Friday, July 31, 2020

John Robert Lewis

I like funerals. I like the raw emotion and the simple gestures.  I like the well told stories and the shared, rueful, laughter.  I like the occasional token - an angel coin from a young mother's service, the green satin ribbons we took from Grandpaw's casket - as well as the memories.  I like the remembrance of a life well-lived, if cut short before we were ready to say goodbye.

Funerals are a story telling time - how he met his wife, what he wore as he crossed the Edmund Pettis bridge - and that, too makes me smile.  They're old stories, or stories to be told only after I'm gone, and they always shine a light on a particular piece of the human spirit.  Joy or kindness, erudition or compassion, the teller wants us to know that about the deceased, and will stand, choking back tears, until the story is told.

Pericles and Antony and Abraham Lincoln were joined by Sheila Lewis O'Brien this afternoon.  She spoke of her Uncle Robert with such love, such delight, such passion that the tears rolled down my smiling cheeks.  The Presidents and others spoke truths and exhorted us to remember that  Democracy is not a state. It is an act.

I spent the day enjoying Congressman Lewis's life story.  It healed the hole in my heart created by our current situation, at least just a little.  He had such faith, such determination, such focus.  His funeral reminded me of all that is possible, of all that is necessary, of all that we can be.

Rest in peace, John Robert Lewis.  May your memory be a blessing.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

I Shopped at Costco Today

Actually, My Young Friend was the physical presence in the store.  I was available for consultations by telephone while she took my list and my Costco Visa card and walked the aisles. 

It was fun to imagine the store in my head as I organized the list for her.  I went down the outside aisle, rejecting the clothes and furniture and, I'm sure, Christmas decor on the right, and the tools and practical supplies on the left.  I sent her straight to the drink section, where we got to work. 

I wanted sparkling water, but in bottles not in cans.
 I knew that the bottle had green writing on it, but it's not Perrier.
 It's Italian, but the Kirkland brand.
 Oh wait!!! I see it!!!!!
Success is measured differently during a pandemic.  We were ecstatic.  

From there, things went smoothly.  The mini heads of romaine, one of which is just enough for the two of us as an appetizer (or, lately for TBG, as dessert), were unavailable, but these were just fine.
I didn't care if the eggs were organic; they are cage free and that's good enough for me. 
The flat of peaches and the loaves of Tillamook cheddar, the bag of sweet onions and the one of very sweet oranges navel (a cry from the Marin Farmer's Market, sent with love to my little girl), and the rotisserie chicken (only one, thank you) were much simpler.

After a phone call from the store to verify the fact that My Young Friend was authorized to shop for me and to use my credit card ( a delightfully friendly call, from an overworked but cheerful woman who thanked me for helping her...... which made no sense since she was keeping me safe), my entire list was delivered and placed just inside my doorway, and I had a chance to check in with my personal shopper.  

It's those intermittent yet personal moments that I miss.  But before I could sink into a funk, I looked at the picture My Young Friend sent me the first time she Pandemic Shopped for us:
Things could be worse.  They were.  Then, they were better for a little while, and now we are careening toward FlapJilly's disastrophe.... a disaster and a catastrophe rolled up into one.  

But I'm not going to concentrate on that right now.  It will get me nowhere, just as listening to Bill Barr was more painful than it was worth. (Thank you, @JoyceWhiteVance, for tweeting the highlights and saving my sanity.)  

Instead, I'm going to smile as I look at a full pantry, a sunny sky, and the face of the sweetest 6 year old birthday girl I know.  It's a much healthier place to be.
Self Portrait by FlapJilly
July, 2020

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Happy Birthday, FlapJilly

Six years ago last night, your mommy had a backache and wondered why.  She scoffed when I told her that she was in labor; you weren't due for a week or so and your mommy is a woman who plans ahead.  She assumed that you would, too.

By 7 in the morning, 6 years ago today, I was washing the bedding soaked from when her water broke, as Daddy drove you all to the hospital.  Of course, you were unaware of all this commotion, floating along in your pool of amniotic fluid.  While you were deciding when to join the world, I vacuumed and read and had just stretched out for a nice afternoon nap when I was summoned to the hospital.

Maga and Papa were there and Mommy wanted to be sure that I didn't miss any of the fun.  So the three of us sat in a lovely, sunny, almost comfortable waiting room, watching heavily pregnant women walking the hallways, trying to coax their recalcitrant passengers to get off the bus.  

That was fun, but seeing your Daddy's big grin as he walked down the hall, announcing your name and just about tripping over his joy.  

I won't describe the mad rush to hold you, your first night at home (replete with projectile pooping, a thunder storm, and a frantic dog), or my feeble attempts to figure out how to put a baby wrap around my self..... those are stories about us.

What I remember about you is your searching, piercing, big, dark eyes.  

I remember holding you on my chest at 3 in the morning so Mommy could sleep and I could sing you the songs my Bubba sang to me, tell you the stories Daddooooo made up for me, pat your back and croon shhhhhhh into your sweet smelling keppeleh as G'ma would have called your delicious little head.  

There was a chain behind you.  I was conscious of holding the next link

And now you are 6.  You need two hands to show us just how old that is.  You've left Disney's princesses behind for fairies and unicorns and adventures.  You'll be starting 1st grade, learning to read chapter books and write your very own stories. 

Where did the time go?

You're a big sister now.  You can cook and you can clean and you can amuse your grandmother for hours, adding filters and decorations to our FaceTime chats, loving how you look just as much as I do.  Your heart is as big as the Milky Way and your smile is as bright as those stars.  You have all the emotions, all the feelings, all the time.... and a Mommy and Daddy who understand and help you figure it all out.

