Monday, September 30, 2019

Random Thoughts on Touching

Black girls don't want me touching their Afros, even if the bouncing curls are screaming for a gentle pat from an old lady who is open to new experiences.   Are the curls as resilient as they seem? How do they look so soft yet stay so tight?  Are the curls twisty all the way from the scalp to the ends, or is there a straight stem jutting out of the follicle?

Inquiring grandmothers want to know.  A former Pilates teacher laughed heartily when I wondered if her formerly-curly-now-long-braided-tresses had stretched themselves out on their own.  They are extensions, silly woman! 

Automatic long hair!  Where was that in my hippie days?  I spent years growing my own until I could just about sit on it; cutting it off was a permanent step. Extensions would have annoyed my friends and family much less than my years long should-I-get-a-haircut conversations did.

Joy Reid, MSNBC host, showed up with fabulous braids adorning her skull this morning.  In looking for a picture, I found Okay, It's Time For An Intervention: Joy Reid's Hair as the first link. Apparently, she, like S. Epatha Merkerson, wears wigs on camera.  Who knew? 

(Also, who knew that the S stands for Sharon?  I told you in the title, these are random thoughts.)

I have been thinking about touching since last week, when I walked over to greet an extremely pregnant former kindergarten teacher who is now substituting.  I was followed by a large group of very inquisitive 5 and 6 year olds, all of whom requested an introduction, one of whom wasted no time in placing her somewhat clean palm on the teacher's swollen belly.

Ask before you touch, sweetheart I reminded her as I gently removed her hand.  In her young mind, she was patting a baby.  But, as anyone who's ever carried a child in her uterus knows, her hand was landing somewhere between the teacher's belly button and her pubic hair..... not an area you'd generally caress in public. 

I used to remove those hands like I was touching a dead rat, I told the laughing grown up as I ran interference between the rest of those reaching palms and her belly.  They have no idea, but you do!

It's certainly an invasion of personal space to touch another without permission.  But it's so easy to understand the impulse.  There was that protrusion,  just waiting to be investigated, out there in plain sight.  There are those delicious curls, just asking to be felt.

Restraint is hard.

Friday, September 27, 2019

My Spiky Friend

The yellow flowers are turning brown underneath.
They are on the way out.
From a distance, the leaves look happy and healthy.
It's an illusion, though.  Once the flowers die, the stalk will wither, and so will the greenery below.
But, abhorring a vacuum, Mother Nature steps in.
As the leaves curl in on themselves and droop to the ground, a baby century plant is being sheltered from the sun's full strength. 
Gardening gives me hope for the future.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

What If?

Amidst the deluge of information dribbling out of Washington today, Vice President Mike Pence's conversation with the Ukrainian President received a brief mention.

Should Trump fall, and take Pence with him (a girl can dream, can't she?), the first female POTUS will be Nancy Pelosi.  (Go with me here.) 

She's the perfect person to step into that situation.  She understands the system and that's just the kind of knowledge we'd need to recover after these attacks on our system. (And yes, I do think that our system is weakened by the actions of this administration.)  She has an Italian grandmother's tolerance for nonsense - which is none - and a wealth of institutional memory which will serve her well.

She should serve out Trump's term and leave public service with her legacy complete.

In the meantime, Democracy has a chance to score a big win.

The Democrats are already having a grand debate, considering the future of the party and the country.  We are all better for it.

Let the Republicans have the same conversation about their party, about their vision for the USofA.  There are others beside Bill Weld out there; let's hear from them in a robust exchange of ideas. 

Imagine a four person debate, two from each party, on a specific topic, with moderators unwilling to allow ad hominem attacks.

Democracy wins.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

It rained all night and half the day.  That hasn't happened in a long, long time.  I turned off the irrigation system, which made me smile, and drove to the Pilates Diva with my windshield wipers on slow, intermittent, wiping six or seven droplets at a time, doing their very best with what the world provided.  

At Bookmans, my favorite used book emporium, I found 4 pristine copies of Horton Hatches the Egg, lost then found my car keys, and dodged the raindrops with my face upturned to catch them.

My woven sneakers got sloppy wet as I tromped through the Costco parking lot.  Yes, I tromped.  There was no avoiding the puddles, so I decided to enjoy myself. 

It was even more fun walking back to my car.  The puddles were deeper and there were more of them.  

