Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Nice Weekend

Did you have a nice weekend?  I had a very nice weekend, thank you for asking.  While friends and family took off for the summer and welcomed new babies and battled raindrops falling on their heads, I spent three days surrounded by good books and even better people.

Literature took me to Africa and London and Surrey, seeing war, now and then, up close and personal, through characters who are creeping around the back of my brain, even as I've moved on to artists and their modern day misery.  I updated the sidebar, if you want the titles and authors; these are all recommended reads.

I wish you could join me on the patio in the morning.  There's plenty of shade and plenty of sunshine and the pool is warm and crystal clear.  My flower pots are coming into their own, framing the scene with pink and white, gomphreda blowing in the breeze.  The birds are all the music I need, the words on the page the only company.

Did I mention it's been a very nice weekend?

The gladiolus are surprising me; the yellow ones supplanted the orange ones and I don't remember planting the purple one that smiled at me this morning as I set out the flag. I smiled back at them, and then I frowned.  

I couldn't fly my Stars and Stripes at half staff; the pole itself is crammed in between the pedestal and the arch of the courtyard column.  I thought about a black ribbon, because,  as my congresswoman, Martha McSally, reminded me in her email today, this holiday celebrates the dead. It was Decoration Day when I was young, a day to festoon the graveyards filled with soldiers lost in combat, a day of remembrance.  And I spent some time, remembering.

I thought deep thoughts, and smiled at a day which began with them and then I called JannyLou and Fast Eddie to come over for breakfast.  They're leaving tomorrow and they have no food and I love making breakfast and, once again, a delightful confluence of events made it a very nice weekend.

It just got better.  I had lunch with Scarlett and Mr. 10 at North, discussing politics and basketball, discovering that the waiter might be a distant cousin on Grandpaw's side of the family, passing on dessert because Amster and Mr 12 met us for ice cream across the way.  I ran into an old yoga acquaintance, and the kids greeted friends, and we talked about parenting and respect and it all had that summer-is-just-beginning feeling.

Now I can watch the basketball game and worry about Steph Curry's knee and talk to Big Cuter and bask in the Facetime kisses FlapJilly bestowed on her Grandparental Units this afternoon, Granparental Units who are having a very nice weekend.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Once again, my traditional Memorial Day post, first published in 2009, and updated just a little each year.

I used to march in the Memorial Day parade. I was dressed in my Brownie uniform, and then in my Girl Scout uniform - replete with those hated anklets. I wore them because the troop leader said we couldn't march without them and marching was too cool to pass up.

All the school bands marched too, and the moms on Benjamin Road provided the materials and the labor to make the capes the high school kids wore. There must have been a military presence there, but I didn't pay enough attention to notice. I was marching and I knew that, all over America, other kids were being Americans and marching, too.

I belonged.

In Marin, the Memorial Day parade was always good for a controversy or two. Or three. Should the anti-war protesters walk alphabetically in the main march, or have their own march, or walk 50 yards behind the official march? I especially liked this discussion: should weaponry be allowed?

That was fairly disingenuous even for Marin.

There were bands at this parade, too, and with Bobby Weir as the Grand Marshal you know the music was worth hearing, especially at the picnic in the park afterwards. Not exactly your typical VFW-sponsored event, but no one was complaining. It was Memorial Day; there had to be a parade.

I've got the flag G'ma bought us for a housewarming present, which replaced the one Dadooooo got us in Chicago. There are red and white roses in the big blue vase in the dining room. I'll wear the tie-dyed tank top the Cuters and I made early one July. Red/White/Blue -- it makes for great patterns. I've got the plastic flag on my bike handles - the same one I bought with the Cuters at the 5 and Dime Store in New Buffalo in 1985.

Life is good.

As you pass the potato salad and watch the flag wave in the breeze, take a moment and remember those who gave their lives so that it can be so.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Good Mail

My sister was cleaning out her basement; I received this in yesterday's mail.

I have a vague memory of sitting for this silhouette, but the location keeps shifting between Mrs. Fleming's first grade classroom and my parents' basement.

The long pony tail is most certainly mine, though, and I'll frame my underbite, give thanks to my parents for orthodontia, and add it to the wall of fame in our garage.
The USPS believed her when she wrote DO NOT BEND everywhere.  It was her handwriting on the oversized, flat, Priority Mail envelope leaning on my front door, in the same way as this was my face. She was saying hello before I saw the printed return address.

