Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Happy Hanukkah

Amster and I hosted the Recurring Hanukkah Party last night.  We can't remember when we did the first one.  We know we skipped last year (COVID) and one other year (didn't feel like it), so calling it Annual is unseemly.  Still, it seems to happen (almost) every year, and people seem to like to attend, and we really enjoy the prep and the party (the cleaning up, not so much), and we are still doing it now that the oldest kids are in college - it deserves a special title.

The program is always the same.  My stash of dreidels and pennies are displayed in every Hanukkah dish and plate I owned..... owned because one of the perks of the party is that Amster stores all the stuff I've accumulated over the years.  All I have to do is show up with latkes and jelly doughnuts (thank you Dunkin' for 75 donut holes on 2 hours notice) and the story - she and her boys have done all the set up by the time I arrive.
After a brief explanation, the youngest guests gambled with pennies and fancy dreidels.  (Note the mask on the only unvaccinated attendee.)  Mr. 16 made yet another menorah at the Hanukkah Party, this time with his girlfriend by his side.  
Time passes and they all grow up, but some things never change..... like good food and good friends.

Wishing you love and light and laughter.
Happy Hanukkah!

 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Transitions

The scotch broom is shedding its white fluff, covering the pool and the patio and ourselves with allergens.  The yellow season detritus is prettier and less sneeze-inducing.  Both turn the pool to bracken.

The weather is cooling down to the 70's from the 90's, although the 80's still make an appearance, for old times sake, I guess.  The roses are blooming, the bougainvillea refuse to wilt, and the ants are deflowering the nandina (Heavenly Bamboo) with industry and dedication.

Fall and Thanksgiving decor is now back in boxes.  Chanukah is on display.  Two menorahs, a few pretty dreidels, a pot holder and a towel is all the effort I can make this year.  My tiny pillows annoy TBG, so the sparkly menorah and Happy Hanukkah pillows are resting comfortably in their storage container.  

If we had company, I'd do more.  But this holiday is fast on the heels of Thanksgiving, with hardly any breathing space between them.  I haven't mustered my holiday spirit to encompass massive decorating.

Amster and I are hosting our (Just About) Annual Hanukkah Party this afternoon at her house.  She's doing the dinner stuff, I'm bringing the holiday.  Potato latkes, jelly donuts, apple sauce .... it will smell delicious and taste even better.  There will be modeling clay for creating home made menorahs, and dreidels to spin for pennies.  

It's a school night so the festivities will end early.  The memories, I hope, will last a bit longer.


Friday, November 26, 2021

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Little Cuter made too many rolls.  I made none.  

Both JannyLou and Little Cuter had too many pies.  I had none.

My lemon tart had a strange deep yellow pool of color.  I know not why.

Queen T made a heart outlined in diced celery out of the mashed potatoes.  This was artistry, not Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters.

FlapJilly ate for 40 minutes, thus justifying the hours her mother spent in the kitchen preparing the meal.  Her brother ate nothing, preferring to do repairs on his plastic scooter with the plastic tools in his plastic tool belt.  Apparently, there were a lot of gears that needed work.

Our after dinner walk took us next door for a visit with our soon to be moving favorite neighbors and the Phoenix branch of their extended family.  Kids have a way of growing up while their parents don't change at all.

Now TBG is emptying the first load through the dishwasher while Big Cuter sets up the television so we can watch Hamilton.  

My heart and my belly are full.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Grateful

 Of all the many wonders in my life, perhaps the ones most full of wonder are you, denizens, people who take time out of their days to peek into mine.

Some of you are here every day at breakfast.  Some of you come by in the later afternoon.  

Many of you binge, a week or two at a time, and some of you read only when I'm out of town.

It doesn't matter if you are here every day or once in a while.  I am so grateful that there are those who think my thoughts are worth sharing, who laugh and cry and holler along with me.

Thank you, each and every one of you, for being here.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Small Bugs and Big Thoughts

There are fewer little black bugs when the sun isn't shining.  I have proven this, empirically, by placing my yoga mat in the same general area for three consecutive weeks.  I was enjoying the overcast sky, noticing the paucity of crawling creatures, when our Yogi called us to attention.

Welcome!  A cloudy day in Tucson..... (cue snowbirds grumbling)... and don't we love it (cue Tucsonans nodding).

Yes, we do love a change from the sunshine, but just a change.  If this goes on for another day or two we'll all begin to grumble.  But every once in a while, it's nice to be able to look up without squinting into the sun.

It wasn't cold, but it looked like sweater weather and everyone in the class had more than one layer covering their torso.  

I stood next to a pole for the balance poses, and spent some time investigating my inner self.... the one that knows I can't stand on one leg anymore.  That's not true - I've done it quite often, for minutes at a time. But since I've been perforated my mental image has shifted.  Unsure whether I can count on my body to hold me up, I default to staying safe and keep both feet planted.

I'm not thrilled with that mind set.  It gets in the way.  Yet there it is, firmly implanted, my go-to response.  I certainly don't want to fall down; the fear is valid.  But a positive attitude will bring positive results - at least in yoga - and my negativity was tilting me over on my side.

I started tree pose with my palm planted firmly on my post.  I ended with my arms above my head.  My left leg is fully capable of holding me up, of letting me bend forward - a bit - into dancer pose, and it's about time my psyche remembered that.

I give my right leg a pass on tasks like this.  It has a mind of its own, and when it's ready to hold me up it will let me know.  Today, I concentrated on all three foot centers pressing evenly into the ground as my left toes rested on the earth, my heel touching the standing ankle.

I was lost in the moment.

That's what I loved about yoga - being lost in the movement and the mental space.  For the first time in a long time I had it back.

There weren't even any little black bugs to disturb me.  It was blissful.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

It's Love

I sat on the bed, next to TBG, watching our son.  He was talking to his sister.  She was sad and angry and irritated and frustrated and mostly just not wanting things to be the way they are.

He, as usual, had his opinions - the right opinions.  He was, as always, certain of that.  He portrays himself as more black and white than his parents see, but today, clarity was exactly what his sister needed.  He was certainly there to give it.

He heard her.  He affirmed the correctness of her opinions; after all, they were his, too.  It was obviously to any sentient being that they were right and those on the other side were wrong.  Anyone who didn't see that was obviously too stupid to live.

The more he talked, the more animated he became.  He took the phone while standing and ended up on the little couch, bent over the phone as if he could pour his body through the ether and end up right next to her, looking deep into her eyes, maybe holding her hand, but showing her with every fiber of his being that he would go to the mat for her.  

He'd defend her heart and her actions and do everything possible to reassure her that she was right and they were wrong and that we were all quite proud of her for sticking to her guns.  It's one thing when your parents compliment you.  It's another thing entirely when it comes from your sibling, the one you admire for his inability to tell anything but the unvarnished truth.

She hung up feeling better, I think.  

Strong children and strong feelings and strong ties of love - I'm warm in the cockles of my heart.

Monday, November 22, 2021

It's Cold

Not snow cold or mid-February cold, but it's cold.

Not frozen feet and fingers cold.  Not runny nose cold.  Just cold.

I'm wearing a long sleeved sweater, the first time since the last time I felt cold - months ago.

