Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Choosing Beauty

I could write about Nicolle Wallace's reaction to three Fox faces trashing the motivations of Lt. Col. Alexander Vinman (she called them Chickenshit.... yup, right there on MSNBC, in the middle of the afternoon, and she was unapologetic).

I could write about the irony of the Trump kids' annoyance at the Biden kid's job-by-nepotism.

I could write about the USPS's inability to restart my mail after I cancelled and rescheduled the Hold Mail Request on-line, received a confirmation of the cancellation and new dates, went to the Post Office itself to make the request in person (and to pick up the accumulated mail) and which has stil not resulted in my mail ending up in my mailbox today.

I could, but I won't.

The sun is out, there's not a cloud in the sky, I drove with my windows down and made every light coming home.

My Wells Fargo adviser called me up and saved me $100 a year in fees.... just like that.

I wound my way through a new-to-me neighborhood as I made a wrong turn and explored the area surrounding my friends' home before returning to MapQuest and asking the lady for help.

Sitting in our seats 15 minutes after class ended, pelting her with opinions and questions, her joy resplendent on her face, our professor declared that she loved us:  Look at you!  This makes me so happy!

A friend and I discussed birth control in Russia in the 1870's while we washed our hands, side by side, discussing the invention of the cup in France.

The Karin Slaughter book I requested has arrived at the library.

Seret called, just to talk, and I heard my phone and had time to answer.  Talking to her reminded me of one of the many pearls of wisdom she shared.  Why choose to be in an unhappy place?  Why leave something beautiful for something that will make you sad?  It's a choice.  Choose beautiful.

Just as when she advised me to consider every bite of food that entered my mouth as a choice, rather than slavishly sticking to one meal plan or another, this made perfect sense. It is also easier to implement than I imagined.  I find myself, as always, using Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Therapy's prescription to say it out loud, with feeling.

Stop thinking about that! has come out of my mouth on more than one occasion .... in my car, in my garden, walking to get the mail.  Falling asleep at night is a perfect time for those unhappy, unpleasant, sorrowful, frightening thoughts to appear; TBG would not be amused to find himself next to a shrieking creature.  Instead, I force myself to open my eyes and reset my brain, repeating It's a choice.  Choose Beauty.

It works for me, just as quickly as Ativan.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

How Can It Be Starting All Over Again?

We've spent the last 5 Halloweens with Little Cuter and her family.  No one in our neighborhood decorates.  Only Christina-Taylor came to trick or treat.  There was no reason to stick around. 

Instead, we went to a completely decorated, kid infested, flat community, where every house was welcoming costumed beggars.  I trekked with FlapJilly the first two years; after that she ran faster than I could keep up.  I stayed at the kids' house, toasting my tootsies on the portable fire pit, dispensing candy and resting my rehabbing joints.

They moved to Indiana, and we followed them there. Their new neighborhood is just as wonderful as their old one; the plan is still the same.  We were all ready to join them this year, when illness caused us to reassess the situation.

We woke up two days before the flight, feeling as if every bug we'd ever encountered had invaded our bodies.  I was 12 hours ahead of TBG in all the symptoms, and they kept coming.  The day before we were to leave, we called Little Cuter.

Do not bring that sick to my house was her succinct response.

$250 and a few computer clicks later, we were rescheduled for early November, she agreed to mail my green mylar hair in time for Halloween, and I'd gotten over my anguish over changing plans.  We spent the weekend feeling punk, until Sunday, when we actually felt quite human.

That lasted 24 hours.

This afternoon, with TBG leading the way, the symptoms have returned.  We're tired.  Our throats and glands are trying to act up.  Our heads are pounding.  He looks red and has a little fever; that's the only thing we aren't sharing.

It's only Monday.  We don't leave for 7 days.  I'm sure we'll be fine by then.

This feels like a mini-flu, like our bodies know what's attacking, like our defenses have been mobilized and are doing their best to fight the invasion.  We got our flu shots a month ago; the nurse told me that if I did get the flu it wold be a much weaker version than if I skipped the shot.

If you haven't gotten your shot yet, Go Do It Right Now.  We feel awful, and this is the mini-flu.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Seeds and an Air Quality Issue

It was busy last Wednesday in Grandma's Garden.
There was, as always, watering to be done.  The tomatoes are very satisfying to water; the leaves perk right up.
 Raking, as always, was a prized activity.  The notion of the rake as an outdoor broom, the shovel as a dustpan, and the green barrow as the trash can has established deep roots in a dedicated group of gardeners, who take great pride in their work.
The main event was refurbishing The Hanging Gardens of Prince. 

