Friday, November 30, 2018

A Lovely Day

It's very hard to ignore the kakistocracy these days, but I'm trying.  I listened to MSNBC as I paid bills and cleaned out my inbox (my desk is still clear!) and as I was wrapping brownies, until I realized that I wasn't paying that much attention to the scandal du jour.  I was telling myself stories about my nieces, my friends-since-middle-school, my Chicago girlfriends.

I turned off the tv.

There were spatial relations problems to be solved when fitting bubble wrapped goodies into flat rate envelopes.  If it fits, it ships is the only instruction given by the Postal Service, and neatness does not count.  More than one recipient has commented that the holidays start when the misshapen package from you arrives.  I prodded and folded and used more tape than might have been necessary, it's true, but the damn things get where they are going and that's all that matters.

The giant blue IKEA bag I've used in the past to schlep the packages to the Post Office is now filled with gardening crap; I found an old plastic laundry basket to use instead.  I had issues with the USPS website (not a surprise) but finally got the labels printed out and attached to the knobby packages and the packages in the basket and the basket to the Post Office where I dumped them into the gigantic cloth hamper the thoughtful postal employee had placed near the main counter.

I picked up Dr. K at his new house, leaving Not-Kathy behind, painting her dining room tabletop a lovely shade of lavender.  She calls it purple.  We both think it's wonderful.  Her husband and I stopped at the-slowest-ever-not-really-Caribbean-or-fusion Asian/Caribbean/Fusion fast food restaurant on the planet.  We agreed that not worrying is one of the major benefits of being a retired person, so we agreed not to worry that we'd be late to class as our food took longer and longer and longer to arrive.

We weren't late to class.  I found a parking space on the first floor right next to the exit doorway; we agreed that we each have parking karma, that others are amazed at our powers, that it's one of the ost fun things about being us.  We've been friends since 1973.  We have been having these kinds of conversations for a long, long time.

Dr. Tolbert taught us about the body map embedded in our brains which led to an explanation of the science behind phantom limb pain, replete with a mirror box we could use to freak ourselves out.  The brain works in mysterious ways, compensating and replacing and organizing. When I saw what I knew was not happening I jumped and Dr. Tolbert laughed.  Watch the video.

I made all the lights coming home, there were no bills in the mail, and JannyLou is finally home from New Zealand.  Having her sit at our kitchen table wass like being enveloped in cotton candy - she is the sweetest human being I've ever known.  Her trip was great, her health is good, and Fast Eddie is ready to book another adventure.  Good things should happen to good people.... especially good people I like a lot.

And now we await Dr K and Not-Kathy and the pizza they are bringing.  I have more political postcards to write as they watch football and we talk about this and that and nothing and everything, the way old friends do, weaving stories around stories and laughing at ourselves.

It's been an absolutely lovely day.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Lucy's Warblers in Grandma's Garden

The Tucson Audubon Society had a table full of Lucy's warbler houses outside Whole Foods yesterday.  They were giving them away for free.

This is not a usual occurrence.

In fact, I'd never heard of a Lucy's warbler or known that they were homeless creatures in need of nurturing.  But I listened and I learned and I came out with my groceries to find a box filled with bird nesting spaces and a kind gentleman to carry them to my trunk.

They were delighted to spread the wealth, and I was thrilled to have an activity for Garden Club today.

Apparently, a dearth of mature mesquite trees has created problems for the Lucy's warbler as it migrates.  The birds nest in shady spaces on the north and east sides of the trees.  As mesquite groves are bladed for sub-divisions, new trees are planted.  But these babies don't have mature foliage nor the trunk width to support even a tiny warbler nest.

In stepped the Tucson Audubon Society and their research based, absolutely perfect spaces created to seduce Lucy's warblers to nest and rest as they migrate.  The Prince Elementary School Garden Club was happy to help the birds.  They read the directions, checked out the various trunks of the giant mesquite tree in our garden, and used Grandma's new screwdriver with the magnetized tip to insert the wood screws through the pre-drilled holes in the wood into the wood of the tree.
The assisted living devices had to be at least 4' off the ground; in other words, above Grandma's shoulder.  Some gardeners were able to reach higher on the tree than I was.  
Others needed to survey the situation 
before finding a shady nook on the north side, with bark into which a screw could be inserted.  
By the end of their recess, we'd establish a way station for meandering warblers. 
There was no arguing over the tools.  There was cooperation and distribution of tasks, and enough work to go around. 
We made the world a better place today.
And we had fun doing it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

And So It Begins

(No, not the beginning of the end of the Trump kakistocracy.)
Big Cuter did the heavy lifting as I sorted and discarded and packed and repacked until I had one box for Fall, one for Halloween, and one for Thanksgiving neatly aligned on the proper shelf.  Hanukkah and the two Minimal Christmas boxes are on the floor of the garage, open and ready to be unpacked as the spirit or the need requires. 