There will be a time when we can hug.  There will be a time when you can style my hair.  For now, I can only send you virtual hugs and kisses .


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Reopening Schools - A Serious Question

In-person classes will probably look much the same on the university level.  Fewer inhabitants, perhaps, in the lecture halls, but otherwise, they're probably good to go.

Virtual classes, e-learning, the on-line option - call it what you will, it's not school.  But, it may be all we have... and that's worrying me.

Not a little..... a lot.

I've taken a few summer courses from Cornell over the years; those on-campus have been mind expanding works of wonder.  This summer's virtual offerings have been quite the opposite.  They were free; I got what I paid for.

If the Ivy League can't figure it out for the summer, I fear for the students paying full freight for the semester.

Cornell uses Canvas, a central hub where syllabus and questons and tech help and discussion groups can be found.  It was not very intuitive for me, but, like my aversion to Canon cameras, that might be a personal foible.  What was not personal was the utter lack of interest shown in the discussion sections by the other 75 members of the class. A few questions were raised, but even fewer were discussed.   When the professor asked for topics to be raised in the Q&A section, no mention was made of the conversations already started in the discussins.

Add to that the fact that the professor read his slides aloud and you'll begin to get a sense of my frustration.  The fact that a trusted friend admires the teacher adds to my woes; he's probably fine in the classroom, just miserable on the small screen.

Today's webinar started off just fine.  The connection was clear, the introduction was on-time and concise, the professor was charming and funny.  Then, he, too, began to read his slides out loud.  Word for word.  Every single one of them.  And then he said "Next slide, please."  

That should have been a clue; he wasn't controlling his own multi-media presentation.  The worker bees in the main office were in charge.  So, when he could no longer hear what they were saying, the webinar devloved into hundreds of people across the globe listening in on a tech support chat.  After 5 minutes or so, I signed out.  

Read the damn questions posted in the chat function.....unless you can't find the chat function.  Sign out and sign back in.  A 25 minute mini-lecture was all you prepared?  I'd blocked out the suggested 90 minutes.

These are adults with PhD's and a host of immediately available tech helpers.... and still it went awry.  Had I paid money for these sessions, this post would have a decidely darker tone.  But as I type to you I think of the students who will be returning to Notre Dame and Cornell and Harvard next month.... and the folks who will be fotting their bills.  

True, that generation of students is more computer literate than mine on the whole, but the faculty tends more toward my side of the generational curve.  Without the immediate feedback from the faces before them, very few will have the power to hold the attention of the students at the other end of the ethernet cable. 

Today's webinarian was fascinating (I was crocheting and listening so didn't notice he was reading aloud until several slides had passed) and held my attention easily.  The Odyssey professor, however, was more engaged with his screen than with the words coming out of his mouth. 

I spend a lot of time video chatting with FlapJilly; I recognize that seeing yourself in the little box in the corner is fascinating and distracting and often more fun than what's at the other end of the connection.  But if I were a parent paying $60,000 a year for my child's education, I'd certainly expect a whole lot more.

And so, the serious question - is this the inflection point for the ever rising cost of private colleges and universities?  

Monday, July 27, 2020


Returning kids to school has many components.  The CDC can't decide whether it's better for students to spend hours a day in sanitized bubbles, trying to learn to spell while not infecting themselves or others, or to stay at home without access to the internet, meals, or an actual living, breathing, trained adult to help them.

The fact that the need for schools and teachers is being conflated with the need for child care for working parents makes me too angry to type.  Los Angeles is setting up spaces to warehouse these children, sitting them socially distanced in cafeterias and gymnasiums and auditoriums and music rooms, superivsed by aides.  FlapJilly's district send a hundred gazillion attachments covering everything from the bus to the playground in the emails Little Cuter's receiving.

This is not going well.

In my little corner of the world, GRIN  is trying to bridge the digital divide (if someone could figure out what's needed we'd be glad to help foot the bill) while commiserating on-line with my teacher friends.  They miss the classroom, the students, their colleagues.... and they don't want to die.

Amdst all this arises the issue of masks.  The quilters in Tucson are being most generous; hundreds of kid sized masks are being made available to me (and others) just for the asking.  Not-Kathy's a quilter who does not make masks, but she's my conduit to those who do.  In a town like ours, with two degrees of separation between a need and an answer, she's my mask life-line.

But, as the principal and I were discussing on the phone last week, how do we keep those masks attached to those kids?  They'll have to take them off to eat.  They'll be permitted to take them off on the playground if they are playing far away from anyone else.  Not everyone has pockets ... or pockets without holes. Do they toss them all in a heap and then each one grab one at the end?

Double clip lanyard were the answer we came up with, with bulldog pincers instead of a j-hook clip, on a black flat cloth that will feel soft around young necks.  Finding the right price, conveying my need in a pitiful tone to customer service clerks on Chat functions, doing the math on random scraps of paper on my still almost-clean desk..... the project kept me busy from Friday through the weekend.  I placed the order on Monday; the box of 700 lanyards arrived on Saturday.
My plan was to spend that money on books for the kindergarten classrooms.  I've been collecting titles (thanks to long-time denizen dkzody for the tips) and was looking forward to spending a productive afternoon at Bookmans and Barnes and Noble, turning donated dollars into stories to share.

