Friday, September 17, 2021

Handling It Like a Grownup

Nicki Minaj has almost 23 million Twitter followers.

She tweeted that her cousin's friend... or maybe her friend's cousin.... got the Covid vaccine and a swollen testicle - and the first gave rise to the second.  . 

Despite all medical evidence to the contrary, Nicki Minaj tweeted the connection between manhood and the vaccine to 23 million followers, all over the globe.  This is not your aged aunt on her back porch sharing gossip with a neighbor.  23 million is a lot.  

The media didn't help the situation by sharing the story - laughing at it but advancing it at the same time.  Then Joe Biden stepped in.

He offered to educate her, to facilitate her meeting with scientists who would address her concerns, to get her questions answered, to do what he could to make her see the light.

I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to inhabit Joe Biden's skin these days.  Have at it was the most recent gentle explosion from within.  I'm having fun imagining his conversation with Jill as they brush their teeth and go to bed, that time of day when  no one else is around and your inner idiot can be given free rein.

The possibilities are endless.  I'll leave you to them.  I will be admiring our First Lady whose influence on educating rather than shaming those who are in error.

This explanation makes me much less angry than I would otherwise be. 23 million people .... well, perhaps she'll change her mind and become an ambassador.  I'm going to hold onto that thought for the weekend.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Changing Your Hair Color On TV

We really like Nicolle Wallace.  We like her voice, we like her mind, we like her mom-itude and her admission of responsibility and doing penance for Sarah Palin.  She kept us company all thru Pandemica 1.0, giving us something to do while we waited for our daily mid-afternoon call with the grandkids at their dinnertime.  

After a few months, we began to notice her clothes - specifically, the orange and brown blouse which complements her hair and her cheekbones.  

Then we began to fixate on her hair.  Working from home hair, going into the studio hair, having a long day hair, just curled hair - we were all over it.  We weren't judging, we were noticing.  Some we liked more than others, but underneath it all was her refreshingly candid commentary and her insistence on making her point, so her outside was less important than her inside.

All of that is to say that we are not entirely weird when we spend much longer than you'd think we would analyzing her hair color this week.  I didn't recognize her at first.  The next day it was all roots and not a lot of streaks.  Then it was too light.  Today, it is too dark.

I've never colored my hair, but I've lived among women for nearly 70 years, so I've heard the stories.  Getting the color right,  as in She tried but she didn't.... or I'm going back because she didn't... or other variations on the theme.   I get that it's an issue.

I've just never seen it played out in real time on television.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Met Gala

I never paid attention to this event before.   

But I go nowhere and see no one and now any splash of color (that's not sports) catches my eye.  Especially when my first view is of Amanda Gorman

Us Weekly

There were a lot of crystals.  There were lots of nearly naked women and if there were any nearly naked men I couldn't find a picture to share.  I'm not sure how this is okay.

I know nothing about the event itself.  I have no interest in knowing any more.  It's enough that I spent some delightful minutes watching videos of people I didn't know smiling/grimacing/turning this way and that on the red carpet.  I browsed Vogue's coverage for a while, realizing that I knew very few of the celebrities.... and that I didn't care.

It was pretty and superficial and I didn't care about that, either.  I was amused in a novel fashion for a while and that, in Pandemica 2.0, is, apparently, enough.

(Have I mentioned that being a considerate member of society requires vaccinating yourself against highly contagious diseases..... like TB and polio and Covid-19?)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Childhood of Old Age

We've always thought about life in stages - infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age.  

We met on the cusp of Adulthood, in the old age of Childhood, and passed into the infancy of Adulthood together.  We moved through adulthood's middle two stages without major traumas (ok, maybe except for getting shot) to ourselves or those we love.  We were remarkably healthy and active and involved.

Lately, it's become obvious that we've moved into the infancy of Old Age.  

Everything hurts.

This morning our hands hurt...... all four of them. A dull ache, no desire to clench a fist or touch fingers to thumb - is this some rare contagious syndrome?  We lay in bed, our hands in front of our faces, turning them palm to back and around again, marveling at the addition of another body part to our list of aches and pains.

I'm not talking about my hip and its assorted sensations.  They are in a separate class.  It's my eyes, which get really tired as the night goes on.  There's no good reading light in the living room, so I've been augmenting my adjusted-with-contacts vision with my reading glasses for a few years.  My eyes never hurt until recently;  after a few hours with a good book my facial musculature now announces itself with authority.

There's more.  Last week I took out my distance glasses to watch late night tv - supplementing my contact once again.  My prescription was adjusted during the summer's Brief Reopening.  It's not that my eyes have changed, it's that they have less endurance......  just like the rest of me.

I cleaned the house before the new cleaning lady came to review the premises - doesn't everyone? I didn't want her to think we were slovenly, so I dusted and mopped the floors two days earlier than usual, throwing in loads of laundry along the way.  At a certain point, I realized that everything but my hair was telling me to stop working.

Some of it, of course, is my hip.  But we have great air conditioning and I was still covered in sweat  profusely perspiring  glowing .*  

I'm not complaining.  I'm merely stating facts.  Every day that the sun comes up and I am here to see it is, by definition, a good day.  I just wish I could stay awake and enjoy it a little longer.

Monday, September 13, 2021

How To Lose Weight

Pandemica - I can't travel, I can't hug my friends, I can't eat.

What?  I feel you furrowing your brows.  The connection is not obvious, but it's there.

Taos Bubbe and I had plans to eat pizza and salad at Sauce..... until she arrived early and discovered that they had no outdoor seating.  Luckily, the plaza also houses a Prep and Pastry, which had several umbrella shaded tables just waiting for us....... after a 15 minute wait while they dithered about, neither clearing the dirty plates nor wiping the table nor seating us.

We were shaded.  There was no breeze. It was over 100 degrees.

And there were flies. Lots of little annoying beasties, landing on my bare shoulders and bare legs and hovering over and occasionally alighting on my avocado toast.  

Taos Bubbe was hot.  I was dripping sweat.  I had absolutely no appetite; there was enough on my plate that the server offered me a to-go box.

We met up a few days later at the Sauce near me.  Their outdoor seating has misters overhead and is tented; I was sure we'd be fine.

We were not.  

The breeze, what there was of it, was blowing the mist toward the sidewalk, not the seats.  Triple digit temperature (again), tiny flies (again), no appetite (again).  After eating not very much of our very good food we agreed that it was too hot to visit any longer.

This morning, Amster and I had our usual lunch at North.  We ate outside, tented, under broken misters as the temperature rose with the sun.  As soon as the food arrived, so did the flies.

My food was delicious.  The service was impeccable.  I was never without ice tea.  

I had no appetite.  Though we had more to say, we left as soon as TBG's pizza to-go arrived at the table.  He was the only one of us who truly enjoyed his meal.

