Thursday, December 31, 2015


I am tired of living in a messy space.  Little Cuter didn't even go into the library when she was last here; it's too overwhelmingly, oppressively cluttered.  My usual excuses (no attic, no basement, no crawl space, little closet space) worked for the first ten years we lived here, but they are a tired bunch of losers at this point.  I must resolve to fix this.

There must be a reason that my eye is drawn to postings on this topic; my soul must be seeking clarity and harmony and a oneness with the inner calm residing beneath the chaos.  That's what they promise, anyway.  Apparently, surrounding myself with things that bring me joy will keep the crap from accumulating on my desk.

Would that that were so.  I seem to love everything I see, here amidst the clutter.

The stack of family photos, awaiting replacement once the holiday decors are put away; my Kindle, my current crochet project, my address book, a crossword puzzle, a book to send to FlapJilly.... and that, denizens is the crux of it all.  Everything I mentioned could be put away someplace else.  I just don't have it organized in a functional way.

The woman who helped me with my pantry and desk drawers is living a new life in SoCal.  She created an organizing miracle: a system which is still neat and useful years later.  I had another, less successful, attempt and I'm reluctant to try a third time.  This year, I am going to read up on clutter and see if there are tips I can adopt.

I have been thinking about the 15 minutes at a time concept.  You may have a gigantic project, but you may only work on it for 15 minutes.  You set a timer and when it goes off, you are done.  You can come back to the project later, but you have to stop and regroup, first.  I think you're supposed to stay with one area until it is finished, so that you recognize that progress is being made, but that may be my own personal overlay.  As I said, I've been wrestling with that idea for a while; it doesn't go away.

This leads me to believe that considering clutter is targeting the possible.  I'm adding it to the list.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Some resolutions are keepers.  And so, once again, I will examine the concept of patience.

It is too much to ask that I resolve to become more patient.  Resolutions should target the possible, as TBG phrased it when constructing the sentence was more than I could manage.  Target the possible, not ask for the impossible.  I know myself all too well - becoming more patient would be frustrating and impossible.

I have held this resolution for over a decade; it comes into play most often in check out lines.  I stand behind women (and it's always women) who take each item out of the cart separately, placing each item with care and concern on the conveyor belt, watching each item as it is rung up and flung into a plastic sack (because she never ever ever carries a reusable bag of her own), and then, when the cashier smiles and tells her the total, she takes her purse off her shoulder and begins to look for her checkbook (and it's always a checkbook).  And I wait.  And I wait.  And I wait.

Can you feel the fury rising as I type?  Asking me to become patient is patently absurd.  It's not in me.

But what is in me is the power to rise above it.  I know this is true because there have been moments over the last ten years when I found myself smiling at a situation which normally would send me into a tizzy.  Those moments don't happen often, but when they do, they remind me that I am capable of change, that I ought to try harder, that feeling happy is better than being aggravated.

I can make myself happy by imagining a beautiful scene.  I listened to a podcast with Esther Sternberg, an immunologist who's done work on the interactions between healing and one's immediate environment.  Citing research showing quicker, happier healing when facing a wooded area rather than a brick wall, she wonders why the word placebo is always qualified with just.  If it works, why denigrate it?  And why can't it be more than a placebo?  Why can't it have actual, psychological and physiological effects?  Her work on this is fascinating and translational; it goes from the laboratory to the mainstream with little effort.

And so, today, when some fool needed to pull out of the parking lot, cross two lanes of traffic, and end up going ten miles below the speed limit after cutting me off, I pictured the native grasses along Rte 79, with the sun fading and the light glowing in what Little Cuter, in her professional photographer mode, calls the golden hour.  I was still furious, but I was smiling through my rage.

This is a resolution worth renewing.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


To get them out of the way, first.

I never thought about them very much before one catapulted me into the limelight.  After all, short Jewish girls from New York don't get shot..... do they? Until my body intersected with bullets, I knew no one who had ever been shot.  Since my perforation, though, my world is peopled with such individuals.

We are old and young and every color of the rainbow and every variation of belief system and we all believe the same thing - some people should not be wielding weaponry.

We come to that conclusion from a variety of political perspectives.  There are liberal Jews and Conservative Christians who agree that being excluded from the military for mental health reasons should be sufficient evidence that one's right to bear arms should be abridged.  After all, if an organization created to use weapons of death decides that you should not be around those weapons, even within the confines of their institution, why should the rest of us allow you to walk around, armed to the teeth?

Yes, I know that making and creating that list raises the hackles of many, but the same kinds of lists exist for drivers' licenses and marriage licenses and pet ownership and, somehow, the world manages to revolve on its axis, skewed neither left nor right by the maintenance of a registry of those who live in connubial bliss or drive atop our (crumbling) infrastructure or take Pooch to the park.

