Tuesday, December 31, 2019

And, Once Again

Yes, denizens, the fun has overtaken my responsibilities to you. 

It started at the zoo (getting 8 people to one place is an exercise in logistics I've not had to consider in decades)  where there were birds of unusual coloring
and shape
and an elephant as old as FlapJilly (who will be bigger, we wondered).
Giblet called every animal Buh Buh (their nickname for Thomas the Wonder Dog, who stayed at home with MOTG and Big Bob)
and wondered why they didn't respond to his call.

Dinner out at Culinary Dropout, where ping pong and cornhole and the photo booth kept us occupied while the grown ups ate and drank to their hearts' content.  When Giblet faded, the grandparental units took the little ones home, where, since she's older, FlapJilly got to stay up two and a half whole hours past my bedtime!

We made brownies and added ice cream and decided that I'm really treating up tonight! 

Is it any wonder the only time I could find to type to you is now, after my morning shower, before I go out and join the fun?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Too Much Fun

Sometimes, there's just too much going on to blog.

I'll try, again, tomorrow.
For now, I'm just going to soak up the love.

Thanks for understanding, denizens.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Interregnum

The first round of guests have taken a side trip to the Grand Canyon.

I pick up the second group at the Tucson airport on Saturday.

These middle two days are filled with preparing our adult size home for a toddler with a penchant for climbing.  I've unearthed the dollhouse Daddooooo made for Little Cuter 30 years ago, the wooden ferry with its cars on board that Uncle Jeff made for Big Cuter when he was small, and the alligator he made for Little Cuter when he heard that her wooden dog-that-wags-when-I pull-it had rolled its last roll.

It's 7:45 am and not a creature is stirring.

I won't be saying that again soon.

I can hardly wait!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Deck the Halls with Boston Charlie

Merry Merry Christmas !

As in years past, my all-time favorite Xmas carol, 
courtesy of Walt Kelly and Pogo. 

Sing loudly and lustily to the tune of Deck the Halls.....

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker 'n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

It's Starting

The first of our many guest are arriving this afternoon.  Others will come at the end of the week.  The house is sparkling clean.  The beds have fresh sheets and the towels are neatly folded over the bathroom racks.

Mr. 16 drove over yesterday to deliver a sentimental card and chocolates for TBG and me.  As it said in the note, this was all his idea; his mother and brother had nothing to do with it.  He's grown and matured and is an altogether wonderful human being, having left the snarky older brother schtick behind.

Amster had a painting party and a cookie party and went with me to see Beautiful Annie's Nutcracker ballet.

I've had holiday lunches all over town.

There may not be much time for deep thought over the next two weeks.  I'm going to revel in the love.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Something in the Air

I couldn't watch the debate.  I'm so tired of people screaming about the details when the world is going off the rails.

I couldn't listen to the talking heads comparing and contrasting and making a mountain out of a mountain that I didn't want to see even though it was right in my path. 

I reread yestereday's post before writing this one and was startled by the number of typos.  I'll go back and fix them when I'm done here, or maybe I'll leave them as a reminder of how frazzled I am.

I wrapped a gift Little Cuter sent for TBG and then I couldn't find it.  I spent a few hours convincing myself that I'd included it in the gifts box I just sent her way, before I found it atop the bedding reserved for her arrival..... right where I put it so that it wouldn't get lost.... because it was so obvious a place I couldn't forget it..... and it only took me four hours to stumble upon it.

All these bits and pieces of reality are interfering with my holiday spirit. 

I am doing my best to keep them at bay.  It takes a lot of energy that could otherwise be spent correcting typographical erros.... or not making them in the first place.
Have a wonderful weekend, denizens.  I'm going to revel in the love, the thank you's, the Merry's and the Happy's, hoping the world can get along without me for few days.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Democracy at Work

They spoke their minds.  All day long, they spoke their minds.  

I tried to listen to "the other side" but it made my skiin crawl.  

Facts are facts, or so I thought.  Apparently, facts are not part of the process arguments being made by the Republicans.

And I keep coming back to the same thing, over and over and over again - if he has nothing to hide, why forbid his toadies' testimonies?  

And yet, no guns have been drawn.  The military is not filing our streets.  Our upcoming election is at risk and our current government is eating itself from within and the Senate Majority Leader has already declared that he is not impartial...... and yet, I have hope.