Finding myself soap-less at the sink this afternoon, I found a Christmas tree patterned bar on top of the first Minimal box.  It must have been the last thing I put away, unless I was brilliant and realized it would be the first thing I'd need when I closed the box last January.  Stranger things have happened.

I did organize the wrapping supplies last year.  I tossed anything that wasn't pristine, gave away the religiously themed items I'd never use, contained the tags and the embellishments and the Hanukkah glitz separately, and set them on easily transportable holiday themed trays. They live in Betsey's-Mother's-Cedar-Chest which has housed my December paraphernalia for decades.   It's always organized, one of the few places in my life about which that is true.  Every year I am very very happy when I lift the lid.  This year was no exception.

I picked up the mailing supplies at the post office while buying my Forever stamps, brought in the bubble wrap, located the packing tape dispensers, and got to work.  I took the price tags off the containers for the brownies, sticking them (artistically) on the plastic bag of plastic ties and other non-recyclables.

I baked and I bagged and I wrote cards.  I really should print out the Brownie List, but, as usual, I can't find it.  It should be filed under Brownie List, right?  I'll look again tomorrow.  Today I am having too much fun doing the work.

This is a transition week, neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring as G'ma, somewhat inexplicably, often said.  It's November but Fall holidays are over.  It's not December, so Christmas red and green seems premature, especially since Hanukkah comes first.  It's a minor holiday transformed into a merchandising opportunity (have you seen Mensch on the Bench?) but it should have its due.  So I took out the blue pillar candles and unpacked another from the box and they are easing us into the holiday season. 

TBG is smiling, too, averring that he needs my organized chaos to get into the holiday spirit.  The fresh brownies, available for his consumption unless specifically told otherwise, may also have something to do with it.

There are pressing political matters, about which I am vaguely aware.  It's hard to maintain any interest in the slime of this presidency when there's so much love and joy to be shared. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I know that I need more very's.  

I'm very very very very very happy right now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

You Get Paid to Talk - A Rant

Him and I's relationship is solid.  That was a contestant on an I'm-too-embarrassed-to-admit-that-I-was-in-the-room-at-the-time reality tv show.  It was a show entirely about relationships.  I would have thought that the producers would have introduced a little bit of grammar training along with the hair and make up.

Admittedly, that's a hard one.  Brenda Starr, my newspaper editor friend, advises writing around situations like that - We have a solid relationship - rather than tackling the complexities.  And, these weren't people chosen for their facility with the spoken word.  Looks won out more often than brains.

But the sports announcers?  Their job is to put together coherent sentences in the English language.  It amazes me how difficult they find that task. If information can be conveyed as well, that's a step up from the norm.  My brain is exploding .

Big Cuter and his father, showing an appalling lack of moral certitude and a delightful abundance of bonding, spent four days on Douglas, watching football.  Some basketball was thrown in season the offerings, but hour after hour, day after day, I listened to men mangle the spoken word. 

Normally, I'd take out my hearing aids.  The tv becomes white noise I can easily ignore after 40 some years of practice.  I can crochet or read or play silly games on the iPad while still staying sane.  But my boy was home, and I had him all to myself, and there was much to be said and heard. 

So I sat in the comfy twirl-around chair doing crosswords and reading and discussing all that is wrong with the world and how to fix it. If only they would listen to us. 

But when the action on the field drew his attention, I was drawn into the drama as reported by the voices.  Those voices are nasally and they mumble and when I can understand the individual words they don't seem to cohere into anything worthwhile.  On the rare occasion that a point is made, it's repeated and repeated and repeated ad infinitum. 

Sometimes it's a sobriquet - a mobile quarterback - that I find myself hoping for, waiting for, anticipating with a weird sense of inevitability and then groaning when it arrives because I knew he just had to say it.  Couldn't help himself.  Had one thought all night and wouldn't let go.

Until he had another thought, two whole sentences of a thought and became so enthralled with it that there he was again, telling me the same thing again and again and again.  Even I understood it the first six times he told me.

And that's just football.  I'm not going to begin to describe how I feel about MSNBC's supposedly thoughtful commentators.  When Ari Melber or Ali Velshi decide that the nominative case doesn't exist, when the subjunctive seems to give Chris Hayes pause, I begin to wonder about the future of America. 

Thanks for listening. 

Monday, November 26, 2018


I was wrong.  There are memories to be made while waiting in line at Kohl's .

The boys were napping or watching football or some combination of the two when I went to Whole Foods and Kohl's on Friday afternoon.  I needed groceries, so the market was a given. I had a coupon, they had sales, and finding a selection of flannel shirts in Tucson is a challenge anywhere else but Kohl's.  So, I went.