But I won't be sitting on the grown up chair in front of 20 little faces at a time... not anytime soon, at least.  Garden Club may be happening, but even that is still unsettled.  If in-person learning ever does start here in Tucson, I fear it will intermittent at best - how many classrooms will find a substitute ready to step into the fray if the teacher becomes ill?

So I swallowed my sorrow and spent the money on safety equipment.  

I. Spent. Money. On. Safety. Equipment.

Not your tax dollars, local or state or federal.  Not funds allocated from the public pot to the public good. Nope.  Donations sent by caring individuals, people who wanted to put books and plants and fun in front of kids are being use for safety equipment.

It wasn't a lot of money.  I still have lots left to give.  But I'd rather be dropping off Crayola's new Colors of the World  
than lanyards to keep masks on necks when kids don't need them covering their noses and mouths.

Is 2020 over yet?

Friday, July 24, 2020

Have a Nice Weekend

It would help if something happened.

I've spent some time helping to bridge the digital divide, trying to figure out on-line gardening, and fertilizing my roses and containers during the lovely rainstorm this morning.

I read a little, exercised a little, ate a little and cooked even less.  For excitement, I ordered two Brain Quest workbooks for FlapJilly.

I watched a lot of talking heads, and noticed that Chasten and Peter Buttigieg sit in the exact same chair when they are being interviewed, whether for Joy Reid or Time Magazine.  I finished a baby blanket while listening to the yammering... it all sounds like yammering to me right now.

It was a stellar day in Covid Land;  everyone I love is safe and healthy.  Sending protective vibes your way, denizens.  I'm going to spend the weekend imagining that Little Cuter and I live in Portland, and that we've spent the last few nights in bicycle helmets and swim goggles and yellow t-shirts, standing as a buffer between Trump's hooligans and the protesters. 

It's been a stellar day.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

From a Different Perspective

Perhaps the worst part of shelter in in place is the lack of novelty.  I love my house.  I love my views.  I love my pool and my shelves of books and my kindle and my television and my closet of crochet projects and I wish I could see anything but all of them right now.

The same old same old is getting me down.  Perhaps that's why I was so pleased on Monday to discover three new ways of looking at three different subjects.  My brain was surprised.  I could feel it expanding to include the new perspectives; my smile reflected the joy inside.

Two of my moments came during Nicolle Wallace's MSNBC afternoon hour of what the f** has Donald Trump done now?  Usually, she amplifies my feelings.  On Monday, I turned two corners.

First, Richard Stengel, former editor of Time, was talking about Portland and the unmarked camo wearing police detaining protesters.  "The President has it backwards.  The States provide policing.  The Federal Government provides pandemic care.  Not the other way around."

It was the clearest way of stating what has been bothering me about the situation.  It's concise, it's honest, and it's understandable even to the most close minded....... I hope, since I plan to use it widely and often.

Next, came Maya Wiley, she of the fabulous grey dreadlocks, potential candidate for Mayor of New York City, professor at the New School (where, if I lived my life over again, I would study ), and snarky regular commentator on MSNBC.  The conversation turned from terror in the streets to Alzheimer's disease; Maya cared for her mother as she declined and died.  She reminded me of what I already knew - taking that mental status test is a stressful experience. 

The Look At Me! I Aced It!! response of our President reminded her, and me, of our mothers' responses.  It's a stressful experience, wondering how much of your brain is no longer able to distinguish an elephant from a rhino.  Doing well is confirming that you aren't slipping.... even as you know, in some corners of what remains, that you are. 

I spent a while remembering G'ma.

How did I do?  She wasn't asking about the results, really.  She was wondering, in real time, how much of herself was left.  Trump's excitement over doing well is, as Ms Wiley pointed out, familiar to anyone who has had the pleasure of caring for someone who is in decline.

The fact that the conversation went on to discuss how much of DJT's brain is actually working.  I couldn't listen.

And then there was TBG, the one who knows me best of all, who said something that should have been obvious to us all along.  I was noting that my walking has improved to where my gait is nearly symmetrical.  I'm still not fast, and I can't maintain it for long, but I find myself, more often than not, engaging my back and my outer thigh and my lower abs as I walk, upright and not bent forward, hips swiveling but not jerking from side to side.  I'm not Lauren Bacall sashaying to Hoagy Carmichael in To Have and Have Not, but I'm not Frankenstein just up from the operating table, either.

I told him that swimming was awakening muscles that had lain dormant for years.  I'm aware of the interactions of different parts of my body as they are used in an active, prone postiion.  I can isolate the weaker parts and work on them i the poool in ways I can't on land.  I attributed my walking progress to my swimming progress (I'm up from 6 laps to 50) as TBG cocked his head and smiled.

Your dad loved swimming too, y'know.  He was good at it, too, almost all the way up until the end.  He always said it was the best exercise for him, and you have his body.

Duh.  Of course.  Daddooooo swam every day in Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's pool in Island Park, thanking the Senator on his way out of the community center every time he left.  Though his physical structure was crippled by arthritic hips, the rest of him was strong and powerful.  His only exercise ws swimming. 

Why I never thought of that before is a mystery best left for the sages.  All I know is that I now have a renewed commitment to the pool.

Three new ways oflooking at the world, all discovered in one day.  My brain was very very happy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Umwelt - Thoughts on My New Favorite Word

Umwelt - the world as it is experienced by a particular organism.  

I'm considering the umwelt of the lizards dashing across the courtyard.  The ground covered with mini stones must be like rock hopping on the mountain for me.  

