Friday, October 31, 2014

Vexed Voter

(By Little Cuter, with a special appearance by FlapJilly)

Ordinarily, I’d love to spend a chilly Thursday afternoon strolling around our three-story mall, smiling at the kids in costume on parade and window shopping and perchance happening upon a mid-season sale at Baby GAP. However, this afternoon I was incensed, and in the midst of my healthy rage I called the one person I knew who would commiserate:

“Hi Mama! Oh boy do I have a blog post for YOU!” 

You see, it was all planned perfectly. I had done my research on the dates and times early voting was available,(taken directly from this website:)
Macintosh HD:Users:jhileman:Desktop:Screen shot 2014-10-30 at 2.19.25 PM.png
and timed our departure perfectly to coincide with the end of FlapJilly’s morning nap so that we could arrive right when the polls opened at 10am. Heck, I’d even picked out a specially crocheted hat from G’mu for her to wear for the occasion.

With my little bean strapped to me in a wrap, we made our way to the Aurora Public Library, taking the earlier website’s word for it that ANY DuPage County Early Voting Site would be able to take my vote. I had voted here twice before - once for a local election and once for the Presidential election. Both times the line had been short to non-existent, the helpers friendly and clean, and the process as delightful as it was when my own mom took me to vote each year growing up.

However, after standing in line for 10 minutes at the library, I heard a helper telling the man 5 voters in front of me that residents of DuPage County could not vote at this location... the location that is located smack dab in the middle of DuPage County...  with a line of DuPage County citizens snaking out the door. He told us that this was stated on the website.

Am I mistaken with my information in any of these screenshots?
If we wanted to vote, we would have to go to the location in the Fox Valley Mall.

Determined to set a good example for my daughter (yes, she is only three months old, but it’s never too early for a lesson in civics! Plus, the buttons on the voting machines are fun to push), I strapped her back in to her car seat and we headed to the mall.
The “helper” at the Library told us to park near Sears and that the polling place would be between Sears and Carson’s. Never mind that the two stores are not next to one another in the mall.
FlapJilly and I parked, had a quick diaper change, strapped her up in the wrap and headed in to the Mall. There was nary a sign to be found.
I walked in to Sears; no one knew where to send me. I walked across the mall in to Carson’s, no one knew that you could even vote early (don’t get me started….) and finally, after fifteen minutes of walking the mall (fifteen minutes with an infant, mind you, is almost an eternity), I found a security guard who pointed me to the polling place - if anyone in DuPage County is reading this, it’s on the UPPER LEVEL of the mall, past Sears, near entrance 3.

I walked right up, breathed a sigh of relief, and signed myself in- a full HOUR after I had arrived at the Library.
The men in charge of the check-in table spent the time I was filling out my form telling me that they had posted signs all around the mall directing people, and the city came by and TOOK THEM ALL DOWN.
When I walked in to the voting room, the only other people there were the friends I had made earlier in the Library, who were just as determined and flustered as I was. When we finished casting our votes, rather than enjoying the rush of receiving our “I VOTED” stickers, the dog walker who was ahead of me in line at the Library and I asked simultaneously, “Where do we complain about this and get it fixed before Election Day?”

Now imagine that you are a first time voter. Heck, imagine you are a veteran voter and have waited until Election Day to cast your ballot. Imagine you have taken time off work to participate in our great democracy and this had happened to you. Would you have taken the extra time to go to a second location? Would you have been able to cast your vote before polling closed? I am lucky;  I am on Maternity Leave and had the entire day (well, until naptime at least) to find my polling place. What type of message is our government sending to its constituents by not even allowing signs directing people to participate in the government we all support and fight for?

The 2013 census found that only 64% of the population had voted in the presidential election, and the numbers were even smaller for local elections, where individual votes are arguably even more important and affect the day to day lives of residents in a much more relatable way.

I’ve always encouraged my friends and family members to cast their votes. Like my mom taught me, “If you don’t vote, you haven’t earned the right to complain”. However, if I were on the fence, or a first time voter, and this situation presented itself, I would have given up.
And I don’t blame anyone else who would either.... and where would that leave us?

Thankfully, our story has a happy ending, and a happy little bean who got her first lesson in civics today: BE PERSISTENT!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Anniversary Reaction

Hospice sent me a flyer last week, suggesting that I examine my heart for An Anniversary Reaction as the day G'ma died draws near. I had no idea that this was on the agenda. I'm not feeling particularly nostalgic for the last months and weeks of my mother's life. I miss her all day every day, but I'm trying to put the end of her life out of my mind as I concentrate on the long ago memories, the ones which are less painful, which are more Mommy to me.

Hospice has no such agenda. Apparently,their involvement with G'ma's demise did not stop when she did. I have been invited to groups, to seminars, to conversations, to individual sessions, in all too numerous to remember. I've attended none of them.
I don't think I'm denying my sorrow. I don't think I am avoiding the issue. I don't think I need help managing my feelings. All of that might have been useful while G'ma was still alive and demanding my attention. The ambivalence I felt tugging my heart strings might have benefited from a public airing, seasoned with the experiences of others going through the same thing at the same time. Those programs were offered, too. I took no advantage of those opportunities, preferring to bottle up my feelings and putting them in internal storage. I went about visiting and loving and saying goodbye to my mother without much analysis.

That worked for me, and I don't think it did G'ma a disservice. I knew that she was working on the end of her time on earth, and that her needs were no longer the same as when she was a full participant in the world around her. Dementia combined with a wearing away of her physical abilities, and it no longer seemed necessary to drag her out and about in the wide world, shuffling behind her walker, spending more energy on getting places than was left to enjoy them once we arrived.

That was my excuse for the ever shrinking world I allowed to become her own. When she first arrived, we did everything I did. She came with me to The Happy Ladies Club luncheons and the flat walks and a monthly cocktail party or two. We weren't big drinkers, but it was nice to be out and about on a Friday night, wearing clothes that were one step up from our usual elastic waists. Over time, as she fell and recovered, each time just a little bit less than we'd expected, as her memory faded, as her desire to move vanished, I came to accept the fact that she was as happy in her recliner as she was at a concert.

