Friday, March 30, 2018

May I Rant?

I was out all day today.  I ran errands up and down Oracle Road, aka State Route 77.  I started at 10ish and I got home at 6.  I was out and about during lunch time and after work and get-me-home-in-time-for-dinner drive times.  I need to spew the venom which has been building up all day.  Thanks for listening:

The same fools were on the roads all day.  Not a one of them paid any attention to the unwritten Rules of the Road, the ones that the DMV doesn't publish but that anyone who has ever driven a car in a responsible manner understands.  Let me list a few:

  • The left lane is not for sight-seeing.
  • Turn signals are useful devices, installed in your car because I cannot read you mind.
  • The speed limit is not a suggestion.  Zooming from the right lane to the left lane with your bass turned up does draw attention to you, but not in a good way.
  • Leaving 20 car lengths between you and the car in front of you is unnecessary.  
    • If you like to have that much space available, use the right lane.
    • Doing this because you see a red light half a mile ahead is obnoxious.  
    • Doing this in a way that prevents me from accessing the designated turn lane is designed to aggravate me.
  • We are a "hands free" county - dialing your cell phone while drifting into my lane is not a great idea.
  • When your road merges with mine, that doesn't mean that my lane evaporates.  I'm still in it, in my car, moving forward with alacrity.  There might be cars to my left as you decide to join me  from the right.  Looking first might be a good idea.
It was a long long long long day.  It's the snowbirds and Spring Break visitors clogging my roadways.  They are good for our economy.  I wish they would all go home.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Random Quotes and Thoughts from Moms Demand Action Lobby Day

The podium was in the sunshine.  The rest of us had our choice.  I love living in the desert; large group meetings held outdoors, where the comings and goings take place over grass beneath the bright blue sky.  The temps were in the 60's when we started, and hit the low 70's when I left.  Spring in the desert makes lobbying feel like a vacation.
Rep. Daniel Hernandez, sporting bright orange socks, exhorted us to contact everyone.  He received 300 emails in one day from the other side.  It's important to continue to make our voices heard.
Sen. Steve Farley represents my District.  He's also running for Governor.  
He told us that the gun lobby is scaring people.
Once again, making our voices heard was the theme.
Sen. Kate Brophy McGee thinks that the legislature may be close to passing gun safety legislation.  The Democrats hate parts of it.  
The Republicans hate parts of it.
So, I think we're almost there!
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone is my new favorite public official.
Public Safety should never be a partisan issue

Law enforcement must be proactive..... with 3 priorities:
public safety
public health
public education

There is never a time when protecting our Constitution is more important than protecting our children. 

We cannot continue as we have, thinking of our children as collateral damage in defense of the 2nd Amendment.
I was inspired.
In it for the long haul.
Off to write an email to an elected official.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I Had A Moment

I joined Moms Demand Action in the Rose Garden outside the State Capitol in Phoenix today.

I parked without knowing exactly where they'd be gathering, and I walked through the lot and around the building before I found them.

There were enough chairs and benches and tables for everyone, some in the shade and some in the sun, but I wandered around, crossing the grass, greeting old friends and making new ones.

I stepped over and around the boxes under the tent.  I walked back and forth in the State Museum Building looking for the cafeteria (it closed 6 months ago).  I stood for the group photo and moved with enthusiasm for the boomerang (which is something on social media I didn't quite understand). I walked to offices and meetings.  Hours passed.

And then, I had a moment.

My hip was not in the way.

I stood in the sunshine.  I walked on the grass.  I wandered.  I congregated.  I gyrated.

I'm still not perfect, but today came pretty close.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

March For Our Lives, South Bend Style

Little Cuter was so proud of (her) little blue county in a big red state coming together for the sake of common sense. She and SIR and FlapJilly took Giblet to his first march on Saturday evening, and though the weather was frigid, their hearts were warm.
FlapJilly asked to wear her Wonder Woman costume and we said HELL YES because what we need is peace, love, and harmony, so peeking from beneath her winter jacket and and hat-with-ear-flaps-in-MARCH-for-crying-out-loud, is a 3 year old's expression of the power of children.

As my daughter went on, it’s the kids - from 3 to 18 - showing us how it’s done. 

And show them they did.  

The piece Little Cuter wanted me to share with you is this Spoken Word by Ben Fecher, a high school senior, called We The People.    
It's kids like this that inspire me.

 Yes, Everytown and Gabby Giffords's PAC provided introductions and financing and logistical support, but that's what they are supposed to do.  Michael Bloomberg promised to spend his last dime defeating the gun lobby, and he's well on the way to doing so (permits and security and sound systems are not inexpensive).  Gabby and Mark called Robert Kraft, and the Patriots' plane was dispatched to carry Parkland survivor families to DC.  Moms Demand Action volunteers helped sibling marches throughout the country, but the initial impetus came from the students themselves.

