Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Stanley Johnson's Mother

She was next to him as he was drafted; she "still has the lean face of an athlete," said TBG.

Who is she?

She's Karen Taylor, a Jackson State Hall of Fame basketball player who played professionally in Europe.  She raised the Detroit Pistons' 2015 number one draft pick on a steady diet of basketball, competition, and love.

She created and coached an AAU team for him at 5, and all the good lessons one can learn from sports were poured into him.

"Be there for your team when they need you" led to striving for perfection.

"Don't expect me to 'Mommy' you once we're in the gym" stoked the competitive spirit he'll bring to the NBA.

The practice interviews, the respect for the game, the knowledge that more work yields more rewards - these are parenting-from-your-strength skills worth knowing about.

I read the local sports pages every day; I'm TBG's lifeline for what Tucson is saying.  He spends an inordinate amount of time watching talking heads on tv.  We both watch lots of games.  If there is information to be had, one or the other of us has it.... yet this was news to us both.

Sports Illustrated found her.

How did Sean Miller not mention this... let alone Bill Walton?

Monday, June 29, 2015

#RisingForCharleston - Coming Together With Love

We stood, at the end, together.
We stood, making loving hearts with our fingers.
We stood in solidarity.

It was quite a moment.

The sanctuary was filled with like minded humans of all faiths
and ages. 

There were smiles and there were tears and there was love.
There was so much love.

We sent cards with that love, 
from our hearts to those bruised and battered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal...
known as Mother Emanuel...
and we all needed our mothers right then.

Celebrating determination and strength and reminding ourselves that we are not alone, 
singing Amazing Grace.

It was not enough.
It was everything.
It was something.
It was what we could do, then and there.

It was a sunny Saturday morning, just like the last one I shared with Christina-Taylor.
I know she would have loved to join me.

I miss her, each and every day, just as they will be missed.

Let them be remembered.
Let them be an inspiration to us all.
Let us act for change.

Let this be the last time we gather together to remember those taken - not lost, not gone, not passed - TAKEN.... MURDERED.

Let us not gloss over the horror, as hard as it is to keep it front and center.
It's a necessary step if we are to move forward, together, to make a change.

They are missed.
They are not forgotten.
They are in our hearts.
They inspire action.

Every Town for Gun Safety.

Get involved.
Do it now.
They deserve your attention.

(Thanks to Jocelyn Strauss for the photos)

Friday, June 26, 2015


I belong to a private internet support group.  We are all survivors of gun violence.  No one judges, because we've all been there, done that.  We know the variety of forms in which PTSD rears its ugly head.  We know feeling as if the floor has just dropped out from under you, caught unawares as you tumble down a rabbit hole.

As I've learned here in The Burrow, writing helps to calm the beast.

Sometimes, though, writing is not enough.  Sometimes I have to participate more actively. Saturday is one of those times.  #RisingForCharleston events are planned all across the country, and Tucson, of course, is hosting our very own.

Our local survivors' email chain was activated.  We were personally invited to join Everytown for Gun Safety volunteers at Congregation Chaverim ... and I began to be drawn in.

This is Gabby's congregation.  There's a comforting sense of intimacy and connection when you've shared wine-in-plastic-cups in a famous congregant's back yard with the Rabbi herself.  I have confidence in her ability to strike the right note.

Being together in a shared space is difficult for me,  and that's bringing me to remembering 9/11, and the neighborhood church on Tiburon Boulevard which welcomed us all that night.  Jews and Catholics, Methodists and Sikhs and non-believers sat side by side in the Presbyterian's sanctuary.

It was lovely, and exactly what I needed, and since I can't seem to shake the Charleston massacre from the very front of my brain I have decided that I might need it now, too.

I'm bringing paper and markers for card making; from our hearts to theirs, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church survivors and congregants will know that they are not alone.

It's important to bear witness.  It cannot be left to others.  We are all in this together, and together I will heal and send healing and be a participant.

Confirming that there will be special attention paid to our security, I began to plan my outfit.

It seemed like a logical progression of events - a service of solidarity in a synagogue should first be examined from a security perspective.... after all, it's a house of worship and I can't be sure that enough of my fellow congregants will be armed and trained and ready to defend the rest of us good guys......

What a world.  What a world.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Here's My Internet!

I tried to get through to a human.  I really did.  I dialed 1-800-COMCAST four times.

The first time, they couldn't find me then they thought I was "a valued customer."  Amazing what providing a zip code will get you.

The second time, I connected with an actual human being.  She was lovely.  She wondered if I knew where the reset button was on the black Xfinity box.  Yes, I did.  I also knew how to reset it, which I did.

