Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Ace Atkins

Looking for a new author? Wondering who to read (yes, who, not what) as you wander through the library stacks, the books lined up, maddeningly, alphabetically by author, whith nary a star nor a sticker to indicate that this one!! will light your fire.

Big Cuter and I had that conversation a few weeks ago.  I was between books, between authors.  There was nothing that enticed me, nothing on hold at my local branch, nothing waiting for me in a queue on my downloadable book app on the iPad.  Neither the While You Are Waiting For (insert best seller here) suggestions provided on the library's web site nor the Good Reads For You This Week ideas were thrilling me.

"I know that feeling, Mom," my boy said, and I knew it was true.  This is the kid who spent every Saturday with me, out of the house at 11 am, and, after complimenting me for having secured the best parking spot in front of Barnes and Noble (this was before G'ma's parking karma was transferred from me to FlapJilly), joined me in an as-long-as-you-want-it-to-take browse. 

We always left with our arms full; both Cuters always knew that I would buy them all the books in the land.  I never doubted that they would read them.  The Babysitters' Club, the Thoroughbred series, Edgar Rice Burroughs and JRRRRRRRMartin - there were always more of them, waiting on the shelves.

Until there weren't.

Those were not good moments.  Our Children's Book Seller could direct the kids to new authors, but there was always that moment's hesitation.  Will it be good enough?

I'm here to tell you that Ace Atkins is good enough.  In fact, he's better than you expected: surprisingly competent, delightfully sneaky, careful with his verbiage, drawing you in when you least expect to be caught.  After Robert Parker's death, Atkins took over the iconic Spenser series.  It's a compendium of highly stylized good guy vs bad guy stories peopled with distinct characters, each with his own dialect, her own aura.  Parker was sparing, almost Scrooge-like, with his words.  I used to imagine him rereading a draft and removing every other sentence, testing the waters to see if less could really be more.

He succeeded.  Atkins doesn't try. 

Atkins is wordier, and that was hard for me, at first.  But Spenser still sounded like Spenser, and Susan was still Susan, and Hawk still thrilled and terrified.  There was more description, but as Parker's death receded in time I began to miss him less, and to appreciate Atkins more.

I spread out.  I searched for Ace Atkins on his own on the shelf, not squished near the Spenser books but happily ensconced in the A's.  He writes cowboy stories and plain old mysteries and, this morning, I found him nestled in the middle of Time.

It's The South Issue this week, and I slid over the titles.  What is it?  Who is it?  Why is it?  And then I was with Elvis, a poor boy made good who never forgot his little shack in Memphis.  With one deft line, the article put golden picture frames into context; without naming names, it put  DJT right in his proper place.  Then I looked at the by-line.

Ace Atkins.

It was bathroom reading designed to be flipped through and noticed, the long form articles taken out to the bedroom for perusal.  But Atkins's one page reminiscence, his love song to the South, held my interest then and now, well after I read it.  He's bemused and perplexed and in love and so, perhaps not as intensely as he but still feeling it, am I.

That's the mark of a great author.  Ace Atkins.  You can thank me later.

Monday, July 30, 2018


She rode her brand new bike to the park, and then to the park again. Her hair was soaking wet under her brand new helmet, the one that looks like Skye, from Paw Patrol.  

"I was so sweaty."  Those words have never been said more sweetly.

It took me back to the first time I ran 5 miles.  Along the lakefront, Chicago shining in the sun, one foot in front of the other, I ran north from Lincoln Park.  Orb Kcorb, Jumble Expert and, at the time, our very best friend in the whole wide world, paced me.  For his long legs, my jogging stride wasn't much more than a loping long walk, but he was determined to see that I finished all five miles with a smile on my face.

And there it was.  That smile, that sense of accomplishment, that I can't believe I actually did that look was permanently plastered on my face.  I had to share.  I called my mother, crowing.