Their parents are starting them off right.
A young activist and her parents in DC on 3/24/18

Monday, March 26, 2018

#MarchForOurLives in Tucson

I love the notion of Sibling Marches.
I was brave enough to go to ours.
I was smart enough not to walk the 1.8 miles from downtown to the UofA Mall.
with the 7,000 or so who did.  

Instead, I went straight to the rally site, minimizing the distance between The Uv and my exit.
It was a multi-age crowd; I was tasked with keeping the able bodied out of the chairs and spaces reserved for the disabled and those with wheelchairs and walkers.
We watched the marchers join us on the Mall. 
Children already scarred by gun violence 
carried banners of the murdered and the inspiring 
Two of my favorite politicians, Daniel Hernandez and Billy Kovacs, were there. 
Billy facilitated the behind the scenes logistics, and was there, moving tables and attaching signs and doing what was needed when it was needed with a smile on his face and no name tag identifying him as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the US House of Representatives.  He's an impressive man.

Daniel spoke after the students spoke.  The kids talked of personal loss, of terror, of not going to concerts because something weird might happen.    Daniel told of holding my boss's head in my hands.... I was 20 years old.  

Then Christina-Taylor's best friends spoke, with CTG's mom by their side.  She'd have been there, leading the way, they said.  They said some more, but I was distracted by the memory of chocolate brown eyes, by the sight of her mother's controlled face beside those two-who-should've-been-three, by a sense of outrage at a murder which was preventable.

As CTG's mom said on tv that afternoon, we are in it for the long haul.... even though we wish were weren't in it at all.  The march was happy/sad ... proud and sad at the same time.
So many teachers were there, 

This delightful young man and his mother created the other side of my "gate," 
blocking the way with smiles and bulk.  
He took me out of myself, and allowed me to open my heart to this 
with courage inspired by Gabby. 
In it for the long haul.
So glad to have all these kiddos along for the ride.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Beads of Courage

I met Jean Baruch, founder of Beads of Courage, after I was shot. She's a friend of a friend, because that's the way it is here in our community. Those who make the world a better place move in the same, small, circles.  We're a friendly group, always looking for the intersections, the connections, the ways to maximize our reach.  Our stories arise from our personal experiences; Jean, a nurse, watched kids struggle with serious illnesses.  She wanted to honor them.  She wanted to commemorate their trials.  She wanted them to feel empowered, to feel like conquerors, like warriors, like people who had met the enemy and survived.
This is a research based group, starting with the beads themselves.  The website features a page called Why Beads, which gives an historical and anthropological backdrop.  The work has been peer reviewed and written about and presented at conferences.  It's not just arts and crafts, it's a proven balm for the soul.

And not only for the souls of the sick kids and their families.  It heals those who tend to them.  That's what we were helping with on Sunday, when Amster and Messers 12 and 14 and I spent two hours at a table,
putting beads and cards into plastic sleeves.
Our cards were Chaplain/Pastoral Care Cards.  There is space on the back side for a personal note.  We were tasked with taking one card, inserting it into the plastic sleeve, adding one bead, removing the strip over the adhesive, and folding the lip over, sealing the whole thing tight.

It involved a lot of repetitive motion.  It allowed us to chat about March Madness and doing good and the concept philanthropy in general, since the task itself require no brain power at all. The boys were less efficient than Amster and I, but they were there and they were participating and she was satisfied.  

At the end, we had 8 bags of 100 sleeves each, with a few left over.  
I tried not to think about 800 chaplains comforting 800 children.  I tried to focus on the smiling faces of the boys beside me.  I thought about the distraction of the bead, about the pain it was designed to assuage, about the toll disease takes on the patient, the family, the caregivers, the professionals, the world....... and I caught myself before I fell completely down that rabbit hole.

We did good.  Others will be grateful.  That's enough.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Happy Spring

I'm sorry. Really, I am.
I am truly sorry that people from Indiana to Maine will be snowed in at they read this on the third day of Spring.  It's just not right.

I understand that you "like the four seasons" and think that you'd miss the snow.
 Look out your windows right now. Are you happy? 
April is just around the corner.  Pink is in the forecast... if you, like FlapJilly, have a pink parka.
My plants and I invite you to visit the desert Southwest. The temperatures are in the 70's and there's a gentle breeze moving the sweet smelling air around.
This is Spring in The Desert.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Free Tree

Cooperative Extension at the University of Arizona held a festival for vendors of sustainable landscaping products and services.  There were booths and food trucks and lots of very smart people sharing information and trying not to judge.

They knew how to plant things and how to maintain things and how to irrigate things.  They were giving away literature and advice and making appointments for home visits.  There were doers-of-good deeds, looking for clients and volunteers and donations.  There were tours of the Master Gardeners' Demonstration Gardens.

And there was the Civano Nursery volunteer giving away free trees, courtesy of Tucson Electric Power.  Trees are good for the environment.  The more of them we plant, the cleaner our air will be.  Trees have branches which provide long term and short term habitat for birds and bees.  Their root systems help to stabilize and aerate the soil.... and our soil needs all the help it can get.

