Friday, April 29, 2016

Can Art Trump Politics?

Written on November 13, 2013, long before anyone could imagine Donald Trump being a serious candidate for anything, the title caught my eye while I was looking for this week's post from the archives.  I wish I could make some connection between Mr. Trump and art and creativity and adoration, but I can't.  

As to these Archival Editions in general, Big Cuter wondered if I was having trouble keeping up with the daily grind.  Little Cuter admitted to skipping them - "I've read them already" - except, she says, when they are about her grandfather.  "I LOVE the Daddooooo posts."  I am enjoying re-reading and editing and remembering, here with one that might satisfy my little girl.

JES commented on my encounter with Mark Helprin, my favorite living novelist, thusly:
I loved Winter's Tale, inordinately.

Some years later, though, I came across something Mark Helprin had written..... it was shockingly, hideously uncharitable -- illiberal in the worst sense. 
I was so disappointed I never read anything else he'd written.
JES and I rarely disagree.  We don't, really, on this issue, either.  Yes, my favorite living novelist does harbor opinions which make my blood boil.  I don't read those pieces, just as I know that I'll never go to hear him speak again.  He was, I'm sorry to report, almost boring.  I enjoyed the stories and asides he told, when he was conversing instead of declaiming, but his speechifying left a great deal to be desired.

I've done the same thing with his politics.  I had to.  I loved the novels too much to deprive myself of the pleasure they brought. Why should his beliefs impinge on my joy?  There's a sense of moral outrage underlying all his work; I don't have to agree with his slant on the issues to feel the pain he's sharing, no matter the genesis of his angst.

G'ma had the same issue. As always, I'm going to school on her example.  She had a thing for Errol Flynn.

Daddooooo knew that if Captain Blood rang their bell, he was to leave while G'ma got naked.  That was a hard image to swallow (apologies to her grandchildren who may now have an unfortunate image indelibly imprinted on their brains) .... or would have had it not sent us all into paroxysm of laughter every time we heard one or the other of them begin the story... letting the other finish.
These were people who lost grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles to the Nazi's. Errol Flynn's sympathies were acknowledged but pushed aside because his work was too wonderful to be ignored.  He made my parents smile.  For that, alone, I'd forgive him much more than unfortunate political leanings.

I never read Ezra Pound, because his politics made him an untenable subject for college students in the 1970's.  That's a gap in my education that will, in all likelihood, remain unfilled.  I won't tackle it on my own and, in nearly forty years of perusing adult education offerings I have never seen his name on a syllabus.

Is it a loss?  It seems I'll never know. Seems that JES is hung up on  the same thing, and might just have come around to G'ma's way of thinking.  He ends his comment with this:
 I probably should just stop nurturing philosophical grudges (a practice illiberal in its own regard). 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Political Random Thoughts - The Cruz Edition

Ted Cruz stood on a basketball court and referred to the ring, not the hoop.
He's just so annoying, I enjoy sharing his errors.
I wonder if all those lovely young white girls surrounding him have given any thought to how intrusive he wants be in their reproductive care decisions?  

Hey, Ted.  If you want to pander, get your terms right.
Barbara Boxer, my former Congresswoman and Senator, has the best response to Sen. Cruz's choice of Carly Fiorina as his vice-presidential running mate.  She tweeted:
I predict that the latest @CarlyFiorina merger will be as successful as her last one.
Is she being positioned as the alter-Trump?  Is she being touted as a successful business woman?  I can hardly wait to listen to the comparisons:  four business bankruptcies vs running Hewlett-Packard into the ground after the disastrous merger with Compaq.

It boggles the mind, watching the Republican party, the party of business, represented by these people.
Wondering if any other not-going-to-win-the-delegate-battle candidate has ever chosen a Veep before?

Yes.  Ronald Reagan did, four years before winning the nomination.

It's sad, watching the Ronnie-wanna-be play catch up.
Should Trump triumph in Cleveland, but lose in November, would Ted Cruz be the presumptive leader of the party?

Where will the people I know who call themselves Republicans end up if that happens?  Voting in the Arizona Presidential Preference Election (a lovely moniker) was difficult for them; following their party over the next few years is excruciating.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Crafty I Am Not

This post was published yesterday, in error. 
If you are one of the 19 people who read it before I deleted it.... oops!

As long as it doesn't have to fit, I'm fine. Aprons, hats, mittens, blankets, as long as it's one-size-fits-all, whether on the sewing machine or with crochet hook or knitting needles, I'm a happy girl.  Like G'ma before me, I'm becoming more comfortable if the materials are not too dark, my eyes aging with the rest of me.  But I like to keep busy and the NBA playoffs are not holding my attention and I seem to have a lot of yarn just asking to be made into blankets.  

The problem with blankets is that they require many skeins of yarn.  Sometimes I make up the stripes, sometimes the yarn itself creates them, but even the bulkiest of yarns requires more than one skein for even the smallest of baby blankets*.  This means that I must join the skeins together.  

I don't have the patience to do a great job, I think.  My grandmother's and TBG's grandmother's afghans are 60 years old and have no signs that any of the sections are other than seamless.  There are no loose threads appearing out of nowhere.  There are no squares falling off the edges.  Alas, I am not certain that the same can be said for my creations, beautiful and cozy as they may be.  I have yet to master the art of weaving in the ends and I am too parsimonious to pay someone to finish my work.

It's a conundrum, obviously.
I've been pondering solutions for two or three blankets now.
I think I have a solution.

I'm going to put tags on them.
Babies love the satiny tags on the fancy toys ... often, more than they love the toys.
This blanket will look elegant from the front and have four or five luscious tags for baby's little fingers.....  at least, that's the plan.