There was a pause.  A long pause.  And then this, one of the All Time G'ma Moments:

"But honey, didn't you sweat?"

My mother, in a nutshell.
Yes, I was sweaty.  Actually, like FlapJilly on her birthday, I was so sweaty.  And, 40 years after my mother's remark entered the Pantheon of Family Lore, completing the circle, this Gramma smiled when hearing about that perspiration, about that exertion.

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Question Upon Which to Ruminate

TBG wondered aloud this afternoon. 

That's not unusual; we talk to ourselves and hope the other is listening.   We assume we've said something out loud that has never left our heads. The scary piece is when he answers my unspoken thought.  Cue the theme from Jaws; it's scary like that.

But today, watching a spaghetti western, he wondered, to no one in particular, the following:
Why is it that big open spaces are paired with men of few words?
Nick and Nora Charles's banter would be awkwardly out of place in Monument Valley, wouldn't it?  In the city, there's a lot of stuff everywhere, stuff that is imported and created and purchased and stored, stuff that assaults your ears and your nose, that crowds your physical space to the point that, perhaps, you have to use your words to carve out a niche.

There is no niche carving in the scenery of the great oaters.  Any dent in the terrain would be just that - a dent.  Unnoticeable and unnoticed, insignificant, unworthy of interest when viewed from the expanses which surround it. 

If you feel small, you can sing, letting your notes float.  But words for the sake of words?  To what end, I wonder?  Dwarfed by the landscape, they, too, must have felt insignificant.

Or is it that those men moved out there where there was no one and nothing so that they would not be bothered? 

Or that they had bad teeth?

Or that they had nothing to say?

Feel free to wonder along with us.... aloud or not.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

More Veggies

Did I mention that this is my favorite time of the year?  
:You are looking at pieces of dinner, lunch, snack, and breakfast, courtesy of Whole Foods.
I could have waited and gone to the Farmers Market this afternoon, but the store is air conditioned and on my way home..

The heirloom tomatoes were half price, because I'm an Amazon Prime Member.
Jeff Bezos is now officially in every part of my life.

I added Penzey's Sunny Paris Seasoning to the lettuce and carrots and scallions I found in the fridge, and chopped away at the goodies I brought home.  The yellow yam (the lime is pointing to it) was sweet and nutty and wonderful just baked in the oven.  

Those who know me may take a moment and marvel at the fact that I am creating edible foodstuffs.

Wonders will never cease.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

It's Hard - A Snippet

FlapJilly told her mommy that Being A Big Sister Is Hard.

It was late. Very late for an almost-4-year-old to be awake. Mommy and Giblet were cozy in the comfy chair.  The Big Sister was in the doorway.

It was a whisper, not a shout.  It was a statement of fact, not a complaint. 

Because she has The Best Mommy On The Planet, her statement was met with acceptance and love.  Yes, it's hard right now, and you are doing Such A Good Job.  It is different and challenging and Mommy understands.  Yes, it will get better.  Yes, now he's not much more than a blob of protoplasm we cart from one place to another, but soon we'll get to enjoy more than the fact that he opened his eyes and looked at you.  Soon he'll play with you All The Time.  Won't that be FUN!?!?!

And, YES, you can get up in the chair and snuggle, getting all the hugs and kisses in the land.

And so, she did.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Thinking Back In The Here And Now

I spent the afternoon with a new friend, a journalist Professor-with-a-capital P, who is on sabbatical.  She's closing in on the specifics of her project, and talking to me about Getting Shot and Life Afterwards would, she assured me, help.

She also offered to pay for lunch.  I can be bought.

This kind of request hasn't come in a long time, and I am happy to say that it didn't have the same impact as it has in the past.  I kept waiting to get upset.  I wondered when my dreams would change.  Maybe it will happen tonight, but I'm not holding my breath.  I seem to have moved to a new stage;  I can talk about it without reliving it before and after. 

The during part is still a work in progress.