The fact that she didn't remember those concerts the next day had something to do with it, too. I was always anxious on our excursions. Would the parking be safe and close to the entrance? Would she need to go to the restroom during the performance, and would we get there in time? Would I be able to manage whatever care she required? Would she let me help her... and what would be the result if she refused? All that worry seemed of a greater magnitude than the joy she'd experience on the adventure... and she wouldn't remember the adventure once it was over... and after I got shot it became a ridiculous dance to get both of our walkers into the car.
It was easier to go with her flow, to allow her to set the pace, to accept her limitations and live within them. She was there before I was, more willing to go along with the diminution of her world, content in a way I'd never seen her before. I learned from her, perhaps more at this time in her life than in anything previous to those last few years. I learned acceptance and patience and to take joy in the simple things. I learned to let go of who she had been and learned to love who she was, even if my heart broke just a little bit each day, watching My Mommy vanish, replaced by a gentle, funny, still sarcastic but much less hostile, woman.
I had plenty of time to get to know this new woman, and it was she who spent the last few years with me here in Tucson. The woman who yelled and screamed at us as children was long gone. There was no energy left for that much vitriol. Without Daddooooo's presence, she was not aggravated on an hourly basis. She'd forgotten that which had troubled her, and reveled in the unexpected joy of remembering a person or a place or an event.... when prompted.
For the most part, she was happy to watch reruns of Law and Order. The rigid structure of the programs were subtle cues to her viewing. If the clock said 20 minutes to the hour, she knew that the trial was coming and the bad guy was going to get his just deserts. If it was 20 minutes past the hour, his identity was still up for grabs. The plot details were less important than the regularity of the music and the rhythms and the pace. Even if she couldn't remember the story line, she never wanted to leave before the final credits rolled.
Some things never changed.

And so, I'm not sure what kind of anniversary reaction Hospice expects me to have. I know I did the best that I could. I know that she was grateful for my care. She lived a long, full, life, and though her physical being never met FlapJilly, Little Cuter and SIR and I know that her spirit was hovering over them for the nine months her great-granddaughter spent in my little girl's womb. They got her parking karma and her love, and I got to spend those months imagining my mom doing what I could not – guarding the baby.
I'll be on the lookout for the symptoms and signs of an adverse reaction as December 5th draws nigh, but I'm not expecting much. I have no reason to revisit any sadness. G'ma wouldn't want it that way.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

They've Always Wanted Control

They.... you know who they are... they are the ones who disagree with you.  Doesn't matter what that topic is, they are on the other side.  You try to get along with them, but it's hard because they are so obviously, fundamentally, incontrovertibly wrong.  For this post, they are men who want to control women's bodies. 

I'm reading Classic Tragi-Comedies for my Humanities Seminar this semester.  We started with Plautus's Amphytrion.  Jupiter impersonates the husband, impregnates the unknowing, already-pregnant-by-her-husband wife, convinces the returned-from-the-war husband that it is a great honor to have his offspring share the womb with the child of a god, and the fact that he didn't trust his wife when she swore she had been true is never dealt with to my satisfaction.

The husband's honor was restored.  The god had the sex he desired.  The woman, carrying her rapist's child, is merely a foil to the men's wants and desires.  She is less human than chattel.

We moved on to All's Well That Ends Well, with Shakespeare's mix of mismatched suitors and wanton desires and pure maidens and scheming of all kinds. Bertram's right to attempt the seduction of the Widow's Daughter goes unchallenged by his friends, his servants, and even the maiden herself.  It is understood that his need to conquer her is part of being a manly man. She must protect her chastity so that she will be worthy in the eyes of the world; he must rob her of her most precious possession ... because he can?... because he must?.... because he really really wants to?

It seemed to me that the answer was All of the Above.

Fuenteovejuna was written in Spain by Lope de Vega, a contemporary of Shakespeare.  Once again, a woman's virtue is the nexus of the plot.  How, the potential victim rails, can her father and her uncle and her town stand by as she is dragged off to be violated?  She, with cunning similar to Bertram's Helena, engineers her own salvation. Still, at the end we are left to wonder why, exactly, her menfolk were reluctant to deny the Commandant his right to their women's bodies? 

I began to wonder if they didn't really care about the women as humans to be cherished, but saw them only as collateral damage, like higher taxes and torture.

It all came to a head for me in Moliere's Tartuffe.  Dad decides that his daughter should marry the hateful charlatan instead of her beloved.  The girl sighs.  She whines. Her maid speaks with a 21st century voice, whittling away at her Master and her Mistress with all the reasons you or I would summon if we were confronted with the situation today. 

She's a comic character.

I was thinking these deep thoughts as I drove home this morning.  I was thinking about reproductive freedoms and how little has changed since early Rome.  Women still bear the stigma for rape and the burden of unwanted pregnancy.  Men are still lauded for their sexual prowess and women face slut shaming for similar behaviors.  Only the annoying feminist, the one who speaks up and demands a reality check, only she raises her voice, it seems. 

And she's played for laughs.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Getting Cleaned Up

It's one of those posts, again, denizens.  One of those whiny, why-can't-I-do-better, my life is a mess posts.  Blame it on Ernie.  I am. 

My desk is, once again, an untenable place for creative thought.  My mind, barely linear in the best of times, is distracted by coupons for 17 bonus prints per month and a half finished Merle Reagle Thursday crossword and the notice of Meg Wolitzer's appearance at the Literary & Prologue Society of the Southwest which reminds me that I have to pick up the book which reminds me that it is one of the very few novels I put down and never picked up again and there I am at the end of a languid conversation with myself but nowhere near where I wanted to be, post-wise.

Every time I clean it p I vow that it will never be this messy again.  I am at an inflection point right now; I can still see the desktop peeking through the detritus.  A quick glance reveals paper itineraries for trips already take, paper bills which have already been paid, and various pages I thought were important but which turn out to have no relevance for today.  It will be a simple matter to dispose of them. 

I'll be right back. 

I updated the sidebar (Movies) and tossed the paper reminding me of Harlow's adventures among the upper crust.  I filed paper bills and had the conversation about saving them or shredding them since they are on-line anyway and I've already seen them and reviewed them, which is easier in hard copy though the bill shows up in the bank's Bill Pay program which helps me pay them in a timely manner.  Those red BILL DUE icons are real attention grabbers..... and do you see what's happening here?  I go about the business of organizing and I end up in an existential conversation about the reality of bills on the interwebs.  Silly, but true.

