Monday, October 29, 2018

Preparing for Halloween

My girls gutted a pumpkin today.
My guy attacked his.
SIR was a true artist.
And I needed a template.

Friday, October 26, 2018


Amster was updating me on her kids' achievements: their grades are solid, their friends are good people, they are respectful. There are issues, but no one is doing drugs or abusing other humans.

Congratulations!” said I, and then began to wonder why.

I flashed back to tenth grade. There was a reception in the high school cafeteria to celebrate the newest National Honor Society inductees. Standing beside my parents,  I listened to grown up after grown up congratulating my folks on a job well done.

I remember the outfit I was wearing.  I remember clutching my new NHS pin in my hand. I remember being really annoyed.

Why are they my congratulating my parents? I did all the work/”

Sure, they fed me and clothed me and made sure I had a quiet place to study and all the materials I needed to complete any project thrown my way. Sure, they set high standards and took an interest in my assignments. But I'd have done the work anyway. That's the kind of person I thought I was.

Why my parents got credit for my accomplishments was a mystery to me.

As a school social worker in my early 20's, I saw kids who were faced with obstacles far greater than mine. I marveled at their resilience and their fortitude and their turned-in-on-time homework. I never thought twice about complimenting those parents. I could see the effort it took to get that work done from the front lines; I never considered the back office.

After all, I was closer in age to my clients than to their folks. I was barely an adult myself.

I never thought about the role my parents played because I never considered its absence. The sun rose in the east and my homework was done before the tv was on and that's just the way it was.

I wish they were around so I could thank them properly.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Hi-Jinks in Grandma's Garden

There were lots and lots of 5 and 6 year olds in Grandma's Garden today. Twenty minutes later, they were followed by a few fewer, but still a lot, of 7 and 8 year olds.  Keeping that many kids amused at one time while still maintaining the sanctity of the growing space was a challenge.  Had I remembered to bring the old clothes, we could have made a scarecrow.  Had I remembered........
And so, I brought out the chalk. 
and this is what happened on the garden's inner wall. 
Of course, the chalk was pretty big for little hands.
and the little hands got very dirty.
So did their clothes. 
And then they began to cover their palms with chalk, 
some finding that leaning on their artwork led to coating the edges, 
some going all out over two hands, 
all of them sharing their silliness.
And the silliness got sillier.
They didn't all do it to themselves. 
But they were all very proud of themselves..... 
well, perhaps, not all of them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Sertraline and Me

I always had a knot in my stomach.  I always saw the dark side of the story.  I worried.  I often had a hard time getting out of my own way; my irritation took over more often than I liked.  I didn't notice that as extreme or unusual, it was what it was.  It was who I felt I was.

In 2001, it all came crashing down on me.  My college freshman was coming home for Thanksgiving.  I should have been over the moon, thrilled, singing Pirates of Penzance at the top of my lungs.  Instead, I was flat.  Ahedonic.  Lacking in affect.  Absent highs and lows.  Stuck in a corner of myself that showed no exit signs.  

I mentioned it to my gynecologist. It might have been related to oncoming menopause, but my slumped shoulders and stories about sleeping the day away concerned her.  She sent me straight to a psychiatrist.  

It was lovely.  One hour all about ME.  She listened, she questioned, she probed, she smiled.  Then she wrote me a prescription for a whiff of an anti-depressant , made a follow up appointment, and sent me on my way.  

It took some time for the medication to kick in, and then some time to find the right dose.  Being anxious on top of being depressed was no fun at all; the whiff  became lighter and then, one morning I woke up without that knot in my stomach.  I was flummoxed; it was an old friend and I kind of missed its presence. Turns out that when I asked others about their stomach knots, no one knew what I was talking about.  I'd assumed that I was normal.  Apparently, I was not.

My mood improved, my smiles returned, we had a lovely visit with the big kid.  I saw the doctor once more, then realized that $275 an hour was a lot of money to spend weeping over my childhood sorrows.  My friends would listen for free.  I had the prescription, and was assured that since the dosage was stabilized my gynecologist could write the refills.  I bid farewell to the lovely therapist.  I was on my own.

I found myself less stressed at the end of the day.  I was less likely to fly off the handle.  I didn't take the same destructive pleasure in pressing an argument to its ultimate and often ugly conclusion.  The medication was working.

After five years of taking that little blue pill every morning (it gives me heartburn if I take it and lie down to sleep), I wondered if I needed it any more.  I didn't take it for a few days.... and the response from my family convinced me that I ought to start taking it again.  MOM!! Are you taking those pills?  You are getting weird again.