 It was a good day to get the mail.  And today it was even better.

Instead of retirement planning seminars and Medicare Supplement plans filling my mailbox, there was this

and this
and this.

A thank you note for a baby gift, a wish-you-were-here vacation postcard, and a bumper sticker sent with love from my favorite elected official - it was a bonanza.

Three different women who understand the value of a handwritten note - and they are all in my life.  I can share the connection further by sending the baby's grandfather a link to this post, and we'll kvell* over our wonderful children and wonder where the last 40 years have gone.

I love email for its immediacy, but snail mail is worth the wait.  I'm still smiling.

*kvell - feel happy and proud

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Being a Fan

On balance, I'm not sure if sports makes me happy...

That was Big Cuter's status update on Facebook yesterday.  He'd just finished suffering through the Golden State Warriors' humiliating pummeling by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and was left with his hometown boys down 3-1 in a series he and his father thought would be a Warriors' clean sweep.

No one understands what happened to Steph Curry and the boys; this is not the same team which delighted us throughout the regular season.  Did they peak too early?  Did they set a single season winning record and then lose focus?  Was the rest of the league getting better as the post-season frenzy took hold?  Were the referees biased?  

In the end, it doesn't really matter at all.  My boy is devastated, heart broken, torn up inside.  He didn't want to talk on the phone last night; why should he make his blues ours?  But the sorrow was unmistakable, and impossible not to share.  He's my boy, after all.  

He loved watching sports. He had a favorite team helmet. He cheered for the Broncos against the Browns just to annoy his Daddy.  He grew up in Chicago with Michael Jordan and the Bears - winners when he was young and malleable.  He lived 6 blocks from Wrigley Field the last time the Cubbies made a series run at the pennant; we could hear the cheering from the back yard.  

He and TBG have been drawing up football plays since the kid was 3 years old; the couch was covered with pages of X's and O's every Sunday night.  They can separate out the runners from the catchers from the throwers and the blockers and the tacklers, a task that is still elusive to me, even after 40 plus years of sitting on the couch with my sweetie.  They notice intricacies that escape me, as I nod off to their blather.  It's the cement that holds their weekends together.

He had Michael Jordan growing up in Chicago.  He had Steve Young as he grew up in Marin.  He went to Georgetown, looking forward to a wonderful 4 years of college basketball.... and found Coach Esherick instead of a John Thompson, II or III.  That, I think was the beginning of the end, though we didn't notice it at the time. 

Little Cuter went to Indiana when they, too, suffered through terrible basketball times.  The 49'ers and the Bears found themselves without the talent or the resolve to win many games, The Bulls were plagued with injury, Sammy Sosa corked his bats, and then came concussions.

When the GM of the Buffalo Bills says that humans shouldn't play football it is time to take the issue seriously.  Big Cuter has called football our national blood sport in the post he wrote for The Burrow in January, and his opinion hasn't changed.  He's tried to withdraw from that sport, and happily replaced it with basketball and his hometown Warriors.

But this melt down has taken its toll.  Watching sports isn't making him happy.  What will he do?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Social Security and Me, Part 2

In Part 1, I described the reasoning and the process behind my attempt to secure spousal benefits without touching either of our primary Social Security accounts.  Apparently, the confusion I described last month exists in the Denver Claims Office right now.

I received a charming email from a Claims Specialist.  She told me that I couldn't do what I wanted to do.  She told me to do something I don't want to do.  She told me to withdraw my application immediately if I didn't want to do what she told me to do.

Did I mention that I'm not altogether sure what it was that she wanted me to do?  Her grammar left the intent open to interpretation.

I thought about it for three days.  On the fourth I wrote an email, quoting from the article which started the whole business, and adopting a cheery, non-confrontational tone.  I read it and read it and read it a third time before I hit send.

I never heard another word from her.  Instead, I received a letter from the Social Security Administration informing me that I will begin receiving my benefits starting in August. Not my spousal benefits from TBG's account.  Not in February, when I will be 65 and eligible, but in August, when I celebrate my half-birthday, and when I am still only 64 and therefore ineligible.  Just not right at all.

Calling is an exercise in frustration; being on hold is no longer an acceptable way to spend my day. But even more important than the waste of time is the genuine fear that the person to whom I'm speaking won't be any more well-informed than the Claims Specialist in Denver.