I started the day in shorts.  Now, at dinner time, my knees are trying to creep up my legs so they can be warmed by the fabric resting tantalizingly just above them.  They are cold too.

My ankles are peeved as well.  I have lots of socks which could be cosseting them.  Unfortunately, none of them are on my body at the moment.

I'm cold.

It's sixty-nine degrees and I am cold.

Just put my picture on Wikipedia under Weather Wimp.

Friday, November 19, 2021

The Up-Side of The Brownie List

There are times when the 70+ names on The Brownie List seem overwhelming.  I was impressed with myself for mailing fifteen packages at once on Monday.  By Thursday, that feeling has been replaced by one of ennui.

I have three pans of brownies already baked.  I haven't had the energy to pack them and label them and mail them.  It's not that I haven't the time.  I just don't have the required smiling oomph to get it done.

And then I get a text from Sister, announcing that the brownies were gone in minutes.  I got a picture and verbiage from Brother, thanking me for providing his dinner.  The Seamstress and her fiance called for a lengthy video chat. 

I have tracking notifications set up and my phone is filled with texts from USPS.  I'm having fun thinking of the envelopes sitting on the front porch/mailbox/desk of those I love.  

This really is the gift that keeps on giving.  It reconnects me with my past and maintains friendships over decades.  After all, if I send you brownies, you have to say thank you.

I've got 55+ cards/texts/emails/calls to go.

That's a pretty good way to go into the weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

I'm rushing the season, and I apologize.  After all, I'm the one who rants on a yearly basis about stores putting up their Christmas decorations before Halloween, who avoided Macy's and patronized Nordstroms for that very reason.  

Yet, here I am, mailing some of  my Hanukkah brownies two weeks before the first day dawns.  I was worried about the post office as the holiday approaches - I took DeJoy's warnings about delays to heart.  So I baked on Sunday and mailed on Monday, sparing the fresh food from sitting in the bowels of the post office all weekend long.  I used Priority Mail, expecting a 3 day delivery time, well before the next weekend begins.

Imagine my surprise (I've always wanted to type that) when USPS texted me -15 times for each of 15 mailing envelopes - announcing that many of the packages would be delivered early, on Tuesday.  That's really early for the holiday - I hope no one feels pressured to match my promptness (is there a word for extreme promptness?).

It's not only my Hanukkah treats that are speeding through the mails.  Mail orders are arriving early, too.  Amazon and Fabletics have been speedy, with items delivered almost before the pixels are dry on the screen announcing their departure from the warehouse. 

I'm not complaining, merely describing an unusual fact pattern.  

It's creepy when something you expect to be terrible turns out to be better than ever..... what do I do with my Rage Against the USPS vibe when they are doing a good job?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Working in the 21st Century

These are my son's fancy work pants.

His wife amends that to fancy work from home pants, but still.....

Queen T's team building exercise was a Zoom taught class that created this masterpiece

from supplies mailed all over North America.

And TBG and I just smiled - Work sure looks different these days.





Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Back In The Garden

Masked and distanced - no hugs except the virtual kind - I took myself back to Grandma's Garden at Prince Elementary School.

My heart was warmed before I got there - the Principal told me that one of the after school groups had taken care of the space while I was gone.  They didn't want you to come back to a disaster.  
I love them.  It's nice to know that they love me back.

Opening the garden without having seen what awaited me led to the collection of foam brushes and sidewalk chalk before I showed up.  One of the scholars who'd worked on the garden showed me where the lettuce and the beans and the other seeds were planted in that bed; we don't know what's in the other one.  Since the situation requires careful consideration, we weren't digging in the dirt.

Instead, the artists got to work.
Under the watchful eye of the school's social worker (a human for whom there are no adequate words of praise), they colored the bricks and grinned at the photographer.
For some reason, the foam brushes and water delight the bigger kids.
The rough bricks destroy the brushes, no matter how careful a stroke you use.  
Water, foam brush, smooth metal -- it's very Zen,
and strangely satisfying.
As always, there were kibbitzers.




Monday, November 15, 2021

It's Starting

I have plans for real posts this week, honest, I do.  But I've spent today cleaning house for Big Cuter and Queen T's arrival tonight - dusting and sweeping and linens changed, bathrooms spruced up and groceries purchased. 

Mostly, though, I've been organizing for the first shipment of The Brownie List.

I know where the list is located on the computer (in Google Docs.... it only took me an hour of screaming last year to remember that).  I have ink for the printer so that labels can be created.  Amazon delivered lovely Hanukkah cellophane bags.

The pots and bowls and spatulas from the first three pans are in the dishwasher.  This is what the wrapping station will look like this year:


This is what gets wrapped:


Time to get back to work!


Friday, November 12, 2021

Zoom

Will we ever go back to in-person meetings?  

I have a Zoom call scheduled for 12:30-1pm today.  The attendees, Board members of the Cornell Club of Southern Arizona, have committed to 30 minutes of planning.  That's all the time I'm taking out of their day.  No one has to drive (add minutes to the meeting), no one has to clean her house (making space for the meeting), and showering and dressing up is limited to that which can be seen on a screen.

Gathering all of us in person would enable us to elbow bump, wear masks, and wonder what else we could be doing with the time we've spent traveling and sitting and waiting until the meeting starts.  This is a planning session.  It's not a social event.  We can get the work done, assign duties, and then go on with our lives.  

It's hard to give everyone a chance to speak on Zoom, but we've done it before and it worked well.  Service on this Board is not the primary task for any of us; we do it for love of our alma mater.  Planning has been difficult during Pandemica, with a membership that skews older and sicker, but our Sabino Canyon trip was a successful adventure and we are hoping to plan more outdoor excuses to get together.

The weather is more cooperative now than it was all summer long.  There are gardens and outdoor movies and historical sites which don't require driving long distances.  We usually plan an afternoon of lunch and a show - no doubt we'll discuss how comfortable attendees will be eating together, or sitting close to one another in an auditorium.  

All this can be discussed efficiently.  Assignments can be given.  No one has to leave home or the office.  We can get the work done and move on to other priorities.

Mostly, I don't have to change out of my pajama bottoms.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Thank You To Those Who Serve(d)

On 11/11/1911 at 11am, the shooting stopped forever.

That's what they hoped, anyway.  60,000 died at the Battle of the Somme.  Britain lost a generation of men.  Shell shock and mustard gas poisoning and the terror of barbed wire and trenches and No Man's Land between opposing armies - in 1911 they thought they'd put it away for good.

I've been thinking about the 100 Years War, which it seems we are fighting all over again.  Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan.... my children's adulthood has been filled with war.  None of us served.

Amster used the Army to get out of town. She traveled, she learned, and because her boots were too small and gave her bunions, she had a disability that added to the educational benefits she'd receive.  College and Law School, paid for with her blood, sweat, and tears. She got married so they could be transferred together - an unintended consequence of falling in love while the government owned your body.

G'ma's brother served with Patton.  He never spoke of it.  Auntie M and Uncle T got married just before he left for Viet Nam.  He never speaks of it, either.  Our college friends, Moose and Stroker, were in Viet Nam, too - they never said a word.