This is democracy at work.  With my fingers crossed, I have hope.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Great Customer Service

It was shocking to get a How Do You Like Them email without the items themselves having arrived. 

That was the general tone of the Where is my order? email I sent to the on-line customer service helpers after the telephone helpers decided, 5 minutes into their enforced musical interlude, that they were unable to help at this time.  I hit Send and went to bed. 

It took a few hours for him to respond, but when he did, Justino was on top of the situation.  He knew what caused the delay and why.  He contacted the warehouse and bumped us to the front of the line.  He told me when it would ship and how long it would take.  

And he did it all with a charming, self-deprecating style.

As to my I can't believe you did this comment, he had that covered, too:
I know, it seemed kinda odd. Don't worry, we've already fixed it on our end so that it won't happen again in the future. 

I'm not shopping that much this year; it was lovely to be treated so well when I did.

(I'll reveal the company name after the gifts have been gifted.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Holidaze - Random Thoughts

Lady Jane wants to know if she's a grinch.  She doesn't want poinsettias which she'll have to water.  She's not interested in the Stealth Elf-ing I've been asked to do in her home, for her son in Australia.  She's exhausted.  She's asked too much of her 86 year old self and she's taking more mid-morning naps as the holidaze overwhelm her.
The cashier at the Dollar Tree was taking forever.   I realized that she had to ring each item individually, even though the gentlemen in front of me were buying 25 of the same things over and over and over again.  She shrugged, I smiled, and the woman behind me and I fell into conversation. 

It's not Nordstrom; I want these items; I've already invested the time in the line; what will I do with the 5 minutes I save someplace else...... and from there, somehow, it morphed into bemoaning the sorry state of American discourse. 

We agreed that we were tired of all the yelling.  It doesn't seem to fit the spirit of the season.
I've got a chair and an ottoman covered with gifts, socks and underwear for the most part, with a smattering of books and treats, of course. 

I have to decide what to mail to Little Cuter and what to save for distribution when they come.  The kids need pj's and socks and underwear, so those can stay here and turn into Hanukkah gifts or Welcome to Gramma's House surprises.

I'm surprisingly stuck on a few absolutely ridiculous items - do I want to see her face when............. ??
I'm just about finished with the Brownie List and almost ready to start wrapping the presents.  The shopping is completed, except for finding the correct size kids' sunglasses for faces that are not within my measuring range. 
Because she has absolutely nothing else to do, I sent Little Cuter the Amazon Smile link and set her to the task.
Does it seem heartless and inappropriate to dislodge the pack rats from their home in the wash between our house and JannyLou's? 

I don't want them around anymore, but there's the whole "no room at the inn" thing rattling around in my head.
And, finally, the Baby, It's Cold Outside, Arizona Edition:
"Better put on more clothes, it's chilly outside..... they just said it's 61 and breezy."

Monday, December 16, 2019

Look At What WE Grew!

They came racing out of the classroom, crying my name.
Grandma! Grandma! 

I was as surprised as they were.
They started the seeds weeks ago.
Now they have stems and leaves .

Caring has rewards.
Just another life lesson from Grandma's Garden.

Friday, December 13, 2019

We Made The Teacher Cry - A Snippet

I created a Shutterfly book of a kindergarten class making scarecrows. 

Before unveiling it, I wondered if, perhaps, they would know some of the characters in the story.  They certainly did know them, as their squeals and points and grins revealed.

At the end, the teacher was teary. 

Those are the happy kind of tears, I explained as she wiped them away.  We closed our eyes and listened to our feelings for a second or two, then opened them and looked at our friends.

Everyone had a smile, a big, gigantic, ginormous, I've never smiled this big ever in my life face on. 

We floated on that feeling as we paraded across the playground, gathering admirers as we entered the garden, restricting access to us and us alone.  We placed one in the nook of the mesquite tree, and one on the side of the orange tree.  We ate scallions for our Super Power (extreme bad breath) and described the taste as we strolled back to class.

We had all the good feelings today. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Just Wondering

I woke up this morning to information from a reliable source who told me that The New York Times was reporting on a Trumpian Executive Order that would, this very morning, define Jews as a nationality.

This did not resonate with TBG.  He didn't feel the shiver up his back, though he certainly noticed mine.  He's as sensitive as a Protestant-raised-educated-white-guy can be; half a century with me has tuned his radar.  But he was surprised at the depth of my reaction.

I was terrified.