And, perhaps more important to TEP, planting the bigger, leafier trees on the south and west sides of our homes will keep them cooler, putting less strain on the electric grid during our scorching, summer months. During the year, our power company sells 5 gallon trees for $5; on Saturday, they were giving them away for free.

I cannot ignore free plant material. I, like most gardeners, am willing to cannibalize friends' yards for pups and sprouts and cuttings.  I couldn't walk past a tree that would cost $30 or more at the nursery, a tree straight from the grower, who raised it locally, from proven stock, a tree that would fit in The Uv, a gift from the gardening gods.

So, I stopped and looked and listened as he described the dimensions the available specimens would achieve, "although you can always trim them back."   I chose the wispy, small white flowers, more of an accent than a shade tree - a palo blanco.

The tree and I got home just as the irrigation began to sputter on.  I put the container in a corner I'll see every day, moved a drip line from a well established oleander and buried it under the mulch, then stepped back to admire my work... which was done.

All that's left is to ask the yard guys to dig the hole, this one and the one in the back for the new rose bush.  I'm saving my energy for tasks which I enjoy, like finding free trees.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Billy Collins, 2018

The seats in the middle were reserved for major donors.  The seats on the sides were available.  I took the first row, center aisle seat, and watched as Susannah, Billy Collins's wife, followed the escorts and her husband into the room.

He went toward the stage.  She came toward me.  I stood up, saying her name, extending my hand, apologizing for remembering her when I was certain she didn't remember meeting me, 7 years ago, at the Arizona Inn......

"I do remember.... your name is Sue.... right?  You were wearing one beautiful boot...."

and then we hugged.  We remembered a little bit more,, and then she hugged me again.  I took my seat again, reeling from the glow.

Billy Collins took the stage for a reading, telling us that we experience poetry viscerally, we see it, hear it, feel it touch it...and I found myself caressing the pages of his poetry as I read along with him.

He read The Lanyard, and I spent a misty moment or two missing G'ma.  He read Carry and there was a hushed silence at the end.  He read Forgetfulness to rueful laughter.

He's the most accessible of poets; he makes certain that he is taking his audience along with him.  He defined snood and mulishness and revenant before reading the poems in which they figured.  In describing the backdrop to the poem Tennessee Fainting Goats, he told us that they live up to all three parts of their name.  

He's funny and he's real and he's older than Cheerios.  He remembered me too, when I spoke to him at the Book Signing Table.  We talked about Days, the poem he read for me all those years ago.  We talked about Gabby and Mark.

He's a part of my life, whether he knows it or not, and either is fine with me.  After all, he defined his poems as a mixture of clarity and mystery.....much like life, I think.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Lunch with Billy Collins (part 2)

(This is the last of the past.  Tomorrow I'll talk about 2018)

(A few weeks after getting shot.......)

Driving from the northwest side down to the Arizona Inn was an instant replay for TBG of the countless trips he made over the 10 days I was hospitalized.  Down First and over to Campbell, trying to avoid the traffic on Ft. Lowell and failing, as it moved ever westward, inexorably challenging buses and passenger cars alike, he railed at the bumps in the road as he looked anxiously to his right, worried beyond measure about his sweetie and her aches and pains.  

I tried to be brave, but the outside world is a scary place for me right now.  Unintended consequences do happen.... short Jewish girls do get shot.... the guy crossing the street could turn suddenly and ......  It was a struggle to stay focused on the big blue sky and the cold fresh air buffeting my fragile self.  Brother was in the back seat, on his way to the airport and the (other) women who love him and he kept up a steady patter of chatter designed to keep me distracted.  It almost worked.

Did I know where we were going?  Yes, turn left at the hospital and the hotel is on the right.  The hospital, (Tlooming large and frightening and comforting all at the same time.  My room, hidden behind the parking garage, a small safe sanctuary from the craziness outside... the urge to return was nearly overwhelming.  The nurses and doctors and security personnel would keep me safe, would keep the uncertainty of the real world at bay, and I could lie on my plastic mattress and pretend to sleep while I healed.  But retreat is not an option, and Elm Street is one of the prettiest roads in Tucson, and suddenly there was the curb cut and the bellman and the borrowed wheelchair and Beautiful Anne, my hostess, just waiting for me to arrive.  TBG and Brother argued over who would escort me to my seat and be sure that I was comfortable and unbroken between the sidewalk and the banquet room but wiser minds prevailed and, after promising that I would be returned"without so much as a hangnail"  I was rolled to the venue.