Unfortunately, resetting the wifi also reset the telephone.  My helpful human was gone, along with my dial tone.

I dialed again, went through the same "who are you... enter zip code.... valued customer" routine, listened to the Muzak equivalent of falling raindrops, and was then informed by an automated voicebox that they were unable to help me at this time.  There were two suggestions, and I began screaming in the middle of the first one; I couldn't get faster service by logging onto the internet because I couldn't log onto the internet and that was why I was calling in the first place.

The second suggestion was to "call back at a later time."

I groaned.  I got a drink. I called back.  If you reread the last big paragraph you'll know what happened then.  I can't bear to retype it.

Fortunately, I had agreed "to take a short survey of no more than two minutes describing the service" I received.  When Caller ID showed COMCAST on the television screen, I literally rubbed my hands together in glee.  Answering the phone, putting the robo-voice on speaker, I gave them 1 on a scale to 5, where 1 was the equivalent of  "I hate you!" or "No, no one was that nice to me," for the first few questions.

I was given the choice of having someone return my call to discuss my responses.  I chose that option, and found myself at the receiving end of another survey from a robo-voice  I gave them 0's (on a scale which now ran up to 10 for "wonderfulness"), except where I admitted that the voice had tried to offer me another service.... they considered this a good thing.

At the end, there was only "Goodbye."  No one said that I should expect a return call.  No one asked for or verified my phone number.  No one transferred me to "to the next available operator."  Nope. Nothing..... for five minutes.

That was when Jen appeared on the other end of the line.  She acknowledged that I was obviously having issues, she thanked me for picking up the phone politely, she told me that were our positions reversed she would have had a hard time being as nice as I was being to her.

Quoting Little Cuter, I told her that I was often reminded that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar, and, for some reason, I was in a pretty good mood.

She was amazed.  She seems to hate technological problems as much as I do.  However, she assured me, she not only could fix my computer hook up, she was authorized to have access to whatever she needed in order to accomplish that feat.

I was stunned.  A real person with real skills and real power was talking to me.  My problem would be resolved.... and it was, with little effort and much laughter and a clear explanation of the issue and the solution.  She disconnected an old network, I reset the Apple router which is sending the signal to the Cuters' side of the house, and all was well.

She didn't have an email for me to send a personal recommendation, but Jen transferred me to Josh, her supervisor, who is, I hope, reading this commendation on Thursday morning.

Jen's great.  She deserves a raise.  I'm not angry with COMCAST any more, and it's all because of her.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where's My Internet?

That's the question I've been trying ask for the last thirty minutes.... now seventy minutes... and there's a great post coming out of this but I cannot type it on my phone, the only device in the house with internet access.

Come back tomorrow to read the sad tale; technical difficulties preclude further communications at this time.

A Snippet - Commiserating With a Friend

Poor choices have been made and tears have been shed but life goes on.

I was in the second round of consoling friends, the result of not checking my phone all day.  With a friend, at Pilates, playing Scrabble, I was busy having my life while my friend's was being disrupted.
She came over in the morning and chatted, listening to TBG pronounce the same sage words of advice she'd heard the day before from her girlfriends.

We went to breakfast, and hashed and rehashed the situation. Over omelettes and muffins, we came to some conclusions.

It's a dream come true for her in many ways.  It's also very sad. There is only so much she can do... and she's done more.  Her job is to acknowledge the good that was done, to accept the decisions, and to stand firm with the consequences.  She's done.

We drowned her remaining sorrows in a predictable and delightful high school chick flick, sharing the adjustable Sleep Number bed with Luke and Bo, her Staffordshire Terriers.

Life is good.

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Brother's BIrthday

Pause a moment and wish my younger brother a Happy Birthday, would you?  Aim your thoughts towards Maryland, at the Metro's last stop, and lift a glass in his honor.

A nice beer or a cheap beer, whiskey or a glass of NYC water; he's easy to please.

You might mention the full facial hair experience he's been sporting for the past year or so.  We saw it first when he drove all the way to Illinois to welcome FlapJilly into the family; he drove me to the airport as he left the young family for SIR's Scout's Seats at the White Sox game.

SIR drove home in the middle of the morning to drop off the tickets.
This part of Little Cuter's family is well worth the effort.

Did you notice that he drove half way across the country, rather than hopping on a plane?  He has notions about the ability of metallic objects to remain in the air while he is encased within.  He has other notions, too.

Balance is the key, he told me.
Family, Work, School, God, Sex - each has a place and a piece.

