Thursday, April 30, 2015

An Unexpected Compliment

I've been feeling proud of myself, of late.  I lumber less and I am more limber (sorry, I couldn't resist).  I can park far away from my destination without needing a rest once I arrive.  I walk back if I've forgotten something, rather than ask TBG to travel for me.

I'm using muscles in the ways they were meant to be used, rather than abusing certain ones while ignoring the others.  I can go to the gym and carry the weight plates without stumbling. I'm able to flex my feet and point my toes and keep my ankle bones together while on the guillotine or the reformer at Pilates.

Rereading that sentence, I find that it is fairly gruesome.  The reality is much gentler:
Image result for pilates guillotine                                Image result for reformer pilates
    Guillotine                                                                                                                 Reformer

My plies and squats are symmetrical.  Every once in a while I can balance on my right leg in tree pose.  At times, I can walk up and down a flight of steps without holding onto the railing.  I'm using the step machine at the gym; not the Stairmaster, where your feet stay on the same step, but the Stepper, which requires each foot to move off the previous step and onto the next-plus-one.

I'm recovering deep nerve connections, previously buried beneath scar tissue and arthritis and separated from their other halves by the path of the bullets.  When they meet, there are still little explosions of joy (otherwise known as deep, searing, pain) but the result is remarkable.  It surprises me still how much easier it is to move well when I can feel what I'm doing.

I don't creak and stumble when I arise from bed or the couch.  I can take a confident first step, even if I have to take a moment and stand still as I wait for my parts to recognize one another, and the connections between them.

Proprioception - where my body parts are in space - is a lost art where I am concerned. Proper alignment, without a mirror or a friend nearby, is next to impossible for me to achieve.... though I'm working on it.  Being able to feel all my connections is very helpful.

I put this all together this afternoon, after a Pilates instructor complimented me.  She's in town for this weekend's annual Fletcher Pilates Conference.  She heard my presentation at the Pilates Method Alliance's conference and she was amazed at the progress I'd made in the intervening 18 months.

Her critical eye examined me as I stood and we talked. She was so proud of me.  She agreed that Pilates is wonderful.  She told me, again, how remarkable my recovery seemed to be.  She was not overwhelmed by the passage of time, as I am.  She was focused on my present status.

It was nice to have what I've been feeling myself confirmed by a total stranger.  I have a long way to go, for sure, but I've come quite a distance thus far. I think I'm going to concentrate on that for now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wrong Title

For the 17 people who read I Don't Want to Heal this morning... the title was a typo.

The intended title was I Don't Want to Hear It.

Sorry about that.  It  does change the meaning, doesn't it?

As an apology, I'm adding the video of the Baltimore mom who probably shouldn't have been smacking her son around, but who did get up off the couch and brought him home.

You've heard about it.... now you can see it.

And here she is explaining herself on CBS News this morning. 

If your kid is going to be naughty, he probably shouldn't wear recognizable sweat pants.

I Don't Want to Hear It

I was listening to Ben Markus on NPR reporting on the Aurora trial, driving slowly because I was paying more attention to his words than to the traffic around me.

At least I wasn't texting.

The trial of the young man accused of opening fire in a Colorado movie theater in 2012 is expected to take six months.  The lawyers are introducing an insanity defense, so there will be days of explication and elucidation before the details of the shooter's mental state are exposed.

Will it make a difference?  He wielded the weaponry which took and damaged the lives of people whose only offense was watching a Batman movie.  Of that, there is no doubt.  Was he insane?  Does it matter?  Perhaps, as Ben Markus said, only in the penalty phase.  His lawyers are expected to use the details to of his mental illness to lay the groundwork for a prison sentence instead of a death sentence.

I managed to tell you all of that without once mentioning the name of the perpetrator.  NPR was unable to accomplish the same feat.

Every time he mentioned the killer's name, I cringed.  I can only imagine what Caren Teves and the other survivors of the murdered must feel.

I have never been so grateful for the fact that we were spared a trial here in Tucson.  The pre-trial hearings were devastating enough.  I shook, I sweated, I cried. The person at the center of it all was the person responsible for tragedy and grief and pain and I didn't want to have to think about him ... ever.  The thought of preparing for a lengthy trial, both as a spectator and as a witness, left me weary.

Our shooter is shut away forever.  He need never be mentioned again.  The Aurora victims and their families and friends do not have that option.  Their event will be front and center, amidst riots and championships and Back to School specials, for half of the coming year.

I can only hope that the Teves's campaign to bring No Notoriety to the perpetrators of these events resonates with the reporters standing in the Colorado sunshine.

No pictures, no name, nothing.  Let's remember the people on the receiving ends of the bullets.  Let's not promote the person who sent those bullets through them.