I was early.  She was there when I arrived.  I ordered a power meal, a thin tostada topped with avocado humus and kale and cabbages and pickled veggies and some kind of siracha that I'm still tasting (not in a bad way) hours later. Well fortified, I told her many of the stories.  She agreed to feed TBG and me the next time she's in town.

I drove across the parking lot to the Safeway, the scene of the crime then and the scene of my favorite memorial now.  Draped on and near the large stones and small brass stars are the tributes, like the bracelet and the flowers and the names of those who went to the movies and died six years ago this week.  I'm not the only one to whom it speaks.

I left a glittery stone in a nice crevice in the biggest rock, said Hi to Christina, and drove home, looking for something non-Trump on the radio.  I was fine. 

What I want, I cannot have; what I have is wonderful. 

The sun came up and I was here to see it.  By definition, that makes it a good day. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Spreading Good Will - A Snippet

Big Cuter regaled us with a not as salacious as it begins story last night.

Respect, rewards, recognition of the other - their conversation was wide ranging and satisfying, though, perhaps, not what either of them anticipated as they ventured out into the night to meet, for the last time, before she returned to her home in Britain.

Laughing with our son, enjoying his ability to share with his parents, admiring his honesty, I was surprised by TBG's coda to our conversation.

"Well, good for you.  Anytime we can reassure our UK friends that not all Americans are assholes, we should jump on the opportunity."

Modern Day Diplomacy, brought to you by OKCupid.  My son, The Ambassador.

Friday, July 20, 2018

My Happiest Time of the Year

Little Cuter wondered about the times I've been happy.  A birthday party in a white dress with red trim over a big poufy crinoline, a dress that twirled around and around and around comes to mind.
The birth of my children doesn't compare to watching FlapJilly feed lettuce to the giraffes, giggling her face off, but they all made me happy.  Partying on the school steps after receiving our Masters Degrees, feeling the floors and the walls of our Big House in Marin (it's not as weird as it sounds... they were awesome!), walking alone on a hot August afternoon, with no place to go and no time to return,  watching my garden grow..... happy, happy and happy.

But the most consistent, repeatable, truest answer to her question is Right Now.  Why?  Because this happens in the stores and the Farmers Markets
and I get to bring it home with me.  For a month or two, there will be snacks I lust for, snacks I drool over, snacks I can't wait to eat.  They are tasty and they smell good and they are beautiful.

I mean, really..... look at these peppers:
This is my favorite time of the year.  
Every year.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Advice For My Great Grandchildren

Look to the future, but remember the past.
Your horizons are endless, if only you allow yourself to dream.  Those dreams rest upon the people and places who came before you.  You are one in a long line of strong and powerful women and men.  They crossed oceans to find a better life, fleeing famine and religious intolerance, looking for opportunities, embracing the new and challenging the old.  You carry many strands - German and Polish and Jewish and Catholic, short and tall, athletic and intellectual, teachers and pastors, Iowans and New Yorkers - and some piece of each of them resides within your soul.  Honor what came before and use it to inform your choices as you move forward.

The world is your oyster.  Treat it with care.
We have only one planet, and you are its steward.  Practice kindness and respect differences, for we are all on this tiny orb, circling the sun, together.  Consider the least among us, and use your privilege, your gifts, your strength, your enthusiasm, your wisdom, your talents to insure that Gaia and her inhabitants grow and prosper.  You are stronger and more powerful than you imagine. 

Your voice is a tool to be used wisely.
Do not hide your light under a basket. Use your words to make a positive difference.  Listen to the other side, be influenced by facts and nuance, be thoughtful if you disagree.  Those opposing you are not The Other; they reflect another viewpoint but still share the same humanity.  Try very, very hard to see through the discomfort and the disconnect your differences reflect.  We are all in this together.  Yelling only makes things worse.  But do not be silent.  If you see something, say something - and own the consequences of your position.  Nothing will change if you don't speak up.