I left the wheelchair behind; if Tucson is seeing me as an icon of recovery I had to enter the room with my walker.  From the perspective of a wheelchair I am looking up at an unfamiliar world.  Doing bar-dips, hopping across the dining room to the Speaker's Table (the Speakers Table!!), I was closer to my old, independent, 5' self.  No one approached me, which was a good thing because balance and distance and exhaustion make for an interestingly unstable combination these days.  But their eyes were upon me and I could hear the whispers identifying me.  It's not intrusive so much as surprising, not invasive but definitely within my personal space.  I'm coming to terms with being the face of Tucson's recovery and "Oh, look, it's Suzi!" has become my new normal when I venture out into the world.  I have a new appreciation for movie stars who want to run out for a gallon of milk when they need a haircut and have no clean clothes.  Before I'd left home I'd examined my outfit from all directions, sitting and standing, and my hair came in for some serious mousse and fluffing.  It's not who I was, but it is who I am.

It took me a while to get over the excitement of sitting at the head table..... I wasn't the bride nor the speaker.... I'd just gone to the grocery store with a friend.... but there I was and then there was Billy Collins, quietly entering and approaching his table... our table... to sit next to me.  Lunch with Billy Collins.... I could barely catch my breath.

Little Cuter has been pretty jealous of this whole event.  It was she who introduced me to his poetry and cries of "Not Fair!" have never been far from our conversations.  I had The Apple That Astonished Paris  in my purse, a token I'd ask him to inscribe for her as a means of assuaging my guilt that I and not she was sitting there, eating salad and warm rolls and drinking iced tea with the former poet laureate of the United States of America.  For the moment, though, all I could do was glow as he and his fiancee shook my hand and rubbed my back and told me how glad they were to meet me.

How glad they were to meet me..... I am still getting over that one, denizens.

Literary Society members approached with politeness and grace, offering books for autographs and sharing snippets of their lives.  Billy Collins sat with a stack of books and papers on his lap, rearranging and reorganizing as the meal progressed.  Then he was introduced and took the podium, appreciating the impromptu description of his life and career which was told from the heart instead of from a script by the organizer of the event.  He was gracious even before he began.

I scooted my chair around so that I could see, and I tried to ignore the throbbing in my hip and my quadricep and my lower back.  No way was I going to miss a second of this; the pain was relegated to its own little box and I was there, in the moment, as Billy (it's hard to call him Mr. Collins; though that seems more respectful it just doesn't ring true) talked about his influences and recited Bacon and Eggs by Howard Nemerov in its entirety:
The chicken contributes
But the pig gives its all.
The ice was broken and he was off and running, sharing little moments in time which he'd made into poetry.  "And that's what the poem turned out to be," he said, describing how a glance out the window had turned into a sonnet on another topic entirely.  All the while his fiancee was looking at him with adoration and amusement and love; I could feel the vibes bouncing off him and being deflected by the warmth of the crowd back at him again.  He was small and the opposite of bombastic and, as Beautiful Anne said "Not everyone can write andread... but he certainly can."  

There was one teenager in the room,  braces and barefoot sitting cross legged at the front table across from ours.  She was enthralled and smiling and then bright red and abashed and laughing as she heard

Not only in church
and nightly by their bedsides
do young girls pray these days

Wherever they go,
prayer is woven into their talk
like a bright thread of awe

Even at the pedestrian mall
outbursts of praise
spring unbidden from their glossy lips. 

She turned to her grown-up and cocked her head.  "YES, that's you!" came back to her in full force and those of us lucky enough to catch the encounter were entranced.  As I mentioned in part one of this story, he didn't come into the event with a pre-determined playlist of poems.  His selections were personalized to the audience; he was a self-described poetry jukebox.  His choices were impeccable.  

For a man with no work habits, who commits an act of literature as he describes mortality being able to italicize life, he was really quite incredible.  Like Audrey Hepburn spurning Cary Grant's offer of friendship in Charade, his brain is too full: 

(It's as if there is a) shelf in my head... when I read a new one the one at the other end falls off..... and the shelf is shrinking..... the memories have retired.

Or, as he said while commenting on the veracity of a poem:

It wasn't quite like that...
But it wasn't unlike that, either.

I wish you all could have been there.  It lifted my soul and my spirits and my brain was flickering in a way it had not since before the 8th of January.  Thank you, Beautiful Anne and Kim Nelson* and the Tucson Literary Society and the Northern Trust Bank, for a most wonderful afternoon.

*see comments for the wonderfulness that she's bringing to The Burrow these days 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday, February 4, 2011

That's the day I first met Billy Collins.  I'm reprising the posts from that luncheon to provide background for this year's connection .  

Lunch With Billy Collins (part 1)

There are some perks to being perforated.  People reach out and touch you in warm and wonderful ways.  Gifts are delivered, thoughtful soft warm and cozy gifts which show real thought and planning.  And invitations are extended.

A friend of Amster's is a member of the Tucson Literary Society.  While I was in the hospital she began reading The Burrow and noticed Billy Collins in the sidebar.  She sent me an email, wondering if I would like to join her at the TLS's luncheon where he would be the featured speaker.

Did I want to go?  Oh, yes.  Oh, yes yes yes yes yes  (to paraphrase Molly Bloom). 