The line wound around the eye-catching front of the store displays, through the women's section, nearly touching the housewares at the end of the aisle when I arrived.  It wasn't much shorter when I joined it a while later, my mesh basket filled with gifts, my heart filled with smiles.  It's fun to imagine them opening the bags; I like the lead up much more than the actual event, I think. 

Behind me was the world's most well behaved two year old.  Not once did she whine or whimper or demand attention.  She hid behind the long pants and matching jackets for a rousing game of She's Gone Missing...OH, there she is with the grownups on either side of her mother.  She felt every item in her mother's stash.  There were no carts available and the mesh bag wasn't large enough to hold the cooker Mom was buying, along with lots of soft clothes, for herself. 

We agreed that taking care of ourselves was a priority, especially when everything was on sale on top of the sale on top of the coupons. 

Then we got to the shiny necklaces, reduced in price to a pittance, each one of them calling out FlapJilly's name.  I enlisted the youngest shopper among us in the decision making process, as we discussed the relative merits of big vs small, gold vs silver, tinkly or not.

There was a minor kerfuffle in front of me, to which all of us turned our attention, and which is how I began a conversation with the woman waiting in front of me.  She, too, was Hanukkah and Christmas, with a birthday on the 19th to add to the confusion.  We agreed that it was delightful to have non-over-lapping holidays this year, we laughed about the paucity of Hanukkah decor, and we talked about the joys of raising children in the digital age.

Mine grew up at the beginning of the personal computing age.  Hers grew up just as social media was starting.  Neither of us can imagine dealing with the challenges created by Instagram and SnapChat.  We traded parenting stories until she asked for help unlocking the FitBit.

I went ahead of her to the cashier, who smiled as she rang up pj's and socks and shirts and jewelry, who took my coupon and all the other %'s off, and I found that I had saved 75%.... that I'd spent 25% of the 100% Kohl's thought the items in my bag should cost.  I wondered to myself how they stay in business, until my thoughts led me to the obvious conclusion that everything must be vastly over-priced. 

Not wanting to dampen my good mood, I stopped thinking and strolled out into the parking lot, congratulating myself on walking to the very far parking space.  I spent time shopping, a longer time waiting in line, and I still had the energy to stride  to my car.

Yes, I was wrong.  You can make memories while waiting in line at Kohl's.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Ghosts at the Table

It was a quiet Thanksgiving, with just my boys and me at the table.  Big Cuter knocked his wine while reaching for his father's hand but that was the only blip in the evening.  My mashed potatoes came close to matching Little Cuter's creations, my turkey only took 35 minutes longer to cook than I'd planned, and Whole Foods' pre-made gravy ensured that everything arrived at the table at the same time, warm and tender as it could be.

We were thankful.  They were complimentary.  There were left-overs.  There were ghosts.

Christina-Taylor appeared first, hovering over my shoulder as I decided which serving pieces to use.  She and G'ma had that chore in 2010, just six weeks before the bullets began to fly.  Which ones should I use? she wondered.  Ask G'ma, said I.  And so the youngest and the oldest guests talked about the history of this silver spoon and that slotted spoon and I listened as they made wise choices.  My mother sitting on her walker, my little friend flitting from here to there, so proud of herself, reveling in the trust that she and she alone could make such monumental decisions.

I spent a few minutes imagining the world with CTG still in it.  I do that a lot.  On Thanksgiving, in my kitchen, alone, making those same decisions, she was very close at hand.

Daddooooo's death is recorded on one day, happened on another, and he has a Hebrew calendar date added on to confuse the issue.  I chose the Saturday before Thanksgiving as my time of remembrance, because that's when it happened,  but the government and his body call it the 22nd and 23rd -the night it happened and the date, after midnight, when the hospice nurse got there to officially record the event.  Just like everything else in his life, it's difficult.

But the memories of that Thanksgiving, sitting at my childhood dining table, all the leaves added to accommodate the mourners, the diners, the family and friends, outweigh the drama of his life.  Letters from those who knew him made us laugh: We knew that we were in for it when HE walked in to a School Board meeting.  His facts were there, and so was he.  He always made an impression, and he was usually right.  I wouldn't mind that as part of my obituary, an obituary which, like his, was printed in The New York Times. 

It wasn't hard for me to write it.  He, just as he admonished us, never did anything that couldn't be printed in the paper.

I walked outside with my book, took a seat on a lounge chair and watched the clouds scoot across the sky.  It was grey, which felt appropriate, but I stared at the empty pool and saw sunshine and FlapJilly squealing with delight.  I wish I loved something as much as she loves this pool, my son murmured in my ear that Thanksgiving when the kids traveled from the Midwest to be with us.  They spent this holiday in Indiana, surrounded by SIR's family, but there's an indelible impression in my backyard and in my heart.