After waiting for the cleaning lady (90 minutes late but where was I going anyway) I ran to Whole Foods then bbq'ed NY Strip Steaks.  The low 90's didn't feel much cooler than the low 100's, even though the sun had already set.  The absence of a breeze was made tolerable by the bats, who were busy reducing the number of flying annoyances to a random few.  

Yes, as I sat and boiled, I was grateful for the presence of bats.

By the time I sat down to eat, the knife and fork felt too heavy to lift.  There is a lot left for lunch and dinner tomorrow.

The scale is rewarding me.  I don't care.  I like eating.

GET YOUR DAMN VACCINE so that I can eat inside like a sane person.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Moths and Caterpillars and Chewed Upon Leaves

Scarlet's never had her own garden before; she's alert to every nibble and discoloration in her small but passionately tended space.  She has a gardener she trusts, but he has his own ideas about what to cut and how to cut it.  She uses me as a sounding board - am I right to insist on this?

Late Summer in the desert has brought the moths.  More moths than anyone ever remembers seeing.  Not butterflies, with colorful wings and delicate markings.  These are swarms of brown winged insects, clustering around your face and arms, swirling about in my courtyard as I type to you.  Twenty or thirty of them are touring my front yard right now, some dipping down to investigate 2 feet off the ground, others circling the rosemary, looking for I don't know what.

There are some tiny yellow ones who have paired up this morning, dancing between the crepe myrtle bush and the river rocks.  Google tells me that moths are drab colored and encourages me to look at the wings when the beasts are resting - moths' wings are horizontal, not folded like butterflies'.  But these things don't seem to stay still for any length of time.  They are flying around, interfering with my walk to the mailbox, trying to get into the house when I open the door.

Coming home from dinner next door last night was an exercise in speed and agility.  We went in.  The moths (all but one) stayed out.

Google tells me that moths are nocturnal and butterflies are diurnal.  The moths here in Tucson have not gotten that memo.  I'm watching a horde of them surround the gardener who is raking the detritus from the courtyard.  Every scrape of his rake releases clouds of dust and sends flying things all around his scarf and hat draped head.

He doesn't seem to mind at all.  I am totally creeped out, inside and watching it happen.  I'm itchy. I want a shower.  I can feel them all over me.

Have I ruined your morning?  Imagine Scarlet, with her perfectly manicured garden and its nibbled upon leaves.  The caterpillars are so happy, with all the fresh greenery our record setting monsoon brought to us.  They need to feed in order to change into magnificent butterflies, and the damage they do to the plants is purely cosmetic.  The leaf miners, leaving their signature trail of white behind them, don't hurt the plant, either.

She was concerned, but I calmed her down.  It's the circle of life, and, sometimes, it's not as pretty as we want it to be.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Her Dad..... Her Husband...

and our birthday and anniversary twin....  died too soon.

He was a big guy, in all ways.  Large in stature.  The world's biggest smile.  A hug that deserves a special spot in the Hugging Hall of Fame.

Non-judgmental but snarky, always ready with a bon mot or a snarky quip or a really bad joke, he was a fixture at soccer games and basketball games and school plays.  There are fathers who love their daughters, and there are fathers who coach basketball for their daughters, but they all take second place to Mr. A, whose world revolved around the two women in his life.

They were the tightest three-some in Tiburon.

To say that he was a proud grandfather would be understating the case.  That tiny baby in his grandpa's big arms, smiled upon with all the love in the world, I'm so glad they were in each other's lives..... even for just a moment.

I cannot get my head around the fact that he is no longer on this earth.  

Rest in peace, Mr. A.

Your memory is already a blessing.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

I Am

You are your best audience he said to me, with a big smile.

I should hope so came out of my mouth before my brain engaged.

We kept swimming, and I kept thinking.  By the end of the next lap, I was ready.

If I didn't find myself amusing, if I didn't like what I thought, how awful would that be?

And we stopped for a while and thought of the people who were always so negative, who never had positive energy, let alone positive thoughts to share.

I'm really glad that I like what I say, and how I say it.

FlapJilly spends time alone, with makeup and fancy clothes and jewelry and hair accessories.  By the time she comes down to share the beauty, she's already had her own personal, private adventure.




She's her own best audience, too.

Talking to Little Cuter while the kids ate dinner tonight, Giblet was laughing and wiggling and having a grand old time.  No one was paying much attention.  He was happy as a clam.

Talk about being your own best audience.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

It Was A Civil War

But aren't they all?  

I had this thought while swimming laps this afternoon.  Communal societies, like that depicted in The Island of the Sea Women by Linda See, share and share alike..... until someone breaks a norm and then all hell breaks loose.  

Suddenly there are factions.

I'm thinking about the Tudors, a dynasty built on bastards and blood, in which the peasantry was called upon to do the dirty work. Did a cobbler in Cornwall really care who sat on the throne?  Does a woman in a remote Afghan province care which repressive autocrat  holds the Presidency?  

I don't think so.

People, real people like you and me, want the government to stay out of our way and to keep us safe.  Beyond that, things get a little messy - how far out of my way and how safe and who (like, if a fetus is a person at 6 weeks is that when child support begins?).  The intricacies get in the way, more often than not, and it would be nice to think that the discussions were political -  not personal.

Mostly,  it seems that our governance is a clawing for power rather than a regard for the general well-being.  

Sounds like a dysfunctional family dynamic.  Sounds like the start of a nasty divorce.... or a civil war.


Monday, September 6, 2021

Labor Day

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 3, 2021

Pandemic Lite

TBG and I are vaccinated.  Our doctors tell us to get the booster when Moderna is approved, to wear masks, and avoid eating inside.

JannyLou and Fast Eddie are in the same situation.  We live next door to one another.  We haven't seen them in more than a month.  

JannyLou and I went out to lunch - so long ago I can't remember where.  There was much catching up.  There was no hugging.  Today, when she called to apologize for being AWOL, I laughed and told her she was taking the words out of my mouth.   There's nothing to talk about, once we caught up with the kids' lives.  We aren't doing anything worth talking about.

My weekly private sessions with the Pilates Diva are the only things on my calendar.  The only person who's been in our house lately was the window washer, and we stayed as far from one another (masked, of course) as we could.

There's not the same sense of panic as there was when we were doing this a year ago.  It's not as scary, now that we've been vaccinated and continue to take precautions when we venture outside.  Going inside is still a problem, although I'm comfortable going into the grocery store and Penzey's spice store.  Last year, I had everything delivered to a door - of my house or my car.

I go into the public library now, rather than having my books brought outside to the HOLDS table.  This is a mixed blessing, since I am tempted by books that I've already read..... although there are so many Linda LaPlante and James Patterson books that I am not surprised.  