How was I to know that my local Hancock Fabrics store was closing? The 25% off offers were delightful, but I'd have paid full price for the glue gun and the ribbon and the glue sticks.  I had a plan.
I practiced folding the ribbon while the glue heated up.  Even the low-power model, designed for delicate fabrics like my satin ribbon, takes 5 or so minutes to become goo.  I'm glad I read the directions before I began; I knew to put my glue goo covered fingers under cold water and peel gently.  They were right to admonish me to use a protective surface.
This kitchen towel, bought for The Big House in 1997, will now move to a new function as glue glop catcher.  I'm so glad that the glue is not on the countertop.

It was nearly too hot for my not-so-delicate fingertips to maneuver successfully, but this first one doesn't look all that awful to me.  It's a sad standard to uphold, but, as I warned you, Crafty I Am Not.
It may not be the most elegant of solutions, but I'm not unhappy. I remember express mailing FlapJilly a dolly and watching her caress the tag while ignoring the most interesting face and hair and clothes that Amazon had to offer.  It was irritating and fascinating in the same moment..... just as babyhood is.  And so, even though it may not make any sense to those of us who have outgrown our bottles and diapers, it made sense to my granddaughter and so by definition, it is correct.

Excuse me now while I continue to glue.  I'm on a roll.

*This excludes those designed specifically for the car seat of the freezing baby who's not allowed to wear her snowsuit while buckled up for safety; those are one ball wonders.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Governor Ice Cream vs Arizona - Part 2

The information in these two posts comes from the K-12 Pubic Education and Proposition 123, published by the League of Women Voters of Arizona on February 1, 2016; "Governor Could 'Pack' Supreme Court Under Bill," Tim Steller's  April 17th column in the Arizona Daily Star; ; and A Resolution of the Governing Board of Amphitheater Unified School District No 10 of Pima County, Arizona Opposing Legislation to Repeal Essential Desegregation Funding and accompanying fact sheet..
When they say it more clearly than I can, I've italicized my plagiarsm.

The Arizona Daily Star, my local newspaper, reluctantly suggests that voters approve Prop 123.  I understand their logic; this is the only way to put money into the schools immediately.  I disagree. There is no certainty that law suits and automatic economic triggers and the general recalcitrance of the Arizona Legislature will actually allow this to happen. And, there is more.  Oh, yes, denizens, there is always more.

The assault on public education continues with Senate Bill 1125, a measure which will phase out desegregation funding which provides more equitable services and opportunities for nearly a quarter of a million low-income and minority students in Arizona. Disguising this attack on the poorest among us, legislators claim that these funds give an unfair advantage to those districts serving the poorest students, leaving the wealthier districts to raise property taxes to gain similar services.

The financial implications of losing these dollars is clear.  99.5% of desegregation funding (goes) directly to Amphitheater District classrooms, (funding) 106 individuals from the Amphitheater District alone.  These dollars are used for English Language Learners, to monitor and audit district disciplinary actions to ensure equity for all students, for benefits to the most vulnerable among us.

The legislature could remove this inequity by allowing all districts to apply for this funding, seeking to meet unmet needs.  But that would entail giving money where it is needed, and our legislature has no interest in that, it seems.

There is also the Current Year school funding fiasco, which bases the funding on butts-in-the-seats this year.  It will vary, especially for districts like Amphi's which have a mobile population.  Districts will be unable to plan ahead, since funding will not keep up with changes in the student body.  The lost funding under this structure will largely offset any benefit at all from Prop 123.

That last sentence should grab you.  Here, take this.  No, gimme that.  As the district's fact sheet states: What the right hand of the legislature and Governor would giveth, the left hand would taketh away.....

And then, to round out the list of atrocities, the Governor wants to expand the court from five to seven justices even though no on n the court or recently retired from it is saying that's necessary.  Why?  (L)egislative leaders promise to restore previously cut funding and give judges raises if the Supreme Court will not oppose the expansion.

Yes, you are reading it correctly.  As with the schools, the legislature and the Governor are horse trading with our futures.  Want a raise, teachers?  Want a raise, judges?  Go along with me and I'll meet you at the corner of greed and plausibility. Governor Ducey can add two cronies, thus insuring that local Court rulings will be more in his favor.  Since there are potent attacks on education already in the pipeline, this seems like the actions of a man getting his ducks in a row to fight the good fight.

Ah, if only the good of the children were at issue.  If only there were people in power who were concerned about the future of the state.  If only there were .........

Monday, April 25, 2016

Those Roses

The post I had in mind for today will just have to wait.  
You have to see this.
Those four small ones will turn into a branch full like this one.
Hard to believe those yellows and reds and pinks all start out like this.
Happy Spring!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Governor Ice Cream vs Arizona - Part 1

The information in these two posts comes from the K-12 Pubic Education and Proposition 123, published by the League of Women Voters of Arizona on February 1, 2016. and "Governor Could 'Pack' Supreme Court Under Bill," Tim Steller's Sunday, April 17th column in the Arizona Daily Star.  
When they say it more clearly than I can, I've italicized my plagiarsm.

Amidst the Trump-tantrums and delegate grabbing and voter suppression, Arizona's Governor Doug Ducey, former CEO of the failed Cold Stone Creamery franchise operation, has taken bad behavior to new heights.  If, at the end, you are wondering why I still live here, know that I ask myself the same question on a fairly regular basis.  It's embarrassing.

Growing up, I believed that my education was important to everyone.  I knew no grown-ups who were against good schools.  Taxes were contested at every election, but the rhetoric was anti-tax rather than you're-using-the-money-incorrectly-and-don't-deserve-more.  Everyone understood the connection between good schools and good communities; who would want to live where the public schools were anything short of excellent?