Tryptophan coma prevented me from writing this last night.  Today, the sun is up, my brain is working, and my heart is filled with the ghosts of holidays past.   I'll spend the weekend getting ready for the Brownie List, hugging my boy, and trying to avoid the stores.  There aren't a lot of memories made while waiting in line at Kohl's.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Memories (Reprised)

On dinner in Cleveland Heights at Nannie's house:

..... of my first niece, a veg even as a toddler, eating cucumbers for dinner and feeling just fine....

..... sitting in the dining room, using it, for once, as more than an inconvenient space between the kitchen and the tv room, sideboards groaning, waiting for Nannie's yearly screech,  just as the first fork was lifted: "Oh, shit... I burned the rolls!"

..... of walks around the neighborhood, wrapped in scarves and hats culled from the front hall closet, surrounded by all ages and temperaments, mellowed by tryptophan

More Recent, but similar:
Thursday Afternoon: "What time are you getting your mom?"
"Oh, shit, I forgot about G'ma!"

Warming the cockles of my heart (and making me glad I recorded it in The Burrow)
I, math challenged, asked G'ma how many ounces were in a cup. 

And my mother, my dear, demented, forgetful mother, without missing a beat, told me that there were 8 ounces in a cup.  And she was surprised that I didn't remember that fact... and that she did.  

For this year and every year:
Thanks for being part of the wonder that is my life.  Each and every one of you makes it that much sweeter.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Making a Scarecrow for Grandma's Garden

The scholars in a certain kindergarten thought that a scarecrow would be a great addition to the garden.  Grandma brought the supplies.
The scholars provided the labor.
It was a very busy,
very productive,
morning on the floor.
The pants were easier to photograph 
than the shirts, which kept losing their underpinnings as we tried to hold them up, 
Tonight, the tops are resting on the bottoms in a quiet corner of the room, waiting to be named.   Tomorrow I'll secure the two halves and move them out to the garden where they can frighten the burrowing animal leaving tunnels through one of our beds.  
The scholars may have named them by then.  On the other hand, we may have to take a vote.

Among the many many many things for which I am thankful are moments like these.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


I had a post in my head.  I was ready to write about an epiphany.  I was going to share my moment among the vegetables in Whole Foods.  You'll read it tomorrow. 

TBG came out of the bedroom, into the kitchen, to share the news.  Another mass shooting, this time at Mercy Hospital in Chicago.  A spurned lover.  A critically injured police officer.

At a hospital. 

I can't even type. 

The place I felt safest, the place I didn't want to leave, the place that put me back together with spit and baling wire, the place where the kindest, gentlest, most thoughtful humans perform their magic......

At a hospital.

I'll be able to type more tomorrow.  Right now, I just want to hold my heart in my hands and not think about anything at all..

Monday, November 19, 2018

Autism on Stage

The Rogue surprised us on Saturday afternoon. We left laughing, smiling, feeling good about the world in general, after watching Hunter Hnat inhabit the role of Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

To call it triumphant is to understate the sorrow nestled inside.the story.  Christopher can't bear to be touched.  Loud noises send him into a tizzy.... I've been thinking about describing it and that's the best I can do.  He's uncontrollable and inconsolable and angry and hurt and scared and furious all at the same time.... and you watch his Mom and his Dad hold their breaking hearts together... barely.

He undertakes pragmatic projects, like passing his maths A levels three years earlier than most, and personal projects, involving trust and distance and doing what he doesn't think he wants to do at all.  There's never a moment of pity.  There's frustration and aggravation and terror and annoyance riding right alongside the love and affection and concern.... always the concern.

It's hard to love him, and they love him so.

The music was percussive and personal; hands on knees, on the sides of the cubes on which the actors sat, mouth noises ranging from beatbox through chanting to poetry.  The Director's Notes told us that All actors remain onstage unless prescrbed otherwise. That Greek Chorus stomped their feet when the scene shifted, hummed a few bars as they hustled through London, and managed to create discrete characters and a milling mob at the same time. Once again, The Rogue did much with little.

I'm always leary of book-to-play experiences, but between last season's Grapes of Wrath and this year's Curious Incident, I may be forced to change my mind.

Friday, November 16, 2018

It Feels Great

Little Cuter in Indiana and The Bride in Alabama wonder what it's like to live in a state that's trending purple.

When we moved to Arizona in 2006, we had Janet Napolitano as our Governor, Gabby Giffords as our US Representative, and Senator John McCain (before Sarah Palin).  Then Obama was elected and he took Janet and we got The Hairdresser.  Gabby was shot and we got McSally.  John McCain became a hack, then a hero, then he died.