The baskets were filled with soil, and your hands and your arms and your bracelet got very very dirty and you just couldn't stop giggling because Grandma Suzi wants you to feel the soil that will nurture your seeds so being dirty was just fine.
 The seeds were very different, and had different needs. 
The hollyhocks were flat and round and black and tan and just needed a gentle push into the soil
The nasturtiuim seeds, on the other hand, were bigger and went in deeper.... 1" to be somewhat precise.  They are experienced enough to know that the seeds must be gently covered and watered in.
 Many scholars knew which tip-to-knuckle finger was exactly one inch, and Grandma Suzi was suitably impressed.
Those who lacked that particular digit used the 6" white and red plastic ruler Grandma Suzi's been carrying around since she lived in Chicago. 
"When you find a good tool, you hang on to it"  - one of the many lessons learned in the garden.
 There was rhythmic chanting coming from the other end of the garden.  It was a lovely sound, a delightful background to the distribution of seeds down at my end.   A scholar presented me with a fallen gonfreda petal.
 As I looked up to take her picture and agree that she could take it home,   I noticed a dust cloud behind her.  Someone was coming to alert me!
They were chanting DUST....DUST.....DUST......
 They were the last group of the day; there would be no further passersby to be dusted. 
The other gardeners were working on the hanging baskets, far away from the oncoming haboob. 
As far as I could see, no tools were raised above shoulders.
 ince there was no harm being done (beyond breathing the dust they were joyfully creating
 Grandma Suzi smiled and, as the dust settled and the clean-up crew took over,
took pictures of some Garden Kids.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Medicare Woes

It's the verbiage that gets me.  Coupled with the bad grammar, it's another indication of how this President has let the country devolve into stupidity and chaos.

The Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) premium amount for 2020 wasn't available in time to include with this bill.  You're being billed the current 2019 premium rate for January 2020.  Your next bill will reflect the new rate for 2020 and any difference in the amount due for January 2020.
That was printed at the top of the insert in the billing envelope.  If there were ever a sign that the world has gone to hell in a hand-basket, that's it.  How that is possible is beyond me.  There are government employees who are supposed to be on top of this issue.  

Recognizing that, I called my Congresswoman.  The lovely young man who answered the phone thought he might be able to help me with a Medicare question, but, alas, he did not have a ready answer at the tip of his fingers.  We laughed, he put me on hold, and he went to find the Health Care person.  

A brief wait (with no Muzak!) and he returned to tell me that she was as flummoxed as we were.  She wanted to do some investigation - I wanted to know where to direct my ire - and he wondered if she might call me back later, after gathering facts.  Agreeing that facts were important and that my issue was not pressing, I left my contact information and hung up.

The bill is due on the 25th of this month.  Recognizing that the USPS might take its own sweet time in delivering the payment to St. Louis, Missouri, I went on-line to mymedicare.gov to pay it.  Signing in was easy, though the popups were annoying, and arriving at the payment page was simple, too.  Everything was going well until I scrolled to the bottom of the page where this notice awaited:

It may take 3 days to process your payment.
Three days?  Where's the float on that money during that period of time?  Why would it take 3 days for the bits and bytes to find one another and transfer the funds?  Another question I suppose Medicare will have to answer if my payment isn't processed in the next two days, before the due date and I end up protesting late fees.

And, it got worse the more I read.
Due to a processing error, a small percentage of people with Medicare who pay their Medicare premiums through Easy Pay had premiums deducted twice from their bank account. We are currently working with the Treasury Department to reverse the duplicate Medicare premium deduction and have the erroneous deduction credited back to bank accounts, as soon as possible. You can contact us at 1-800-MEDICARE (or use the Live Chat feature) with any questions you have.
Imagine living Social Security check to Social Security check, budgeting and planning so that you don't run out of money at the end of the month.  How must it feel to wait for Medicare to talk to Treasury to fix the problem?  A processing error?  Are there no checks and balances? 

These are old people we're talking about; we frighten more easily, are more vulnerable, have less resilience than we used to.  Double dipping by the government is bad in any situation.  Imagining this happening to G'ma as her mental faculties declined has given me a bellyache.

By this point, I'm really less concerned about the missing commas between January and 2020.

But wait.  There's more.  This was on the bill from TBG's last visit to his GP.

PSA SCREENING - NOT A MEDICALLY NECESSARY SERVICE
Apparently, neither AARP's Medicare Advantage plan nor Medicare itself thinks that prevention is better than treatment.  There's an Adjustment on the bill, which brings the cost down by two thirds, but there's still that pesky $20.44 to pay. 

I spoke to my insurance advisor about this; she agrees that it's ridiculous but told me that my complaints would fall on deaf ears.  Others have tried, and failed.

I'm glad he had the test. I'm glad we had the money to pay for it.  I am beyond sad that my government doesn't want to help me keep him healthy.

I did some sleuthing on the interwebs, and found this, from healthcaredive.com back in June, 2017:
HHS currently has 17 vacant positions that are important enough to require Senate confirmation, according to data from the Washington Post. .....and other rank-and-file HHS positions remain unfilled. The cause appears to be a combination of lack of experience on Trump’s transition team, a federal hiring freeze Trump has administered and his stated belief that many government positions are unnecessary.

Perhaps it was the duty of some of those unnecessary government employees to figure this stuff out.

Medicare used to be a lot easier to navigate, when I was doing it for G'ma, back when they weren't double-charging, back when they knew how much money they wanted, back when.......