I'd rather that the newscasters refer to them with a rotation of names, something like this:
The murderer of Alex Teves went on trial today.... 
The killer of Martin Richard faces sentencing...... 
The man who took the lives of kindergartners Ana Marquez-Greene and Grace McDonnell and Noah Pozner....
Remember the innocents.  Let the felons molder in obscurity, where they belong.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Chinese Mah Jongg

Apparently, there's American Mah Jongg, presided over by Jewish ladies in Florida (according to my teacher), and there's Chinese Mah Jongg, taught to me this afternoon by a more-than-an-acquaintance; she's a reporter who covered January 8th and beyond and she's married to the professor who taught the small class I took the semester before.

We run into one another at lectures and plays and events; it's one of the wonderful, small town, advantages of our community. She's fairly reserved, as reporters go, but the same cannot be said for her as an instructor in this ancient tile game.

"You CAN'T do that!" 

"Write it down if you can't remember it but REMEMBER IT!" 

"It's character, not crack.  That's offensive... like someone's butt...."

It was almost worse when she looked around our table of 4 newbies and, smiling wickedly, wondered "Who has the deal?"  

I ran through the options - who won the last hand, in which direction does the deal pass, could I hide under the table and wait for someone else to answer?

And someone else did answer, and then I knew what to do with the rolled dice and how many tiles to grab at a time.  I felt pretty good about that.  I think it's the kind of muscle memory part of the game that allows for a rehash of the previous hand; it doesn't require thinking once you've played for a while.

Feeling fairly sanguine, I stretched and then was brought back to reality. After noticing that we were flashing our tiles as we drew them from the wall (don't ask... just go with the flow), our teacher gave a demonstration of dragging a tile across the table. Then, she showed us how to cup the tile in our little fists, only opening them when our hands were close to our chests.

It seems there are style points in this game.

Actually, I know that there are some points, because our teacher was called to consult at other tables during the course of the three hours we were gathered in the Himmel Park Library's meeting room.
"Does she have enough points to...."   I didn't hear the end of the question, but the beginning proved what Scarlett had been saying throughout the games: "We still have lots to learn about this game."

American Mah Jongg is won by matching the tiles in your hand to the winning combinations sold to you - on This Year's Card - by the National Maj Jongg League.  It costs $8; which also gives you membership in the League itself.  Much of the game revolves around the strategy of choosing the hand you think you'll make.

Chinese Mah Jongg is like rummy - groups of three or four (and one group of two) which match in sequence or exactitude of suit and number.  There are honor cards, winds and flowers just like in the American version; I'm not sure why they are important.

I think that's what Scarlett had in mind when she reminded me that I wasn't as smart as I thought I was.

I don't know why she'd think that.

I won all but two of the games we played.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Brenda Starr regaled me with her tale of woe over locally grown tomatoes and kale this morning. She'd done her part of the project.  She traveled and observed and inquired and then she stopped and thought and created analyses and opinions which she then turned into prose.

Publishing that prose as a series or a section or a quick-let's-tell-that-story-before-someone-else-scoops-us happens after meetings.  And it's in the meetings that egos and power often trump reason and sense.  It's in those meetings that individual differences become magnified.  Decisions, direction, and actions fall by the wayside.

I went to the inaugural meeting of an Advisory Board last week, and was able to share my own sad story.  We were to be an adjunct to the Board of Directors, but the distinctions were no where to be found.  The initial prospectus had requirements which those of us around the table would be unable to meet, but that (to me, seemingly insurmountable problem) was left un-addressed.

Both Brenda Starr and I had fallen victim to the same sad tale.  The meeting had become its own reason for being.  There were available ears, so words were spoken.  The words were interesting and often quite profound, but they bore no relationship to the issues at hand.

Content was sacrificed.  Attention was prized.

"Perhaps we should meet monthly," someone suggested at the table around which I sat.  As my stomach clenched and my fists pounded my thighs, I tried mightily to control myself.  Twelve of these events a year would surely push me over the edge of sanity.  I love the organization and support its goals, but I have friends I don't see 12 times a year.  And when I see them, we actually do something.

Surely there could be a better use of our time. Was it really necessary to gather together and share in person?  I could envision such a scenario, but we aren't there, yet.  We have no focus, no plan.  We have desire and commitment.  Somehow, the two must meld.  I'm just not sure that meetings are the answer.

Purple Passion had invited me to serve; and she was sharing my pain as we sat and accomplished nothing.  Brilliant ideas were tossed out; no plans were made to follow through.  We have no structure.  We have no designated leader.  We have no agenda.  Our presence would satisfy the accreditors for whom, I think, our group was created.  But I have no interest in having my name attached to a masthead; if I'm involved, I want to be involved.