But everyone was changed by the experience.  Some for the good (cf Amster) and some altered in ways that haunted them for all their lives.  Dr. Don never wore a necktie after coming home from Viet Nam; black tie events had him in an elegant sweater.  He never explained it beyond saying THIS is what I wear.

Necessity or patriotism, the draft or the potential benefits down the road - whatever their reasons men and women have put themselves in harms way so that I can sit here and type to you.

Remember to say Thank You today.


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Ease and Grace and Strength

It was another morning of outdoor yoga.  The same little black bugs were annoying, but Tiger Balm kept most of them away from my exposed flesh.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and as our Yogi noted, the trees had magnificent shapes.

Taos Bubbe joined me; I haven't exercised next to a friend in 20 months.  It made my heart sing.

We started standing, which led to balancing, which led to a lot of quivering.  Rooting down and reaching up, floating my arms..... mostly trying not to fall down.

Through my efforts came the Yogi's words - from grace and ease comes strength.

Strength is what I miss the most.  I carried my own heavy grocery bags.  I did the heavy lifting in the garden.  I liked surprising people.   

Now, I usually accept help with a grateful nod.  If I can, I should is my new mantra.  But not many everyday activities remind me of what I am missing.  I ambulate well and sometimes it even looks like walking.  

But all the standing yoga poses were challenging.  Every single one of them - even mountain pose which I held for longer than was comfortable.... doable....possible... and then I had to move.  In that moment, I remembered why I hadn't gone back to yoga, even in the Before Times.  I could no longer lose myself in the movements. The ease was gone, and ease was the gift that yoga gave me.  

And then I looked around me, standing outside in November, surrounded by a host of grey haired humans, each of us locked in our own personal struggle with something or other, but each of us standing on our mats, trying.  

The grace to accept what is.  Letting go of the struggle and easing into what is.  

I took a deep breath and found my strength as we moved into tree pose.  Balance, I thought, is as much mental as physical.  

And, for a moment, my right leg held me up, all on its own.

It wasn't the same as before, but different isn't always bad. This is gift, too.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Pie

I had apples and pie crusts and time.
This is what the pie looked like before I went to sleep.
I was responsible for every missing morsel.
I was also responsible for the ice cream scoop, because what's apple pie without vanilla ice cream?
(And I'm responsible for the navy blue towel;  a lighter one would have been more photogenic.)

I had pie for breakfast in the morning.
We had quiche (egg pie) with friends for lunch.

I had pie when we got home, pie for dessert after dinner, and pie for snack while TBG overdosed on football. This is what the pie looked like when I was finished.
I have never eaten an entire pie before.

It's nice to have a novel experience.

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Supply Chain Hits Home

I went Holiday Shopping.  I left early, wore a mask, and avoided shoppers as much as possible.  

It was very possible.  There was barely anyone in the stores - not The Dollar Store or The 99cents Store or Kohl's.  The Container Store was eerily quiet; 3 saleswomen approached me before I was half way down the first aisle.  

In Michaels, I saw no other customers.  Hallmark was crowded, but they were having a Pandora Event so there were lots of salespeople and Pandora people and marketing people filling the entry.  One other masked patron and I were the only ones buying anything, and we were in the card aisles.

There was no merchandise, either.  

Just like at IKEA  last month, there was nothing new.  The shelves which are usually filled with tins and boxes and bags of all sizes and descriptions were empty.  Had I realized when I started out that this would be the case everywhere I went, I would have taken pictures.  

The Container Store had no pretty little containers in which brownies could be mailed.  We're downsizing.  All our items like that are on-line now.  I don't want to buy them on-line.  I want to spend my dollars locally.  I want to touch them before I buy them.  I need 70 of them; this is not a small decision.  

And it wasn't only supplies for The Brownie List.  H&M had nothing pink.  Nor were there ruffles or sparkles or unicorns.  I found basic sweats and leggings for the grandkids, but that visit, next door to the Container Store, put me in a mood.

I was resigned to paying full price and enjoying it.  If only there had been something to buy.  I found a perfect firefighter nutcracker for Giblet at Michael's - one of a dozen obviously left over from last year, with nicks and scratches and I swear they were grimacing right back at me, as if sharing my pain.  

And then I listened to the story going on in my head and I laughed.  I was having a regular person's bad day, not a perforated person's bad day - and it was all because of shopping.

I decided that there's a good lesson to be learned from this. Not finding made me question the act of searching.   I'm going to get creative with tissue paper and some weird clear cellophane bags I found along the way.  The brownies will be tasty no matter how they are wrapped.  

If this is at the top of my worry list, I'm a pretty lucky human.

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Holidaze Begin

They are calling it a Pre-Holiday Parking Lot Party; both the description and the location are accurate.  There will be a food truck and some music in the parking lot outside the law offices where Amster houses her practice.  I'll see people I run into whenever I'm in Amster's orbit (and no where else) and we'll catch up on meaningless nothings while chowing down on fabulous food stuffs.  A small amount of alcohol (I'm driving) will, no doubt, be involved.

It's 84 and sunny outside.  It's still November.  I'm having a hard time getting my holiday spirit on.

I lost then found my gift tags and stationary.  Apparently, I used every bit of Brownie List packing material last year.  I've always replenished my stash on December 26th; last year we were still in lock down on December 26th - I went no place.  

For the first time in memory, I will be buying supplies before the holidays, when they are not on sale.  Do I get to count this as part of Pandemica's legacy?  I think it deserves a place on the That Which I Lost List.

I ordered boxes and mailing envelopes from USPS and they arrived on my doorstep in the arms of our smiling mail carrier.  She can hardly wait until I start to bake.  I leave individually wrapped brownies in a basket near the doorbell, with a sign offering the homemade treats to anyone leaving a package.  She gets hungry around 1pm, just as she's arriving at our mailbox.  

I'll update the addresses for those who've relocated.  I'll continue my on-line quest for appropriate socks-underwear-hang out clothes for those I'll be gifting.  Toys have been sent to the grandchildren (I was taking no chances with the supply chain) and books are being considered.

Hanukkah is on the heels of Thanksgiving.  I'd better not procrastinate for long.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Going Back Out Into The World

TBG misses his spin class friends.  Some of them have joined the Zoom classes which began early in Pandemica, when it became clear that no one was going back into the gym any time soon.  We bought a good spin bike, and he's been doing it three days a week, virtually listening to the teacher and the music and feeling as motivated as you can be when you're really all alone.

He misses the competition.  Keeping up with the instructor is one piece of it, but beating whoever is cycling near him has its place, too.  

Periodically, we've toyed with the idea of returning to the gym.  He went once or twice before the Delta variant emerged as a killer; he knew the people in the room and it felt safe.  But there hasn't felt like a good time to start up again.... until now.

We're boosted and flu shot.  We're not living with immune compromised or unable-to-be-vaccinated humans.  One of our favorite people teaches spin early on Monday morning.  He decided to give it a try.

Everyone was delighted to see him.  Everyone was well known to him.  They are all older, intelligent, vaccinated athletes of various stripes.  Everyone agreed - no one wanted to get sick.

He came home with a giant smile on his face.  The music was great, the presence of classmates even better.  He's not ready to move on to classes with strangers, but this Monday morning group feel okay, for now.

