Friday, May 29, 2015

#ContainTucson -- It's Here!

Tucson has hit the big time. 
As our population base for commercial purposes inches past one million, retailers become more interested in us.  So, when Toby Keith's bar and restaurant (no weapons allowed, thank you very much) went out of business, leaving a curbside, 20,000 square foot space available in the biggest mall in town, look who thought we were worthy. 
Because we are so special, bloggers in the area were invited to be the first non-employees to tour the store.  
Becca posted about it and I started my happy dance.
Melanie sent me an invitation, and the doors opened as I approached. 
Aiden welcomed me and gave me a moment.
The view from right there stopped me in my tracks.
My name is Ashleigh.  
I am a Container Store Addict.

Aiden and I talked about Big Cuter's gentrifying San Francisco neighborhood as he escorted me to the lunches and the chairs and the hand outs.  It was another example of the company's culture: if the employees are happy, the customers will be happy, too.
I was smiling by the time I sat down, that's for sure.

Becca was there and Desert Chica sat between us and won the door prize at the end, but I won't spare you a single detail of the 90 minutes in between because I am obsessed.

The lovely Robin, a relative newbie at 2 years with the company, 
led us through necessary 
( 200 varieties of hangars.)
and I just have to have it.
There was gift wrap. 
and I remembered the Container Store in Marin at the holidays my smile began to break my face.

There were baskets  
and clear containers
and the perfect packaging for that awkwardly shaped gift. 
There were solutions for everything 
(another company truism: Saving Space and Time) 
including a boring office, it seems. 
If you don't believe me, Kip Tindell, CEO,  wrote a book to prove it to you.
(1=3 ... hire one GREAT employee rather than 1 GOOD employee;
263 hours of training for each employee in the first year, vs 7-10 industry wide)
but let's get back to the goodies, shall we?

First, we must have this updated Granny Wagon to tote home our treasures.
If you live in the city and walk to the grocery store, why don't you have one of these?
And I just realized that this is the perfect farmers' market tote for me.... hmmmm......
All those green veggie saver bags are things of the past. 
Apparently, these containers keep lettuce for eons.... or weeks, anyway.

Aqua and ?rose?persimmon?matte red? are the colors right now.
I'm so glad that the Container Store came and told me so.
Really, I am. 
I have no need for anything in that picture, yet I stood before the display for quite some time.
Obviously, there was a hole in my life which this store filled.

I began to feel awkward about the whole thing, but Nerthus, 
who describes herself as Demystifying the Metaverse Since the Last Century,
was there, too.... and she was just as excited as I was.

I decided to go with the flow and stop judging myself.
Besides, both Robin and I really liked the fact that these doors swiveled open.
She suggested them as nightstands; it looks like they would work on both sides of the bed.

The men on the tour liked these bookcases for narrow spaces. 
I've seen them before, but my needs are so great that I sigh and pass them by.
The young man taking pictures for his mom's blog agreed; he, too has books double stacked on his shelves.

The display of wall mounted hanging systems was stupefying. 

 It almost made me wish that I lived in a sweaters-required climate.
A coat rack is wasted in Tucson, even one as spectacular as this.
Wall mounted, it's the perfect put-my-keys-and-my-wallet-and-my-bag-of-some-sort on it thing.  That black tray has edges to keep errant items atop, where they belong.
I lusted, and I moved on.

Should you need to leave a note, the Container Store has you covered.

If, like TBG, you prefer pen and paper, these are very cool cork boards, aren't they? 
The push pins were amazing, but my pictures are not. 
These are the paper clips 
(yes these are magnetic and no I don't know exactly what that means)
Try to imagine similarly wonderful push pins.
Again, I have only myself to amuse, and I have years of accumulated push pins to go before I sleep... or buy new ones.... so I movd on.

I am trying to be restrained, you see, so this next item is practical.
 I need a way to keep the door open between the garden garage and the back yard.
There are so many 
many choices. 

I have all day today and tomorrow to think about it.
The first retail sales will be Saturday morning.
10% of the sales go to support the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, a worthy cause

It's obvious that I will have to return on Saturday... and on Sunday, too, after I try the various boot forms/racks/stuffers on my cowboy boots at home, returning the ones that aren't perfect and buying more of the one that is.  
Or maybe I'll just bring the boots to the store.

There was more, denizens, there was so much more.
Bags of all types and sizes and shapes. 
Bins and totes and containers small and large and in between.  
But I fear that my obsession is beginning to annoy.....

Wait... I'm sure there's a container for that.......

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Voting for President

Waiting for carry-out, watching the news on the television above the cash register, hearing nothing, reading the words scrolling across the bottom of the screen, discovering that there is "a clear and present danger to Christianity" here in America... and it's all the fault of gay marriage.

Marco Rubio must know, right?  After all, he's running for the presidency.  

There are seven hats in the Republican ring right now, seven more in the offing.  There's not a one of them who could earn my vote, given the positions they are staking out on ..... well, on almost everything.

I listened to Bernie Sanders last night, and agreed with nearly everything he said.... once I got past the fact that his usually unruly hair was neatly combed and not blowing in the wind.  Did he get a haircut?  Is he trying to appear more mainstream?  I think that is a mistake.... unless his aim is to look more adult so that he cannot be dismissed because his hair is too long.

If anyone out there is listening, he's talking to most of you.  It's too bad he's un-electable, will not un as a third party candidate, "is trying only to turn the conversation to the left," as NPR put it.

Or maybe it's a good thing. I'm not sure that I want to tempt myself with someone-who-isn't-Hillary.  I did vote for John Anderson and Ralph Nader (twice.... crying) so there is some history here.  I worry about myself, sometimes.