I just sent her an email, outlining the facts and asking her advice.  I'll keep you posted.  For now, let this be a public statement that it was never my intention to defraud the government.  It's not my fault; the system made me do it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Goodbye, Biggest Loser

Brother forwarded the article from the New York Post, titling his email Your (formerly) favorite show.
I read about ephedrine and Adderall and diuretics and 800 calorie days and I squirmed in my chair.

I put the article aside for a day.... or tried to, at any rate.  Some of the statements wouldn't leave me alone.  They were heartbreaking in their naivete.
“It ruins lives. Mentally, emotionally, financially — you come back a different person. Half the people from my season have gotten divorced. The ripple effect isn’t just weeks or months. It’s years.”
What did she expect?

Morbid obesity must come with its own psychological baggage, and choices made must reflect that baggage. Maybe the people she chose don't like her new, quite sudden, incarnation. A wife who suddenly bares her emotions after decades of stoicism is bound to notice disturbances in the world around her.  The vigilance which comes with the dieting and exercise required to live a healthier lifestyle means the former contestants were probably the party pooper at every Let's go for pizza/ice cream/some beers and wings conversation for, as quoted above, not just weeks or months, but years.

I began to think deeper.  Fat Shaming was the touchstone of much of the article, but I never saw that on the show.  The emphasis, in words if not in deeds, was on how sick the contestants were, not on how ugly they looked.  Sure, they looked forward to Makeover Week... but who wouldn't?

The better trainers over the years have been full of positive reinforcement and great advice.  The show never gave us a glimpse of the trainers dishing out yellow jackets, as the article describes. Instead, we saw healthy recipes and moms and dads encouraging their kids to run with them, to get in shape with them, to feel good together, as a family.

I never had cause to doubt the integrity of the program.  I guess I am as naive as the contestants.

I've tried to verify the claims, but the interwebs are strangely silent on the subject.  There are responses to the NIH study, there are suggestions that such rapid weight loss might be the reason all the Season 8 contestants regained the weight, but nobody is commenting on the misbehaviors detailed in the Post.  So, I am left to wonder.....
isn't Danny better off at 295 than 430, given that 191 was never going to be sustainable?
The government researchers, with no ax to grind, came to some interesting conclusions about the 14 participants they studied.
These individuals were “quite successful at long-term weight loss compared to other interventions,” wrote Kevin Hall, Ph.D., and colleagues from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Indeed, according to Hall, other high quality studies show that only 20–27 percent of participants manage a 10 percent weight loss after several years. Among the Biggest Losers he followed for six years, “57 percent maintained at least 10 percent weight loss.”
Okay, so the scientists think the show is doing a good job, all things considered.

And then, there's this, debunking the "it's not my fault" theory that a slowed metabolism (metabolic adaptation below) made it impossible for the contestants to keep the weight off.
The degree of metabolic adaptation did not correlate with weight regain, however. In fact, the opposite occurred. “Those who were most successful at maintaining weight loss after 6 years also experienced greater ongoing metabolic slowing," the paper reported. This makes it inconvenient to argue that the metabolic adaptation caused the weight regain. 
I'm not sure where I stand on the whole thing, but I think we're taking the show off our seasonal rotation when it comes around again.  I certainly never look for more television to watch, and a controversial reality show is a simple hour to jettison.  I wish the contestants well on their weight loss adventure; I hope they can do it without me.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Perfect Day

Mid 80's on the thermometer, not even a wispy cloud in the sky, and a stack of library books awaiting me.  Sunday, a day off from the gym and the Pilates Studio and any guilt at all about maintaining my physical fitness.  It was a day filled with possibilities and no responsibilities - it was perfect.

I finished Elnathan John's Born on a Tuesday by 10:30 and sat, paralyzed, on Douglas-the-Couch.  The Sunni/Shia/Mujahadin divide among Nigerian Muslims was filling my living room with torture and death and powerlessness.  I tried checking Facebook, but the horror wouldn't let go.... and it didn't, until Amster texted and invited herself over for lunch and the pool and dinner.

Turning that frown upside down in a nano-second, we agreed to meet for salad and pizza first, then go our separate ways for errands, meeting up by my pool in the later afternoon.  She had yet to comb her hair.  I was wearing the t-shirt I'd slept in last night.  Tucson didn't seem to notice, and neither did we.  That casual acceptance of whatever is presented at the moment might be the defining characteristic of our relationship... to one another, and to Tucson itself.

Did I mention that it was perfect?

