Monday, February 29, 2016

A Bad, Bad, Cold

I am rarely ill.  Hearty peasant stock is how our family refers to the fact that TBG is laid prostrate with what barely bothers me.  If I do come down with something, it doesn't last more than 24 hours.  I go to sleep and wake up refreshed and healthy.

Would that that had happened last night.

Instead, I was up every three hours, medicating and whimpering and coughing and achy.  TBG knows not to disturb me when I'm in this state; where he requires hugs and rubs, I desire to be left alone. Don't touch my fevered brow.  Just let me wallow in self-pity, and then heal.

Unfortunately, I didn't heal last night.  I woke up this morning just as congested as I was when I lay my head on my pillow last night.  I'm alternately sweating and freezing.  I can't fall asleep, but the words I'm reading in the library book are swimming in my brain, not really making connections.  I keep forgetting who the characters are.

I've picked up the pre-ordered groceries.  I'm doing laundry.  These chores were required by time and circumstance.  The fun stuff I had planned - squats at the gym, re-potting the tulip bulbs I'd forced inside, organizing the yarn and its concomitant supplies, sweeping the clutter off the desk in hopes of replacing it with some kind of order - all that is still available to be done.... if only I could muster the energy.

So, the sun is shining, the pool is welcoming and I'm slumped on Douglas-the-couch, coughing and sniffling and generally feeling wretched.  I don't think it's the flu or anything more than a common cold.  I don't think I'm going to be sick forever.  I imagine that tomorrow or the next day I'll wake up with a clear head and all the energy I need to do what I need to get done.

Unfortunately, right now that's in the future.  My present consists of super soft Kleenex and a good book I'll probably have to reread if I want to remember any of it at all.

Thanks for listening to me whine.

Friday, February 26, 2016


That's what I am.  Blank.
Scraped raw.
The tears have stopped but the ache inside is pulsing.
I could take another Ativan.
I could wallow in the misery.

No.  I will not allow him to win.

I will stop trying to let my fingers figure it out on the keyboard, because I am tired of dwelling in this space.  I am going to the garden store and I am going to buy pretty things and then I am going to play in the dirt.

I'll be back on Monday with a lighter heart.

For now, hug those you love and hold them tight.  Tomorrow is not promised; make the most of today.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

And, Once Again, PTSD Rears Its Ugly Head

It was a bright, sunny morning as the stranger and I left the gym.  I was feeling strong.  I was walking well.  I listened as she retold my story through her eyes - watching me over the years in the gym, seeing me on tv, thinking of and praying for that sweet little girl - and then I drove home.

Something was nagging at me, so I called Little Cuter for a pick me up quickie, bur she was debating taking a long, healing nap beneath her desk, battling a-flu-that's-going-around, and I fell quickly into Mommy mode.  Take yourself home. It's a public safety issue; you are infecting the others.  I never sent you to school when you were sick.... and YES you can have a note from your mommy.  TBG joined in at the tail end, just in time to hear about triumphs in the potty.

We hung up smiling, and though I pouted when I saw that the jump into the pool with my sweaty, worked out, self was thwarted by the pool guys, lovely gentlemen who had just started their weekly maintenance.  I took a shower, but it didn't do much to quell the tempest that was gathering in my brain.  TBG was napping; I came to Lenore the Lenovo to figure out what I was feeling.  I was just beginning to let my fingers do the walking when BLEEEP  BLEEEEP BLEEEEP interrupted my reverie.

We have had issues with both our alarm and our fire detectors; the sounds are the same.  With rising ire, I located the source of the noise, called the alarm company, and was walked through the dismantling of their box.  I unscrewed and unplugged and climbed up and down the ladder and then asked TBG a scheduling question  and all hell broke loose.

All those tears I'd been shedding as I started to write before the bleeping, all the missing Christina-Taylor tears, all the scared to death and cold on the cement tears, all the loss and the sorrow and the unfairness of it all came roaring out of the center of me.

Unfortunately, TBG was the only one around.

One good turn begets another, and soon we were competing for loudest and saddest and then, when he caught up to me and we both realized the cause, we were competing for emptiest soul.

We're fine, now.  Please don't worry, not even a little bit.  Unfortunately, we are getting pretty good at shortening the episodes and acknowledging the chemical reactions behind the metallic taste in my mouth from the adrenaline as the PTSD kicks in and the brain is overtaken but a force stronger than I am, most of the time.

