the minimum wage begged for my attention.  Sexism in the workplace reared its ugly head, and, once again, my need to get involved was aroused.  Aroused, but not enthused.  I had a salary putting food on our table, TBG had loans which enabled him to finish his MBA, and health insurance came along with my job.  We were young, healthy, and safe.  I concentrated on my career, then my young family.  Sports and schools and aging parents held my attention; joining the political fray was the furthest thing from my mind.

Living in Marin County, my vote was a rubber stamp. Any opinion was acceptable, as long as it was a politically correct opinion.  Since my politics leaned in the general direction of the rest of the county, I was one of the crowd.  I could raise my voice, but it was joined with others. That was comforting.  It was not earth shattering.

Moving to Tucson, we landed in a purple state.  We had a female, Democrat Governor, a centrist, female, Democrat Representative, and a maverick Senator.  With California's economy imploding, we were on the front edge of a wave of westerners moving to states with friendlier economics.  We were bringing our liberal politics along with us.

Then President Obama took Janet to Homeland Security and a bullet took Gabby out of the House of Representatives.  Closer to home, it took Christina-Taylor away from her family and friends, and left me on the couch for 14 weeks, reviewing my life and making a plan.

I joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns.  I joined Americans for Responsible Solutions.  I joined Moms Demand Action.  I send money to support their efforts.  My Facebook page is awash in their advertising.  In the last two days, it's all gotten very real to me.

Pat Maisch, the citizen hero who grabbed the magazine from our shooter as he tried to reload, has her face all over Dr. Randall Friese's glossy mailer, which is still sitting on my desk after being included in yesterday's post.  She's become a good friend, GRINning with me when her work schedule allows.  She's a generic, white haired extra in the photographs... to every one but me.  To me, she's a goddess. Had the shooter been able to reload, I might not be here, typing to you.

It's enough to make you stop for a moment, isn't it.

Carol Gaxiola, the Director of Homicide Survivors, Inc, was on tv last night, sharing her personal story of loss and sorrow.  The ad was paid for by Americans for Responsible Solutions, with some of my dollars adding to their ability to air it.  Her story is poignant and true and real.  The lessons she learned from dealing with her own tragedy were generously shared with those of us who survived January 8, 2011.  Her story is my story; she tells it so well.

It's the look on her face at the very end, staring at what might have been, knowing that it can never be.  This issue has its hooks in my heart and it's not letting go.

And then there are the Kroger ads.  Facebook is awash with them. It took me a couple of tries before I saw the point.  
No shirt,
 no ice cream,
  no skateboards.
.... but bring on those assault weapons, please. 
Guns and grocery stores are about as personal as it gets for me.  Once again, I'm a one issue voter.  It's a personal thing.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Signs of the Times

Is your neighborhood covered with them?  Mine is.  Every corner is awash in cardboard.  I can't see if there's on-coming traffic because Ethan Orr has decided that getting reelected takes precedence over my ability to drive safely.  It's election time, and the posters are everywhere.

TBG pointed out last month that it is impossible to tell who belongs to which party.  Except for my friend, Randy Friese, everyone has his or her own take on red, white, and blue.  There is an occasional elephant on the bottom line, barely visible unless you're stopped in front of the sign itself and looking for an identifier. 

I suppose that the lack of labels is a good thing.  We are trying to raise children who see beyond affiliation and into character. Unable to reflexively attach Mr. Orr to either party, I'm free to rail at him as an individual as I inch out of my neighborhood, gingerly placing myself in danger so that he can exercise his right to free speech.

St. Mark's United Methodist Church has an interesting electronic signboard.  I'm at their corner just about every day; I'm always curious about what they have to say.  There are pre-school registrations and holiday services and community lectures and then, over the weekend, there was this:
St. Mark's does not endorse.  Campaign Signs are on county property.
The car behind me had to honk; I was immobilized by the notion of voters lured into making an assumption about the church.  As blurry as the line between the separation of church and state may seem these days, surely no one can believe that a congregation can endorse a candidate. 

Apparently, St. Mark's was not as sanguine about the state of our electorate.

I love that they made the statement; I hate that it had to be made. I was mulling that over as I approached the intersection yesterday.  Where there had been a forest of names screaming for attention, there was now but one, lonely, pitiful dead tree who had not respected the implicit request behind the signboard's civics lesson.... Please, Move Your Signs.

Of course.  Ethan Orr.

I knew next to nothing about his politics; I just knew that I hated his signs.  Adding a green swirl below his name didn't do much for me; he was where I didn't want him to be, blocking my view and annoying a church community I'd come to adopt as a totally one sided, wave-hello-as-I-drive-by-friend.  Then, I went to his website.  Still, nothing.  Ethan for Arizona House doesn't tell me his party preference, let alone provide a specific example of what he thinks on anything.  Then again, half the website is black background with pale ink and thus unreadable to me on my desktop monitor.  Old people have issues like that, Ethan....... and I am calling you Ethan because you didn't use a more grown up form of address on your committee banner. 

This particular old person didn't stop there, Ethan.  No, sir.  I was so incensed that you were hiding behind your wonderful children and your ingenuous smile that I plowed through VoteSmart  and found that I also have issues with your willingness to allow gun owners with concealed carry permits to ignore No Guns Allowed signs, let alone your willingness to come between me and my physician.