I stacked the photos I've printed close to hand; I need to compare them to the ones still in digital storage  Some things need to be handled without a screen; I'm finding that FlapJilly pictures fall into that category.... define that category ..... are everywhere.  I have the Neiman Marcus 2014 Christmas Book on the giant expanse of desktop before me.  It is next to but not on top of a project for my granddaughter, that crossword puzzle, and the sample ballot for next week's trip to the voting booth. 

With that done, I should be able to turn my attention to the floor surrounding my desk.  I've created a moat of unusual dimensions, whose constituent pieces include Lenore the Lenovo Laptop's recyclable cardboard box and the giant reusable grocery bag from Staples which held my brand new keyboard until I looked into its depths as I started this post.  I installed the tiny USB plug into the tower and, after figuring out how to minimize the maximization of the images on the screen, I have been reaping the benefits of putting things away as I've been typing this post. 

I wish I could remember this feeling.  It might help me maintain the current state of orderliness. 

Or not.

I bought much too much yarn for an afghan I decided not to make after all and now it is sitting in a big white plastic bag, continuing the mess moat around the side of the desk to the larger of two recycle bins.  There's an even larger reusable Century 21 bag containing four ancient skeins of yarn from G'ma's stash.  I saved the brightest colors; I'm making a lap rug for Meditation; the room is too cold for clothes which are appropriate for Tucson's outdoors.  I wish I had another drawer for yarn... but I don't.... and if I ever wished for an attic or a basement it's at times like these.

Used to be, TBG and I would pull up stakes and move to a new house when things got this messy.  Sadly, that is no longer an option.  I am going to have to get used to the fact that messes will accumulate and demand attention.  If only I could get Ernie and his yard guys to work their magic inside as well as out. 

In les than three hours this morning, four men pruned and cut and sawed and climbed and raked and blew and carried and now the outside of my house is pristine.  There is nothing to move.  All I have to do is look and enjoy it.

Kind of like my desk... for the moment.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Who Wants to Speak Against the Children's Museum?

I received the invitation verbally, 18 hours before the hearing.  Would I write an email in support of the January 8th Memorial Foundation's request for a bond to support the project?  Would I ask my Tucson-email-list to do the same... as long as they could do it before 8am the next day?  Would I be free tomorrow to attend the hearing, lending my physical as well as written presence to the process? 

Sure, sure and sure... as long as I could leave in time for Pilates at 10. I typed an email from my account and one from TBG's account and thanked Amster for the work she'd done in a similar vein for The Fire Chief, and herself.  I encouraged Elizibeth to write one, too; it's her history as much as it is mine or her parents'.  My email list was polled early Friday morning; some were actually awake and able to send a sentence or two themselves. 

I put on my Fall-in-the-desert-go-to-meeting dress (cotton, sleeveless, dark brown in deference to the season), my long strand of white Pop-It beads, and I was good to go. The Schnozz and I cruised down the highway to a mid-century-modern-set-on-the-frontage-road hotel.  I was two minutes late when I pulled into the parking lot.  By the time I filled out my "don't want to speak/do want to make a comment" card and entered the ballroom, the meeting was well underway.

Ballrooms are ballrooms, whether they are surrounded by the Ritz Carlton or a local, convenient-to-downtown, hotel.  The carpet pattern is busy enough to compete with stains, the ceiling is just a little bit lower than feels comfortable, the buffet is on long tables on the far side of the room, the chandeliers are oddly placed for most every use.  This one was no exception.  Rows of folding chairs arranged with a center aisle ending in a podium facing the open end of the U of the committee's seats.

Typical. Unimaginative. Functional. There was nothing to distract my attention from the business at hand.  That turned out to be both a blessing and a curse.

I walked in on the County Administrator's explanatory remarks.  He had numbers and facts and I had a sense that he was competent and comfortable as I hugged fellow survivors and found a seat in the front row and heard the chair of the committee ask the title question:
Who wants to speak against the Children's Museum?
There was laughter which lasted well into the calling of the question and the vote.  Obviously, some projects are protected. 

Every bond measure on the ballot must go through the Bond Advisory Committee of Pima County. The BAC polls the community by mail, social media, newspapers, radio, as they seek to discover which projects have the most community support.  No one likes a bond measure which fails; part of the BAC analysis is the ability of a project's sponsors to generate public support, which will translate into votes on Election Day. 

Once I thought it all through, I supposed it would be fairly churlish to speak against the Children's Museum.  A committee member did object to the bond funding an upgrade to the Africa Exhibit at the Reid Park. He said that Africa was AIDS and starving children and violence and an absent infrastructure and seeing animals penned up was a bad lesson for everyone and after he was finished and the audience was finished shaking its collective head, someone mentioned the new baby elephant who graces the news and newspaper almost every day and then the chair asked
Who else wants to speak against the zoo?
and there was laughter and a vote and then there were a few more proposals whose budgets were examined and compared to previous iterations and some were approved and one or two were not and the discussion was thoughtful and mission-specific.  Questions were given precise answers.  The items which were moved forward were done so after due consideration.

Item H, the Old Courthouse/Western Art Museum/Jan 8 Memorial bond, came before the Committee at 9am; the vote was held at 9:30.  In between there were one minute presentations by a collector who wants to give his stuff to Tucson and wants the community to pay for a space to house it; by former Mayor Walkup, who smiled and agreed that Tucson is a great place and needs to get this done; by a survivor who spoke of the response and the outpouring of love and the items which are archived but need a permanent home.... and then there were questions.

Is it more cost effective to do all three projects at once?  Yes, oh most certainly yes.

Can the open courtyard and surrounding balcony continue to be used as a party space? Yes, every evening if we can.

When did the Western Art Museum come to include Native American art, too? This one stumped the panel and the audience.  The query sat in the air for a moment, and then the chair moved the discussion on.

Will there be one admission fee for both spaces?  This is all in the conceptual stage.  We have not gotten that far. We have just received funding for the artists' Request for Proposals.

That's about when it hit me.  Item H was a request for $35,000,000 ... which is a lot of zeroes for a project yet to be designed.  Given the quality of the previous inquiries, I expected the panelists to probe further into the dollar amounts ... but that admission fee was as far as anyone got.