Would I be able to go?  That was another matter entirely.  But suddenly I had a goal, an event, an occasion to strive toward.  I've been practicing sitting and riding in cars and dressing in more than sweats and a t-shirt and I've been encouraging TBG to consider letting me out of his sight for a few hours and today I had lunch with Billy Collins.

Now that is a sentence which makes me smile.  And it's not a sentence I'm likely to say very often.

The event was wonderful and deserves more than I have the energy tonight to invest in it.  Come back on Monday for the full report.  For now, I offer this poem.  It's what I have read every morning since I was shot (and that's a sentence that does not make me smile) and it's a poem he read today.  I cried like a baby, and my new friend rubbed my back, and Suzanne, Mr. Collins's fiancee, grabbed my hand and squeezed.  When his reading and question-answering was over he left the podium and came right to my chair.  As I was telling him that I read Days every morning he smiled and said "I read that for you"

Billy Collins selected a poem and read it for me.  For me.  I am still trying to get my head around that fact.  So, while I bask in the glow and create an appropriate post for Monday, I leave you with these words of gratitude and looking forward.

Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.

Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.

Through the calm eye of the window
everything is in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow

on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to build on stage.

No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more.

Just another Wednesday
you whisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday's saucer
without the slightest clink.

by Billy Collins, US Poet Laureate 2001-200

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Ides of May

I worked on the garage yesterday.  It was not easy.  It was not fun.  It was necessary.

The boxes were threatening to take over my parking space.  There were newspapers and scraps of paper and loose sheets of bubble wrap all over the floor.  I collected and sorted and organized and threw out and stacked up and swept.

Then I sat down on one of the too-heavy-for-me-to-lift-alone boxes filled with books and looked to my right.  There, on top of an open box of memories, I found this:

The next time you think-about-but-put-off-for-now-and-then-forget-to-write a letter to someone you love,  I hope you remember the joy I felt when I held my father's handwriting, 48 years after the fact, small rivulets of tears running down my cheeks, smiling at his ability to recognize his own failings, not wanting to be a bother, but sending me a note which is not a platitude.

I framed it.  It's in the garage, on the shelf next to the refrigerator.  I'll see it every day.

So, go and write that letter you've been putting off.  Someone will love you for it.
In case his handwriting is undecipherable, I've transcribed the note for you:

Dear Suz
     The Ides of May are upon us. and we yet survive.
     Hope you are very fine and well. and I look forward to seeing you soon and having you around.
     Lots of platitudes floating around in my head but don't want to annoy you with them but this is not a platitude

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A TFOB Picture Post

Elsa was there, at the entrance.  
The little girls were mesmerized, squealing in that high pitch only achieved by 3 year olds in ecstasy when Elsa bent down to talk to them.
I became a Friend of the Festival, making a donation to insure that I would have a seat to see and hear my favorite poet, ever.
I was in the front row for Billy Collins's solo performance,

and for his duet with Juan Felipe Herrera the next day.
Billy Collins was the highlight for me, but there were many, many other wonderful events.
Sitting, again in the front row, I watched Scott Turow lean his head first on his left hand and then on his right hand as he answered questions with fully formed paragraphs.
Greg Iles shared the stage with him, and that's about all they share.  Different styles, different techniques, and very very different accents.  

Robert Crais talked about his main character, Elvis Cole, as if he were in the room with us.
I was in the third row this time, but, as always, on the aisle.

Three men who write thrillers amused themselves, as the moderator laughed along.
Moderating is a talent.  Joseph Finder, William Kent Krueger and Nick Petrie were lucky to have theirs.  He let them wander with their answers to the places that interested them, and asked the questions I'd have asked.

There were other heroes, like Don, who was streaming closed captioning 
with a court reporter's device at his fingertips and a big smile as he explained just what he was doing. There was the former Tucson Police officer who drove me in a golf cart all the way to my car, telling me that she was on duty that day and would always recognize me no matter how many years passed.

And, as I ate my bagel-and-lox-lunch,  there were these two.
No electronics.
No arguing.
Just new books.
This is my favorite weekend in Tucson.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Quick Chat With Katy Tur - A Snippet

Lurking outside the Author Registration Station, hoping to run into my freshman suite-mate's daughter, a novelist and presenter at the Tucson Festival of Books last Saturday, I chatted up Katy Tur.

She'd walked into and out of the office and met my eye as I smiled and wondered if she was surprised to be unrecognized, guessing that it didn't happen very often.

"Not so much anymore," and she smiled again and we talked about being in the right place at the right time for an opportunity to fall in your lap.  About showing up and saying yes.  About what a powerful lesson her experience taught the kids I know.

And our minute was over.  She turned to walk away, paused, smiled, turned back and extended her hand.

"Katy Tur." )

"Suzi Hileman."

She smiled, made eye contact, shook firmly. I filed away her perfect introduction for later use. We went our separate ways.