That same favorite person is also a talented yogi.  She invited me to join her outdoor class at Tohono Chul, the small botanical garden down the road.  She promised lots of space and no mask requirement.
Given TBG's successful foray into exercising with others, I decided to give it a chance.

There was lots of space.  There were lots of people.  Everyone was fully focused and involved in the practice.  I don't know if anyone was vaccinated, so I gave myself plenty of space.  

I walked around taller and breathing more deeply all day long.  I put the class on my calendar for the next 10 weeks.  

I should believe the science and feel comfortable outdoors and socially distanced.  Having read Michael Lewis's The Premonition - A Pandemic Story, I'm reluctant to rely on anything coming out of the CDC that requires a quick response to an ever changing situation.  Even after all these months, we're still doing our own research.

I'm relying on my good sense.  I'm not ready to go back into the gym, but outdoor yoga feels like a safe toe to put in the sweating-with-others waters.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Flu Shot Snippets

FlapJilly:  Mom, I think this flu shot will be good practice for my Covid vaccine.
*****
Walgreens suggested that TBG make an appointment for his flu shot when the walk-in line as he was shopping was 10 people long.  He brought the information slip home and placed it on my keyboard.  I made the appointments, 20 minutes apart because somebody snuck in to the 3:20 slot between us.  

The store is a mile down the road.  We left 5 minutes before my appointment time - I'd be late and he'd be early.
*****
I can't decide whether it was less troublesome for me to fill out my paperwork online or for me to print it out and have TBG fill it in for himself.  I tried both methods.

They lost mine in the system and the pharmacy assistant had to input most of the numbers again.  She then typed in all of TBG's information with her incredibly long fingernails making every click a near disaster.  

Neither path was without problems.  They both took too much time.
*****
The Pilates Diva was the one who stole the 3:20 appointment - she was there for her Covid booster.  She teaches at the Community College and so is considered high risk, even though she's more than a decade younger than we are.

It's a measure of our times that I run into my friends at the drug store now.
*****
The shot hurt more than the vaccination.  

TBG saw my pouting face and put his warm, lovingly cupped palm over my bandaid.  

It felt better at once.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

How Driving Fixed My Leg

Fixed may be overstating the case, but improved is certainly true.  

I drove Scarlet and her pooch up to Scottsdale three times in the last week.  It's about 120 miles and takes about an hour and a half.  We drive there, she drops off the dog, and we turn around and come home.  I take the time she's in the office to stretch.  I do all the driving.

Normally, I'd be bent and broken by the time I returned home.  But her surprisingly wonderful Camry left me feeling strong and straight.  Why?  Perhaps because her seat has many more adjustment options than my Honda HRV.  Her seat can dip down at my knee.  I sat further back than I usually do.  Her steering wheel adjusts up and down and forward and back; I put it lower than the Honda's and further away.

With my leg stretched out instead of bent at the knee, I could sit with both butt cheeks firmly planted on the seat.  I found my posture was improved.  At the end of the last leg home, my foot began to fall asleep, but aside from that it was an uneventful experience.

I worried that I'd be crippled all night, but it was just the opposite.  I wasn't stumbling until my hip decided to engage.  I wasn't complaining when I stood up or sat down.  There were no clicking noises. Best of all, there was no pain.

Was I exercising, passively, as I drove?  Is it simply the positioning?  Was it the karma from doing a good deed?  

I adjusted the Uv to approximate as best I could the delightful experience I had in the Camry.  I slid in and out of the car at The Pilates Diva and at Costco.  I walked smoothly, more smoothly than usual.

Who knew that driving for 12 hours on the same roads would have such a salutary effect?  Not I. 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Wrapping Up PNC

The VP of Retail and Customer Service was delightful, kind, thoughtful, and disturbed by what I brought to her attention.

Her minion, another lovely woman, was equally helpful.

No, my Bill Pay system could not be uploaded to my accoutn; there was a glitch in the technology that dumped the data.  But on Monday (don't have a banking problem at the end of the week) when they return to work, another minion lower on the totem pole will spend the day uploading all my information.  The notion of another human being paid to do what I willfully refused to consider makes me squeamish.  Still, I didn't turn down the offer.  I just laughed, a little.

Yes, the 1st minion agreed, the VP was a wonderful boss and a terrific human being.  She follows through and stays tight with her team.  She cares about the customer.

All of that is wonderful.

It doesn't detract from the annoyance of having to go on-line to each and every payee, paying the minimum balance and changing from e-bills to paper.  I felt like I was going back in time to Marin, where I'd pay my bills by check, entering them into Quick Books, and then having The Ballerina do the rest.  She's a bookkeeper and a friend and the only one I trusted to see how much I spent every month.  She did in 20 minutes what took me half a day.  I bought her lunch.  It worked.

I'm not depositing any more money into PNC.  Their systems scare me.  This morning I tried to see if my Social Security check had been deposited last month (I forgot to ask anyone when I had them on the phone).  My computer remembered my sign in name for the GRIN account, and there it was.  I clicked on the personal accounts button and found, instead of my account, this message - Your session has been inactive for more than 15 minutes. You are now being signed off Online Banking.

Considering that I had done nothing more than open the link, this was odd.  Perhaps PNC operates on a faster time clock that I do.  Perhaps 1 minute had passed, certainly not 15.  

I sighed and signed into my personal account using my other identity and found the deposit, just where it should have been.  The rest of the words and numbers on the screen were less than helpful.  My Bill Pay has not been typed in yet, and my old statements are bare bones and useless.  

To be fair, it's the weekend so we don't know who will be working but on Monday morning, at the latest......  True, but annoying since one of the things that needs to be done is linking both accounts.

PNC will reach out to me on Monday when everything is finished.  The humans I spoke to were thoughtful, if not overly apologetic.  My concerns for my friends who work at the bank were glossed over - change is hard; new things take time to settle in; we've done many of these with thousands of banks and there are always issues - though, and that made me sad.

Every denizen who commented on the prior posts mentioned credit unions, using comforting and complimentary words.  I did some research on the interwebs and found the only down side was, perhaps, a paucity of products. Since I'm only interested in a checking account for me and some kind of not-for-profit account for GRIN, I saw no reason not to pursue the quest.

Googling credit unions near me revealed one I hadn't noticed before and reminded me of two others, one of which is in a bright and shiny and new building at a major intersection.... which intersection is currently under extensive renovation and expansion. The other one is a little further than that.  None are as convenient as around the corner.

I don't have the energy to deal with this any longer.  I'll change the rest of the e-bills to paper.  I'll pay bills using my old checks and not their on-linesystem, depositing only enough money to cover what I write.  When I have time, I'll make another plan.  For now, I'm done thinking about this.

It's November 1st - time to begin baking for The Brownie List.  Hanukkah is right on the heels of Thanksgiving.  I'd much rather put my thoughts and energies there.

Friday, October 29, 2021

There's a Happy Follow Up

PNC reached out to me in a personal, thoughtful, sincere email about an hour after I hit send tonight.

Spend the weekend knowing that at least some part of PNC was listening to me - and wants to try to fix it, though she'll understand if I don't want to try.