Over the years I've tried cycling off several times.  I take a more measured approach, cutting the pills in half, spreading the withdrawal out over a week or more.  Each time, the same thing happens.  I get scared about things that shouldn't worry me.  I worry about things that shouldn't concern me.  I'm concerned about areas of my life that I'd otherwise ignore.  I ignore the good parts and find myself focused on the bumps in the road.  It's not a happy place to be.

So this week, when I thought that I ought to try to stop, I was prepared for the waves of sadness.  I noticed a frown where a smile had been.  I began obsessing about the caravan from Honduras, about voter suppression in Georgia, about Ted Cruz cozying up to a man who'd insulted his wife.  The monsoon rains didn't help; gloom outside, gloom inside.

And so I took the whole pill this morning.  Whether it's Dumbo's Magic Feather or a very fast chemical reaction, I am happier sitting at the clean desk writing to you than I was last night, snuggled on the couch next to TBG, finishing a Lynda LaPlante novel.  

I think I'm on this medicine forever.  It works.  Why do I worry?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Gender Neutral Parenting

As a reward for being born, Big Cuter received maroon overalls with bright pink piping from a fashion-forward colleague of mine.  She was mildly concerned about the pink stripe; TBG and I were not concerned.  The only problem was finding socks to match.  I carried my baby into the upscale boutique around the corner, hoping to match the pink.

He's a boy, said the sale clerk.

Yes, and the stripe is pink.

He's a boy, she repeated, and so it went, around and around until I finally had to gently mention that if wearing pink socks at 2 months of age was going to have an impact on my baby's gender identity then I already had more problems than I could imagine.  I bought a pair of pink socks, put them on his feet in the store (to make a statement), and left.

Fast forward 16 months to Thanksgiving.  Picking gifts from the Sears Catalog for Nannie to purchase for Christmas, I circled an anatomically correct plastic boy doll.  When Big Cuter took him out of the wrapping, he was nonplussed.  This is stupid, he said, throwing the doll over his shoulder, never to look at it again. 

Little Cuter grew up in a house with more cars and trucks and things that go than any little girl I ever knew.  She named them, put them in her doll carriage, and pushed her plastic and metal four wheeled babies around the house. 

TBG and I really tried to raise our kids in a gender neutral household, but character got in the way.  There was no way to convince Big Cuter that Chester the doll with all the relevant body parts was an appropriate plaything.  Little Cuter liked running the cars and trucks down a slide into the kiddie pool, but would have been happier if we could have put wheels on the backs of her dolls.

Big Cuter and his friends played with the Barbies we accumulated, but only as sacrificial victims falling to the power of their GI Joe's, He-Man, and Transformers.  While his little sister crawled on all fours, being a dog or a kitty, looking for love and a bowl of milk on the floor, my big boy was creating traps and weaponry out of scotch tape and toilet paper rolls. 

I made certain decisions about parenting a girl, but the only ones I could see through to completion were superficial at best.  I never cut bangs for her.  I allowed her to wear mis-matched outfits to school.  Combing her hair was a battle; with a headband keeping it out of her face I'd let her go off to school relatively unkempt.  I taught her to accept a compliment with a sweet smile and a Thank You.  

She set and cleared the table, but so did her brother.  She turned her dirty clothes right side out before putting them into the hamper, but so did her brother.... and if they didn't, they got them back, folded, inside out.  They made their beds and did their homework and took turns sitting in the front seat of the car.  We were conscious about keeping thing relatively equal and fair, looking to both of them when they were taller than I to reach things from the top shelves, to carry the heavy suitcases out to the car, to deal with whatever disaster impinged on our lives.

There were decisions to be made - from their names to the expectations we had for their behavior.  We tried to be open minded and thoughtful and kind.  We tried to listen and to see thing from their perspective.  We tried to be gender neutral.

We did pretty well in most things, even if we couldn't quite get Big Cuter to love Chester. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

She's The Garden Police

The School Social Worker asked me about the garden's rules.  "So, only 6 kids in at a time?  Or is it 8?  And only certain ones can use the tools?  And what's the story with the badges?"

We laughed, I at my obliviousness, she with delight as she recounted the story. 

Apparently, one of Grandma's Garden Leaders is now in charge when I'm not there.  Apparently, she has a lot of rules.  Apparently, she is quite intent on enforcing them, and apparently the rest of the Prince Scholars are willing to let her do so. 

She's the one who organized the digging that provided the bathtub sized hole for our Dwarf Mandarin Orange tree.  I worried about it; when I arrived on planting day I found that she had created a solution.  She consulted with experts (her father) when the going got tough.  She recruited volunteers, trained them, guided them, and got all the tools cleaned up and back in the storage bench. 