Arizona is a different kettle of fish.  Politicians seem to be educators .. or think and act as if they are educators. For small government aficionados, they are awfully eager to insert themselves where they really don't belong.

They apparently know best how to allocate resources.  Translators are, in their view, Administrative Overhead rather than Classroom Expenses.  That's probably not obvious to the kindergarten teacher with 27 students speaking 7 different languages, including 3 dialects of Urdu..... but I don't think the realities of public education are motivating the Governor and his cronies.  In their efforts to defund public schools, they are willing to resort to all kinds of shenanigans.

Why would the governor and the legislature want to divert funds from pubic schools?  The initial backers of  Prop 123 have deep personal and financial ties to charter schools, and a crass reading of the proposition could lead one to believe that the Governor and his allies are trying to destroy public education in Arizona for their own personal gain.

Why be crass?  Why connect the fact that the Secretary of Education home schooled her children with her lack of respect for the work done in the public schools .... the public schools which are there for everyone, at every level, at any time of the year.

Proposition 123 is the Governor's attempt to calm the waters after (i)n 2013 the State Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature had violated the voter mandate by only partially funding the inflation adjustments for three years.  They ruled (the voter approved mandate) could not be undercut by legislative action.  

That's right, Governor Ice Cream.  You and your legislative buddies are not allowed to decide that you know better than the voters.  You have to pay attention to the will of the people.... and that goes for more than just the "don't raise my taxes" people.  Not raising taxes has become your mantra; I hope you can justify your promised business tax credits/exemptions which will lead to a loss of sales tax revenues.  If sales tax revenues are not greater than one percent of the previous year, the inflation factor will not apply.

The formula also caps the K-12 Funding at 49% of the general fund.  The Legislature is able to alter general fund revenues by the diversion of general fund monies through tax cuts (and) tuition tax credits.  Those tuition tax credits can be used to subsidize private schooling. See my rant on this 6 paragraphs up; I'm too agitated right now to retype it.  

The legislation uses words like "large gaps" and "economic slowdown" to authorize it to cut back on school funding.  The wording of "large gaps" and "economic slowdown" is not defined and could allow the Legislature to once again cut back on funding public education.

The Legislature has shown no interest in funding public education..... am I saying that I don't trust them?  In a word, Yes.  Yes, denizens, his offer is based in quicksand.

And then there is the State Land Trust.  Federal land was given to the state (at its founding) for the purpose of education. Prop 123 increases the distribution form the State Land Trust from 2.5 percent annually to 6.9 percent each year for 10 years through a change in the Arizona Constitution. ... with passage by Arizona's voters, it will also require federal approval to change the Enabling Act for the State Land Trust.  Changing the Constitution is something that should be debated loudly and often.  It's not something that should be buried in the body of a bill.

In addition, depending on inflation... the settlement could dip into and reduce the principal or corpus of the land trust.  Anyone who has done any thinking about retirement knows that you never, ever dip into your principal.  If you do, you do it at the end of your life, when all your rainy days are pouring down on you at once.  You don't do it when your Rainy Day Fund is approaching $1,000,000,000.

Aside from the significant legal challenges suggested by the WP Carey School of Business in 2015, there's the notion of robbing the future to meet the present annoyances.  None of the legislators will be around when the children of the class of 2026 are wondering where their desks and books have gone.  But someone should be looking out for them.

Only once, when I was growing up, did my District lose an election.  They resubmitted the budget two months later and it passed overwhelmingly.  My parents and I rang doorbells and posted signs and harangued shop clerks and neighbors and this time, nobody stayed home.  It's imperative that Arizona's voters take their cue from my childhood neighbors.

There are educators on the side of the Proposition. They worry that there will be no other options available to them.  They worry that any other solution will be worse.  They report that the Governor said that this is his best offer.

Since when do educators give in to bullies?  Is this the lesson those Teachers of the Year who are advocating this measure gave in their classrooms?  I certainly hope not.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

His First Soccer Game - Archive Edition

This was first posted on April 2, 2012.
He's almost 11 now, and understands defense and protecting the ball and teamwork.
He's just as lovable now as he was then.

It was  beautiful and sunny in The Old Pueblo on Saturday.
Mr. 6 was playing in his first soccer game and I was there to cheer.... and to reflect... and to remember.
I've watched a lot of soccer in March.
This is the first time I wished I'd had an umbrella.
Even at 11am, the smart parents took refuge under shade.
In Chicago, in March, we were wrapped in parkas, scarves and sweaters.
We washed mud out of uniforms and wondered if, perhaps, the chess club might be an alternative.
That was not the case last weekend.
It was the first game of the season, the first game of their lives for most of the players, so the coaches were actively involved.
Mr. 6 and his teammate were ushered to their defensive positions and told to stay there and guard them.
And that's what they did. No matter if the ball came their way or not, they stood still and protected their area of the turf.
Clearly, help was called for.
"Follow me," the coach instructed.
That part was easy.
"And now what do I do?" wondered Mr. 6. 
He was in the right place, but what, exactly, was defense anyway?
By the second quarter, he'd learned to watch the ball, but those feet were still planted firmly on the ground.
Defense.... marking up... staying with your man....he seemed to have that covered, too.
Unfortunately, both players were on the same team.
At least they were paying attention.

As time went on, they began to get into a rhythm, and Mr. 6 began to move his feet.

Half time included instruction...
and hydration
 and snacks.
The second half was filled with more enthusiasm...
and more skills... though the coach-cum-mom was still there, making sure .
There was the occasional fast break.
But mostly it was still "herd ball"... everyone converging on the poor soccer ball.... with nobody noticing that it's behind #9's shoes.
It was unseemly to laugh.... but we did nonetheless.

And then it was over... with an "all in handshake" and a sense of belonging to something larger than oneself.
 It may not have looked much like soccer, but there are other lessons to be learned.