As I said to the billing officer at the medical practice this morning - VOTE!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Conflicting Values

I hate it when Doing The Right Thing gets in the way of Doing What I Want.

When I wore stockings, the Gentlemen Prefer Hanes ad campaign forced me to write a sternly feminist letter to the company, forswearing their brand forever.  

Unfortunately, they were the hose that fit me most perfectly, at a price point I could afford (especially on sale at Macy's), with a look and feel that I loved.  I kept up my outward disgust while sporting the product.  I laughed at myself as I shopped.

Then, there were grapes. I was appalled that my supposedly woke sister and her friends were happily munching on anti-labor grapes.  They'd never heard of Cesar Chavez; they spit out the seeds and moved on to watermelon.  Lettuce was a little harder to enforce, because the labeling was uncertain.

I'm sure that we figured something out about the roughage, though I can't remember exactly what it was.  I know for a fact that those were the last grapes bought that summer.

Daddooooo made G'ma return the perfect wooden skirt hangers because they were made in West Germany.  His antipathy for the country apparently waned as he aged; his favorite car turned out to be a Volkswagon Rabbit.  Volkswagon.... a People's Car..... a Nazi car, a phrase I tossed at him once and once only.  He was flustered.  I was surprised that he didn't have a ready answer.  We never revisited the topic again.

That was all then.  Chocolate and the Cubbies are now.

I did some research, until I couldn't stand it any more.  Here's what the WaPo has to say about it, in a June 2019  article titled Cocoa's child laborers
Mars, NestlĂ© and Hershey pledged nearly two decades ago tI am  using cocoa harvested by children. Yet much of the chocolate you buy still starts with child labor. Behind much of the world's chocolate is the work of thousands of impoverished children on West African cocoa farms.
Not-Kathy promises to investigate ethically sourced unsweetened baking chocolate but my brownie recipe has remained unchanged - and much loved - for decades.... and it depends upon a Nestle product.  Not-Kathy's promise came right on the heels on my wondering aloud if I had to abandon making brownies in order to be a responsible human being.

After all, child labor is..... well, child labor.

Chocolate, all 4 of them replied to me in one loud voice, is CHOCOLATE!

So, I've seen where their boundaries lie.

What about sports?  Big Cuter got a Sports Divorce (predicated on facts which might change and thus result in re-establishment of the relationship) from his beloved 49'ers after they treated Colin Kaepernick so poorly, but that break up was tempered by the whole Football as America's Blood Sport meme, coupled with the concussion and CTE admissions.

I am faced with a more troubling dilemma.  

President Trump is coming to Chicago for a fundraiser with Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts. read the headline in last week's Chicago Tribune.

I wrote to all the companies on the Ivanka's-stuff-sold-here list, refusing to shop there until they stopped being a venue helping to enrich the Trumps.  I advocated for boycotts related to Breitbart and Fox News (the Fox Sports channel is included in our basic package; I avoid the conflict by amortizing the cost and recognizing that any protest would be futile).

But my Cubs?!?!?!?  Can I give up my Cubs because their owner will use the monies he earns from their success to support that which I find insupportable?

I suppose that if I buy no more Cubs gear I can still cheer for the laundry... divorcing those who own the team from what the team means to me.

Can't I?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Probably Not What They Had In Mind......

...... or was it?

I love the jams and aiolis from Stonewall Kitchen (like Soldier Field, there's only one of them).  The fruit spreads are natural and seasonal (I'm opening the strawberry rhubarb right now).  The savory spreads are made with oil instead of mayonnaise; it feels somehow less decadent to lick the spoon clean because of that.

I could only find them at our local Breadsmith , and their selection varied.  So, swallowing my desire to shop local, I went on-line. 

It was lovely.  The site was easy to navigate, I found it simple to meet the minimum for free shipping.  I have emergency house gifts available if I need one before I need the contents myself.  I was content.

And then the package arrived.  It was filled with those problematic white poofy peanuts, the ones you never send to a young mother with a toddler and a dog, especially if they are coddling gifts wrapped in glittery tissue paper.

It also contained this set of instructions, which I'll retype below for those who don't want to enlarge the screen.
Psst...
We're good inside and out.

Not only do our products taste
 great, but they're also shipped
in eco-friendly materials, like our
packing peanuts, which are starch
based and fully dissolvable in water.

Would that that were true.

This was a big box.  There were a lot of those theoretically fully dissolvable eco-friendly peanuts in there.  Having wreaked havoc on my kitchen plumbing by pouring starch down the drain (every Thanksgiving as I peeled potatoes into the disposal and clogged the pipes until one kindly plumber showed me the folly of my ways as I watched him clear out the u-joint)  I was reluctant to up-end them into the sink itself.

Instead, I took a handful and tossed them into a big pot of water.  And I waited.  Seret and Mr DreamyCakes and TBG waited with me.  We watched as nothing much happened.  We looked back as time passed.  This is as good as it got: 
I collected the scum and tossed it in the trash.  It may be eco-friendly, and I may not be on the greatest terms with the pack rats and the javelina in the neighborhood, but I wouldn't subject them to whatever that is in the strainer.  