Life is returning to what passes for normal in the 2020's.  We're having a Labor Day bbq with JannyLou and Fast Eddie on Monday -- I accepted the invitation only after I'd confirmed with TBG that he felt safe and comfortable sitting in their backyard, sharing a meal.

At least it's not weird anymore. There are just more layers between us and the real world. We've gotten used to them.  I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

A Bifurcated Life

Driving north after an away lacrosse game, my Audi full of high school seniors, Big Cuter and I were having one of our serious discussions.   I don't remember the topic, but I do remember his conclusion:

My generation has never experienced an American loss.  You had assassinations and Vietnam.  We see only wins.

Six months later, a freshman at Georgetown, he watched the smoke rise from the Pentagon on September 11.  The losses would start to pile up.  His life now had a before and after.  He was 18.

The war in Afghanistan has persisted throughout his entire adulthood.  There was no draft.  Some in their generation raced to the battle - Pat Tillman wasn't drafted - but most just shared the generalized angst of a war being fought on our own shores.

That faded soon enough. The war, as Wolf Blitzer mentioned today, was rarely the first or second story on the evening news.  It was hardly ever a  headline. His friend served in Iraq; we thought of him every day.  Once my friend returned from Afghanistan, it hardly ever entered my thoughts.  Malala and Karzai and Taliban were words that floated through the news, but my attention was usually drawn elsewhere.

Vietnam was my high school and college, but by graduate school the terror had ended.  My son and his friends never had to induce allergy attacks to avoid service; those who joined the fight had nobler motives, I think, than those who ran from it in the 1960's and '70's.  

But then, as now, we were trying to solve a Civil War.... and that doesn't end well for the intervener, as Joe Biden continues to point out.

The effects on a generation who've only known an America engaged in a futile war, who grew up believing in American exceptionalism and had the facts (ie, their life experiences) to prove it - well that remains to be seen.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

There Is Nothing

Without outrage, politics is less interesting.  

Without sunshine, I can only post photos of rain (and I did that yesterday).

Without access to the Prince Scholars (who are now masked, but still unvaccinated) I have no stories or pictures to share.

I've been reading authors I know and their stories are comfortably the same (and I have shared them already).

Honestly, denizens, I'm out of ideas.  

I'll try to do better tomorrow. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Monday, August 30, 2021

Falling

I was adamant the first time it was asked.  Fall? I don't fall.  Not since my son tackled me in the driveway as I was going for the basket.

Then, I took a tumble, tripping over loose stones, falling backwards, landing none too lightly on the pony wall, the backs of my arms keeping me from landing on the ground.  I vowed to wear shoes whenever I ventured out the front door; socks only would be a thing of the past, and I'd be fine.

Then my sandal caught the edge of the oriental rug in the kitchen.  I was very glad to have the counter right there; had I been 6 inches further away my nose and the ground would have become quite well acquainted.  By concentrating on strengthening my ankles and remembering to pick up my feel rather than dragging them along the floor I was sure I'd be fine.

Then I had lunch with Lady Jane, down three small steps to get to the garden at The Arizona Inn.  Coming up after a delightful repast, she tripped over the rubber strip holding the carpet runner at the top of those three small steps.  Down she went, right onto the floor,  rolling smartly onto her side so that her wrist didn't try to hold her up - and certainly fail at the task.

There I stood, right next to her, unable to do a thing.  I was not steady enough on my two feet to lurch over and grab her.  The same thing happened to G'ma almost a decade ago.  I could do nothing but watch her and her walker tumble to the ground.

This is not a good feeling.

The doctors are right to ask about falling.  I no longer bristle at the question.  

Friday, August 27, 2021

What I Couldn't Do

Our cable package has music channels.  R&B, Country, Heavy Metal, Pop Hits, and, TBG's favorite - Classic Oldies.  That's what we swim to; Zone 2 is the outside speakers and that's the red button I push to make the sound happen.  Our set up is complex and I never bothered to learn it.  That one red button is enough for me.

So, this afternoon, I changed and slathered lotion and grabbed a towel and my goggles before I pushed the button and the music began.  I had no idea it would be a romp through my adolescence - and my failure to learn to dance.

Daddooooo taught me the lindy in our living room.  It was fun, but I was too awkward to enjoy myself. I paid more attention to the fact that it was a dance named after Charles Lindbergh than I did to learning the steps.  Besides, nobody in junior high was doing the lindy; they were doing a raft of other dancer.  I didn't know them either.

First on this afternoon's playlist was The Mashed Potato.  I could do that - sorta kinda, but my hips hurt with every turn in and turn out.  Plus, it was kinda stupid.

A few songs later came The Pony - I remember it had something to do with lifting your knees, but that's about all.  That song sent me down a mental spiral - the Frug, the Watusi, the Boogaloo - the songs weren't played but the memories were quite clear.

I calmed down when they switched to The Twist - I was good at that.  I could do The Swim (crawl, breast stroke, back stroke) and The Hitchhike, so I didn't have to spend all my time sitting and watching.  But the feeling was awakened and has been dogging me all afternoon.

I never wanted to go back to Junior High..... this is only one of the reasons.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

It's Back - And I'm Happy

Pandemica was made a little more bearable by the ease with which I could participate in our democracy without leaving home.  Postcards To Voters and Vote Forward have, once again, sent me emails asking for help.  It's a much more productive use of my time than playing Candy Crush Soda Saga.

After being vetted - I sent a sample postcard and was approved within 24 hours - back in the Olden Times, it's now a simple matter of clicking on a link and downloading my voters.  Vote Forward has me printing out template letters with a Fill In The Blank section following I vote because.  Postcards to Voters gives me the essential information and lets me format the (less expensive) postcards myself.

I write about participating in democracy and making my voice heard and my vote as my statement of interest.  I use colorful markers and print carefully.  With football rearing its ugly head once again, having meaningful work that allows me to share space with TBG is a delightful bonus.

This year, Vote Forward is asking for bilingual letters, and they have a website with translations you can copy.... unless you have a Spanish speaking friend who can help.  You don't sign your full name, just first with a last initial, and the word VOLUNTEER clearly noted in the return address space.

If Being inside again is getting you down, I suggest clicking on one of those links and making yourself useful.  Voter suppression is everywhere.  These missives have been proven to increase voter turn out.  It's a concrete way to make a difference.

I'm going to create some postcards now.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Today's Her Brithday

She died last Spring, just as things were opening up.  Her death opened a giant hole in a lot of hearts.

Her husband devoted his life to making her happy, and he was quite a success.  He tended her when she was well, and cared for her when she was ill, and always made sure that she had what she wanted, when she wanted it.  She was always particular, and he didn't mind accommodating her.

Now she's gone, and his responsibilities have vanished.