It's been up and down and all around but here we are.  The State Legislature's Republican majority has shrunk.  My Congressional district flipped back to the Democrats.  And this is how my new Senator showed up for work today:
getty photo

To answer the girls' question: It Feels Great!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Pruners and a Bug

Our Dwarf Mandarin Orange tree looks sad.
I'll take this photo to the Master Gardeners tomorrow, along with a leaf.  I was the only one who was concerned with the tree.  Everyone else in Garden Club wanted to use the tools.  You broke all the tools, I told them.  We're not using the tools today.  Half the kids left after that announcement.  The rest of them enjoyed bite size pieces of freshly cut scallions,  while examining the remains of the roots we'd worked on last week.  

I thought about it once the bigger kids arrived.  I brought out the Felco Pruner.
I didn't let them carry the tool.  I didn't let them decide what to cut.  I showed them the advantages of a diagonal slice.  I demonstrated the locking mechanism.  By the time I was finished impressing them with the seriousness of our undertaking, the participants had been whittled down to a hearty few.

And so we began.
Accepting help with grace is a skill best learned early.
She held the root taut while he cut.
Thank you.
No problem.
I smiled and passed the tool on to another.
Just as I was cleaning up, someone found one last root.
He was very glad that he'd hung around to help me.
I sat on the bench as he tackled the chore alone.
Some kids just ooze responsibility; I was happy to reward it.

I thought we were finished, but this treasure was discovered.
Was it a cockroach?
Was it a beetle?
Whatever is was, we named it Phoebe.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

And She Never Said His Name

Dr. Ramani Durvasula was the first speaker at TedX/Sedona this year.  A therapist, a professor, an author, an all around interesting human wrapped in a delightful exterior, Dr. Durvasula accomplished a miracle - she spoke about DJT for 18 minutes, and she never mentioned his name.

Her talk was about narcissism.  It was terrifying and uplifting at the same time.  Her book, Should I Stay or Should I Go, posits a question TBG and I have been asking ourselves lately.  How bad does America have to get before we seriously consider relocating to British Columbia?  Last Tuesday's election results have eased the pressure somewhat, but Dr. Durvasula told us that second chances only give permission.

It's as hard to think about as a country as it is in a personal relationship.  The stakes are just as high. The more she talked, the more she drew us in.  Here's some of what she said, and what it meant to me.

Narcissism is characterized by charm, charisma, and confidence on the plus side, entitlement, invalidation and vindictiveness on the other.  I don't find him charming, but some do.  He certainly has charisma (yes, it can be negative charisma - think Hitler) and confidence could be his middle name.  The negatives make my stomach churn; I'll let you fill in your own blanks, the same way the audience was as we sat, mesmerized, listening to her describing our Commander in Chief.

There is a pathological insecurity at the center of the behavior.  Grandiosity is the defense.  Does knowing the underpinnings help?  She went on to remind us that nothing will help.

Forgiveness = keeping the status quo.  Calling it Locker Room Talk came to mind.

Mutuality, respect, patience and trust are all absent from the narcissist's culture.   Not showing up at Belleau Woods.  A European Armed Forces is insulting to America.  If (insert anything here) won't do it, I will, because I alone can fix it.

Over time, you slowly become inured.  Remember the first time The President of The United States told a lie?  Do you even notice it any more?  Rachel Maddow reminds me every evening - this is not normal., normally.

Insecurity keeps us in the the relationship.  Is that why pundits are encouraging the newly elected House Democrats to temper their talk of impeachment.  Is a Constitutional Crisis scarier than living under  narcissist?

You can't fix it.  That's the reason I send my emails to my Senators and Representatives at the state and local and federal levels; DJT is impervious to change.

What can you do?  This is the part that gave us all hope, that let us walk out of the room with crooked smiles on our faces.  Set Boundaries.  Accept that it won't change.  Manage your expectations.  Tend to your own garden.  Practice kindness even when others are not.

I left her presentation feeling good about Grandma's Garden at Prince Elementary school.  I felt the I can fix this button turning off.  I stopped hoping that someone would be able to bring him to his senses.  I focused on what I could do to be the change.

And through it all, she never said his name.  When I asked her about that over dinner, she smiled and nodded.  She'd given the talk a few times before, and each time someone asked the same thing.  She said she had asked those others: What are you doing to take care of yourself?  How are you doing in your own little corner of the world?

That's a good  place to come to rest after a bruising electoral season.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

One Thing Was Clear

World War I ended on November 11, which, this year, fell on Sunday.

Grumpy's Grill offered free dessert to all veterans, in honor of their day. So, on Sunday, I treated Amster to breakfast after the gym. She took the free brownie and ice cream home to her boys; she kept the server's heartfelt Thank you for your service! for herself.

Today, Monday, we ate breakfast burritos, my treat once again, in honor of her day, once again.  She told me I didn't have to keep on buying her foodstuffs.  I just smiled.  She served.  I didn't.  Breakfast was on me.

Once again.