He has consciously, thoughtfully, often (I imagine) painfully, reinvented himself.  He's created an extraordinary human being - funny, smart, purposeful, talented, giving, loving.

... a person whose footwear is never anything but sneakers.

He is himself.  He's wonderful.  He's mine.

Happy Happy Birthday, Brother!

Friday, June 19, 2015

I Erased The Message

I purchased new cordless phones for our land line today. Pause for applause from The Cuters.  I plan to resell or donate the old set, so I went through the directory and the call log and the message center, deleting all the inputs.

I thought about the messages, focused on the kids' voices I'd saved at triumphant moments, and realized that I'd be able to record new ones quite easily.  I pushed Delete All.

I didn't think about the message Nurse Nancy left on the morning of January 8, 2011, telling TBG that there had been an accident and asking him to meet us at UMC's Emergency Room.

I had a moment of unease, knowing that it is now lost forever, and then I came to a realization. I can leave it behind.  It's okay.  No one will judge, and if they do, I don't care.

I don't need to have it on the machine; I have it in my head and my heart and I can pull it up whenever and wherever I want it.

But I don't need to dwell on it, I don't need to wallow - although there were times, early on, when that was all that I could do.  But that was then and this is now and I'm not there any more.

The memories don't spring up unbidden... at least not as often as they did before.  I conjure up the deep emotions, but on my own terms, not theirs... at least most of the time.

Graceful David, back at our Pilates studio after an absence of too many months, could tease me today about moving my legs into 90/90.  

"Look at her, doing it all ... without complaining ... using her abs and not her hip flexors."

And he's right to mention it.  I've made lots of progress since he's been gone, and, while hearing it gives me the impetus I need to carry on, that's not why he's saying it.

He's really noticing a change, and I don't think it's only in the physical arena. I'm lighter in my being as well as on my feet.

I'm no longer surprised that I pass, unnoticed, through the Tucson airport.  I no longer start every third paragraph with "Before I got shot..." or "Since I was shot...."   I'm reminded of January 8, 2011, I'm not constantly tripping over it.

It's no longer the defining event of my life, though my limp reminds me of its centrality to my existence with every lurching step.  It's become burdensome to carry the weight of the tragedy in the front of my brain, and I've been able to push it back where, I think, it belongs: brought out when needed but otherwise locked up tight.

Of course, when there is this in my life
it's fairly easy to do.

That day will always be with me, just not front and center.
I'm okay with that.
I wrote this post with the Charleston church massacre in mind.

No one should have to think these thoughts.
No one should have those messages left on their answering machines.
No one should bleed in a church or an elementary school or in front of a Safeway on a sunny, Saturday morning.

As Sarah Garrecht Gassen wrote two years ago,
giving in on the fight for increased public safety means giving up on every person who has been stolen from us with a gun. .......We can’t give up. The price is too dear.

Change must come at the legislative level, because, as Amster reminds me, You can't fix crazy

It doesn't have to haunt you night and day in order to be relevant.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two Kids in Double Digits

Amster has two sons, one 10 and one 12 by the end of this month.

Two kids in double digits.  The little one, little no longer.... at least in his own eyes.  It's filled with rapture (Finally, I'm in 5th grade and The Oldest in School) and a vague sense of unease.

No one says it better than Billy Collins, so I'm not even going to try.

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Planning a Trip

I'm going on my own, which removes much of the stress.  I love my husband dearly, but travel is not his forte.  On trips like these, I'm better off alone.

It takes a whole day to get from Tucson to New York City.  When we decided to move here, it was possible to fly on Jet Blue direct from Tucson International Airport to JFK.  That lasted for a few months; the flights were cancelled as soon as we unpacked the last bag.  American ignores us, too; forcing me to change planes in Dallas or Chicago.  I pick the trips with the best connections, and travel early enough in the day to change my plans if I'm delayed.

These are the things which put TBG over the edge.  Alone, I can manage my anxiety without having to consider another person.  For me, that makes all the difference.

I'm traveling between Long Island and Manhattan and I'm trying to avoid renting a car. I have people who will willingly drive me between destinations, but I have to be within a reasonable distance.

I have people with whom I can stay, saving hotel fees and maximizing my pleasure.  If only it were possible to get between Kings Point, Bethpage, and Long Beach via public transportation.  Somehow, the layers of railroad tracks were not considering my current needs.