For me, it was a rocket back in time to Pumpkin Tigers and Silver Bullets and Daring Devils... little ones and big ones but always mine.

I'm sure that Mr. 6 and his teammates have no idea how much joy they brought to my heart.
But watching parents doing just what I did 20 years ago, with the same smiles and tissues and hugs and ice packs, with the cameras and the siblings to be amused and the relatives to entertained, wondering why in the world we were standing on the sidelines watching little kids run around.....
 and then realizing that we didn't want to be anyplace else in the world.

Thanks for including me, Mr. 6.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I'm Her Person

She's got almost 20 years on me, and her joints are just as old.  I've been watching her locomote with pain since we met.  After today, a lot of that should change.

She's been through physical therapy and massage therapy and cortisone shots.  She bought a zero gravity recliner in which she found relief, sometimes.  Sleeping through the night was not an option; the pain woke her, reminded her that she was here, left her suffering.

It was time for surgery.

She's had more serious procedures in the past.  She's traveled to the best doctor for this, that, and the other thing.  But this knee replacement is happening across town, at the brand new Tucson Orthopedic Institute at Tucson Medical Center, with a doctor she's known for decades.  She loves him.  He explains everything clearly.  He is optimistic.  He is realistic.  He's hers and she's confident and so, when I arrived just before they wheeled her into the surgical suite, she was smiling.

I came early so that I could retrieve her iPod Shuffle.  She uploaded four meditation tapes, she wanted to listen to the one which would prepare her for anesthesia, the nurses hooked her up, and I had nothing to do but rub her hand and instruct the nurse that she was now part of the loving eyes on my friend 24/7 contingent. 

The nurse accepted the responsibility with grace.  My friend smiled and took another deep breath behind the oxygen mask.  I retreated to the lovely waiting area.  It's a series of alcoves, some with televisions, some with padded chairs, some with tables and comfy desk chairs.  I found the coolest spot, away from the windows, and settled in.

When G'ma was alive, I kept a purse loaded for unexpected trips to the hospital.  Last night, I tried to recall its contents.  Tissues, pen, book, crocheting, laptop and mouse, phone, chargers for everything, water bottle, hearing aid batteries, hand lotion, wallet..... I brought everything except a pad on which to write notes.
Luckily, the volunteer at the reception desk handed me a slip of paper with my friend's patient number written at the top; it had enough room at the bottom for the notes I took when the doctor came out for the update.

I retreated to my table and comfy chair and sent an email to her children.  Their mom was fine, in the recovery room, doctor happy, I'll keep them posted

And now I wait.  No visitors in the Recovery Room, so I have time to write to you.  She'll be moved to a lovely private room later in the afternoon, and I'll sit there with her for the rest of the day. Loving eyes on her, 24/7, is the prescription, just as it was when I was the patient.  Another friend, an African refugee she's befriended, will spend the night on a cot in her room, there just in case she is needed.

Though I've been told today is the extent of my duties, I can't imagine that I'll be able to stay away as long as she's here.  An advocate is always appropriate, and, as her person, that's my job.

It's nice to know that she trusts me.  It's nice to be able to reassure her far-flung family.  It's nice to be her person.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Butt Dialing, and Loving It

She sent me a text, apologizing for missing my call.  She'd get back to me as soon as she unloaded the groceries.  I was reading a book, drinking ice tea, enjoying the fresh air.  I was available whenever she was.

Had I called her?  I didn't remember.  It didn't matter.  By the time she was settled down for a long chat I had dozens of questions at the ready.

We've been in each other's lives since I was 19 and she just a bit older.  TBG's the youngest of his first cousins; most of them had children when I met them. Her kids were around whenever we were in Cleveland, and they had very cool outdoor toys.  My city-bred kids were enthralled with the trikes and the scooters and the cars of all varieties of locomotion, and TBG and I enjoyed the grown-ups every bit as much.

But, as with so much of life, I keep up with her through the postings of her children on Facebook.  Holidays and the occasional She's the person who needs this card or gift aside, that's been about it for far too many years.

We remedied the situation that afternoon.

Compliments to the grandchildren were, of course, the starting point.  Her eldest's eldest is showing herself to be a person of great character and depth; the rest are still just adorable little ones with personality galore.  Nature or nurture, The Eldest's Eldest has a younger sister who is as funny as her father was when he was her age.  I'd never seen a 2 year old tell a joke before I met him; her grandmother was eager to regale me with recent stories reminiscent of those we'd seen decades ago.

How did I get to be old enough to be having the grandma talk?  On the phone that afternoon we were 20 somethings, moving them out of their Indiana apartment, marveling at how her husband had tied back the doors and provided padding materials, listening to him and TBG share tales of woe from their days as professional movers.  I'm certain that our husbands could pick up those stories right where we left off; it was that kind of friendship.

We had subscriptions to the Chicago Symphony with them... for one season.  Friday night was probably not the wisest choice; by intermission the snores were as loud as the music.  We vacationed with them, a house on the beach with vodka on ice at sunset by the ocean and poker with the kids til all hours of the night.

And there were so many grandkids and so many stories and then there were her daughters-in-law, women of substance who bring her joy, and her sons and her daughter and then TBG was in the doorway telling me that FlapJilly wanted to Skype.

We hung up, promising to do this again real soon, and praising serendipity and my butt for reconnecting us.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Anita Hill on HBO

Women in the workplace.

A group of old white men assessing the honesty of two younger black professionals.

A black man accusing a black woman of lynching.

The Exorcist and Othello and pubic hair.

Unflattering portraits of every Senator on the Committee, some truly terrifying.