We watered the in-ground lantana with the remaining starchy liquid.  So far, the plant has survived..... as have the rest of those peanuts.  I'm trying to resist the temptation to pack my Brownie List with them..... and share the wealth with my friends and family.

What's wrong with crumpled brown paper?  This is more trouble than it's worth.

Monday, October 21, 2019

No Comments. I Could Write Nothing Else Tonight

I haven’t seen her in months.  Today, she arrived at the neighborhood bbq as TBG and I were making new friends.

I hesitated, but only for a moment.

I walked over as she wrote her name tag, smiling at her son as I drew near.

I hugged her, pressing my face gently into her hair as she continued to look down.

Hi, it’s good to see you, or some such banalities were exchanged and then I walked away, collected TBG and our folding chairs, and left.

It’s all I can do for her.

I can still smell her shampoo.  That has to be enough.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Too Much Fun

We ate.  We walked.  We swam.

We talked.  A lot.

We did a 15 minute meditation, then we ate some more.

And now it's way past my bedtime and we're still at it.

I'll be back after the weekend. Right now, I'm needed on the couch.

I'm having too much fun to create coherent sentences.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Friends

There are some people who fill the holes in your life so perfectly that it seems like magic.  Two of them are coming to us this afternoon.  They are in a rental car driving down from Sky Harbor Airport, and I am ready.

I have the provisions they requested; it's so easy to shop when instead of coffee she tells me Whole Foods Allegro.  It took two stops and some searching, but almost everything they need is here.  I cannot be blamed for adverse agricultural conditions devastating the mini-cucumber crop; the English cucumbers will have to suffice.  Otherwise, I have a wide selection from the categories she suggested, and the exact items when specified.

Every step down every aisle of every store gave me joy.  In class yesterday, the professor discussed the Russian concept of the Hearth Angel; that's just what I felt like today. I straightened and prettified and fluffed and plumped.  I rearranged and reconfigured and tested it all.... which led to this purchase.
I thought the bedside lamp was broken until I discovered that the plug was controlled from the switch by the door.  That's convenient for some things, but neither the reading lamp nor the clock was well served by it.  This covers up the door controlled outlet and offers a wide variety of insertion points.  It was the finishing touch on my preparations.

Now I just have to wait.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sad

I've been walking around in a grumpus mood for the last few days.  I have a heavy weight on my heart.  Everyone I love is relatively healthy and relatively happy; I have no new complaints in the personal department.  That means I am in one of those rare moments when all is at peace, and I should be too, except, I'm not.

It's Donald Trump's fault.

I open the paper (yes, the physical paper, delivered to my driveway every morning before sunup) to the local news about the roads, skipping past the front page battle over Tucson as a Sanctuary City.  I smile at the comics I find after purposely avoiding the second section, the one with the National and International news.  Those are headlines I need to avoid if I want to stay moderately sane.

I told TBG this afternoon that I was sad for the Kurds.   And I am. 

But I'm sadder for America, for what we have become, for who we are as seen by the rest of the world.  Russian soldiers patrolling abandoned American positions is not the image I want in my head right now, yet it's on a continuous loop behind the talking heads.... and I can't seem to tear my self (sic) away from it.

I feel as if I need to bear witness.  I need to watch it and be horrified and and and and......  what can I do?  I called my elected officials;  even Martha McSally is appalled by the withdrawal.  I can't order the troops back in.  My voice has been heard.  I'm powerless, and I don't like it one bit.

Pence and Pompeo are taking their dog and pony show over there.  What can they say about the mess their boss created?  Just more noise, when what I want is less stupidity and hubris. 

Because when John Bolton is the sanest person in the story, you know I'm right to be a grumpus. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

85/15

That's the blend of ground beef I buy. 

That's also the balance between recovery and disability I face.  On the surface, that's a very, very good thing. 

I remember when I couldn't bend over to empty the bottom rack of the dishwasher.  Picking up a plate down there- let alone a stack of three or four of them - was impossible.  Once the plates were out of the machine, turning and walking the two or three steps to the cabinet was excruciating. 

It was much easier to concentrate on the top rack and let TBG bother with the bottom.  It's our division of labor even now, almost none years later.  When I'm alone, I can.  When he's there, why should I?

That's the dilemma of 85/15.  A physiatrist, looking at my Activities of Daily Living, would be delighted.  I can hear it now:  At my age.... with my injuries.... 85% is wonderful.

That last 15% though, that's all the fun stuff.

I gardened,   Getting up and down off the ground,  shlepping soil and plants and Little Cuter's gifted kneeling bench, filling the watering can and carrying it back and forth to the newly planted beds - none of that was fun for me.  It used to be. 

Yes, I was able to do all those things.  Yes, I did them with strength and balance and didn't have to stop to rest.  Yes, I couldn't do those things until recently.  Yes, I'm glad that I am able to do them.