Sure, I was mortified for our country and I was disgusted that such a thing could come from the Office of the President.  The lack of intellectual rigor that underpins every word the man speaks was, once again, appalling.  But mostly, I was scared.

I'd have a lot more cousins is my standard response to Holocaust questions.  I was a child when G'ma insisted I watch the black and white films of the liberation of the death camps on our Motorola tv.  We put the cat in a bedroom when my survivor cousin visited; no need to remind her of how hungry she once had been.

That's ingrained in me.  It's part of who I am.  Not-Kathy was surprised that I laughed when she said of course, Jews are white.  Neither were the Irish or the Italians. 

It never bothered me.  It was just a fact. 

Anyway, that's why I was afraid this morning.  By lunchtime, Big Cuter had sussed out the facts and there is no mention of Jews being a nation in the Executive Order.

And then I began to wonder.  My reaction was so strong, so visceral, so publicly shared..... were my strings being pulled by a Russian dis-information campaign?  It's not the facts so much as the reaction that the Russians are seeking. That The New York Times (which couldn't even get my age right) printed something quick and wrong might just show how deep the tentacles are reaching.

If Putin's goal is to divide America against itself, this was a sure-fire way to do it. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Time that could have been spent baking was spent tracking down and then reporting the absence of Big Cuter's brownies to the United States Postal Service. 

It wasn't the first time the postal service hijacked my life this week. It happened over and over and over again.

Time went by as I waited and waited and waited for the computer to boot up, to find Google, to find the USPS site.

Time was wasted as the site refused to load, then refused to find my address book, then refused update the addresses I wanted to change.

I canceled more Batch Orders than I created; the editing function was no more accessible in the final step than it was in the Address Book itself.

My printer decided to run out of ink.  I had no replacement cartridges.  I went out.

I got two lists conflated and confused and mixed up together; it took the better part of the afternoon to figure out who had received brownies and who had said yes to TBG's 70th Birthday Soiree.

I'm not sure what I'd do with those minutes. 

I just know that I'll never get them back.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

It's Raining - A Snippet

People don't know how to drive when it rains in Tucson. 

I think that they are stunned by the fact that we are experiencing weather.  I'm sure that it rained where they lived before, and I'm sure that they drove in that rain.  Somehow, living in the desert has erased any muscle memory of those events. 

Turning on the windshield wipers activates the Oh, dear, what do I do part of themselves.  They pause for no reason, often in the middle of the middle lane, slowing but not stopping, wondering, I suppose, how they became trapped in this wetness.

I'd be upset, except that by the time I got to my destination the deluge had stopped and the air smelled of creosote, and the sky was crystal clear, and the puddles on the parking lot were undisturbed and reflected the sunlight the way icy patches along Lake Shore Drive's bike path and parking lots used to do, when I had to worry about skidding .across the beauty.

This is much better.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Perfect Tool

I thought I had it down perfectly.

Three batches at a time, the trebled recipe written in bold sharpie.  Pans of the correct size and hue and material.  One teaspoon for the wet ingredients and one teaspoon for the dry, one tablespoon, one half-tablespoon,  and my old faithful silver one cup fit nicely in the not-too-big-not-too-small glass bowl, along with the Revereware saucepan.  The bowl lives on the counter when The Brownie List is in full swing, all self-contained and self-satisfied.

Until I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and found this:
It slides right into the corner of an 8x8 pan or brownies divided in half then in half then the otherway twice..... even if you make the cuts with a bigger spatula, to save time.
It bends its beveled-to-a-point edge underneath without damaging the brownie's structural integrity while scraping the pan clean without scratching the non-stick surface, just as the packaging  promised.  The blade is exactly the length of two brownies; you slide and lift without worrying about dragging an unsuspecting neighbor along for the ride.
Two brownies fit perfectly in the snack bags I use.

It's as if someone designed it with me in mind.
A Brownie Spatula..... who'd a thunk it? 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Conference Call Etiquette

One thing I'm sure of - the high pitched screech was not part of the call.

I'm on a 15 person Advisory Committee, which convened this afternoon via a conference call.  Dialing in was simple, so was entering the pin code.  The automated voice welcomed me, told me that there were more than 4 people on the call, and asked me to mute my phone.

That required some searching, since I replaced my land lines last month.  I examined the handset, found the word MUTE and managed to figure out which button to push.  I pushed, and then I heard nothing. 

Nothing.  No music.  No leader welcoming me.  No voices. 