If Second Amendment supporters cannot agree that the military knows more about weapon safety than they do, there is truly no arguing the point.  It seems pretty straight forward to me - if the Army doesn't want you, Cabella's should sell you a gun.

There are lists and registries and procedures in place, but the funding is lacking, the reporting sporadic, and so shooters like ours stroll into and out of the gun sellers with impunity.  Ours, like so many others, was a preventable crime, if only the existing rules had been followed.

That fact alone makes me crazy.

I don't believe that our shooter had the mental capacity or social skills to acquire an illegal weapon; he was barely able to manage his activities of daily living. And then, there were the bullets.  There were two, legally mandated, opportunities to thwart his rampage; the system failed and Christina-Taylor died.

Are we really that much safer in the ten years since the assault weapons ban was not renewed?

Extended magazines give bad guys more bullets than law enforcement; where is the logic in that?

If the Marines start marching down your street, do you honestly believe that you and your stockpile of weapons can stop them?

I signed up for a monthly donation to Gabby and Mark's Americans for Responsible Solutions, because their strategy works.  I will create an easy to find list of my representatives on the state and local levels, on paper and on-line.  I am wearing my orange American flag pin on my sweater today, and I will wear it every day from now on.  I am conquering my fear and making a stand.

What will you do?

Monday, December 28, 2015

What Happened

It was really really really cold.

Big Cuter and I covered the plants on Christmas night, and the sheets were still there tonight, Sunday, as TBG and I took out the recycling and the trash.  I love my sweaters, the few which have survived years of closet purging, and that's a good thing.  I had many opportunities to wear them this week.

When it's warmer in Illinois than it is in Arizona, it's time to consider that global climate change may just be a reality.
New thoughts were considered.

Big Cuter brought us Slate's notion that a chubby, white, bearded man as the icon of the season excludes most of the population.  Why should Santa be another instance of reinforcing I'm different?

Of course, the article suggests replacing the fellow in red with a penguin...... and I'm sorry, but that just doesn't work for me.
Social justice made an appearance.

Let Santa give your kids the modest gifts; tag the expensive ones From Mom and Dad. Not every family can afford new iPads; don't add a layer of confusion to a poor child's Christmas morning as he wonders why Santa dropped a big screen tv off at Richie Rich's house while he got a bag of M&M's.

I don't remember where I heard it, but it stopped me in my tracks.  It's a simple fix, requiring little if any mental gymnastics.  It's something that's obvious, once it's mentioned.  It's kind of embarrassing that I didn't think of it years ago.
Old friends made a surprise appearance.

TBG and I have spent many Christmases with the Golden Gopher.  We walked to the Episcopal church just down Fullerton, in the snow, caroling with TBG's parents, one Christmas Eve in the 1970's, and we welcomed him and Mrs. Gopher this year for dinner with our son.  The Gophers were on vacation in Tucson, and we all agreed that the best gift we could share was being together.

There's something beyond wonderful about 40 plus years of holiday memories.
Big issues were discussed.

The Golden Gopher took on Governor Ice Cream over his knee-jerk reaction to the resettlement of refugees..... in a newspaper interview.  The kerfuffle was meaningless - it was all bluster and no action - but noses were put out of joint and ripples were felt.

We all agreed that one of the best parts of getting older is the opportunity to retire.
Much love was shared.

Friends and neighbors and teachers and family..... brownies were given and hugs were taken and there's still more joy to come.  I'm in a retrospective mood, considering the past, looking at how it will impact my future. Listen in over this week as I make a plan.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Merry Happy Happy

By now, this is an annual tradition.
Sing well, denizens, and keep shining your light.
I give you, today, my all-time favorite Xmas carol, 
courtesy of Walt Kelly and Pogo. 
Sing loudly and lustily to the tune of Deck the Halls.....

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker 'n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof

(Picture is from Robert Sabuda's The Night Before Christmas Pop-Up Book)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

It's Christmas Eve

And I am up at 6:20am to go to the eye doctor.
Sometimes, being a Jewish girl helps on Christmas Eve.  I have no childhood memories of my own to honor.
So I go to have dilated pupils, see Star Wars, and play with Amster and the kids and my big kid.
Happy Happy.
Merry Merry.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Three Days and I'm Boring Myself

Hillary's looking motherly.  Trump is looking angry.  Ted Cruz is looking creepy.

My tree is looking lovely.  My son on the couch is a delightful sight.  My husband's smile as he watches me elf-ing warms the cockles of my heart.

And so, with my last gift wrapped and delivered, I'm taking the night off.