It's too late now to write it all up.

I'm going to a credit union tomorrow morning, as everyone suggested.  I pay attention when given advice by those I love.

I feel better, but ..........

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Saga Continues - PNC Redux

(Please ready yesterday's post so that this one makes sense.)

I'm not confident about giving this bank any more of my money.  But I do have bills to pay.  So,  I took the time I'd have used to type in something (my payees) that should have magically appeared (in my not-so-seamlessly transferred Bill Pay page) to type yesterday's post and then look for somebody at PNC to call.

It was hopeless.  An endless round of being routed to the voice banking.  PNC is headquartered in Pittsburgh (anybody have a relative there who'd like to go knock on some doors?).  There is nary a phone number on the interwebs for any of the dozens of VP's nor the President nor the Board.  Scarlet suggested I look at their Annual Report; again, nothing.  

There are a variety of sites - like bankchart.us -  that purport to lead you to emails and phone numbers for corporate executives; obviously, I'm not the first to have tried to find them.  The phone numbers they referred to were either no longer in service  or, once again, sent me to voice banking.

I was beginning to have evil thoughts regarding the voice banking voice.

While this was going on, Gmail announced the arrival of 3 new messages.  Two were from PNC, telling me that I had (1) changed the email on my business account, and (2) changed the phone number on my personal account.  If I hadn't done this, I was to contact them directly.

And.... there was a different phone number, a new phone number, a phone number they wanted me to call.  So, I did.

Hannah answered the phone, and my luck began to change.  

She listened.  She heard me.  She sighed appropriately.  She didn't try to make excuses for PNC's actions.  She understood my pain, laughed with my bad jokes, and then said the magic words : I can help you fix this.

Two hours after we connected, after she sat on hold and I sat on hold listening to her sit on hold (occasionally breaking in to reassure me that she was still there and that she would stay there until she found me somebody good, an on-line specialist,  I was on the phone with Aubrey, another good one.

Hannah had filled her in on the details - I didn't have to repeat a thing.  That, in itself, felt like excellent customer service... which tells you the depths to which this ordeal had sunk me.  After assuring herself that I was in good hands, Hannah said goodbye.  I asked for a supervisor so that I could pass on glowing compliments, she laughed and said No, thank you.  This is a temporary gig.  Just hearing it from you is enough.

Wherever she's going next, they are lucky to have her.

Aubrey, meanwhile, had been doing some sleuthing.  Unfortunately, we are unable to retrieve the information for you was her conclusion - I was never going to be able to see my Bill Pay pages again.  I would never be able to see who I'd paid when, what bills were coming due, which bills were paid on time.   

PNC's information packet had assured me that there was a 90 day window of opportunity after the transition to download and save the information in my BBVA account; I was counting on using the 20 minute spurts while the brownie list brownies were baking to deal with it in spurts.  Now, though, that plan was moot. I'd never be able to see my stuff again.

Fortunately, Aubrey had my back.

She could see all the information.  She just couldn't send it to me, or print it out for me, or do anything but read it to me.  And read it to me she did.  She was happy to stay on the phone as long as I needed her, to give me all the information I needed, including reading every single line of every single payee if I wanted her to do such a thing.  She was mine until I needed her no longer.  

We tossed around a variety of ideas, and settled on a plan. Tell me all the bills that come electronically, and the credit cards to which they are aligned.  Tell me my account number and the routing number. And reassure me that all the bills I had submitted had, in fact, been paid.

Nope. They had cancelled two transactions.

Remember that third email message?  It was from JP Morgan Chase.... telling me that I'd missed a payment.  I never miss a payment.  I pay the full amount on the credit card bills every single month.  I'm proud of this fact.  Getting an email like this put me into The Red Zone.... and you don't want to be around me when I'm feeling that rage.  

I was devastated.  I'm going to ask PNC to pay the late fee - and she laughed. 

We went through a few more details and then she, too, refused to give me a name so that I could compliment her.  You might get a survey about how this call went; you can put your comments there. I assured her that my compliments would be effusive for both her and Hannah, and we hung up the phone.

More than 24 hours have passed and I still don't have the survey.  I guess they don't want to give me an opportunity to bitch and moan along with sharing the love.

My work was not done - I had to call the credit card companies and explain the situation.  LaLa at JP Morgan Chase was the most sympathetic human being I have ever spoken to in my life.  her OH NO's were off the charts.  She was aghast, appalled, sympathetic - all while laughing with me as I recounted my story.

I ended with - And now I wonder if you will cancel the late fee because, honestly, it just feels like piling on.

Ma'am, I see that you pay every month, on time, and you pay the whole amount.  I'm going to waive the late fee, take your information, and everything will be fine.

She, too, has a survey coming in the email, on which I will heap compliments (should it ever arrive).

The other unpaid bill was also cancelled, but was not yet due.  One problem avoided...through no agency of my own or PNC's.

Remember all that web searching to find contact information for PNC honchos?  One of them suggested that 98% of PNC's emails are formatted first.last@pnc.com.  2% are first@pnc.com.  Karen L. Larrimer is executive vice president, head of Retail Banking and chief customer officer of The PNC Financial Services Group.  I decided to send this mess to her, using both formats (assuming that the top execs use their first names, being in the 2% and all.....), and hope for the best.

I went to LinkedIn, thinking that platform would help me connect to her.  Nope - I need a fancy, paid, account to send a message to a person with whom I am not connected.  I'm not going down that rabbit hole.  I didn't even try Facebook - engaging with Mark Zuckerberg on any level makes me vaguely nauseous these days.

So, I'll finish this post and copy and past it with the first one into an email I will send to both formats, hoping that this blurb I found on her LinkedIn profile is true :

Karen is one of those rare senior executives who never lost touch with the people doing the work

Those people need help.  It's true.  It's not only me.  I went to pick up The Uv at the dealership after her 40K check up and my credit card was declined - I forgot and used the JP Morgan card before the bill was paid.  I wasn't embarrassed,  I was peeved.  I took out another card as I told the service advisor that my bank had been swallowed up by PNC and. before I could say another word another advisor looked up, stalked over, and joined it - his wife works at another local branch and she's been stressed and depressed for weeks.

They managed to change the logos and the signage.  That's about the only thing PNC has gotten right.  I love my bank and my people there, but I'm looking for an outlet that is responsive and that won't lose my data.

I'm paying the minimum on my credit card bills until I find a new banking home. I'm not giving another dollar to PNC..... who knows where it will end up?

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

It's Not Going Well

Dear PNC Bank, 

I love(d) my bank (which is now your bank).  

I found my bank after waiting for an hour with G'ma at the local BofA branch, only to find that our person had just left for lunch and our appointment would have to be postponed and no, there was no one else who could help us right now, which was really quite late to be honest with you and that was when G'ma said "These people don't want our business.  Let's go."  Even through her dementia, their message was clear.  

I drove past the small building around the corner with Compass Bank in an attractive blue font every day.  One of those days soon after, I went inside and met the bankers and the tellers.  I moved my money from BofA into their competent hands, and I've enjoyed every encounter with everyone who works there for more than a decade. 

How often do you get to type a sentence like that?