I'm considering the umwelt of the Maya, somewhat larger in scale but an organism nonetheless.   We can imagine it, pretending that we understand what motivated the hands chiseling out statuary and steps. But without the Maya themselves, it's only play acting.  

The Mayan umwelt no longer exists.  There is a hole in the cultural universe of humankind.  Ever since I learned the word a few weeks ago, I've been having thoughts like these.  It's probably not the healthiest thing for my brain to be concocting these images of what has been lost.

I realized that and tried to move on, with some (see the lizard above) success.  

But I'm also wondering about the umwelt of our individual responses to the pandemic, bringing the word down to the smallest human entity - one of us.  I'm laughing as I remember R. D. Laing's inexplicable Politics of Experience: 
Your experience of me is not inside you and my experience of you is not inside me, ...
and I fear that I'm going down a rabbit hole with this one.  But what will it be like when we all begin to interact with one another again?  We've each experienced the world from an individual perspective for so long now, with no end n sight (at least for those of you who are reading this, who, I assume agree with me about the seriouslness of what's going on outside with The Yuckiness).  

Do I want to go back to the way things were?  Am I enjoying bits and pieces of being isolated? What are my neighbors doing and thinking?  What used to be a collective, a We, the people, now is not only politically but physically distanced.  We've spent lots of time reveling in our own umwelts, forgetting about the larger organism, the USofA that ought to be reeling from what's now the third story on the news shows - anonymous, camo-clad, agents of the government are kidnapping people on the streets of Portland.  

And, as the Governor of Oregon pointed out just now, the graffiti they were there to protect remains, untouched, just as it had been for three weeks before these detentions.  

I've wandered, haven't I.  This organism has spent too much time examining the lint in her navel, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Grandma's Woes

Doing good feeds my soul.  Right now, I'm running on fumes.  Grandma needs her Prince kiddos hugs for fuel.  

This is the time of year when I'd contact Albertsons and remind my friend, the grocery manager, that I want all the baked goods in the land.  I'd pull out my list of What to Deliver Where and In What Order, and retype it so that the additions I made last year are available in a big, bold font, readable as I cruise through Tucson, dropping off goodies and checking in with old friends at all ths chools in the District.

I won't be doing that this year.  No way I'm going into building after building, exposing myself to others and surfaces and particles floating in the air and landing on me. I don't think I could keep my (now very long) hair out of my face without swiping at it with hands that might be infested with the virus.

I know that contracting it from surfaces is unlikely.  But the likelihood increases with the number of contacts, and the Back to School Love Feast requires a lot of contacts.  I don't go into stores any more.  I have curbside delivery even at our local diner; I leave the mney under the windshield wiper and they put the food on the hood of the car.  We wave, the server leaves, and I get out and retrieve lunch.  Safeway and Walmart put the groceries in my trunk, Whole Foods and DoorDash leave sustenance on the pony wall by the little black gate.  

I interact with almost no one in person.  I can't see the sense in changing that ..... although skipping it this year, for the first time in 10 years is making me very, very sad.

But that's nothing compared to the garden.  I drove by on April 30th, and this is what I saw.

Lonely. Overgrown. Untended. drowning in greenery, smothering the tiny veggies yearning to breathe free.  

I went with the intention of weeding.  I left after taking these photos.  I can only imagine what it looks like now.

I am thinking about collecting pots and trying to salvage anything that can be transplanted.  I am thinking about potting them up and distributing them to the students.... how, I do not know.  I am thinking about creating a Zoom Grandma's Garden Club and having the kids interact with their plants and their friends and me, all on-line.  

My USDA/UofA contact sent me an email with links to webinars about school gardening.  I sent back an email asking for pandemic guidance.  I feel comfortable with the garden part.... it's the disease that's got me flummoxed.  I am sure that I can make something virutal feel like fun, but I'm missing getting my hands dirty, seeing the bugs they find, cautioning them that tools stay below the shoulders. 

It's not the same, but nothing is the same.  Little Cuter quoted Oprah for me - anxiety is wishing that what is, is not - and that helps, a little.  But as the weeks dwindle to days before what would have been the 10th anniversary year of my volunteering at Prince, I'm having a hard time ot wishing for this all to be over.


Right now.  Vanishing.... in just the magical thinking way our President is counting on.

A girl can dream, right?

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Tatooist of Auschwitz

I am not drawn to Holocaust stories.  I saw Schindler's List, alone, in Marin, and couldn't talk for hours afterwards.  When I took Big Cuter to see it, hea asked to leave when the little boy was shot, and the red blood fell onto the snow.  As we, shakily, walked out, an older wman in an aisle seat met my eye and nodded a knowing smile.

It was important that he see it.  It was really too hard to watch.
G'ma made me join her on the couch one night.  We sat together, watching films taken by the liberators of the concentration camps.  The black and white images of corpses stacked like firewood are still stored in my brain; I don't let myself go any further into that box. 
My Cousin Noomi fled the backyard when our cat wandered through the family reunion.  G'ma told us not to worry; Noomi was remembering what she had had to eat in The Camps and it made her sad.

The reality of what I'd seen on the television was sitting in a lawn chair under my pin oak tree.  It was enough to make a tween's head explode.
One of my favorite patients at Sloan-Kettering was a Holocaust survivor, as was his older brother.  I promised my mother I would keep him safe, was the older one's constant refrain.  He'd been a sonderkommando, he dared to tell me one day, in my office, with the door closed.  It kept them both alive.