Lifting the flats of sparkling water and the I'm So Glad You're Back in Town bourbon for Not-Kathy was surprisingly easy.  I attribute my strength and fortitude to the fact that I sweat wasn't dripping into my eyes as I bent and lifted.  Raindrops are much more pleasant.

I got home and took G'ma's silver ice bucket and the new container of silver polish outside and began removing a decade's worth of tarnish.  The instructions insisted that the polish be used in a well ventilated area; this is the first time in months that it's been cool and breezy enough for me to get to work.

Lady Jane suggested that I use Hagerty's polishing gloves.  We agreed they would make for a much more sensuous experience than wielding a thin sponge.  It's supposed to rain tomorrow morning.  I may run to Bed Bath and Beyond first thing.

It's raining, and Tucson is smiling.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Fall in the Desert Southwest - Random Thoughts

Our temperatures no longer reach the triple digits.  The clouds are high and puffy and, sometimes, they drip on us...... not as often as we'd like, but they do drip, and we are thankful.
The soil is no longer overheated.  Planting is possible.  It's still hot enough to need the hose to cool us off after working in the garden, but we're not depleted by the heat.  While the rest of the world is contemplating deadheading and mulching and retiring the garden for the winter, we are looking at our 6 weeks of perfect planting weather.
That rule about not wearing white after Labor Day puts a kink in my routine.  It is too hot for jeans or leggings, and most of the rest of what covers my lower half is white or tan or wheat.  I've made a personal style decision that white linen tank tops are excluded from the prohibition.

I look at the ads for sweaters, and I sigh.

I see photos of friends wearing long pants and I regret that I still have to shave my legs to go out in public.  

My pinks and yellows feel vaguely foolish; I seem to be entering the orange phase of my closet.  In California, I wore some colors in the fall and winter and others in the spring and summer.  The weather was pretty much the same year 'round; those little changes helped me note the passage of time.
I'm tempted to roll down the windows of The UV every time I sit behind the wheel.  That usually lasts until the end of my street, about a football field's length of stagnant air with no scent at all.  

Air conditioning made living in the desert palatable; I prove it to myself whenever I think it's time to bring the inside outside.
The clouds roll in, filled with the remains of a tropical storm,  eyeing the landscape, deciding where to drop their bounty.  The front covered the blue sky, the darkness was starless, the lightning was infrequent but fabulous......but there was no rain.
That's the desert in the fall.  Shorts and t-shirts and and a delightful planting window.  Migrating birds and lots of baby lizards, a second blooming of roses and tomatoes, the last weeks before the snowbirds begin to arrive.  It crept up slowly this year, with a sparse monsoon to clear the air.  But even light sprinkles bring out the creosote smell and the ocotillo flowers and reminds me that,  white tank tops aside, it really is autumn.

Monday, September 23, 2019

TedX Tucson

I went. I learned. I ate
. I laughed.
I'd never seen Lucha Libre before.  Masked Mexican wrestling is an art form best appreciated if you are a 13 year old boy, I think, or, perhaps, if you love the Three Stooges.
According to the program, , Chris Hack, aka The Prophet, has been a living legend in the world of Lucha Libre for 20 years.  He and his opponent invited boos and ooohs and gasps as they flung one another around the ring. 
They didn't stay within its confines, either.  This was a interactive experience, with high fives and snarky attitude on all sides. 
It's not something I need to see again, but I'm glad I got to experience it once.

And that's what TEDX is all about, really.  Snippets of life in another person's universe.  Here are some of them:

Kevin Justus, PHD, an independent scholar of Louis XV (how's that for an occupation?) challenged the audience to make your favorite room a portrait of yourself.  I went home and started looking around.

Erika Hamen, PHD, an astrophysicist and Assistant Professor of Astronomy who came out in a snakeskin suit and depressed us all by telling us that there are fewer stars being created now.   We sighed.  In unison.

Janelle Briggs, the co-founder of Stackhouse, added to the gloom by announcing that Capitalism has made even the basics unattainable before describing her 320 square foot container living space that can be stacked then removed and moved, for $2 a mile, to another location.  It costs about the price of a middle sized SUV.  Home ownership without the foundation or the picket fence; it's a new world, denizens.

James Wiseman, M.D., at 6'7" probably the tallest Jew you've ever seen, had a happier take on the darker side of life.  Assume good will.  Each life is valuable - consider that daily.  Everyone has a story.  Words to live by.