Then, there's the issue of fitting it all in.  I want to go to the theater.  I want to go to MOMA.  I want to feel the sand between my toes.  I want to see my nieces.  I want pizza and Chinese food and pastrami on rye.  I have time to do all these things, as long as I don't mind ignoring other things.  I have friends and relatives ... and I have people I would just as soon avoid.

Since those to be avoided are known to those I wish to see, I am in a bit of a pickle.

At this point, I have purchased my conference ticket and the accompanying hotel room, I have an appointment on Tuesday and a place to sleep that night and the next.  The air travel is on hold until 11 o'clock tonight, as I ponder the unanchored bookends of my trip.

Will I sleep at the Marriott near LaGuardia so I don't have to wake up at 4am to make my flight home?  Will I go out to Long Island when I arrive, forgoing the pleasures of the big city to make the next day an easier excursion?  Will my friends be in town... and can I hide from those I don't want to see?

Sometimes, in the planning, it almost seems easier to just stay at home.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Visit From Daddooooo

I'm reading the Bible as literature this month.  My father, Daddooooo, read the Bible as Scripture and as literature and as history throughout his life.  Today, though he's been dead for more than a decade, he was by my side.

My professor mentioned Gilgamesh and I reread the note I found when I opened this Bible.
First, one must decipher his handwriting, of which this is a rather elegant example

MEMO from HERBERT  (10/20/94)
AKA Dad & Daddooooooooooooooooooooooooo
Memory & opportunity 
arrived together.
SO - Here they are!!
Plus "Gilgamesh," yours 
to keep.

Yes, there is a period after Dad. 

I never called him Dad - either Herb or Daddy - so I suppose Dad is how he thought of himself.
I'm having these thoughts more often, as I realize that I am now as old as my parents were when I began paying attention to them as people as well as parents.

But that's the easy part to figure out.  
The coincidental arrival of memory and opportunity must mean that he remembered to return my Bible while he was looking at it and had time to take it to the post office.  
I'm not sure that kind of memory lapse resonated with me in quite the same way in 1994 as it does today.  It's the flip side of Why am I standing here? and that didn't happen to me in 1994.

I don't know what happened to the "Gilgamesh."
I do know that I smiled a lot all day thinking about it, though.

He was often a difficult man when he was in the world, 
but there were times when he was just sublime. 

This afternoon was one of those times.

Musings on Flag Day

Which is Linda's mother's birthday, and why I know that fact remains a mystery.  I've known Linda since first grade.  I know none of the birthdays of my other friends, from then or now.  

Flag Day, though, has always been Linda's Mother's Birthday.  Just ask TBG.  He doesn't know Linda, but he, too, celebrates her mother's birthday.
Image result for gabby giffords christening battle ship
Which falls on the weekend Gabby Giffords helped to christen the US Navy's newest littoral combat ship (designed to patrol in shallow waters), the USS Gabrielle Giffords.  

She's gorgeous and happily wind-blown, leaning against her handsome husband, and I know the effort behind each one of the steps from the bow to the stern.

It's not the doing which inspires me, as much as the attitude : There is no yesterday.  There is only tomorrow.  Be bold. Be courageous. Be strong.
Which has gotten me thinking about the The Star Spangled Banner. 

I've never liked it, as music or narrative.  Then, Col. Bill's wife sent me a video from Smithsonian Magazine which told the story of the very real night when the continued proof that our flag was still there meant the difference between the survival or failure of the fledgling United States of America.

I feel marginally better about it, but I'd still rather sing America the Beautiful or God Bless America.  
Daddooooo was quite annoyed at the American flag patch on my jeans shorts, back in 1970 or '71. He felt that using the flag to cover my tush was the height of disrespect.

I wonder how he'd react to the soccer fans, with their flag capesImage result for usa soccer fans
and their flag faces
Image result for usa soccer fans


Friday, June 12, 2015

Welcome to the World, Little One

There's a new baby in the world, and she belongs to my yogi.  True, the little girl has parents of her own, but this is a first grandbaby and so, it seems to me, the discussion ends right there.

She, like all grandparents, has been waiting a very long time to hold this human.  It's hers, just as FlapJilly is mine.

We defer to the parents on all matters relating to the care and well-being of the child, of course. Times have changed, and so have cribs (no side bumpers, no toys, no blankets) and room temperatures and sleep apparel.  Mommy bloggers have all but replaced Dr. Spock. 

That's all well and good. We are very glad to have someone else do all the research and tell us exactly how to wash and dry and store the equipment.  She's their's, too, after all .... especially when she's too fussy for words and only dancing with Daddy will soothe the savage beast.