Costco, the library, the grocery store, a demand letter, feeding the dogs.... and then we were drinking Prosecco, slathered in sunscreen, gently exercising in the water as we lamented the state of the world.... or at least our little corner of it.

Stuffed peppers and another bottle of Prosecco and even the Warrior's 26 point loss couldn't make me unhappy.  Amster's on her way home to a night of smoked Gouda and Netflix, I have that stack of library books, and there are all those episodes of The Americans we have yet to watch.

The night is full of possibilities, and each one of them carries with it a big smile.

Friday, May 20, 2016

I'm Taking the Day Off

I've been going non-stop since 6:45 this morning.  Everything I did and thought deserves more consideration than my feeble brain can conjure up right now.

You deserve my very best, so I'm taking a vacation day.

Happy weekend and Happy Birthday to Little Cuter, my fearless daughter.  
Feisty then and feisty now.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Celebrating the Obvious

I attended an upscale school's 5th Grade Recognition ceremony this morning.

Mr 10 was handsome, as ever, with his bow-tie askew and his tuxedo vest buttoned smartly across his chest.  He wore his formal sneakers, as did nearly half the other boys.  All the girls wore party shoes. I'm sure there's a moral there, but I'm having trouble finding it.

I'm still stuck on the carefully applied red lipstick sported by one of his classmates.  I was teetering on the edge of outrage until her classmate's eyeliner pushed me clear over.

Prepare for a rant.

What in the world did these kids do to merit a celebration?  Their parents made sure that they got to school every day; let's put the Moms and Dads up on the stage for a certificate and a round of applause.  These students did what they were supposed to do - they went to school.  In August, they will still go to school, albeit in a new building. What's the big deal?

In Marin, we had a K-2, 3-5, 6-8 set up, spread over the 3 buildings in the district.  There was no pedagogical reason for the division; it was established at a time when the school age population seemed stable and the number of desks and the number of bodies worked out this way.  There were no celebrations when the kids moved from building to building; they were still following their mandated educational paths.

There was nothing noteworthy about any of their transitions until they left our K-8 district for the high schools of their choice.  Then, they got a convertible powered parade down the main street of our peninsula.  They waved to their adoring minions lining the curbs as the minions pelted them with candies.  It was the end of our town's financial investment in their educations.  They were moving on.  There was cause for celebration.

But today's celebration, all 59 minutes of it, was replete with tears and cheers and the reading of 100 some names. The scholars strode across the stage, received a certificate and hug, and then returned to their folding chairs.  They serenaded the crowd and then adjourned for photo opportunities and watery punch.  They were quite pleased with themselves.

I'm proud of the human Mr, 10 has become.  I didn't need a meaningless celebration to let him know.

This is like all those trophies I still have in the storage closet, trophies presented because Mom and Dad paid for the kid to play on the team.  The earned trophies are with my kids.  They remember the tournaments and the struggles and they love those silly plastic athletes on the sillier plastic plinth.

I hope today's 5th graders can view today's ceremony from that perspective.  I'm not sure that I want to know the privileged jack asses they'll become if they think that showing up deserves a reward.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Planting Season is Finished

I repotted.
I planted.
I moved things from one pot to another.
I added seedlings.
I revived those on the brink....
leaving behind holes-turned-homes-for-ground-dwelling-beasties.
Now, it's time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labors. 

Desert gardening is the most challenging growing endeavor I've attempted; I'm still not certain I have a coherent plan.  I have figured some things out, though. I stick with what works and try not to be too fancy. I am rarely judgmental of my failed efforts; blame rests solely on the dirt which passes for soil, and the oven which passes for sunshine, here in my little patch of heaven. While all the rest of you are buying flats of petunias and impatiens and calibrocha, we here in the desert Southwest are retreating to our air conditioned sanctuaries, grateful that we've planted containers to be admired through triple pane windows.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Please, Don't Judge Me

I'm going to vote Yes on Prop.  123.

I am going against all my principles.  I don't give in to bullies.  I do not accept the basic premise of the Proposition.  They are not making any more land; once it's gone, it's gone.  The voters spoke and the Governor and his lackey Legislature refused to act on the electorate's mandate and instead gave us this awful Sophie's Choice.  This is not a long term solution; there is no promise for the future.

But, then there are these real life people.

The teacher who will get a bonus this summer.... and summer starts on Friday in our District.

The principal who watches her teachers dig into their own pockets, pay more for their health insurance, look worn down by the lack of respect shown their profession by those who think that privatizing education is the perfect solution.