Ryanhood, a folk/rock duo, wondered How is it that that which we don't want to happen makes us who we are? before suggesting a solution to the hole that's left behind: Don't fill the space.  Sit with the emptiness.  I did that, for 14 weeks, on the couch, alone with myself and the hole in my life.  They sang as if they were on the other edge of the couch the whole time.

But best of all was Linda Chorney, the first completely independent artist nominated for a Grammy (2012), said it best.  Walking with her beer to the door of a Tucson cantina, she was thwarted by a sign warning her of arrest if she took her beverage on to the public thoroughfare.  W. T. F.!  You can carry a gun but I can't carry a beer?

Ah, Tucson.

Friday, September 20, 2019

As I struggle with the absurdity in the abstract, Brother, living at the end of the Metro's Red Line, walks past it all the time.  He sent me this email today:

Greetings from the Capitol

Took Intrepid Cat out to lunch.

Listening to Tea Party tourist protesters (America will never be a Socialist State. Stand for the 2nd Amendment. Storm Congress.) as they plan a restroom break.

I love this country!

Free bathrooms for everyone!!

Your brother,

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Digging In

There's no reason for Grandma to do any of the heavy lifting when the first grade is around.
They are willing to help, certain that we can do it!
Even when they got stuck in the mud, they were undaunted.
Coordinated pushing to a three count, and we were on our way.
I found a half price gomphrena at Rillito Nursery this morning.  This member of the alium family reminds me of Dr. Seuss's truffula trees in The Lorax, one of books I read to the kindergartens, so I snapped up the bargain and asked the bigger kids to dig a bigger hole so that it could live in Grandma's Garden until its permanent home is ready to receive it.   
The lantana needed to be separated and one planted in its own, personal pot.
The gardeners have paid attention; they were gentle around the roots, taking care with the trowels and the small shovels.   
The giant shovel was a late addition to the party.
It was tapped ever so gently far away from the plant itself.

After 6 grades cycled through, we'd also watered and raked and filled the first raised bed.
We have garlic dill (quite tasty) and flowers and white onions and red onions and aloe vera, all separated into neat rows by the rocks the art classes painted for us last year.  We had fun watering  the new additions and each other..... with the hose on gentle no one got too wet and no plant drowned.  It was 97 in the shade; we dried off quickly.

The morning ended with a founding member of Grandma's Garden sharing her teeny tiny lizard.
It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
I know because I heard someone say so.  I don't know to whom it was said or who said it, I just heard the words:
I love the garden.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


It even looks ugly, just typed there in the header.

Shingrix is the recombinant shingles vaccine that was approved for use in 2017.  After two doses, two to six months apart, the recipient is 90% protected from contracting shingles.  Zoztavax, the formerly recommended vaccine,  has a much lower prevention rate.

TBG had shingles.  Twice.  It was awful.  Karina Bland, my favorite Arizona Republic columnist, put off getting the vaccine and is now suffering with shingles on her face.  Both of my parents and TBG's dad had it, too.  None of them spoke of it with fondness.

The problem was finding the vaccine.  My gerontologist told me that it would be less expensive to get the shot at a pharmacy.  She didn't know why that was so.  Neither did the pharmacist at CVS yesterday.  She did have the vaccine, though, and that was progress.  I'd been looking for it for months. 

The billboard outside my grocery store welcomed me to come in and get the vaccine at their pharmacy every day, but they lied.  They never had the vaccine in stock, except one time when I ws brought up short by the pharmacist's question:  Are you on our list?

Apparently, they kept track of those who wanted the shot and called them when it was available.  The sign outside was the grocery manager's idea, not the pharmacist's.  From there, I began calling drug stores, only to hear no, sorry over and over again.

I asked about it when I picked up prescriptions.  I wondered about it when I stopped in to pick up toiletries.  I called ahead if I knew I was going out.  This stuff is in very short supply.  Months passed and I made no progress in tracking it down until yesterday morning, in Target, looking for a copy of Marvin K Mooney in their (surprisingly delightful, albeit quite small) kids' book section.  I came up short on the book, but Charla the clerk and Suesan the injector said they could protect me against shingles in 10 minutes.

I filled out the paperwork (there's always paperwork), paid for my Cetaphil and CeraVe, and returned to the counter in plenty of time.  I watched as Suesan filled the syringe with the contents of two vials, chattering up a storm as she mixed them.  I do that when I'm nervous, and she didn't mind..Finish telling me your story, she said as she swabbed my upper arm.