But the thought of a president who finds his religion under threat by what strangers do under the sheets is terrifying.  Call me old fashioned, but I think that believing in science is a good thing.

I'm taking no chances in 2016.  I may wish that I were voting for Eleanor Roosevelt or Gabby Giffords but I imagine I'll be joining a long line of other disillusioned voters, gritting my teeth over a choice between the lack of a true moral compass and the utter lack of any qualification at all to be the Leader of the Free World and Commander in Chief of the mightiest nation on the planet.

Oh..... when I write it there, it's really scary. I'm opting for pragmatism leaning in my general direction rather than passionate pandering to beliefs I don't share.

As Seret says, It is what it is. Recognize it, and move along.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Snippet, a Link, a Harangue

I haven't given anyone an assignment lately.  That's my only excuse for encouraging you, dear denizens, to follow the link to Ronni Bennett's post on Elder Orphans and then to get your affairs in order.

Elder Orphans are those of a certain age without family or friends to care for them should the need arise.  They are the people whose circles have shrunken, leaving only themselves behind. For them, not having a person is serious business.

Those of us who have people, are usually guilty of leaving them uninformed and frustrated when needs arise.  Daddooooo's ongoing care needs sent me into their Health File for the long term care insurance information; it took months of conversations and reading and examining and thinking and considering and studying before I had a handle on it... and then he was in hospice and then he died.

G'ma, seeing the tumult, promised that she would have everything organized, and, true to her word, she did.  When she moved here, I prepared a large purse with all her documentation, a notebook and several pens, a phone charger, Kashi bars, a stack of crossword puzzles and a small book.  When the phone rang at 5am, I just had to put on my shoes and shorts, grab the bag, and head for the hospital.

I knew what she wanted for her end of life care.  I knew who had which proxies, and all three of her children knew who was responsible for what.  It was hard to watch her fail, but that difficulty was not exacerbated by the need to locate documents or figure out her wishes.

So, if you don't have an updated will, do it.  If you don't have your financials easily findable, make it be so. If your family is uncertain about any details, now is the time to talk them out.

No matter how frustrated I became, watching G'ma's decline, I never failed to thank her for being prepared.  It was a true gesture of love.

Ronni's post will give you impetus and direction.  Click over there now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On Memorial Day

The meme on Facebook this weekend is a rant about a phrase.  

"Happy Memorial Day" is offensive, it seems.  It's a time for sadness, not happiness, is the argument. The holiday commemorates those who died; to wish for happiness at such an occasion is inappropriate, at best, downright rude at worst.

Oh, my.  I just don't know where to begin.

After the loss of grandparents and parents and friends old and young, I heard the same advice.  "Remember the good times," I was told.  The prescription for memorializing a death was to bring back the joys we shared.  I was aimed toward happiness by those who loved me.  Can't this be a piece of Happy Memorial Day?

There are those who are making a link to wasted lives in the Arabian peninsula; veterans and survivors and those who claim to speak for them emoting on ISIS and what were we there for, anyway? They are trying to move the meme from memory to memory-with-a-purpose, from the individual to the policy level with nary the blink of an eye.  

Memorial Day as a peace-nik event?  A decade ago, I would have said Only in Marin; today, it seems to be sweeping the nation.  The loss of previously secured territory is leading to a lot of head scratching on the airwaves and the editorial pages.  There have always been pacifists at Memorial Day, I know.  I'm just not used to seeing them on CNN.

The times, they are a'changing.

When I was young, more than half a century ago, I marched in the Memorial Day Parade on Decoration Day.  It wasn't all that confusing to have two names for the same day; did you ever try to spell Hanukah in English?  After dealing with that, the United States could call these patriotic celebrations whatever they wanted and I wouldn't complain.

Decoration Day was a day to decorate the graves of fallen servicemen and women.  I didn't have a grave to decorate; nor did any of my friends.  Instead, we put flags on our bicycles and wore red white and blue clothing and tied our pony tails with matching grosgrain ribbon.  We decorated ourselves and thought of those who died to give us the freedom to do so.  

At least, I thought those thoughts. I liked to follow the rules, the world being such an unpredictable and scary place most of the time.  When Mrs. Hosey told us in the second grade that we were to think about the dead at Antietam and Gettysburg as we were enjoying the long weekend, that is exactly what I did.  

I wasn't solemn all weekend, but those dead soldiers were always in the corner of my mind.  I don't think that they have ever really gone away. 

I like the notion of Decoration Day, of doing something beautiful to honor the memory of those who served and died.  

I'll try not to say Happy Memorial Day to a living veteran, because I can see how that might cause some consternation.  

And I'll start to wonder what the interwebs will get excited about next.
FYI, Memorial Day became the official name in 1967.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Once again, my traditional Memorial Day post, first published in 2009, and updated just a little each year.

I used to march in the Memorial Day parade. I was dressed in my Brownie uniform, and then in my Girl Scout uniform - replete with those hated anklets. I wore them because the troop leader said we couldn't march without them and marching was too cool to pass up.

All the school bands marched too, and the moms on Benjamin Road provided the materials and the labor to make the capes the high school kids wore. There must have been a military presence there, but I didn't pay enough attention to notice. I was marching and I knew that, all over America, other kids were being Americans and marching, too.

I belonged.

In Marin, the Memorial Day parade was always good for a controversy or two. Or three. Should the anti-war protesters walk alphabetically in the main march, or have their own march, or walk 50 yards behind the official march? I especially liked this discussion: should weaponry be allowed?

That was fairly disingenuous even for Marin.

There were bands at this parade, too, and with Bobby Weir as the Grand Marshal you know the music was worth hearing, especially at the picnic in the park afterwards. Not exactly your typical VFW-sponsored event, but no one was complaining. It was Memorial Day; there had to be a parade.

