Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Rant

Actually, it's going to be more of whine.  I apologize in advance. 

It's a busy travel day for those I love. I'm happy for all of them. I'm sad for myself. Please, allow me to wallow in self-pity for a moment.

Amster is taking the boys to Disneyland for a long weekend, end-of-Spring-Break, treat. Two other families are joining the fun. I was invited, but large public spaces and I have had an on-again/off-again relationship since I was perforated.  I ruefully refused the invitation and so, off they went, at noon today, in a mini-van caravan to The Most Wonderful Place on Earth. 

 Pictures have been promised, and I'll share their joy vicariously. Still, not having my favorite little boys around, missing my favorite spur of the moment lunch partner.... I'm a little bit sad.

Big Cuter will be in Vienna when you read this post. I've worried aloud already; his text that he's safely landed at Dulles in D.C., followed by the one telling me he was safely on the plane to Vienna reassured me while also remnding me to worry.  

I want him to have a great time, to teach and learn and grow and smile; I just wish I could encase him in a protective bubble while he's doing that.

And then there are Dr. K, who is packing the car, and Not-Kathy, who finishing the last of her work emails, as I type to you.  I'm on the couch of the apartment they've occupied for the past 6 weeks, bemoaning the fact that there won't be another lazy Wednesday afternoon like this for a very long time.

It's time for them to go home; I just don't want them to leave.

Everyone is focused on the future, and I am in the uncomfortable position of not wanting anything to change.  I want the world to stop, to stand still, to just let me be for a minute.  I like having the kids around, I like my son in relative safety, I like my friends living at the corner of I'm-there-every-day and It's-on-the-way.

There. I said it. I feel much better.  

Thanks for listening.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Soccer, Redux

Twenty-two years ago, the blonde bride refused to get out of the car. It was the first soccer practice of the year, two weeks before school started.  She was new to town and knew no one.  And so, there stood her mother, totally perplexed.

If the kid didn't want to play, she didn't want to play.  That was fine.  She didn't have to participate if she didn't want to participate. The team had yet to meet; she hadn't made a commitment. She'd be disappointing no one.   Her mom could drive her home and that would be that.

Except, the kid did want to play.  She just didn't want to get out of the car.

She was good at the game and she liked running around and there was the uniform and the cheering and it was all to no avail.  On the field side of the car, looking down on the gathering eight year olds, her mom was out of ideas.  She sighed.

It was a loud sigh, or maybe I just happened to look up, but we were friends from the moment our eyes met.  She shrugged her shoulders, I trotted up the hill to ask if I could help, and she pointed inside her car.  There was the problem, dressed and ready, but firmly planted.  Unmoving and unhappy, she was having no more of me than her mother ... but I had a plan.

Back down the hill, I, the Team Mom, beckoned the girls into a circle and explained the situation.  A team mate was having trouble summoning up the courage to meet them.  She was new, she was anxious, and they could help.  I barely finished the facts, hadn't gotten further than "Why don't you all...." when they took off up the hill and surrounded her car.

They flung open the doors and pushed and pulled her, laughing and tugging and leaving her no choice. She was one of them, and they were delighted to point it out to her.

Our left-footed striker shared travel and teams and games with Little Cuter from then until they graduated from high school.  Her mother and I forged a friendship that's more like a sisterhood; with busy husbands, we were always the other's Person In Case of Emergency.  We camped together and shared Thanksgiving cranberry relish and watched the girls marry and prosper.

It all began with soccer.

And so, when Little Cuter sent me this picture I forwarded it immediately.

There's my girl, reassuring her daughter that it's okay to be thoughtful before rushing off into a new activity.

I can hear her saying that those were certainly new kids and teachers, but they looked like they were having a lot of fun.

The feet are ready, the body is ready, but the hands are still holding on.  She's curious.  She wants to play.  She's good at the game (well, okay, at kicking and running) and there is that great uniform and Mommy and Daddy will clap for her.

SIR captured the tug of emotions perfectly.

I was there, twenty-two years ago.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Worrying Like a Mommy

Big Cuter's work is taking him to Vienna tomorrow.

Vienna is in Europe.  IS is bombing metro stations and airports and hotels catering to tourists in Europe.

But those two sentences together, and you can see why I am worrying like a mommy.  My big boy is going to a continent that has fewer good guys with guns (as if I believed that would keep him safe) and fewer police concentrating on stopping random acts of terror (as if I believed that would keep him safe) and less sharing of information between the entities responsible for the safety of the general population (as if I believed that would keep him safe).