Compass Bank was swallowed whole by BBVA;  that went off without a noticeable hiccup.  The staff wasn't stressed; the ambiance was still friendly; the lobby with a smiling customer or two and bankers at the ready; and, most important, all my passwords and user names worked or were easily changed.  

And then, over the weekend of October 8-12, my lovely little bank was devoured by a monster.  It's only because I love the location and the wonderful worker bees that I don't take my money and run, as I told The Banker this afternoon.  

The problem started when I was unable to log into my account on the 13th.  I chalked it up to the system being overwhelmed by the transition; since I didn't have any pressing need to know about my money, I pushed the issue to the back of the To Do List.  When it came up again this morning, things were worse.

After a mind-numbing series of clicks and typing of digits I managed to log on..... to my not-for-profit's account, and only that account.  My personal account was no where to be found.

I didn't panic. I drove around the block and went into the bank, where, instead of seeing my usual friends, I was confronted with a young woman of questionable interpersonal skills.  I asked her about my missing account and she said I had to talk to a banker.  I said that I was quite worried because my account seemed to be lost.

It's not lost came out from behind her mask, with a lot more attitude than I thought my fears warranted.  It's right here on the screen.

Can I see that?

No.

Seething, seeing that all the bankers were busy, I left to have lunch with Amster.  Before I left the parking lot, I remembered that the teller told me to go online and make an appointment.  I logged on to do so, only to find that I could not make an appointment for a business account.  Only personal accounts could be serviced this way.  I'd have to call the bank directly.  

I pressed the phone number conveniently located at the bottom of the pop up, expecting my bank to answer the phone.  Unsurprisingly, instead I was directed to the automated voice banking with its myriad of prompts, none of which could tell me where my money was hiding in their system.

An hour or so later, I returned to the scene of the crime, signed onto the waiting list, and tried, again and again and again, to find my account.  It seemed more productive than Candy Crush Saga, though it turned out to be just as much of a waste of time, and without the endorphin rush. 

A smiling Banker ushered me into an office and heard me out, reassuring me that my account still existed, and that I was not alone in feeling frustrated with the system.  

We thought we were moving up, but these systems are so old..... We got no training, or not enough training, and we're making it up as we go along...... Yes, that Muzak is the same that you hear as a customer; we don't have a dedicated worker-to-worker help line.....all the while, on my phone and on the bank's desktop, we each kept trying to figure out where my account was hiding.

The Muzak stopped and a disembodied voice listened, offered no solutions, and suggested we try signing in using all the different ways we could imagine and maybe one would work.  She hung up the phone and we stared at one another.

That's it?  That's the help the bank is giving?

That's it.

There was a way to fix it, but the system either wouldn't let The Banker enter any information or, when it did, the form wouldn't upload (all of which The Banker had told the voice).  Not that it mattered - the conversion would take 10 days and I have to pay my bills this week.  Everything I need was in my account; I kept trying to find it.

As the next step, I installed the PNC app on my phone.  I used the log in from my laptop; I saw only my not-for-profit's account.  I decided to ENROLL myself using my old user name and the bank told me that I already existed in their space.  The endless loop continued.

So, I made up a new user name, and lo and behold there it was!  My account was smiling up at me from my screen.  The not-for-profit's account was no where to be seen, but for the moment that didn't matter.  I could see my money again.  Perhaps the software cannot link the accounts.  Perhaps PNC thinks I am two faced, Janus, Sybil with only 2 personalities.  At this point, anything is possible.

The home page was fine, but my joy was short lived: the Bill Pay page was empty.  Not a single payee had transferred over.  As I've written before, I pay most of my bills on-line, opting for e-bills sent directly to the bank and letting the bank's software do the math.  

Because I am an old person, PNC will allow me to receive paper statements; otherwise they charge a fee.  Perhaps they want to save the planet, maybe it's just another revenue stream,  but I smiled when I read about it in the information they sent (in the mail).  I thought that they were looking out for my supposed age-related inability to function well in cyber-space.  Obviously, given today's events, that was a misapprehension.

Now I am faced with a decision - reenter all the information or begin to use up the last 150 checks from BBVA and pay the bills by hand.   

Given my experience with PNC's software so far, I decided to listen to TBG's old school advice and write the checks myself.  

I'll get him to do the math.

******

This is the first half of the story.  The second half will come tomorrow; it's a little bit sunnier.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Already???

I haven't bought my Halloween candy yet; the neighborhood trick or treaters will be coming around on Saturday evening, rather than on the actual holiday on Sunday.  The parents made this decision because Monday is a school day and they wanted to minimize the sugar rush on a school night.  I think it's a cheap trick to extend the begging season another day, but then, again, my grandbabies have been trick or treating at school and in Downtown South Bend for the past two weekends.  Everything seems to be stretching out, but my trip to the store for burgers and chips yesterday was really beyond the pale.

As I moved from the eggs to the yogurt, I looked to my right and saw this:
That's right - STUFFING!!!
More varieties of stuffing than I'd ever seen in one place - and Halloween isn't until Sunday.
There were brining kits and turkey bags, although there was nary a turkey to be seen.
TBG requested turkey breast and stuffing and mashed potatoes, but a couple of quick phone calls revealed that no meat counter in the neighborhood had anything like that at all in their coolers (hence, my search for burgers and chips).
If that weren't bad enough, look to the left of the oven bags.... 
Yes, those are Xmas colored sprinkles.

There were no trees or Santas or anything else remotely resembling Christmas, but these colored sprinkles nearly sent me over the edge.  
It's still October - what's the great rush???????

Monday, October 25, 2021

Not Hiking

The local Cornell Club had an outing on Saturday.  Eighteen intrepid souls met early n the morning for conversation at the Visitor Center at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.

That sounds like a venue for ball fields and playground equipment.  It's not.  It's part of the Coronado National Forest; the activities are in those you can do in the great outdoors.  And this is The Great Outdoors.  The mountains loom overhead. The boulders and the cacti and the trees and the water are all the enticements you need.  

There are two options - hiking or riding.  

There's a shuttle to the top of the developed area.  For $12 you get your own brand new earbuds - just like the ones you buy at CVS when  you're on the way to the gym and realize you've left yours at home - and a seat on the open-air tram car.  The narration is in English and Spanish; it hits the right note between nerd and knowledge.  

FDR is responsible for a lot of the comforts along the main road - restrooms and picnic tables and benches and beaches and bridges were all created by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration in the aftermath of the Depression.  The narrator pointed them out, along with the black gneiss and the tumbled boulders and the remains of the last wildfire.  

The shuttle allows riders to get off and re-board at any of the 9 stops along the way.  I rode it all the way up and all the way down, watching sorrowfully as we passed members of our Club hiking up, and then more sorrowfully as many of those who'd ridden to the top opted to hike their way down.

I was wearing my hiking boots - that was as close to meandering on my own two feet as I got.  I sat with Taos Bubbe, which made all the difference to my heart, but my head was busy contemplating how to gear up for being more of an active participant next year.

I loved hiking.  I loved the scenery and the smells and the tiredness in my feet and legs at the end of a long day.  I liked the silence.  I enjoyed the company of like-minded friends.  I was happy using my muscles for fun, rather than for exercise.  