I've got the flag G'ma bought us for a housewarming present, which replaced the one Dadooooo got us in Chicago. There are red and white roses in the big blue vase in the dining room. I'll wear the tie-dyed tank top the Cuters and I made early one July. Red/White/Blue -- it makes for great patterns. I've got the plastic flag on my bike handles - the same one I bought with the Cuters at the 5 and Dime Store in New Buffalo in 1985.

Life is good.

As you pass the potato salad and watch the flag wave in the breeze., take a moment and remember those who gave their lives so that it can be so.
That was the original post, and I still love it.  The memories make me smile.

It used to be so easy..... or so it seemed. In the 1950's and early 1960's Vietnam was France's problem in Indochina, not ours.  The Middle East was bedouins and Jews and sand.  Our parents had lived through and, mostly, survived World War II, defeating the Nazi's and the Japanese, fighting the good fight, where evil was clearly on the other side.

The soldiers and sailors who perished so that my friends and I could walk down Brower Avenue in our Brownie uniforms did so in a conflict where everyone agreed about the bad guys. It was a simple dichotomy, there were no shades of gray.  It wasn't imperialism or internecine religious conflict - it was invasion and genocide and it was very clear.  The Axis made no secret of their goals.
Vietnam swallowed our country in a moral dilemma - Americans were now the invading force.  And then, it got worse.  We freed Granada, and US medical students studying there were safely evacuated.

Even then, we were the good guys, rescuing kids who couldn't get into American medical schools, saving the short-shorted future physicians from random terror.

It seemed a bit much, somewhat over the top, but Reagan spun it and we moved on.

And where have we ended up?  In a conflict with no clear end in sight, we are attempting to fix a 6th century religious war with drones and bombs.  The media is filled with outrage over the destruction of ancient relics in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

And our representatives on the ground and in the air are dying.

I used to end this post with this Thomas Jefferson's quote
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed, from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." November 13, 1787
Now, I'm not so sure that he is right.  Certainly, the blood of patriots has been spilled.  I'm just not sure that they were fertilizing the tree of liberty.

And so, this Memorial Day, I am feeling the pain of those who lost their lives or limbs or brains in a conflict with no clear enemy, no clear end, and no real purpose.  Why are we there? is small comfort to those who perished or those they left behind.  Today, I am adding aggravation to my remembrances, and I don't like it at all.

I want to go back to being 10 again, where wearing anklets was the worst part of Memorial Day.  I'm not liking the angst in my heart right now.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Watching Her Grow

Why work, when you can play in the sandbox?

That's my girl, the one who has had a smile on her face from the moment that first real food - a Chicago, deep dish pizza crust - crossed her lips.  She wanted to join the party, and once she did, she's rarely found it wanting.

Not to say that there haven't been moguls along the way. Simply to say that we've found our way through, relatively unscathed, and still speaking to those we love.

That's the talent she has, my little girl. She's honest, and not shy about speaking her mind, but the words are so obviously true and from her heart and there's not an ounce of condescension or taunting to be found, so you are forced to listen and hear her and learn.

Say what you mean, woman! she would cry, and I'd stop dancing and start singing.

And then, when we'd said what needed to be said, she would move on.  Why wallow in the past when the future's so bright, you have to wear shades?

I admit that I have been slower to learn that particular lesson, but that's because I find that I spend some time marveling at the adult human giving instruction, instead of improving my behavior. There have always been Mom Improvement Projects (don't talk so loud, so much, so often....), but this is an Improved Child sharing her learned wisdom with a Mom still in need of Improvement.

And she does it with love.

She had always been a wonderful kid; now she is a wonderful grown up.

Remembering..... I stand in her kitchen, wondering where the splatter screen might be hiding, and she laughs, gently shaking her head, and, as she tells me it is no where because she doesn't have one I flash to G'ma wondering where my aprons were stored.... and to my own, gentle laughter, as I gave the same reply.

It's a memory from my adulthood, not a college apartment reminiscence.  And now I have the same memory from my daughter's adulthood.

And still, she's my little girl.  She's the one who read all the Babysitters Club books and those pink ones about the ponies and who listened to Rosalind-the-Bookseller's suggestions to expand her horizons, too.

She's the one who was surprised that everyone else hadn't figured out the simplest thing, Mom.  If you don't fight with anyone then you can sit anyplace at lunchtime.  

It's been a pleasure to be around you for the last three decades, Little Cuter.  Happy Happy Birthday to YOU!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

With Love

Today has gotten away from me, so I'm going to reprise, with some editing, an old post. 
The Hormonal Demons are attacking a formerly delightful 13 year old.  
I really hope this helps, MS.

Would You?

A question for my female readers over the age of 15:

Would you go back to being 12 again?

OK, you can stop screaming now. I am absolutely confident that the thought of living through that year or so makes you want to leave the room and begin drinking. Even if it is 6 am. And you're underage. Or your medicines contraindicate it.

I don't care how old you are, you still remember. It's a horrifying idea.

The year Little Cuter turned 12, I was sitting at the kitchen table writing the 10 or so holiday cards I'd send to my close but far-flung friends. "I'm doing...... TBG is....... The Big Cuter's so...... and The Little Cuter is trying to survive being a 12 year old girl."

TBG, reading over my shoulder, was appalled. How dare I? It was pure projection. Just because being 12 was a nightmare for me didn't mean the the same was true for our darling daughter. It was inappropriate and unsuitable and I should stop writing it.

I let him finish, which surprised him. I was calm, which really made him wonder. I just asked him to go to work the next day and pose the question to the first 5 women he encountered.

The phone rang before I had breakfast on the table. It was the phone call wives dream about but seldom receive.