He'll be surrounded by a group of young, well-groomed, American law stude nts who, I hope, will be smart enough not to advertise their country of origin by wearing logo t-shirts and caps as they compete and carouse.  During our involvement in  Viet Nam, I was encouraged to be Canadian as I left JFK for Amsterdam.  I wish there were a similarly easy way to insulate him from violence as we engage radical Islamic terrorism (thanks, Ted Cruz, for telling me exactly who they are).

Last night, my boy agreed to be vigilant.  He agreed to let me worry.  He told me he loved me.  I don't suppose I can ask for more.

But I'm still stuck.  What kind of a world am I leaving for FlapJilly and her generation?  Will they ever be carefree?  Will they shout their allegiances from the rooftops without worrying about reprisals?  Will hate speech be part and parcel of her public life, or will kindness prevail?

We are all in this together.  Mark Kelly and Americans for Responsible Solutions send me emails every day, reminding me of victories achieved and asking for funds to further the cause.  Planned Parenthood and Emily's List and Arizona List all have agendas which require money. Ann Kirkpatrick tells me that she is in a neck and neck race to replace John McCain... and she needs my help.  Victoria Steele would like to replace Martha McSally.... with my help.

There's only so much money to go around.  There is only so much time I can devote to ranting and raving, to making phone calls, to writing political screeds, to haranguing my friends.  There's a life to be lived, friends to be visited, granddaughters to love.  I can't spend my life worrying about what's wrong and how to fix it.... yet if I don't, who will?

Am I in overload mode?  Is the weight of the world on my shoulders?  The level of vitriol and violence in our world today is terrifying in a much more personal sense than it was when I was The Cuters' age.  I didn't worry about going out to a movie or to a rally or a parade; I was in America and I was safe.

That was, of course, before 9/11, before I was perforated  As Big Cuter pointed out, my worrying about his travelling to Europe has a bit of absurdity attached to its loving tails; my life was changed at a grocery store on a sunny, Saturday morning.  Avoiding danger has become impractical if not impossible.

And so, I send my first born off into the world with love and best wishes and a gunny sack of fear on my back. I don't know why I'll breathe easier when he's back in San Francisco.  I just know that I will.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Grammatical Snippet

In a rant on Donald Trump and AIPAC, I referred to the frighteningly real candidate for President as Mr. I'm-My-Own-Advisor.

At least, I tried.

I typed it, and Lenore the Lenovo's grammar consultant went into a red ziggy frenzy.  The Grammarian In Charge looked at that last word and she wanted that o to be an e.  She was brooking no resistance.

I went to dictionaries, both on-line and on paper, and was told that the o is less prevalent than the e but that both are appropriate.  I am free to choose.

I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering why advisor looked more Presidential. Adviser seems less important to my eye, for no reason that I can conjure.  An adviser can be your barber; an advisor sounds as if she's trained for the role.

I gave in and used Adviser in that post; but it's been bothering me ever since.  This is my attempt to set things right.

This is where my brain goes when all my teams are losing.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Happy Easter Weekend

I wrote this last year and I am resurrecting it here.
It's everything I love about The Burrow - family, deep thoughts, and a smile
Happy Day Off From Work to those observing Good Friday (by choice or executive fiat).

Happy Easter to those who believe,
to those who like getting dressed in frilly finery,
to those with great hats,
and to those thinking deep thoughts.
At an early age, Big Cuter wanted to know why that guy has a towel and nails through his hands when we were confronted with Marc Chagall's White Crucifixion at the Art Institute of Chicago. His query highlighted the central problem I had with teaching the Cuters about Easter.  I was stuck between bunnies and lambs and a crucifixion. 
Nannie was eager to help, but she, too, was flummoxed.The bookstores didn't offer much.  Their descriptions of the Last Supper and The Passion and The Resurrection were either glossed over or overly grotesque for a sensitive, half-Christian, half-Jewish, little boy.  
We decided to stick with the bunnies and rebirth.  It was spring, after all.
Passover presented some of the same issues.  Why did God want to kill little boys, my own son wondered. Walk softly and carry a big stick came to mind as an answer, but it wouldn't do much to assuage his worry.  He was, after all, a first born son.  We wondered about a merciful God, about a righteous God, about a jealous God before the soup was served.  
I didn't worry about those issues when I was a child.  I thought it was weird that someone could die and be reborn, but if my Catholic girlfriend thought it was true, then who was I to argue?  Weird worked through elementary school.  
By the time I was in high school, I was doubting the whole religion thing in general, and was able to ascribe my problems with the stories to a problem with mythology in general.  I didn't give the Bible more credence than Edith Hamilton's Mythology.
Now there's FlapJilly and I'm faced with the same dilemma.  I asked her other grandmother, a Christian of many perspectives, if she had any ideas, but, sadly, MOTG was as lost last year as were Nannie and I, decades ago.