The translator who knows that his relationship with the Somali and Sudanese 5 and 6 and 7 year old students can continue in the fall.

And so, I am opting for the immediate fix, the short term solution, the money that's here now vs the money which should be given if there were justice in the world and officials of integrity in Phoenix.

The last time I cried on Election Day, Little Cuter filled in the blank for Ralph Nader.  I couldn't ask anyone to do this for me, though.  It's an awful, ugly, unfortunate choice.  I'm more than a little teary.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Men have been smiling at me all day.

In the parking lot after breakfast with Brenda Starr.  Amid the fruits and vegetables at the market.  In front of the large print books in the library.

It's nearing triple digit temperatures, so I wasn't wearing a parka and boots, but my flouncy skirt brushes the top of my knees and my white linen tank top is more boxy than form fitting.  I had no flashy jewelry and my only make up was sunscreen.

Why was this surprising? Those of you who have reached the stage of invisibility know the answer - one of the perks of cronehood is the ability to pass unnoticed through a crowd.  My presence is acknowledged in that I occupy space.  Beyond that, admiring glances are few and far between.

That's not altogether a bad thing.  Ogling is unpleasant at best, terrifying at worst, and the line between them is anyone's to draw.  Being noticed that way is akin to being judged, and often my book is much more interesting than my cover.

Yet, for some reason, today I was the recipient of random, admiring gazes.

It was lovely.  It was weird.  It was vaguely creepy, in a where am I who am I why is this happening way.

I thought I'd share it here and be done with it.  I don't know that it requires analysis, but I can't seem to let it go.

Friday, May 13, 2016

How Am I Doing?

I gardened.  I bent over, I sat on the ground, I kneeled.  I lugged bags of soil and wheeled heavy newly planted pots.

I climbed the stair machine.  The first time I tried, 30 seconds felt like a major triumph.  Everything hurt.  On Mothers Day, I climbed for 10 minutes and stopped only because I couldn't breathe.  My lungs, not my hip, decided my fate.

My knee is facing forward.  Your knees probably face forward of their own accord, but my right knee has always been a bit askew.  My new massage genius is loosening up and moving around and generally disrupting the patterns of a lifetime and, much to the amazement of family and therapists alike, my hips are now aligned and my ten toes come easily to parallel.

I think about Christina-Taylor every day, but the constant tug has been replaced by a vaguely unpleasant ache.  Mostly, I watch the 5th graders I met as kindergarten kids move on to a new, middle school adventure, just as the 3rd graders then will be high school freshmen in August.

Life goes on.  There is no judgment in that, there is only truth.  Getting better is an elusive concept, one I am happy to be around to explore. Because, as always, my ultimate truth is that the sun came up and I was here to see it.  By definition, it's a good day.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

How Am I Doing? The August, 2013 Edition

Written half-way between then and now, this Archive post benefited from some serious editing.  Tomorrow I'll write about how I'm doing now.
Today, I'm looking backward.
Where Are Your Sticks?

I, the Official Adopted Grandmother of Prince Elementary School, returned to the playground, ready to greet a new school year. Dressed in my coat of many colors, I had stickers in my pocket and a smile on my face. After an hour, there were fewer stickers, but many more smiles.

"Do you remember me?" they asked, and "Of course!" I did even if I didn't. I have very few of their names in my permanent memory bank, though I recognize the usual suspects by sight. They are all a little taller... "nearly as tall as you are, Granny."

"Can we sing the Jingle Bells song?" a big boy wondered, and I shrugged and started crooning. This is the only audience on the planet which appreciates my vocalizations. 

We're working on learning the second verse, especially because it ends in kerplop! That is a very funny word, especially if you speak Urdu at home. I don't know why, I just know that it is. His face told me so.

The newly minted third grade girls and I sat in the shade, on the square bench closest to the boys playing soccer, and caught up on our summers. "My other grandma..."  she began, and I lost the rest of her story because I was overcome. I'm in her life. I'm her school grandma. She wondered why I hugged her, but she snuggled in and kept on talking.

We shared staple scars on our bellies - hers from an appendectomy and mine from bullets. The conversation wasn't about the discomfort or the fear, it was about the shape of our belly buttons after the surgeons were finished with us. We were peeved. Both of us.

Some moments are just perfect.

"All those boys do is play soccer. See the one in the striped shirt? He chased me." and yes, they knew exactly why he'd been chasing her. He liked her, she nodded with glee. It was a game. It was more tag than spin-the-bottle. It was being nine years old.