If ever there were a need for a Mission Statement and a copy of Robert's Rules of Order, this was the place.  Oh yes, denizens, this was the place.

Purple Passion, reading my mind, suggested the creation of a Goal Statement, a Proclamation of Our Purpose, and I, not missing a beat, agreed and volunteered to write it with her.  We've written together before, we told the others, and her departure for Maine next week was not a problem since we'd be doing the work on-line.

There was no vote, no formal discussion, but we took the nodding of heads to be agreement.

Over dinner, we agreed that neither of us would sit through that again.  Our sessions would begin and end at specific times.  We would have an agenda and come to a formal consensus before moving on to the next item.  Once decided, items would not be subject to further discussion... as they had been, repeatedly, at the meeting we just left.

You know what I mean, don't you?  As you're packing up your briefcase after concluding (you thought),  someone reopens a discussion, and then everyone is sitting down again, rehashing and wondering, and then all that was done is undone.  I felt like a fool, standing in the corner with my stuff hanging from my fingers and my shoulders but I was not taking my seat again.   We were done. We had assignments.  What more was there to say?

I was reminded, at that moment, of an email exchange with Little Cuter.
Have you EVER been to a meeting which was worthwhile? she wondered, plaintively.
My answer was snarky, but true.
Yes, sweetie, I have.  I ran them.  

Friday, April 24, 2015


I remember conversations beginning in 5th or 6th grade, though it might have been in Junior High school. We were just starting to realize that we were sentient beings, with opinions that mattered to others as well as to ourselves.  We began to debate the issues affecting the world around us.

First came Mets vs Yankees.  Would we stick with the old, established, winning team or would we shift our allegiances to the newly created Metropolitans?  Our teacher was absent, the principal stood in for her, and everyone was afraid.  Could we voice an opinion in front of the most important (and only) man on the faculty?

There was the euthanasia debate held in French class (please don't ask me why... I do remember Miss Hanson wondering why we wanted to talk about Youth in Asia until we explained it to her) where our lack of facility with the language made emphasis more important than content.  After all, we could all say "Mon Dieu!"

The automation debate resonates with me to this day.  I remember the conflict clearly; friends' parents were being replaced by machines.  Our town was a comfortable mix of blue and white collar, homeowners who had fled to the suburbs after the end of  WWII.  It was racially homogenous; being Jewish was different enough.  The pain in the voices of the children of the newly unemployed was palpable.  For the first time I had an inkling that these conversations had real world consequences.

I remember the argument about robots.  Would they be competent?  Would they be reliable?  Would they take over the world?  The Terminator movies were decades from creation; we had only War of the Worlds to frighten us.  Still, I remember a classmate standing in front of the room, arguing that we couldn't trust them the way we could trust a human worker.

And, I remember the response from the other side - you may not like it, but it's coming anyway. Change is hard.  Progress makes people uncomfortable.  That's too bad..... deal with it.

All this came back to me this afternoon as TBG drove Uncle Beemer and me up to Marana for lunch. The road was poorly paved, one lane in each direction, with neither sidewalks nor crosswalks.  The foliage came right to the edge of the gravelly shoulder; that shoulder was five or six feet wide in most places.  There were saguaros and cholla and prickly pear cacti lining the way.  The houses were single story, secured by fence posts and No Trespassing signs but without small metal warnings about security systems and off-site surveillance.

It's Tucson as it was when we moved here, just before the modernization began.

Now, our simple intersection from the neighborhood to the main road involves crossing 6 lanes of traffic.  The median strip is planted with yucca and cacti and public art.  The pavement is black and glossy and smooth as glass.  The curbstones are high and smooth and the sidewalk is inviting to the streams of walkers who have discovered it. It's fun to drive up and down the hills without bouncing around on cracks and crevices... but it's as generic as any main thoroughfare in any town in the USA.
I miss my two lanes, my gravel shoulder, the random wildflower bushes which popped up without consideration of sight lines or horticultural planning.  The chaos reminded me that I was on the edge of the desert, a feral place which allowed humans only if they were willing to make sacrifices.

There are no sacrifices necessary any longer.  There are warning signs for approaching stop lights. There are left turn lanes. There is a designated right turn only lane for our neighborhood, which TBG has dubbed his own personal piece of the landscape.  My car doesn't get caught in the cracks in the pavement, nor does it fall into potholes.  It just glides along effortlessly, ignorant of the fact that two years ago, this was a different scene.

It's faster.  It's modern.  It's crisp and clean and well-maintained.  I know that there are parts of town which would love to have all this modernization.... and I wish them well.

I wish I had my old, dusty, unkempt, Western atmosphere once again.