Once again, there were those bunnies.
Is that what faith is all about?  Believing that which is awkward because God is somehow involved?  If I had faith, perhaps I would know the answer.  But, I don't.  
So I am left with eating unleavened bread as I contemplate the Resurrection.  I wonder if the disciple to Jesus's right in The Last Supper really was Mary Magdalene.  I posit interesting tides and the parting of the Red Sea.  I dip my pinky in a wine glass and recount the ten plagues visited upon Egypt, and then I wash them off the plate and eat dinner.
It's not exactly what Sunday School or Hebrew School hoped for, but it's all I've got at the moment.
I'll celebrate by planting more pink and white  blossoms in my containers.  I'll watch the leaves appear from the bulbs planted years ago, and I'll concentrate on rebirth and miracles.  
And I'll try not to be angry at the bunnies eating the petunias.  It's their holiday, after all.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

"No" Is a Complete Sentence

To the 7 people who saw this title and nothing more yesterday, here's the rest of the story:

The Lady Lawyer said it at lunch, and I stopped chewing.

"Say it again," I asked and she did and Amster tried to explain it further and we both turned and said "No is a complete sentence!"

It's a powerful concept.

Apply it to sexual power and it obviates the need for explanations.  No means No; it is complete within itself.  Don't ask why or what about; No is a complete sentence.

But it became more interesting the more I thought about it.  Narcissists can suck the life out of you; remembering that No comes with its own period can be a tool to break the cycle.  Refusing to engage is the best strategy, but sometimes its just too hard to turn your back.  No and nothing else might be a way to take care of all the pieces of yourself until you are ready to walk away.

Being able to say No to a restaurant which allows guns and alcohol or guns and pancakes or guns and anything ought to be dispositive.  My whole sad story shouldn't enter into it; I'm a member of the I Don't Want to Get Shot Today party and my No ought to be taken as enough.  Explanations are for those who think drunks and weapons make a wonderful combination.  I'm weary of explaining it.  I'm going to say No and leave it at that.

The brevity of the word acts as a full stop. The listener is brought up short.  This is a different No than the one in No, thank you.  This one says that I am done, finished, unwilling to pursue the conversation.    

Being able to stop at No might not work if you're trying to teach a lesson, but remembering that No is a complete sentence might stop you from trying to reason with a 2 year old.  Sometimes they're going to need No and nothing more.... well, that and a big hug until the tears stop.

No is the best answer to Ted Cruz's plan for surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods.  Anyone who needs more than that is unlikely to listen, anyway.  No is perfect in response to ad hominum attacks on candidates' wives and children.  No should have been said to Adrian Peterson when he came at his son with a stick and No is my response to everything Donald Trump has said in his campaign thus far.

It's remarkably liberating.

Of course, it's important to remember that Yes is a complete sentence, too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Happy Ladies Playing Cards

There were twelve of us today, filling all three of the tables in Miss Margaret's large living space.  There's a fourth table in the formal living room, but we have yet to expand there.  The woman is prepared for every eventuality.

The snacks are whatever we bring; today there were strawberries and cookies and homemade snicker doodles created by the birthday girl, herself.  We are always celebrating something or other. We sing, loudly and off-key, and make the celebrant blush, then pick up the cards and continue the games.

It's Hand and Foot, a variation of Canasta, that keeps us out of trouble on Tuesday afternoons.  In partnerships at tables of 4 or as singles at tables of 3, we shuffle five or six or seven decks of cards over and over and over again, sharing health concerns and weather woes and grandchildrens' triumphs (okay, that's mostly me bragging about FlapJilly, but really, can you blame me?)

Red threes are special in this game, and they accumulate in distinct piles as the game goes on. Mixing them well is crucial, and humans seem to do a better job than the automatic shuffler.  So, we cut and sproing and cut and sproing and then we cut and give half the pile to the person on our left, or on our right, or sometimes we crash in the middle of the table and the cards go flying.

It's that kind of a game, with the red threes interspersed and no one every caring very much at all.