There's no reason to punish any of that behavior.  She's not bossy; she's in charge.  The fact that no one asked her to be in charge was bumping up against all the good that she'd accomplished.  The playground monitors didn't care what the rules were, they just wondered if the 10 year old was the only one making them. 

There was and will be some clarification of who can enter the gates and what they can do once they are in there.  I need to develop a system to identify those who can handle the rakes and the shovels and those who had better stick to the watering cans.  Everyone wants to taste the scallions sprouting from our onion sets; we'll have to separate those who can pick and share and those who haven't yet learned the technique.

I think the 10 year old had a point; there's got to be a story about badges lurking here. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Being Brave

I spent a semester in the UofA's Humanities Seminars discussing the concepts of bravery and courage.  Is one external and one internal?  Is one judged by others and the other judged by your psyche?  Does physical peril have to be involved?  Does near-certain death factor in?  How about the timing?  If it falls in your lap are you brave if you deal with it?  Does choice have a place in the equation?

We read The Song of Roland; was he brave or courageous or foolhardy to blow his horn and bring down the wrath of the attackers?  We read Beowolf.  Is it admirable to eat your foes?

The dictionary isn't much help in picking apart the distinctions.  Merriam-Webster calls it the ability to do something that frightens one.  Wikipedia, the people's collective hive mind,  says it's the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

Then what's brave?  The Google search starts with the movie, but goes on to trip over itself:  Brave is ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

I really hate it when a definition uses the word I'm looking up as a descriptor of itself.  

So, when Little Cuter asked me to write about one of the bravest things I've ever done, I was already on the case.  Bravery or courage, the distinction isn't that important when it comes to facing terror in the real world.  I'm much happier facing it in front of the dictionary.

I don't know if I was brave or courageous when I was perforated.  My memory is sketchy about the details.  I know that people thought I was brave and courageous in the aftermath, but I never agreed with their assessment.  Getting out of bed and into the world was going to happen; I was shot but I wasn't a different person.  Intersecting with the real world or pulling a blanket over my head and retreating - there wasn't much of a choice.

But the first time I went out to lunch, sitting in Miss Margaret's car, a skinny white boy in a hoodie crossed in front of us as we waited for the light to change.  I shook, I quivered, I moaned.  I was terrified.  But , NO!, I did not want to go home.  I was ready to face danger, I was showing courage, even though I didn't feel very brave at all.  Had he turned and met my gaze, I think I would have shattered into a million pieces.

Am I brave or courageous when I go to a crowded movie theater, or an outdoor festival, or walk on the bike path without a friend?  Those things scare me, but life goes on and, I've decided, it takes me with it.  

I was braver when I went to Chicago for graduate school, knowing no one but the college classmate who was living with her boyfriend. I cried. . I was alone in a strange city, living in a studio apartment with four locks on the door.  The neighborhood wasn't great, and I came and went at odd hours.   I binge read novels to keep my loneliness at bay.  Was that bravery or courage or just living the dream?  I was on the cusp of adulthood.  I had to soldier on.

It took courage to begin The Burrow, putting myself out in the world, without a filter.  

Deciding to become parents was a courageous move. TBG and I had a delightfully companionable marriage. We rarely argued, and if we disagreed we just avoided the topic.  On the major things, we were totally in sync.  Why would we screw that up?  Being pregnant felt courageous; my body was colonized by an alien being, totally out of my control.

I was a homesick kid, dreading sleeping over at a friend's house.  Was going away to Brownie Camp a courageous act?

I am a sensible person.  I am mindful in my old age in ways that I was not when I was young.  Just thinking about being brave or courageous makes me anxious.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Planting in Grandma's Garden

We've been waiting all year for our dwarf Mandarin Orange tree to arrive at Rillito Nursery.
Of course, it arrived last week, when the kids were on Fall Break.  It spent 10 days in foster  care at the garden center before we officially adopted it today.

First and most important was preparing the soil.  The kindergarten and first grade scholars carried native soil from all corners of the garden 
and combined it with Happy Frog planting mix.
There was much conversation about how dirty they were getting, but Grandma was not amused.
Their fingers were dirty but their palms were clean.  They were not getting down to the bottom of the pile.  And so we moved back and put our hands on the ground and crept our fingers forward and there we were, underneath it all.  By the time the whistle blew, the planting mix was ready.
This one, Garden Leader Extraordinaire, organized the Club and created a hole exactly where it ought to be, while you weren't here, Grandma.  Her Dad suggested that water would make it easier to dig in the hard pack; she organized a bucket brigade from the cafeteria to the garden.  By the time I arrived this morning, there was a small bathtub dug in the corner of our garden.  It was exactly the right size and the perfect surprise; I'd spent all morning worrying about digging through the dirt. 