(sorry this is late... I inadvertently scheduled it for 6pm...)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Our New TV Has Issues

Our television died.  There was no doubt about it - the picture faded in from the edges and then vanished, replaced by a blue dot and then nothingness.

We called the guy who helps us with things like these, and he came right over.  He and TBG discussed features and measured heights and widths and then measured again.  We went to Best Buy on-line and found the television he was recommending for $500 less than he was charging.

We bought it, arranged for delivery, and today men and machine converged in my living room.

One on a ladder, attaching and combining and reattaching cables to components of various capabilities, the other coiling discards and directing the cabling.  For a while, TBG and I sat on the couch, but we drifted away when it became clear that the language being spoken was unintellligible to us.  Random strings of letters were agreed to without question; we were clearly out of our league.

Fifteen minutes after the delivery men departed, our new 60" Samsung SmartTV was up and running. The next half hour was spent adjusting the picture and changing passwords and explaining.  At one point there were 5 remote controllers on the coffee table.  By the end of the installation, we were down to 2... and 1 if all we want to do is watch cable programming.

There is a small and lovely device which I admired, but which was consigned to the unnecessary bag despite my protests.  I didn't care that much about it, once I convinced them to rename the HDMI icons to reflect what they were controlling.  And really, denizens, I don't care that much about that, either.

As an aside, I wondered about boosting the wi-fi signal to the bedrooms on the other side of the house.  Sure, I wanted him to do it... now??? .... why not... and soon thereafter we were the proud owners of a newly named network, with a simple to remember but hard for an outsider to deduce password, and 100% connectivity in the guest rooms.

If I'm going to be an enticing venue for children and grandchildren, it behooves me to be appropriately wired.

While all the setting up was happening, many features were turned on or off.  We don't have a camera so the Motion Sensor was unnecessary.  We're not looking for privacy locks or V-chip protections. But I was intrigued by the Voice Activation feature.

"You mean I could turn on the tv by talking to it?!?!"

Yes, it turns out that I can.  It also turns out that that feature requires the television to be listening to everything that is said in my living room at all times, even when the tv isn't on, in order for it to be responsive when I say the magic words.

"Somebody somewhere is capable of listening to you at any time of the day or night.  Do you know if they are recording and saving this data?"

Those were the issues Dave the AV Guy raised, and I had to agree; I gave up that feature because it was too creepy.

I don't want my tv listening to me.

No, I do not.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day, Redux

First published on April 21, 2009
Reprinted annually.... because I like this holiday... a lot!
Come back tomorrow for a new post.

I like Earth Day. I was there at its creation, after all.

It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Initially, it was a touchy-feely alternative to the harsher realities of the anti-Vietnam War protests. You wanted to do something, but war was such an uncomfortable subject and arguing against it made your parents wonder why they were spending tuition dollars while you were telling the lawfully elected President of the United States of America that you knew more than he did. With your picture in the crowd on the front page of the NY Times. At 18 years of age, no less. But planting trees? Recycling newspaper? Not littering? And all this in service to Mother Earth. Who could be aggravated about supporting Mother Earth?

Earth Day had teach-in's. They were more fun than sit-in's, which invariably involved police and disciplinary action. They were less fun than be-in's, which owed more to Timothy Leary and The Grateful Dead than to anything political or practical. Teach-in's were earnest and had hand-outs and statistics and pictures of desolate landscapes ravaged by the cruelty of man. There was science and legislation and outrage and lots of tree give-aways.

Earth Day had no mandatory family gatherings. It required no gift giving, no card sending. You went outside and did something - cleaned a playground, weeded a median strip, planted one of those free trees. You felt good because you were doing good.

Now there is Earth Week and "We're greener than you are" tv networks Were this still 1970, there would be protests about the idea being "co-opted by 'the man'". Instead, Sheryl Crow is designing reuseable grocery bags for Whole Foods and Wal-Mart is selling them next to the discounted paper towels.

And Mother Earth is grateful.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New Beginnings

A lot of the people in my life are starting anew these days.  Mostly by choice, some by chance, they all are embracing the novelty with smiles on their faces.  

How rare is that?

Jesse, he of the magic scissors, is no longer cutting hair only in Tucson.  Three weeks out of four, he's in San Diego, starting a new chapter in a new salon.  Nogales to Tucson to San Diego may not seem like a formidable journey, but leaving home is leaving home, no matter how old you are or how many miles your new car must travel.  

A new car, a new living space, a new love of his life - he's not overwhelmed, he's reveling in it all.

Amster has established a new firm with an old friend.  Their new offices are within the confines of offices owned by other old friends.  Her former receptionist has ended up there, too.  Her name is on the letterhead, her phone is ringing off the hook, she's flying to California and North Carolina on business - and she's sporting the biggest smile I've ever seen on her face.