Some basics:

And, the most important thing of all to remember is this:

Tomorrow is not promised.
All the opportunities, all the adventures, all the heartbreak, and all the joy - they are there, lying in wait, ready to grab you, unexpectedly, surprisingly, wonderfully, terribly.  Going to the grocery store can be a stop for supplies, a chance to greet a Congresswoman, or a life changing perforation of what you had planned for the rest of the afternoon.  Be aware, awake, available.  They each have something to teach you, even if the lesson hurts as you absorb it.  Waste none of your days, for each one is a gift. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Back To School Issue

Are you old enough to remember the Back To School Issue of Seventeen magazine?  I read Seventeen every month but I never subscribed.  Why?  Because it showed up in Murray's Store days before it arrived in my mailbox.  I had to have it right away.

It was thick, filled with advertisements for shoes and blouses and dresses, chock-a-block crammed into colorful pages in which I could get lost for hours.   What would people be wearing when school began?  What colors would I see?  Which three outfits - for I was only allowed three new outfits in the Fall, three in the Spring - would I select? 

I'm getting lots of magazines these days, since Fabletics gives me a subscription for every outfit I purchase.  I chose Smithsonian for myself, and Sports Illustrated and Time for myself and Amphi Middle School, but Shape and Seventeen and Family Circle are just for the teens and tweens.  I never open them.  I put For You From Grandma Suzi because Reading Is FUN! stickers over my address labels and drop them off in the librarian's mailbox.

I don't pay much attention to the covers or the content.  I am merely the conduit for that which was gifted to me.  But yesterday, going through the mail TBG had collected while I was FlapJilly-sitting, I stopped and gasped.

I was 12 or 13 or 14 or 15 again.  I had the Back to School Issue in my hands, and those hands were shaking.  I was thrilled.  I felt a funny feeling in my tummy, as FlapJilly would say.  I thought of myself reading in the Jefferson Chair (what we called the Windsor desk seat), wondering if I were too short or too flat-chested or too something for the clothes.  I thought of my cousin sitting beside me on the couch, concentrating on the nail polish colors as we watched Million Dollar Movie.

It's just a collection of glossy pages, perhaps, to the uninitiated.  For those of us who grew up with it, though, it's a harbinger of Fall.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Baby Bruvva

He does have a name.  It's just not one she's choosing to use.

She's a very messy sleeper.  I know this because we slept in Gramma's bed while the rest of the family was in the hospital getting over giving birth.  I put a body pillow between us on the second night, for protection.  No matter how cute they are, feet do not belong on Gramma's face.  Especially when they land there with authority  Especially when Gramma's dead asleep.

No, it was not Morning Time!! at 2am, but those were the sweetest words ever when the sun woke us up a few hours later.  First yoga - "Of course I know it!  You have to start with Downward Dog! - then the Breakfast of Champions - brownie and ice cream.

Why?  Because why not?

We skipped pre-school and went to the zoo.  We stayed up late.  Lunch was frozen yogurt (which she knows as ice cream), with gummy worms and gummy bears and raspberry truffles because the youngest among us has quite a refined palate.

All weekend long, we put sprinkles on everything.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Just Like Me

I walked past the video monitor last night, and FlapJilly was no where in sight.  It was an hour or so after her parents had kissed her goodnight. I said nothing to the grownups and began to walk upstairs to her bedroom.

I never got there.

On the landing lay my granddaughter. Flat on her belly, bent elbows and upturned palms cradling her head, she was engrossed in the biggest,fattest, heaviest book she owns.  Surrounding her were the teeniest books she owns, square cardboard with a finger puppet poking its face up from the cover, just like the one she chose at Barnes and Opal for her soon-to-arrive baby brother.

The contrast made my heart soar.

I snuggled up against her, not saying a word. I was a child again, sent upstairs before I was ready to sleep, covertly turning to the foot of my bed with a collection of illustrated Washington Irving, reading in the dim light from the hall.  The picture of the Headless Horseman is as vivid today as it was in reality five or six decades ago.