Apparently, the Memorial is a topic about which no one is willing to speak against.  That convoluted sentence is as twisted up on itself much as I was while watching the process.  I was glad that my confusion was swallowed up in talk about open corridors broken into make-shift offices, of structural upgrades, of the beauty of the site itself. 

Behind it all, lurked January 8th.  The bond was approved, we supporters left en masse, I shared FlapJilly photos and drove on to Pilates.  Bonds and plans and fellow survivors-of-the-aftermath filled the first part of my day; my own rehab would fill the rest. 

The community may need a physical structure to help it remember.  I'm carrying my own memorial in my limp and in the hole in my heart. I think that's why I can't be more involved in the planning, why I'm happy to be a prop to be toted out when my presence will add something to the equation, why I am ambivalent about the whole thing.

After all, no one wants to speak against January 8th.

Friday, October 24, 2014


A group of women, sitting seaside, dining on shellfish and salads.

Shared experiences long ago have brought them together, with another, visiting for the weekend.

Out of a comfortable silence, one asks of all of them and none of them and of herself as well:
Is anyone else friends with SoAndSo on Facebook?
 The silence was suddenly less amiable. 

Eyes were raised, shoulders shrugged, heads nodded.

Then, she asked the question that stumped us all.
Does anyone know who she is?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Living in a Battleground State

Granted, it's not like Pennsylvania in 1865.  There is only a war of words, not bullets and bayonets. No one is dying, except, perhaps, a small piece of myself... the piece that believes in the process.  Right now, the process stinks.

Martha McSally, the Republican, Tea Party supported candidate for the seat once held by Gabby Giffords, is using our former congresswoman's name and image in her ads.  There is a little old lady saying that "Gabby was independent ... and so is Martha ... and that's where my vote will be cast."  There are three sheriffs who appeared in an ad for Gabby's last run, who are now voting for McSally because the incumbent, Gabby's former director of community relations and her hand picked candidate in 2012, "is no Gabby Giffords."  A third ad reminds me that "Gabby Giffords supported border security measures," before it goes off on a rampage against our current Congressman.

I scream every time one of those ads appears on the television.  How dare they use her name?  How dare they show her photo?  How dare they use her record to bolster the campaign of a woman whose views are diametrically opposed to everything for which Gabby stood?  Reproductive freedoms.... sensible background checks for gun ownership... a benevolent attitude toward Dreamers and other undocumented denizens of our state... backing the Affordable Care Act..... McSally is on the other... the wrong... side of each one of them.

Gabby, too, was furious.  She created her own ad, starting the thirty seconds with an acknowledgment that "it is hard for me to speak," and going on to tear into the ads which used her image to support a woman with whom she has nothing in common.  It broke my heart to think abut the creation of that ad.  Taking time from therapy, learning a script, staying calm in the face of abuse of her persona, her reputation, her self.

With all she's been through in these past four years, I'm saddened that she has to defend herself in this way.  Even worse, the ads are clever enough to confuse a voter who might not be conversant with the issues and the personalities involved.  A cursory glance at the tv can easily lead to the conclusion that Martha McSally is closer to the positions held by Gabrielle Giffords than Ron Barber could ever hope to be. 

I scream.  I grit my teeth.  I throw (soft) things across the living room.  I am offended on Gabby's behalf.

The DCCC and the RNC and an assortment of PAC's are funding louder ads.  These screech about ObamaCare and privatizing social security and saving the A-10s at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.  My favorite one has about 200 words; 150 of them are Ron Barber/Nancy Pelosi.  I doubt that many listeners can accurately place Ms Pelosi in the governmental hierarchy; she's a lightning rod for "I hate Liberals" I suppose.  Still, the fact that Mr. Barber accepted financial support from a leader of his party seems to be enough to inflame Ms McSally's base.

I'd love to be able to vote for her.  She has had a stellar military career. She's been an educator in the military war colleges.  She's strong willed and intelligent.  Unfortunately, I disagree with her on everything.  Everything.  No exceptions.  And, perhaps, that's why I'm so offended by her advertising. 

Would I be more willing to accept her use of Gabby's fame  if I agreed with her positions?  I like to think not.

And so, in the long commercial breaks in the World Series (GO GIANTS!) and Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, TBG sit on Douglas and grit our teeth. There is no attempt to teach.  There are no useful facts presented.  There is only divisiveness and distrust.

I know it's been this way since the beginning of time. I've read Cato.  I've seen the editorial cartoons from the Lincoln/Douglas race.  I know I'm na├»ve to wish for a more intelligent exchange of ideas.  Still, you can't blame a girl for hoping.... can you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I'm trying.  I really am trying.  I'm just not having very much success.

I took many lovely pictures of my weekend in Santa Monica.  I walked the depth of the beach, from the boardwalk
 to the ocean.
I saw the original Hotel California
and Muscle Beach and the Boardwalk. 
I'd love to share more of the photographs, but technology is getting in my way.
Lenore the Lenovo Laptop served me admirably on my trip.  She was perfect for blogging in a comfy chair along the staircase at my hotel.
Now that I am home and trying to do more than email, now I am having issues.
 The salesman in Best Buy told me that Lenovo was IBM in the way that Acer swallowed up what was the remains of Gateway.  I took a moment while he was ringing up my purchase to mourn the demise of those cow boxes, and then moved on.  There was some minor instruction about shifting the screens and revealing other screens but he assured me that I would find it intuitive.
I stared.  I thought of my children, giggling at the thought of this new device, intuitive, and their mother all in the same sentence.  I was shown the on/off switch.  I was surprised that my inability to locate the most important button on the equipment didn't alert him to the possibility that I would find other features inaccessible. 
He offered me insurance, which I bought, and promised to replace Lenore if Best Buy couldn't fix what I'd broken.  It's an equal, one for one, guarantee.  I don't know how they make money on it, but I'm sure they do.  I would pay to have someone sit with me and explain the things I cannot fathom, but that option was not presented.
So, today, home from a wedding and my grandbaby, exhausted from the change in altitude and breathing airplane air, and readjusting to the time zone, I thought I would treat myself to editing the photos on my new toy.  Lenore was fully charged and ready to go.  My belly was full and my ice tea was at hand. 
I was stumped. 
The photos exist in a variety of places.  They originated on my phone.  I uploaded them to Dropbox, not realizing that Dropbox had automatically uploaded them, too.  Somehow, they were visible on Google+, which must be an automatic upload as well.  I think that they are in the Verizon Cloud, but I have no idea where that portal lies. 
There are times when I yearn for pen and paper and waiting at the 1-hour photo shop.
I want to move the pictures from one of those locations to a photo editing program on Lenore.  The Start screen has an intriguingly named CameraMan icon, and another icon announcing that it is the Camera Roll.   CameraMan will take my picture, but that is of no use to me right now. Camera Roll tells me that there are no photos in the file. 
I know.  I know.  I know.  I'm trying to get them there.
Lenore came with a newer version of Windows than that which I am used to on my old, desktop.  I know how to find My Pictures when I'm working here, at the desk, on the old unit.  I can't find it anywhere on Lenore.  I can open Dropbox and Google+ and see the photos there, but I have no idea how to select them and move them to a file on Lenore's hard drive.
Pencils and paper.... I'm yearning.......
I've played with swiping and adding apps and reading Help and none of it is useful.  I am frustrated and flummoxed and quite annoyed.  The only place with which my photos work seamlessly is Blogger, the platform I use to write to you.  They've added a way to upload photos directly from my phone, without going through another app.  I can't edit them, but I can upload ones which require no help.
I will work on it.  I will conquer it.  I might need some outside assistance, but I will get it done.  When?  That's another story entirely.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mission Garden