I tied lots of shoe laces, pink shoelaces on sparkly pink shoes... even on the boys' feet. Hand-me-downs, even from your sister, are beautiful if they are all that you have. Of course, it is entirely possible that he just liked the ones with the pink and purple sparkles. I didn't judge, I admired, tied, and moved on.

We talked about eating vegetables last year. "I remember that day," was accompanied by a wrinkled nose and a smile. Spinach that tasted like dirt. Carrots that were too crunchy. We reminisced and laughed until one of the soccer boys came over and interrupted.

"Where are your sticks?"


I'd left the car, walked through the parking lot, the lobby, around the playground, into the cafeteria, and I never once considered bringing an assistive device. I used to carry a hiking pole in my car. I can't remember when I stopped, but I haven't looked for one in a while. Trekking around the school's campus was exhausting; I planned my journeys to minimize distance. At least, I used to do that. It seems that now I have graduated to walking and taking a rest or two, but walking without help.
Sometimes, it takes a Prince Mustang to point out my recovery.

"Life just gets better and better, doesn't it. I'm healing and you're helping," and that was enough, because he went back to playing soccer and we kept on talking and walking and I marveled at the truth elicited by a little boy with pink shoelaces.
first posted Aug. 29, 2013, almost three years after I was perforated.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Prop 123 Revisited

I ranted and I raved and I was right.  Voting for this Proposition will be giving in to bullies.  The voters demanded funds for education; the governor denied those funds and presented this in its place. There are triggers and there are caveats and there's the whole thing about the State Land Trust and mortgaging the future for today.


I spent the morning at Prince Elementary School.  I watched the teacher struggle to maintain order with 27 wily 5 and 6 year olds doing their best to thwart her.  I saw her name on the books in her Library.... her name, not the classroom number or the school's identifier.  She paid for The Little White Duck and The Sense of Smell and several other well loved paperbacks in the bucket on our table.  The District didn't pay for those books.  She did, and she will take them with her when she moves out of Kindergarten and up to a 4th grade class next Fall.  They'll stay stored away, in case she decides to return to teaching the littlest ones; she'll invest in grown up books for next year.

She'll invest.  She will take the time and the dollars from her own stash.  The State of Arizona won't help her.  The Amphi School District can't help her.  The students need her.  What else can she do?

I asked her about my vote, and she begged for my YES at the ballot box.  Her health care premiums are rising next year; without the passage of Prop 123 she'll take a pay cut to meet her share.  She hasn't gotten a raise in years, but she loves the kids and her work and really, what else would I do?  But her meager pay check must cover not only her own costs, but those of her classroom as well.

I spoke to the Principal about my vote, too.  Her husband is in my corner - this is a raid on the principal of the land trust, there is no guarantee for the future, the bill is too flawed to approve.  Yet, this principal spent last night trying to convince her mate that he needed to swallow all of his valid objections - her teachers need a boost.

If Prop 123 passes, the Amphi District staff will receive bonus checks in the mail this summer.  It won't be a lot, but it will be something.  "And who doesn't need a little bit extra in the summer," asked the principal.... and I couldn't disagree.

So, I am stuck.  Do I stick to my principles, my clear understanding that voting for this proposition will be giving in to the bullies who've said Take It or Get Nothing, or do I bend and give the people in the trenches a little bit of whipped cream on an otherwise empty dessert tray?  When all the educators in town are urging me to vote for the proposition, do I stay on my high horse, stick to my guns, do what I know is right or do I help the humans I care about get just a little bit of something wonderful, right now?

It's a dilemma, denizens.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Math Centers at Prince

Math is a tactile experience in Ms Levine's room.
The scholars build with all manner of connectable materials.
Sometimes, it's a matter of seeing how high they can stack, before collapsing in a laughable heap.
Sometimes, it's a family, out for a walk in the sunshine.
Sometimes, it's a train... which turns into a Match The Colors game.
Sometimes, you just need Grandma Suzi to take your picture.
You stand straight and tall, smiling when she counts to THREE! and then you return to your station.
Grandma Suzi loves to make kids happy, especially when all it takes is a tap of her finger on her phone.