Mr. 9 is playing on his first, organized, basketball team in his first, organized, basketball league. He arrived an hour early for the first of his two games, so that he could warm up.  He ran throughout the hiatus between games, ran full court press drills, scored 4 points, and ate five bowls of salad before diving into the wings at dinner.  It's all new and wonderful, and it's feeding his physical appetites in a way which leaves him grinning from ear to ear, too.

Big Cuter is expanding his fledgling business across the Bay, and he, too, is enjoying the ride.  He's exhausted and exhilarated, learning about himself and about other as his plan expands.  There's a lightheartedness in his voice that warms the cockles of his mother's heart.

Princess Myrtle left her job on the Left Coast for Paris and then Cambridge.  We caught up with her for dinner in San Francisco last weekend, where we met her new boyfriend.  She's starting a new career, living in another new city, facing an exciting but uncertain future... and she's all smiles.

Am I old enough that all this novelty exhausts me?  Just a little, I think.

I played maj jongg in a new league this morning; does that count?

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Snippet - Words Matter

In the gym this morning, earbuds out so I could talk to a friend, I heard this:
"ATTENTION: There is a male staff in the women's locker room"
Take a minute.... think synonymously.... okay, move on.

Was my mind in the gutter, as I imagined G'ma would say?

Would it be worth going back there just to see if it were true?

Was I being too picky and looking for any excuse to stop exercising?

I rejected them all .... decided to pat myself on the back for listening carefully..... and moved on to reverse leg curls.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Geococcyx californianus

 We had a visitor yesterday.
It began by tapping on the glass panel of the back door last night.
TBG heard it on his midnight saunter to the 'fridge.
He ignored it.  
"Who wants to see what's out in the desert in the middle of the night?  It's dark and creepy."

I heard it the next afternoon. 
It was not a gentle sound.  
No, denizens, it was quite imperious.
TBG laughed, told me he'd heard the same thing the night before, and wondered what I thought it might be.  I looked up and saw a tail running across the deck.


 We share their habitat, but rarely encounter them.
I've seen two or three in the nine years I've been sitting at this desk, watching the fauna go by.
This afternoon made up for all my yearning. 
This one was here for a serious visit.

I followed it to the kitchen windows, where I thought to take this video:
no sound - safe to play at work
It's 57 seconds of progressively less jumpy images,
and yes, that is a lizard in its beak.

The more I looked at it, the creepier it became.
It's prehistoric.
It's sharp and pointy.
Those feet are menacing.
Here, look at it closer, still:
The crest blew in the wind.
It nimbly skipped onto the pony wall when it grew tired of being the subject of my photos.
I chose not to follow it outside.
I seem to prefer my wildlife with a protective shield between us.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

C'mon, AARP

TBG and I laughed when the AARP spam began arriving in our mailboxes.  We were in our 40's; AARP membership seemed like a cruel joke played on us by rapacious lobbyists, seeking greater numbers and financial backing.

Then, he came closer to turning 65.  He began to examine his insurance options.  He was beyond confused.  I refused to help him; I am younger and didn't want to be bothered.  Yes, my social work background might have prepared me to analyze the situation, but what it mostly prepared me for was being on hold.  Large bureaucracies are not user friendly.  Their policies change mercurially and with no apparent rhyme or reason.  When my turn comes, I'll pay attention.  This time, it was on him.

The information he received gave him a 3 month window.  He applied before his birthday.  His Medicare card came 45 days after his birthday.  Finding a human at the other end of the Medicare Hot Line was a challenge, but it was his challenge. I watched from the couch, and I smiled.  Welcome to my world, sweetie.  He was uninsured for that overlap period.  It was scary.

He needed supplemental plans, as well, and for that we had a stack of advertising materials that was nearly two feet tall.  It accumulated until it began to topple.  It turned into two piles. He finally tackled it, scratched his head, felt overwhelmed, asked Fast Eddie what he'd done when he applied, and ended up in the office of an advisor.

She asked for no money; there must have been a piece of the policy he chose which returned to her. No one would spend her days immersed in these things for free.  She recommended Humana, through AARP.

Yes, we would have to join.  We did.  We didn't get a free backpack or water bottle.  We did get a subscription to a paper magazine, which will create more recycling.  We got large white envelopes with fat books of regulations and caveats and What We Cover and, more important, What We Don't Cover.

There were no forms on perforated sheets at the back of the book.

After a visit to a San Francisco orthopedist who does not contract with insurers, it was on us to file for reimbursement.  The absence of those forms was a problem.

Coincidentally, AARP/Humana called to speak to him.  I answered the phone; she wouldn't talk to me.  I took her number, he called her back, she informed him that there was a website which would answer all his questions.  He asked for my assistance in connecting.

