Monday, April 30, 2018

South Bend Cubs

There was the world's tallest air slide.
There was a big, beveled hill to run down.
There were climbing ropes
and climbing plates
and characters to high five with.
Kids could toss real baseballs with their moms.
OH, there was also a baseball game.
Sometimes, the peripheral activities are more enticing than the actual event.
At least that's true when you are three..... or when you're watching Single-A ball.

Friday, April 27, 2018

A Family Affair

Comcast brought the paint and the t-shirts.
Prince provided the labor.
Kids and parents and grandparents worked together
with Dads sometimes carrying an extra burden or two.
The ground beneath the swings was given Bobcats full of sand.
Then there was the need to rake.

Little ones
and bigger ones
painted the climbing gym.
Others posed for Grandma.
One of the teachers told me that this was the first time her windows had been washed in all the years she'd been teaching at Prince.  
The deep cleaning of the tiles required wearing a backpack and pulling the machine.
She was totally into it.
Grandkids were part of the package, too.
There was something for everyone to do.
Weeding the walkway,
cleaning the desks,
staying out of the way.
This is their playground 
and they were committed to making it beautiful.
Next time someone tells you that teachers are over-paid and underworked,
ask them if their children come to their places of employment to do grunt work.
I love this school.
I wish they didn't have to do their own home repairs.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Next Time Someone Says ......

You've heard it over and over again.
They have all that vacation time!  Summers and Christmas and Thanksgiving and Spring Break and Rodeo Week ..... it's not a full-time job, really..... I'd love to be done at 3 every day....
Well, the next time that comes up in conversation (if it does, you really need new friends!), show them these pictures.
Ask if they were bent in half, painting Alaska early on a sunny Saturday morning.
Maybe they were on the ground, making Hawaii purple,
 in the sun.

They probably weren't taping boxes 
or painting playground equipment 
or sanitizing their workspaces. 
But they were. 
So were they.
The teachers at Prince Elementary School were washing windows...... do you wash the windows in your place of employment?  
They were painting the hallways.
Do you think that was part of the Masters in Education curriculum?

These professionals pay for their own continuing development, and do it on their own time.
These professionals buy their own supplies, and don't ask for reimbursement which isn't there.
These professionals earn less now than they did in the 1990's.

Would your interlocutors do that?

Those who can, were taught by teachers.

Those teachers ought to earn a living wage.  Their facilities ought to be safe.  Their support staff should be respected.  Their equipment should be cutting edge, and it should work.  

That's not free, nor should it be.  It's a difficult problem, with no easy fix.   Aaron Sorkin said it best, through Rob Lowe's Sam Seaborn:
If you can't listen to his passion, you can read it here:
Mallory, education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That's my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Comcast Cares at Prince

Say what you will about Comcast as a service provider, but don’t disrespect the charitable work the company supports.  Last Saturday, they came to Prince. They brought t-shirts for everyone.
They brought paint and brushes and cups to hold all the colors.
Some of us worked inside.
Comcast brought a videographer to record our work for posterity.
The teachers brought their families and friends.
Outside, Comcast used the rollers-on-a-stick to paint the high up spaces.
The playground was glistening under the sun as the paint dried.
With industrial cleaners and mops and wipes, the classrooms were gleaming.
It was hard work, and resting was part of the event.
Not everyone spends a free Saturday on their knees, in the sand, on someone else's playground.
Comcast did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Visiting FlapJilly

We flew. We hugged. We ate. We hugged. We played. We hugged.

This is her house, with her family. The concept of extended family is being explored. Little Cuter calls me Mama and confusion ensues. Our relationships are dissected. Maga and Papa might be closer in distance but they aren’t her family, either.

Unless they are. Three year olds are nothing if not capricious.

She’s into “all the princesses” and Wonder Woman. Nick Junior and Disney have entered her consciousness.  Books are still her favorites, though watching videos on the iPad runs a very close second.

We built jails out of cardboard blocks and staged escapes. Her fingers are more delicate on the piano keys as she sings to her dolls, playing  tunes for them to dance to.  She doesn’t need any help.

My heart is full. Our days together are just beginning. Life is good, even if this post is late.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Earth Day (Redux)

The Burrow is 9 years and 1 week old today.  Born on April 14, 2009, it's a creation of Big Cuter's encouragement (Mom, you are way hipper than you think you are) and Little Cuter's unlocking the door (If Suzi can't write, maybe Ashleigh Burroughs can).  This is the 8th post I ever wrote.  I like it just as much today as I did then.