"Are there side effects?" I asked.  She put down the syringe and said "OH YES.  1 in 10 people feel vaguely flu-like.  Your arm may feel like I punched it.... HARD.  Are you feeling sick right now?"

Her words gave me pause, but I am bred of hearty peasant stock and felt sure I would escape the worst of it all.  A sore upper arm would be a small price to pay to avoid shingles.  The $164 for the first dose was a large price to pay, sitting in my deductible column, but nevertheless, I asked her to go ahead.

I felt fine.  I read to a kindergarten class after checking Ms H's lantana in Grandma's Garden.  I walked to The UV, sat down, and the symptoms started.  My arm was throbbing, and so was my head.  I drove home and lay down and felt that overall body ache that presages the onset of disease.  Except I knew this wasn't a disease.  It was my body reacting to the vaccine. 

My body was not happy, but I wasn't miserable.  I wasn't sick, so I didn't have to worry about why or what or which medication to take.  I would just let the aches run their course.... which I did.... until 3:30 in the morning when all hell broke loose.

I'll spare you the details. 

Suffice it to say that I texted Pilates Diva and cancelled my 9am appointment.  I told Scarlet I wasn't up to mah jongg this afternoon. Then, I wept. 

Having nothing to read I drove the mile to the library where I found 3 easy to read novels (think James Patterson and his ilk) which I checked out while wobbling on my feet.  The drive home was no fun at all, with my entire body screaming at me, wondering why it wasn't in bed.

I put it there, read a book, and ate a banana.  That gave me energy to share my woes with you.  Now, I'm going back to the couch, pulling up the afghan, and preparing to ride this out.

Dr. Google, this time on the CDC website says  About 1 out of 6 people who got recombinant zoster vaccine experienced side effects that prevented them from doing regular activities.  Symptoms went away on their own in about 2 to 3 days. Side effects were more common in younger people.

The only thing I like about that information is the last sentence.  I must be younger than I think I am.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

We Are Having Weather

There's nothing half-assed about the Sonoran Desert.
We laughed at the Pac12 announcers during the UofA football game as they talked about the scorching heat of Tucson in the Fall.  Sure, 90 isn't sweater weather, but come back in June if you want scorching.  When we do hot, we do 110.  

And when we do rain, we do small ponds.
The ground can't absorb the water fast enough.
The rain will stop before it can do much good .
Until then, though, it's fun to stand outside and watch .
I'm going to get an ice pack and nurse my shingles vaccinated arm as I listen to the clouds collide.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Hard Lock Down

As I pulled into the parking lot, I heard the principal's assistant over the loud speaker.

"The lock down is over.  All is well.  Please return to your regular activities.  And yes, we know that there will be more students in the cafeteria than usual."

They buzzed the door for me, and I went into the lobby.  It was deserted.  Only Miss Mercy, the official greeter behind the front desk, was there to wonder along with me what exactly had happened.  An hour later, it turned out to be a note in the middle school bathroom claiming a bomb was in the building.

We shook our heads, ruefully.  "Someone had a test he didn't want to take," was our best case scenario.  The police had checked the building, but thought it prudent to lock down the adjacent elementary school as well.  Better safe than sorry, we all agreed, feeling the strain of living in today's world pressing on our hearts.

And then I went out to the playground, where the kindergarten was being released from the cafeteria.  They'd been in a hard lock down; lights off, silent, all the adults on alert.  Now they were supposed to play. 

It was a short recess, and no one was on the time out bench.  The kids were very glad to see me, and they hugged me, and then the whistle blew and we went inside to hear a story..... after Ms B talked to them abut being safe and checking to be sure they were safe and how they were certainly safe and the adults wanted them to know that they were safe.

And it didn't end there.  As I signed out in the Volunteer Log Book, Miss Mercy was on the phone.  when she hung up, it rang again. And then, again.  I wondered with my eyes and she shrugged.  "It will be like this all day."   Parents were calling in response to the Principal's email about the lock down.  It was a scare.... we exercise caution in these situations.... everything's been searched..... everyone is safe.

Over and over, with warmth and sincerity, she reassured families that their little ones were safe.