It's not as bad as it could be. It happens ever less frequently.  It still sucks.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Enduring Characters

Phrynne flew off to America in her bi-plane, and TBG and I had to accept the sad fact that we had watched, albeit unknowingly, the last episode of the last season of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.
We were bereft.

We felt this way when Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night and then Studio 60 vanished after their short visits, too.  We kept the characters around, whether the television was on, or not.  We watched live sports and wondered what Dan might have to say on the subject, as if the fictional talking head might appear at any moment on our screen.

Well drawn characters do this to us, and they always have.  Just ask TBG about his burial plan; you can read the description he recites from memory in Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter:The Martian Series.  In the actual event of his death, wiser minds will surely prevail.  Still, I have no doubt that someone will mention the marble slab and the door, bolted only from the inside.

Jo March's adventures in writing sit in a small corner of my brain every time I type to you.  I see her, long dark hair pinned up, fingers blue with ink, knees to her chest in the corner, scribbling furiously. I can sometimes channel that energy.  My fingers fly over the keyboard, trying to catch up with themselves as my mind smiles at the words appearing on the screen.  I'm as happy to press Publish as Jo was to mail off her manuscript; she's often with me as I hit the final Enter.

And I remember how sad I was at the end of Little Women.  Sure, there were others in the series, but I wanted more of the very same.  And so, in the 6th grade, a friend and I started reading it in a continuous loop.  Three times.... six times.... over and over and loving it more with every iteration.  When the Cuters were small and requesting the same book over and over and over again, I took a deep breath, remembered the March girls, and started again... "Pickle things you never see....."

Right now two 30-somethings are intoning " pickles on a Christmas tree!"  and that's exactly the point.  Good characters become part of the ongoing story line of our lives, even if those characters are green and knobbly.

Waiting for FlapJilly to come back and read it, too!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Old Fashioned Gardening

If you are still freezing, caught in the grip of a polar vortex, I apologize for this post. We, the gardeners of Tucson, are in lust, thanks to the luscious, warm sunshine. With temperatures in the 70's and 80's, it's hard to stay inside.

Unfortunately, the garden store's offerings reflect the calendar more than my desire. They had petunias and calibrocha and violas and gazania, but they'd been there all winter, too.
I bought some, because I needed something to plant with my new bag of soil , but I left the nursery resigned to the fact that I would have to repot and deadhead and prune rather than plant anything new and exciting.
Kneeling on my Happy-Birthday-Mommy-present from many years ago, I swiveled around, in search of a trowel.  The first one (bottom right) had too large a scoop; the second one had a string through the handle..... 
and that was the end of gardening for a long while.

I sat in the potting shed and looked around.  My parents were everywhere. Not only in the ancient trowel with the Daddooooo-drilled hole-in-the-handle for the hanging cord, but in his ball peen hammer, my most used tool.

I tried to open the potting soil with the point of his weed killer, and I failed.
I took some time to admire the fact that he had painted not only the handle, but the business end of the tool, as well.  Was it Rustoleum or was it a flowering of his inner artiste?  
Probably, a little of both.  

 Having failed with the pointed pick, I resorted to G'ma's utility scissors.
They live in my potting shed these days, but anyone who was ever in my mother's kitchen remembers cutting chicken parts and opening jars with these scissors.  Sixty-some years old, and they made fast work of the built-to-last- bag.

My 25 year old bonsai shears have been repaired twice.

The kids and I bought the sign

 when we were in LA for Sammy's Daddy's Bar Mitzvah.  It sat proudly among the tomatoes and the squash and the lettuce on Long Island, and came back with me to California. Now, we are in Tucson, Daddy, and......

after a moment or two with one another.....

 I placed the newly planted (soon to be) hanging basket on the seat of the Testa Rossa he made so that Big Cuter could have his own Ferrari, and a fancier one than Dad's, at that. 
My father was everywhere, from the license plate he found for Big Cuter to the key chain he received in return.
I saved them both, just as he saved this ruler -
the one both my brother and I 
used in elementary school.

It was a simpler time; the smallest unit we needed was the inch.
Mail was delivered into this -
which also moved from Oceanside, New York to Tucson, Arizona
along with all those tools
and all those memories.

It may be too early to do any real planting, but it's never too early for remembering.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Tucson's Jewish History Museum

Scarlet and I went to the Grand Opening Celebration of Tucson's Jewish History Museum on Sunday.
 The building started life as the first Jewish synagogue in the city.
It went through several other uses, including a squatters' hovel, 
before being refurbished with beauty, outside
 and in.