I, too, had a huge collection of stories. I, too, wanted to be left alone with the words and the pictures. I, too, was too awake, too filled with the day to sleep most nights. So, I read, in the half-light, just as my little one was last night.

“What goes around comes around,” G’ma used to say. Last night, I knew she was right.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Inside My Brain

Does this happen to you?

I was in the shower (still no baby!) this morning,  and my brain had a thought.

I repeated it out loud.


It’s like there are two parts of me, the internal and the external, and they both wanted to be sure I knew what I thought.

Actually, there are three parts - I forgot the one who laughed at the other two.

Why wasn’t it enough to have the thought in the first place?  What piece of my brain needed to push it out through my mouth?  It was already there (though I’ve forgotten what it was by now).  Why did I have to repeat it?

Not that it really matters.  There’s no extra charge for thinking and saying the same thing to myself.  But I wonder if I’m the only one who has this happen.  I’m not making a conscious decision to do this.  It just happens.

Does it happen to you?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


The Purim Carnival at the synagogue was a big deal.  A very big deal.

The moms had a rummage sale covering half the room, clothes neatly folded, arranged by gender and size and season.  There was something wonderful about all those garments just lying there on the tables, waiting to be fondled and held up to see if they fit and then taken to the grandma beneath the cashier’s sign.

I don’t remember buying anything.  I do remember looking.

On the other side of the room were the games.  Ring Toss and Magnet Fishing and homemade tests of prowess lined the walls.  The middle was filled with costumed kids.  The costumes were the most fun.  Esther and Haman and Mordecai had cloned themselves a hundred times over.  Small bearded boys and medium bearded boys and larger bearded boys peered out through tiny holes in oversized plastic masks.  Girls in makeup laden masks paraded with stately grace; Esther was a queen, after all.

No one came as Vashti.

Grandma excelled at costume design.  The sewing machine whirred for weeks before the big event, creating a satin dress of many colors for me to wear.  It was gold and blue and red and gorgeous.  I was glamorous.  I was beautiful.  I was 9 or 10 that year, a 4th or 5th grader, just between childhood delight in dressing up and tween angst about fitting in.  I inhabited that outfit as if it were meant to be.  It was.

That day marked one of the 4 times I remember G’ma saying SHIT!  She aimed the hairspray straight into her eyes.  She washed it out as best she could, but a trip to the Emergency Room was required.  She drove herself.  Daddooooo had to take us to the Carnival. In retrospect, that seems weird.  At the time, I went with the flow.

There were tickets to be purchased which would then be exchanged for a chance to play the games.  As we waited to buy ours, I examined a giant jar of jelly beans, sitting on the table next to the cash box.  Beside it was a greens and black and white stuffed penguin, with a white ball point pen attached to his collar.  Guess How Many! Win the Autographable Bird!

Autograph dolls were a big thing in the early 1960’s.  Writing on a toy seemed odd and inappropriate,but there they were, at birthday parties and family gatherings and summer camps.  I had none.  I wanted that one.  But I had no idea how many beans were in that damn jar.  I tried counting around the bottom, tried counting the layers, tried to determine how many stacks of colored candies were in there..... and then Daddooooo was buying our tickets and the girl with the pencil and paper was asking my name and my number.

I told her something.  She wrote something else.

I thought about complaining, but I didn’t want to make a fuss.  I wanted to play.  And I did, until the Rabbi stood up on the stage, microphone in hand, and announced that one person had guessed exactly the right number of beans in the jar.

Suzi Annis.

Everyone applauded.  I was embarrassed.  I went up on the stage, collectedmy treasure, and worried.  Was. It. Mine.  That refrain ran through my head for the rest of the afternoon.  I hadn’t guessed that number at all.  Should I give the toy to the girl who wrote the real number?  Did it really matter?  I could just as easily have said the correct answer; mine was a totally random guess after all.