Have a lovely day, denizens.  Keep searching for the light; I do believe it is all around us.
If you want to read some more, click on over to where Big Cuter and I were, 5 years ago yesterday, listening to the Tuvan Throat Singers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Four Days to Christmas - Consolidating My Gains

I drove up to Mesa/Gateway Airport this morning, picking up Big Cuter and meeting TBG at the Premium Outlet Mall near home for lunch four hours later.  It was peaceful in the car, listening to Pandora's Holiday Jazz channel and cruise controlling along at 6 miles above the speed limit.

The three cars racing one another outside Casa Grande were sitting sheepishly on the side of the road several miles after they zoomed past me.  The cavalcade of motorcycles flying giant American flags, flashing lights, accompanying a big white hearse and official cars with blinking Mars Bars on their roofs speeding by us in the other direction caused all of us to slow down, just a touch.

With those two exceptions, everyone was staying to the right, passing on the left, obeying the somewhat-expanded speed limit.  The sun was overhead, there was no breeze to speak of, and my boy was behind the wheel.

It was a lovely, lovely, morning.

We shopped for TBG, I did some last minute gift grabbing, and I came home to five packages awaiting.  This year's White House ornament (Calvin Coolidge's tree) along with snacks and treats and boxes for under our tree, taped and wrapped and filled with love.

Now Big Cuter is out with a friend, TBG is watching Monday Night Football, and I am eyeing the last few presents in need of wrapping.  I have four books to read, no more brownies to bake, and sunshine in the forecast.

Life is good.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Five Days Before Christmas

These ornaments need hangers.
I could unfurl paperclips 
(in homage to Daddooooo's ingenuity)
and, perhaps, I will.
For now, I am dealing with this:
The remnants of my elfing to date.  
I am finished, having done as much as I can do.
I will pack up the Hanukkah stuff,
but I will leave the rest for any elves who might wander through between now and Thursday night.

I will take TBG to the outlet stores tomorrow; 
he will choose athletic wear which I will then purchase and wrap.
He'll lift and spin in perfect comfort, having chosen exactly what he wanted.

He'll do the same for me at my favorite local boutique,
sitting in the same comfy chair he occupies each year, 
selecting an I'd-never-buy-it-for-myself-sweater 
that I surprise myself by wearing everywhere for the next year.

There's not a lot of surprise,
and that's just fine with us.
This is the 27 year old paper plate angel made by Little Cuter.
I never looked at it without remembering our friends' basement,
the kids at little tables and big tables,
glue and glitter and sparkly paper everywhere.

The grown ups were upstairs,
but the fun and the really good snacks were in the basement.

Deadline is Today for 4 Free Disney Passes

If you go to the Jean Knows Cars Facebook page, you'll see that she is offering four one-day Disney Park passes to the winner of the Tell Me A Road Trip story contest.

I know Jean.  This is not a scam.

There are a couple of interesting stories already written; why not add yours?

The deadline is MONDAY DEC 21.

Friday, December 18, 2015

9 Days Before Christmas - The Tree

and so pictures she shall have.

There are still ornaments to be placed.
Each has a story, 
from the California Colleagues who keep us up-to-date on the White House collection,
to the couple who were married Christmas weekend, several decades ago.
We've lost track of them, but their gift-to-guests ornament reminds me of a lovely Chicago winter evening at the Three Arts Club in Chicago. 

The boxes are back in the garage and the floor is swept.
I'm taking a minimalist approach to the back of the tree this year.
It received lights but no ornaments.  
I only see three-quarters of the decor, and I don't store anything I don't want to see.
I put up everything I have, each one with a memory.

They made me replace Little Cuter's paper plate angel tree topper after 27 years of service. 
Santa's more where I am right now, I think.
There's a definite dearth of wise men following any star I can find.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ten Days and Counting

There's one last round of brownies to be mailed. There will be several trips around town to distribute the love locally. I'm making small bags to hand out to the pool guys and the mail carriers and the FedEx and UPS people. Everything I own smells of chocolate.

There are worse fates.

It was chilly as I went around town yesterday afternoon. The sun came out (finally) and it stopped raining (finally) and it was time to buy my tree (finally).

I stopped in at WallyWorld first, because they always have the best prices on Christmas trees. They were sold out. Apparently, last year they were stuck with too many trees on December 26th, so this year the manager ordered only 140 of them. They were gone on Tuesday. I had a small grinch attack, laughing with the salesman at myself.

I went to the locally owned family farm tree lot, which, it turns out, isn't exactly local. The trees and the salesman were from Oregon. This company has lots all over town, all of them advertising themselves as Tucsonans, or, at least, Arizonans. Oregon is not local, and the prices matched the sign – outrageous. I wanted a 5-6 foot Douglas fir; the taller-than-TBG seller unfurled one towering over his head as he insisted it was just a bit over five feet. Sorry, sir. I am a bit over 5' (just a little bit, but still, a bit) and that tree was going on double my size. I don't want pressure when I'm tree shopping. I want love. I left.