We skipped the speechifying, 
opting to stroll the neighborhood of small, older, refurbished stuccoed homes. 

We did wait in line as small groups were admitted to the small sanctuary, 
once the home to Tucson's only congregation.
As anyone who has ever belonged to a modern synagogue will not be surprised to hear, 
it was soon joined by another congregation, made up of those disaffected with the first.
Time passes, but nothing changes.

The open room contains the bare trappings of its religious heritage,
pews and a small bimah (podium) which seemed inappropriate to photograph, 
and artifacts from the time of its creation.

The photographs and medals and letters were explained with modern technology,
but some items spoke for themselves.

This goat cart belonged to the family which spearheaded the synagogue's creation.
I'm not sure how it's relevant to being Jewish in Tucson, 
but I've never seen a goat cart and it made me smile.

 This manicure set journeyed from the Warsaw Ghetto to the desert Southwest.
In itself, it's not that much different from the tools used today.
The fact that they were important enough to be carried to freedom gave us cause for pause.

 These are the ladle and cup of a Jewish prospector.
Nicknamed The Wandering Jew, he established several mines in the area.
No, I didn't think about Jewish miners before this afternoon.
Their presence shouldn't be a surprise, but it's never been part of my narrative.

History is catching up with me.
Artifacts from 1976 made the curatorial cut. 

So did this picture drawn by another founding family member.
I'm not sure of its historical significance, 
but it fit right in with the rest of the afternoon.

It was a slice of Tucson, where the personal is lovingly shared,
an event filled with people of a certain age greeting even older friends, 
of multi-generational Hispanic families and of hipsters on bicycles 
and of children who wanted to be anywhere but there.
Parking was easy, admission was free, and there was a small but lovely gift shop.
We finished the tour in under an hour, and left with smiles on our faces.
It was totally Tucson.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Happy Birthday, G'ma

This is how she looked when she met my father.
This is how she looked when she lived in Tucson.

I never knew the first woman.
I enjoyed meeting the second woman, 
the one whose memory was failing but who always knew that I loved her.  

Some things never changed.
There was always a straw in her Diet Sprite.
Her purse was always over her shoulder (see blue strap, above).
She was cold, but never wore a hat - "I don't look good in hats!"

There were some things she never forgot.
Good grammar was imperative and bad grammar demanded correction
Yellow was her favorite color and  chocolate was her favorite food.
Wrinkles and sagging hems were unacceptable; she made her opinions known even when she was no longer in charge of choosing the outfits herself.

Today would have been her 93rd birthday.

I'd have brought her a prune danish for breakfast, accompanied by a gardenia corsage on the tray.
I'd have taken her out for a tuna-and-tomato-on-toast for lunch.
We'd have shared shrimp for dinner.
We would certainly have stopped for some chocolate ice cream along the way.

By the end, there were no books to share nor Scrabble to play.
There was her shell and her soul and the connection between the two became more tenuous with every passing day.

But now, on her birthday, I remember the smiles and the advice and the kisses.
Oh, the kisses.
She had the softest skin to receive my love.

I'm kissing the air right now, sending the love out into the ether.
Wherever she is, I know she's feeling it.
She's my mom.
We're attached, forever.

Happy Birthday, Mommy!
I hope that there is chocolate in heaven.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Campaign 2016 - A Sudden Realization

I'm actually interested in the outcome.

I watched in horror as the clown car careened on a path to self-destruction, finding that the RNC was not as terrified as I was, listening to them vowing to support the candidate, whoever he might be, even when it looked like the candidate would be Donald J Trump.

I watched and listened and I really didn't care.

I tried to justify supporting Hillary, even when I didn't trust her. As the long, oh so very very very long run up to Iowa and New Hampshire and when did it become a surprise that Bernie would do well in a neighboring state....  I still really didn't care.

I wasn't worried, after all.  Hillary was the only Democrat anyone could find and she handily trounced any and all of the clowns in nationwide polling.  I could vote without doing anything more than my usual exhortations to Get Out and Vote and be satisfied with the outcome.

Now, Ted Cruz is polling better than Donald J Trump and Bernie is a real presence.

Now, I have to pay attention.  TBG wonders if I would vote for Senator Sanders; "I'm certainly not voting for Ted Cruz!!"  The fact of the conversation itself was noteworthy.  There was tension in our voices.