"We feel shock, discomfort, anger, depression, and shame." (Tom Brokaw)

"They don't care.  They only want to win." (Anita Hill)
I remember listening to the hearings on my Sony Walkman, standing on the sidelines at that cold field near Irving Park, while Big Cuter played a team sport of some kind. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, and I was enthralled.  Anita Hill was so calm, so disciplined, so obviously wanting to be anywhere but there, talking about anything but that.

I could feel the national conversation shifting. Demeaning, inappropriate remarks were being called what they were - sexual harassment.  

Twenty five years later, the issues feel almost quaint.  After all, a serious woman is a serious candidate for the Presidency.  If you didn't live through it, you owe it to yourself to learn the history.  Nina Totenberg's words ring true to me:
But women didn't talk about this for a reason that may seem odd to the millenial generation. We were embarrassed to talk about it.
Anyone who has ever been female and in the workplace should spend two hours with Kerry Washington's Anita Hill on HBO.  The politics behind it are inscrutable, but the human failings are on full display. Joe Biden, John Danforth, Alan Simpson, Teddy Kennedy ... the Senators come out worst of all.

Watch it and see who you believe. Anita Hill says it's as accurate as television could be.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Roses in the Desert

I could write about a Sanders supporter calling Hillary a whore.  I could write about the Chibok girls, missing in Nigeria for two long years.  I could write about the Trump kids feeling really really bad about not registering to vote for their dad in the primary.

I could, I suppose, but what is there to say that hasn't been said?  I can't come up with an original thought.  I'm furious, I'm impotent, it's systemic, and no one seems surprised any more.   We know what to expect.

It was depressing, so I went outside.

 And I was surprised.

Who knew that roses grew in the desert? 
Certainly, I did not.   
These blooms are on the same plant, another surprise.
They appear here in sequence, growing older as you scroll down.
From orange to through red to pink.... more surprises.
This new one beside the first one gives me hope.

If only the world were as delightfully surprising... Hillary and John Kasich would run a civilized campaign, the schoolgirls would walk out of the jungle with smiles on their untouched faces, and Donald Trump would be a footnote.

A girl can dream, after all.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Good Daughters - From the Archives

First published August 30, 2010

They were out in full force, today, the good daughters (and a few sons). G'ma's pod-castle is one of several on a piece of former scrub land which is now labeled a Village. It's always seemed as if that were over-stating the case; there wasn't as much activity as the word village conjures up for me. But today, for some reason, the inter-connected parking lots and the walkways around the individual pod-castles were humming with activity. There was actually traffic in the round-about - a first in the 13 months I've been visiting G'ma there.

A woman my age was holding hands with an older woman as they made their way from a parked car to the front courtyard of G'ma's building. There was an equal measure of physical and emotional support in their grip. The emotions were going both ways. I imagined the same scene 60 years earlier. The balance of power and cognition and responsibility, though radically different, held the same sense of responsibility toward the one needing care.

Mom and daughter.... then and now.

The van owned by the pod-castle was disgorging passengers.  Others waited to load themselves, wheeling or rolling or shuffling up the ramp, on their way to the doctor or the hairdresser. "Look at everyone. Where are they all going?" I didn't know and didn't care because I was delighted with the fact that G'ma was paying attention to the world around her, and that her immediate little piece of that world was a-bustle.

Sometimes it feels as if I am entering the Village of Waiting Around for Something to Happen. Today, it looked like my ship (or van, in this case) had actually come in.

The hand-holding couple were seated at G'ma's table for lunch. Their daughter and I shook hands, sharing a glance that was more than just "Hi, nice to meet you." Our parents are living in the same small pod-castle, we visit but we don't bring them home, we are doing our best and it make us kind of sad.  All of that was the answer when G'ma asked, "Who was that?"

She and I took off for salad and pizza. The good daughters were there, too. We weren't the only older ladies lunching with their girls. There were a few of us scattered around the restaurant, sipping our drinks and chatting about nothing or something and it didn't matter because the event was more important than the content of the conversation. G'ma noted the tall daughters and their even taller mothers and we judged and chewed and sipped our passion fruit ice tea and I was happy.

A 20-something and her mom held the door for us as we left, I shlepping my purse and left-over pizza and half-finished ice tea and trying to get G'ma and her walker safely over the slightly raised door-jamb. They held it without expectation, continuing their conversation as we made our painfully slow way through the portal.

 It was perfect - we felt no pressure and I didn't need to grow a third or fourth arm. We four laughed as the door closed gently behind me, basking in the experience of dining with the women with whom we'd shared a womb... outside or in, able bodied or leaning on a red rolling walker, grey haired or still sporting dark brown locks.  We were women enjoying each other's company, and that was enough right then.

There are times when being a good daughter is as easy as pie.

Lemon meringue, please. It was G'ma's favorite.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Miss Sullivan

Today I got to smile about Miss Sullivan. That's not her name anymore, except in our family where she ranks among the teachers we will never forget. It's a perfect blogonym for her.

She and Big Cuter arrived at The Fancy Private High School the same fall semester. For the next four years, he took the Latin she taught. Since the texts were tales of battles and philosophy and crude poetry, he might have loved it anyway. But the fact that Miss Sullivan was at the front of the room made that love a certainty. 

She came from Harvard, and expected her students to learn the language.  The class had been an easy-A before her arrival; it was culture and readings in translation with some Latin grammar thrown in for good measure. Once Miss Sullivan arrived, though things began to change.

The Latin 3 students were suddenly back in Latin 1, and those juniors and seniors were none too happy about it. We, the five or six freshman parents sitting around the table at Back To School Day, were flummoxed. Without any prior collaboration, we found ourselves agreeing with the teacher and wondering what the fuss was all about. We didn't make many friends among the upperclassmen's parents, but we did find out a lot about Miss Sullivan.