Watching others do what I can't wasn't easy.  It was motivating, though. Now that the weather has cooled down to the mid-80's, perhaps I can start to walk the neighborhood again.  If only JannyLou weren't moving I'd get her to commit to walking with me - I do better with a companion and a commitment.  But it is what it is and she's leaving, so I'll have to be my own source of inspiration.

Writing it down is the first step.  Thanks for reading - you're now part of the plan.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Road Trip

Scarlet's dog needs surgery.  I'll spare you the details, but the best surgeon for her is in Scottsdale.  Scarlet made an appointment and immediately texted me.

Until she moved to Florida to help her ailing, aging mother, Scarlet had lived in a Manhattan apartment for 40 years.  She (like most denizens of The City) walked to most destinations, taking a cab home if it was dark or she was tired.  A car in Manhattan is a luxury reserved for the very rich (or those with elderly parents just outside the reach of public transportation).  

She drove when visiting her parents in Florida, but being behind the wheel is not her favorite place to be.  Scottsdale is 120 miles away; 99% of her trip would be on the highway.  It's mostly 2, recently paved, lanes separated by a wide, grassy ditch.  The speed limit is 75, but that's more of a suggestion than an imperative.  

Hence, her text - was I free for a road trip on Thursday?  

She had other options, including going alone, but she'd really like my company.   I could drive her car.  She'd provide snacks and drinks and lunch or breakfast if I needed it.  She would navigate and provide scintillating conversation there and back.  

How could I refuse?

She pulled into our driveway at 7am.  There was a full tank of gas in a very clean car.  I spent a few moments adjusting and admiring and then, about two hours later, we were sitting outside at Starbucks, having a snack.  Naturally, being who we are, we were an hour early for the appointment.

We dined al fresco, then  I dropped them off at the vet,  parked her surprisingly lovely Camry under a tree in the parking lot, lowered the windows, and took a little nap.  

I watched a Safelite guy replace a windshield.  I read the WaPo and NYT on my phone.  Less than an hour later, they were back.  

We weren't hungry.  We had the dog.  An ultrasound would have given us a window without the pup, a time frame for The Heard Museum or shopping or eating someplace special, but it's still Pandemica and Scarlet's not comfortable being inside.  She declined the offer;  we turned right around and drove home.  

We're driving back next week for the surgery.  In the Before Times, we'd have stayed overnight someplace fabulous, gotten massages, eaten interesting food, visited the Musical Instrument Museum, heard some music, and picked up the dog after her overnight with the vet.  

Instead, we'll drop her off in the morning and right turn around.  

We did decide to add in an adventure on the way home - IKEA .

Scarlet wants a cabinet for her garage.  I will try to spend nothing.... and I will fail.  The big open spaces and our arrival as the store opens gives Scarlet an extra measure of security.  She'll still take precautions above and beyond, and that's okay because the most vulnerable and the most cautious always set the tone these days.  

We'll browse and imagine and judge and fill out those little white cards, trying to spell the unfamiliar names with tiny pencils.  She'll get her cabinet and we'll be doing something different and for a while it will feel normal.

This is what counts as a road trip in these times.  

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Man With One Clock

My phone says it is 88o.   My laptop tells me it's only 80.

The clocks on the microwave and the oven are right above one another.  They are 30 seconds apart, and resetting them has only led to frustration.

They are also a few minutes slower than the clock on the cable box in the living room.  Moving between the kitchen and the couch while cooking is an interesting experience, especially when you're timing something you've just put in the oven.  5:37 in one place is not the same as 5:37 in the other.  It's confusing.

The clock in the Uv used to be perfectly aligned with my phone.  That is no longer the case.  I don't know why the phone is faster than the car, but it is.  I think I'm early but I'm really just on time.  Sometimes I'm even late - and I'm never late.

When TBG was able to handle the noise of the pendulum swinging and the chimes chiming, his grandfather's grandfather's clock kept us on our toes.  The Early American mantel clock I took from G'ma and Daddooooo's house did the Big Ben chimes every quarter hour.  There were no portable phones telling us the exact time - the chimes were a lovely substitute to wearing a watch.

Back then, maybe because I was young, the exact minutes were less important than they seem to be today.  Then again, how can I be sure what the exact minutes are?

The only person who really knows the time is the man with one watch.

I'm sure there's a deeper meaning to that, but for now, it works for me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Colin Powell and The Ballerina

She grew up in Arkansas in the 1950's and '60's.  When they integrated her high school, there were two proms - one Black, one White.  The White families migrated to a Whiter neighborhood with Whiter schools.  She wasn't paying much attention to what the Black families were doing.

She spent no time with people who didn't look like her.  No one did.  There were passing acquaintances and superficial relationships, but nothing that anyone would call friendship.  It just wasn't done.  

Fast forward several decades, and find her sitting next to me at the Marin Speakers' Series in the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Civic Center.  We were comfortably ensconced in the middle, several rows from the back.  High enough to see everything, center stage so we didn't get stiff necks, surrounded by a mostly White and wealthy audience - it was Marin in the early 1990's, and that was who we were.

The Speakers' Series was a long running program bringing world leaders to our little corner of the world.  Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachov (through a translator; it was beyond dull), Garrison Keillor, Margaret Thatcher (standing at the podium in spike heels, refusing to stop taking questions "because this is the fun part!") - TBG and I saw them all.  This time, I took The Ballerina to hear Colin Powell speak.

It was just after he announced that he would not be running for national office; his wife, Alma, was afraid he would be assassinated, he didn't like campaigning, he just wasn't going to do it, though he was grateful that we were all sighing and moaning noooooo as he revealed his lack of interest in the most powerful office in the land.  

He spoke eloquently about Iraq and about CCNY and about learning Yiddish while working in Sickser's Everything for the Baby store.  He addressed racism and militarism and love.  He told funny stories and sad stories and powerful stories.  He reviewed the past and expressed hope for the future.

At the end, he received only the 2nd standing ovation I'd ever seen at the Speakers' Series (Maggie Thatcher was the other one - impressing that decidedly left leaning audience to everyone's surprise).

People were clapping madly, many were teary, including The Ballerina.  She stood next to me, wet eyes and a bemused look on her face.  She was shaking her head when, through a tiny smile, she turned to me and said I can't believe I am standing here applauding for a Black man.

She went on - her parents would not know what to make of it all, this upended her views on so many things, she believed in equality and hated discrimination of any kind, but this was different.  This was an actual human being speaking directly to her soul.  He was right there in front of her and all her upbringing, all her separate from The Other childhood, all of that was put to the test by the distinguished soldier and statesman on the stage that night.  The tropes that filled her youth were banished in a single night.  It was transformative.

It's decades later, but we still remember.  We went out for a snack afterwards; there was so much emotion that food was not a priority.  We sipped wine and she talked... and talked... and talked.

Flags are flying at half staff this week to honor General Powell.  For me, his memory is forever intertwined with The Ballerina.  He made an impact in so many, many ways.

The world is a lesser place without him.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Again ?????

I needed gas and milk and other basic supplies, so I headed to Costco.  I haven't been in the store very often, preferring to pay someone else to lift flats of sparkling water and giant jugs of laundry detergent into a cart then a vehicle then my garage.  That used to be a good workout.  Post-perforation, it's my least favorite activity.  But today, I felt the urge.