That left preparing the hole to the 2nd and 3rd graders.  They clambered into the hole, rolling like puppies in the dirt.  Since my intention was to disturb the edges of the hole, creating opportunities for the roots to spread, their antics were fine with me.
Then, after careful instruction about rakes and shovels not being raised above your shoulders, the most responsible Club members were given weapons of dirt destruction and set to work. 
By the time their whistle blew, the tree's new home was ready.

Then came the 4th and 5th graders, ready to plant.
I chose the girl with the softest hands to cradle the leaves as we tilted the tree in its container.  All the kids held the plastic as I gently tried to dislodge the root ball.  
I failed. 
The 4th and 5th graders punched the bottom of the still tilted container, then I tried again.

We carried the tree oh-so-carefully into the middle of the just as deep and twice as wide hole and added the soil the little kids had prepared.   
After inspecting it to be sure it was straight, the Garden Leaders demonstrated firm but gentle tamping of the soil, being careful to leave the roots poking out of the top of the root ball covered with a thin layer of soil.  
By the time their whistle blew, we had a beautifully top-dressed dwarf Mandarin Orange tree anchoring the sunny corner of the garden. 
I set the irrigation to deeply water our treasure, and left the garden with a smile on my face.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What Happened to the Fidget Spinners?

They were everywhere.  Kids had them on the playground, unless the teacher had already confiscated them.  They lined the checkout counters at the grocery store and the car wash and the hardware store.  They came to dinner with the grown-ups, a means of keeping the kids occupied, obviating the need to include them in the conversation.  They were a fad.

The Cuters went through a variety of collectibles - round discs and printed cards, saved in plastic sleeves held in three ring binders.  Some were used in a tiddly-winks like game, but most just sat there, being looked at.  The cards were often disgusting, in a fourth grade blood-and-guts way.  As long as it was just yucky, I let it go.  There was no sense in judging a fad that would vanish before permanent psychological damage could be done.

Hula Hoops were a fad when I was very young.  Bubba and Zayde and I went to John's Bargain Store on East 93rd Street in Brooklyn and we each bought one.  Why?  They were rationed.  I remember the cashier looking askance at my grandmother as she approached the counter.  Was she really going to shimmy in the middle of a plastic wheel?  In retrospect, she was probably annoyed that we were walking out with three of them. At the time, I just thought I had a very cool Bubba.

I had to Google fads in the 1950's to see what else constituted a fad.  Davy Crockett - I had a coon skin cap with a tail, I named my bicycle Betsy after Davy's rifle, and I was furious that  my family wouldn't name my newborn sister that, too.  The Mickey Mouse Club - I was in love with a few of the Mouseketeers, wanted Annette to be my best friend, and waited impatiently for Friday's Spin and Marty episode.

I thought I would remember more of the 1960's, but I sat, staring at Lenore the Lenovo Laptop, for a long time trying to come up with what constituted a fad.  I could only come up with one:white go-go boots.

White go-go boots were a fad during middle school.  My family didn't have a lot of extra money, so I must have been exceptionally persuasive to have convinced G'ma to buy me a pair.  I remember her making me promise that I would wear them; the fad ended before I out-grew them.  There they sat, a sad reminder of the folly of following trends.

Google thinks that Rock and Roll was a fad; I think it was a cultural shift.  I'm not including it in this review.  By definition, I think a fad has to have a limited life span.  I'm still listening to Rock and Roll aren't you?

Was being a hippie a fad?  Longing for peace, brotherhood, sisterhood, and multi-cultural understanding, fueled by recreational drugs and home brewed beer, we toppled a Presidency and ended a war.  Was that a fad, or a cultural revolution?

Was marching on Washington or the Dean of Students Office a fad?  Some of us certainly did a lot of it, and then we didn't.  And then, decades later, we were at it again.  That's not a fad, that's a statement.

Was wearing tie-dye and bell-bottoms and my hair in long braids a fad?  I've shucked the pants, but the tie dye is still in my wardrobe.  My long hair fell victim to TBG's pleas that he loved short styles, but I was an adult by then, too mature to be influenced by fads.  Or so I thought.

The Prince scholars are my quick go-to group for that which is trendy among the younger set.  Affirmation T-Shirts seem to be all the rage these days; everyone is Mommy's Best Daughter or certain that I am a Rock Star! or a Hero for the Ages.  In this case, I am an anti-fad follower, as my new favorite tee proclaims:

Like the fidget spinners and the pogs and the Mouseketeers, fads fade away.  They live in the boxes of memories your parents store for you, and then you open the boxes when your mother sends them to you when you buy your first home.  You hold the painted plastic Rat Fink and wonder why????