I drove around the block to the Faith Community Church, where Mr. 10 and I had shopped for my fir many years ago. The same delightful children were the salesforce, raising money for their summer trip to Church Camp in Mesa. There was a fire pit to take the chill off, and a raft of beautiful trees standing, open and glorious, well watered and smelling of the season.

What kind of tree are you looking for, Ma'am?

A perfect tree.

Well, we have a few of those, I think.

That's what I was looking for. Someone to enter into the spirit of the spree. With no children by my side, I had to make my own fun. Pandora's myriad holiday channels had me humming and singing in the parking lot and the church kids' enthusiasm took the edge off WallyWorld and Not-Very-Local tree lots.

The Uuv is large enough to carry a tree inside, and the king size sheet we wrapped around the branches kept all but three or four needles neatly packaged. Of course, Perfect Patty had just finished mopping the floors when I arrived home with the tree, but the broom and the vacuum made short work of the mess we created as we dragged the Douglas fir from the garage to the living room.

It sat in the corner, relaxing into its new home, as TBG and I watched television and inhaled the aroma. The branches drooped. More needles fell. We admired the symmetry and the deep green color, TBG offering advice as I sat on the floor with the Felco pruners, trimming the straggling lowest branches. This morning I put on the lights, wondering as I do every year, if there were enough of them.

To my eye, there are never enough. To TBG, it always looks perfect.

The box of ornaments, the box of nutcrackers, the box of serving platters and napkins and fancy paper plates are open and emptying. He'll watch tv and offer compliments as I stroll down memory lane, trimming the tree with gifts from family and friends, collected over the 40 years of our marriage.

There will be more in this vein in tomorrow's post, unless I am distracted by Ben Carson's moment of silence, or by Donald Trump's refusal to answer questions, or by Jeb Bush's world's-most-boring-man imitation. We shall see.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Twelve... Eleven...Ten Days Before Christmas

We're in transition around here.

FlapJilly and her parents flew back to their lives in the much-warmer-than-it-was-here-in-the-desert-this-weekend northern climes.

Hanukkah's blue and white and silver decorations have been returned to their box in the garage.

The red and green candles came out.  A tree was purchased.  Eight pans of brownies were baked, packed and mailed.  

I need a moment to clear my head.  I need to decide whether to take on the Republicans.  I need to decide whether to discuss ground troops in a land war in the Middle East. I would like to revel in the season, as so many Facebook friends do, by avoiding the real world for a few days of peace and joy.

I'm entitled to some confusion, I think.  After all, the still-to-be-born baby Jesus and his parents were on their way to be counted - Oh, no! Big Government! - two thousand and some years ago right now.
I have to think that Mary and Joseph would rather have been nesting and anticipating their new arrival with joy than traveling by ass to an overcrowded metropolis.  It's a quandary, denizens, that has long standing roots.

I'm going to muck around in it for a while.  We'll see what the next ten days bring.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Is This What It's Come To?

The pro-gun forces have a new tactic - let's arm everyone.  Instead of decrying lists and bans and gun-free-zones, they are in favor of guns everywhere.  After all, you never know when the bullets might start flying; it's best to be prepared.

The fact is that the lone armed good guy when I was shot kept his sidearm holstered, choosing a plastic lawn chair as his weapon.  Afraid of being identified as a shooter by first responders, afraid of hitting an innocent, this well-trained, long time gun owner never fired a shot.

Yes, I saw the news clip from February, 2014, applauding the mother who repelled 3 young men, returning home invaders who had been terrorizing her neighborhood for months, by warning them and then firing her small assault weapon - a gift from her husband after the thugs first visit, two weeks earlier. They were captured soon after.  I'm glad she and her children are safe; I wonder why the police were so quick to nab the perpetrators after months of failure.... or were they even trying at all?  If the neighborhood had been under siege for all that time, I'd think the police chief would be apologizing for the fact that a mom had to do his officers' job, rather than complimenting her on "doing everything right."

People are fleeing Syria because the bullets are flying.  It's not that much different here, it seems.

I spent three wonderful days watching a little one grow.  She feels safe and secure (even more so when clinging to her mother) and so did I and now not so much and I'm just not certain that I can imagine her world, where small arms training is part of kindergarten.

This is not the way it was supposed to be.  There were so many of us, Baby Booming along, preaching peace and love and understanding.  Where has that energy gone?  Why are the loudest voices those espousing divisiveness and hatred?  George Wallace made a lot of noise, but so did Eugene McCarthy.  Is it that the Democrats don't have the drama and therefore the air time? Is it that Donald J Trump and the even scarier Ted Cruz make better tv?