Daddy doesn't need to know that we're only giving her up because it's time to shift positions on the couch, or grab a snack, or because we feel sorry for him because we've been holding the baby and he has not.

New parents need to touch and smell and cuddle, too, and we get that.  Really, we do.  There have to be rewards for projectile poops and sleepless nights, after all.  Ultimately, it's their responsibility.

Isn't that wonderful? It's perfect, really, bordering on the sublime.

The baby cries, and the parents tell you what the sound signifies, and all the while Grandma is cooing and patting and cradling and soothing and not worrying at all because she knows that babies cry. It doesn't go through her like a knife, they way it did when her daughter was young.  

She's happy to watch her little girl care for her littlest girl, keeping calm, knowing, through experience, that this too shall pass.  

Babies cry.  Yes, they do.  And when they are your own personal grandbabies, when their hands close on yours, when their eyes lock with fascination on their reflection in your glasses, when it finally sinks in that this is what all the other grandmas have been kvelling about, then, there's no sweeter sound in the world.

Thanks for bringing such joy to one of my favorite humans, Jenelle Mary, and welcome to the world! 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Snippet - It's June, and I'm Behind

I did remember my sister's birthday, but just barely.

I missed my first cousin's, but then I remembered that it was his father's birthday on the 6th, and his on the 10th, so I still have time to get in under the wire.... if I remember that he's on the east coast and three hours later.

But first, I'll write to you.

And that, denizens, has been the problem, this year and every year, with the month of June.  May holds the Cuters' birthdays and Mothers' Day and is otherwise uneventful.  But June.... I can find something or someone to celebrate on nearly every one of its thirty days.

There are cousins and nieces and friends and brothers with birthdays and anniversaries and weddings and graduations and most of these events recur year after year after year.

You'd think I'd have a system all set up.  I think I'd use it if I had it; the cards are neatly organized an arms length from where I type to you.  I like all these people.  I love celebrating.  Stationary is right up there with my Top Ten Things in Life.  And yet, here I am, with but three hours to go before I'm forced to wish My Cousin The Firefighter a belated happy birthday.

It's a mystery, denizens.  It's a mystery indeed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Things I Learned in Class This Week

I'm taking two courses through the University of Arizona's Humanities Seminars Program this month. On Mondays, I'm learning about Sex and Violence in the Bible. On Tuesdays, I'm reading Middlemarch.

For five hours every week, a smart person stands in front of me and tells me things I did not know.  I don't always agree with everything that's presented, but I am never at a loss for topics which engage my mind.

For instance, this morning a classmate pondered the behavioral rigidity of George Eliot's study of provincial life and the rules laid down to the Hebrews in their Bible.  External versus internal, immediate consequences versus eternal damnation, the role of belief and faith and whether social norms have the same effect as Biblical proscriptions..... she walked away, but my brain has been spinning ever since.

None of Eliot's characters seem to have a deep attachment to the trappings of formal religion, not even the Vicar or the Rector.  Yet their behaviors are as tightly regulated as were those of the Hebrews, were they to follow all 613 Commandments.  Do we humans have an instinctive need to girdle ourselves with restrictions?  Is it an extension of my oft repeated parenting mantra : Kids like rules?

Like I said, my head is spinning.

Did you know that the twelve tribes of Israel were not descended from a single maternal line?  There were two wives and two servants and just one lucky patriarch.  No wonder they threw the littlest one into a pit and sold him into slavery.  It's a wonder that they had't hurt one another long before Joseph and his coat came along.

Our professor tells us that the virgin who gives birth to a son in the King James version is merely a young woman in the original Aramaic.  He tells us that Moses's Midianite wife touched his genitals with their baby's bloody foreskin, although the text clearly says feet.  Apparently, feet is Bible speak for genitalia. These are things of which I previously was unaware.

He went on to quote Saint Paul, in 2nd Corinthians: The letter killeth; the Spirit giveth life.

In other words, much of it is allegory, so it behooves you to pay greater attention to that which energizes the writing than to the actual letters on parchment, or pixels on the screen.

I'm reading literature in both classes, not studying religion or 19th century politics.  I save those conversations with myself for after class is over.  I drive home slowly, in the right lane, my brain passing cars and bicyclists alike.  I'm paying for 5 hours per week; I'm getting many many more.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


We're back from a long weekend visiting FlapJilly and her parents.

We ate and watched the baby and ate and watched the baby and took the baby on walks and watched her there and in the grocery store and out for breakfast and each and every memory puts a wider and wider grin on my face.

We saw the in-laws and the new neighbors and played along with the contestants on all 7 of the Wheel of Fortune episodes on the DVR.  But mostly, we watched the baby.