I sent him sustenance from Whole Foods after her death; he called to tell me that almost everything I selected was our usual order.  I haven't seen them in decades; some things never change.  We grew up together and those early memories are deeply imprinted.

I'm still not used to the fact that she is no longer on this earth, even though our paths rarely crossed once we were adults.  Since April, she's taken up permanent residence in a corner of my mind,  popping up in the most unexpected places.  She never did this when she was alive.

Her brother is now the patriarch of his family, the only elder remaining in his line.  I occupy a similar space in my family.  Last week, we talked on the phone about how weird that is.

I never polish my nails without thinking of her.

I never read a paperback book without remembering her bragging about reading 4 books right now.  I didn't understand it then, and I don't understand it today, but I remember it vividly nonetheless.

Happy Birthday, Cuz.  May all your raspberries be organic and unbruised.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

46 Years Ago Today



Sometimes it feels like yesterday.  Sometimes it feels like forever ago.  Always, it feels just right.
 

Monday, August 23, 2021

And There's More

As Linda pointed out in her comment to Friday's post, it's too bad money can't buy common sense.  Upon a deeper dive into the school funding issue, it seems that this applies, oh, most definitely applies, to Governor Ducey.

Let me explain.

The Governor's decision to withhold federal Rescue Plan money from any school district with a mask mandate may come to bite him in the ass.  It's $1800 per student - a sizeable chunk of change in any district's budget. 

Unfortunately for Governor Ice Cream, these funds cannot be released to districts which receive other Federal aid programs, like all those available to lower income demographics.  So my District and all the other school districts serving those at the bottom of the economic pile are losing nothing by doing the one thing the experts say can mitigate the transmission of COVID 19 - mask mandates. 

And which Districts stand to lose all those Federal dollars our Incompetent in Chief won't give them if they, too, want to protect their kids?  All those rich, white, Republican suburbs, with inflated home prices because the public schools are wonderful.  Suddenly, they're not going to be as wonderful as they could be,  if your District were tempted to put masks in their dress codes.

Ducey is trying to give them $7000 vouchers for private schools, but that's a plan that seems to be going nowhere.

It may be that every parent in those districts is anti-mask, but Arizona has sent home a kindergarten class in the middle of the first day and lost an unvaccinated teacher and it's only a matter of time before those folks have it happen to them, because it can happen to you..... when you least expect it.... or when you've deluded yourself into believing that it only happens to the other guy.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Trouble at the Top

Gen. Milley says there was no information sent to his desk that indicated an 11 day collapse of the Afghan Army.

Gov. Ducey will give families $7000 for private school tuition if they don't want to send their kids to a mask-mandated school.  He'll also withhold  $1800 per student in American Rescue Plan money from districts which enforce mask mandates.  According to his spokesperson, this money is the Governor's to dispense.  No one else ought to weigh in.

The City of Tucson is punishing their unvaccinated workers with a 5 day without pay suspension.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors is rewarding vaccinated employees with $300 checks.

Does it seem to anyone else that our governance is running around like chickens with their heads cut off?

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Reality

Auntie M now has as many years as Harold Hill has trombones.  

That was her brother's quick math answer to an unasked question, as he sat beside me on the couch, frantically switching channels, trying to find one that wasn't advertising chilling side effects and horrifying diseases or shivering puppies or starving children...... and don't get me started on that adorable little elephant who's just learning to walk.  

More and more often, TBG and I are struck by the novelty of ...... well, pick just about any category... and find ourselves noting that in 140 years on this planet we have ......

At back to school night this week, FlapJilly's new 2nd grade teacher recognized SIR.....  because she taught his sister three decades ago and recognized the face.  That sister is now teaching 2nd grade, herself.

This brought me back to volunteering in the library when Little Cuter was in 2nd grade and her 20-something teacher had a mild meltdown when one her her students checked out a book that she had checked out when she was a 2nd grader in that same school... her name was on the book's paper card, right there in her own 7 year old scrawl.  

How is this possible? she wailed.  

How is this possible, indeed?

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

We Had A Pandemic Date

We ran an errand where both of us went into the store at the same time (masked, of course).

We got lunch at a drive through window and ate in the car, under a tree in the parking lot.

We got a curbside pickup of groceries.

We came home.

This is not the way a rainy Tuesday should be spent.  I can't feel safe going inside a restaurant because people refuse to get vaccinated.  I can't stroll comfortably with my husband, because after a few minutes he starts to feel claustrophobic beneath his mask, and mask we must, because we don't know who is unsafe.

This is backwards.  It's not fair.  We did everything right and now we are punished and forced to stay home because others refuse to believe the science.  They are running around, merrily infecting themselves and others, and I don't want to be one of their others.  

I think they should stay home, or at least away from indoor spaces and crowded outdoor venues, and the rest of us should have free reign over the community spaces that now seem ultra-dangerous.  Several concert venues in Tucson and Phoenix are now requiring proof of vaccination in order to enter their space.  

Right now, though, I'd give anything for a vaccination only pizza parlor.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Afghanistan

It looks awful.

It's got to feel worse.

There are no women and girls in the streets; the unmarried ones are hiding to preclude their being taken as wives for the young Taliban soldiers.

And don't get me started on those who've spent 20 years working with the coalition forces to build a modern, functioning society - and who are now left behind.  Joe Biden did a poor job in preparing for their evacuation and I cried as Matt Zeller spoke on MSNBC about the moral stain this leaves on my soul.

Alexander the Great turned away from fighting there.  The Russians failed after a disastrous attempt at nation building in their own image, and now we are repeating the scenario.  One of the poorest countries in the world, its economy dependent on heroin, with a fantastically corrupt elite (per Rachel Maddow) and the Taliban now in control of American military bases and the equipment (arms, ammunition, helicopters....) - this is not a scenario that bodes well for the future.

I've left a message at the White House.  I'm writing this post.  There is no NGO presence to which I can send money.  I'm out of ideas.

All I can do, it seems, is feel sad.

What a waste.

Monday, August 16, 2021

That's Just What I Was Thinking

Listening to Patrick Lam talk to Helen Rosner on Splendid Table this afternoon, I had one of those Meg Ryan moments.

Y'know, the moment in Sleepless in Seattle where she and Tom Hanks both say magic - he on the radio, she in her car.  

Helen Rosner was talking about her ambivalence regarding air conditioning.  She and Patrick Lam agreed - you need it and you love it but it distracts you from the season outside.  I mean, it makes you want to make

(all together now)

a post roast.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Family Time

Randomly one afternoon on our last visit to Indiana, Giblet asked me about my brother.  Specifically, he wondered why he wasn't visiting, too.  Was he visiting Chicago Cousin, his daughter, helping her with her new house?  Why?