Is this what it's come to?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Happy Hanukkah - The Eighth Night

All eight candles are lit.  The oil has lasted all through the holiday.. albeit in the form of colorful candles.  The mystery has been remembered, the story told, the blessings sung and the love flowed.

I admit it.  I was ensorceled. The giggles and the smiles multiplied and flowed like the miraculous oil, her little hand grasping my bent finger as we toddled..... as long as Mommy was on the other side. It's quite the love affair those two have going on, and, as happy as the oil makers there, in those days, in that time, my heart swells with joy as I watch our little one attach herself like human velcro to my little one's leg.

I was in awe of the whole experience.  My human had created a human, a human who can ask for more and crackers and milk and water and, believe it or not, for night-night when she's tired.  It's even more delightful because she is as pleased with herself as we are with her.

She's shaking G'ma's honeymoon maraca, dancing and squealing at the top of her lungs.  Food and fingers are all that she's mouthing these days, so we're not worried about the toxicity of a painted coconut shell, created in Mexico in 1950.  Instead, we clap along with her prancing and plie-ing, laughing at ourselves laughing.

It's pure, unadulterated joy, a joy I'm sure that parents have experienced ever since Adam and Eve. It's why Mattithias waged wars against the Selucids; he had seven sons and seven sons worth of grandchildren and he was concerned about their future.

I look at FlapJilly, on the cusp of a world with a female POTUS (a girl can hope, no?), born into a world with an African-American at the helm. There are opportunities available to her that were only a pipe dream to me, and to Ruth Bader Ginsburg whose Notorious RBG onesie is on backorder for my granddaughter.  As Little Cuter put it, FlapJilly has to know what's important.

And what's important is basically the same now as it was in the days of the Maccabees.  Safety, security, freedom to live your life according to your own personal North Star, a life without war, a sense of purpose and the opportunity to pursue it.  I wish for her that which I wished for my own children - happy, fulfilling lives, with love and comfort and support in abundance.

Hanukkah lights are different from birthday candles in that they don't come equipped with a wish. Still as she stood at my knee, watching the tapers blossom into flame, listening to the prayers and dancing with wild abandon next to her parents as we sang Ma'otzur, I closed my eyes and pretended that the wish was welcomed.

It's been a lovely holiday.  I'm so glad that I had the chance to share it with some of my family and all of you.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Happy Hanukkah - The 7th Day

Oh, my.
I must apologize.
I have kept my Grandma SO ensorceled that she is unable to write to you.
Oh, dear.
Please, forgive us.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Happy Hanukkah - The Sixth Day

It was cloudy, but the rain held off.
The zoo takes about an hour, and there were only two other families there.
We could get up close and personal with the animals.
 which sometimes was a terrifying experience.
 We spent a lot of time watching the long tongues of the giraffes.
 Wearing a sweater created by G'ma for Little Cuter, the great granddaughter enjoyed the flamingos and the elephants and wasn't that impressed with the bears or the rhino.
The grandparents just walked along and smiled.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Happy Hanukkah - The Sixth Night

Sometimes the best presents don't need wrapping paper.

Happy Hanukkah - The Fifth Night

We're on the downward slope.  There are more days behind us than waiting ahead, and the candles are stark reminders. It's the middle, and the special here-we-go-again feeling is starting to fray around the edges.

TBG and I are waiting til half time to light candles.

Light candles.  There ought to be a the in the middle, but that's not how my Grandma said it. It's like a glazel tay... my Zaydeh's tea in a glass mug, sipped through a sugar cube held between his teeth.  I never make a cup of hot tea without calling it a glazel tay in my head.  The drink starts to work its magic before it ever passes my lips; my grandfather is sitting beside me.

But, I digress.  That's not unusual this year.  The holidays are mostly about memories.  Is that a function of age?  Is it that my kids are adults and my grandkid is blessedly unaware of the importance of gifts?

Big Cuter and I shopped together for essentials-which-were-his-holiday-gifts and he took them back with him after Thanksgiving.  He's not concerned that there won't be anything under the tree; he knows me well enough to know that socks, at least, will be waiting for him.  But the days of towers brightly wrapped wonderfulness have gone.  We miss them, but feel no need to replicate them.

The kids were raised half-and-half, and I'm willing to collect tchotchkes and decorate at any season, but the time between the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the second of  January is special.

It's our Annual Holiday Celebration Tour: whenever any two parts of our family come together we celebrate the holidays ... any and all of the holidays on The Tour.

I have gifts for FlapJilly and her parents, Christmas boxes with Hanukkah cards and some combination thereof of tissue paper. We'll eat latkes and talk about Santa, because there are a lot of them in my house right now.  No one will be confused.  Everyone will smile. 