That's the definition of a fad - years later you look at it and wonder why????

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Are You Registered To Vote, vol 2

The young woman behind the counter was waiting for me today.

"I didn't get to the website you gave me, but I have the next few days off and I'm on it." will be there when she's ready, I assured her.

"There are a lot of people running, and a lot of propositions."  She did not look thrilled.

"Pick an issue you care about and google it with a candidate's name.  That's a good place to start."

A smile lit her face; this was within her wheelhouse.

I gave her some stickers, for herself, her friends, and their cars.  She agreed that it was her generation's responsibility to care for their future.  She was grinning as we talked about rallying her friends to go to the polls.

I left with a big smile on my face.

Now, I'm off to write postcards to get out the vote for Stacey Abrams, my own small contribution to counter the voter suppression tactics of her opponent.  I'm still showing off the felt #InvestInEd emblem JannyLou gave me to show that I'll vote-against-the-vouchers.  And I have a sticker on my car, just like the ones I gave the girl behind the counter:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Beauty and The Beast, 1946

Scarlet and I spent a truly surreal afternoon together.  Really.  Though he denied any connection to the movement, Jean Cocteau appears in every scholarly explication of surrealism that I found this evening.  He inspired it, he created it, he reveled in it - whatever he called it.  And today, celebrating European Art Cinema Day, Scarlet and I joined him in fantasy, watching his black and white masterpiece, La Belle et La Bete.

The Loft's Program Director had much too much fun making fun of Disney's animated remake in his opening remarks.  I'm not sure as he is that Cocteau's candelabras, muscular men's arms protruding from the walls, moving with Beauty as she runs through their shadows, are any less creepy or amusing than 1991's dancing and singing torchiers. 

Yes, along with a magic mirror and a transporter-equipped, jewel encrusted, right hand glove, there were living body parts in usually inanimate objects.  We got used to the arms pretty quickly.  The statues with eyes that ogled brought giggles from the crowd; perhaps we are jaded, 70 some years later.  On some level, it was creepy.  Then, again, so are talking light fixtures. 

The subtitles called her Beauty, but the actors, speaking French, said Belle.  There was a square jawed suitor and a wastrel sidekick and the father and daughter loved each other very much, just like the story is supposed to be.  Cocteau threw in some annoying sisters, but coming from a Cinderella-driven childhood they didn't seem out of place to me  Their presence made it feel more like a fairy tale. 

And the audience reacted as if it were. We sighed, we gasped, we smiled together.  Story time for grown-ups on a Sunday afternoon, with a good friend by my side.  Life is good.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Medicare Open Enrollment - A Snippet

"You get the Humana plan from AARP.  Everyone does."

That was the advice TBG got when he turned 65.  From everyone.  That was the advice I got, too, two years later.  So that's what we got.  And it was good.

We have simple needs.  The plan met them.  And it had a fabulous feature - Silver Sneakers.

Do you know Silver Sneakers?  You give your name and address and the staff at any affiliated gym looks you up on the computer and gives you a access to the facility.  For free. 

And there are lots of affiliates.  LA Fitness.  The Y. 

The Fit Stop 5 minutes from Little Cuter's house kept me sane while awaiting Giblet's arrival. Silver Sneakers let me follow my yogi to Planet Fitness one Sunday morning.  All at no cost, with minimal paperwork and a welcoming attitude from everyone, every time. 

I'm using it just the way it was intended - it gets me moving in situations where I might otherwise not.

And so, because I use it and I love it and it saves me a monthly gym membership, because it's effective in the most basic way, the way every doctor talked about with G'ma as she aged, because those who don't move, die, that plan that everyone gets will no longer include Silver Sneakers as a member benefit.

It's replaced by 50% off our LA Fitness membership, and a discount at affiliates. 

That's $360 a year we'll have to add to the cost of coverage in 2019, unless our adviser can suggest a better solution. 

That's vacations where working out will be behind one more obstacle, if the opportunity exists at all.

That's the first step in forgetting why I chose the apartment furthest from the dining room when G'ma moved to The Old Folks Home; it was the only exercise she got, and then only because she was hungry. 

Sigh.  Just when I thought things couldn't get worse. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Such a Big Girl

"Why is Thomas orange?" 

SIR was concerned. The big people were relaxing on the couch, watching videos on the phone, on the iPad, on the television, after a hard day at work and pre-K.  The dog, with his now orange fur, strolled by. 