I hope you were able to be out and about, planting or enjoying one of my favorite holidays.  And apologies to the 7 of you who read this when it was inadvertently published on Sunday afternoon.


Earth Day

I like Earth Day. I was there at its creation, after all.

It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Initially, it was a touchy-feely alternative to the harsher realities of the anti-Vietnam War protests. You wanted to do something, but war was such an uncomfortable subject and arguing against it made your parents wonder why they were spending tuition dollars while you were telling the lawfully elected President of the United States of America that you knew more than he did. With your picture in the crowd on the front page of the NY Times. At 18 years of age, no less. But planting trees? Recycling newspaper? Not littering? And all this in service to Mother Earth. Who could be aggravated about supporting Mother Earth?

Earth Day had teach-in's. They were more fun than sit-in's, which invariably involved police and disciplinary action. They were less fun than be-in's, which owed more to Timothy Leary and The Grateful Dead than to anything political or practical. Teach-in's were earnest and had hand-outs and statistics and pictures of desolate landscapes ravaged by the cruelty of man. There was science and legislation and outrage and lots of tree give-aways.

Earth Day had no mandatory family gatherings. It required no gift giving, no card sending. You went outside and did something - cleaned a playground, weeded a median strip, planted one of those free trees. You felt good because you were doing good.

Now there is Earth Week and "We're greener than you are" tv networks Were this still 1970, there would be protests about the idea being "co-opted by 'the man'". Instead, Sheryl Crow is designing reuseable grocery bags for Whole Foods and Wal-Mart is selling them next to the discounted paper towels.

And Mother Earth is grateful.

Friday, April 20, 2018

You Can’t Do That - A Snippet

Mother-In-Law: I don’t want her there, with that new wheelchair.

Daughter-In-Law: You have known her since you were 5 years old. And, anyway, you can’t uninvite someone from your 100th Birthday Party just because she’s getting old.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

#RedForEd and Me

Because what I really need is another cause, I spent the late afternoon at the administrative offices of the Amphi School District. My favorite Community Organizer invited me to join a small group of like minded volunteers, do-gooders of all ages who are committed to providing a quality education for all our children.

I hate meetings. I vowed that I would never willingly attend a meeting once I moved to Tucson. I have refused Board positions which required meetings. But in 2011, after avoiding meetings for 5 wonderful years, I had to represent GRIN at Beyond! planning events for the Stroll and Roll.

It was there I met Mama Meeting. She was coordinating the 40 something groups involved in the event.

Her meetings were special.  There were just enough of them, scheduled just when they were needed.  We began on time.  We ended on time.  We stuck to the agenda.  Everyone spoke; no one bloviated.  We accomplished what we set out to, and left with smiles on our faces and to-do's in our calendars.  We were motivated.  We felt valued.  We knew what had been done and what was left to do. 

It was all her fault.

There's a certain kind of person who can herd cats.  It seems to involve listening to both the meta and the actual conversation.  It's asking the question we haven't considered as if it were the logical conclusion to the discussion we were having..... and, of course, it is. It's having the information I needed the more I thought about the issues, distributing nicely printed handouts before we left the room this afternoon, with smiles on our faces.

We have tenets. We have a plan for creating change. We'll meet again.

I'll be there.

I'll go to any meeting this woman convenes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Businesses Behaving Badly

Allegiant Airlines is the new corporate whipping boy.

I bet Mark Zuckerberg is grateful to them, just as I was grateful for the Arab Spring, which drew the reporters and cameras and investigative journalists out of Tucson after I got shot. There's no such thing as bad publicity might have met its match when the publicity includes 87 million mistakes.

I was bemused by reports that Zuckerberg wore a suit and didn't fidget.  Has the bar really sunk so low?  He said he was sorry a zillion times, but sorry doesn't cut it when my data is used against me.  I'm not deleting my account; I need to see FlapJilly's adventures and that is where they are displayed.  But I'm more thoughtful about clicking through to stories and I'm ignoring all the quizzes that come my way. 

Not that I did them anyway...... after I was told that I was 100% Catholic I began to doubt their reliability.  I know.... I know..... it took me a while.  But I got there, eventually. Don't judge.