"You were right. I was wrong. I'll never say it again."

It seems that he'd nearly caused a riot merely by asking the 30-something muffin seller if she would go back to being 12 again.  Women from the line converged around him to tell him their stories and to swear that it was the worst time of their lives.

And it certainly was in our house. One day, after we'd fought and argued and hugged and cried and screamed and were just at our wits end, I asked Little Cuter if it was as confusing inside her as it was for me out here.

"I'm just a confused youth,"  she sobbed back to me.

I remembered that I'd once been twelve and awful; if I had any doubt, G'ma proved it.

Her response to my email describing another filial outrage was one line:


As TBG explained it, the problem was that I was on the planet and breathing at the same time that she was. Since there was nothing to be done about the situation, I just had to tough it out.  Like Cary Grant in Holiday"Courage," was the best he could offer.

And it was enough, for the most part.

Because even when even my inhaling and exhaling drove her to distraction, she still liked me to give her a back rub to help her fall asleep at night. She always wanted me to drive for field trips and to away games. I knew she was proud of me and what I did because she told me - "I sooo love that you are President of the School Board!" 

And because Seret told me that I had an absolute right to expect politeness, I was able to hold on and hope that this was just another phase..... when she wouldn't wear anything that matched... or when she was Cinderella and I had the cleanest kitchen cabinets from 3' to the floor.. or blamed every misdeed on her imaginary friend, Toni Zickel?

And, like those phases, this, too, did pass.

By the time she was 14, watching the Women's World Cup together, 65 rows up behind the goal in the Rose Bowl, we were fine.

For the next few years we camped and took the Coast Starlight and went to Las Vegas and to Ukiah 2 weekends in a row so she could play soccer. The worst was over, but I wasn't ready to relax. Not quite yet.

Then, the summer after her sophomore year in college, she invited me to drive back from Indiana to California across Route 80. "We always said we were gonna do it and we never did and don't you want to do it with me??????????"

So we got in the Civic did it.  2358 miles. 7 states. 5 days. 0 arguments.

Not a raised voice or eyebrow. No huffing or sneering or snide comments. We listened to each other's music and I wasn't too much of a side-seat driver, and we had the most fun ever.

I missed taking pictures of more Welcome To Our State signs than I should have, but she laughed.We ate the world's worst club sandwich and drove through hours of snow in the mountains, even though it was May, and Little Cuter got locked in a hotel bathroom and had to be battering-rammed out, and we were just so glad to be with each other that none of it mattered.

No, I wouldn't go back to being 12, again. Nor, I'm sure, would she.

We're pretty happy where we are right now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Snippet - Tom Brady, Re-Redux

I mailed Mr. 11 a hard copy of last week's post on his hero, Tom Brady.  Why That Tom Brady FatHead Has to Go was written as a letter to him, after all; a personal copy seemed only fair.

Amster says that he read the post half a dozen times, or more.  There has been a lot of head-shaking, a lot of shopping on the FatHead website for a replacement hero, and some consideration - by Mr. 11, if not his maternal unit - of repainting his entire bedroom to complement his Brady-less decor.

But, mostly, she says, there have been conversations about cheating, and honesty, and standing up for yourself.  Taking responsibility for your actions, admitting when you've strayed, knowing that those who love you will respect you even if you're not perfect.... these are the conversations they were having.

No one was arguing about The Ideal Gas Law.  They were talking about things much more important than soft footballs.

And that, denizens, is the silver lining in this otherwise sordid cloud.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Embrace

That's the name of the memorial designed by Chee Salette Architecture Office, and selected by the panel of artists and architects and philanthropists and survivors to commemorate and inspire our community when thoughts turn to January 8, 2011.  

The Embrace is a perfect name and a perfect image for how we felt after the shooting.  Random strangers hugging me in the produce aisle, sympathetic smiles from those who make the connection between my name or my face and January 8, but more important, and grander, and worthy of celebration, is the general embrace which Tucson gave itself after that awful Saturday morning.  

Although only 19 of us will be personally remembered, all of Tucson shares a piece of the memory and the memorial itself.  Chee Salette recognized that; there's a living wall with nooks and crevices into which visitors can place seeds.

I can't tell you how happy that makes me.  It's creating new life, moving on, bringing joy and energy to an aching memory. It's forward looking instead of dwelling in the past. 

Of course, there are pieces which tug at the heartstrings, too.  There's a Weeping Wall, with falling water coursing, at random intervals, over the sloping wall separating the memorial from the outside world.  It's right and appropriate for that to be a piece of it; it is, after all, at the very bottom, after all the kudos to first responders and citizen heroes, a monumentally sad event which is at the center of the memorial.  

It's good to be reminded of that, as well.

It's even better to see the splashing fountain jets right near by, with images of children laughing and jumping in puddles... just as I know CTG is doing, right now, in heaven.  The proximity of those two features speaks to the sensitivity of the design team.  

The memorial is one part of a re-envisioned courthouse plaza in downtown Tucson.  There are gardens (6, for the fallen) and specimen trees (13, for the survivors) and lots of shade and benches and low walls for sitting.  There's grass, too, which makes me wonder if the designers have ever spent a summer in the Old Pueblo.  

Inside the to-be-refurbished buildings will be a museum showcasing the spontaneous memorial tributes left at Gabby's office, UMC and the grocery store.  Many of the items have been repurposed by artists near and far, and their treasures will be on display as well.

The whole idea of a memorial was uncomfortable for me for a very long time.  The list of mass shootings is so long that ours is often left off the list.  I wanted to remember the love and the comfort and the healing vibes I felt all day, every day, and still feel, when I'm noticed, nearly 5 years later.  I didn't want the 30 seconds of chaos to be the focus; I didn't see how the warmth of Tucson's love could ever have been portrayed.