The parents wondered.

"Orange?  Why is he orange?"

"He must have gotten into something in the garden."


"Sure, it could be pollen.  Let me look."

And then, without lifting her eyes from the screen in her lap, not missing a beat, came FlapJilly, participating in the conversation as a fully fledged member of the team.

"Guys.  Guys.  I spilled my mac and cheese on him."

Being a Big Sister has propelled my grandbaby into Big Girlhood.  

She's learning about the planets, because pre-K has a curriculum that includes such things.  She announced that Saturn is her favorite among them, "because it has rings, just like me!"  

She's riding her two wheeler around the neighborhood, propelled by her Daddy on roller blades, kept stable by his steady hands and her training wheels.  They zoom down the driveway and she squeals with glee as Grampa and I gasp.  She took a spill when we accompanied her to the park; she checked for blood, got back on her bike, and rode home to report to her mother: "I fell off, but I was brave."

She said yes to the offer of a bandaid, but that might have been a fashion statement,
just as it was here.

Did I mention that she wants to be Merida for Halloween?  Since they costume as a family, that means her mother has to be a huge black bear with a crown, while her Dad and Brother get to be Vikings.  Still, when your daughter wants to be the hero from a film called Brave, it's hard to say no.

In real life, she's also a girly girl, one who spreads blue eye shadow on her forehead (look to Wonder Woman's makeup for her inspiration) and a different pouffe of blush on each cheek, one whose vanity table is covered with bling. 

"Are you blogging?  You're giving off a very nice vibe."

Yes, about FlapJilly, I told my husband, and we smiled.

This feisty little human lights up our world.  
Photos by

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

I'm Still Jittery

Scarlet and I went to the movies today, wending our way through parking lot construction to  The Loft.  Our membership renewals came with 4 free passes; we each used one to gain admission to Love, Gilda.

It looked like it would be a private showing until the lights went down.  By the time the previews were finished there were two other women sitting at opposite ends of the theater, and a gentleman down in front.  Theater One, the biggest, renovated auditorium, was ours for the enjoying.

Until the jackhammers started.

Gilda had a miscarriage, and the pounding was intermittent.

Gilda went through chemotherapy, and the pounding got louder.

After ten minutes or so, I went out to the lobby, seeking redress.  I told the ticket seller that the movie was becoming unwatchable, what with the construction going on right outside.  He nodded.  I went back to my seat to see the end; I'd already invested an hour or more in the film and I was bound and determined to see it through to the end.

The credits rolled and Scarlet was out of her chair and into the lobby  By the time I caught up with her the ticket seller was emailing his manager, handing us replacement passes, and apologizing.  As first one woman and then the other came past I I encouraged them to get their free passes, too.  The older gentleman couldn't have been more delighted.

We walked out past the jackhammer on the opposite side of the wall by our seats.  It was only marginally louder.  Then I drove home. 

My hand were shaky, but I put it down to the flu shot I got after the film.  I had trouble sitting still, and I thought it was because Prince is on Fall Break and I miss my routine of stories and gardening and hugs.  My head hurt, and I was anxious, and then I realized that I had been sitting beside concrete destruction for nearly an hour.

No one would choose to do that, especially someone who thought she was going to the movies. 
The movie was sweet, poignant, reminiscent of my young adulthood.  I recommend it.... without jackhammers.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Happy Thoughts

I've been avoiding the news since Susan Collins. It's really been quite lovely.

It helps that the temperatures have been in the low 80's, that the rains have cleared the air of pollen and dust, at that the clouds, fueled by tropical storms and hurricanes near and far, have led to spectacular sunsets. 

And the pool is still warm enough for laps.

The risk of triple digits has passed, so I feel safe putting plants directly in the soil.  I'm going to risk planting another rock rose bush to supplement the ones the javelina had for brunch one Tuesday last year.  I'm going to amend the soil in some small areas of the garden, the dead zones where nothing has grown (and I've tried everything) for the 49 seasons we've lived here. 

If the soil won't come to me, I'll bring myself to the soil. 

I will not be defeated.  The yarn storage has gotten totally out of hand; I'm on Pintrest looking for suggestions.  I have the world's widest array of plastic bins and plastic bags and wicker baskets, in all shapes and sizes, covered and bare, handles optional on most.  I have a fancy label maker I've never un-wrapped from the impossible to destroy plastic covering. 

I'm all set, once I make a decision about what to do. 