Like backgammon, it's equal parts strategy and luck.  Sometimes those threes find themselves nestled one beside the other, and sometimes they are hiding from everyone.  To say that we anthropomorphize the cards would be grandiose.  It might be more accurate to say that we have, from time to time, deeply personal relationships with individual numbers.

Today it was 4's.  They came in waves, they were conspicuously absent, they reappeared when we least expected them and then they wouldn't stop.  We were invested in them, whether we were collecting them or not.  It's a friendly game, albeit, at times, a ruthless one.

There's fiendish delight in sticking the others with points and cards in their hands.  There's glee when things go our way, and there is pouting and much shaking of heads when they don't. TBG sends me off to win every week; his disappointment when I am less than completely victorious is every bit as lugubrious as our pouts.

Caring about something which is essentially meaningless may be the definition of fun-in-retirement. My weeks always come back to Tuesday afternoons at Miss Margaret's kitchen table, or nestled beside her bookcase, surrounded by laughter and stories and friends.

It's not called The Happy Ladies Club for nothing, after all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Political Snippet - Trump and AIPAC

It's not that he sounded reasonable while reading from the teleprompter, although he did, in a creepy sort of look-at-me way.

It's not that he blames Iran for everything except global warming.

It's not the megalomania on display; Mr. I'm-My-Own-Adviser just can't help himself. His narcissism is fed by the media beast, and my worry for him is only that his head might actually explode.

No, what's terrifying about Donald Trump's speech at AIPAC is the fact that people are applauding.  They are applauding loudly.  They are applauding after every sentence with a buzz word... and that's every sentence for the first ten minutes before we just had to turn it off.

The man who wants to deport millions and targets ethnic differences with scurrilous, venomous attacks, the man who asked his minions to raise their right hands in solidarity ... Jews are applauding this man.

It boggles the imagination.

Monday, March 21, 2016

March Madness - Snippets for the Water Cooler

Once again, Ashleigh Burroughs comes to the rescue of those who are sports deprived, who are untutored in the ways of the round orange ball, who are uninterested on their own but who would like to participate, even if only peripherally, in the conversation.

These few bits of information should keep you comfortably in the conversation, without taxing your brain very much at all.
Out of the millions of humans who completed brackets on ESPN's website, none are perfect after the first round.

None.  No one made all the right choices.  Warren Buffet's offer of $1,000,000 to any of his employees who had a perfect score sheet at the end of the tournament is moot.
Neither Arizona nor Michigan State nor West Virginia made it out of the first round.

Was Wichita State really an 11 seed?  Where is Mid Tennessee State? Does anyone else know that Stephen F. Austin was a teacher's college when it was founded in Nagodoches, Texas in 1923?  Does anyone else care?
I, naturally, put my heart above my head and had Arizona going to the Elite Eight; I really did expect them to show up and play on Thursday evening.

Unfortunately, Wichita State had something to prove, having to play in the Round of Four, held before the actual tournament began.  The core of their team had been sidelined for most of the season with injuries; they were certainly healthy as they stomped my Wildcats.  Watching the seniors walk off the court for the last time was heart wrenching, but without a point guard they were toast.
I liked watching the smart kids play ball during the Yale/Duke match up.

It made me smile to hear the Eli's taunting the Blue Devils with shouts of safety school.
The players have looked like babies for years, ever since Big Cuter graduated from college.  When he began to notice their youthful miens, I began to recognize that the coaches were also getting younger and younger.

Nothing like a bit of perspective to put me in my place.
And, saving the best for last, we come to the Indiana Hoosiers.  Little Cuter and SIR and FlapJilly have all put their team in the winner's circle, and, right now, that doesn't look all that unlikely.  They have to get past North Carolina, but I have confidence in their ability to push Intrepid Cat's Tarheels out of the way.

The best part of this tournament is the familial rivalries it engenders.  Those big state schools attracted my kid and my brother's kids and now we get to revel in the reflected glory.  Tuition never smelled as sweet.
These are Yogi Ferrell's sisters, making a point for themselves as Yogi led his Hoosiers to victory.  

 Little Cuter loved the verbiage, as did, I am sure, all little sisters everywhere. Family.  It's all about family. That's why I have saved hard copies of our NCAA tournament picks going back to the 1990's.  It's our history, and it makes us smile.
This should hold you through the week.  I'll update you when the games resume on Thursday, for the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight over the weekend.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Politics, Persuasion, and Journalism

Listening to The Diane Rehm Show this morning, I realized that my vacation from the real world must end.  Jorge Ramos, the Univision news anchor who was unceremoniously booted from a Trump press conference, was making a clear and compelling case for shouting from the rooftops.  He's right. There is no time left for complacency.