I carried the penguin for the rest of the afternoon.  I let people sign it, that afternoon and when they came over to play.  The tip of the pen made a satisfying dent in the fabric as the ink flowed on to the beast’s belly.  I drew flowers and hearts on him.  I wrote my own name.

I reveled in his presence, even as he stared at me, knowing that he was in my house under false pretenses.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Not Really a Guest

I’m here for the duration.  As Little Cuter points out, she is not in charge of when the baby arrives.  He’s on his own schedule, shifting down and rising up, stretching and hiccuping as he grows and grows and grows.  I’m a houseguest until he’s no longer occupying her middle.  It could be a while.

My girl looks beautiful, although she’s uncomfortable.  Finding a position that doesn’t impinge on her breathing or sitting is a challenge, but she scoots around on the couch with a smile on her face.  This is a much anticipated,  much loved,  much wanted child..... we just wish he’d hurry up and join the party.

In the meantime, I’m grocery shopping and vacuuming and prepping dinner.  I’m collecting FlapJilly from preschool every afternoon and then collecting her Mommy from work.  It’s slow during the summer at the University which employs her, but her colleagues are making sure that everything she can possibly be asked is put before her before her leave begins.  She’s not bored, she is busy.

When it’s your house and someone else tries to do your chores there’s bound to be confusion.  She’s delighted that I want to cook (a fact which surprises me since she is a much better chef than I am) but worries because “you are NOT a neat cook, Mom!”  That’s true.  TBG reminds me of that every evening when he steps into the kitchen to repair the damage I’ve done.  Somehow, food seems to fly off the cutting board, off the counter, out of the pan.  The floors have drops and drips and peels.  The counters look like WWIII took place there, in miniature.

I promised to try my best.  So, today, after cutting up the veggies and marinating the meat I took towel and Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning spray and got to work.  I am typing in a very clean space right now.
I’m not a guest.  I’m her Mom.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Gramma's In Town

There were so many adventures this weekend.
Taking a nearly 4 year old to the park is much more fun than taking a toddler. She climbs and hangs and gets up and down without any help at all, thank you very much. 

She understands how to properly propel her swing, going faster then slower, then "just the same as you, Gramma." We catered s the wind blew our hair, as the sun got in our eyes then went away.  We talked about friends and pre-school and Grandpa. They were real conversations, another difference that made me smile.

There was beauty shop and Barnes and Opal. The polish might have been a little smeary.... okay, maybe a lot smeary... but none got on the table. We were quite glamorous in the book store, collecting some Fancy Nancy's and Disney's Tangled before she played on the plastic frogs and domes in the mall. There was no time for conversation on the car; she was too busy reading.
But the big adventure was tie dying.
Pregnant mommies have trouble sitting in the ground, but "ya gotta do what ya gotta do."
The shirts are fabulous, and worthy of their own post. My daughter's hands are a lovely shade of blue after rinsing out the excess dye.
And now all four of us have colorful additions to our wardrobes.

I'm exhausted.
I'm delighted.
I'm here. 

Friday, July 6, 2018


I lived here for nearly 20 years.  I quickly learned my way around, because Chicago makes it easy.  It’s a grid, moving out evenly from State and Madison, block by block, the numbers going up by one hundred at each intersection.

Even I,  directionally challenged, never got lost.

Today,  Not Kathy picked me up at Midway Airport.  None of the roads were familiar, though they should have been.  The surface street leading to the highway has a Starbucks now, where before it was lined with abandoned storefronts.  There are overpasses and underpasses where there were vacant lots.  There’s a Jane Byrne interchange, funneling vehicles to the right and then up and down on their way to connecting interstates.  All of this new.