As I began to tell you last week, The Happy Ladies Garden Club went to The Birthplace of Tucson.
This is the view from Sentinel Peak, a high spot over the location of the Presidio the white settlers established. 
Now it is the home of the University of Arizona's giant A, and a hiking and sightseeing destination
I followed the Happy Ladies around the garden's surrounding adobe brick wall and through this gate.
The produce the garden creates was on a table to our left, but we were not allowed to look.
Our guide led us into the recreation of what used to be. 
The Santa Cruz River ran year 'round up until the 1600's.
Greenery was everywhere.
If you can grow a bigger sunflower in your backyard, post us a picture in the comments.
Personally, I'm going with "this is the biggest thing I've ever seen."
The goose neck squash we saw were the second blossoms of the season.
They were in the Three Sisters Garden.
Corn, beans, and squash fed the community all year long.
The tall corn stalks shaded the lower growing vegetation during the heat of the summer.
When they died back, the others took turns as staples.
It wasn't only veggies.
Fruit limes flourished as well.
Benches span the irrigation canals and the bermed beds

Grapevines for wine were tried, both trellised and left low.
It's an experimental garden, too. 
The volunteers built a ramada, using native branches.
The open weave let a gentle breeze through while sheltering us from the Arizona sun.
And finally, lest you think that I am living in a mythical Garden of Eden,
here is a blue agave, growing in the rocks and the dirt.
When it's grown, the juice will be distilled and tequila will be made.
Life in the desert is good.

Monday, October 20, 2014

More Love

The conservative Attorney General of the State of Arizona has given up the fight.  No longer willing to tilt against the prevailing tide of judicial and public opinion, he agreed that the Circuit Court's ruling on laws similar to Arizona's left him with no choice - same sex marriage will now be legal in my state.

That's a statement which brings a smile to my face, given how I spent the beginning of my vacation.

There were simple centerpieces 
and there was carrot cake 
because the blonde bride loves carrot cake.
Little Cuter told me that.
They've been friends since they were 8. 
Their friendship spanned six or seven soccer teams.
It included tennis camps and camping trips and family ski vacations.
There are inside jokes - Little Cuter telling us to SHUT UP I'M SLEEPING when her snoring was the reason the rest of us in the tent were awake - and fond memories of pumpkin patching on the first Saturday in October for years and years and years.
Her mom and I depended upon one another like sisters, since  neither of us had family in California.  She balanced my checkbook every month and I never felt demeaned that I couldn't accomplish in four hours what she could finish in fifteen minutes.  I was never embarrassed that she knew just how much I'd spent on my VISA card.  We were in each others lives, non-invasive but totally connected.
And now her little girl is as happy as mine.
In her fabulous wedding gown, she was glowing from the inside out. 
I've never seen her so happy.... and I've known her for 21 years.
She was relaxed, comfortable in her own skin, delighting in her status and her love and her surroundings.  It filled my heart with joy.
When the evening news is filled with stories from Ferguson and Syria and Hong Kong, it's warming the very cockles of my heart that Arizona has provided a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dismal autumn.
With hate oozing out of every corner of the planet, why would anyone deny these two the opportunity to love ... in public ... with recognition and acceptance and pride?

Friday, October 17, 2014

She Smiles

Resting in the arms of her father, her hands making patterns which make sense to her alone, she smiles.

Noticing her mother's return, she turns her head and smiles.

Sneezing, surprising herself, she smiles.

Staring intently into my daughter's face, a face which is inches from her own, a face with a tongue sticking out and then drawing back in, she smiles.

Bouncing on the therapy ball, in anyone's arms, she smiles.

With a dry diaper and a full tummy, lying on her back and waving her feet, she smiles.

Her grandmother smiles all the time.

In fact, she is so busy smiling that she has no time left to type to you.

Instead, I'll give you a photo so that you can smile, too.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Telling My Story

I was up at 5:45 a.m.  It was dark in my friends' house, too dark to walk safely down the hallway or the stairs.  Really, it was too dark to be awake. 
I had no choice in the matter.  My physiatrist at the Rehabilitation Institute had invited me to speak to the students and residents under his tutelage.  He's been wonderful to me; it was my pleasure to return the favor. I only wish that his rounds weren't at 7 in the morning.

I stood under the canopy of a still green tree, sheltered from the drizzle, watching the early morning dog walkers in their raingear.  I, of course, was coat-less and hat-less, having believed the internet's weather forecast which promised 60's and sunshine. Uber got me from their neighborhood to the hospital with ease, and the trip qualified me as a full-fledged member of the 21st Century. Little Cuter is quite impressed with her trendy mother.

I sat on a high backed stool in the front of a small auditorium, fifty or so fresh faces before me.  Medical students, interns, residents, and orthotists, they were somewhat intimidated by the fact of the Medical Director on the seat to my right.  It was hard for them to ask questions, or shout out answers.  Instead, they sat with their faces turned my way, hanging on my every word. 