Facebook's status as Scandal of the Week was awkward, but not life threatening.  Allegiant's high rates of oops! events is another story, entirely.  TBG and I are getting on one of their planes on Monday.  Suddenly, ooops! is more than a news story.

We've flown Allegiant many times.  The planes are old, and so are the lockers and compartments in the flight attendants' areas.  They have the names of other airlines embossed on the outside.  I've always thanked the second hand metal cabinetry for enabling the flight to be so inexpensive.  (The base price from Tucson to South Bend has been as low as $79.)  I show my Allegiant Air credit card and am rewarded with a free can of soda or juice; otherwise, they cost $2.  The snacks are there, for a fee, but the flights are short and food is unnecessary.  

They charge for reserving a seat and using the overhead bin and checking a bag.  The seats don't recline and there's not much leg room.  But it's only $2 more to put TBG and me in an exit row or the bulkhead versus a seat with less comfortable dimensions, so I pay up and we're comfy.  

The same flight attendants appear on our adventures; we know each other by name, now.  The Mesa and South Bend airports are small and manageable.  The planes land and take off on time.  None of the ones on which I've traveled has every fallen out of the sky.

Should I worry?  Will it make any difference?  The tickets have been purchased and we're going, perhaps with a bit more anxiety than we usually pack, at least on TBG's side.  

Me?  I'm wondering how happy the executives at Allegiant are now that Starbucks is in the crosshairs.  We do need our scandals, don't we.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Reassessment

I asked Not-Kathy how I was walking.  Didn't she see improvement?  After all, she hadn't been around for the last 6 months; the difference must have been striking. Right? 

Actually, not much.

She's honest. She loves me. She's a nurse.  Those three qualifications factored into her analysis.  That made it all the more upsetting.

I've been noticing newly awakened musculature.  Nerve endings have connected with little explosions of  joy making their presence known in my upper thigh.  I'm able to do more in the gym and in Pilates, and do it with less unpleasant accompanying sensations (aka pain).  These gains have, I suppose, led me to a false sense of accomplishment.  If Not-Kathy thinks I'm stuck, then I'm stuck.

It's time for a reassessment. Once again, I have to assume a double role - patient and trainer.  I can't wimp out while looking at the weights; I have to put the 10 pound plates on the Smith Machine and do my squats deeply and powerfully and quickly and well.

I have done a few sets that way, stopping when it felt uncomfortable. Enough of that, I've decided.  There is gunk in my hip joint. I need to work past the sharp sensations caused when the space closes up and the gunk is squished. I have to continue the motion even though it's unpleasant to do so. 

I have to remember that rehab is different than exercise.  Rehab hurts because I'm using parts that were damaged or weakened or disturbed or destroyed. I can't expect them to bounce back easily. I have to encourage them.  I have to send energy in their direction.  I have to ask them to do that which they resist, and I have to ask them over and over and over again.

They aren't always happy with me, and that is a shame.  But I'll never get my knees together with my feet on the floor while sitting on a bench unless I demand that they do so. Right now, they are interested in comfort rather than progress.  That must change.

I have been reluctant to encourage them to straighten up and fly right.  It hurts when I engage my abductors.  It hurts, but my knees come together.  Both kneecaps face forward.  They are equidistant from the ground and from my spine.  It takes effort and concentration and the use of my entire body to organize.  It makes me smile when it happens.

It's time to stop pampering myself.  It's time to get back to work.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Same 12 People - A Snippet

Or, perhaps in your town it's 15 or 7.  We are the volunteers, the ones who do.

We show up at the meetings, collect the signatures, make the phone calls, and chair the committees.  There's no fame or fortune attached; the work must be done so we show up and do it.

We run into each other all over town.  Of course you are here, I think to myself.  I'm here.

I was at a picnic with them this afternoon.  The event was open to the whole club; the Board outnumbered the members two-to-one. 

It's a good thing I like them all.  We've been doing this together for a decade or so, creating outings and luncheons and doing good deeds.  Our leader is retiring next year and so far no one has jumped up to fill in the gap.

We need a 13th person.

Friday, April 13, 2018


There's a member of the Happy Ladies Club who annoys everyone she meets.

That's a real accomplishment.  There are upwards of 400 females in the group.  One would think that some of them would be her kind of person.  One would think that there would be a few women who found her charming, interesting, enjoyable, worth knowing.  So far, I haven't encountered any of them.