She was neither offended nor impressed with the quibbling. She had been hired to teach Latin and teach Latin she would.  If some of her students required remediation, so be it.  It was an impressive performance by a young woman new to the insular world of our little private school.  She was not to be bullied.  She held her ground.  She was strong and determined and only when TBG and I went up after the the session to tell her how much our son enjoyed her classroom did she begin to relax.

He did enjoy the classroom.  It challenged him while allowing him to show off, too.  He brought his hand-painted miniatures to lay out the Roman army's battle plans. He brought his knowledge of history and conquest to a room filled with females; they were delighted to be given the Big Cuter version of world history.   

By his junior year, Little Cuter had joined the crowd.  My daughter has many talents; speaking with a foreign accent is not among them.  Latin had one great big check on the Take Me in High School side of the ledger - no one knows how it is supposed to be pronounced.  Miss Sullivan assured her that continued stumbling over translations would, one day, lead to a fluid, lyrical reading, filled with deep ideas and delightful cadence.  My girl's face when she came into the kitchen to tell me that she was really reading the Latin homework was ample compensation for those tuition dollars.

Both kids took Latin in college.  Its structure and complexity helped them to organize their thoughts. Deriving meanings of obscure words became simpler; there was Latin behind so many of them.  But, mostly, it was Miss Sullivan who won them over to the cause.

She pushed them.  She encouraged them.  She admired them.

It was that admiration, that ability to find the special something in each of her students that made her special, too.  She valued every contribution.  She listened with her entire being.  She was there for them, though she never coddled them.  Work was meant to be done.  There were consequences for non-compliance.  But mostly, there was joy.

We went to Berkeley to see a production of Ovid's Metamorphosis, replete with nude Echo and Narcissus jumping into and out of a faux pool two rows in front of us.  The kids were blushing bright red, but she had made her point.  If they could read it, they could see it.  They were grown up enough to have earned the right.

Respect for intellect, high expectations for the work submitted, and a genuine delight in the progress and the process made her classroom a very special place.  She's in Boston's suburbs, now, teaching Latin to more young men and women.  Recently, she reached out to her former students, asking them for their responses to her current students' lament - How will Latin ever be useful to me?

Big Cuter's lengthy response included this bit of advice:
There aren't a lot of teachers who can reach out to students from over a decade ago and reliably expect an answer, but she's easily that person for all of us, and those are relationships that are worth cultivating.
I hope each of you had a teacher like this somewhere along the way.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Class of 2020

The Alumni Admissions Ambassadors Network recommended that Accepted Students be received.
Therefore, the banner was hung on Saturday.
I would show you a picture of the red and white balloons against the bluest of blue skies, 
but the prickers on the palo verde trees destroyed them before I returned with my camera.
One of the students thought they were the remnants of a party the night before, but they were part of the decor for her Reception.

She Who Must Be Obeyed thought that something at home would be nicer than meeting in a restaurant.  Since the restaurant I wanted to use couldn't accommodate us on a Saturday, I agreed with her and turned to Breugger's and my pantry for bagels and lox. 
Happily, I have a lot of red and white serving pieces and doilies and such.
Leftovers have been keeping me happy ever since.
It was a lovely party, with an edge just beneath the surface.

These kids did not know what to do.

They were the lucky ones, in that they had very good choices.
Georgetown, Duke, UPenn, and, of course, Cornell are all vying for their tuition dollars.
Our job, as alumni, was to extol the virtues of our Alma Mater without belittling the other institutions.  That is not as easy as it might seem.

I know why Cornell is better than all of them, but getting the message across without comparisons (the method considered appropriate by She Who Must Be Obeyed and her colleagues at the University) took some fancy footwork.  

Luckily, alumni from this century were among the guests.
Their input was much more valuable than mine, I'm sure.
I told them to buy their tickets back to school for the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
I told them not to buy winter clothes in Southern Arizona.
I told them the food was great (it is).
I told them the weather was awful (it is).
I told them it was and is my favorite place on earth.

If that's not enough, I don't know what is.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Random Thoughts on Watching The Masters

Every year, TBG tells me the same thing: "I love watching the Masters.  I've been watching it since I was 10 years old, sitting on the couch with Dad.  I fell in love with Arnie just when the rest of America did.  It's just so beautiful, so manicured, so pristine."

I like watching him watch it, a peaceful smile on his face. He's communing with his decades-gone father, calling out to me when the camera pans the flora, and, this year, hooting and hollering when a player makes a hole in one.
I always thought that those shots were rare.  Today, there have been three of them.

It must be wonderful to have your shot-of-a-lifetime recorded forever on television.  The question is, does the player have to buy a drink for everyone who saw it?
The weather is beautiful in Augusta, but here in Tucson  it's been raining on and off all day.

I pulled on my flannel shirt to go to the grocery store; 75 degrees demands it.

I'm not complaining, mind you.  In fact, I'm proud to say that all my plants are in the ground, benefiting from the intermittent sprinklings.  The clouds give the ground time to absorb the water rather than sacrificing it through evaporation to our usually sunny skies.

Besides, I have the sunny skies of Georgia on the big screen.
"Look at that.  It's just so beautiful."

And it is.
After making four birdies (one under par) in a row, Jordan Spieth bogeyed (one over par) two in a row.  Last night he squandered a four stroke lead at the end of his round; he entered today's final round only one stroke ahead of the field.  And the field is filled with youngsters just like him.  He's paired with a kid he knew from a tournament when they were middle schoolers.

We are watching him fall apart. His ball is in the water.... and so is the one he hit right afterwards.

It's a beautiful pond, surrounded by lovely tall trees.

I'm not sure Jordan is seeing it with the same rosy glasses.
He's probably not that thrilled with the glistening white sand in the trap holding his next ball, either.