They were evaluating my posture as I described the morning in January, 2011, which started me on my rehab journey.  Yes, it's a journey.  I know that because the Medical Director told the audience that it was.  He reminded them that they were always to consider themselves a way station on the patient's path. It was their responsibility to keep that in mind.

I told them about the medevac helicopter and I told them about the little nurse with the big voice who comforted me when I landed.  I called myself a uvula slut, and described the anesthesiologist's decision to bypass the three baby-steps and go right for the mega-dose of This-Will-Fix-You-Right-Up.  I talked about the physical therapist who was amazed that I was able to do a one legged pivot transfer and clomp around the entire floor with my walker. 

I talked about the resident who woke me at 6am by pressing on my full bladder. I encouraged them to remember that a procedure which needs to be repeated every twelve hours should not be started at 3 in the afternoon.... because the patient will then be awakened at 3 in the morning... every morning... and that's just not right.

I talked about what I'd been before I was shot, and I talked about missing those things afterwards.  I described lying on my couch for 14 weeks, not doing my exercises because no one had made the connection between repetition and retaining strength.  I described my Pilates and yoga and physical therapy teachers, and the journey I took to find them  Creating a treatment team was hard for me.  I encouraged them to consider that fact when sending someone else out into the world. 

I didn't dwell on the shooting; I talked about Christina-Taylor's death.  At the Medical Director's prompting, I described my time on the sidewalk outside the Safeway, and the citizen heroes and first responders who cared for us until we were whisked away to the hospital.  I told them about wonderful nurses and frustrating physicians. 

It was my hope that the doctors in training would see a woman, damaged but unbowed, who had taken charge of her treatment plan ... because there was no one else to do so.  I hope that they recognized that I, with my professional background and big mouth, still took almost 18 months to create a treatment team willing to work together for my benefit.  I wanted them to understand that the feelings behind the losses are as important as the shattered acetabulae. 

I'll never know for sure, but I can hope that some of them will be better doctors after hearing my talk.  I know that I am a better patient for having shared my story with them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Weekend With Old Friends

There's something really wonderful about old friends. There's an ease, a comfort, a space which time and circumstances have created. It's a privilege to be there.

I attended a wedding over the weekend. Sixty-some revelers watched and smiled and cried and drank and ate and danced the night away. Children-turned-to-adults, looking nothing at all as they did when I knew them at the beginning of the century. For them, it's been an eternity. For me, it's only a blip on the screen of my life. Yet the memories we shared are fresh in all of our minds.

The groomsman and his mother who shared the evening of the Winter Formal with Little Cuter and her then-best-friend were every bit as delightful on Saturday night as they were in the 1990's. That mother was the one who told the dressed-in-their-finery-and-feeling-their-oats ninth graders that the pictures we wanted to take were just as important to us as the entire evening was to them. “Stand in front of that door and smile!” she commanded, and they did.

The memory was as fresh to me as if we were all in my living room right then and there. His sweet smile, her acerbic charm.... nothing had really changed. There were a few more grey hairs, but not much else was different. I was far from my home, further still from where I'd known them, but none of that mattered.

On Monday, I had lunch with women I've known since elementary school... and junior high school... and high school. We ran in different circles back then, and we didn't spend much time together outside of class. But we reconnected at our 40th reunion, and with Facebook and email and random trips east and west we've established a new relationship. There's shared history, but from several different perspectives. We are delighted to share a fancy restaurant and distant memories whenever our travels bring us to LA or NYC or Phoenix … even to Tucson.

Hometown restaurants have disappeared, as has one of my friends' actual home, a victim of Hurricane Sandy. It stood in the middle of the block, and it took no effort at all to recall the feeling of standing on the stoop at the top of the stairs to her front door. Not the inside, not what we played nor what we said, just the sensation of standing there, looking across the street at Hilary's house. It's been 50 years; I have it in my heart right now as if it were yesterday.

We shared news – sick friends, newborn babies, pregnancies, travels – but that was hardly the reason for getting together. There was a sense of patching together the past, of returning to a time when everything was waiting for us. I walked to the car with a more youthful spring in my limping step.

On her way home, up and down Mulholland Drive, the newest expectant grandma among us dropped me off at my evening's destination. More old friends, this time from my young adulthood, welcomed into their home for the night. Everything is perfect there, made more so by the beauty of that perfection. Artwork from their travels and sculpture from Chicago and a hot tub under the stars bathed my eyes and my body in warmth. There's nary a boring corner; a plush monkey was resting on the upper corner of the couch, behind the cushions, not hiding so much as discreetly placed.

As with all their treasures, he carried a story. I was aware of bits and pieces of the setting and the situation, and as I sank into the pillows and listened to my friend tell the tale, I was awash in peace. Far from home, but only as far physical distance was concerned, I was wrapped in the comfort of old friends.

If there's a better blanket, I've yet to find it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Daddy

(I'm traveling. Having too much fun to stop and tell you all about it. Instead, I'm saying Happy Birthday to my much loved, if very confusing, father, once again.)

It was always very confusing - was his birthday the 12th or the 14th of October?  One of them was Columbus Day and the other was Herb's Day and to this moment I still have to stop and think.... and it's gotten harder since the bureaucrats moved Chris's Day to the generic.... how can something have occurred on "the second Monday of the month" every year?

But he was around me in spirit at the wedding, and he's not having an easy time returning to his life on the other side.

Yes, I am much happier blaming him for intruding than wondering why I am conversing with dead people.

We're not so much conversing as he is hovering and I am feeling nudged.  I misplaced the hiking pole I've been using to keep me balanced and symmetrical.... for a change... if it's not the pole it's my keys or the Kindle or my grocery list.... it's who I am these days.  I used the metal one with the "I Love Tucson" sticker crookedly affixed just below the grip, but it looks too much like rehab and not enough like life.  Then, I found myself and Daddooooo in the potting shed leaning on the wall above the bucket of handmade walking sticks he'd crafted from fallen branches of the pin oak in the backyard.

I have been using the one that was G'ma's - before she graduated to the walker - all day.  Herb's been chattering in my ear the whole time.

That was his way.  Deaf-as-a-doornail with hearing aid batteries constantly squealing or dying or resting comfortably in the breast pocket of his plaid wash-and-wear shirt, he monopolized the conversation so that he would know what was going on. That works well until your audience hits second grade or so; after that, it becomes a full fledged "Herb Attack."