He was perplexed.  We were surprised at his recall of the details.  After all, my brother appears, randomly, when he's driving from Maryland to Chicago.  He stays for an hour (the trip puts him in Indiana just around dinner/bath/bed time) then drives on to see his own kid.  

Though it's not a great quantity of time, it is obviously high quality time.

This time, Brother brought gifts.  FlapJilly got G'ma jewelry that Intrepid Cat (Brother's eldest, for those keeping track) passed down to the jewelry person in the family.  Some of it was deemed too delicate to wear right away.  It's safely stored until the proper occasion arises.

Giblet got a bright yellow dump truck.  It makes noise.  It has flashing lights.  It was right by his side on our FaceTime call this evening.  

Did my brother make silly sounds?

YES!!! was the obvious answer, followed, as we knew it would be, by a series of raspberries and toots and hoots and hollers.... just like Daddooooo did for me and then for my kids.  Apparently, Giblet touched the truck and Brother created a sound.

Basically, they spent an hour screeching at one another was Little Cuter's assessment of the situation. 

And then my brother got in his car and called me to share the love.

I made noises with Giblet, FlapJilly got some of Mommy's jewelry, and everyone looked great.  They say you two look great, too.  

 Family, far flung as it may be, still manages to stay connected.  I am so grateful that my brother does not like to fly.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Late Summer in the Garden

The yard guys started things off before 8am.  

I saw them through the window when I rolled out of bed. I usually have time for breakfast before they arrive, but, there they were and so there went I, walking the entire property and pointing out what needed to be done.  

There was much to be done.

They raised the lantana so each bush is now a lovely round capped mushroom with lots of space beneath the lowest leaves.  No pack rats will find them attractive, now that the sun and the wind have free access below the entwined branches.  

They trimmed a tree branch or two; it was hard to tell which to cut, since the rain weighted them down. 
Still, I knew that nothing belonged dangling over the bbq.... too bad we couldn't figure out what to do to fix the situation.  

They planted a tree.  Purchased from a local not-for-profit, I only saw it on-line.  In real life, it is too small to replace my downed palo verde but perfect to grow big and stately between my house and my neighbor's garage.  Not my original plan, but gardening in the desert is often a case of missed opportunities.  I'm still looking for a statement tree for the front of the house; blocking their garage was lower down on the list.  

Still, it's done, and I am grateful.

All the weeds are sprayed with toxic only to them blue stuff.  Though they'll be back in the morning, all the snake/squirrel/unknown beastie holes are raked smooth and covered over.  The stones are neatly contained within the borders of the paved paths and driveway.  For one day, at least, everything is pristine. 

The barrel cacti are all atilt or lying flat on the ground, yet each one still has one thick root anchoring it to the soil.  Given my new pet theory that the plants communicate and share nutrients as they are dying, we left them in the ground.  I don't know if the theory works for cacti, but I'm enjoying the thought.

There's not a lot of planting to be done.  I'm cleaning out the containers which haven't been changed since before I was shot.  It's not a pretty job, but somehow it's very rewarding.  I always did like pruning more than planting.

We've had a record breaking monsoon, and there's still more to come.  The ground will be ready to accept new offerings in a month or so, when I'm ready to get down and dirty once again.  For now, I'll let the high 90's feel cool and enjoy watching my floral offspring grow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A Backwards Day

Monsoon brings rain in the afternoon.  The clouds come together in a dark and menacing crowd and drop much needed moisture - sometimes for a minute, sometimes for hours, sometimes gently and sometimes with the full force of Mother Nature.

Our mornings are hot and steamy.  The sky is blue. If there are clouds, they are sitting on Pusch Ridge, stuck on the mountain top.  Mornings are the time to go outside and do what can be done, triple digits not withstanding.  

Swimming in the morning when the birds are looking for breakfast and the flowers are opening to the sun is one of my great pleasures.  I went to sleep last night with the firm intention of doing half a mile in the pool then cleaning out the second tall planter.  I did the first one yesterday, in the light drizzle that monsoon provided.  It was lovely.

But I awoke to raindrops.  Lots and lots of raindrops.  I tried to roll over and go  back to sleep, but TBG is back to his morning Zoom spin class and the music was too loud and too good to ignore.  Reluctantly, I got up and did nothing.

I tried two collections of short stories, but neither Haruki Murakami nor Alan Gurganus held my interest.  I finished up some Cornell Club business.  I deleted emails.  I considered going through the large pile of I'll get to this later on the corner of my desk, but shrugged my shoulders and continued to avoid it.  The grocery store was tempting, but I have food for dinner and lunch and breakfast was French toast on brioche bread which filled me up all day long.

It was turning out to be a wasted day - and then the sun came out.  

The clouds were stuck on Pusch Ridge.  The air was hot and steamy.  The pool looked inviting.

It was the early morning at 2 in the afternoon.... truly a backwards day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

A New (to me) Author

Exit is the most unlikely police procedural/
I laughed out loud.  I gasped.  I was constantly surprised.  These things do not happen with regularity on their own; to find all three in one book is unlikely.

Many characters are old... really old, the kind of old that involves figuring out how to get up off the floor when everything hurts. Many characters die.  Each of the characters is a distinct personality; there are lots of them and it's easy remember who's who.  That is unlikely.

The story unfolds as if it's somewhere in the middle of a series.  I kept checking to be sure it's a stand alone story.  I have narrative lust - I want to know that even the minor characters will reappear sometime.  Sadly, I think that is unlikely, too.

Unlike Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi (I apologize if you read Call me Zebra on my recommendation - I could barely finish it and still don't know what happened)  Belinda Bauer  is an author worth revisiting.  And, best of all, she has written other stories - and some of them are serials.


Monday, August 9, 2021

I've Become My Mother

I have lots of cute sundresses.  I have yoga pants of all lengths and colors.  All my shorts, save one, pull up comfortably over my hips and stay there, without a fastener of any kind.  My two favorite skirts have wide elastic bands that expand and contract with every breath.

Nothing constricts.  Nothing pinches.  Nothing requires more than a tug or two to settle into place.  I have wraps and necklaces and earrings that don't annoy me.  

I see no reason to change this. Ever.

And then I thought of the clothes in my mother's closet.  Her wardrobe during the last few decades of her life included nary a zipper nor a snap.... except the ones on her bra, at which she cursed while fastening it in front and swiveling the damn thing around to its proper position.  We never talked about it.  I wonder if she, too, realized that life was too short to worry about buttons on your bottoms.

Or, perhaps, it was totally an issue of comfort.  She always looked put together; those matching jogging pants and jackets of the early "90's  had her name written all over them.  Her sweat pants kept her warm in the winter and her elastic waist jeans protected her aging skin while she gardened.  All her tops were long enough to prevent an errant glimpse of skin; none of them were ever tucked in.

I don't remember her ever complaining that her outfit was uncomfortable.... even after Thanksgiving or Pesach or the first bbq of the season.
 