Assuming that it would be simple, since it's designed for a demographic which did not grow up with the technology, I logged on in a ten minute window of opportunity before I had to leave the house.


I chose a username for him.  All sorts of red type appeared.  I read it.  I had the requisite number of letters and numbers, I didn't use any odd characters, I was compliant.  Still, the site would not accept my input.  Swallowing deeply, taking a very big calming breath, I dialed the Help Line.

I listened to two long advertisements in which I had no interest before the Press One for... options began.  I entered the identifying information the robo-voice required, was connected to a representative, repeated that information once again, and was told that I was not an authorized adjunct to TBG's account.

I explained that I didn't want any information.  I just wanted to sign him up... because what I really wanted was a claims form.  It didn't matter.  They will send the required paperwork in 7-10 days.  I'm not holding my breath.

I hung up and tried the website again.  Continued frustration sent me to the tech desk...  I thought.  Turns out I had to go throught he entire commercials, identification, Press One for... rigmarole all over again.  I found Randall, who assured me that he didn't write the code.  I went over what I'd entered, and he suggested that I include a capital letter.

No where in the instructions is capitalization mentioned.

I capitalized all the letters, and failed once again.

Randall said there had to be at least one upper case and one lower case letter in the username.  Again, there was no mention of this on the website.  He had no explanation for that.  He suggested that I use TBG's email address as his username.  I try not to do this, for security purposes, but by this time I was willing to do anything so that I could leave the house and go to the gym.

The email, insecure as it is, went through.  He was signed up on the MyAARPMedicarePlans site.

I opened the site, expecting to find a link to FORMS somewhere near the toolbar at the top of the page.  No such luck.  I opened Get Forms and Resources and found ways to put myself in his personal life, by getting information about his bills and claims, found a form for ETF payments of his monthly bills, but found nothing about submitting a claim.

I went through Plan and Benefits and Forms and Resources and Claims and then I found Order Materials.  At the very end of that last link was a button labeled Claims Envelope.  I clicked it, the site updated, and it told me that the materials would be mailed in 7-10 days.

All I wanted was a form I could print on my computer.  I want to file the claim.  I want to be reimbursed for the out of network doctor visit.  I don't want to identify myself over and over again.  I don't want to wait for snail mail to deliver an envelope.

And then there's that envelope..... will it come with instructions?  Will it include a form?  It says envelope.  I can't get an answer from AARP because I am not authorized.  This isn't a personal question; it's a process issue.  It's the kind of question a social worker would normally ask a provider. It's the kind of question that should have a very simple answer.

Were I a calmer person, I'd continue to deal with this.  Since I am not, I've tossed it back to TBG.  He's willing to wait for the papers to arrive, and I'm happy to have shifted this issue over to his side of the desk. But the aggravation persists.  I imagine Daddoooooo or G'ma dealing with this.  I imagine someone with limited English or competency dealing with this.  I wonder why a website for older adults is so difficult to navigate.

I'm wondering if I should have stuck to my guns and never joined AARP.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Exploratorium

I love that.
I love the simplicity and the complexity.
I love the questions.
I love laughing while I'm wondering.

The fact that Feynman was in a math class at City College with Daddooooo 
(or so the story goes...) 
and scored 100% on an exam the rest of the class failed, thus ruining the curve, 
only adds to the joy.

That's kind of the point of The Exploratorium.  
Artess is delighted that we enjoyed ourselves; 
she's been involved with the place since our kids were teeny.  
The fact that my boys were enjoying themselves even as adults
was exactly what the creators of this new, wonderful, waterfront space had in mind.

There's something for everyone inside the repurposed piers.  
There's art from cutlery
(yes, those are spoons) 
on the walls as you wait to purchase tickets.
Or, if you have a connected young adult in your midst, you can buy the tickets over your phone.
It was funny watching his expression change as I reminded him that two of us were seniors.
"I keep forgetting that you're old," was what he said.
I think that's a good thing.

The exhibits are interactive.
Big Cuter smoothed then spiraled the sand in a very satisfying way.
The girl on the other dial was using a flatter edge, but was equally mesmerized.

The exhibits challenge your perceptions and explain the world in exuberant ways.
We stood in front of this contraption for quite some time
It doesn't seem possible, does it?
The explanation comes when you press the red STOP button.
It's welded together.
Brother, if you are reading this please consider creating one for me.  
You are the best tinkerer I know.
In fact,there's a tinkering lab which looked like a fabulous place to while away a cloudy afternoon. 

Many of the old favorites still exist.
The line to try the gyro-chair was filled with giggling 4th graders; the apron clad docent would dissect a cow's eye on Wednesday; the pendulum-cum-spirograph would be available at noon. 