I was anxious, wondering if I'd screwed it up somehow.  A minute or two passed (of course I called in early) before someone announced his presence.  Then another voice chimed in, saying that he was here, too.  I un-muted the phone and chimed in at the same time that two other women did the same.

Suddenly, I didn't feel so alone.  There were others whose voices tumbled over mine. 

Suddenly, I realized that I didn't know what to do next.  Should I reintroduce myself?  Did anyone hear our individual names?  Would repeating myself be obnoxious?  I mulled it over and decided to keep quiet. 

Two minutes after the scheduled start time, the last half of the opening sentence from the chair came through the phone.  Thankfully, there were no further introductions of the participants; we went right into the business at hand.

I really don't like meetings.  Sitting alone in my library, listening to verbiage, typing to you.... it's a weird way to stay in the loop.  On the other hand, I didn't have to travel, didn't have to dress up, didn't have to remember pen and paper. 

There was no real work done on the call. We were given the ground rules for participating.  The caveats and concerns were delivered delightfully but firmly.  No one had any questions.  No one had anything to add.  We were encouraged to get involved, to reach out upstream with our ideas, and to resist feeling overwhelmed. 

And then it ended. 

I don't know how it will be to work on a committee whose members I've never seen or heard.  I don't know how my responses will be accepted; I won't have the subtle cues you glean from sharing a physical space.

I'm a 20th Century Girl in a 21st Century World. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019


I listened to the lawyers teach a seminar on the Constitution, the framers, and impeachment.  I turned off the sound when the Republicans began to spew mud in all directions except the one most deserving - upstream.

I drove to Prince and found solace in the garden.

Our hanging baskets
and our scallions 
and our radishes

 are doing very well.
It's a treasure hunt beneath the foliage.
As always, there is fiendishness afoot.
Though this scholar is politely watering the plants while posing for this picture, further examination reveals what he'd been doing just moments before. 
Why he felt the need to make a mud crater is beyond me, yet he did. 
And his classmates were thrilled with the sucking sounds made by the rakes in the muck.
They smoothed and they dug and they giggled. 
They were - literally - a ray of sunshine on a muddy day.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

I Scoff

According to Ronald Reagan, the 9 scariest words ever spoken were "I'm from the government.  I'm here to help you."  I scoffed at that, until this weekend.  In the end, I was in love with the bureaucrats who make the wheels of governance roll smoothly, but it took a long time to get there.

We (okay, mostly I, but he agreed at the time) made a mistake while applying for TBG's social security retirement benefits.  We made this mistake after two days of arguing with the website, or being locked out of the website, of wondering why the website wasn't responsive to our pleas.

Trying to fill out the application proved to be more difficult that we'd anticipated.  It took some time to remember where we'd stored the relevant password and user name. I typed. I failed.  I was locked out after persistently entering the same information over and over again.  I cursed, waited the required 24 hours, and tried a different combination and voila, I was in.

The error message is very very insignificant.  I couldn't figure out how to submit the application.  Everything looked perfect to me.  It looked good to TBG.  There was no FAQ answer.  So, I called.  I was on hold, then cut off.  I called again later.  This time I was allowed to leave a phone number and my voice print to prove that the returned call was really for me. 

90 minutes later, exactly when promised, the phone rang and I heard my voice.  The long suffering Wanda on the other end of the line was semi-scolding me as I waited for the system to let me back in, feeling, somehow, that I should have anticipated her promptness and been ready to go.  She directed me to look for a small red triangle on one of the page tabs, breathed heavily as I opened it and reviewed it and found the error and then found my own way back to the end where, smiling at me, was a button labeled SUBMIT.

That was just how I felt; I was ready to submit. 


Recheck the whole thing, because that's just how we are and OH NO DID WE DO THAT?????

Yes, we did that, and I spent the next 20 hours trying to rectify the situation.  This time I couldn't even wait on hold, let alone leave a call back request.  Thank you for your call.  Please try again later they repeated, but only after making me suffer through 4 minutes and 20 seconds of announcements and pronouncements and recitations of the statutes that allowed them to annoy me.  All day Monday, until noon on Tuesday, until we decided to take matters in hand and go down to the local office ourselves.

We sat on comfortable, clean, functional yet attractive seats, and spoke to two delightful and competent civil servants.  Eddie hadn't been trained in our problem, and he was confident enough to ask for help.  We waited a while, then Ms Reynolds made us laugh, told us that Of course this can be fixed, and proceeded to fix and replace and inquire and suggest and educate and type faster than fast as we answered her questions.