Just another magical afternoon at the Tucson Festival of Books.

More tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Quotes from the Tucson Festival of Books

Scott Turow called Presumed Innocent “a gynecological mystery”
What to do with an unwanted thought? According to Greg Iles, “we’ll have to leave that where Jesus flung it.”
Iles writes from the first person present viewpoint, rather than via omniscient narrator, “because I don’t know any gods personally.”
Dan Millman quoted Daniel Day Lewis’s father - “I write not to be understood but to understand.”
“Snood is a fun word to say.”  Watching Billy Collins shrug and say that from my front row seat was fun, too.
Juan Felipe Herrera, US Poet Laureate from 2015-2017, looked out on the full house and spread his arms wide. “I am so happy we are all together. This is the society we want......the ease.....”
And I’ll leave you with that smile for now.  More details tomorrow.

Friday, March 9, 2018

My Favorite Weekend in Tucson

The Tucson Festival of Books opens for business on Saturday morning.  If I get there at 8:30 I can attend a "cocktail party style breakfast" with several of the presenting authors.  I'm bemused by the description, and tempted to go. 

The advantage of going that early is that parking will be easier.  The closest garage is for authors and staff; the secret parking lots in the near environs fill up fast.  I've learned over the years to figure out where I'll be at the end of the day, and try to leave my car at that end of the mall.  There's nothing more likely to put a grump on my face and a limp in my step than facing the prospect of a mile or more trek back to The Uv.

I'm mentally pre-packing my backpack, running through the parts of the day, remembering what I will need at lunch, in presentations, as I walk and sit and wait.  This is my 8th or 9th weekend with TFOB; I have lots of experience on which to draw.

My moleskine notebook has but two empty pages; tomorrow I'm stopping by Barnes and Noble to buy a new one, unless I decide to examine the quality of the notebooks in my desk.  I have a drawer filled with them.  Some are too heavy, some let the ink bleed through to the obverse of the page, some have lines and some do not, some lay flat and some need wrangling to be written upon.  It's not an easy choice.

Little Cuter and SIR gave me all the medium point blue ink roller ball pens in the land; I'll put four or five different ones in the outer pocket of the backpack and smile as I'm surprised by what my fingers bring forth.  With a notebook and writing implements I'll be able to take notes and share the weekend with you.

A water bottle, two Kashi bars, a bagel, an apple, a bag of granola cereal... the lines at the food trucks are not where I want to spend my time.  Comfy shoes, a light shawl, a sun hat, sunscreen... are you seeing the reason for a backpack rather than a wristlet or a purse. 

R. L Stine, Billy Collins, and Katy Tur will be there.  Friends are excited about authors unknown to me. I'll see acrobats and listen to music and wander through Science City.  I'll download the app but I'll use the paper schedule from the Arizona Daily Star to navigate my day.  It's an old school experience.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Random Thoughts on Green Beans

Or do you call them string beans?  Louisiana State University tells me that there is no difference between green beans and string beans and snap beans, and I choose to believe them.
Daddooooo's mother called them Lindy's.  Charles Lindbergh was a big deal when my dad was a child, and some pieces stuck to the family into the 1950's. 

Oh, are you too young to make the connection?  Lindbergh was tall and skinny and a national hero.  Advertisers attached his name and face to everything.

She boiled them.  Unless Lindy had really bad posture, Sthe ones she brought to her table bore very little resemblance to their namesake.

String beans are among the foods I can cook on a consistent basis.  For this, alone, I love them.

I don't like any other kind of beans.  I prefer my chili without them.  I ask for more salad or rice instead of refried on the side.  FlapJilly chows down on black beans while I stare in wonder.  It's the texture that gets to me.
This all comes from a conversation at the Whole Foods checkout counter this afternoon. 

The cashier re-weighed the bag of green beans.....My fourteen green beans, I laughed.... and the bagger laughed, too. 

My Mom does the same thing.

It's comforting to know that I am not the only person who, annoyed at leftovers, began to count the number of beans she and her spouse consumed at dinnertime. 
I bet you didn't think I could get an entire post out of an innocent green vegetable. 

Neither did I.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

How Does the Facility Stay Open?

I received my Medicare billing update yesterday.  I've already met my annual deductible of $183, although I don't remember receiving any bills totally that amount.  I saw all my doctors in January and early February; since I got shot I've made a point of checking myself out at the start of each new year.  I saw the GP and the gynecologist and the dermatologist and the eye doctor.  I had a mammogram and argued about the necessity of doing a DEXA bone scan (I won and didn't do it.)

I also had a colonoscopy.  That was the subject of the Medicare billing statement. 

The anesthesia cost $3,657.01 (don't you love that penny at the end?)  The actual injection cost $100.  My stay in the recovery room cost $1,711.23.  There were no doctor bills associated with this claim; I wonder if he did the test for free.