Is the word unfamiliar to you?  The Sonderkommano took the bodies from the gas chambers to the crematoria.  They were fed and clothed and housed well enough to keep their strength to do their jobs.  The Tatooist, too, was fed and housed and protected, because he was necessary.  He vowed to come out alive, and did what he had to do in order to get there. 
So why did I read the book?  It was a freebie on my Kindle, and the next new book in my queue.  The sun was out and my belly was full and my heart was light; I couldn't have read it if I were in a Covid Funk.

But it turns out to be a horror story wrapped in a blanket of love.  The love is everywhere, even in the beatings.  Despicable acts follow random kindnesses; I cried and I laughed and I exclaimed aloud as I zipped through the pages today.

It's a love story and a history tale, a reminder of the depravity of man and a beacon of light in a dark season. 


Friday, July 17, 2020


I have so many plans.  I haven't had any plans for so very long and now I have so many plans.

I am taking an on-line course from Cornell's summer program.  The lectures and videos could consume half the day, if I let them.  The reading could take up the rest.  But I've read the text several times before, and the videos are History channel and the animated Mythic Warriors - interesting in their own right but not worthy of more of my time today.

I have plans.

I found a book on my Kindle; its origin is a mystery to me.  It could be an Amazon Prime New Reads freebie, or a book I had on hold from the library.  It doesn't matter.  I started it after checking in with my course (no comments in the Discussions so I moved on) and finished it before TBG and I swam this afternoon. The characters were in the water with me.

It's November Road by Lou Berney.  A fixer with a heart, a woman on the lam, and the murder of JFK kept me in my chair, with only a quick break for lunch.  I almost forgot I had plans.

Now, after I finish writing to you, we'll FaceTime with the grandchildren, then Zoom with Dr K and Not-Kathy and Fast Eddie and JannyLou, because it's too damn hot to sit outside in the driveway or on the patio.  I'll have to think about what to wear; this is as close to "going out" as it gets these days.

A fast dinner and then Trivia, again on Zoom, with Big Cuter and Queen T and their very very very smart friends will round out the evening.  

So many plans.  So very odd.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

She REALLY Doesn't Like Her Uncle Donald

At TBG's urging, I bought Too Much and Never Enough - How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man last week, and downloaded it to the Kindle when it was released yeaterday.  I read it today.  It's all you think it is, and more, with a dash of vitriol that's understandable and vaguely unsettling.

There's not a happy camper in the bunch.

The subtitle tells the story.  Her grandfather, her grandmother, her uncles and her aunts.... every one of them and their spouses have their secrets laid bare.  The money held them together the way G'ma used to describe certain relatives on Daddooooo's side: sure, they'll give it to you.... but there are always strings attached.

Humiliation, belittlement, denigration - Mary Trump describes a Dickensian childhood surrounded by those who thought they were better than she, than the rubes, than everyone except Donald and Fred.  For Fred, she has no excuses.  For Donald, she uses her PhD in psychology to provide a credible description of the psychological damage and the coping skills that evolved from growing up in such a dysfunctional family.  

The first half of the book is a deep dive into the family, as seen from the perspective of a cousin who was almost-inside.  The bruises she carries from her father's sad life pervade the book; at times, I had to put it down and take a breath.  

The second half of the book, dealing with Atlantic City and beyond, is more vicious. At times, the paragraphs fall over one another, a catalog of misbehaviors, stunning in their careless disregard for the rules, any rules.

It's a fast and easy and breezy read.  It explains, perhaps, some of the why's.  I don't think it will change anyone's mind about anything, but it's an interesting peek behind the curtain.  I'll leave you with this, from Chapter 9: The Art of the Bailout.
As usual, the lesson Donald learned was the one that supported his preexisting assumption: no matter what happens, no matter how much damage he leaves in his wake, he will be okay. Knowing ahead of time that you're going to be bailed out if you fail renders the narrative leading up to that moment meaningless. Claim that a failure is a tremendous victory, and the shameless grandiosity will retro-actively make it so. That guarnateed that Donald would never change, even if he were capable of changing, because he simply didn't need to.  It also guaranteed a cascade pf increasingly consequential failures that would ultimately render all of us collateral damage.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


For two weeks we sat outside, watching the sunset with Big Cuter and Queen T, his sweetie, comfortably ensconced in chairs on the back patio.  There were some clouds.  There were bats.  There were giant flying beetles which attacked my son, and only my son.

The sunsets were grey and pink and bright yellow.  The clouds were high, when they were there at all.  For the last few days of their visit, the kids saw storm clouds moving in from the south, bringing humidity but no thunder or lightning.

Then, they left.

And all hell broke loose.

The winds on Saturday night were astoundingly fierce.  The front windows, facing east, were bowing.  I stood outside under the overhand in the backyard and felt absolutely nothing.  Not a breeze, not a whiff of impending rain, not a leaf blown into my face.  It was peaceful and calm, sheltered under the corners of the house, while the trees in the open space beyond were whippped to a fenzy.

There was no lightning to amuse me.  I went back inside to the television, and then to bed.

In the morning, the pool was covered with plant detritus.  A glance out the library window and the dining room window showed no damage in the front; we set to work cleaning the mess to spare the pool's filter an overwhelming task.  Then, I opened the garage door to pick up the Sunday paper and I saw this:
Yes, that's one third of our palo verde, lying peacefully on my driveway.  Want to see the damage up close and personal?  
Branches broke off the still-standing trunk, healthy branches torn asunder by the winds. One of the main trunks (palo verdes are pruned to have multiple trunks) split neatly from the others.
The tree is not rotted; you can tell by the healthy innards exposed by the disastrophe.... and it is a disastrophe, even as the animals begin to build homes in the newly exposed areas.  See the thin yellow strand crossing the V?  That wasn't there earlier this morning when I took the first photos.