I was glad to see that FlapJilly will get to enjoy some of the same things her Mommy did when she was a little girl. 

As we sat in the world's most comfortable rocking chairs, I allowed that fantasy to wash over me. That's another thing which hasn't changed about The Exploratorium - the many comfortable resting places for grown-ups who are watching little ones learn.

It's a very thoughtful space.
It's an expensive place, too.... 
but we felt as if we'd gotten our money's worth within the first 15 minutes.  
It's not often that I can type that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

San Francisco Sunshine

After the long weekend we spent in San Francisco, Tucson feels very small.
Doesn't this look like a bank?
Our banks are in the corners of parking lots, 
and there's no way to distinguish them from the drive-thru taco shops except for the signs.
Those pillars are bank-like.
I met up with Miss Nancy at The Ferry Building.
Sharon McCone always comes to mind when I'm walking in that neighborhood;
Marcia Muller's detective always seems to be walking out of her office at the end of the pier.
Now, it's a much trendier space than that occupied by McCone Investigations, Inc.  
I waited in front of this sign.
Inside, there were Pig Parts and Slow Fast Food and Creamery Girl cheeses.  
There were oysters and crabs, coffee roasteries and bakeries.
Some of it was do it yourself.
There was more, much much more, denizens, but traveling has left me exhausted and in need of some time alone with my roses. 

So, I will leave you with this quote from an exhibit at The Exploratorium
and its proof:
hat and onesie courtesy of MOTG and Gr'mu

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hillary for President?

It's official.  She's running.

The campaign office is open, the bumper stickers are on sale, the promises and position papers and invitations to meet-and-greets and fundraisers will begin to flood the mailbox and the inbox and the airwaves.

There will be a familiar female face on everything - and that certainly will be different.

FlapJilly will never know that a woman cannot run for President, as I knew it when I was a child. When my grandpa told me that I would grow up to be President, I laughed at him.  "I'm poor, I'm Jewish, and I'm female," I said.  "Those are three permanent strikes against me."

Not so much, any more, it seems.  At least as far as gender is concerned.

Girls who grew up with all the accessibility Title IX provided have no frame of reference for the magnitude of this announcement.  They were never faced with the closed doors their mothers bumped into whenever a promotion or an opportunity arose.

Little Cuter begged me to "stop with the Title IX already" as we sat in the Rose Bowl, watching the 1999 Women's World Cup. The women sitting around us shared my smile.  We knew that those girls on the field had benefited from chances unavailable to us.  It was a beautiful moment in time.  I felt as if I were participating in a seismic shift in the universe.

And now Mrs. Clinton is seeking the Presidency.  Her husband is absent from the video clips I've seen.  Her time in the White House as First Lady is a footnote to her tenure as Secretary of State and Senator from New York.  Just typing those jobs gives me goose bumps.  If there were female governors when I was growing up they were unknown to me; a cabinet position beyond Health, Education and Welfare was unthinkable.  HEW was women's work; diplomacy and statecraft belonged to the men.

I am trying to stay away from comparing Hillary to Claire Underwood.  Mrs. Clinton was not a Dallas debutante, and her failure to reinvent health care in America can hardly be considered completely her own fault.  Everyone talks about her clothes, even if the comments are more likely to be nastier than the compliments Claire's couture conjures up.

The fact that I'm talking about her clothes at all is a reminder that change is gradual, and that not all the pieces have fallen into place.  So, I will move on to what I think is the major issue plaguing Mrs. Clinton's candidacy - her character.

She hitched her wagon to a rising star, at a time when women were just beginning to make major headway in the political arena. I can't fault her for that.  Nor can I judge her decision to remain married to a philanderer.  I saw her, with Chelsea, at a rally in Tucson, and the love between them was palpable.  One of the attendees in the front row fainted, and Mrs. Clinton refused to continue her speech until the woman was cared for.  She bent down, kneeling at the edge of the stage, until she was certain everything was all right.  I have no doubt that she is a good person, in the way that good mothers and friends are good people.

But, there's a larger piece that must be considered, because she's not campaigning to become my best friend or my babysitter.  I have to look at her character when the issues are beyond caretaking and loving.  What has her track record been when politics is involved?   When I look through that lens, I'm less enthusiastic.

How did the envelope land on a table in the Open To Visitors' section of the White House? Travelgate seems like pique gone wild.

Her huge profit on Frank Perdue's chickens has no reasonable explanation.  TBG was in the business at the time; without inside information, he says, no one could have expected that kind of return.

The rumors about her relationship with Vincent Foster never gained much traction with me; without a note, how can anyone presume to understand the demons behind suicide.  Secret boxes in White House closets don't do much for me, either. The stories are there, but I'm unconvinced.  Having been in the public eye, having seen untruths reported as verified facts, I'm skeptical without more data.