And, it seems, she was watching us, as well.... and has been from the moment she joined the party.

That's obvious. Of course she watches the movements around her.  We knew that when she began imitating her furry brother, Thomas the Wonder Dog.  His toys and bones are her favorite playthings, and why not? He lives there, too.

He seems to enjoy rawhide bones; why shouldn't she? 

She's learning that sharing is the better part of valor, and that respecting personal space when another is chewing is the safest course to follow.  Her parents are right there, with a firm and loving "No, honey, that's Thomas's bone," and that, combined with a mini-growl from the furry sibling is enough.

She frowns, but doesn't fuss.  She processes the process, and it's fascinating to watch.

When she first began to shake her head from side to side, it was accompanied by a snuffling noise and a shoulder shake and it usually followed similar behavior from Thomas.  It was very funny for all concerned; parents and child alike were enthralled.  

FlapJilly was learning that communication is a two way street.  She could do more than absorb.  She could put things out there, too. And, slowly and surely, she has done so.  

She's figured out Hi!, which she sings out as she crawls into the open bathroom door to find a not-so-very-private-moment for her Mama. 

She is most helpful as she moves her arms out of the restraining straps of the car seat and the high chair.... right... left... launch! and she leans up and forward and gently but firmly into the outstretched arms of a waiting grown up.

And she shakes her head from side to side.  This garners the most attention, because it happens most often.  "No No No No No?" coo the grown-ups, imitating her motions, staring into her eyes, smiling and responding "Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes!" 

This routine is repeated over and over and over again, all day, every day.  It's amusing, but we've been getting it wrong all this time.  I had an epiphany in the airport last night, and it changes everything.

I was looking at video of FlapJilly pushing her lean-on-me-bright-plastic-slanted-learning-to-stand-and-walk toy (it must have a shorter name, but I can't think of one).  She had just said MAMA for the first time, and everyone was quite proud of the accomplishment.  As I was watching her cruise across the living room, mouthing syllables which had been longed for by the woman who loves her most, I found myself telling TBG how much I loved our girls, and SIR, and our visit.... and I realized that I was shaking my head from side to side.

I wasn't saying No.  I was saying I love you.

It was the I can't believe she is so wonderful head shake.  It's the look at what she's doing now drop of the shoulders and the jaw head shake.

There's not a negative feeling to be found.  There's just the overflowing of emotion that cannot be contained, that is so wonderful it cannot be real.

I do it all the time.  So do Little Cuter and SIR and MOTG and Big Bob and TBG and every other grown up who smiled at her all weekend long.

Think of it.... you're watching a cat video or an X-Games feat or LeBron win a game in spectacular fashion. Aren't you shaking your head in wonder and awe?

You have a smile on your face and there's an opening to your heart right there in your head as you grin and bask in the moment move your head from side to side..... don't you?

I just can't believe how wonderful this is. I have no words.

And that, I think, is what FlapJilly is doing.  She's not disagreeing with us.  She's telling us she loves us in the only way she can.

Yes, I agree.  She's pretty wonderful.

Monday, June 8, 2015


The plane was at Gate K-1.

Then it wasn't.

The plane was at Gate K-2 (which is around the corner and down the hall).

Then it wasn't.

Then it was, but the crew wasn't.

Then they were there and we rushed on board to insure that one of the crew would not time out and be unable to fly any more consecutive hours.

I cannot believe how slowly people put their bags in the overhead compartment when they know we have only 12 minutes to board and push back from the gate.

Then we were ready to take off, but there were 5 planes ahead of us... and there was that time out issue... and we didn't relax until we were airborne, two and a half hours after our original departure time.

We bounced through bad weather all the way back to Tucson, landed safely, drove home, and saw our bed a little after 1 am.

So much for my post on .... anything.

I'll be back tomorrow, well rested, well exercised, and ready to share.

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Snippet - Is Obscenity in the Eye of the Beholder?

In the gym this morning, energized and focused and ready.  I walked on the stepper and did bench presses with my hips evenly weighted across the bench.

I lifted the bar up and down, chest open, breathing deeply, squeezing the muscles, moving the bar with precision.  I was one with the world.

Then, I sat up.

A young white man wearing a black hoodie, his face obscured in shadows, turned and showed me his back - a white assault weapon silk screened on the fabric.

Part of me wanted to rip it off his body, right then and there.

Part of me wanted to get right up in his face and ask him if he'd ever been on the receiving end of a bullet.

Part of me wanted to weep.