The desert is not easy.  The extremes have consequences.  For the homeowner, that means scheduling the handyman to clear the driveway and dispose of the fallen limbs.  For those who live in and on and under the Great Outdoors, it means new possibilities.

There are consequences.  Not all of them are problematic; some bring opportunities.  Of course, since I'm at the top of this food chain, the new housing development currently under construction will be removed tomorrow.  Urban renewal in my own front yard.... I feel (vaguely) guilty.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Happy BIrthday, Giblet

You are at the beach today.  You are two years old.  You don't realize that the world is weird.

I would like to be you.

You are your Dada's Mini-Me, from the backwards ball cap to the swagger, stopping off along the way at the tractors and the love.

Because, just like your Dada, you are all about the love. 

I yuh you was your first sentence, the first time you joined the conversation, the first time you could say in words what your body had been telling us all since the day you were born.  You are so happy to be where you are, and you can't wait to share that joy.

Even before you toddled, you managed to maneuver yourself into a hug... on the nearest available lap.... or dog.  You never stayed very long, being a perpetual motion machine, but the quality of the time spent more than outweighed its brevity.

And your smile - incoming and on the way out, your enthusiasm often overtaking reason and gravity and No, floor, No! comes right after Oh, NO! during your inevitable flops.  Undaunted, you are up and running.

Bruises be damned!  Full speed ahead!

You are exasperatingly delightful. Your face lights up into sparkles and your eyes twinkle with that I know I'm naughty but I'm also DAMN CUTE, aren't I???? look and suddenly Mama's headache from all your screaming vanishes.  Exasperatingly delightful.... or just plain charming?

Screaming is your default right now.  It's a phase.  It will pass, just as your deliciously chubby self has vanished, replaced by a sturdy little boy, standing on the top of the slide, arms flung overhead, announcing your presence with authority.

Happy Happy Birthday, Giblet!!  Gramma loves you very much.

Monday, July 13, 2020

I Have My Desk Back

It started at just before Thanksgiving, when I paid the last set of bills due before the holidaze began.  I created a file to hold my receipts and wish lists, but found that most everything I did was online, and printing out paperwork was redundant and wasteful.

When packages arrived, I opened and recycled the envelopes and boxes, stacked the gifts in appropriate piles, and put the invoices in the manila envelope designed to hold such things.
Guests arrived. Gifts arrived.  Thank you notes were required, so a pile was started in one corner of the desk, designed to hold such things.

Then the library turned into a bedroom and the desk was where I tossed things I didn't want to lose.... all atop one pile on one side, rising precariously out of the wire mesh in/out box, which was designed to hold such things, only not as many of them as were added.

It went on like this after the guests left in early January.  I took my time taking down the decorations, and TBG didn't seem to mind the memories they sparked.  Organizing my thank you's and returning that which did not work/fit/appeal and getting ready to reopen the school garden after winter break took all my time. 

The desk kept getting worse. 
Yes, the chair was involved as well.

Bills come electronically.  The printer broke sometime after quarantine began so I couldn't add anything on my end, but the USPS kept sending items which I opened and tossed onto the pile... the one designed, at this point, to collect such things.

Then Big Cuter brought his sweetheart for a mid-isolation vacation, and she needed the library and desk to continue to be productive. 

I had no choice.  I found 3 boxes - garbage, recycle, and deal with later.  Everything else went to its proper file/drawer/room/shelf.  In one long morning, I reduced the pile to this.

And now I am sitting at my desk, which I've not done in six months or more, watching the weather come in acrfoss the mountains.  It's good to be back.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Feeling Pretty Good Right Now

7 - 2.

Gorsuch and Kavanaugh in the majority. 

Thomas agreeing that the President does not enjoy unlimited immunity from prosecution. 

I can wait to see his tax returns.  I think Congress ought to be reined in if they are just looking for trouble.  The details were always less important than the fact that he was bitching about it at all.

The arguments were spurious and the Justices saw through them.  This delights me. 

I've been worried about our institutions and their ability to withstand Trumpism.  For today, at least, my anxiety has lessened.
Okay, that's the part I'd say in public.  For you, though, there's this:

Gorsuch and Kavanaugh in the majority.  Oh, this makes me smile so hard my cheeks are aching.

Can you imagine the noise from the Orange Menace when he heard?  Can you imagine how pissed off he must be? 

All of a sudden the reality sinks in - he can't always get what he wants.  Even the people who owe him a life-time appointment can say no and there is nothing he can do about it.

He's ruined our country's reputation. He's sending secrets to Putin.  He's creating super-spreader events. 

I'm not a nice person for wishing ill on anyone, and I'm feeling vaguely guilty about typing this, but I'm honest here in The Burrow, and right now my inner bad girl is doing a happy dance.
Big Cuter wants me to emphasize that if the Court had ruled differently, the tax returns would be available to Congress immediately, giving the Trump campaign one more distraction from any positive message they might possibly find to convince someone to re-elect the man.

I don't think anything will change the minds of those who want to vote for him, or those who will never vote for him.  For those in the middle...... if our planless pandemic isn't enough for them, they're already lost.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

We Are So Screwed

VP Pence: "The president said today, we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough. That’s the reason why next week, the C.D.C. is going to be issuing a new set of tools."
Any wonder the man paid someone to take his SAT's?

Any wonder he can't pay attention to the PDB?