What I have found is members consciously avoiding the table she's chosen, looking askance when the only available seat is beside her, refusing to participate in events she's organizing. People roll their eyes as she approaches.

She's antagonistic.  She's moved from snarky to nasty.  She's right, always, without exception, and she has no qualms about correcting those with whom she disagrees.  It's her way or the highway.... and her way is no fun at all.  She's not physically repulsive, but her persona is such that it feels like she smells.

She was less unpleasant this afternoon, quieter, less responsive to random comments which typically led to rants.  After she left, we wondered about it.

Was she ill?  She hadn't mentioned it, and she's not one to hide her trials under a basket.  Had something terrible happened?  No one knew of any disasters in her life and, again, past experience led us to believe that we would have heard the whole sordid story if she had one to tell.  Was she worried about upcoming events?  We inquired about those we knew of, and she was silent.

The conversation turned to her, somewhat naturally since she left in the middle of a game.  Was she ill?  Was she angry?  Where was she?  She never said goodbye; she just departed.  Though the organizers knew in advance that she'd be leaving early, the rest of us were left to wonder until we were informed by our leader that she, at least, knew of the early departure.  The game went on, but we were still flummoxed.

We are not nasty women.  We are The Happy Ladies Club.  We're all about making connections, about learning new things from new people, about being inclusive and welcoming.  It's hard when someone is perceived as toxic by virtually everyone she encounters.  What do we say?

We comfort those she's abused, but then we have to explain the abuse to the others who aren't aware of the story.  Today, there were no new incidents and that, in itself, was newsworthy.  We talked about it, and then we exchanged the look you give your friends when you know you've been awful and you wish you could suck those words right back into your mouth..... we were being awful and we knew it.

On some level, it was helpful to those who'd encountered her rudeness and thought that they were all alone on the receiving end.  On the other hand, it was talking about someone as soon as she left the room - every teenager's nightmare scenario when leaving a party early.

There was something cathartic in reveling in her distasteful behavior.  It was also kind of icky.

We talked about both sides of the equation in the few minutes between ending and starting new rounds.  We weren't thrilled with ourselves, but we weren't thrilled with her, either.

I heard G'ma in the back of my head, tut tutting as she reminded me that if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.  

I remembered my own younger self knowing that they were discussing me as soon as I left the room.

I don't feel any warmer towards her, but I feel a little less wonderful about myself right now.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Olla Pots at Prince

Do you know about them?
They are porous, unglazed pots with lids.  You put them in the raised garden bed or container, fill the rest of the area with soil, and plant around the olla.  When you fill the olla with water and replace the lid on top, osmosis does the rest.

It's capillary action bringing the water from inside outside ..... or, as the kids at Prince said, it's absorbing...... it's leaking..... it's changing color.

Science is fun when you are in the garden with dirty hands.

The playground aide has issues with lots of kids within the fence; I make a big show of counting the number of helpers I have.  Though they are tortured by the fact that they can't come over the fence, Prince scholars are well trained.  They stay outside, peering at their peers who were lucky enough to make the cut.

Those inside stand aside so their friends can observe the action.  Though they are honored to be within the confines of the garden, there is still some jockeying for position and for duties.  And the duties are few.

I bought a pitcher and brought a marker.  I trained the early birds who followed me when I first showed up with the olla.
They learned to fill the watering can in the cafeteria, to carry it safely (using two hands and balancing it carefully) back to the garden, to use an assistant to hold it while clambering over the locked gate,and then, finally, to remove the olla's lid and fill the bowl to the top.

We're monitoring how much water the tomato plant uses.  Do we need to fill it every day?  (No) Can the tomato survive the weekend without a refill? (Yes!)

We're learning how to sprinkle not drown the plants Mrs. S's class has planted in the nearby garden beds.  They are not fish.  They do not swim.  We wave the can over the tops of the flowers, being careful not to spray our friends.  I'm not sure how much good three drops of water are doing on the struggling starter plants, but the lessons learned are doing the kids a lot of good.

We're sharing.  We're taking turns.  We're learning about water and roots and stems and leaves and flowers and buds.  Adding your name to the watering can is a Big Deal - you can only go into the garden without Grandma if your name appears there.  So far there are four Grandma's Gardeners; you can pick them out by their gigantic smiles when they hop over the fence to join me.

I have seed packets to distribute and strawberries to plant.  I have self-watering pots to buy.  I have a plan to send kids home with things that grow.  I wish I had more hands.