Without an appointment, as walk-ins, we left in just under 2 hours,  having secured more money than we anticipated, in a way we'd not envisioned.  We know when and where and how everything will happen.  We have the information we need in printed form, with Ms Reynolds' handwritten notes detailing what we need to pay attention to next.

I'm sorry, President Reagan, but today my government really did help me out. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Shameless Self-Promotion

Black Friday.  Cyber Monday.  Giving Tuesday.  It's enough to make a grown woman weep. 

I stayed home and bought nothing on Friday.  I'll see if there are deals on socks and underwear (my default gift giving options) today, on Monday, but mostly I'm looking forward to Giving Tuesday. As angry as I am with Mark Zuckerberg in specific and Facebook in general, this is a good thing. 

Facebook absorbs all the costs associated with the donations.  There are no annoying "leave us a tip" options from the processing firm.  There are just posts of the wonderful things my friends are up to.

The ones rescuing dogs and cats, the ones rescuing donkeys and min-horses, the ones educating the scholars I serve, they are all filling my heart with joy.  I joined the party last year, and raised enough money to buy shoelaces and classroom books for everyone.  I'm doing it again this year. 

Here's what I posted on Facebook.  If you're inclined to send something, I thank you in advance.  If you just want to read my carefully crafted Ask Letter, that's fine, too. 
Susan Annis Hileman's photo.
We're building a Lorax Garden at Prince Elementary School, because "unless you care, things won't change a bit!" and the scholars decided that every classroom should have its own copy of Dr. Seuss's classic. They've seen the movie, now they want to read the book.
The books cost $12 each; there are 28 bookshelves to be filled.
If we meet that goal, we'll buy $9.50 copies of Grace Byers's I Am Enough..
Any amount helps.... together little gifts reap big rewards. if you want to donate a specific book, a bookplate with your name and your message to the scholars will be created. 
And if you want to come and read aloud, that would be fine, too!

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Most Interesting Man

We've never known anyone quite like him.  I don't know that we ever will, again.

Garage Bands and the history of rock and roll are not subjects that typically draw us out on a weekend afternoon.  His involvement in a project, though, drew us to Hotel Congress for a retrospective, replete with album covers and handbills and posters and newspaper criticism covering the walls.  A lot of the music was from the era when I was birthing and nursing, so it rang no emotional bells, but the effort and energy and creativity and enthusiasm brought us right along with the crowd.

It was his doing. 

As is often the case in Tucson, a weird conglomeration of old hippies and young hipsters, senior citizens looking for a free afternoon's entertainment, young families whose grown ups were friends of friends of the mastermind at the head of the event, music geeks, and random strangers filled the venue.  And, as is also often the case in Tucson, we learned some things, we enjoyed some others, and we reveled in his world.

It's unlike anyone else's.

Hockey's at the bottom of our sports-we-watch list... and it's a long list, as you denizens know.  It topped his list, and, as with everything he did, he put his money where his mouth is.  He worked to bring a professional hockey team to town, and he was the announcer at their games. He wrote of their prowess in the local paper.  He was a booster among boosters, til it all went awry.

More than hockey, though, was THE Ohio State University's football team.  He and TBG shared a deep-to-the-bone love of their Buckeyes.  It was only fitting that, on the day we learned of his passing, his team crushed Michigan by 30 points. 

His body revolted. He was hospitalized.  He was surgerized. He was loved and tended and all the professionals were proud of their work.  He woke up and didn't need the breathing tube and there was a hopeful vibe in the air and then he was gone.

There's an unfillable hole in the universe right now. 

No more goat or guinea pig or dachshund videos shared to his wife's page, just because he knew they made her giggle.  Their carefully divided household chores (she kept them fed; he kept them clean) can no longer fall into two even piles.  The menagerie of small, furry beasts won't have him at home, working on the computer, surrounded by Star Wars paraphernalia, dreaming up combinations of things that no body else saw or considered.

He was loved by many, and many loved him back, but TBG and I were lucky enough to revel in the love he had for his wife, Brenda Starr.  He promised her parents that she'd finish school and that he'd keep her well and carefully all the days of their lives, and he did until the end. 

His days were far too few.

Rest in Peace, Timothy Gassen.  You were one of a kind, a very special man, and our friend's love.  You will be missed.