Any wonder that he thinks Frederick Douglass is still alive?

Any wonder that he alone alerted the world to the meaning of Juneteenth?

Any wonder that setting off fireworks on Mt. Rushmore seemed like a good idea?

Any wonder that he wants a full, un-distanced, unmasked house at his nominating convention? 

Every once in a while I get too fed up with his nonsense.  This is right up there with the Sharpie on the hurricane map - our President is an idiot.

There, I've said it.  

Lash out at me. Chastise me.  Tell me I need to look for the good............  there is none.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020


My landscapers are coming tomorrow.  They've been coming every month for three years.  It's always the same guys.  They've told me their names a dozen times.  The answers don't seem to stick.

I knew the name of my favorite waitress at Ghini's; her male counterpart remains a mystery even after ten years of tuna fish sandwiches.  

First Watch and Margie go together like the roast beef and havarti on toasted bread without cheese crust she brings me without my having to ask.  Why her name has stuck in my feeble brain when the delightful hostess at Grumpy's, our around the corner, neighborhood dive, has never made it into my permanent memory bank?

TBG is worse than I am.  When we lived in Chicago we had an ongoing laugh over his Beth Who???, in response to any comment about our friend Beth, a woman we saw on a fairly regular basis.  He uses mnemonics to help. Although George Washington and Martha reminds me of the couple he references, their real names are Al and Sally.  He has no clue.

He's made a point of learning the names of the obscure character actors who reappear in the old movies we love.  Ian Hunter.  Ann Sheridan.  Eugene Pallette.  Gail Patrick.  He recognizes and names them all.  

But the mail carrier who hand delivers our stuff when the mailbox gets full, to be sure we're just lazy and not in need - no idea at all.

Ann Landers wrote that repeating the name 3 times sets it firmly in your brain.  I tried that for a while.  My brain must not be wired like hers was.

But the best name story happened in my house, when TBG and I hosted a holiday gathering for the hundred or so people in his department, inviting all those he'd hired and their families. There were a lot of them.  I approached one young family member with an outstretched hand, introduced myself, and apologized for forgetting her name, if we'd met before.

Oh, yes,  we have met before.  Seven times.  We met at.... and.... and....

And so it went, a list of the seven times she'd told me her name.  By the 4th instance, I was ready to douse her with my drink.  At the end, to her self-satisfied and smug face, I smiled and said I'm glad to meet you for the 8th time and walked away, wondering why she thought snarking off to the boss's wife was a good idea.

Still, it makes for a good story when I've embarrassed myself by not remembering Beth Who?????

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

How're You Doing, Parenting-wise?

Little Cuter and SIR got their answer on Saturday night.  

They celebrated the 4th of July with fireworks on the street.  The kids in their immediate neighborhood are about the same age; the grown-ups share the same desire for loud and sparkly explosions.  Three families organized a social distanced display, each on their own driveway, watching the colors and cheering the booms from their front yards .

There was no down time involved, no driving and parking and waiting patiently in lawn chairs for the fun to begin.  Now, Dada!! was enough.  SIR constructed a platform and kept inquisitive toddlers far away as he demonstrated his dominance.  The man does know how to put on a show.

Then the neighborhood quieted down, and the family went into the backyard for s'mores and fairy lanterns.  They lit them and watched them waft into the air, disintegrating as the flames ate their light coverings.

Little Cuter explained that wishes could be made;  FlapJilly's face turned wistful.  

Mama wondered, gently, if the kid wanted to share her wish.

I wished that I could always spend this much time with my family..........

Monday, July 6, 2020

FlapJilly's a Star

TBG and I are doing all that we can to insure that Mark Kelly replaces Martha McSally in the US Senate in January.  We planned to host an Afternoon With The Candidate in our home in April.  Sadly, that (and many other things) didn't happen.  

And then, the campaign had the idea to host an on-line Astro-Hour.  Mark and his astronaut brother, Scott, Rusty Schweikert, and Karen Nyberg (whose husband just rode up to the ISS) talked about one another, about space, and about how wonderful Mark is.

Then they took questions.  Eight of them were written in and read by the moderator.  And then there was FlapJilly.  

The Finance Director wondered if I knew any children who might want to ask a question of an astronaut.  A kid asked a question on the first of these calls, and it was a big hit.  Did I know someone he could ask?

Did I know someone?  

I hung up, called Little Cuter and FlapJilly, explained the situation, and received a commitment.  The deal was done; all we had to do was wait until Wednesday night.  Til then, the kid and her mom practiced the question, decided on an outfit, and decorated the wall background with the mural of the planets The Bride taught her kindergartener and ours about during e-learning.  

Was she excited?  Sleep was an impossibility the night before; the next day was July, her birthday month, and the Zoom call.

Finally,  the call began. The grown ups talked and the kid had a snack to keep her awake until she went on after 8pm..... well past bedtime.  

And then, my granddaughter's face was on the screen, right next to all those famous people.  She was introduced as a future astronaut.  She waved and said HI!! and then wondered, in front of 200+ people on the Zoom call, to adults she'd never met before, How do you bake cookies in space?

Karen Nyberg laughed and explained the problems of baking in the ISS.  She described an experiment in which they actually did bake cookies, but they couldn't eat them.... they were an experiment.  The other faces on the screen were grinning at my little one; we here in Arizona were breaking our faces with smiles.

It took about 50 seconds.  Then they went outside to scream and dance.  FlapJilly felt like her skin is on fire!!  She was SO PROUD of herself (as she affirmed this afternoon: SO PROUD!!.  