Once again, I'm realizing just how smart my mother really was.  

I gave away my high heels.  I think it's time to move on to those pesky zippered pants.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

I'm So Angry

This is usually my happiest evening of the school year.  The kids show up for their first day tomorrow and, usually, I'm filling the pockets in my Grandma robe with stickers, and deciding which shoes are the most comfortable for standing and bending.

I should be setting my alarm for 6:30 so that I arrive in the parking lot while there are still empty spaces.  Hugging and smiling and introducing will occur;  I will comfort little ones who don't want to leave Mommy.....  at least that was my plan earlier this summer, when the virus seemed to have released its death grip on our County, and people were believing that we could go into public spaces without our masks - our reward for being well behaved during Pandemica.

Instead, I am going over to Scarlet's to play mahjong.  I can't risk getting sick, and our Governor has made it impossible for the local district to keep me safe.  Masks can no longer be required.

This is, I am told, in defense of my liberties.

All except for life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness - all of which are encapsulated in the fact that I do not feel safe going to the first day of school.  The kids will all be under 12 and thus unvaccinated.  The grown ups are probably a mixed bag.  I could contract the Delta variant and have no symptoms and transmit it to everyone with whom, up until now, it's felt safe to visit.

I suppose this is my punishment for those moments when the reopening of the world felt like more than I could bear, when I remembered the long, empty days with a certain fondness.  But, I could cry to the universe, I'd come to terms with allowing events and people back into my life.  I had learned to travel safely and to party with my grandkids without endangering their health.

The unvaccinated - if you are reading this please comment and tell me why - served as hosts for a virulent new disease, one that now threatens to morph into still another variant.....Delta Plus, according to Lawrence O'Donnell..... and if someone can explain to me how their liberty trumps mine I'm ready to listen. 

Until then, I'm thinking of Jezebel's solution to Yellow Jack..... and if it's gotten to the point where I am thinking about using weaponry to keep myself safe..... well, things have certainly gotten out of hand.

We have a problem.  We have a solution.  We were almost there.  I am so angry.

Tomorrow's post should be stories and pictures of America's newest scholars.  I'm going to wallow in self-pity take the day off and regain my composure.

Come back on Monday.  I'll have a better attitude, I promise.  Til then, stay safe.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Back To School Love Fest

Once again, GRIN delivered Back to School treats to every elementary, K-8, and middle school in the Amphi District.  This is what my car looked like once everything was loaded.  
The blue IKEA bag behind the goodies was necessary - there were lots of cakes and brownies and more cakes and cookies and muffins and fruit tarts and fancy cupcakes and more cakes and cookies and even some Hostess products.  

How does this wonderfulness happen?  

Vera - a manager at my Albertsons.
 She smiles at me in July and agrees to have supplies for me in August.
The store provides some, she provides some, and this year other staff members donated, too.

Year after year after year she does this.
Why?
It's for the kids.

It's that simple for her.... and for me.... and for every grateful face I saw in every office for 3 hours this morning.  Doing good for the little ones is its own reward.

But Vera deserves her own special reward, and this is all she'll let me offer.

You are very special.
 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Everything Breaks At Once

Last night the bbq refused to light, although the click-click-click (repeat for 8-10 seconds) of the igniter was perfectly fine.  This afternoon, even the clicker was gone.  I can make burgers and hot dogs inside under the broiler, but they are not the same.  I'd just as soon have tuna fish for lunch.

When I swam this morning there was no water draining from the spa into the pool itself like there usually is.  It was a signal that there was something amiss, but the temperature was perfect and the sun wasn't over the roof yet, and my swim was wonderful (thank you for asking).  When TBG got home, not only was the water still nowhere to be seen, the thermometer read 129 degrees.

The pool itself was certainly no where near that; it's delightfully brisk in these triple digit afternoons, and that suits me just fine..... as long as I don't think about kicking and pulling through unfiltered liquid which is potentially housing bugs and bacteria of all shapes and sizes.  

The handyman has been requested and the pool guy informed of the disastrophe that awaits his weekly visit.  It's unsettling when things don't work, but everything that can be done has been done.  Anxiety is not helping, yet here it is.

Normally, I'd go out for a swim to recalibrate my emotions.  That's not happening.  I think I'll have that tuna fish now.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Melons

Jennifer Lopez is hawking a product .  I'm not sure what it does or if it is valuable, but if it will make me look as good as she looks, I want it says TBG with laughter in his voice.  It's true that JLo seems to have defied aging by all observable standards, but it didn't seem funny until he went on.

Twenty years ago, Cindy Crawford was seen by TBG in person at the Denver airport.  She remains the most beautiful woman I ever saw - without wearing makeup - she was stunning.  She was also seen by TBG on a late night infomercial hawking a skin care product.  

She was using melons - as an ingredient and as a prop.

She put two melons on a counter - the one she sources from and another, random melon.  Ten days pass, and the other melon looks like you and me, and her melon is perfect.  

I'm not sure why, but I'm still laughing.  

I don't think we're cantaloupes (under- or over-ripe) yet.  I'm leaning more toward honeydew.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Mr. Pack Rat

How unusual - NOT!  You have droppings in your courtyard, just like everyone else in Tucson.

That was the gist of my conversation with the lovely lady who answers the phone these days for Mr. Pack Rat.  After agreeing that the only way to fully protect my home would be to install a plexiglass dome over the entire property - and a lengthy and laugh filled discussion of our business model - she found an opening the very next day.

Well, that's only perfect, said I.

And so, this morning, hours earlier than promised, Eric came to inspect the scene of the crime.

Yes, those are pack rat pellets adorning my threshold.  I considered taking a picture, but some of you are eating breakfast right now and I'd hate to put that in front of your oatmeal.  Small, oblong, dark black - I left them in place so that the technician would have evidence.  

He says I can sweep them up, now.

He combed through the rosemary bushes inside and outside the pony wall.  He found piles of bougainvilla flowers, but they are disorganized, not neatly packed as in a nest.  He thinks the rat was sitting amongst them, chewing on the plant products he'd nibbled off my containers.  It didn't seem like a nest.

Who knew that pack rat nests were fancy?  Not I, certainly.  There are 5 nests outside the back walls, but there's been no infiltration into the back yard.. This is good news - we don't like finding little rat bodies floating on the surface of the pool.  Our drainage openings are well constructed, too; nothing is living inside the walls themselves.

After a thorough inspection revealed no clues, Eric suggested 2 live traps placed in the courtyard for 2 days for $50.  Their permit requires them to check the traps every 24 hours.  Eric is confident that he'll capture the varmint the very first night.

We'll be entering and exiting through the garage door until the beast is captured and the traps are gone.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Happy Birthday, FlapJilly!