They rerouted Lake Shore Drive years ago, creating grass and more lanes and a fence where the secret parking lot for the Field Museum used to be.  The Cuters and I were very good at racing across The Drive on our way to see the T-Rex and the Native American weaponry and the special exhibits on the upper floors, reached by climbing one of the world’s great staircases.  This afternoon, waiting for the traffic to inch by, I admired the landscaping and the fencing and sighed.  The Museum used to be free.  Today it would cost $38 for one adult to pass through the front door.

Not all change is good.

We drove past the spot where Meigs Field used to be.  Before it was bulldozed one night, Big Cuter and I used to spend lovely afternoons watching the planes take off and land.  Now it has prairie grasses and passes itself off as an urban oasis.

A space ship has landed on SoldierField.  Tall buildings are going up in neighborhoods that had been avoided like the plague.  But sitting on their couch, typing while Not Kathy and Dr K are reading on the other couch,  Chicago still feels like home.

I became a grown up here. I practiced my profession, was a new bride and a new mother, bought a home - Chicago pushed me into adulthood with its big shoulders at my back.  Tonight, as we eat taramosalata and saganaki at Greek Islands, I’ll try to recapture some of that past.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

On The Road, Again

Maga and Papa can't be there, so I'm on my way.  The baby is coming sometime this month, and while I won't be in the room to catch him, I'll be close enough to greet him on his first day in the world.

I'm not sure there's a great place to be in America in July.  The middle of the country is colored red on the weather maps.  Tucson's monsoon hasn't made much of an impact.  Much of Puerto Rico is still without power and Flint's water is still undrinkable.  Big Cuter says San Francisco is gloomy and grey.  And Mr. Trump is President of us all.

Most everyone is on vacation, or planning a vacation, or just back from a vacation.  Facebook is full of Hawaii pictures and New York City pictures and Florida pictures.. and not all of them of a girl treed by an alligator. Friends are at Stonehenge and Disney and marrying in Colorado. 

I'll be spending the next few weeks in northern Indiana, wearing my Nevertheless, She Persisted tank top in that bright red state.  It's a beautiful shade of pink, and the message works in the gym as well as in the political sphere.  Silver Sneakers gets me free gym memberships anywhere in the USofA; I'll be sweating and making a statement at the same time.

FlapJilly doesn't like to nap at school; I'll pick her up when her classmates bring out their cots.  We'll have so many wonderful adventures - the zoo, the jumping palace, Barnes and Opal.  I'm filling my suitcase with something special for each and every day.  Some are treasures from my past and some were created just for this moment in my little one's life.  Some were given to me by friends.

 All of them fit in my big, wheeled suitcase; Southwest lets me take 2 bags for free and I'm delighted to pack with impunity.  I'm so used to Allegiant's one free under the seat bag rule that this feels like gluttony.  Will I need that skirt?  Why not? There's room! 

Life will go on back in Tucson.  Mah Jong will be played, albeit without me.  Hand and Foot will go on, though I will be gone.  My plants will bloom and wither and TBG will watch them and smile.  The little things that I do go unnoticed til I'm not around.  The gratitude which follows when they are found out makes my heart sing.

Expect FlapJilly posts for the next few weeks.  You are the only friends I'm taking with me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Fourth of July!

Reprinted from the archives.
Relevant every single day.

Today's the day the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson and tweaked for two days by delegates from the thirteen united States of America. It was signed by most of the States on August 2, after the rough draft had been written cleanly on parchment. 

I love the fact that we celebrate an act of government, rather than a piece of paper. I love contemplating the bravery of those treasonous men... for treason it surely was... and the ideas behind the words they were endorsing.

So, take a moment and read the letter to the world, sent by the colonists in 1776. And if you are spending time with relatives-of-a-differing-political-persuasion, and the overhead fireworks aren't sparkly enough.  try the italicized paragraphs below as a conversation starter.  

You can thank me later.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. 

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us
, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Memories of My Grandparents

Grandma and Grandpa lived in Arverne when I met them. They moved to The Butchers' CoOp, the Pink Buildings, in Far Rockaway when Arverne became too dangerous for elderly white Jews. No matter, they were always near the beach. 