I learned all about the melting pot that is my version of America when I was in 4th grade.  We all brought something to the stew, and together we blended into Americans,  There were no History Months celebrating our differences; there were Thanksgiving Feasts celebrating a commingling of cultures.  

I like to think that FlapJilly is the latest and tastiest serving of our fondue yet.

Fondue, heated over flames.... and I have somehow managed to bring this back to the Hanukkah lights.  

I'll be posting all through the holiday, so don't forget to come back on Saturday and Sunday, too.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Happy Hanukkah - The Fourth Night

Half the menorah is filled.

It looks vaguely unbalanced, and I am tempted to put the candles in pairs on either side of the shamash.  I like the image it conjures for me, that of the oil slithering down from the tip of the flame through the body of the beadle and out into the other receptacles, out into the world, spreading a message of hope and accomplishment and miracles and light.

As the political scene begins to unravel, as xenophobia becomes the new black, as a contender for the Presidency of the United States can suggest badges and banning and be taken seriously, I come back to these lights.

I'm gonna let it shine, this little light of mine.  Let it shine.  Let it shine.  Let it shine.

I've been repeating that to myself all day, as I cringe through Facebook and the local paper and Slate and The Huffington Post.  By moving Trump and his antics from the front page to the entertainment section, The Huff Post made a statement that I wish other news outlets would emulate.  Yes, he's the leading candidate on the Republican side, but that doesn't mean that he deserves on air promotion.

Couldn't the anchors make oblique reference to Trump's hateful speech and then move  "In New Hampshire today, Donald J Trump continued his outrageous and un-American campaign for the White House.  Because our network has a conscience, because we have read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, because we have studied history and understand the basic underpinnings of our country's birth, we will not be publicizing his rhetoric.  His words do not represent our better angels, the angels President Obama urged us to embrace back in January, 2011."

A girl can dream, can't she?

Did you see Tom Brokaw last night?  I tried to embed the link, and failed.  You can click through here, though, if you want to see a thoughtful presentation of hatred over the years Mr. Brokaw has been on the planet.  To his Hitler, Joe McCarthy I'd add Father Coughlin and FDR and the Japanese internment and sending boatloads back to Germany and the more I think about it the angrier I become.

I don't want to be angry. I want to take the time I'd spend on rage and direct it toward the Syrian refugees who will be arriving in Tucson later this winter.  I don't want to focus on the ugly side of America; I want to think of it as the kind of place the incoming refugees imagine it to be.

Humans of New York shows us that piece.  The tree in the Florida sunshine for a 10 year old's between-the-branches-adventures.  The peace to think only about milk and diapers.  The streets are not paved with gold, but they are not inlaid with IED's.... at least not yet.

I do not want to go there.  I do not want those thoughts in my head.  I want the Christmas pillows and the Hanukkah lights and the love of the season and my soon-to-be-arriving family to be bouncing around in my brain.  And so I bake brownies and hand them out to teachers and therapists and the homeless-and-harmless (or so his sign says) young man on the corner.  I wear my snazzy boots and smile at the compliments.  I walk around in a reindeer adorned sweatshirt and giggle back at the little ones who point it out to their all-too-often-too-frazzled-to-notice grown-ups.  

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.

It's all I can think of to do.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Happy Hanukkah - Third Night

Two menorahs (menorot if you are being technical, but I'd lose nine tenths of my readers with that one).  Three candles on the right side of each candelabra... or, to be precise,  the right side if you are on the living room side of the ledge.  From the hallway side, it's the left.  

The candles were refusing to stand upright; would it be too much to ask for some standardization between receptacles and Chanukah tapers?  I come to this conclusion, albeit in this era of anti-big-government-and-regulation, after spending much too much time, in two separate hours of the day, encouraging the damn things to assume the position the candelabra was suggesting but not really insisting upon.  Nor was it helping the situation; the holes are uneven in both diameter and surfaces.

That little vial of oil didn't have these issues.  It just sat there, glowing, neither diminishing nor growing, just doing its job while the Jews did theirs.  The oil had it easier; the Jews had to do the heavy lifting, creating an ongoing supply.  I wonder if the ever-burning oil felt just a little smug.

I think I am anthropomorph-izing the whole thing just a little too much.   

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Happy Hanukkah - 2nd Night

Two candles, and the shamash.  Nested next to one another, commemorating the hours that small vial of oil continued to shine brightly.

I've been holding that image in the front of my brain today.  There's so much to do, so much I want to do, so much that's going to happen, and I'm only one small person trying to tackle it all.  Little Cuter is in the same predicament; although she is marginally larger than I am, her responsibilities are more pressing.