I took what was left of me and closed my eyes.  Looking down and not up or out, I finished my bench presses, my french presses, my dips and my push-ups, but the joy was gone.

I debated talking to the gym staff about their definition of obscenity... but left before I upset myself any further.

I'm still quaking, an hour later, after talking it out with TBG and typing it out with you.

PTSD is a wild and not-so-wonderful ride.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hermione is Not Real

So said my professor this morning.

She was responding to her 14 year old daughter's outrage that J.K. Rowling describes her heroine as having mousy brown hair.  There is no way that character could have anything mousy about herself, the young reader wailed.  Hermione is her favorite character in the series she has read and reread and reread again.  It is obvious that such a thing cannot stand.

Her mother, understanding her pain, was gentle as she noted that Hermione was actually nothing more than words on paper.

The child was not amused... and neither was I when, in response to a question I asked in class, I was told the same thing.

Dorothea is not real, so asking about her reaction to being an orphan is a less than valuable question. George Eliot didn't address the issue. The character does not exist beyond Eliot's reach.  We can impute motive to our hearts' content, but Dorothea is not real.  Our deductions are simply that - deductions.  There is no basis for them in fact.

That's a hard truth for me to swallow.  I'm not sure that I believe it.

I carry Little Women's Jo March in my heart and as a talisman as I write to you.  I imagine her sitting in her attic hideaway, scribbling manuscripts, and I know, in that moment, that she exists.

If she doesn't exist, I've been sharing my thoughts on writing with no one.... and that cannot be.

There are other characters I know are real.  Theodore Decker, the lonely boy at the center of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, is hanging out with me this week as I plan a trip to New York City.  I'm with him as he rides the elevators and catches taxis and walks the streets.  He is as real to me as my nieces, actual 20-somethings who are walking the streets of Manhattan as I type this.  I hear from them as I heard from Theodore - through words written on a page or typed on a screen.  I imagine their thoughts as I imagine his.  They all feel equally real to me.

Jack Reacher, Lee Child's ubermensch, is real to me, too, albeit in a different way.  There are times in my life where a savior descending from the ether sounds like a really good idea.  I like imagining that these men exist, even if none have ever appeared before me.  I've created a personal story for him, untold by the author but real, if only for me, nonetheless. I need a hero, and they are in very short supply in animate form.  If Jack Reacher can fill that hole for me, I see no reason to doubt his existence.

If James Joyce's Leopold Bloom isn't walking down the streets of Dublin, then no one is walking the streets of Dublin.  Joyce brings us into all the facets of Bloom's life, painting a picture of one day which captures his soul.  They may be written on the page, but Bloom and Molly and Buck and Blazes exist outside of those words, in my life.

Am I unusual?  Do I have such a flaccid reality that I must populate it with literary beings?  Am I deluding myself?  Perhaps, perhaps, and perhaps.  Still, at the end of an afternoon spent thinking about this, I find that I have to disagree with the teacher.

I need these characters to exist in a hazy sort of reality, invisibly by my side, able to be consulted or relied upon or thought about without the intercession of their creators.  They are mine, by virtue of having been read.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Week Between Sporting Events

.... and the fans are growing restless.

I find NFL Insider a ridiculous program to be viewing in May, yet there was my husband, fanatic fan that he is, gleaning smidgens of information about a sport which will not be contested for two more months.  No one is interested in Tom Brady or Adrian Petersen or Johnny Manziel, though one is appealing and one is tweeting and one is just appalling.

Their turn will come.  It's not here yet.

There was a women's friendly soccer game between Korea and the USofA; I tried, but couldn't get interested.  TBG was happy to return to the talking heads on ESPN, who were dissecting the reasons that Americans don't seem to love LeBron James any more.  TBG was part of the conversation; my native Clevelandian was hollering at the commentators with as much energy and enthusiasm and intellectual rigor as the panelists themselves.

And, why not?  He's followed The King since high school, hurt with the rest of his hometown when he was deserted for Miami and a championship ring, thrilled when he returned, crossing his fingers as the Cavaliers prepare to meet Steph Curry and the newbies-to-the-championship-arena Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

But, first, we have to get there.

And that is why my house was filled with women's college softball this weekend.  At the top of their game, in the sunshine in Oklahoma City, teams of long haired women faced off against one another as their families cheered them on from the sidelines.  Sneer if you will, those of you who fail to see the beauty in the game.  The Bride pitched in high school and college and coached teams in Illinois and Kansas and Alabama; it was fun to imagine her on the field, vying for a national championship.