Mama, next weekend I'll be 7.  

It's true.  I was there when she was a backache the night before she was born.  It can't be labor, Mom; the baby's not due until next week - that was the first grandmotherly comment to be dismissed out of hand.  

It's also a touchstone moment - babies don't often do what they're supposed to do when they are supposed to do it and good parents, like Little Cuter and SIR, learn to roll with it..... even when it includes projectile pooping.  It's amazing how well you can control your gag reflex when it's your own personal human creation looking up at you through her screams.

And then the random screams become burbling sounds of discomfort and the solutions, though always changing, are, eventually found.  Smiles and laughs and recognition; food smashed all over your face and hers, adventures in the real world, and, always, WHY??

School friends and cousin friends and encountering the outside world on her own - and making a place in it for herself.  She's grown out of babyhood, living firmly in childhood, and enjoying almost every minute of it.

Opinions are formed.  Music is now a shared experience -Taylor Swift, please.  Reading chapter books starring glittery unicorn princesses, finding balance while making turns on a scooter, cracking an egg without dropping any shell into the bowl - her body and her mind are exploding.

She's 4 feet tall - and proud of every inch.  

Today is her special day.  Deliveries and purchases and plans have been made; thinking about them while we talked today made her shiver with delight. 

Happy Birthday, darling GrammaDaughter.  Grampa and I love you very, very much.





Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Watching and Weeping

I watched the most manly men wipe tears from their eyes.  I listened as they retold their stories.  I was mesmerized by their bodies and their language.

These were big guys, with ribbons on their chests and fidelity to their oaths. In their hearts, they were broken.  

Name calling.  Eye gouging. Kill him with his own gun.  

I found myself leaning forward, hands gripping one another.  I wasn't crying, I was watching and learning.

I remember..... 

I remember, too.  

At least the deniers were few and far between back in 2011.  The most powerful moments this morning were those damning the elected officials who said it was all love and happiness.  Let them go over to Donald Trump's house, if they're so full of love.

They are looking for the truth.  They called out the former president.  They gave the Committee their wish list - who and what needs to be brought to light.  

And then it was finished. 

I took a little trip to the outside edges of PTSD this morning.  It was a reminder of how I felt every day of the former guy's presidency.  I hope that America can do justice to those defenders of the Capitol and its inhabitants that day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Exile - Books Worth Reading

I didn't realize that last month would be filled with stories of exile, and yet, it was.  I didn't plan it that way.  The universe provided the material and I drank it up.  I'm a little les anchored in my personal space, but in a good way.  Thinking makes it so.  

My rolfing therapist handed me this, and told me I would love it.


She was right.  I looked at the world with heightened sensibilities after seeing it through the eyes of a young girl growing up.  Why she and her father are alone in the world seems less important than the lessons he's teaching her, until the outside world intervenes and changes everything.  Modern conveniences take on extra dimensions, the simplest tasks are revealed as bewilderingly complex, and through it all there is a serenity and a hopefulness baked into the protagonist's DNA.  

Read it, then breathe deeply.  You'll feel the difference.

I reread Nora Ephron's Heartburn as a palate cleanser; her snarky prose still makes me laugh.  Then I picked up Madeline Miller's Circe and was, once again, in exile.
The Olympians and the Titans fight like the Hatfields and McCoys, and Miller makes them seem just that real.  Another young woman alone on an island, although this one consorts with Hermes and argues with Zeus.  Did you ever wonder about Scylla's origins?  Have you thought about Minos's reaction when his wife gave birth to the Minotaur?  And why would he name the beast after himself, anyway?  Those and so many other mysteries are described and explained and made real.... even as I knew they were not.

A knowledge of the gods and goddesses helped me.  Having read the Iliad and the Odyssey I had a ready made place in my brain for the questions Miller raised.  Bringing Penelope and Telemachos front and center at the end turned those stories somewhat askew - and I loved it.

I sighed when I read the last page.

From Little Cuter's office at Notre Dame, I took Call Me Zebra,

a fantastical picaresque, a jumble of quotations and philosophy and history, and a sad sad story of a young girl uprooted from her Iranian homeland and deposited in the outside - alone, well-read, but poorly prepared.  This is not a light read; every sentence is laden with meanings.... many many meanings.  There are references to literary figures unknown and known to me; at times it seems that the author's boundless knowledge has vomited upon the page.

But Zebra's internal journey, her commitment to discovering the why's of her exile, her single minded focus on expecting the best from everyone and schooling them when they fail to meet her standards, kept me gong through the rough spots.  

It's hard to dislike a book when a one of the main characters is a suitcase.

Yuval Noah Harari's Saipiens


tells humankind's history through comics.  The author visits laboratories and cave paintings and fossil finds while teaching evolution. It's easy to pick up and put down, giving you time to ponder.  The drawings are complex and full of random fun - the background characters in the airports and train stations deserve your close attention.  This one could be shared with middle and high schoolers; it's sure to provoke conversation.

And now, I'm going on to the newest translation of the Aeneid, by Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer
It's readable and enjoyable and maintains the meter and rhythm of the Latin (or so the reviews and her introduction told me; I'm not a Latinist so I can't say for sure.)  After all these stories of exile and displacement, I'm happy to return to the mother of all these adventures.  

All the same questions present themselves - Why not go home?  Where is home?  What if home no longer exists?  Is the journey more important than the destination?  What does all this tell me about myself, beyond what it says about the characters contained within its pages?

It's been a great month of reading.  I hope you like some of these - and that you tell me what you think in the comments sometime.


Monday, July 26, 2021

An Entirely Unusual Experience

The Olympic Games began, and no one seems to care... except, perhaps, for the Japanese people who are protesting outside the venues.  Their country is hosting an international super-spreader event and they are peeved.  Akio  Toyoda refused to attend the opening ceremonies even though he's CEO of Toyota, the major investor in the games.  That was probably a smart move, given that masking was sporadic and vaccination uncertain.  I'm not sure about Japanese politics, but Toyoda's absence made a statement that even I could understand.

The Opening Ceremonies were in stark contrast to the Chinese games'.  Instead of masses of humanity beating drums in sync, there were shapes and lines and solitary dancers exercising in white bloomers while colored lights played on the arena.  It was artful and somewhat interesting but we turned it off when the camera focused on a person on a treadmill.... for a very long time..... until s/he fell off and lay in a hump.

It wasn't a ball or a reclining figure - it was a hump.

The US gymnasts and swimmers stayed away - standing for hours among possible vectors for the disease the day before their events were contested seemed like the smarter move.  The swimmers gathered for their own ceremony, locking arms in a giant circle and singing the national anthem.  It was a wobbly circle and  the voices were somewhat off-key - it was nothing less than reminiscent of color war at summer camp, and in that, it was heartwarming and welcoming and a sweet way to start off a weird Olympics.