But they exhaust me.  They make my hip hurt.  Going from sitting to kneeling and back again is, I find, an inherent part of my gardening experience.  Just thinking about the logistics, let alone the discomfort, keeps me in one position longer than is comfortable or compatible with the task at hand. 

Standing up and seeing the work from a distance creates a similar situation.  So does needing a drink from the garage refrigerator and kissing my husband when he comes out to admire my work, both of which I did and both of which led to loud announcements of those feats.

The announcements were along profane lines not suitable for a (mostly) family-friendly blog.  I was pissed and I didn't mind letting the world in on the secret.

And that is all it took.  I let it out and then I laughed at myself because 85% is better than 0% and I have miles to go before I sleep so who knows...... maybe next year I'll write about how 90% aggravates me.

Thanks for letting me rant.  I feel much better now.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Happy Birthday, Daddooooo

A somewhat altered version of a previous post or two.

It was always very confusing - was his birthday the 12th or the 14th of October?  One of them was Columbus Day and the other was Herb's Day and to this moment I'm still not sure, especially since the bureaucrats moved Chris's Day to the generic second Monday.

He was a confusing person, so this is not surprising.  I never knew if I wanted to hug him or throttle him.

Deaf-as-a-door-nail, hearing aid batteries constantly squealing or dying or resting comfortably in the breast pocket of his plaid wash-and-wear shirt, he monopolized conversations so that he would know what was going on. That works well until your audience hits second grade or so; after that, it becomes a full fledged "Herb Attack."

I know this because I have been guilty of them, myself.

His tales were fascinating.  If the facts weren't really facts, well, they should have been.  He went to City College with Richard Feynman.  He lived down the block from Jonas Salk. He knew every cobblestone, every cornerstone, every brick and street sign in Manhattan.  Serving as tour guide in The Big Apple made him about as happy as anything else I can imagine... and I've been sitting here thinking about it for a while.

Surrounded by his grandchildren-of-a-certain-age, those who were sentient but not yet sarcastic, he could sit for hours, regaling them with stories about the chickens they raised in the backyard on Hessler Avenue; about the boat he and his brothers built one summer... the boat that almost floated; about the time it rained frogs; and about all the times he got into trouble at school, because he just wouldn't stay still.

He probably deserved a diagnosis or medication; born in 1916, he was "just being Herbert." He continued being just himself, sui generis as I called him in the obituary I wrote for the New York Times, until the very end.

He died at home, between the first and second commercial of the 10 o'clock episode of Law and Order on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving.  There's some confusion about the date, since the hospice nurse didn't get there to sign the death certificate until early Sunday morning.  Like his birthday, I need cues to keep the date straight.  Like most things Daddooooo related, this is not now nor has it ever been easy.

The funeral home attendants gave her a moment in the hallway before they wheeled him out the front door.  G'ma leaned over, kissed him, and then admonished him, one last time: "Behave yourself, Herbert!  Don't give them any trouble."  The paramedics were bemused.  My mother looked right back at them.  "If you'd known him, you'd understand."

Happy Birthday, Herb, you strange and singular father of mine.  Happy Birthday to YOU!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Another Day in the Garden

No matter what else is offered, bugs always entice them.
Under the tutelage of a Garden Leader, the soil around the onions was gently disturbed,   
with fingers rather than the blue plastic tool, 
the cosmos seeds were placed 3 by 3, covered by replacing the disturbed soil, 
the cosmos seeds were placed 3 by 3, covered by replacing the disturbed soil, and then, ever so gently, they were watered in. 
The wrens' wooden houses are a constant source of amusement.  
The fact that examining them requires climbing the tree may have something to do with this.
There is only one hose, and it sprung another leak this week.  
The watering cans are just as much fun. 
The rakes are also a big hit, especially because collecting the detritus allows the shovels to be put to a Grandma Approved use. 
The rakes create dust, which settled on our tomato plants, so the answer was "YES!"  when she asked if she could "water them from up here?" 
Our purple pitcher-ed Gardener brought us seeds from her own Grandma's stash.   We tossed the ones marked "Not For Human Consumption" because we agreed that some kids will try anything and it would be better not to take any chances.

We planted another packet among the red onions (where she's watering)  and saved the rest for later.  They finished watering while I wrote Nana a thank you note and took this picture with a big smile in my heart.  

Thursday, October 10, 2019

What Is THIS?????

I was going to share my gardening adventures in today's post.  
We had a lot of fun.

But then this happened, and I just had to share.

  After school, I had a meeting with The Garden Guru and his Irrigation Guru to discuss the 5th Grade Garden Project.  It was busy in the lobby where I waited;  Teacher Conference week brought students and parents and siblings who were coming and going in every direction.

I received many many many hugs.
I was introduced to many grandmas and mommies and aunties and daddies and sisters. 
And then I heard one 5th grader say What is THIS?
This????? I replied.
THIS is a telephone.
You can't take pictures with it.
You can't type on it.
You can only talk.

A moment of reflection, followed by
How do you use it though?  How do you dial?