The slump of his shoulders tells me Jordan Spieth would give anything for a transporter. Beam me up, Scotty.
And now there's this British kid, a new father, playing five strokes back and then suddenly in the lead. His jaunty stride is in sharp contrast to Jordan Spieth's dejected pace and bowed head.

Danny Willett is his name, and he's a happy camper as he doffs his cap to the clapping fans at the 18th hole.  There's nothing else he can do. His fate is in the hands of those still on the course.

At moments like these, I flash to Robert Redford's face in Downhill Racer... he doesn't want to wish a mishap but.....
And now, Jordan Spieth approaches the 16th tee, from which three holes in one have already been played.  The fans are standing and cheering and he's standing a little straighter and TBG is exhorting him and I'm much more nervous than I'd like to be.

He's eyeing the putt for what seems like forever.year

I can barely watch... and the ball doesn't break.  He biffed it, sighed TBG.  The fans along the green are morose as he lines up for the birdie.

The bloom is off the rose; their applause is muted.
And so the young man who won last year tees off to applause on the 18th and because it's not a hole in one he's lost what seemed to be his to win.

He'll put the winner's green jacket on this year's champion, and go off to nurse his wounds.

TBG and I will watch the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs.  The Warriors want to match the Bulls' best record ever over a season.  The Spurs want to maintain their unbeaten record at home.

Someone's going to be disappointed.... but not us.  It's a great day for watching sports on tv.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Confusion in the Ranks

"The door is closing on a Social Security strategy for boomers" read the headline.  I'm not fond of scare tactics, but Social Security is on my near-term horizon and I am woefully ignorant of the procedures.  Gail MarksJarvis's opening sentence just reinforced my angst.

If you are married (yes), and you or your spouse will soon be 66 years old (yes), you might be able to increase your Social Security by thousands of dollars (YES!!), but there's a catch (of course)

Reading that my best options may be lying on the other side of that closed door led me to read the two columns of dense prose which followed.  Newspapers may be aimed at a 6th grade reading level, but neither my college degree, nor TBG's, not my Masters' nor his, not his law degree nor my years contending with bureaucracy as a hospital social worker and an advocate for the developmentally disabled were of any help.  The article was unfathomable.

I should have realized that a woman who puts a capital letter in the middle of her last name might have trouble being clear; she's obviously making up her own grammatical rules. It is true that the subject matter is arcane; MarksJarvis quotes a Colorado financial planner's dismal assessment of the situation:

"It's hard for a normal person to figure this out and it's unfair to send a person to battle the bureaucracy"

Still, the last paragraph opens with such confusion that I nearly cried:

Rather than dealing with field offices, she said people should do file and suspend and a restricted application on the website.

People..... does that mean the already over 65 higher wage earner or the soon to be old spouse?  TBG doesn't remember applying for Social Security, but I think it just happened without his being proactive.  We elected to defer his benefits; I know that because no checks are deposited every month. 

But, does that mean he has already done file and suspend?   Or am I the person who should file and suspend?  It seems as if I should file and receive, but there's no link to that on

I searched for file and suspend on the website, but I got bored reading about all the rules they've suspended and all the actions which were filed on issues vaguely related but ultimately not relevant to my question. None of the verbiage was helpful.

I took a moment and reflected on the fact that government communications were supposed to be written in plain English.  Googling making govt documents understandable led to a plethora of pdf's advising Health and Human Services employees and CDC employees and SEC employees on the techniques to make the esoteric accessible.  None of that seems to have gotten down to the Social Security Administration, however.

That's very strange.  I found G'ma's Medicare summaries to be clear, concise, and easy to use when comparing their records with the bills I saved.  The reports came once a quarter and took no more than 15 minutes to reconcile with the information I had at hand.  When there was a discrepancy, a clearly spelled out procedure led to a quick and satisfactory resolution.  Silly me, I expected the same when it came time for me to take some money out of the system myself.

Silly, perhaps, but undaunted nonetheless.  I called TBG's Medicare guru for advice.  It wasn't really a Medicare question, but she was as close to the source as I could get... without going to the office.  
After getting complaints from advisers and individuals throughout the US, the Social Security administration issued a statement Feb. 24 to better inform its agents.
Apparently, the agents have been sending people away, telling them that they are not eligible. Unwilling to spend any time waiting in line for someone who might not know the answer, I'm taking a preliminary step.  The receptionist in the guru's office was understanding and laughing as she took my phone number; the guru had just done this for herself, so she was the expert in the office.

Should it really be this complicated?  And if it is too complicated for me, with my fancy education and all the technology and personal connections anyone might need to wade through the morass, how hard is it for someone without those resources?

I don't think that Big Government is a bad thing, but incomprehensible government is another story, entirely.  The deadline to apply for spousal benefits without compromising the higher earning spouse's ability to grow his account over time is April 29, 2016.  I'll write before then ... once the guru helps me to figure it all out.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Spring in the Desert - An Archival Edition Post

Throwback Thursdays, the Facebook meme which has my friends posting their school pictures from 1958, never caught on with me.  I'm more interested in sharing the here and now than in reliving the past.  

But some of the past may be worth revisiting. 
This, the first in a weekly series of Archival Edition posts, will explore The Burrow to see if that's true.
First published on April 28, 2010, this lightly edited post could have been written today.  

I am, as Pantagruel suggested, tending my own garden.  

Here are the results of a lovely early morning and late afternoon walking around my yard and admiring the work that the creator (need a capital C?  whatever floats your boat... today, I'm not arguing with anyone about anything) and I have achieved. 

The commentary is minimal.... I hope your joy is exponential.
Yellow is the predominant color right now.