According to the billing statement, I owe nothing. But, reading further I found that Medicare paid nothing either, although the Medicare-Approved Amount was the same as the Amount Facility Charged -$3,657.01. 

How can the free standing surgical center stay in business if their costs are not met?  Does it really cost that amount?  Who's picking up the amount Medicare didn't pay?

My cousin, a former CFO of very-big-and-important-hospitals-whose-names-you-would-know, told me that I would never figure it out.  "Don't go there.  It makes no sense."

I'm not an ignorant person.  I can do research and I can understand complicated explanations.  This just boggles my mind.

Is this any way to run a health care system? 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Pictures From Yesterday's Post

I had a little bit more energy today.
I took two of the pictures I was too achy to take yesterday.
If my hip allows, others may follow.
Here is the remains of the yucca I'd pruned the day before.
Notice that there are very few brown stalks.
I'm so very happy that I could offer the critters a crisp, new growth meal.

The pot was G'ma's.  
I could feel her laughing at me, planting the extra plant I brought home just in case. 
I took the (mental) gentle abuse in stride. 
I miss her snarky comments..... a lot.

Monday, March 5, 2018

I Was Here To Do It

It used to be that I could garden all day.  Bending wasn't an issue.  Crouching didn't hurt.  I could lift and carry and push and pull and rarely did I need to ask TBG for help. 

Today was a different story.  Still, I was here to do it, and that's something.

I didn't have any oomph for the gym, so I cut my workout short and drove to the nursery.  There were 3' pink snapdragons and dozens of roses and a very tempting Cara Cara Orange tree.  I stuck to the annuals and the roses and organic soil; that was enough to cart out of the trunk of The UV.  I'm learning to modify my purchasing to meet my physical limitations.  I notice that, and it makes me a little bit sad.  Still, I'm here to do it, and that's something. 

While the rest of you may be dealing with frozen ground, this is the six week window of wonder for those of us here in the desert Southwest.  There's no danger of frost  The ground is cool enough not to burn the roots of newly planted seedlings.  The temperatures are pleasant enough to spend the day in the sun; long sleeves are always a necessity in my spiky environment and today they didn't seem intrusive. 

I used G'ma's wheelchair to cart my stuff.  There was a lot of stuff.  With high hopes, I added a shovel to the mix and headed to the front...... where, to my dismay, the bunnies had chewed off my newly cleaned-up-for-spring yucca and my rock roses.  Undaunted,  I planted a Betty Boop rose bush as I thought of G'ma impersonating her sixty years ago.  I used that shovel and I dug a hole twice as wide and just as deep as the root ball which was mercifully small because the mainline of the irrigation system was right where I wanted the bush.

I stood back and examined the situation and I realized that I was exhausted.  Still, I was there and I was doing it.

I wheeled everything around to the back yard and studied the situation for the umpteenth time.  I started at one end of the bed-to-be-amended with the geraniums, moved on to transplanting the Christmas ferns into the shade, put those giant snapdragons around a sago palm, and finished up with more geraniums.

I dug.  I raked.  I moved soil.  I ached and I creaked and I moaned and I groaned but I was there and I was doing it. 

There were large pots to be moved, one of which is now in a new place.  I decided not to argue with the other one.  Another geranium found a new home in a pot which I wrangled to the top of a not-very-high berm.  The other rose bush will have to wait until I have more strength and energy.  By the time I got around to deciding where to put it I had nothing left.

I would have made this be a picture post, but I had nothing left.

Still, I was here, and I got to do it.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

I've alluded to Sean Miller's situation over the past week, always with sadness.  Those of us who live here and follow our University's sports teams as if they were our own have a soft spot in our hearts for the basketball coach.  He's a family man, a coach descended from a coach, a point guard who trained point guards.  His over-active sweat glands were testimony to his passion.  He loved us and we loved him.

Could he have been unaware of Book Richardson's folly?  That was as close as most of us allowed ourselves to get.  He couldn't possibly be guilty.

And then YAHOO! and ESPN revealed that the FBI had a tape of Sean Miller, $100,000, and an unnamed player. 

Suddenly, Sean was off the bench for the Oregon game.  I am certain that I will be vindicated was all we got.

Though he wasn't mentioned, the media assumed that De'Andre Ayton was the player in play; the fact that he was allowed to take the court had everyone musing.   Then it came out that the other infractions in the YAHOO! and ESPN reports were for half a lunch check for a player's mother and another, random, $40 mistake.  The $40 was paid to a charity this week; the player's mom has yet to be heard from.  All of a sudden, the charges seem more hype than substance.

Now there are reports that the tape is from 2016, not 2017, and that Sean Miller refused the money, said he'd never take money, and the (unnamed) player never played at Arizona.

I'm smelling a Tempest in a Teapot.  My guess is that the AZ Board of Regents agrees with me.  Sean Miller will be coaching his team, at home, tonight.

For tonight, at least, I'm going to feel good about it all.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Very Happy Birthday

TBG requested this post.  He wanted me to share something happy, something nice, something that went well and was just the way you wanted it.