I'm not touching Benghazi, either.  Had the Republican dominated Congress authorized the funding, there might have been more guards surrounding the Ambassador, who chose to go there despite warnings about his safety.  After nearly twenty hearings on Capitol Hill, I've heard nothing to make me believe that she is culpable.

But I don't trust her.  I don't think she has a strong moral compass.  I think she is Hillary-centric, and that scares me.

On the other hand, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio frighten me even more. And, as usual, they are all men.

Is voting for a candidate based on gender pandering to an agenda?  For sure.  It's an agenda of inclusion, of possibilities for FlapJilly and Little Cuter and all the other little girls growing up with grandpas who think they can rise to occupy the highest office in the land.

I'm sorry, Grandpa.  Maybe you were right.

Friday, April 10, 2015

San Francisco

TBG and I flew to the Left Coast this morning. Our plans include his visit to the orthopedist who repaired his knee two decades ago, a visit during which I spent a lovely couple of hours talking with Bunionella.
The clinic is in The Marina, right on the shore of San Francisco Bay. It's also across the street from a Safeway. The combination of take away foodstuffs and a bench in the shade was irresistible; we grabbed lunch and ate by the sea.
I'm starved for water it seems. I couldn't stop watching it sloshing against the moored yachts. I wish I had taken a photograph. I was too busy being in the moment.
I did take these as we tried to find a garbage can for our lunch trash.
I noticed the punching bag first. With the breeze and the sea air and the sunshine it seems like a perfect location....except that it's right on the main drag. Privacy must not be important.
TBG waxed eloquent over this boxwood hedge.
 He loves the clean, geometric lines of a formal garden. Unfortunately for him, he's married to a free form gardener.  There's not much rigid symmetry in my cultivating scheme.
As if we needed a reminder of why we love this city, we stumbled upon this workout center amidst the grass of Marina Green.
There were two women using the bumps and the steps and doing crunches and other floor exercises on the soft cushioned surface. We bounced as we walked over to the mounted equipment,
which came with instructions.
Had we been wearing the appropriate suite we'd have joined right in.
There will be eating and sightseeing and more eating and there will be much hugging of our eldest child. Come back on Monday for some more of our adventures.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Mirror Lab

Image result for very large array
Very Large
Did you ever wonder how and where the extremely large mirrors used in telescopes, like these in the Very Large Array in New Mexico, are made?  How about the ones for the Giant Magellan Telescope, coming soon to the Chilean Andes?  How do they move them?  Aren't they worried about breakage?

I had all those questions and more before I toured the UofA's Steward Observatory's Mirror Lab. Free thirty minute tours were offered to those lucky enough to secure tickets at the Festival of Books; I received the very last one available.... at 9:30 in the morning for a Festival which didn't open until 10.
This was a hot commodity, and I was thrilled to be able to join the party.

High in the sky so that ambient (man-made) light is not a factor, in an area with little to no rain or geologic disturbances.... or people, for that matter, the world's largest telescope will be created by linking seven ginormous mirrors which will collect images at 10x the resolution of the Hubble Telescope.

This is the model.
Three of the mirrors have already been cast.
They are working on the rest.
It's not a simple process.
Those parabolas are 27' in diameter.

They melt glass 
by loading it into a honeycomb mold
the sections of which are secured beneath those silver fastenings and covered with the foam.
It takes almost three weeks for the furnace on which it sits to reach the peak temperature of 1165 C (2129 F).  The glass spins and melts and then spins some more and cools.

It's lifted by a very cool machine which is fixed to the mirror itself by very strong silicone rubber sealant
The mirror is tilted and placed in the turning ring and then sent to the Large Polishing Machine.
You couldn't make this stuff up.
I guess the creativity goes into the engineering and not the naming.

The mirror sits in that white tray and is polished with two diamond polishers which lap one another, creating the offaxis optical surface with an accuracy of about 10 ┬Ám rms.(

That's very very exact.  Because there will be seven mirrors in need of synchronization,  the slightest variation between the Mirror Lab's creations will cause massive distortions.  
It's a gigantic project of infinitely small details.
Where is it happening?  
Underneath the football stadium at the University of Arizona.
How do they move it from Tucson to the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile?
Specially designed trucks back up to the Observatory in the middle of the night.
Once they are loaded, the mirrors are accompanied by a brigade of flashing lights as the highway is closed down.  The thing is too big for just one lane, or two lanes.  It can't be jostled or bumped or caught in a multi-car collision.  So, they close the road.
The mirror is loaded onto a ship, floated to Chile, and put on another truck to travel to the Atacama Desert.

And it all starts here, in my home town.