Or, as Mr. Ramos wondered this morning, where were the outraged journalists nine months ago? Trump's remarks were reported ad nauseum, but without any condemnation from the talking heads. The time for outrage was then, and most of the media was silent.  Where are Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite when we need them?

When security not-so-gently escorted Mr. Ramos from Trump's Press Conference, no other journalists walked out with him.  The why's are an interesting melange of self-service and opportunism and reluctance to make a scene.  One less reporter means one less person looking for the story.  Trump has denied access to writers from The Beast, among other outlets, because he didn't like their coverage.

Am I the only one who remembers John Peter Zenger? Freedom of the press is what gave us Tom Paine and the American Revolution.  Standing by and doing nothing just emboldens th:e tyrant.

Mr. Ramos knows about taking on tyrants.  After his difficult interview with Fidel Castro, no visa for a return trip has been forthcoming.  That's the price you pay for taking the job seriously.  But, he also knows how to have fun.  Responding to a heckler's Get Out of Our America, he laughed and said It's OUR America, too...just with an accent.

His book, Take a Stand: Lessons From Rebels, begins with this question:  Are you an activist or a journalist?  His answer is fascinating, and I'm only a little way into it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Voting - A Snippet

She almost didn't make it, and that would have been unacceptable.

Her 45 minute commute stretched on and on and on as Metra worked to clear the tracks after the train right in front of hers hit a pedestrian.  Hours passed.  There was no escape.

She hustled off the platform and down the ramp and out of the station where she was bumped into with such force that she fell to the ground.  The offender just kept on moving.  She picked herself up, examined her now cracked phone, and found her car.

Exiting the parking lot was a nightmare.  Everyone was tired.  Everyone was hungry.  Everyone had left work with plenty of time to get to the polls and now that time was running out.  To call her trip from the station to the polling place anything but torturous would be a misnomer.

She walked through the doors of the elementary school at 6:56.  She had four minutes to spare.

SIR, our perfect human, was holding her place in line.  FlapJilly was there, too, because everyone's voice counts, even the teeny ones.
Let's hope that people remember this lesson in November.
This is what citizenship is all about.

I'm so proud of them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Phillips Park Zoo

A free zoo.
A zoo filled with rescued animals.
A zoo with signs that are informative  
and funny.
That describes Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora, Illinois.

The caged birds usually make me sad.
 But these feathered friends had broken wings or detached retinas or other injuries which made it impossible for them to be returned safely to the wild.  Other rescue organizations sent them to Phillips Park, and FlapJilly and her minions enjoyed them in the gloom.

The zoo makes accommodations for its differently abled beasts.
This bird's injuries made it impossible to fly.
Falling off a high perch would be dangerous, so the branches are set low to the ground.

The white wolves were fascinating
and the peacocks preening were spectacular, though hard to photograph.

At the end, we said good-bye to the mastodont
and went home for lunch and a nap.

It was a lovely Monday morning.

Monday, March 14, 2016

St. Patrick's Day

Naperville goes all out 
for St. Patrick's Day. 
The streets are filled with green clad humans
 of all sizes
and shapes. 
The runners 
were filling the bars at 10am
and so were FlapJilly and SIR. 
It was a good place to rest and visit with friends
before setting out to create our own parade.
We weren't the only ones who found the street more passable than the sidewalks
but we were definitely the cutest.
FlapJilly waved to her loyal subjects, and they, sitting comfortably and waiting for the floats and the dancers, smiled back.
People came quite well prepared
and dressed in appropriate fashion. 

Nap time meant that we had to leave before the parade began,
and FlapJilly's tears were loud and wet and ignored.

It is so hard to be a toddler.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Who Needs a Museum?

Not FlapJilly.
Not when there's a whole hardware store to explore.
Grandpa and I were shopping for switches and sliders and hooks and eyes.
SIR will put them on a piece of scrap lumber ant the little one can flip and latch to her heart's content.  She was a very helpful shopper, wandering the aisles with a discerning eye.
We, her minions, were happy to follow her around.