My desk is, once more, a disaster zone.  I won't take a picture, because it's embarrassing, even by my standards.  And that's a very low bar.  But in order to find the label maker I'll have to dig through the layers, and so, it seems, I will have to approach this task as well.
I'm being ruthless in the kitchen.  I bought a new loaf pan to replace the ones Nannie handed down to me from Paw's older sister and my banana bread just slipped right out, bouncing on the cooling rack with reckless abandon.  I'm not used to shouting Hey, come back here to my baked goods.

Out go all my no-longer-non-stick, never use them even thought Someone Special gave/bought/handed it down to me.  Others can use them; I don't need them taking place.

I want everything I touch to make me smile, or at least not make me groan. 

And this is the prescription I've set for myself, to counter the overwhelming sadness I encounter when I try to face the world outside my house.  I'm listening to the DJ's on KXCI, our community radio station, because I can't bear to hear NPR rehashing the same sorry state of affairs,, program after program after program.  This morning I rolled down the car windows and sang along, loudly, to music that's been mine for decades.

Life is much happier here in my little shell.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Minimalist Decor

I used to go all out.  I carved pumpkins, I painted pumpkins, I stacked pumpkins on bales of hay next to scarecrows, I piled plush pumpkins beside plastic pumpkins overlooking ghost candlesticks.  Amsters kids helped me decorate, and then went home to complain to their mother that she didn't have enough stuff to celebrate the season.

Year after year, I stuffed those scarecrows myself, with help from whatever child happened to be available.  When the Cuters were both in college, TBG and I rented a house next to a young family.  Shyly, their third grader asked if she could help.  Her enthusiasm for the project outside prompted me to continue decorating inside, even if only TBG and I were there to enjoy it.

We were in transit; renting while searching the country for our forever home.  Almost everything was in packing boxes; I laughed at myself when I saw that the holiday decor was in the front of the storage garage.  The movers must have known that I'd need it, that it would make me happy.

And so it went, with helpers and without.  Even here in Tucson, when it was only the two of us to admire it, I went all out. 

And then FlapJillly came along.  It was much more entertaining to watch follow a toddler through her neighborhood than it was to sit in Tucson, waiting for trick-or-treaters to ring our bell. 

They never did.

Thus began what has become an annual pilgrimage to the Midwest for Halloween.  This has had a serious impact on my need to fit out my environment to suit the seasons. Blithely assuming that it would make a difference, last year I divided up the decorations: Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving.  This year I opened all the boxes because what I wanted could not be found where I thought it ought to be. 

And through it all I repeated a new mantra. Whatever I take out, I have to put away.  I was judicious in my choices.  I don't have much of an emotional attachment to most of what I've been carting around for decades, back and forth across the country.  I feel like I'm on the brink of a New Year's Resolution, something to do with trimming the edges of my living space.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Soothing My Soul

I'm emotionally exhausted. I've emailed Jeff Flake twice today, and I'll go into the office in person tomorrow.  I don't want to think about voices being unheard, about bad behavior - in the hearing room, not 36 year old allegations if you must disbelieve her - and that bad behavior being rewarded, about a frustratingly limited FBI investigation that wasn't much of an investigation at all.  I didn't want to think about it this afternoon, and I don't want to think about it tonight.

So let me share the loveliness of Grandma's Gardeners, who, upon hearing that the irrigation system was the victim of institutional interference (there's a leak somewhere in the middle school field and the water's turned off until it's repaired), happily built a bucket brigade from the water fountain in the cafeteria 
to Grandma's Garden., where,
under the supervision of my newest Garden Leader
they carefully watered the surviving plants.
The watering cans have to be small so they are not too heavy. 
All those big drink cups from Great America and Marine World and Cornell that have been languishing on my gardening shelves at home have finally been put to use.  They fill up quickly, and the kids love the adventure of going in-the-out-door because Grandma Suzi said it's okay.

Did I mention that they were very careful? 
Watching these kids tending tiny growing things warmed the cockles of my heart.  
They really needed warming.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Judge Kavanaugh's 10 year old wanted to pray for the woman.  He said that he was proud of her for that, though his behavior didn't reflect it.  A lot of wisdom from children, he went on.

Today, Garden Club at Prince proved the last part.

A womanly 5th grader, matured earlier than her peers and carrying more weight than looked optimal, was hanging out with me as her classmates carried cups and watering cans from the cafeteria to the garden. She made one run, and that was enough.  We agreed that irrigation without water is less than wonderful, and then she began to talk about bullying.

I'm not sure why, but she did.

She told me that bullies have bad home lives and that's why they act the way they do  She told me that bullies won't grow up to be successful, to be rich, because they have bad attitude.  Sweating and wiping our faces on our shirt sleeves, we pondered the mysteries of why, as I directed the hand irrigation behind her. 

It was a moment.