This is a woman who sits in front of a glass window and a glass door, protected by a buzzer.  I didn't have the heart to ask if she felt safe.  At some point, getting out of bed and going to work is sometimes just a leap of faith, as little bits of sanity and security are chipped away.

Friday, September 13, 2019

I Was Running Behind

I had business on-line and on the phone this morning.  I followed up on emails to Cornellians.  I spoke to an HOA official and can now rest easy that the giant garage next door will have replacement landscaping that mimics what we loved before construction began.  I tidied the house then drove to Prince to read Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go NOW! to Ms B's kindergarteners.  

Did you know that when Dr. Seuss was asked to write a book about Richard Nixon, he took a sharpie and changed Marvin K Mooney to Richard M Nixon and declared that he was done.  I shared that story with Ms B over the heads of her students and watched her delighted face as the kids watched Marvin K  set his lips in an immediately recognizable I will NOT! smirk.

Then, I had to plant Ms H's lantana, which somehow was overlooked during yesterday's Garden Club.  The Garden was officially closed, but I allowed some of the usual suspects to join me in the task.  Someone held the plant upside down.  Someone squeezed and lifted the container.  Then we separated the roots.
We striped the sides with our fingers, and left the roots free and clear, ready to explore their new surroundings. 
Two holes were dug, then the soil was gently tamped down around the tender plants.  
I was having too much fun watching and wetting them with the hose to take pictures of them watering the pot, taking turns, counting to 5 then shifting to the left as the hose passed to the right.  We laughed, we counted, we apologized for stepping on toes and banging into one anther and, somehow, the lantanas were watered and we were mostly dry.

It was a lovely antidote to the Hard Lock Down they'd endured an hour before.

I played mah jongg with Scarlet, called to be sure that ingredients for dinner were in the cupboard, and drove home to Indivisible's worksheets for watching the debate sitting in the printer tray... well, most of them, and then all of them once I added paper. 
And then, because we're on Pacific Time, I had to quickly upload the photos and move with Lenore the Lenovo onto Douglas in front of the television so that I could write something you could read in the morning.  

I thought it would be easy, because the debate would be boring.
It's not.
I'm going to pay closer attention now.

Have a nice weekend, denizens.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Some Random Good News

Dr. Louis W. Uccellini, the head of the National Weather Service, defended his employees and the science they shared, even as the Cabinet member at the top of his food chain was looking to chop off a few heads.
Eric Swalwell told his Republican colleagues that you'd better fear the moms more than you fear the NRA.
When a boy was bullied  for creating his own University of Tennessee shirt for College Colors Day
the University not only sent him a box of goodies, but printed his design on a shirt whose sales crashed their website.  Need more?  The University is donating the profits to Stomp Out Bullying.
Kyler Murray figured out football in the 4th quarter and led the Arizona Cardinals to a tie in their opener.  Even though I'm basically boycotting football, I love it when a little guy (they say he's 5'10") triumphs.
Is it any wonder I'm in such a good mood?  Look how I spent the middle of today:

and look at what I came home to in my inbox

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Sometimes, when I catch a reflection or a mirror's evidence of my uneven gait, it stops me in my tracks.

Why is my right hip up at an angle.  There's no way that helps propel me forward.

Why is my entire torso angled to the left?  My hips are going forward, and my head is aimed that way too.  But my thoracic spine decided a while ago to turn away from my injured acetablulum, trying to escape the inescapable.

In response to a talking head on tv,  TBG wondered if I would ever get over being shot.   No, and I don't want to.

Certainly the physical pieces are constant reminders, so hoping that I'll be able to relegate it to the Oh, yeah, what about that? bin in my brain would be a fool's errand.  And why would I want to get over something which at its core is evil but whose effects have been quite special?

I'll never get over the murder of my little friend, or the hole she's left in the lives of those who loved her.  But I look at the good that's been done in her name, and I can smile.  I'd love to see Gabby on the Democrat's debate stage this year, but the work that she's done with Giffords on the state and  local level has been nothing short of miraculous.  And then there's Grandma's Garden......

So today, when I stood in front of the mirror at Pilates, I thought about loving the injured area, about admiring it for the work it's done over nearly a decade, about being proud of it for all it's been through and how it has endured. 

It's still hard work.  The Pilates Diva had to readjust me more than once.  There are so many moving parts to organize - my spine and my head on the very top, my femurs in their sockets on one smooth, horizontal plane, both my feet feeling equally planted on the ground, toes facing forward. 