Bubbe and Zaydeh lived on East 93rd Street in Brooklyn; Bedford Stuyvesant is about as far from the beach as you can get. They too stayed put until the neighborhood became dangerous. They moved to senior citizens housing, living a few floors below Zaydeh's brother, Uncle Sol.

In Brooklyn we could play stoop ball or handball in the alley. We could ride the horse drawn pirate ship that swung you nearly upside down when it jingle-jangled down the street, pulled by two old equines. We could walk to the deli or to John's Bargain Store or to the bakery, where Charlotte Russes were always in the window.

In Arverne, there was a long driveway without walls, the smell of the sea in the air, and two card sharps just waiting to take my money. Yes, we played for money. Yes, I often lost. Yes, Grandpa collected his winnings. But mostly I remember Grandma walking behind his chair, scolding him:  "Are you skinning her, Benny? Are you?" Skinning.... cheating.... tricking me while distracting me.... his eyes were twinkling at me as she ranted about the behavior that excused my inability to remember the rules.

With Grandma and Grandpa there was always the beach. Grandma's sisters sitting in low chairs, wetting their wrinkles by scooping water down the fronts of their swimsuits, never getting totally wet.  

Bubba and Zaydeh took me on a boat ride at Brighton Beach once, in the only water-and-Brooklyn-grandparent-related-adventure I can remember. There was no roof on the vessel and the sun was annoying until Zaydeh took some newspaper and folded me a sailor's cap.

I remember Bubba coloring with me, using her crayon to outline the sections before she filled them in. I remember riding on Zaydeh's shoulders, watching baseball on the black and white tv in our living room. I remember getting postcards from Grandma and Grandpa's European vacation - Picadilly Circus with a double decker bus still exists somewhere in my closet.  

Mostly, though, I remember being loved.

Monday, July 2, 2018

A Volunteer Turns Into a Star

Life in the desert isn't easy for seedlings.  The sun is unrelenting.  The rain is sporadic and uneven, drowning you one day and starving you for months afterwards.  The ground is hard packed and dense; roots have a tough time finding their way through the spaces.  There aren't a lot of nutrients in what passes for soil here; to me, it always looks like dirt.

If the drip system is humming along smoothly, the plants I planted and irrigated do just fine.  If the drip system acts up, strange things begin to happen.  Established plants become leggy.  Blooms are stunted.  Leaves become smaller and more fragile.  Everything looks droopy.

I asked Scarlett's Irrigation Guru for an estimate on upgrading my system; $3500 is more than I'm interested in spending right now.  So I've been fine tuning it myself, considering which tubes need larger emitters, which can be capped off, which need to be extended further out as the plant's canopy gets wider.  

All of this has been theoretical, of course.  It's 108out there.

Still, some things manage to thrive.  Most of those are volunteers, plants arising from seeds pooped out by birds or coyotes or bobcats or quail or bunnies or ground squirrels or hawks or owls.  They don't pay much attention to my yard's Master Plan; this bush ought to be 5 feet further south for optimal viewing pleasure.

Still, it's one of the largest specimens in my front yard, and when it's covered with bright yellow blooms my heart swells.  I thank the defecating beast every time I see it.

But this morning, typing to you, I'm fixated on the crepe myrtle deposited by a helpful passerby right where I'd put it myself.  Just to the side of the gate.  Right in the middle of a purple lantana.  It's pink and bushy and happy as a clam.  There's no irrigation right there, but somehow what's watering the rose living uphill must be enough to keep it smiling.
I'm concentrating on that bush right now, as the world falls headlong into spaces I don't care to contemplate.  This little pink splash of wonderfulness reminds me that serendipity is often in play, that things happen without our help, that the world sometimes surprises us with joy.

Thanks, Crepe Myrtle.  I need you right now.