These damianitas have finally shown their true beauty.
I must give myself some credit for their showy display; I pruned them carefully after their last bloom.  Mini-Marie gave me instructions at Master Gardeners one day, and everything she said was true.  I just snipped off the dead blossoms and left the leggy, woody, ugly branches alone and, as if by magic (but isn't that just the way with gardening?) here they are.

Forgive me for bragging, but they're gorgeous.  Simply gorgeous.  Someone slowed down to look at them while driving by yesterday afternoon.  I love sharing the joy.

This brittle bush is a volunteer; she just arrived last Fall and established herself.

I am eternally grateful to the animal who excreted or brushed off her seeds near the drainage berm.

The Prickly Pear Cacti I showed you earlier this year have bloomed

and the mesquite trees

are just getting started. 
In a few days, there will be no greenery on any of their branches.
They will all be covered in those yellow pods.
Let the sneezing commence!

 The lantana

has also joined the party.

The barrel cacti blooms are long spent

and their detritus  has become food for the ground squirrels.

 These tunas litter my yard.  The little rodents sit in the shade (of the garbage can waiting to be emptied, of the gate, of the barrel cacti) and munch away happily.  Then, not having been schooled in mannerly behavior, they leave their trash and jump up for more.

Yellow is not the only color that is sprouting from the ground.

 The Staghorn Cholla

 has these soft buds

amidst those awful thorns and those blooms have opened to that deep red. 

I'm fixated on the pollen.  Am I crazy or is that really sexy?

The yuccas' (hesperaloe parviflora) long red shoots have been up since March, but the buds

are starting to open

 and I'm loving their delicate yellow insides. 
The hummingbirds and the butterflies and the finches all seem to like perching on their sturdy limbs and drinking.
The birds and the bees, indeed.

Finally, just in case you think that everything in the desert is prickly and pointy and harsh and sharp and ouchy, look at this

It felt as delicate and dewy as it looks.

Oh, frabjous day!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


SIR took a vacation day on Tuesday.  It was his birthday present to himself.  Little Cuter was at work, but that was okay.  His plan was to spend the day with his daughter.  He took her to swim class.

I don't remember my father ever taking a day off work to spend with me.  I went into The City to his work when I had vacation days, but the notion of turning that on its head and having him follow me around on my daily rounds was never considered.

TBG never missed a game or a performance (for the most part), but he never took a whole day and spent it hanging with the kids.  I was there.  The babysitter was there.  Work beckoned... and it was a workplace that took pride in the fact that the employees retired with years of vacation days in the bank.  He never took a vacation without feeling guilty. The thought of being home and available when his colleagues were at their desks was filled with angst.

When Little Cuter spent a weekend in Texas, SIR was FlapJilly's primary caregiver.  Daddy Day Care involved building forts and taking walks and going out to breakfast.  Despite his co-workers' amazement, SIR didn't find it onerous.  He was not, he reminded them, babysitting.  It was his own child.  He was parenting.

No one is keeping track of who does what in their house.  Nominally, she's in charge of the inside, and he's in charge of the outside.  But the garden is hers, and he is no stranger to the washing machine or the vacuum cleaner.  If it needs to be done, it gets done.  She cooks, he cleans, and no they don't need any help from me.

So, I sit and act like an honored guest.  The fact that I am noisy when washing dishes might have something to do with it (I am the loudest loader of a dishwasher in the Western Hemisphere, I am sure).  But it's more than that.  They have established a routine and I'm just in the way.

Daddooooo did the dishes.... after he retired.  When G'ma was working, he did the pots and pans.  He was in charge of the barbecue, but only after G'ma had prepped the dish and presented it to him on a serving tray.  He was good at removing splinters, but I have no memories of him giving me a bath or choosing my clothes before an outing.  I would have been quite surprised had he offered either one.

For a nano-second of history, it felt as if we were living in a post-racial society.  I've been disabused of that notion, although I have great hopes for The Cuters' generation. Ethnicity is never mentioned when Big Cuter relates his adventures in on-line dating.  It's not an issue for him.  FlapJilly's neighborhood is filled with children of all colors, and they shoot hoops and ride scooters and chase one another in a delightful mix of cultures that warms the cockles of my heart. And in the middle of all that fun, the dad's are there... supervising and smiling and being involved.

My granddaughter will grow up knowing that a black man can be President.  She may watch America elect a woman to that office, too.  She won't be surprised to see female Supreme Court Justices or police officers or fire fighters.  She will expect the men she meets to treat her as a person, looking beyond her gender and into her character.

I credit her father for setting the example.  My girl chose well.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Political Snippet - Trump and Abortion Laws

It's a snippet, because I can't stand having Mr. Trump in my living room for more than fifteen minutes or so.  But this time, I have to invite him to join us because he managed to alter my outlook.  He startled me, then left me feeling bemused.

Why?  Because the talking heads articulated a problem I had never considered, despite the thoughtful consideration I've given to the issue.  My views have softened over time, but Mr. Trump's confusion and final declaration as Chris Matthews pressed him on abortion stopped me in my tracks.

(start at 0:19)
"Yes, there has to be punishment."
"For the woman?"
"Yes, for the woman"

In pre-Roe America, my college years, everyone knew someone who knew someone who would drive you to Syracuse to the doctor who did abortions.  That was all the information you needed; anything else was too dangerous to share.... not for the woman in distress, but for the person performing the procedure.  The danger to the woman was from the procedure itself; only the abortionist had to worry about The Law.

Obviously, that's absurd.  If it's illegal, it's illegal.  All parties should be held to the same standard. It's obvious and it never occurred to me before Mr. Trump mentioned it. 

The hole in my logic astounds me.

The talking heads tell me that this is the dirty little secret that anti-abortion proponents want to keep in the closet.  

That closet has a strong set of hinges.  I never managed to get the door open myself.