Senator Sanders thinks my husband sucks.  He's tarring all of Wall Street with the same broad brush, and it's sweeping all nuance out of the way.  His position is actually one which TBG could embrace; he's in favor of reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act (click here for the explanations) and begins his position paper with a phrase I've been hearing from my husband for more than a decade:
1. Too-big-to-fail banks are bigger, riskier, and more ungovernable than ever(.)*
Why can't my open-minded, socially conscious, fiscally responsible spouse hear the argument?  I think it has something to do with the way the message is delivered.  In this instance, context is everything. 

I'm involved in the conversation, now, at least with the Democrats.  There is research to be done.  There are opinions to be sought and decisions to be made.  It's going to take time and effort and energy, all of which I'd hoped to avoid.

Still, as I told Big Cuter tonight on the phone, it's a nice problem for me to have, especially on the eve of G'ma's birth:
When I was faced with a ballot featuring unknown names running for a variety of judge-ships, G'ma's advice was simple:  "Always vote for the women and the Jews."
 I promise, Mommy, I will.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

May We Have the Herding Group in the Ring, Please?

Waiting for the pool to warm up.  Cleaning the kitchen after an evening and morning of cooking and baking.  Folding towels while Perfect Patty folds the bike shorts (a talent which escapes me).  One's mind tends to wander while performing mindless tasks.  Supreme Court nominees, nail polish colors, flowers for the containers outside...... there was nothing of great import running through my brain until TBG changed the channel and there it was:  The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Little Cuter loved watching this.  We'd record it and spend hours reviewing the coats and the tails and the gaits.  Her green, hard cover Ultimate Dog Book was by her side; confirming the announcer's descriptions.  We had allergy restrictions so dander was always an issue, but that didn't stop us from admiring the collies and the St. Bernards and the other fluffy four footed creatures prancing on the green carpet.

Murphy, the world's stupidest dog, usually curled up on the couch next to us. He was sweet and loving but definitely not show dog material.  There wasn't very much going on behind his eyes, not much beyond sit-and-stay and Murphy-there's-cheese-on-the-floor.  G'ma tried to teach him to fetch, and after 45 minutes of laughing and coaxing and guffawing and tantalizing she threw up her hands and agreed : This is a dumb dog.

We loved him then and we love him in memory. That seems to be the dominant emotion at Westminster, too.  Everyone loves the dogs and the handlers and the judges.  There's no snarkiness, beyond reminding humans that terriers have minds of their own, and don't take kindly to intrusions.  "They allow you the illusion of assuming that THEY are living with YOU, when it's obviously the opposite."

There are Bergamasco, sheep herding dogs, who live in Brooklyn and poodles who live on hobby farms.  There are dogs created for specific jobs - Bouvier de Flandres as a milk truck dog - and dogs whose sole purpose in life seems to be to snuggle.  There are furry dogs who don't shed but need lots of grooming, and short haired dogs who freeze in Minnesota.

There are biblical dogs, like the Canaan dog, who were wild and then domesticated.  There's nothing extra on that breed; it's been fine tuned over the millenia.  That's not the only ancient dog showcased at Westminster.  The are records of Cardigan Welsh Corgis as far back as 1200 BC.

I want them all. Even the ones who shed, the ones who need lots of exercise, the ones who are determined to train me as I try to train them.  I'm not sure that I'd feel the same if they actually arrived om my doorstep, but it's shows like these that make me rethink my decision to pare down my responsibilities.  It would be nice, I tell TBG, to have four feet and a wagging tail to greet us as we came through the door.

He reminds me that we have a dog - our granddog, Thomas Hawkeye, the multi-ethnic rescue hound SIR and Little Cuter keep around for Grandpu to take on walks.  "When we miss him, we can visit him.  When we're done, we can leave."

That's our plan for now, anyhow.  After all, he's the perfect beast.
Cautious Optimism

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

TBG has had enough and he's not gonna take it any more.  He's offended by what passes for representative democracy in the USofA today.  Riding the crest of the positive response to his rant on Hats, he's moving on to form his own political party.  Here is his rant.

Guns and Bagels

This is The "I don't want to get shot today" Party.  
Why doesn't anybody else say that?

And as to bagels, I want one.

I want a bagel and I don't want to get shot.