I'm glad to say that Chee Salette found a way.

I tried and I tried and ultimately I failed to download specific images from this video.  The images referenced above can be found here:

  • Weeping Wall at minute 2:00
  • Kids Splashing at minute 3:22
  • Refurbished Plaza at minute 3:30
  • 6 Gardens/13 Trees at minute 4:31
  • Living Wall at minute 5:00

Monday, May 18, 2015

Scary Stuff

That's what Everytown for Gun Safety is asking.

Orange is the color hunters wear to warn others with guns that they are not targets.

It's an idea originating with the friends of Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teenager who died -  a victim of random gun violence - just a week after meeting President Obama in the White House.
Her parents are sympathetic, the story is tragic, the idea is noble.

I'm just not sure I can do it.

I see a holstered pistol once or twice a week, here in Tucson..... and I'm not talking about those on the hips of law enforcement agents.  There is no hologram or license or plastic flag on those holsters, there's nothing to tell me whether the wearer is a good guy or a bad guy or a good guy having a bad day.  And then there are all those concealed weapons which are legal here in Arizona, too.  

At least those are not obviously in my face.
But I wonder, as I wait in line at the grocery store, or at a stop light, just what thoughts are going through the people around me.  I was blind sided once; I'm not anxious to repeat the experience.

And that's why the whole Wear Orange on June 2nd thing is scary.
I try to avoid drawing attention to myself on this issue.  I'm comfortable in large groups, as one of a supportive crowd delivering petitions or attending a press conference at my Senator's local office, but being front and center is not for me.

 My Gabby Giffords Continues to Inspire bumper sticker is now, nearly five years after the fact, less a political statement than a salute to a local icon.  I always hope, as I drive past an NRA-stickered vehicle, that the Ben's Bell's Be Kind flower on the other end of the bumper encourages a smile, rather than hostility towards a political position. 

I'm not proud of being scared.
I'm not ashamed of it, either.
I come by my fear honestly.

Still, I'd like to be leading the charge, using what happened to us as a stick to prod change in the political and social arena.  I'd like to make a big stink, a hullabaloo, a scene - because what happened to me and to Christina-Taylor and to Gabby and Judge Roll and and and and and... it's just wrong.

I'm just not sure that I'm brave enough to walk around town wearing one of these.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tom Brady, Revisited

The New England Patriots have responded to Deflategate like true Bostonians, according to  They don't think their quarterback has done anything wrong, they think the punishment is undeserved and over-reaching, and they are defending Tom Brady to the moon and beyond.

That's fine.  They're fans. There's a certain amount of loyalty, even over-the-top loyalty, within that community.
Brady's agent's ad hominem attacks on Ted Wells were uncalled for, and spoke to me of desperation. If you can't attack the message, attack the messenger.... although that has never convinced me of anything except the hater's lack of imagination and the eventual veracity of the message.
Sporting News has the best reporting on the controversy.  There is a certain snide cynicism attached to the stories in USA Today and CBS Sports and the other websites which Google deemed worthy of my attention.

Sporting News was the only site to link to the actual report written for the Patriots.  After a while, I found myself screaming at Lenore the Laptop, begging for a reference to the original material.

All that time spent in The University of Chicago's Great Books program has made an indelible impact on me.  I need the source material, not the analysis.
The source material written for the Patriots has a lot of italics and bold print.  There are many links to experts and evidence.

It's fun to see the battle of the scientific minds - a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (for the Patriots) versus the former chair of the physics department at Princeton (you remember, where Albert Einstein found a home).  Perhaps there's one little fan who's seeing a connection between his sport and his schooling.

One can only hope.
There are lengthy discussions of The Ideal Gas Law in both the Wells and Goldberg reports.

That's PV=nRT.

I know this because it was a clue in a crossword puzzle I was working the night before the Goldberg report was released.  I love the serendipitous overlapping of my passions.
Daniel L Goldberg, the author of The Wells Report in Context, sat in on the interviews held in Gillette Stadium.

I suppose that allows him to provide his version of context. He could set the scene, describe his impressions, talk about his own reactions.

But, as TBG has said over and over since we were in the midst of our own maelstrom,
The higher the amplitude of an event, the greater the individual differences.
We cannot choose to judge or interpret another's reaction.  
I'm guessing that this was pretty high on the Richter scale for the overweight game day locker room attendant, and for those higher on the totem pole, too.

We need context for our context, I guess.
Goldberg tells us that the attendant was called "the deflator" because he was trying to lose weight, not because he took the air out of the footballs.

I suppose it could be true.  I suppose the nickname could have a double meaning, too.

Context, it seems, is everything.
There are CAPITAL LETTERS THROUGHOUT THE GOLDBERG REPORT.  It's as irritating to read them there as it was to type them here.

Have we gotten to the point that a well crafted sentence is not enough to make a point?

It's another sign of the dumbing down of America.  And that's where I am leaving this issue, forever, I hope.

If Americans would pay attention to our crumbling infrastructure with the same intensity brought to grown men playing games for a living.......

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why I Can't Write Today

I went outside, after being inside all day.
I saw this 
and this 
and this.
I leaned in to the gladiolus, because the colors could not be ignored.
I admired the new hibiscus .
I moved from container to container, 
and then I was done.

This is all that's filling my brain right now,
and that's why I can't write (any more) today.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Different Kind of Pleasure

Different books bring me different pleasures.

That innocuous sentence took a look of thinking before it ended up in pixels on your screen.  Not that the rest of my work is slipshod and fast off the fingertips, bypassing my brain entirely (this has been said, with much truth, about my speech, at times) but some sentences carry more import than others.