Sometimes, there are instructions, and your leadership skills come into play.
All her "No, not that one" and "Put a green one here" pleas were for naught.
Creativity trumped the directions every time. 
Collaboration is serious stuff; interruptions are not welcome.
We did Tangram shapes (did I know what a rhombus was in kindergarten?) and we created Rube Goldberg-like towers for shiny silver marbles to roll through, and we counted.
There was a lot of serious stuff going on, but sometimes, boys just want to have fun.
An hour with 5 and 6 year olds.... it is tonic for my soul.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Then This Happened

Some consideration was given to creating a Mothers Day post.
Then, this happened:
The amaryllis which had languished in the potting shed was springing to life before my very eyes.
After several months of sporadic attention in the Pot Before You Are Finished For Good, the Christmas-time flower is going to be just a little late for Mothers Day.

I could not ignore its valiant efforts to please, so I moved the PBYAFFG to the courtyard, 
where, I saw these:
Overnight, these big, fleshy leaves had produced the perfect shade of lavender on straight and sturdy stalks.  Again, I couldn't ignore the magnificence; off to the garden center I went.

I transplanted unhappy osteospermum and added some gonfreda and deadheaded and amended and left some fun for tomorrow.  This gladiola began peeking out on Saturday; this was as far as she got by Sunday evening.  I'm going to entice the rest of her friends out tomorrow,
 as I end my planting for the season.

It's a short, but wonderful, season.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Tech Failures

I planned to post pictures of Ms Levine's class and their Math Centers.  I edited the photos on my phone, and clicked through the prompts to select them and share them, first to Blogger, then to Dropbox, then to Google Photos..... failing each time.

This is normally a simple process.  I understand it. It works.  Not so much today.

I tried to Skype with FlapJilly and Little Cuter over the weekend.  SIR and Big Bob were at Talladega; the girls were rocking out at home and I wanted to join in the fun.  Unfortunately, Skype and my internet connection were arguing; I reloaded the conversation a dozen times before we hung up.  It was no better when Grandpa came home for his turn; frustration and a 2 year old are not a winning combination.

I bought a refurbished Apple iPad Mini for Facetime purposes only.  I tried to set it up by syncing it to my Android phone; neither device was grateful for my intervention.  I tried to set it up by linking it to my Facebook account; apparently Facebook didn't like it, either.  My Apple ID is not what I think it is and so, frustrated and sweating, I activated it by creating a brand new Apple Account.

Facetime was preloaded; its icon appeared on the screen when the power came on.  Unfortunately, the connection took longer than I anticipated, and the kids were pixilated and fuzzy until the ether sorted itself out.  By the time I figured out how to unmute the device it was closing in on the baby's bedtime.  FlapJilly and I were starting to melt down, so we kissed and smiled and hung up.

I'm going for a swim in the pool and then to the Spring Carnival at Prince Elementary School with some GRIN volunteers.  If the technology genies agree, photos from this event and that event will appear next week.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Donald J Trump Redux

Though this archive edition was first posted in April, 2011, it spoke to me today.

John Kasich and Ted Cruz have suspended their campaigns, and Trump is now the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States.  I can't believe I just typed that sentence.

The donor base is reluctant to give to the RNC's Presidential campaign fund, according to the talking heads.  The down ticket candidates are squirming.  And five years ago, newly perforated, returning to the world after 14 weeks of bed rest, my outrage was as potent as it is now.  I asked it then and I ask it now:
How did this happen?
A Charming Rascal
(first published April 15, 2011)

First things first : What is it with the hair?

Second : Is this really happening?

The man has been married three times and is looking to be embraced by the family values crowd.

He's lost more money in more real estate deals than we'll all make in our collective lifetimes and he wants us to put him in charge of the federal budget.

I thought it was strange here in Arizona, but maybe the rest of you ought to sit up and take a look at what's happening out there.  Or maybe you have already noticed, and I've been too self-absorbed to realize it.  But self-absorption brings us right back to Donald Trump, doesn't it.

Watching the talking heads this afternoon - and yes, it is nice to be doing something normal for a change - I was struck by the tone of the comments.  Chris Matthews was a guest at one of the Donald's weddings.  He wass bemused by his friend's antics.  There was none of his usual ranting and raving in his reportage.  Similarly, TIME magazine's man laughed at himself; the interview Trump dominated was shameless self-promotion, but TIME didn't mind.  It was a great time.

Trump is a clown, a man who made a mockery of himself on television. He seems unaware of this face. He's putting second-tier formerly famous people through their paces and he wants me to elect him to the presidency?

I'm more than bemused.  I'm outraged.