I know this because I have been guilty of them, myself.

His tales were fascinating.  If the facts weren't really facts, well,  they should have been.  He went to City College with Richard Feynman.  He lived down the block from Jonas Salk. He knew every cobblestone, every cornerstone, every brick and street sign in Manhattan.  Serving as tour guide in The Big Apple made him about as happy as anything else I can imagine... and I've been sitting here thinking about it for a while.

Surrounded by his grandchildren-of-a-certain-age, those who were sentient but not yet sarcastic, he was the tour guide of his own life.  He could sit for hours, regaling them with stories about the chickens they raised in the backyard on Hessler Avenue, about the boat he and his brothers built one summer... the boat that almost floated, about the time it rained frogs and about all the times he got into trouble at school, because he just wouldn't stay still.

He probably deserved a diagnosis or medication; for those born in 1916 those options were nowhere on the horizon.  He was "just being Herbert." He continued being just himself, sui generis as I called him in the obituary I wrote for the New York Times, until the very end.

He died at home, between the first and second commercial of the 10 o'clock episode of Law and Order on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving.  There's some confusion about the date, since the hospice nurse didn't get there to sign the death certificate until early Sunday morning.  Like his birthday, I need cues to keep the date straight.  As with most things Daddooooo related, this is not easy.

As the gurney transported him from his bedroom to the front door, G'ma leaned over, kissed him, then admonished him, one last time, "Behave yourself, Herbert!  Don't give them any trouble."  The paramedics were bemused.  My mother looked right back at them.  "If you'd kown him, you'd understand."

Happy Birthday, you strange and singular father of mine.  Happy Birthday to YOU!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Parenting, The Adult Edition

It's one of those weekends, denizens.  One of those weekends when my heart is exploding, wondering if it can contain all the love.

The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, I have a comfy chair in the shade and the ocean's roar in my ears.  There are children playing Marco Polo in the pool and lots of very fit men responding to DAD! and PAPA! with smiles and dry t-shirts and a wave of the go-back-and-play-with-your-friends hand, a command which is happily followed.  They are happy to get up and watch me hold my breath under water, and they are smiling even when she's down there and can't see him.  The smile is not for her or for me or for anyone but himself.  He's easing himself into the pool to have fun with the only female in his life right now, and Papa's face is barely big enough for his grin.

There are late teen children communing with their parents, and there's nary an electronic device in sight.  I had breakfast on the plaza this morning; my new acquisition, Lenore the Lenovo Laptop, and she was the only item with an on/off switch.  The New York Times, a paperback, a magazine or two.... it was heavenly.  Those without reading materials were conversing.... yes, denizens, there was actual conversation as I scanned the scene. 

It's one of those weekends, for sure.

I'm here because The Ballerina's daughter is marrying the love of her life tonight. I've known one of the brides since she was eight years old, I met the other one last night.  There are 65 of us here to celebrate, and each person seems to be known-by-reputation to everyone else, even though we've never laid eyes upon one anther before. 

"You're ROB!"..."her sister".... "her aunt"...."Yes, I'm Suzi!"

I know which ones are smiling behind their skepticism.  I know which ones came because it's family and that's what you do for family. To their credit, if the kids were freaking them out, they didn't show it. That's parenting, The Adult Edition.  I think it involves a letting go of the expectation that your words will be taken as The Law.  It involves an assumption that you or your cousin or your sister has raised a competent human being.  It involves putting your own needs aside for the greater good, even though you know in your heart of hearts that they are going down an evil path.

Unless there's physical danger, keeping quiet is the hallmark of parenting adults.

The celebrationt had The Ballerina flummoxed, just a bit. A traditional, non-traditional wedding, where the bride wants to be seen by her love for the first time at her wedding ... but where both will be wearing dresses .... and they really ought to compliment one another .... and "What is my role here?!?" was The Ballerina's plaintive cry.  She listened, she consulted, she cosseted and she cuddled... and she's good at all of those things. A steel magnolia, when it's important my Arkansas friend makes her points behind a smile and a stare which could bore a hole through metal. I have a sense that the two dresses, neatly steamed by a bought-here-on-site-industrial-strength-steamer and hanging side by side on the mirror in the Bridal Suite, had something to do with her persuasive powers.  I'm also fairly certain that no one recognized it while it was going on.

Getting it right feels so good when the kids are no longer in constant need of surveillance.  When they were younger, I had so many opportunities to intervene.  If I screwed it up now, there was always a later right around the corner. But distance and experience and respect demand a lesser level of involvement, even when a granddaughter is involved.

Little Cuter and SIR took FlapJilly on her first road trip this weekend.  Tailgating at the Indiana-Iowa game with SIR's extended family, it was the battle of the stripes, but all my girl seemed to focus on was her unending cold and the baby's schedule.  I cogitated.  I composed.  I deleted. I rephrased.  I hit send and I held my breath....

Great pep talk, Mama! was my reward.

Parenting adults ... it's not easy, but the rewards ... oh, denizens, the rewards.......

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tucson Mission Garden

The Happy Ladies Club took us to the Birthplace of Tucson today.
Located on land which has been continuously cultivated for 4100 years,
its focus is on restoring the native crops to their original home.
This Three Sisters Garden (Corn, Beans, Squash)
deserves a paragraph all its own.

These lime trees, which froze back to mere stubs last winter,
require an ode to "the right plant in the right place" all their own.
The signage itself is worthy of a post
Sadly, I have not the time
and Picasa has not the will
to allow me to create verbiage worthy of the experience.
I will try over the weekend, and you will see the results.
For now, trying to make Evernote talk to Blogger or Picasa or even my phone seems to be more than I can handle.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Where's My Sunshine?