This is especially true of topic sentences, as my children's homework reminded me over and over again.  I want to capture you and state my thesis and move the story along apace.  I don't want you to read my opening offering and groan.  That's what stymied me this afternoon.  I know what I want to say, but it seems so obvious when I put it down for you here in The Burrow.

Of course, you're thinking, finishing Ulysses leaves you with a different feeling than putting down 50 Shades of Grey. Both stories revolve around sex; other than that, it's no contest.  Now, I never got past the first 30 or so pages of E. L. James's trilogy, but there was no doubt, even from that small selection, that literary allusion and intricate use of language were the least of that author's concerns.

They are of two different ilks, revealing two distinct types of pleasure.

I'm a big James Patterson fan.  I like to imagine which parts he writes and which parts are his co-author's.  I can buy one at one end of a plane ride and return it for 50% back when I land.  The stories are creative and fast and the characters are believable, even if the situations are not.

But the writing is always first rate.  It never bloviates or obfuscates or uses twelve words when four would do.  Not as spare as Robert Parker, perhaps, but no where near as overblown as Anne Perry's descriptions tend to tilt.

It was her writing which prompted this post.  I read A New York Christmas in an afternoon, and am now engrossed in The Angel Court Affair.  I've thought more about policing in early America and anarchism in turn-of-the-20th-century Europe in the last two weeks than I have in my entire life. That time period never seemed to appear on the curriculum when I was in school; perhaps because the people developing that curriculum didn't see it as history, but as part of their lives.

I wrote about this in 2012; I'll quote the relevant passage for you right here:
G'ma was appalled that I didn't know where Patton fought.  "My brother fought with him in Italy!  That's not history - that is my life!"   
The history is only part of what I'm trying to say as I muddle through this post.  It's the history mixed with less than stellar story telling that got me to the keyboard this afternoon.  The stories themselves are interesting and nuanced and, though often disturbingly predictable, are remarkably believable. It's just that the author feels the need to bludgeon me with facts and cultural and historical touchstones.

I love learning the information.  I'm annoyed that the presentation distracts from the literary merit. Were the characters less charming, the settings and time period less attractive, I'm not sure that I'd spend much time with Anne Perry.

Looking back over my reading lists, I see that I've read everything she's published.

Perhaps I am not as much of a literary snob as I like to imagine myself.

I lust for Dorothy Leigh Sayers; I like Agatha Christie; I'm delighted with Robert Crais and all the Kellermans and Dana Stabenow and Michael Connelly. None of these authors make me stop and wonder why I'm reading what I'm reading when I'm reading it.  Their exposition is more subtle; I never notice what I'm learning until I realize it's in my head the next morning.

Anne Perry demands that I pay attention - NOW.

It's okay... I put up with it... because I now know that there were anarchist bombings nearly every week in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  That's got me thinking about ISIS and Timothy McVeigh and my need to read more history on this time period.

That's why I put up with it.

It's a different kind of pleasure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why That Tom Brady Fathead Has to Go

Tom Brady - Quarterback Fathead Wall Decal
Dear Mr. 11,

I'm sorry, but your Tom Brady Fathead has got to go.

I know. I know. I know.  You love your Fathead.  It was a present. It completes your Patriot's Man Cave.  

It doesn't matter.  I am the self-appointed Keeper of Morality in Sports, Mr 9 & 11 Division.  Since the only thing I'd change about my Mom is if she knew more about sports defines your maternal unit's relationship to grown men playing games for profit, it has fallen to me, your faux-grandmother, to intervene.

We've already been through the Aaron Hernandez debacle; I remember your surprise when you learned that the first trial was for murdering the people who knew about the murder in the second trial.  TWO murders??? you gasped, and I had to tell you that, in fact, there were three dead people attached to this soon-to-be-former hero.  

There were no arguments; it was pretty obvious that a man who was going to spend the rest of his life in prison would not make for much football conversation over the rest of your lifetime. Unfortunately,  you and your brother latched on to Adrian Peterson.

That one started out okay; he seemed like a good guy, his teammates respected him, he had solid football skills.  But then his 4 year old son went back to his mother with slash marks across his back and scrotum.... yes, I did say scrotum, but only after Mr. 9 tried to justify the behavior by saying He was only spanking him.  Using part of a tree to leave welts on your testicles is a bit more than a spanking.... as all three of you boys, squirming in the back seat, agreed.

And now we are faced with the Patriots' quarterback, a man who is too handsome for his own good.  He must have gotten used to the smiles and adulation at a very early age; his kind of egocentrism is not lightly attained. 

What am I talking about?  Pretty people receive smiles and better evaluations than those deemed less attractive.  If you spend your whole life being a star athlete, with a face that could launch a thousand ships (The Iliad explains that... and so does Dr. Faustus), well, then, you are more than likely to think well of yourself.  

All that positive reinforcement, all those kudos, all those trophies, they are everywhere.  These reminders of how wonderful you are are on the television, in the newspaper, and on the faces of boys like you and your brother.  Imagine how hard it would be to avoid all that attention..... and then imagine if you would want to avoid it.

People shouting your name.  Fans roaring when you enter the field.  Life-size photo cut-outs of yourself on the wall of boys and girls across the country.  Money.  Prestige.  Influence.  

Would you want to give it up?  

Then, ask yourself what you'd do to keep it. 

An independent investigator said that it's more probable than not that Tom Brady not only knew that the footballs he was using in the AFC Championship game were under-inflated, but that he influenced the men who were in charge of those footballs to bring them to him in that condition.  

I know.  I know.  I know.  It didn't make any difference to the outcome of the game.  The Patriots trounced their opponents.  Please, though, don't ask me why it's such a big deal.