So, I showed him the buttons with numbers on them.
I picked up the receiver and showed him where to talk and where to listen.
And when you're done, you put it back in the cradle, like this.

He thanked me for the lesson and moved on.

I stood there, feeling old.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Outrage

Allow me to vent my spleen.  I've already called my Senators about the Kurds (apparently, Sen. McSally has no opinion on her President leaving our comrades-in-arms in the lurch) and the House bills on gun safety, and on impeachment..... and it's only Tuesday afternoon.

So, I'm moving on to freedom of speech, if you don't mind indulging my rant.

I began the day fuming over the fact that the Democrats are seriously considering shielding the whistleblowers' names from their Republican counterparts.  What have we come to as a country when fear that the President's rhetoric will inspire violence causes one half of a Committee to distrust the other to that extent?

Are they over-reacting?  Consider the fact that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford moved four times..... for her own safety.

A friend of Little Cuter's called out flagrant cheating in an SAT exam room.  There are still those who harbor ill-will toward this righteous young woman for outing her peers.  How much easier everything would have been had her name been kept out of it.  Her identity didn't add anything to the case; her experience would certainly chill any further revelations.

I spent the morning stewing over this, then Big Cuter led me to Daryl Morey's tweet - Fight for Freedom.  Stand with Hong Kong - which led to China severing all ties to the NBA, which led the NBA to issue this tweet -
 
which led my son, along with a variety of interwebs typists, to wonder why the NBA and the Rockets cannot support people who are resisting the imposition of Chinese will. 

But that's not the point. 

The Chinese are pulling away from the NBA because one of its employees exercised his right of free speech.  I'm glad that "the values of the league support individuals' educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,"  but I wish that sentence had ended with a reminder that these rights are enshrined in our Bill of Rights, that free speech is a hallmark of our side of the cultural divide, and that no amount of money can sway our dedication to defending it.  

Yes, it's billions of dollars.  

It's also a statement to the world.  

Today, more than ever, that is needed.  The NBA could be out in front on this..... or, not.

And that's where this post ended until Big Cuter alerted me to another situation, this one heating up the parts of the interwebs where those younger and hipper than I lurk. 

After a Hong Kong based esports player voiced support for the protesters - Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age! - the sponsoring firm, Blizzard Enterprises, barred him from competing for a year and zeroed out his account, effectively taking back the $10,000 he had already won.

There's that pesky First Amendment again, butting in where it's not wanted.

A quick scan of the links show a generally peeved audience, suddenly questioning the woke-ness of their world.  It seems that they are clothed in the same cloak of faux righteousness as the NBA.

Who'd a thunk it?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Conundrum

Prep and Pastry moved from a small space to a bigger space.  The number of available parking spaces, though, remains the same. 

This was the logistical nightmare that confronted The Bookseller and me as our cars were facing one another at one entrance to the much too small lot.  I backed out, she continued forward, and we drove down one block, turned right, and parked in the middle of a lovely residential neighborhood.

I cannot imagine that those people are happy to have their tucked away quietude disturbed by hungry restaurant-goers.  But we had no choice. 

I'm looking out my front window at the property across the street, now an under-developed 13 acres, but proposed to be covered with 65 houses.  I know it's unrealistic to expect things to stay the same, but I like my peaceful street and I'm glad that there won't be an entrance to the new homes anywhere near our older homes. 

They found another street to annoy.  I wished that I could have done the same this morning, on my way to breakfast.  It was in the upper 90's today; the walk was delightful,  But last month, with triple digits and no breeze, I'm not sure I'd be thrilled to take a five minute walk, no matter how delicious the food. 

The hostesses laughed when we said You need more parking!!! 

I guess it's a good problem to have. 

The lot was full.  The restaurant was not.  It was a conundrum we dissected over sweet potato hash and a feta and spinach omelette. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

To The Loyal 13

You woke up earlier than I did.  You read it before I realized that the photo of Beto wasn't there.  If you don't want to click back, here it is:
Have a great day!
I love you all!

Beto Came To Town

And you know that as soon as I saw the notice, I RSVP'ed.  He's the first Democratic candidate to visit our town, having reached out to the UofA's Young Democrats to gauge their interest. Not-Kathy and Dr. K and I arrived 45 minutes before the doors were to open and walked past several hundred humans who'd gotten there before us until we found the end of the line.

It seems that there was interest. 

There were voter registration helpers and there were name and address collectors and there were lots of people wearing red Moms Demand Action t-shirts, just like I was.  A young mom with two in a double stroller wore one as she pulled in behind us.  A few minutes later, she pulled us out of line with her; the Moms Demand Action Lead had texted the membership to come to the VIP entrance.

So, with friends in tow, with our leader pulling those similarly attired out of line to join our merry band, we walked past everyone and into the venue because they want to make a splash with Moms.

I don't mind being used that way.  Not at all.  Especially when it results in three chairs at a conveniently placed high top, a Barrio Blonde in my hand, and air conditioning while we waited.
The Young Democrats introduced the chair of the County's Democratic Party who introduced the candidate, who happened to enter the space through the door right behind us.  I figured that out a nano-second before he burst through the door; that's how I got this picture:
He turned, missed my out-stretched hand, then doubled back.  He 1000 watt smiled at me, shook my hand (strong and dry and huge) and said Thanks, Moms!  