There was no going inside after we returned home.
She made her feelings known - loudly.
So, dutiful as ever, we acquiesced to her desires.
TBG collected Thomas the Wonder Dog and off we went on a long, long walk through the neighborhood.
The sidewalk chalk I found near the check-out lane was good for decorating our path. 
There was some gardening to be done by the front door, 
and then it was time to nap.

I fell asleep before she did.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

At The Park

The bike rack was a climbing gym,
 followed by running
The shadows were long, the sun was out, and the whole neighborhood was enjoying the weather.
Midwesterners do appreciate the sunshine.
We paused for a while, searching for the beavers who make a dam in the river below.

Then someone needed a ride and Grandpa was happy to oblige. 
Grandparenting is non-stop loving.
We may never leave.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Children's Museum

As promised, there is more love to share here in The Burrow.  FlapJilly took us to The DuPage Children's Museum today, and Little Cuter took lots of pictures.  This was odd for me,
I since the last time I was in a Children's Museum she was the child and I was taking pictures.
 But, today, I got to play
as she carried the wallet and keys and camera.
It was a lot more fun.

to sit and laugh and watch her watch all the FlapJilly's
 and read quietly in the nook
after she was blown in the wind tunnel.

There was stacking
and there were neon tubes 
and as promised, there was lots of love. 
The sun came out as we left;
the pictures from the park will be posted soon.

Ah.......  life is good.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Random Thoughts - A Travel Day

The weather was fine.  The plane was on time.  Our seats were reserved.  We brought delicious sandwiches for lunch in the terminal, and a snack for the plane.

The crying 3 year old two rows ahead was dealt with by a swift removal of my hearing aids.  Sometimes infirmities can come in handy.
The college co-ed on Spring Break in the window seat drew the window shade as soon as she sat down. That would usually send me into a claustrophobic spiral, but today I just closed my eyes and went to sleep.

Sometimes living with the end of bronchitis can come in handy.
Once, just once, I would like to arrive at someplace other than the gate furthest from the baggage claim.  Little Cuter's smiling face and herringbone pants at the bottom of the escalator almost made up for my exhaustion.

I'm not limping.  I'm covering ground with alacrity.  A long walk is a good thing after 3 hours of sitting on a plane.... at least that's what I kept telling myself as the sweat poured down my back.
The traffic was zipping along apace.

The garage door opened easily.

Thomas the Wonder Dog greeted me with a Woof and a lick, and then there was this:
I can't promise much in the way of verbiage over the next week, 
but I can promise that there will be lots of love.

If the politics is getting you down, just stop by The Burrow.
There will be plenty of love to go around.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Hanging Out With the Girls on Friday Night

Remember that bad, bad cold? By Friday after noon, a week after it began, I was only marginally better.  I was still sleeping ten hours at night and napping every afternoon.  My appetite was minimal and I had no oomph to exercise.

TBG, of course, noticed.  He fetched and carried and comforted but still, the bug remained.  Driving home from lunch, he wondered if he should drop me off at the Urgent Care clinic we were passing. He said that he'd come back and pick me up.  He thought I should consider the fact that we are flying on Monday, that flying while congested leads to all sorts of interesting complications (as his own medical history bears out), that I should take care of myself now so that I can take care of FlapJilly next week.

"Drive me home," I said.

What a mistake.  Having planted the seeds of infection in my brain, his comments loomed larger as the afternoon wore on.  I began to feel progressively worse. I charged my phone, took myself to the nail salon, and then called him from the doorway of the clinic.  He dismissed the you-were-right-I-was-wrong conversation and congratulated me on making a wise decision, thus reminding me, once again, why we've stayed married for 40 years.

I masked my perhaps-infectious-face at the receptionist's request, and after two minutes of paperwork I was greeted and escorted to an interview room by the first of the most delightful group of women with whom I've spent a Friday night in a long time. It was girls' night out in a medical setting.  It was professional and compassionate and decidedly female.  It was wonderful.

The nurse took my history, which, of course, includes getting shot.  Her connection to the medical team at the scene and at the hospital was personal and profound; she had her own story of engagement and family and we shared the over-whelming sense of loss, even five years down the road.  With a few notable exceptions, the male practitioners I've encountered since being perforated have been more concerned with process than with emotions.  As I began my Urgent Care journey on Friday night, my emotions were right out on the desk beside us.

It was a safe and sad and thoughtful space, with some tears and some hand squeezes and lots of "I know.... I know..."  It was quintessentially female, especially as I lifted my shirt and drew up the leg of my shorts to share my scars.  I don't usually flash male nurses that way.