He worries that I share too many of the woes of the world, as if that gives the impression that I am sad or aggravated or disturbed most of the time.

I'm really not wallowing in the dark and unknowable places very much any more.  They are locked away in the jewel box in the back right corner of my skull.  It takes a lot of work to find the key.

Most of my days are pleasant and routine, and Tuesday, my birthday, was the same.

Pilates first thing in the early morning, with The Pilates Diva who convinced me to use the work as the focal point of my rehab.  She was right then and she's right now.  We admired my even hips and my ever strenghtening adductor and marveled at the fact that I could maintain a high kneeling position while challenging my stability on the reformer.

I've made progress.  There's no doubt about it.  I took that happy thought back home, where the temperature was just perfect for pruning and trimming and cleaning.  The gardeners were coming on Wednesday; I could make a mess and leave it for them to pick up.  To me, that's gardening heaven.

So I trimmed errant buds on the roses, and pulled dead pieces out of the yucca along the front walk.  I cleared the path between our house and JannyLou and Fast Eddie, and considered the future of a cactus and a tree, neither of whom looked long for this world.  (The gardener thinks they are dormant and will benefit from a careful pruning.  I'll keep you posted.)

I went inside for yogurt and granola and the sixth day of the Decameron .  The fun stuff (yes, Boccaccio's tales are scandalously delicious) was followed by some exceptionally dense poetry by Guido Cavalcanti and a somewhat more accessible Canto from Dante's Inferno and then my homework was done.

I drove down to the University, flashing my temporary parking permit to make the bright yellow arm  creak its way upright.  I found a space on Level 2. My favorite seat was waiting for me.  I listened and  I crocheted and I learned about Bullshit and nobility and laughed along with the Professor as he admitted that he just didn't know.

Big Cuter called as I was driving home. My favorite classicist wanted to know everything that I'd learned, and I told him.  We've read it and argued it and enjoyed it for years.  If the texts aren't equally familiar, we can converse.  Oh, yes, we can converse, ending with Prof. Alfie's delight.

I don't have to know everything.  I can laugh, even when the issue is well within my areas of expertise
That kept me interested all the way home, home to a clean house and fancy birthday cards which dance and light up and twirl around and FaceTime with FlapJilly, who had quite a lot to say on subjects of great interest to her.  After many kisses, delivered with a giant face on the screen or a kiss to a fingertip that was gently applied to each of our faces on the screen or lips looming and then smacking, we left the kids and went to dinner.

It was in the 50's.  The wind was blowing.  There aren't that many days where we can wear a sweater and a jacket.  I took great delight in putting them on.  My outfit made me smile, from top to bottom.  Jeans bought when the boot seller refused to let me leave with those boots and THAT skirt.  A sweater from Mark Shale, our outfitter in Chicago in the 1980's.  A comfy stretchy long sleeved top that TBG bought me several Christmases ago because it made him smile.  A Fabletics black heavy cotton baseball jacket, the kind of jacket I've been looking for in leather since my 20's.  This iteration comes closest to the ideal.

It's the perfect drive to Caffe Torino  (yes, that's how they spell it).  Two turns, paved streets, wide lanes, beautiful mountain vistas, and only three traffic lights brought us to the parking lot less than 10 minutes after I got into the car.  Our booth in the bar had access to ESPN on tv (so we could sigh about Sean Miller on the chyron... and no, I'm not talking about it.... nor did we watch much) and a colorful cast of characters on the wooden stools.

The 100 year old woman with Bozo-orange hair, was surrounded with love by friends on either side as she drank her way through Happy Hour.  The older gentleman for whom TBG had held the door was treating us all to a charming view of his plumber's crack; every time the door opened we chuckled...... wasn't he cold?  didn't he notice?  The skinny marink who paced from the door to the edge of our booth and back again, radiating anxiety with every step, whose company finally arrived to some of the most searing scathing stares I've seen in a long time, made us giggle instead of groan.

It was Tucson at its finest.  We were having a great time.

TBG's creamy sauced penne with bites of bacon had him put his fork down after the first bite.  He had to announce to himself and the world around him that this is a great bite... a seriously great dish.
I smiled and returned to my lemon buttery linguini and spinach and grilled sea bass (or was it cabrilla?  I didn't care) and my Greystone Merlot.  The rosemary loaf and pesto dipping sauce was dessert enough for us.

TBG took his leftovers home in a box. This proved useful when he was hungry for a tasty snack several hours later.  It's just as good reheated he sighed, as I snuggled deeper into the couch, glad that I didn't have to move to create something wonderful.

The day kept rewarding me that way.  FlapJilly and her family sent me a loud, twirling birthday card.  Facebook was awash with wishes.  My mailbox exploded with Affirmations of Affection.  And that library book I was angsty about?  It was on my Kindle as the candles flickered and Star Trek amused us in the background.

It was a very happy birthday.