It was explained to me that Jewish holidays are, for the most part, celebrated for two days, because they were calendar-less.  They relied on the shofar, a notoriously difficult to blow but once blown emitting a piercing shriek ram's horn. A guy on top of a mountain shrieked the news (Today's the day!) to another guy on the top of another mountain and so on and so on throughout the land.

Like the very young Big Cuter and chopsticks (C'mon, Mom, they've seen the fork!), the very young Me felt the need to remind Mrs. Glouberman that it really didn't make much sense in 1960, when we had radios and televisions and telegrams and then she asked me if I was finished and it went downhill from there.

With that in mind, I resolved to put my reservations about celebrating the same event two days in a row.  Intrepid Cat was born on November 11; today she was quite pleased to sleep in on her birthday.

But her birthday was yesterday.

Does she get two cakes?

These are the things that occupy my brain as I strive, mightily, semi-successfully, to avoid politics and politicians.  There is one thing for sure - Amster has earned much more than breakfasts.  She kept me safe from harm.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Books I Haven't Enjoyed

Now there's a catchy title.  Designed to draw you right in.  But I'm in the middle of one right now and I thought I'd share.  It's that, or finish the last 150 or so pages and prove to myself that I guessed the back story and the final scene after the crimes were established.

Actually, I predicted the last chapter when finished the first one.

Lisa Scottoline used to write mysteries with a hard edge. Her characters had grit, wisdom, and humor.  Their relationships were unusual.  With Feared, she's slipping closer and closer to the chick lit/romance side of pulp fiction.  How many times does she need to use her best friend before she'll believe that I understand the relationship.  I was on page 235 when I stopped to write to you; she's still not sure.

I rarely put a book down in the middle, so I plowed through Bill Clinton and James Patterson's co-authored opus.  Policy screeds are not what I'm looking for when I take one of JP's books off the library's shelves.  Self-indulgence was unattractive in real life, and it was unattractive in Mr. Clinton's contribution to this I-can't-believe-you-can-make-a-James-Patterson-book-boring tome.

And then there's A Tale of Two Cities, the book that had me questioning my junior high school education.  The Penguin Classic I took from Little Cuter's library to read on the plane, in Sedona, and finish on Douglas in  the late afternoon sunshine, that I haven't read this since 6th or 7th grade remembrance of things past, morphed into an Oh Dear GOD why did they assign this book to hormonal teenagers? rant of epic proportions.

Tis a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done.....

That inspired me.  The notion that there was something larger than the problems I faced, that I could do something bigger and more meaningful with my life, that I could matter.....  I took that to heart.

Madame DeFarge's knitting terrified me then and terrifies me now; I use bamboo or plastic, never metal needles.  Still, I remembered her as a powerful character, a woman of strength and righteous anger.  She was driving the action, and that impressed me.

I'm not sure I realized that she was motivated by personal rather than political motives.  I wonder if anyone asked me to consider it.  I'd forgotten the interweaving of families and traumas and I was surprised by a certain turn of events that purported to explain everything.

As if anything could explain everything.  Starting from the moment they encounter one another, the ill-fated hero and the sweet young thing have a this-can-only-end-badly relationship.  Everyone has secrets; he wears his on his sleeve.  The handsome wastrel..... what tween-age girl among us hasn't loved one?

I never imagined being Sydney Carton until last week.  It never occurred to me until I read the story as an adult. By the time the plane landed in Mesa, I found myself reading an ode to suicide.  I was appalled.

Who thought junior high kids needed to be drawn into a story that glorifies human sacrifice?  It will be worth it, the future will be better off without him, he'll be remembered as a savior not a sot, and she will be happy.  There was no better way to show that he cared, that he understood true love, even if it could never be his.

I remember a lot of history attached to the story in the classroom, but I don't know why.  The plot has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with a sense of worthlessness, of being un-anchored and alone, of longing and lusting from afar, hopelessly forlorn and, then able to make a noble gesture.

He could die.

There were pages of beautiful prose which made me smile.  But I put the book down feeling slimed.
Were we less evolved in 1964?  Is this an over-reaction?   Were some of my classmates attracted to the notion of self-sacrificing nobility?  I know that I wouldn't want to share this with any of the kids I know and love today.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Root and Weed Removal in Grandma's Garden