The lines for gas stretched into the entry lane.  I found a close spot and decided to shop first and feed the Uv after.  I cruise the perimeter of the store, rarely venturing down any of the aisles.  All my needs are met on the most trafficked spaces, which makes managing the huge store a manageable activity.

Queen T went to Costco before Saturday's Pumpkin Carving Party and Big Cuter was quite taken with the rain proof jacket and comfy long sleeve pullover she bought for him - and which I saw today on the tables as I walked toward the back of the store.  I picked up some holiday gifts (along the lines of socks and underwear and comfy, hang-out clothes) in that same area, and some protein from the cold cases.  There were melons to be ripened and apples to be peeled and put into pie snuggled next to the berries and celery and then the milk.

After the dairy room, the outer pathway leads to the paper goods - paper towels and toilet paper stacked deep and wide, covering a quarter of the back of the store...... except today, when there was nothing there at all.

No Bounty.  No Kirkland.  No Viva.  No Charmin of any variety.

If Costco can't keep its shelves stocked, how can the smaller merchants survive?  We aren't importing this stuff, are we?  Or is it the influx of snowbirds, which all of us who live here year round have suddenly noticed?  Are reports of issues with the supply chain igniting another frenzy?  

I understand that toys from abroad may be delayed or unavailable, but I've heard no mention of a toilet paper shortage.  

We're down to our last 6 pack.  We're hosting friends over Halloween weekend.  I really hope that Target or the grocery stores aren't similarly denuded.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Bubbe's Bagels

JannyLou saw the review in her inbox.  A New York transplant's search for a real bagel in Tucson led to the creation of a new shop - Bubbe's Bagels.  It's on the other side of town, but, as she said, Sunday morning is a good time for a drive - so off we went.

Bubbe is Yiddish for Grandma; it's what Taos Bubbe's grandkids call her and what I adapted for her blogonym.  The shop definitely channels a Bubbe like mine.  On a shelf in the storefront was a red and white plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, a paperback Hadassah recipe collection, silver Shabbat candles and a wine cup for Elijah, as well as small coffee cups labeled shuguh and cawfee..... just like we said it in New York.  There are no personal touches in the chain bagel emporia.  This felt special.

The line was out the door at 8:45 this morning, but it was moving fast.  There were pretty yellow cafe tables and chairs in the small courtyard just outside the bagels.  JannyLou and TBG sat and rested their achy bones while Fast Eddie and I stood in line to order.  

We got bagels to go and sandwiches to eat there and when we went to pay I saw a bag with Taos Bubbe's name on it.  There aren't that many people with her exact name, and she lives in that neighborhood; Fast Eddie and the cashier and I had a fine time speculating about it.

I waited for the food, looking at the shelf and listening with half an ear to the cashier as she engaged each and every customer in a quick conversation..... and then I heard her say somewhere on Long Island.... I think he's from..... Oceanside?

I grew up in Oceanside, home to some of the finest bagels in the land.  I shared my surprise with the general public; the cashier apologized that he wasn't there.

It didn't matter.  I had a smile on my face before I took a bite of food.  

Fifteen minutes later,  as we chewed our way through bagels and lox and cream cheese with thinly sliced onions and tomato and a smattering of capers, there was Taos Bubbe, saying Hi! and pulling up another yellow chair, because that is what old friends do when they randomly run into one another.  

There were introductions and conversations and then she went her way, with her bag of bagels and white fish instead of lox, and we went ours, with our bags of bagels (and no fish).  

I'm trying to think of the descriptor for how I felt.  Hamish* comes closest.  The bagels had character, weren't doughy or crusty, had the little holes that three days of fermentation creates - they felt right.  Sitting with our friends, running into a friend, eating what I always ate on Sunday mornings - that felt right, too.

For sure, I'll go back.... if only to meet the man who created the space which brought the joy.  After all, we're lantzmen.**


*homelike, in Yiddish, connoting warmth and ease and familial comforts 

**from the same town, in Yiddish


Friday, October 15, 2021

Getting Away

Does it seem like we were gone for a long time or for no time at all? he asked me after we returned from our overnight at The Boulders.  We were gone for 24 hours.  Our minds tracked it as a very long time away from home.

Everything was different.  The bed was higher. The pillows were bigger.  The view out the window displayed big boulders and spiky trees, not Safford Peak and the sweet acacia.  There were people to carry our bags (not really necessary) and to answer our questions (very necessary) and to serve us food we didn't have to cook ourselves.

Vacation .... aside from visiting children and grandchildren we have done none of it for a very long time.  Our friends' invitation to join them for a night on their week long sojourn in Scottsdale was just the impetus we needed to get out of the house.  TBG is not big on travel, but a 2 hour car ride didn't bother him at all.  

The fact that there were good friends at the end of the drive helped a lot, too.

We were startled to realize that we hadn't visited since Little Cuter and SIR were married.  It didn't feel like that big a break; we email and she's still on Facebook so keeps up with the kids' activities.  Our children have had children and presents were sent and discussed.  Illnesses and accidents required attention.  But we'd not laid eyes on them for a decade.

We fixed that on Monday.  It was as if no time at all had passed.  Everyone looked the same (my hair is longer, but otherwise.....).  There were no awkward pauses, no delicate moments.  We've been friends for 40 years.  Our rich history and overlapping friendship circles coupled with individual adventures and stories and gripes and pronouncements and giggles.... the day flew by.

Neither Carefree nor Cave Creek had an open store - everyone was celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day, it seemed, and no one was shopping.  We drove through two ghost towns and returned to the resort.  There was no reason to leave.  Everything we wanted was right there - 2 dear friends who kept us laughing and feeling all the feelings.

We were home the next afternoon.  We have new thoughts to think and new memories to keep us connected.  There are lots of destinations within driving distance - we are definitely doing this again!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Happy Birthday, Daddooooo

You weren't easy, but you were mine.

You knew more about so many things than anyone I knew.  Not all of it was true, but all of it was interesting.  You knew the details about the cobblestones on certain Manhattan streets, about who lived in which apartment in The Dakota, about who built which building where.

You took classes until you couldn't drive to Queens College any more.  You took copious notes and left them on scraps of paper in The Collected Works of Shakepeare, in Gilbert and Sullivan's Collected Works, in letters you sent my way.  I treasure them all.

You listed all the words you did not know, and put their definitions beside them.  

You were an ice skater and a skier until your body said No More.  You pulled our sleds up hills and ran behind us as we learned to ride a two wheeler.  There was always a kite and a swim suit in the trunk of your car.

You talked to everyone.... whether they wanted to talk to you or not.

You made an impression.... even when fading into the background would have been more appropriate.

You loved your grandchildren and they loved you.  

You were misunderstood (on the spectrum, in retrospect, undiagnosed).  

You've left a giant hole in the world.  

I'm going to get soft serve ice cream today (if only there were a Carvel stand in Tucson... alas) and stir it into soup before I eat it, just as you did.  I'll carry you around in my head and my heart, sharing my day with you.  

I miss you, Daddy.