From there, I was walked to the exam room.  After just enough time to read an old issue of Us!, the doctor entered and, bravely, shook my hand as she introduced herself.  I laughed at her insouciance as she touched my petrie dish digits, and she laughed as she scrubbed her hands extra-carefully at the sink.  She had time to make the interaction personal.  She was neither harried nor in a hurry; she was all mine.

Again, it was quintessentially female.

Listening to the various parts of my chest and back through her stethoscope, she complimented my deep breaths.  I showed off by breathing into my left back and then my right back as she moved her instrument around my body.

"That's very interesting."

"That's Pilates," I said, and we were off on another tangent, covering competence and tenacity and the healing powers of time and exercise.  She wanted a chest x-ray, and wondered whether I wanted a coarse cotton gown or if my sports bra was without metal or plastic.  Up went my shirt, the underwear was removed, and back went the t-shirt before we walked to the x-ray suite.  It felt like a locker room before a yoga class; are your clothes going to get in the way of the work?  Any anxiety I had about what the x-ray would show was swept away by the girls-only chatter in the room.  I don't usually discuss the ins and outs of my undergarments with male medical practitioners.

The radiology technician was clear, precise, and quick.  The results were ready soon after I was returned to my exam room, and the fact that I don't have pneumonia made everyone smile. Bronchitis, my probably diagnosis, doesn't show up on an x-ray, but my broken rib did and that led to five more minutes of scar sharing and why didn't they tell me and then the physician's answer which explained it all:  "No one gets shot in the chest without breaking a rib.  They probably assumed you knew that."

She was the first person to say that, and I think she got there by being on both sides of the equation.  She was a doctor treating a GSW to the Chest and she was a naive woman who'd been shot in the chest.  She put the pieces together in a way that no one has before, and I think it was because she and I were hanging out together on a Friday night, chatting up a storm with the girls.

Women have far ranging conversations, with topics overlapping and sentences dropped, but the ebb and flow are what make them so interesting, I think.  In this case, a mystery was solved after 5 years of wondering, and it was solved amidst laughter and sarcasm and gentle touches.  It was medical care at its finest.

My whole person was considered, examined, and treated.  It felt like we were all in it together, that the answer would be revealed after careful and kind inspection of the situation.  that every was equally invested in the outcome.  They were strangers when we met, and friends when I left.The medication seems to be working and I'm certain that I'll be fine to fly.

I'm so glad I got to hang out with the girls on Friday night.

Friday, March 4, 2016

I'm Behind - A Snippet

The menu called it Mac is Back, but it wasn't exactly the veggie mac-and-cheese I'd envisioned.

It's short for macro, the waiter informed us, which is like a calorie but isn't.

It was delicious, even though I apparently missed the point of it all.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Random Thoughts on Politics in March

I am trying to avoid a Donald Trump post as fervently as I am trying to avoid a Donald Trump Presidency.  There's nothing I can say that hasn't been said before. I could link to Colbert or Romney or Trump himself, but why?
Daniel Hernandez, the one-week-on-the-job intern for Gabby Giffords, the man who literally held her head together in his hands while we waited for the first responders, the President of the Sunnyside School Board here in  Tucson, author, activist, and general all around great guy is running for the Arizona State Legislature.

He'd have done it sooner, but he wasn't old enough.
Mitt Romney is being brought out to lead the Establishment Republican advance against Donald Trump.

I'm not sure that this is anything more than a public announcement of the paucity of viable alternatives to the current front runner.
If Ted Cruz invokes God one more time I promise to scream.

I've begun to inquire about Bernie Sanders and guns.

Guns in Vermont are for hunting; but in L.A. are for killing (Jul 2015) felt simplistic and self-serving until I did some research.  According to the FBI, there were 2 gun murders in Vermont in 2010; there were 1,257 in California that year. 

I'm moving on to wondering about protecting manufacturers from being sued.  I'll keep you posted.
I'm glad that Ben Carson will take his many talents  and put them to better use.  

If you click on the link, you'll hear him as a young pediatric neurosurgeon kvelling over the remarkable plasticity of a child's brain, as the children on whom he'd operated frolicked at a picnic around him.  All of a sudden, his calm tone feels appropriate.
I'm still trying to find something that Marco Rubio can point to as an accomplishment.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Love of Reading Week

Prince Elementary School asked if I'd like to be a Guest Reader.  I couldn't say YES fast enough. And so,  early in the morning,  I found myself in the most well behaved third grade classroom in the universe.