Things were going along quite smoothly this week. 
The tools were not raised above the waist by those who were in need of supplies.
Those who were comfortable with the tools their bodies provided were happily weeding the dirt surrounding our blooming beds. 
The garden leaders saw me trip over the tip of a root.
They heard me mutter that I have to do something about that.  Someone's going to get hurt.
While cherubic cheeks brought me offerings of dead leaves and small stones, waiting for my approval before going off in search of more treasures to deposit in the trash barrow,
I watched with barely concealed horror as the root was attacked from all angles, with all available supplies. This is hard packed, un-irrigated for decades, exposed to full sun/all day dirt they were digging through.  I listened to them warn the others when one began to poke at the root with enthusiasm, I heard them reassure me that It's all good
I tried to identify the plant he was holding,
but we had to get out of the way of the kids who were united in proving that their brawn was no match for that root.  We had no interest in being crushed.   
When he returned with more of the weeds gathered just outside the garden's fence
they were wondering why the inside of the root was wet.  They were somewhat concerned: that root was alive, it was feeding our giant tree, we were seeing the cambium and the bark and the whole xylem and phloem thing right in their hands, and had they killed the tree?
 I reassured them that there were many more roots, that I'd bring a tool and create a neat cut to allow the root that remained to heal, and that, most important of all, no one would be tripping on that stub. 
That made us all very happy.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

I'm Done

The answer was no clearer this morning than it was when I collapsed into bed last night.  25% of the vote must still be counted before we know if the Democrats have managed to salvage at least one of the marquee races on the ballot this year. 

Stacey Abrams isn't finished, either.  I'm getting a headache thinking about the fact that her opponent is monitoring the validity of the election in his role as Secretary of State.  He sees no conflict.  It's a measure of the distress in our democracy that no one else does, too.

Jeff Sessions is out and replaced by someone who talked about starving the investigation to death.  I am certain that Robert Mueller has a plan in place for this eventuality, but I'm disgusted that, once again, an outrage is about to be perpetrated on our democracy and no one in power seems to care.

The bond to Fix Our Roads was soundly defeated in our county.  Apparently, TBG and I are among the very few voters who care about maintaining a well running vehicle.  The pot holes and the crevasses and the peeling asphalt are now a permanent fixture.  No one seems to care.

Tim Steyer ran an expensive campaign to get Arizona to commit to increasing its use of renewable energy sources.  He spent a lot of money; he didn't get a lot of votes.  The fact that we have 350 sunny days a year, that we have vast expanses of open space just aching for a wind farm or two, that other countries are mounting the manufacturing infrastructure to create the next wave of appliances and energy sources seems to have had no impact on the Arizona voting public.

Republicans must be teachers, too, because Proposition 305 was soundly, decisively, emphatically defeated.  Governor Ducey's attempt to gut the public school system by offering vouchers for all was the subject of marches, letters to the editor, t-shirts, buttons, and, everywhere you looked, at every stop sign and every parking lot, cars with VOTE NO ON 305 painted on the windows filled your view. 

My friends Daniel Hernandez and Randy Friese were re-elected to the State House, and Daniel's sister, Alma, will be joining them.  Brother/Sister teams are unusual in American politics; Their parents are very proud. 

Voting for people I know, caring about something and seeing the result I wanted, making sure my I Voted sticker was visible all day long....... somethings about it will be missed.  As for the rest of it,  the commercials and the mailings and the phone calls and the talking heads using the subjunctive..... good riddance.

I'm done.  I'm going to focus on feeling grateful and sharing the love.  I'm going to hope that things will improve once a new House of Representatives is seated, and I'm not going to stress about a Senate that can approve Conservative judges to its heart's delight.  I'm going to look at the things that make me smile.

Out with MSNBC.  In with Perry Mason and Star Trek.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Voting in the Midterm

There were a lot of cars in the library parking lot this morning.  It was an hour before the building would be open for business; we were all there to vote.

I was second in line, much to my delight.  I've never had company when I voted before.  I greeted the Poll Worker with a smile; she and several of the others in the room have been election day fixtures since I've been voting in Tucson.  The Chief Inspector is an old friend.  We laughed about disagreeing on everything except how wonderful it is to vote.

I had to wait for an open booth; there were citizens occupying the dozen or so plastic outposts of democracy.  I was glad to wait.  The woman handing me my ballot had another familiar face.  We were both delighted to see the steady stream of voters since we opened this morning. 

I walked, I opened my pen, I filled in my circles.  I took a moment to breathe the air.  I deposited the long cardstock through the slot in the Ballot Box, smiled at the lady who's always manning the front door, accepted my sticker and left.
There were many of us sporting stickers.  Facebook was full of them. So was the grocery store.  Two  of us playing Hand and Foot wore them; the other two waxed eloquent on the virtues of early voting. 

I came home and watched the East Coast results.  Joe Manchin won and Florida turned its back on Tallahassee's mayor and Beto came oh-so-very-close and I was almost really sad. We turned from politics to basketball and ooh-ed and ah-ed over a Duke team even Big Cuter, the most loyal Hoya, says he likes.  The score was lop-sided and the pull was too strong; I took the remote and went back to politics.

The website for local election results was obvious:  The Secretary of State's page redirected me there, and for the first half hour or so it updated itself on my phone, putting McSally and Sinema within a few thousand votes of one another.  Then it froze.  And it froze on Lenore the Lenovo.  The iPad is juiceless and useless. 