No one is paying me to show up at 8am, no one expects me to sing her to sleep, no one has any call on my time at all, really.  And yet, the Brownie List beckons, the Stroll and Roll looms, and the stack of library books tempts.  My responsibilities trumped my desire to curl up in the sunshine with Kay Scarpetta.  I cancelled Pilates, I begged off Mah Jongg.  I sat at the dining room table and packed and labeled and stickered to my heart's content; then TBG played Rudolph to my elf and drove the big bag of boxes and me to the post office.

There's a contented sigh, and then, it's back to work.  There are dozens and dozens of boxes yet to fill.

Did the oil in the lamp worry about endurance?  Did the oil feel tempted to just slither away?  These are the thoughts one has while cutting brownie squares.... over and over and over again.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Happy Hanukah - 1st Night

Two candles.  The shamash, the beadle, the one who lights the others and stands over them, and another, over there on the left, or the right, or the middle if you've got a round menorah and I laugh at myself every year.

My father would be proud that I am lighting the candles at all.  I imagine him agreeing with the choice I made tonight: I started on the left, TBG started on the right.

Big Cuter called several times during the day, discussing football with his father, but as the sun set and the first star came out he called to say Happy Hanukkah ... and to wonder which side of the menorah....  it's the magnetic menorah he has on his refrigerator all year long, but which, for 8 days, is more than just wallpaper. It is significant, its magnetic flame should be properly placed.

Daddooooo is grinning from ear to ear right now.
No matter that this is an historical holiday, not a canonical Biblical one.  Purim and Queen Esther made the cut, but Matithias and the sons and the elephants and the caves were left out of the books the rest of the world calls the Old Testament.  It gets much more attention than it deserves.

It's a pretty cool miracle, though.  The vial of oil outlasting everyone's expectations... the little light that could.

The Light as a topic has been swirling around me.  My Professor described The Light as that which his missionary parents brought to China, that which the Gospels brought to the Galatians, that which art and theology represented in the examples on the screen. A Play Group pal wished that I might find the light after the Planned Parenthood massacre.  And now, it's Chanukah, with all those lights.

When it's right, it's right.

Friday, December 4, 2015

I Have Nothing New to Say

I wish the talking heads would stop saying the names of the shooters.
I know that their ethnic sounds are code for Radical Muslim Terrorists, or whatever the hell else the Republican candidates are worried about, but to the lonely white-boy-with-a-hoodie and a grudge and a gun, the notoriety must feel pretty sexy.
I wish there wasn't the presumption that He was in charge and that She was merely his wife. 
The talking heads are repeating his name and his wife instead of calling them The Shooters and leaving it at that.  By separating them into individuals, it's hard not to conjure up a little bit of sexism in the assumption that it was all his idea.  Women can be evil-doers, too.  
Yes, I agree, this is a strange thought to be having.
But the fact of the matter is that there is nothing new to say.  I can only follow my mind as it wanders on the edge of the abyss.
Did you know about Prayer Shaming?
The New York Daily News splashed it loud and clear on the front page, and is standing behind it despite the backlash.
Apparently, the Republicans and the Anti-My-Not-Getting-Shot-Again people are furious that the power of prayer is being disparaged, while missing the point, entirely
The Daily News and I agree that it should be possible both to pray and to pass laws preserving my right not to be perforated.  The newspaper wasn't saying Don't Pray; they were demanding that the cowards DO MORE. 
Isn't it possible for the Republican candidates to worry about Radical Muslim Terrorists invading our shores while at the same time attempting to make it more difficult for them to stockpile guns and ammunition once they are here?  
As I warned you, I had nothing new to say.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Living.... On The Edge

It's the best description I can conjure up for what she's doing.

She's battled breast cancer.  Twice.  She had ugly-scar-leaving surgeries.  She is terrified by the prospect of dealing with it again.  So, she's chosen ignorance over knowledge.

She knows the disease can return.  She knows the odds are stacked against her.  She has decided not to care.

I get it.  Completely.  Without reservations or explanations, I understand what she's doing, and why.

There's something about staring death in the face, about watching someone else pass over to where ever it is that souls travel, about being with those who've died with dignity and without fear (cf. G'ma), about coming close to the precipice and then, mercifully, retreating, that changes you.  She feels it jsut the same way that I do.

We aren't scared.  We aren't particularly surprised that more crap can fall on our heads.  It won't be surprising or unsettling or unexpected, although neither of us hopes for bad news or wants bad news or needs bad news.  We are happily enjoying the fact that the sun came up this morning and we were here to see it.

If the shit is going to hit the fan, the shit is going to hit the fan.  Certainly, Christina-Taylor's mom and I didn't know that bullets would fly when we made the plan for me to take her to see Gabby the next morning.  No one lives life expecting the worst...... well, no one with whom I want to spend any time, anyway.  And that, I think is the crux of the matter.  As G'ma replied, whenever she was asked how she kept her sunny attitude amidst memory and physical failings,, "Who wants to be around a cranky old lady?"