I'm not kidding, denizens.  These scholars were bent over their notebooks, concentrating on the problem sets, then seriously discussing the varieties of the graphs before them.  There was no fussing, no kibbitzing, no jostling.  There was only working.

Math ended, books were replaced, and the students assembled on the carpet while I assumed the chair of honor.  While the rest of the class joined us, we looked at the pictures in Grandfather Twilight,  a children's go-to-sleep book with the most beautiful illustrations. We talked about books and pictures telling the story as well as the words, or even, in this case, without the words at all.

And then we read an excerpt from the D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, stories these children had never heard.  Finding an appropriate story was tough; there's a lot of illicit sex and murder of relatives.  But Zeus and Hera and Io was benign enough to share with 8 year olds.  The D'Aulaires gloss over how Io came to be with child, concentrating on Hera's anger and Io's life as a beautiful white cow.

I read about Hermes boring Argos to death and about Hera putting Argos's hundred eyes on the peacock's tail feathers and about Io jumping over the Bosphorus, which translates to cow ford, in case you are as interested as they were.  In fifteen minutes we explored an old saying, talked about Tucson's zoo's peacocks, whose feathers did look just like eyes at the end, and learned a little geography.

It was time to move on to kindergarten, and Caps for Sale.  It's a book I enjoyed as a child, a book my children adored, and it is now a book that several kindergarten classrooms filled with refugee children can laugh at, too.  "You monkeys you... You give me back my caps" is a refrain that kept them giggling and engaged.

Then we turned to Grandfather Twilight, and as I turned the pages more slowly they drew nearer and nearer as the old man's journey through the glade and out to the sea quieted them.  They murmured about the beautiful illustrations, just like their older schoolmates. They saw how the pictures told the story, noticing that some of the pages had no words at all and it was still called a book.

Though they all thanked me as I left the classrooms, the thanks really should have gone from my heart to theirs.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Rest In Peace, Liz

She died doing what she loved, where she loved.

I can't get past she died.

She was my first Mom Friend in Marin.  Big Cuter and her son bonded over fat fantasy novels and Magic Cards.  Smart boys in a culture that valued sports over the life of the mind, they had feet firmly planted in both camps.  CYO rules precluded my son from joining his friend's team, but their rivalry played itself out on the courts at the middle school and the town park.  She convinced me, newly arrived from Chicago, that the boys would be perfectly safe if left alone while they played.  "You don't live in the city any more!" became a recurring reminder.

I believed her because we parented similarly; her children were as polite as mine.

Big Cuter and her son were tortured by the teacher from hell, and she and I stepped in to remedy the situation.  She took math and science, I took English and history, and we spent hours making that classroom resemble a place of learning, counteracting the teacher's need to diminish and demean the students.  She assured me that the situation was an anomaly.  She refused to countenance my desire to switch to a private school.  She reminded me that we could make a difference, and we did.

She decided that there were twins who needed to be friends with Big Cuter, and she made the arrangements so that could happen.  She was sharing her son's new friend with two other youngsters; it was the most generous gift we received in our first few months in a new town.  She truly believed that there was enough love to go around.

She organized incredible outings and events; her kids' birthday parties are the stuff of legends.  Only Liz could convince a group of moms to double as pack mules, riding our bicycles laden with supplies for miles on unpaved paths all the way to the beach.  Only Liz would think to use the middle school field for a birthday food fight.  Only Liz, of all the moms, stayed and played poker with the kids when Big Cuter's outdoor birthday party was rained out.

Only Liz......  there are so many Only Liz stories.

She rode her bike a gazillion miles, traversing terrain previously visited only by mountain goats and sherpas.  She swam, naked, from Tiburon to Angel Island, emerging victorious and unclothed, with a smile on her face.  There were others in the pack, but I'm certain that she had the biggest smile of them all.

She let me snuggle with her little one (who's a big one now), let me tease her about her perpetually bare feet, let her promise to always hug and kiss me, no matter how old she was, because Liz understood that I'd left all the babies I knew behind in Chicago, and that loss was tearing at my heartstrings.

I did mention that she was the most generous person I knew, didn't I?

And today, Big Cuter called to tell us that she is gone.

A world without Liz is a world which is missing a shining star.  She was funny and smart and direct and profound.  She grabbed the world by the throat and never let go.  She loved and was loved.  She will live on in our memories...... but damn, a world without Liz is a strange place, indeed.

Rest in peace, my friend.