Most of that list has been a goal rather than a fact for a long, long time.  It's only in the past two or three years that I've felt confident enough to walk up the middle of a staircase, without holding on to a railing or a cane. I have to work on my endurance and strengthening my right quad would help in so many, many ways, but if new challenges didn't present themselves, how would I know that I am changing? 

As long as the pain keeps moving around, I think I'm on the right track.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Playdates - A Snippet

Little Cuter and FlapJilly caught up with pre-school friends this weekend.  They're at different schools for kindergarten, but the moms don't want to lose touch.  The kids held hands all day; the moms enjoyed easy conversation.

Hearing her describe it sent my brain to afternoons in the park three decades ago, when no one judged if there was jelly on your sweatshirt.   The kids were going to be friends because the moms were going to be friends.  And so the kids had many good times because when mama is happy then everybody is happy.

I had a wonderful afternoon thinking about that time in my life, thinking about the women in my life at that time, thinking about how time was more elastic then, thinking about how long ago it was and how fresh it is in my mind, thinking about how much I love those people.

It's so kind of my daughter to bring that back to me.  Just another reason I love her.

Monday, September 9, 2019


I opened the Sunday paper and saw his face on the front page.  Granted, it was below the fold, but in the Sunday paper that's where the juicy, human interest stories appear.  It's also where I go first.  I try to avoid the news on Sundays; a day without Trump is a day with bright sunshine and clear thoughts.  Reading about my Garden Guru was much more edifying than Ancient watering hole at risk from border wall construction or Landlords saying no to Section 8, uprooting hundreds.

The Garden Guru lives in Tucson's historic Dunbar Neighborhood.  Turns out the neighborhood was developed on top of the Court Street Cemetery, a fact which my friend discovered while investigating a sinkhole that appeared in his front yard. 

The paper describes it the way he told it to Lady Jane and me when we first met.  (He) got a shovel and started to dig.  He soon struck wood and something underneath.  'I reached in and pulled out a handful of bones.' "

I might have yelped.  He, a true man of the soil, treated the find with reverence.  He graced his front yard with a shrine honoring the souls, one roughly the same age as his pre-school-ers are now.  That fact resonates with him, but living above a graveyard doesn't bother him..

I don't want to think about my parents spending eternity in the shadow of Belmont Racetrack, even though SIR's delight as we drove past the working end of the park on the way to G'ma's burial plot is my favorite moment of the entire experience.  Nannie and Grandpaw are on a verdant hillside that would please them both.  Christina-Taylor is ashes. 

I refuse to believe that it matters to them; I know that it matters to those they left behind.  I know G'ma didn't care about it at all.  When presented with the fact that a tree was growing in her plot, leaving only a couple of feet for a casket, her response was automatic and quintessential G'ma.  "Plant me standing up.  I won't care.  I'll be dead."

No matter where they are, my memories are vibrant. The advice she gives me when I stop and think about it is helpful, but that's no different than when I could have picked up the phone and didn't.  She lived in and lives in my head.  My fabricated conversations reassure me that she is hovering, trying not to intrude, but monitoring the situation nonetheless. 

Is she haunting me? 

When my Zaydeh watched as I jogged north through Lincoln Park, just past the Far Near Park, I had no doubt that he was somewhere between the fluffy white clouds and my shoulders. 

When Daddooooo died, we flew kites on the beach to a bagpiper piping Amazing Grace, while a whale floated by.
Those things didn't usually happen.  Was my father continuing to orchestrate things from The Great Beyond? 

None of us would put it past him.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Another Gardening Post

The 5th grade brought their plants to Garden Club on Wednesday.
They've sprouted, even the one she drowned. We had a good laugh about that.
The scholars were able to plant the tomatoes without any physical assistance.
We had a real life lesson in the effects of heat on roots as the gardener who held the root ball noticed that it was "really kinda hot" in her hands. Our giant plastic Fiskars trowels were the perfect tool to create the perfect hole
The girls were looking for a project; moving the extra buckets from the bench to the covered seat was a lesson in geometry and patience. After many iterations, there were only a few which didn't fit.
Finding a large piece of bark in the second raised bed was a surprise - did it fall, did a bird drop it, did the wind blow it?

The irrigation to the Dwarf Mandarin Orange tree was still nurturing volunteer interlopers. After the weeding came the watering, which was much more fun.