That's my position and I'm sticking to it.
Honestly, it makes as much sense as arguing about Henry Kissinger or contemplating a Trump presidency.  Guns and Bagels..... I'll bring the cream cheese, please leave the weaponry at home.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Enjoy "Presidents" Day

This was first published in 2011.  It's one of my favorite rants.
Mary Ball Washington gave birth to a boy child on February 22, 1732. Unlike many of the stories surrounding this man (think cherry trees and coins across the Potomac and standing up in an open boat as it crossed the Delaware) this is an indisputable fact.

Mary was not in labor on the third Monday of February.  She produced her child on a specific day - the 22nd day of February.  His birthday didn't move around with the vagaries of the federal holiday calendar.

Nancy Hanks Lincoln met her second son, Abraham, 207 years ago today.  Like Mrs. Washington before her, she was not in labor on an indeterminate day sometime in the middle of the month.  It occurred on a certain day, a day formerly commemorated by school children and mail carriers alike.

Alas and alack, these fine gentlemen have been conflated into Presidents and their birthdays combined into a generic celebration designed primarily to afford employees the opportunity for a 3-day weekend in the middle of the winter. What was wrong with the old system, I wonder?  As an elementary school kid I looked forward to those random days off in the middle of the month.  One day, breaking up the routine.  One celebration for each president - pennies examined on the 12th, leadership and lying (not) on the 22nd.

There was no time for a weekend away (not that G'ma and Daddooooo could have afforded to take us anyplace anyhow) and there was no competition between students for who went the furthest and had the most fun.  It was an opportunity to go sledding at Bethpage (the Black Course was used for many things in my youth; this was the best of them) or to meet friends at the bowling alley and then walk to Smiles (our precursor to a 5-and-dime) where we cruised the aisles until our parents picked us up.

It was grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon on the side, eaten on paper plates and accompanied by the admonition Don't Tell Daddy since the bacon was not exactly kosher and he cared a lot more than did G'ma.  There were snow forts to be built, snowball fights to be fought, snow men to be built. The entire neighborhood roamed from front yard to front yard, creating and tumbling and finding warmth and drinks and the occasional bathroom in whichever house we happened to be in front of when the need arose.

And now?  Now President's Day is always an event.  It's a long weekend for which plans must be made.  It has no intrinsic meaning, no relationship to George or Abe or any of their colleagues.  Their faces are used to advertise white sales and car sales and furniture sales and The History Channel runs back to back episodes of The Presidents but that's about the size of the historical component.  What began as tributes to great men has devolved into spending opportunities for the masses.

Am I bitter?  You bet.  A day off followed by another one 10 days later.... what better way to combat the winter doldrums than that?  A random day, a day to cuddle under the blankets with your sweetie or to do all that laundry that interfered with your weekend plans and so still sits in the basket, mocking you.  A day to explore the neighborhood and have lunch in that place you've driven by 100 times before..... a day just to be.

Sometimes, when I was a girl really was better.

Be Sure To (continue scrolling down or click back) Read Yesterday's Post - My Valentine's Edition - it's a once in a blog-time Sunday post.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentines Day from Amphi Middle School

GRIN went to the cafeteria on Friday.
We set out the supplies on the wrapping paper.
We had four table tops instead of our usual two,
we had students on both sides of the tables,
 and still they were shoulder to shoulder.
 They were cooperative
 and eager to share.
 Many of the boys were as willing as the girls
although some preferred to supervise.
 There was much admiration (see left, below)
 and much kibbitzing (see right, below)
 and there were tutus.
Many, many tutus.

The GRIN volunteers were fascinated by this homemade creation.
 and with the elephant.
With some help figuring out the heart shaped punches 
and some time spent pondering the state of the world
they went to work
and stickering
and peeling the backs off those delicious foam hearts.
Did I mention that they were delicious? 
There were crowns
worn proudly and happily.
The Valentine's Day Dance was starting after one more period 
and some were clearly thrilled with the prospect. 
 The GRIN volunteers were unanimous in our support of the crowns.
Grandma (that's me) had stickers that looked like bandaids.
They proclaimed Ms Suzi says: I am a Superstar at Amphi Middle School.
Apparently, they work as well on the cheek as on the chest. 
There were a variety of reactions to May I take your picture?

Some were too busy creating to pose. 

The finished products speak for themselves:

After a special shout out to the custodial staff who shlepped and swept and wiped and smiled as we created a pink and white and red mess on the floor....  
a mess from which we walked away... 
sharing our favorite wonderful moments... 
when we passed Mr. T, the Assistant Principal,
and his cafeteria-made Valentine.

That smile right there.....
that's why we do what we do.