I'm sure I'll wash it sometime.

He was less antic than I'd imagined he would be.  He was loud and personable and well-spoken.  He worked the room, wowed the crowd, touched all the points you'd expect, and answered real questions from real voters.  Our own Congresswoman, now Senator, wouldn't walk into a room like that.  It was a contrast that did not go unnoticed by the audience.  

He started by referencing Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and their connections to Tijuana, the site of his first date with his wife.  Tucson and El Paso are both border cities; our relationship with Nogales back in the day was a mirror image of the picture he painted.  There were those murmurs of recognition, again, especially when he reminded us that diversity makes us safer.

He called out Trump's racism, laying the blame for the El Paso shootings on the President's rhetoric. It's not enough to not be racist, we must be Anti-Racist.  Action is necessary because Trump is fundamentally changing America.

In this order, he talked about Guns, Immigration, Health Care, Disability Rights, Gay Adoption, Income Inequality, Drugs, Reparations, and Climate Change.  He wants to legalize marijuana and expunge related arrest records.  He likes Sheila Jackson Lee's bill and The Equality Act and the ADA.  

In a relevant-to-where-we-live moment, he referenced the Disappeared, the missing Native American women whose plight has gone unnoticed for too long.  The applause was different after this part; it was personal, close to home.

He's all for a woman's right to own her own health care, a position which drew the loudest and most sustained cheers from the audience.  He is determined to buy back military grade weaponry and to guarantee mental health care (did you know that the jails in Texas are the largest providers of mental health care in the state?).  

Clearing student loan debt for all teachers, having the DOJ intervene in transgender cases if the local authority isn't respectful, respecting civil rights.... he was just getting started on how he'd deal with Moscow Mitch when a woman fainted right in front of the stage.  As the paramedics did their thing, and the event began to migrate to the adjacent patio, we left through the doorway through which Beto'd emerged.  

There were no t-shirts for sale.  There were no signs or bumper stickers or decals handed out.  It was a town hall and a rally and a meet and greet.  It was being respected as a voter, as someone looking at the field and wondering where to land.  It was a candidate showing us who he is, or who he wants us to believe he is, 

It was, I imagine, a bit of what Iowans must get every day.  It gave me confidence in our democracy and in our citizenry.  I haven't felt that in a long time.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Eli Got a Good Behavior Slip Today

Yesterday, Eli was asked to leave Grandma's Garden.  He threw dirt.  He wounded someone with a shovel (a very small shovel and a very small wound).  He kicked up dust into his classmates' faces.  By the third infraction, I'd had enough.

You can come back next week, with better behavior I told him as he raced out the Garden gate.

Those injured by his behavior were glad to see him go.  I wondered what had upset him.  His name is called out for reprimands more frequently than most; at 5, that tells me that life is not treating him well. 

Today, on the playground at Kindergarten's lunch recess, I played Monster - I growl and wriggle my outstretched claws and the kids run away.  It's an easy way for me to get fully onto the playground without tripping over little ones ready to hug me.  They run away, they run back, they squeal and run away again over and over until I get to the shady bench and plop myself down.

It's easier to tie shoelaces while sitting on the bench; the kids can raise their feet to my knee more easily than I can bend myself in half to reach their feet.  Invariably, by the time I'm settle in there is a line of untied laces waiting for attention.  Those with slip on shoes and sandals stand close by my side; I can't help them, but they still want to be near.

Is it any wonder I love being there? 

Today, though, I never made it to the bench.  The untied laces surrounded me on the edge of the paved play space; I couldn't get to my bench. Groaning loudly, which makes them laugh while taking the edge off the discomfort I'm inflicting on my hip, I lowered myself to the concrete and began to undo knots and retie Keds and Converse and Nikes and sneakers with glitter and sneakers with light up soles. 

The Shoe Lace Fairy was very busy today wreaking havoc with kindergarten laces.  I sat and I sat and I sat and I sat until there were no straggling laces to be seen. 

Then, I tried to get up. 

I'd been down there a long long long long time.  My body was not interested in moving.  I groaned.  I moaned.  I whined.  How am I going to get up from here?  Do you guys think you can lift me?

They laughed, pointed at me, reminded me that I was large and they were small, and then I felt hands under my armpits.  Two little hands, fingers grasping my t-shirt, fists pressing up into my body. 

It was Eli, who'd been running at the outskirts of the group, who took charge of the mission. When he asked for help, I was hauled to my feet by his minions.  The smile on his face when I asked the school social worker for a Star Scholar Slip to reward him for helping ...... there are no words for it.

She wrote that he Helped Someone.  He took the little green paper and ran off to the applause of his classmates (prompted by Grandma) who were then treated to a mini-lesson on Catching Someone When They Are Appropriate.  After agreeing that it was more fun to compliment a classmate than to watch him be scolded, after recognizing that different kids react to situations in different ways, not all of them helpful, and after laughing at the fact that it took a whole bunch of them to get me up off the ground, the whistle blew and they were off.