Okay, I'll answer it anyway, because you've said it to me before and, I fear, you are thinking it right now.  

It's such a big deal because it's cheating  He definitely knew that there was a rule about ball inflation, and it's more probable than not that he knew the balls he was using did not meet that standard.  

I know this is more probable than not because every football talking head on ESPN swore that he could tell, by touch alone, if the balls were a pound or two under weight.  None of them seemed to believe Tom Brady's supposed ignorance of the transgression.

Your mom is a lawyer.  Should she only care about the rules which fit the outcome she desires?  Can she feel free to flaunt the ones that don't seem to make much difference in the end?  Should she be aggravated if another lawyer does that?

The more egregious problem, at least as the Keeper of Morality sees it, is the fact that he did not cooperate with the investigation.  When the dogs eat the tacquitos because the treats weren't replaced in the refrigerator, is it okay for all the kids to refuse to tell Mom where they were when it happened? Better yet, why wouldn't they, if giving the information to the investigator (Mom) would clear themof any wrong doing?

I'm not talking about lying; that issue was covered above. I'm talking about taking responsibility for your actions.

I'm talking about cooperating with the investigators, not hiding your cell phone and refusing to share the information it contained.  I'm talking about the disconnect between not cooperating and then slamming the report because it was biased.  I'm talking about having someone else make (feeble) excuses rather than defending yourself.

Did you notice that his agent gave a long screed to the media, but Brady himself claimed not to have read the report.  He said he would do so once he had considered what was written.  Take a moment and think - if someone wrote a 240 page report discussing your behavior, would you do anything else from the moment it was released than read it?  Wouldn't you be curious?  Obviously, reading it in that amount of time was possible; his agent did it.

Tom Brady went to the University of Michigan.  He has to be able to read 240 pages in 36 hours or he would never have completed his freshman year.  

The only conclusions I can draw are less than flattering.  He's so in love with himself that he cannot bear to read anything which might diminish him.  He's so convinced that he did nothing wrong that he doesn't care what anyone else might think.  He cannot imagine a world in which he is not beloved, so he must be innocent of everything.  

MY PHONE? You want my phone? It's TOM BRADY's phone, man! NO WAY!

Can't you hear him saying that... thinking that.... doing that?  

Is that really the guy you want to emulate?

Think Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning or Steph Curry or Tim Howard ... you choose, I'll pay.

Just get that less than admirable cheater off your wall.

Your Suzi

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mothers (Mother's) (Mothers') Day Reflections

I was up and in the garden before breakfast.

The plants had been delivered earlier in the week; I spent time arranging and rearranging them until everything was just right.

Wearing my favorite new tank top, I spent the early hours of the day covering myself with soil and sweat.  I dug and I upgraded the irrigation and I set loosened root balls in holes twice as wide as themselves.

I found irrigation tubing hidden in the holes I was digging.  It was only that water which made it possible for me to dig holes in the caking-up-because-it's-almost-summertime ground which passes for a planting medium in Tucson.  They'd softened the soil enough so that, even in my weakened state, I was able to dig.  It wasn't easy, but I got it done.

There are times when I miss Marin... for its dirt.
I didn't spend too much time wallowing in self-pity, though.  I was having too much fun.  For the umpteenth year in a row, I was spending Mothers Day up to my elbows in gardening.

I put my phone in my bra and, in bending over, boob-dialed Big Cuter.  He was pleasantly surprised to hear from me, albeit inadvertently.  He was busy, "but when your mom calls you on Mother's Day, you answer the phone!"  

I knew I raised him right.
For him, it was Mother's Day.  He's not a parent; there's no mother-of-his-child requiring his attention.  His grandmothers are all dead.  He has one mother and that's where his thoughts go on this day.  His own, personal mother.

I like to think of all the great mothers I know; for me, it's the plural that resonates.

Mothers do it all, unheralded and uncompensated in a manner recognized by the workplace.

I can warm my heart by thinking of the women who have given up all-expense paid trips to Italy and Disney Land so they could tend to ailing children.

The joy of a mainstream classroom placement, after five years of kid-and-mommy-therapy, is announced with pride in the child's achievement, with no mention of the toll it's taken on her.... because it wasn't a problem, it's just what a mother does when her kid needs her.

I bask in the joy of a dance performance, a basketball game, an art project.  I watch the kids at Prince bring their moms to meet me, proud to share a friendship.  The love goes both ways - Look what I can do! Look what you can do!

It's as much fun to watch as it is to be a part of it myself.  Mothers are very special people.
But, does the day belong to each and every one of them?  Is it Mothers or Mothers' or Mother's Day? Were G'ma still here, I know we'd be having a spirited conversation about that S and that apostrophe. *****
There are some parts of this day which are very sad.  I was jealous of the women with their mothers having lunch at Feast, as Scarlet and I shared memories.  She was teary, I managed to restrain myself, but, for each of us, there was another present at the table.

Hers was the first voice I heard, and mine the last one she heard.  I'm going with the lovely symmetry of it all, rather than shedding a tear.  I am going to smile, as I know she would want me to smile, because not smiling won't bring her back and that's exactly what she'd say to me were she on the swivel chair in the living room, watching the Cavs and Bulls with TBG.
Mothers are usually right..... and they are ever present.... even when they are gone or far away or only visible on Skype, pretending to be mothers themselves when I know for a fact that she is just my Little Cuter.

Still, there is visual evidence for her change in status.
and this says it all.

Friday, May 8, 2015

My First Born

Mothers Day and my becoming a mother coincided in 1983.  It was TBG, my OB/Gyn, a nurse and me.... no medical students, no aides, just the four of us bonding over a sunny Sunday morning and the entry to the world, face up and looking around, of a little human we named for his Grandpaw.