The players all had long hair, french braided or cornrowed or clasped in rubber bands at random lengths along their backs.  Most of them wore makeup, none of which smeared.  Some wore bracelets, woven threads or colorful rubber.  There were top of the last inning three run hits, bad calls by the umpires, wild pitches which batters stood still to take in the helmet, and some very fine bunting.

I can't remember the last time we watched a baseball game at any level; this weekend it was all I saw for three days.  This is really a sports drought.

We watched the Stanley Cup Regional games, cheering the Rangers and the Blackhawks and marveling at the quickness of both the players and the announcers.  Knowing nothing about the game at all did not stop us from judging the action, the refereeing, the coaching decisions.  We are passionate fans, even in our ignorance.

And now, it is Monday afternoon.  The Women's College World Series starts in a few hours.  Other than that, there is nothing until Thursday night, when the basketball resumes.

I hope he makes it til then.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

#WearingOrange Today for Gun Safety

Hadiya Pendleton | Sun-Times library
I'm wearing orange today. 

I have my orange American flag pin on, too.  

I want to remind the world that hunters wear orange to keep themselves and one another safe.  I want to remind the world that I don't care if you have a gun, as long as you are sane and trained and careful.  I want to remind the world that this is not a great deal to ask... to remind them that Christina-Taylor would be thinking about high schools right now... to remind them that visiting with one's Congresswoman should not be an occasion for violence.
The #WearingOrange campaign was started by the friends of Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago high school student gunned down a week after she and her classmates performed for President Obama.  Her parents, Cleo and Nate Pendleton, penned this Op Ed for the Chicago Sun Times.
I'm probably breaking all kinds of journalistic integrity doctrines, but I am reposting it here for you to read.  If you're not dressed already, maybe you have something orange to wear, too?  As the Pendleton's say, it's not about the 2nd Amendment but rather: if you believe there is more we can do to save American lives from gun violence, wear orange.
Posted: 05/31/2015, 03:08pm | 
Two years ago, in an instant, our lives changed forever. Our daughter Hadiya was shot and killed at a park near her school here in Chicago. Hadiya was bright, talented and compassionate. Her smile lit up the room. She was a spectacular source of joy and pride for our family. Only a week before her death, she performed in President Obama’s second inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C.
Sadly, there are too many families across the country with stories like ours. Every single day, 88 Americans’ lives are cut short by senseless gun violence and countless others are shot and survive. Rarely a day goes by without headlines detailing the latest shooting — in Chicago and in cities around the country.
Following Hadiya’s tragedy, her classmates came together and asked everyone in the community to band together to take a stand against gun violence. Just as hunters wear orange to alert other hunters of their presence, Hadiya’s classmates asked the community to wear orange to symbolize the value of human life.
Wearing orange is a way to honor Hadiya’s life and the lives of all others affected by gun violence, and it has sparked a movement across the country. It’s called #WearingOrange.
This isn’t a statement about the Second Amendment or gun ownership. It’s about recognizing that we have a gun-violence problem in our community and in our country. Put simply, if you believe there is more we can do to save American lives from gun violence, wear orange.
On Tuesday, instead of celebrating Hadiya’s 18th birthday and high school graduation, we will be participating in the first ever National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Thousands of people across the country — gun-violence survivors, gun owners, mayors, law enforcement officers, celebrities and more — will wear orange on that day.
By wearing orange, we reaffirm the right of every American to live a life free from gun violence.  It’s a simple message that’s catching on. In the same way pink has become synonymous with breast-cancer awareness, and red has become the universally recognized color for AIDS awareness, we hope orange will be the same for those affected by gun violence.
Two years have passed, and getting through June 2 each year without Hadiya never gets any easier. But it helps to know that we are not alone. We are united with her friends and thousands of other Americans in calling for more to be done to end gun violence in America. National Gun Violence Awareness Day is a day to come together, no matter where we stand politically, and honor those who have lost their lives.
We have decided to dedicate our time and energy to making sure that no one has to experience the grief we feel in losing our daughter. There is nothing that we can do to bring our daughter back but we will do everything in our power to prevent others from having to experience what we have. On that fateful day a gun stopped our Hadiya from going to college, having her own family and bringing joy to everyone she met.
We have traveled all over the country to share our story, raise our voices and stand with all other families affected by gun violence in the hope that one day, no parent will have to hear the news their child has been shot and killed. We ask that every American join us on Tuesday.
Stand up. Make your voice heard. Wear orange.
Cleo and Nate Pendleton’s daughter, Hadiya, was fatally shot Jan. 29, 2013 on the South Side. She was 15.