I'm tired and I want to go to bed.  MSNBC says our Senate race is too close to call. My friends Daniel and Randy and Daniel's sister, Alma, have all been reelected.  The proposal to expand educational vouchers was defeated but the money to Fix Our Roads is losing.   

I'm a little bit happy and a little bit sad.  Isn't that the way democracy ought to be?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


G’ma worked the polls at every election.  She sat behind a long cafeteria table in the gymnasium, greeting voters as they came to cast their ballots.  School Board members, tax overrides, general elections and mid-terms, there she sat.

Daddooooo and I would bring her dinner; the polls were open long past the time her stomach began growling.  I would look at the black curtains surrounding the voting booths and feel the power of the franchise.  Something secret and sacred and profound was going on behind those drapes.

She took me inside their confines when it was time for her to cast her ballot.We pulled down on heavy metal levers, reminiscent of the keys on our old manual typewriter.  They made a decisive click.  Our choices were registered with authority.

I could hardly wait to be on my own, to make my own voice heard.

And so I grew up to vote for loser after loser.  I cast my ballot for those I wanted to win, not those who had a chance to succeed.  John Anderson.  Ralph Nader.  Third party candidates whose positions were less unpalatable than those of the major parties.  No, Al Gore, Mr. Nader did not steal a vote that would have gone to you.  You lost my vote by performing poorly.  It wasn’t yours, it was mine.

I took my kids into the booths with me as soon as they could walk.  I let them fill in the circles, using the black marker tied to the plastic folding booth, with hard sides but no curtain protecting my privacy.  We whispered about each decision.  Sometimes, I cried.

As I got older, I voted for candidates who would win so that their opponents would not gain power.  I held my nose and voted for Mrs. Clinton only because, as a New Yorker, I knew the foolishness that was the real DJT.  I’ll vote against Martha McSally even though her opponent leans farther right than a former radical Democrat ought to lean.  I’ll sigh as I peruse the names and realize that there are very few of them that excite me.

Yet, I vote.  For everything on the ballot, I have a response.  I’m willing to pay a bit more in taxes so that the roads can be repaired.  I’ll protect our public schools by voting against expanding vouchers.  I researched the Corporation Commission’s role and found two woman who seem to have my interests at heart.

Will anything I care about carry the day?  I hope that I can smile as Steve Kornacki jumps around the MSNBC sound stage.  But the results won't change my behavior in the long term; I’ll always vote.

Like FlapJilly told her mother, after waiting for an hour, in a long and winding line, in a dark and dreary brown building: “Mama, my favorite thing is not Barnes and Opal, not Urban Swirl for ice cream, it’s VOTING!!!”

Sunday, November 4, 2018

What Did You Do?

At dinner, after a day-long conference, a friend wondered if I'd done anything political this year.  A stranger asked if I'd canvassed.  Everyone wanted to know if I'd voted.

Sitting next to her father on the couch last week, Little Cuter suggested that he bind his anxiety about America's future by taking direct action. "You're so good at explaining things, Dad.  There has to be a place for you in this."

Organizing an annual Holiday Party, asking for donations of new clothing for the homeless women she'll be fete-ing, a friend referred to the shopping as "doing something sane in an insane time."

Writing postcards in red and blue marker for Stacey Adams's gubernatorial campaign made me smile.  Hearing TBG tell our friend that I visited my Senator and my Congresswoman on a regular basis made me realize that not everyone does that sort of thing. 

No, I told the stranger, I no longer stand on street corners waving signs and attracting attention to myself.  I don't ring the doorbells of people unknown to me.  I got shot.  I'm not going out and looking for any more danger.  Without missing a beat, she complimented me on my postcards and my office visits as we agreed that you do what you can, when you can, but you must do something.

And so I take heart that the early voting numbers are astronomically higher than they've ever been before in a mid-term election.  It reminds me that democracy is working in America.

I smiled at the generic typeface bold lettering on dozens of billboards in and around Phoenix.
 VOTE  - Tuesday, November 6
Some listed the two candidates for US Senate, but that was all.  A simple reminder that you must do something. 

As always, I'm waiting until Election Day to cast my ballot.  I hope I have to wait in a very long line.

Thursday, November 1, 2018


TBG and I manned the homefront while the kids trick or treated. 
Neighbors dropped in, new ones introducing themselves and creating instant friendships. Pebbles and BamBam, butterflies and ghosts, Merida and Rapunzel and Belle.....we doled out  candies and compliments with reckless abandon.

The cousins ran from house to house then reconvened in front of the fire pit SIR set up in his driveway.  The other grandparents arrived, chili was eaten al fresco, candy was examined by firelight.

Though I reek of woodsmoke my heart is full.