It really was the first day of the rest of my life.

Up until then, I could sleep without worry.  Up until then, my heart lay securely within my ribs.  Up until then, everyone for whom I was responsible, TBG, was able to be responsible for himself. We looked out for one another, but we were not obsessed.

At 12:16 pm on Mothers Day, all of that ended.  My heart was breathing at the foot of our bed, in the cradle my father made, each little snuffle a tug on places I didn't know I had.  It was beautiful and terrifying, all in the same moment.

The pediatrician called, the first morning we were home, asking "How are you?"

I started in on the baby's night, but he interrupted me tale.

"No, I asked how you are doing.  I have no doubt the baby survived.  I was curious about you."

It's not that he was worried.  The father of 4 boys, he'd seen it all.  He was genuinely concerned about me.

That question reestablished me - my sense of self, my separateness from that new person whose entire being depended on his father and me and our attention to detail and what if we forgot something and .......

Yes, denizens, it's true.  Parenting is forever, and I can't stop myself, even now.

I sent him a rolling kitchen island, because he's cooking up a storm on 12 inches of counter space and he needs more. Amazon assured me it would arrive before his birthday, and, when I received the text message that it had been delivered, I emailed Big Cuter to let him know.

"Thanks, Mom.  The building sends me an email when I get a package. I'm out now but will get it later.  Love you," was his response.

Three hours later, Amazon texted me that the over-sized spatula I'd ordered had also been delivered.

I sent another email.  Not because I thought he needed to know, but because some part of me wanted to be sure that he remembered to pick it up.

I close my eyes and see a curly haired 4 year old wondering who would answer the questions in class if he didn't know the answer, and being surprised to learn that going to school by himself didn't mean all alone in a room with a teacher, but just that Mom would be staying home, because he was a big boy now.

He would be riding in a taxi, it was true, but that was only because a school bus was unnecessary for the number of students needing transportation. The taxi driver would know where he lived and how to get there; he did not have to have the money or the directions.

He's still the same, serious, thoughtful kid.

We talked after the packages had been retrieved and opened.  He wanted to be sure that I was just being Mom by sending all those emails.  He didn't mind my using the packages as an excuse to send him love; he wasn't complaining at all.  He just wanted to be sure that I was aware that the management of the building was all over the situation, and that I didn't have to worry.  He really wanted to be sure that I was okay.

And that's the flip side of having your heart outside yourself - sometimes it comes right back to you, enveloping you in a warmth and a wonder that that tiny blob of protoplasm, the one who lived under your heart for 40 weeks, the one who changed your life forever has turned into such a wonderful young man.

He's older now than I was when he was born.  That's a situation I'll be considering as I relive every minute of this day-before-he-was-born once again.  The hot dog for lunch, followed by a contraction. The ride over Wrightwood, the bumpiest street in the neighborhood.  The pizza, the movie (Arsenic and Old Lace), the weather (waves over all four lanes of Lake Shore Drive), the drugs, the delivery, the first diaper (truly, my first diaper), and my roommate.

She was a second time mom, and we were alone with our babies, each just hours old. She held her son up to the sunlight, gazed into his eyes, and said words which have lived within me to this day.

"Alex," she said, "wives may come and go... but you'll only have one mother."

Happy Birthday, Big Cuter.

Happy Mothers Day to all.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Disappointing Read

I was very proud of myself.  I saw that Alexander McCall Smith had written a modernized version of Jane Austen's Emma; I can't remember where.  I went home from wherever I was and opened the public library's new and improved website to find that there were 26 copies ordered, 5 copies in large type, and that I was the first person to put any one of them on hold.

 Three days later, an email arrived.  My book was ready to be read.  All I had to do was get myself to the branch and pick it up.  I finished the Anne Perry Christmas story I was devouring and found my book on the Reserve Shelf.

It was brand new.  I was the first patron to open the binding of the large type edition. It was thrilling. I am not exaggerating.  There's a wonderful frisson I feel every time I open a new book.  The fact that I wasn't paying for the book made it all the sweeter.
(Yes, I pay taxes for the library and I donate to The Friends of the Library, but no funds changed hands for the privilege of reading this particular tome.  This disclaimer is for those of you who insist that I care more about the story than the facts.)
The pages were bright white.  The binding allowed the book to lie flat on a table while I ate breakfast. I found no grammatical errors.

That's all the positive thoughts I have on this book.  I suppose it could have been worse; Emma and the Zombies comes to mind. But this was one time where I read quickly just so that the experience could end.

It wasn't bad enough to put down before I finished, but it came close.

This was a special disappointment, because I love Alexander McCall Smith.  I've never had this reaction to one of his books, and I've read them all.  It was totally unexpected and completely awful and I can't figure out why.  Smith has a deft and gentle touch when describing the foibles of his characters.  None of them are perfect, yet he loves them all.  Even the most selfish and self-centered of them are treated with respect; their depths are plumbed and we begin to understand the why's and wherefores, without anything being explicitly stated.

For some reason, he decided to take a heavy hand with Emma.  It reads like a romance novel. Emma's transition from brat to awareness happens with all the subtlety of a monsoon electric storm.  It flashes brightly from the page, thunking the reader with a sledgehammer of obviousness.  Jane Austen let it unfold slowly; Smith clangs the cymbals and rolls out the carpet.

Up to, through, and after this point, Emma remains unlikable.  There is no reason for Mr. Knightley to love her; she brings nothing to the equation.  She is thoughtless and rude, the beneficiary of a second-rate education.  She is dull, does nothing, and doesn't seem to mind.  While I'm not a big fan of Jane Austen's Emma, she's a rock star when compared to Smith's.

Read The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency, series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the love stories on the train.  But stay away from this one.

You have been warned.