The answer is No One, not even the cranky old lady herself.

And that, I think, is what my friend and I are confronting, head on.  She knows the consequences of another diagnosis.  She's not interested in the fixes.  Been there.  Done that.  She wants to live until she dies and that includes not worrying about what might be.  Dying doesn't frighten her; pain and worry do.

For the pain, there will be medicine.  For the worries, we're on our own.  After the therapists and the friends and the family members have gone to sleep, we are alone with ourselves.  That has to be a comfortable spot.  There has to be a neutral center where calm prevails.  Or, as she says: I have to choose to be happy.

The edge is an uncomfortable space.  Neither of us chose to inhabit it, yet here we are.  Finding someone who understands, who accepts without judgment, who agrees with the basic principles underlying what seems to the-blessedly-uninitiated as willful denial, is a gift worth savoring.

Accepting this viewpoint requires trial by fire, I think.  For those of you who are having a hard time embracing the possibility that this is more than giving up, that this is truly valuing each day and not giving in to demons, that this is refusing to allow the disease to govern the time she has on this earth, that each and every moment will be filled with things that make her smile, that there is no putting off til tomorrow.... be grateful.

Be very, very, very. grateful

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Standing on One Leg

I haven't written about my rehab in quite a while.  As the changes become more gradual, as the impairments become less intrusive,  I notice it less and less.

When Scarlet wonders if my boots are comfy for walking, I am reminded that this is the first year in five years which has seen me wearing boots everyday.  When I scoot out of the Uuvula without raising the steering wheel or moving the seat back or thinking too hard about the transition, I often find myself smiling.

It's the subtle things that being perforated took from me which impacted my life on a daily basis. They poked my heart, reminding me of Christina-Taylor's loss and Gabby's infirmities and my own achy ass. As the twinges become less frequent, January 8th becomes less relevant.

It doesn't become less painful to think about.  It doesn't heal the permanent hole in my heart.  It doesn't lessen the terror that skinny-white-boys-in-hoodies create in my soul.  It doesn't let me sit comfortably in the middle of a crowded auditorium.  I'm still concerned about security when I'm in public spaces, it still takes me forever to cross a busy street, but it's not always there.

That's a mega-change.  When asked, I'd say that I thought about getting shot and its consequences  "all the time."  Today, I have to say that I can sometimes spend an hour or two without remembering the bullets flying and Christina dying.  I spent a delightful Thanksgiving with JannyLou and Fast Eddie and not once did sorrow darken my enjoyment of the festivities.

It's not that I have forgotten my little friend.  That, I am sure, will never happen.  Nor have I forgotten the fear and the angst and the pain.  It's just that they are moving a little bit to the side these days.  I can hold other thoughts front and center without January 8th creeping in from the edges.

Our shooting was still big news when it happened.  Now, it doesn't even make the list of Recent Mass Shootings.  There have been so many.  There has been some change; gun safety is an issue in the Presidential campaigns. Sensible candidates have been elected, and their recalls have been held off.  The NRA is not quaking in its boots quite yet, but our side is gaining traction.  The cultural changes are still lagging sadly behind.  Does NCIS have to show every character pointing a gun at me in the opening credits?  Their cast sent us a signed photo and a ball cap after the event.  I wish they had taken a look at what they could have done closer to home.  I have to fast forward through the music now.

I stood on one leg while moving the other today.  I balanced and exercised and didn't fall over.  I was scared, but I did it.  When the larger world's reluctance to recognize the enormity of the gun safety issue begins to impinge on my sanity, I remember things like standing on one leg.  I remember that I can do a plie now, without hiking my hip or hearing crunching and crackling from my joints.  Big Cuter's comment that I have more endurance and energy is one that I hold close to my heart.  He wants his mommy to be safe and whole, but I'm close enough right now for him to relax and stop watching me out of the corner of his eye.

It's a month short of 5 years since my life was upended.  I still have miles to go.  I am in pursuit of a fluid gait.  I've abandoned the wheelchair and the walker and the cane and the two hiking poles and the one hiking pole and I lost the Disabled Parking Placard and feel no need to replace it.  I still can't sit for an extended period of time, but nobody should sit still for an extended period of time.  I'm upright and moving under my own power.

For now, that feels pretty good.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Squandering Talent

All those trophies the kids got because Mom and Dad paid the league's registration fees.....

All those tests re-graded because there was a game on Friday night......

All those assemblies where Feeling Good About Yourself was the theme......

All those kudos for achievement on the field without regard to behavior in the real world.....

All that emphasis on the story, not the spelling or the grammar.....

All the understanding and the individual differences and the emotional learning......

If it's not tempered by realistic expectations and consequences when the boundaries are crossed .....

You get Johnny Manziel.