This is what I saw while waiting to go through the intersection and pick up Mr. 9 after school.
 It was an ugly scene on the roads in Tucson today.
People here do not know how to drive when it's wet.
They slow down to zero before turning, or they speed up and slide around the corners.
It's a small town with a few main through streets, so it wasn't totally surprising that the teenager chatting me up in the doctor's waiting room had seen the same accident I'd passed on my way in. 
The driver of the crushed vehicle was in a neck brace, surrounded by paramedics and flashing lights, but turning her head and talking from the driver's seat as I inched by.  It was an intimate glimpse into what must be the worst day she's had in a long time; it felt intrusive, and yet I couldn't look away.
Mr. 9 chimed in, wondering if there was blood, because I had blood when I was in the hospital, did I remember that?  Yes, I did, and I remembered that he came to visit me in the hospital on another rainy afternoon, which is when he saw me in the bed... with the drainage tubes filled with blood.
Yes, it was scary for all of us. Yes, I'm glad that I'm okay now, too.
I love that little boy. 
He hugged my waist as I hugged his shoulders and we bumped our hips from the school gate to The Schnozz,  running beneath my brand new purple mini-umbrella .  He was completely under its protection while I held it, yet he insisted on holding it himself, taking fiendish delight in moving it just enough to his side so that I was wet... then wetter... then wetter still.
Somehow, his laughter made it all okay.
He waited for me at Pilates, watching me breathe deeply.
He slid across the lobby in his socks.
He ran around in the mirrored classroom.
And then, there was this.
Asleep on his hand, breathing deeply, he did what everyone wants to do on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. 
It was a shame to wake him up, but the smile on his face as he opened his eyes answered the question in the title of this post.
There's my sunshine.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, and Old Boyfriends

I like an eclectic mix of music, but jazz has never been a big part of it.  My kids know musicals and light opera and rock and roll, but if they've ever heard of the gentlemen in the title of this post it's not through any fault of my own.

And yet, in high school, I dated boys who knew all about the inner workings of jazz. One after another they came through my living room, introduced to my parents with the added bit of information that "He loves Stan Getz," or "His parents saw Dave Brubeck," or some other bit of trivia that would get my father engaged on a subject about which he could speak.  Left to his own devices, I never knew what he'd throw at my date; it was always safer to have a conversation in mind before the doorbell rang.
In college, the first male friend I made took me to all the live venues in Ithaca.  He was a senior to my freshman, he drove a blue Kharmann Ghia (though his didn't have those very cool wheels), and he introduced me to James Taylor and Traffic and It's A Beautiful Day, whose White Bird in a Golden Cage still conjures up memories of his red hair and his goofy smile. 

I never loved him, but I liked him a whole lot, just not as much as he liked me, which was a complicated situation when I was 17.  Thankfully, he appreciated the fact that I'd go with him to hear any music any day of the week, no matter how late it was or how far we had to drive.  I never go to an outdoor concert without flashing back to the summer day we spent at Shea Stadium, 1970's protesting The War or something equally important as an excuse to hear Creedence Clearwater Revival , Janis Joplin, Peter Yarrow, Paul Simon, John Sebastian, and Poco

He set high standards, Gumps did.

Poco was my first exposure to bands which played the kind of music G'ma would enjoy.  In graduate school, my friends were part of the crew which fed the musicians at the University of Chicago's annual Folk Festival.  One day every winter we'd prepare tables-full-of-food, and watch the performers dine.  The New Lost City Ramblers, Flatt and Scruggs, the Staples Singers... I first heard them then and I listen to them now.  By that time, TBG and I were an item, and he was in D.C. while I was in the Windy City, and there's no romance attached to these memories. 

Instead, there's something even better, because it's not tinged with regret or broken hearts or "what if's."  When I hear this music, I'm in long braids and overalls and a flannel shirt, rockin' out with the other 877 people in Mandel Hall.  Craig's to my right and Big Steve's to my left and life is good. My aches and pains and sorrows retreat into the background.... it's 1977... leave me alone.... I'm dancing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tucson in the Fall

We spend May and June and July inside.  There are few outdoor events of note, and those that do exist begin after the sun sets, or just as it rises.  Like January in the Northeast, the outdoors is there to be examined but not explored.

Then, with the cooling monsoon and the start of a new school year, performers begin to wend their way to our little corner of the desert.  As the fruits ripen, a day trip to Apple Annie's Orchard is called for.  There's wine country to the north and to the south, but I've tasted Arizona wines and .....

My yard is showing the effects of neglect; I'm still trying to work out the kinks in the irrigation schedule and the dessicated little leaf cordia reproaches my efforts as I drive by each morning.  I seem to drown it or starve it, and fertilization only seemed to make it worse.  I've decided to ignore it until the winter time, when it will be cool enough for the snakes to disappear.  Then, I will take myself and my trowel and my garden books out there, make a little nest for myself on my Cornell kneeling pad, and see if I can figure out what to do.

I bought a fall wreath at Michael's yesterday, just because it was marked down 60%.  TBG's not usually a fan of faux floral arrangements, but this one made him smile. It's happily ensconced on the little gate to the courtyard,
announcing that fall is here.

I hired Mr 9 & 11 and their friend, Good Will Hunting, to help me adorn my house.  They carried boxes and unwrapped carefully and made decisions on location and arrangement and I emptied my dishwasher.  "She lets us put stuff wherever we want," Mr 11 had informed Good Will as we drove to my house.  "It's really fun AND she pays minimum wage."

Only in middle school would that seem like a treasure.

After so many years of creating "the look,"
 it didn't take any supervision  
to get the scarecrow just right. 
After they left, I rearranged the inside (slightly), and stood back, surprised. Putting away the decorations last year, I tossed everything which was damaged.  No more positioning that candlestick so that the chipped piece doesn't show; into the trash it went, along with the wrinkled papers covering the bottom of the box.  Once, they were beloved, second grade art work.  Two decades later, they were trash. 

That left me with quite a hole in my decorative arsenal this year .
I had all these little toys, and nothing appropriate to contain them. 
A quick trip to Michael's and they were contained.
It is a curiously functional accessory; there's nothing "fun" about how or where it was purchased.
That makes it an outlier in my collection.
I had disposed of the half melted candles which usually light the first few nights of the month until I get to the store for new ones.  I decided to use the tea lights I bought at Ikea last year; 100 of them in a flimsy plastic wrapper for a ridiculously low price.  I put the purchased-that-same-day-at-Ikea white tapers in the Halloween candelabras and it's really not any less celebratory. 
I'm making my own Fall outside, even if, to you in colder climes, this does not look like October:
There are concerts in the park on Saturday nights
and cool weather crops in the containers and the Heavenly Bamboo is turning red.  The changes are subtle, but they are here.   Turn off the air conditioning, open the windows, and bring on the long sleeve shirts.  It's fall in the desert.