And to think that the only reason I know all of this is because your signs upset me.  Perhaps they are serving the purpose for which they are intended after all; I got involved.
Were you wondering what colors my friend, Randy, is using?
That would be purple and yellow.
If you're in LD-9, you might consider casting one of your two votes for him.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fall Gardening in the Desert Southwest

We had lots of rain this monsoon.  I turned off the irrigation; it seemed redundant.  And then, it wasn't.  The rains stopped and I forgot to turn it back on and now the containers which are on the main system are looking quite raggedy.

I'm embarrassed.  I'm not taking pictures.

The well-established plants in the front and the back yards are quite happy.  They are drying out, acclimating themselves to the cooler, drier autumn.  Though the temperatures are still in the triple digits, it's not that hot.  Oxymoronic?  Not really.  Just very hard to describe.

The gardening guides in the glossy magazines designed to entice tourists to return again and again tell me to prune the dead canes of my roses and to replant my containers.  They use phrases like rip out and replace.  That makes it easier to deal with the detritus which was once zinnias.

I'll go to the nursery and see what looks beautiful.  I'll prune before I purchase, and I'll plant as soon as I come home with the newbies.  I'm learning that the desert gardener is given no quarter; there is no room for error when the conditions are extreme.  Leaving the tender seedlings in their plastic cups results in dessicated roots and crumbly soil.  From the garden center to my containers in one afternoon - that is my goal.

I'm considering the notion of cacti and succulents.  They won't need replacing as often as annuals. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.  I like to deadhead and primp and prop up and admire the changes.  Cacti and succulents are so slow.

I though I would look through my gardening books for inspiration, but as I was wending my way across the library I remembered that I have resources right here on my desktop. Brenda Starr and I went to the Cactus and Succulent Society's Annual Plant Sale last winter.  I photographed that which caught my eye.  Let's look at the specimens together, shall we?

There was greenery

which is always surprising to those who think of our landscape as austere and spiky.
Never fear; spiky is certainly available. 
So is exceptionally odd, like this green stalk growing out of what looks like cement,
or this vaguely sexual thing, 
or this lovely little green thing growing out of a rock.
The rock is the exposed root ball, I think. 
Plants with viruses are highly prized.
It's a virus that makes this usually smoother specimen get so crinkly..
and pricey....
this one goes for $200. 
You can create your own gardens
 or buy one in an attractive planter for $30.
It's an attractive alternative to tending more delicate flora. 
I'm just not sure it will be as much fun.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Long Form

One of the GrandFarkles was reading Crime and Punishment in JannyLou's kitchen last night.  TBG and I had been invited to join the family for an end-of-the-summer dinner, even though summer's end had been heralded for their grandchildren by the start of school several weeks ago. One high schooler was writing a paper on the day bed in the picture window.  The college student was busy; though his education takes place a just few miles from his ancestral home, he's away-at-school and couldn't join the rest of the crew on the ride down to Granny's.

There are serious students in JannyLou's family. Crime and Punishment was frilled with small post-its, each one a reference to a point to be made, an essay to be composed, a thought to be completed.  Talking to smart young people is such a joy for me; their first introduction to works I've studied never fails to put a smile on my face.  The gymnast granddaughter, arms wrapped in healing tape to protect her rubbed-raw-by-the-straps-and-ropes flesh, was not put off by the length of the novel.  She loves the classics.

That's a sentence designed to warm the cockles of my heart these days.  Wuthering Heights, Jane Austin, the Greeks - these are not graphic novels or Twitter feeds.  They require diligence, concentration, a long term commitment.

She's willing to take the time to immerse herself in another world.  She'll give up an hour or two at a time, reading and thinking and reading some more. She picks them up on her own; assignments are just guides on the path to a well-read future.

She gives me hope for the future.

I was spoiled, spending three weeks in my daughter's guest room.  Her bookshelf was filled with the remains of her English Major from IU.  Wuthering Heights was there, but I re-read it a few years ago for a class.  I picked up Jane Eyre while Little Cuter was in labor, reveling in 19th century England as my daughter created a 21st century human.  FlapJilly's family-filled world is far removed from orphan Jane's constant need to reassure herself that she is valuable; my granddaughter will have no need for a ring of keys to know her own worth.  Still, she will have adventures, plunging into new places with trepidation coupled with urgency and an open heart... at least, that is my wish for her.  Perhaps they are not so far removed from one another at all.

Those are the kind of thoughts that the long form brings out in me.  I read for an hour or two, and I spend the rest of the day in the English countryside, wondering how a vapid eight year old could possibly be an interesting companion for a girl as thoughtful as Jane.  I roll notions around in my brain, comparing travel alone then and now, opportunities squandered and options explored.  I don't get that kind of amusement from Twitter.

Perhaps it started with Sesame Street.  Short vignettes, letters and numbers tearing across the screen, character development something that took place over months and years of watching short segments, rather than rolling out over an hour's time.  That worked for pre-schoolers, those with the attention span of a fruit fly.  The longer segments, like Miami Mice, appealed to the grownups stirring oatmeal more than to the toddlers to whom the show was ostensibly directed. 

It was at times like those that I flashed back to Popeye cartoons. I loved the bluster and the triumph of spinach-fueled good over big, bearded, evil.  Growing up, seeing the same cartoons as an adult, I was more taken by Popeye's mumblings.... directed to the adults in the audience more than the kids enjoying the spectacle.  That kind of two-tiered attraction doesn't happen in 140 characters.