Is this what it has come to?  A centrist Democrat holds an open air forum and takes a bullet to her brain.  A woman from middle America tests the presidential waters while momentarily misplacing Lexington and Concord.  Our president plays rope-a-dope with the budget while the elderly and their children wonder if Tea Party zealots have aging parents, too.  And The Donald wants to be President.

What has been going on since I've left you people in charge?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Having Second Thoughts on Prop 123 - A political Snippet

Big Cuter says that my post on the subject is incomprehensible to anyone who is unfamiliar with Arizona politics.  There's a post coming on "the curse of knowledge,"  which Steven Pinker defines as writing while being unable to appreciate the fact that everyone else doesn't know all that you know on a subject.

Bottom line, I thought, and still think, that Prop 123 is one step in the war on public education being waged in Arizona.  Doubt me?  The supporters of Prop 123 talk about "government schools" instead of "public schools" .... that's the problem in a nutshell.

So, I thought we should all vote against it, because we don't give in to bullies.

Then, I talked to the real stakeholders: the teachers in the classroom.

I heard about no raises for years.  I heard about health care premiums soaring next year.  I heard the desperation in their voices as "It may not be perfect, but the District says I'll get a 3% raise next year if it passes, and that way I won't take a pay cut as health care costs rise."

It's a bad solution. It's also the only way anything at all will get done.  It is not a long term fix.  It's a bandaid placed on wet skin in a thunderstorm; it's not a real solution but it remedies an immediate catastrophe.

Those who care about Arizona, about its future, about the direction the Republican leadership is dragging the state, those people are adamantly opposed to Prop 123, as was I.  Those who are in the trenches, who are teaching 27 kids with no aides and no translators, who are dipping into their own pockets for marbles and stickers and glue and books, those people deserve that 3% raise right now.

It's a conundrum, denizens.  It really is.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Having Second Thoughts on the Democrats - A Political Snippet

Watching Donald Trump march toward the Presidency scares me beyond description.  His vituperative nature cannot be the face of America, at least not my America.  But every time I hear him call Hillary a crook, I remember why I've never been one of Mrs. Clinton's biggest fans.

Those in the know report a disturbing lack of enthusiasm for her, without citing specifics about the why's.  There's none of the energy surrounding Sen. Sanders, whose resume is certainly less impressive than the former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.

I've been relying on those qualifications to secure her a seat in the Oval Office.  Watching Trump advance despite predictions to the contrary, I'm beginning to wonder if enthusiasm resulting in a less qualified Democrat might be preferable to voters staying home and a narcissist winning by default.

Can I be feeling the Bern, just a little? Can I toss aside the fact that he is flat out wrong on guns, that Hillary is a woman and I have a granddaughter, that experience and knowing the players should have some bearing on my choice?

I just don't know.  I don't know if I'll have the chance.  It's like betting on a match race, knowing one of the entrants will scratch before post time.  I don't want to care, but I do.

Monday, May 2, 2016

His Good Friends

Big Cuter lived with the same three guys, in a variety of configurations, for a decade or so.  Meeting on their freshman dorm floor, they lived on and off campus and then found grown-up apartments as they began their lives.  Girlfriends have come and gone, jobs have changed, more education and military service separated them geographically, yet through it all, their bond remains strong.

Their political views range from Ted Cruz to Elizabeth Warren.  They cheer for the Wizards and Golden State, the Steelers and the 49'ers.  Fortunately, they all agree that the two wives who've joined them are excellent additions to the crew.

And TBG and I love them all.

They celebrated birthdays and Easter and graduation together.  They cosseted my boy as I lay perforated in front of the Safeway.  They are in one another's lives in a way that most of us only imagine; they truly know one another.

And today, the now pregnant bride and groom of two years ago, on their babymoon in Scottsdale, took the day to drive down to Tucson to visit us.

Big Cuter's not here.  They just wanted to visit with us.  We went to lunch and sat in the sun and we watched the Warriors and we talked.  Politics and babies and families and more politics, gun safety legislation and border fences, Big Law and paid paternity leave..... we covered it all.

There were clementines and Hershey's Kisses and lots and lots of water.  There was laughter and hilarity associated with my inability to remember our wifi password, which led to a visit to Fast Eddie next door.  They left in the late afternoon, taking the scenic route back to their hotel, leaving TBG and me waving happily from the driveway.

I am so glad we've become the kind of parents our kid's friends want to visit on their vacation.