They had ice cream to finish the celebration before crashing in bed.

Remember when you had a new experience like that?

There's hardly anything new in Covid-land, hardly any adventures.  It's been a challenge to provide room for growth when you don't leave the confines of your house.  Though the campaign thanked us profusely, it is really they who should be thanked.  

Just look at this face:
(taken by right after the call ended)

Friday, July 3, 2020

Happy (Weirdest Ever) 4th of July

reworked, revised, revisited...yes, you've read parts of this before

The sky is pure blue, "painted that way as G'ma said every time she looked up.  The occasional fluffy white cloud drifts by, and I'm hearing G'ma remark on that, too.  The flag in front of the house is swaying, the pole wedged between the base and the capital of one of the front columns, secured with thin, silver, crafting wire.  

It's an elegant solution to TBG's reluctance to put holes in his house;  I feel like Daddooooo every time I wrap another ring around the post.

Daddooooo was big on ingenious remedies to intractable problems.  He was also big on flags and the 4th of July.  We always went to the beach.  We always stopped at Custom Bakers on the way home, where the owners always let us go back and stick our fingers in the vats of frosting.

We always went to the Boardwalk in Long Beach, arriving as the sun was setting.  Skeeball and mechanical fortune tellers and the smell of the ocean, too black to be seen but too noisy to go unnoticed, occupied us as we waited for night to fall.  We practiced our ooohs and aahhhs; we were in fine form by the time the booms and the bangs began.

Through it all, the flags were flying.

There was a big one in the bracket beside the garage door, until the house was painted and further holes were frowned upon (is this some kind of male thing I just don't get?). A pole-holding-tube was sunk into the flower box, and while it was neither sturdy nor attractive, it did the job and as far as Daddooooo was concerned that was that.

There was a plastic flag attached to the car's antenna, and all our bicycles had flags on the handlebars.  

I'm not letting the tradition fade away.  I'm ambivalent about much of America right now, confused by rethinking our past, embarrassed by our failure to keep ourselves safe.  But I'm not giving up.  I'm going to work to rid us of DJT and install a government that is truly of, by and for the people.  That's the most and the least I can do.
Happy Fourth of July, denizens! 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

I'm Old

It started when the stay at home orders were just being introduced.  All of a sudden, I was in a Vulnerable Cohort.

I don't want to be in a Vulnerable Cohort.  I don't feel old enough to be in a Vulnerable Cohort.  When did this happen?  How is it that most of the people in my life are also in this Vulnerable Cohort?

When the guidelines came out, having to scroll down and down and down to find 1952 while registering for something on-line seemed more ominous than amusing.  Noticing that I was in the Over 65 category smacked me in the face with reality - I am more likely to die than I was 30 years ago.

Surprising?  Probably shouldn't be, but it is.

I watch Expedition Unknown on the Discovery Channel.  Josh Gates, the host, is a 21st century
Indiana Jones.  He swims into underground caves, climbs ancient ruins, descends (by rope) into venues that normal people would avoid even thinking about.  He travels by pushcart and motor bike and gyro-copter.  He camps out in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, or, in his words 
I'm in the middle of a zoo with no cages.  If anyone needs me, I'll be crying in my tent.
That's the kind of guy I'd love to join on an adventure.  He's the Anthony Bourdain of explorers; he is as interested in the people and their clothing and their foods and their lives as he is in finding the ancient city of.... the hidden treasure of.... the long lost relic buried beneath.....

All those extraneous pieces fascinate me.  The scary parts terrify me, but if Josh can do it so can I..... until I realize that I am 68 years old, with a reconstructed hip and the endurance of ...... I'm hard pressed to come up with an analogy of my lack of aerobic capacity.  There's no way in the world that he'd take me along.  I couldn't keep up, though my attitude would be upbeat and charming. 

I find myself having the same conversation in my head, over and over and over.  I could do that. That would be cool.  Too bad I have kids and a house and a husband; I'd go on that adventure in a heartbeat.  

It all feels very real, as if I actually could make a call and join the crew. 

And then I remember.  I'm old.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Time Flies ....

.....whether you're having fun or not.  

This was the Google doodle today, the last day of June, Pandemic 01.  

There is so much about this that was unheard of, let alone unthinkable, when I was FlapJilly's age.  There is so much more (though, obviously, still not enough) freedom to be than there was in 1958;  Marlo Thomas's iconic Free to Be You and Me was published in 1972, 
 the year TBG graduated Cornell.

Amster's boys, who you met in pre-school, are now Messers 15 and 17, high school kids who text to see if I need any help.  I asked Amster how this could have happened; Idk  I seriously do not.  

FlapJilly's going to ask the astronauts a question on tomorrow's Zoom AstroHour fund raiser for Mark Kelly.  When I met Mark Kelly my granddaughter wasn't even a glimmer in her parents' eyes.  Now, instead of a in hospital room surrounded by armed security guards, the kid is going to say hello from her dining room table.  

I can conjure Mark sitting in the recliner in my room, chatting with MTF about space, as if it were happening right now.  I can also go back, oh how easily can I go back, to the days before knowing an astronaut was on my radar, before I was perforated.  Those first few days home from the hospital, how it felt, what I thought, they are all deeply imprinted.  

It was yesterday and it was forever ago.

It's hard to remember that life is going on when I'm watching it unfold on the television and on my phone and on my iPad and on Lenore the Lenovo without being able to add any of my own items to What Happened Today.  

As JannyLou texted yesterday,  we will be doing nothing here and then starting again.