And then there was raking.

"What do I do with this?" was the most frequently asked question of the afternoon. It was surprising at first, but then someone hugged me and smiled at me and said "I've never been in a garden before."

If you've never seen a rake, how do you know that it's the outdoor equivalent of a broom?

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Kindergarten Gardeners (Garteners?)

I din't have much to do. The newest gardeners raced across the playground to push the heavy, supply laden, tippy over the bumps cart all the way around on the walkway. 

Leaving the pavement for the grass, a wheel fell off. They looked at me.  I looked at them.  "Figure it out," I said and went back to my conversation with our new STEM teacher.... both of us watching and smiling and then they fixed it.

We spent a moment being proud of ourselves, and then we got to work.  I asked for help getting the 20 lb bag of garden soil from the corner to the nearest raised bed.  They couldn't get there fast enough. 

When's the last time you raced to carry a filthy bag of soil.... in the middle of your work day.... when you could be swinging or climbing or playing soccer?

It was very heavy.  It took planning and sharing and cooperating and, in the end, brute strength, for the gardeners to balance the bag on the edge of the raised bed. 

After that, getting the soil out was fun and easy, especially with our new tools (Thank you, Lady Jane!).

Dumping the rest of the soil was easier, dirtier, and much more fun.  It's also the only time you're allowed to walk in the beds themselves. 
It felt deliciously naughty.

The next task was to bury the irrigation lines which required both a discussion about irrigation and the close inspection of the holes in the tubing.    
The boys may have startled a bit when I very quickly and not altogether randomly handed them the pink tools, and the girls might have looked longingly their way while wielding the blue ones, but the tools themselves are prized commodities so there were no complaints.  (Had the tools existed in other colors I'd have bought them, in case you're wondering.)

While trenching and burying several discoveries were made. 
Many a budding geologist uncovered a beautiful igneous or sedimentary or metamorphic rock; none of us were exactly certain which type was which. 

And then, in the corner of the raised bed, there rose a hue and cry.  The kids declared it a caterpillar.  I had no idea. 

I did not plan to have the No, You Can't Keep It measure itself on the trowel as I recorded their treasure for posterity.  I watched as they safely deposited in the other raised bed, bid farewell, and left to its own devices as the whistle blew.

(squirmy creepy crawly thing pictured below.... that's all you'll miss if you click away.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Insurance.... again

If I could pay one lump sum and then get all the tests my doctors think I need, I would be a happy girl.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.  TBG and I have Medicare, because we are old, and an AARP supplement plan because we understand that Medicare doesn't cover everything. 

But, really - calling a PSA Screening Not a Medically Necessary Service seems somewhat ridiculous.  Just ask Fast Eddie, whose life was saved by a biopsy when his PSA raced to 9 between checks. 

And how about my final Pelvic/Breast Exam?  Apparently this is also Not a Medically Necessary Service.  Neither the scheduler nor the billing officer at the practice told me that Medicare didn't think I needed to see my retiring gynecologist once I turned 65. 

The amounts are not huge; after the Adjust Medicare reduction the two total just under $60.  But that's not the point.  Screenings save lives, or so I've been led to believe over the course of 67 years of  Public Service Announcements.  Catching disease early and starting treatment before total disaster ensues has always been the point; it's why I go to the dentist and the doctor on a regular basis, even though I'm remarkably healthy.

I called AARP/United Healthcare and the lovely woman said that they follow Medicare's guidelines.  If I have a problem, I have to talk to Medicare.

Talk to Medicare.  That's actually what she said.  As if Medicare has a point person to explain its intricacies to a little old lady in Arizona.  As if calling did not send me to a never-ending voice mail loop, where my wait time was considerable.

And why is there a Medicare Adjustment on the physician's bill if Medicare doesn't think this is a necessary service?  I'm glad to save the somewhat more than 50% they've deducted from what ends up in the Patient Responsibility column, but the reasoning behind it escapes me.

As I thought about exploring this further, about figuring out the whys and wherefores of medical billing, I caught myself.  I laughed.  I remembered what My Cousin the Fireman, the CFO at a variety of major hospitals around the country over his career, told me when I asked about this issue.  "Oh, please.  Don't go there.  Those numbers don't mean anything at all."


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

They've become so frequent that even those who most reliably reached out to check on my welfare have given up the ghost.  I don't blame them.  I'm in overload myself.  At a certain point I put up a shield around my hurt.