And then the football thrown by the big, early maturing, raucous, popular  boys, the ones who were going to play on the high school field at 5:30 that afternoon, that football landed squarely in the middle of one of my garden beds. 

You've assassinated my marigold!

They came into the garden, abashed, laughing loudly and nervously, and wondering What is a marigold??  I showed them, breaking off the damaged flower and securing it behind the left ear of one as another gave me a hug and said how sorry they all were.  They moved their game to the other side of the swing set, calling out 'Bye, Grandma!  Sorry, Grandma!

The boys and the marigold were gone, but my smile remained.  And I couldn't help comparing these kids who truly have no connections, who go to an admittedly fabulous but certainly not exclusive or elite school, these multi-ethnic teammates to the picture painted by those who were there of Brett Kavanaugh and his. 

I was very proud of our Prince Scholars today.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Random Thoughts on This Week (and it's only Tuesday)

"Remember there was a time where you could not be a nominee and potentially lie to Congress and be voted in to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court."

I heard this just after putting dinner in the oven.  In Tucson, 84 and drizzling counts as pot roast weather; I had three hours to develop a post that would counteract the gloom outside. 

I failed. 

I kept coming back to the heartache I saw on Ashley Parker's face as she was describing the disintegration (okay, a girl can hope) of Brett Kavanaugh's nomination. She looked like I felt.

Hollowed out. 
The good men I know who are trying to reach out are uncertain of the reception their overtures will receive.  They are worrying about striking the right tone, not wanting to offend. 

Welcome to our world, we reply.  Welcome to our world.
My first real job interview included "They grow them will brass ones back in New York, don't they?"
I smiled and agreed. Coming to know him later, I realized that it was an inappropriately sexual remark; at the time, I took it as a geographic insult, and showed him exactly what a short, Jewish, girl from Long Island looked like. 

I was young and naive and convinced that he needed me more than I needed him, and I was enjoying the game.  His mid-western provincialism was no match for my snarky New York attitude.  I got nearly the salary my outrageousness had requested. 

I wonder if I'd have been as brave if I'd been responding to his innuendo-laden smile. 
So we're at an interesting place in our world right now. 

Whether they believe Dr. Ford or they don't, men are thinking about what she said he did.  Their sons and daughters are hearing it, too, and are watching their reaction.  Women are used to having their reactions judged and, too often, found wanting for no reason other than gender.  The good men I know are spending time apologizing for the misdeeds of their sex, feeling dishonored by the bad behavior of others, being judged for no reason other than gender.

It's mind bending.   

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Early Bird Special - A Snippet

Did you have lunch today? 
Yeah, I made a hamburger.
I'm hungry now.  Do you want soup?
And grilled cheese?
We have ciabatta and a good tomato.  I'm on it.

It was 4 o'clock in the afternoon.  The rain had finally stopped, the air smelled of creosote, and it was 4pm.  Not my usual dinner time.  Not by two or three hours.

G'ma and Daddooooo spent 6 long weeks in Florida, researching it as a retirement option.  Along with the absence of anyone under the age of 100, it was The Early Bird Special that put the death knell to their becoming Floridians. 

"What do you do with the rest of the night?" G'ma wondered whenever the topic came up. 

What's the opposite of I have become my mother?  

Monday, October 1, 2018

Are You Registered To Vote?

That's what I asked the 20-something behind the counter, after I placed my order.  With a big smile, she nodded and said YES!

I leaned over and asked the girl beside her.  She, too, was registered.  The boy to their left just wasn't sure if he'd ever registered, or why he would bother.  I went into my "All those girls you don't get 
pregnant?  That's because birth control is legal, now.  I bet you care about that, right?" spiel, and he laughed and agreed that he did. 

His colleague was flummoxed.  What did voting have to do with that?  And anyway, didn't we just have an election?  Is there one in this state?  Why?  The President is in for 4 years, and it hasn't been 4 years... has it?

I smiled.  I nodded.  I tried not to think about what she hadn't been taught in school. 

I explained about the House and the Senate and why they might be important in the overall scheme of things.  I wondered if they would be interested in paying a little bit more to have well-paved roads.  Did they think that our public schools deserved a little love and attention?  This was their chance to have their opinions counted; how often did that happen?

During our conversation, another customer entered the lobby.  When I paused for breath, he chimed in.  Governor Ducey did not fare well in his estimation, nor did those who chose not to exercise their right to vote.  The kids were caught up in it, too.  By the time I collected my order, I'd promised to bring them information on how and where and what.  As I left, one called out.  "Thank you for your passion about this."

A trip to the League of Women Voters is in my future.  These kids have yet to experience my passion.