Eli carried that slip of paper proudly, receiving kudos from one and all.  It was a good day at Prince.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

There was a lot of work to do in Grandma's Garden today.
As always, the rakes were popular. 
 After weeks of working together, the gardeners have discovered that a rake is, indeed, an outdoor broom AND they have bought into the notion that a clean, well-tended garden is thing of beauty and a joy forever.
  
Three heroes of the rake and trowel filled in the hole created by their younger colleagues earlier in the day.  

Why the littles thought that digging a hole which might undermine the stability of a giant boulder remains a mystery.  The bigs emptied the green wheelbarrow into the ditch, smoothed the soil, then stomped it down. The stomping was the most fun. 

And, as always, there was weeding.
The rakes smoothed the soil in the second raised bed.  Stones sectioned the irrigated section from the half in need of repair.
Red and white onions were twisted into the soil, pointy end up, and then the watering began.  The Dollar Store's colorful plastic dispensers
were filled with care, 
since the same store's nozzle had not survived the morning.

The youngest gardeners planted edible flower seeds around the aloe vera in the Garden's first round of visitors;  the middle sized scholars used that nozzle to gently mist the soil
.... and their hands....
 and one another.
 
This is the last known sighting of a working nozzle.

Later in the day, gardeners had to be content with a slow dribble, counting to 7 before graciously passing the hose to a friend,
all under the watchful eye of a Garden Leader.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Bank - Random Thoughts

Miss Sincerbeau was my teller at Manny Hanny while I lived with my parents.  Manufacturers Hanover Trust was its full name, but it was our bank so we were able to be on familiar terms.   Every Friday, all summer long,  I'd take my meager paycheck to her window.  In exchange, I received a stamp in my bank book and some conversation from a grown-up to whom I wasn't related by work or blood.

I was her customer, a regular.  She knew my most intimate secret - how much money I had.  There was a bond there.
*****
In Marin, I had a terrible time finding a bank that was user friendly.  My first one refused to accept a check I presented for deposit.  It was a business check. I had an established account.  I didn't want the cash, I wanted to get the paper out of my purse and the money into my account.  Somehow, they weren't able to accommodate me.

The next one, on the other side of the street, had a convenient ATM.  I don't remember ever going inside.
*****
When Little Cuter was hired by the Rec Department, I accompanied her to Wells Fargo in downtown Tiburon (conjure two main streets perpendicular to one another, each about 2 blocks long and you've got our downtown). 

The bank officer directed all her questions to my daughter.  I was an unimportant part of the process.  When I complimented her, the officer replied We want her to bank with us forever.  She may need a car loan or a home loan and I want her to know that she is respected here.

That was a good bank.
*****
My favorite bank is the BBVACompass Bank right around the corner from my house.  Everyone greets me, by name, when I walk through the door.  If they are busy, the officers wave and smile from their desks.  The tellers know my story, ask to see my grandkid photos, and agree to make large sums of newly deposited money immediately available because they know me.

Everyone is always smiling.
And today, there were cookies in the lobby.
And I got a present when I deposited my check.
It almost made bill paying a pleasant experience.  Almost.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Ukraine....not THE Ukraine

Are you woke? Are you hip to the newest and latest way to assert your political correctness?  Do you think you have it covered? 

Perhaps not.

Perhaps you think that using The Ukraine is no different than using Ukraine to refer to the country at the center of the impeachment inquiry.  You are wrong, according to a friend of Big Cuter and The Washington Post.

In 5 Myths about Ukraine the post tells us this:
It is true that the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was commonly known as “the Ukraine” in English, but even then, the term was a shorthand. The fraught definite article is rooted in a traditional translation choice that has geopolitical implications. In Russian, the word “Ukraina” means “borderlands” and takes the preposition “na.” Using the phrase “na Ukraini” to describe the sovereign nation of Ukraine in Russian is derogatory, akin to saying “in the sticks” in English. It implies that Ukraine is not an independent state but simply a “borderland” on Russia’s outskirts. Ukrainians (and Ukraine’s Russian-speaking supporters elsewhere) use a different preposition when speaking about the country: “v.” The proper English translation of this preferred construction would be “in Ukraine.” 
There is so much to love in that paragraph, but my favorite sentence is this one
The fraught definite article is rooted in a traditional translation choice that has geopolitical implications. 
So much to unpack there, as the talking heads say.  I'm kvelling over the notion of a fraught definite article.  I'm quailing at the thought that I have been inadvertently dismissing a nation that is, for now, holding its finger in the dike of Russian imperialism, and that I've been doing it in the voice of those Russian oppressors.

I have to force myself to think before I speak (always a good thing).  But I can learn to skip that fraught article and just go with Ukraine.  And so should others, as the Post reminds us:
But even if you ignore the linguistics, the country’s official name is Ukraine.Leaders, journalists and pundits should use it.