I held on to the anger and the action; I could talk about who I had called and what I had written while avoiding how it touched me in my hurting place..... the place where I visit with Christina-Taylor.  I like to choose my moments, like this afternoon when, in the parking lot where she left her Juicy sweater on the front seat of my car, I realized that I'd shopped in our Safeway without thinking about her at all. 

I marveled, as I always do, at how healthy I am in that particular place, then I laughed as I remembered that denial is my favorite defense mechanism.  Christina-Taylor laughed with me.  I saluted her in the clouds above, and went on about my day. 

I was feeling pretty good about the world in general, and glad that I had done something to thank the person whose actions put in this happy place.  That was my New Year's Resolution - to tell people when I have good thoughts about them - and it's turned out to be one of my better ones.  My kids like it when I call to say that I think they are swell.  Cashiers and baggers smile when I compliment the care they take with my produce.  I live on those smiles and good feelings for hours afterwards (okay, my life is boring). 

So this morning, while I tried to ignore yet another police chief discussing death tolls and response times and the shooter I stopped in my tracks.  Odessa, Texas Chief of Police Michael Gerke was on camera refusing to name the shooter.  Not only that, he explained why.  #NoNotoriety is a hashtag I've been using since Alex Teves' mother began publicizing it after her son was murdered while shielding his fiance in the Aurora movie theater massacre.  To have a police chief explicitly state that he was denying the shooter the notoriety he craved made my heart sing.

So, I took out my personalized stationary and I wrote to Chief Gerke in Odessa to thank him for sparing my heart, for keeping me from screaming at my television set, for not naming his shooter.

Yes, his shooter, just as I have my shooter.  And you have this blogger I read's shooter.  It seems that everyone is one or two degrees of separation from their own personal shooter. 

I'm sorry if that terrifies you.  That feeling is why I thanked Chief Gerke.  It's a crappy way to live, and he kept me safe from it. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Labor Day

Here's my Labor Day post, recycled and improved every year since 2012

My Zaydeh was a paperhanger. So was his son, my uncle. They belonged to the Paperhanger's Union. When he retired, my Zaydeh got a lapel pin and a photograph of himself and the also-retiring Union Rep. The Union Rep got a pension and health insurance. No one knows if he got a copy of the photograph, too.

It was that kind of complicated relationship to Labor, with a capital L, that dominated my growing up years. Daddooooo's father owned a business. G'ma's father was a worker. In the same way that her parents' accented speech and his parents' religious devotion were there, so was management/labor, bruising the edges of their relationship.

On the one hand, I sat on my Zaydeh's shoulders as he bounced me around the living room, singing Zum Gali Gali, a Zionist/Socialist work song.  When I needed a biography for a book report in second grade, his daughter, my mother, suggested Eugene Debs. I was the only one in the class who wrote about the Wobblies, who knew that, before Bernie Sanders, a Socialist, a man who understood the plight of the working man, ran for President, albeit from prison.

On the other hand, Daddooooo inherited his father's bridal shop, working alongside his brother and the cutters and pressers and seamstresses he'd known his entire life. He took care of the girls, the worker bees, the ones who created what he tried to sell. He struggled to make a success, and failed, and among those he held accountable were the Union Guys.

He was unable to make a go of a business he'd rather not have owned.  He was living a life unlike that which he'd imagined in college.  It was not making him happy, nor was it paying the oil bill.  The generalized angst was unassailable; the Union Guys were real.

Yet I knew that we needed unions - the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire proved that protections were necessary and that management had no interest in protecting the welfare of the worker. Without collective action, nothing could be achieved.  I was still the 8 year old in love with Eugene V. Debs.

Those feelings didn't seem incompatible with the boss's daughter piece of me, the one who loved seeing her Daddy's name on the showroom door.  The ladies did piece-work, but always had time to smile and chatter at me, in Italian.  The cutter, an imposing fellow with a gigantic pair of scissors, shared a small corner of his even more gigantic table with me, as I worked beside them, trimming lace, doing idiot work in my father's parlance, completely content, with a foot on each side of the divide.

G'ma told me stories of her parents marching in Solidarity Parades, though never when Daddooooo was around to hear.  Daddooooo railed about union bullies, but rarely in G'ma's presence.

The battle between labor and management, waged, silently, over my kitchen table.