It's on the television all day long.  We watched archery. Robin Hood would be perplexed by these bows and arrows, although the targets look just the same as the ones he shot at against Matt of Sliwa in the movie.

olympics.com

We watched the men's 8's and 4's and the women's 8's - that's rowing for the uninitiated.  These are not multiple scoring events, yet the  long pull and glide across flat water was oddly mesmerizing and exciting.  We found ourselves rowing along with them, wondering if one arm was bigger than the other since it was doing most of the work.  

news.bbc.co.uk

These are the thoughts one has when sports slips from the front of the brain into the mush in the middle.  We were brought back to reality when the commentator began to describe the role of each pair of athletes - strength, guidance, technique are equally divided between them.  

I spent some time wondering what my life would have been like had I known that small people with loud voices are perfect coxswains.

There was shooting, with rifles too heavy for the contestants to hold for longer than it took to aim and fire.  One round was all I could stomach; we switched channels and watched tall, fit women in skimpy bikinis play beach volleyball.  It was more fun to see them dancing across the hot sand than it was to have the end of a rifle pointed at my face

Women's handball.  Volleyball for both boys and girls.  Fencing. A road race that went on forever, and was repeated on every channel.  The American men's gymnastics.  The camera angles were odd, the announcers odder still.  Arcane points of order, incomprehensible scoring, competitions between Norway and Korea - we watched it all.  It's the background as I'm cooking, as we're Facetiming with the kiddos, while we're talking to Queen T and Big Cuter for an hour.

There's nothing that demands our full attention - perhaps Simone Biles will do that for us.  Not even the swimming could hold my interest for long; 400 meters is a long time to watch unidentified bodies move through a pool.

It's the production values that have suffered the most.  There is a blond woman with a British accent who shows up from time to time to tell us what we'll be seeing next.  Mike Tirico stands on a deserted patio in front of  perfectly placed bonsai trees on perfectly spaced tables and teases us with what's to come. Mary Carillo was there, subdued and not funny at all.  There are no personal profiles of athletes training in the far corners of the world.  There are videos of watch parties back in the States, there are after event Thanks, Mom! interviews, but not much more up close and personal stories than you'd find in the evening news.

Big Cuter likes the sports and dislikes the human interest pieces; I'm sure he's happier with this scaled down version.  I, on the other hand, miss the spectacle.  I miss the roar of the fans; the empty stadiums are creepy and seem to overpower the athletes.  The void is overwhelming.

It's an odd event in an odd time in our odd little world right now.   

Friday, July 23, 2021

Going Backwards

The last time we flew home from South Bend, we were the only people in the waiting area.  It was early June, we were vaccinated, we were sitting alone and far from the few other travelers who were leaving Indiana at 11pm, so we took down our masks and breathed free.  

We weren't worried.  If we believed the science and stayed home for 14 months, we have to believe the science when it tells us we are safe was our mantra. 

All that has changed in the past few weeks.

Of course, we masked up whenever we went anywhere with FlapJilly and Giblet.  If the least among us could not be protected we would take all the precautions we could - to protect them and to show solidarity with their predicament.

As soon as you get your vaccine, my love was the all too frequent answer to horseback riding and eating inside a restaurant and traveling to Arizona... and it shouldn't be.  If everyone who could get vaccinated did get vaccinated I could have taken the kids to the library when the weather turned ugly.  Not that we didn't have fun at home - SIR and Little Cuter have created a paradise for kids of all ages - but there is so much world out there to explore.  

In the airport on Wednesday we kept our distance and our masks and found ourselves aware of every cough and exposed nose.  I went to Costco that afternoon and I wore my mask.  JannyLou and I masked up when we went out to lunch.  We were very glad to be sitting at an out of the way table in the back.

This doesn't have to be happening.  People are dying who might have been saved.... who probably would have been saved.... and who certainly wouldn't have served as a host for who knows what other variants might be percolating out there and I am slowly losing my mind as this threatens to happen all over again.

Little Cuter hugged us at the airport and reminded us that If there's even the hint of another pandemic, you are coming right back here... or maybe we will come to you  - you have a pool.

 I want them to be able to visit rather than flee.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

A Travel Day

All the planes were on time.

We only had to walk fast through two terminals at DFW, and climb up the stairs to the SkyLink tram because the escalator was broken to make our connection.

We had no third person in the row on either leg.

The time change has us very confused, as does lack of sleep, breathing recycled air, and not eating very much at all.

In short, denizens, I'm too exhausted to have anything meaningful to say, although I read several fascinating books that I am anxious to share with you.  Tomorrow will be better, I'm sure.  For now, excuse me but I'm going to take a nap.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A Beautiful Day

FlapJilly stayed home from camp to play with her grandparents today.  Her mama didn't have to work, either.  TBG and I were surrounded by love.

We were on our way to Einsteins for bagels when the littlest member of our party decided that McDonalds would make her happier - so that's where we went through the drive through.  I know that their orange juice is delicious; TBG brings me one after he spins.  I didn't know that the blueberry muffin would be as good as it was.  I'm not a sausage and egg girl; the muffin kept my tummy happy.

FlapJilly's favorite place in the world is her mother's work place - the University of Notre Dame.  We parked by the lake, hoping to enjoy our breakfasts on its shores.  Unfortunately, the entire space was fenced in.  There was to be no picnic this morning.  

Instead, we headed to the grotto.  It's a spiritual gathering place, with candles to light and a kneeling bench for prayers.  There were lots of prayers..... some arriving on bicycles, some on scooters, some in strollers.  We sat and explained it all to FlapJilly, who nodded solemnly.  The benches around the perimeter were filled with grown ups reading and women chatting and us - three visitors who couldn't get enough of it all.

Strolling through campus, we admired the giant hardy hibiscus in colors I'd never seen before.  There were plaques on every tree, on every bench, on every statue and art installation.  Notre Dame has a lot of grateful alumni, and the campus is living proof of that.  

Little Cuter considered that Landscaping should be her next job - riding in a golf cart, weeding and planting and pruning and creating beauty every day.  

Since I forgot my phone in Tucson and TBG's flip phone has no internet connection, we made a quick stop at Little Cuter's desk to print out our boarding passes and say hi to her work friends before we continued our tour.

Father Hesburgh's library, Touchdown Jesus, Stonehenge, the steps of the Administration Building, the Presbytery - I haven't walked that much since I was perforated.  My hip hurt.  My heart swelled.

The little one cried as we left.  Transitions are hard for her, but this was deeper.  She really loves Notre Dame, with every fibre of her being.  Leaving ripped off a piece of her heart.  We reassured her that she'd return soon, that she could attend as a student, that it would always be there for her.

As Big Cuter said - I wish I could love something as much as FlapJilly does.


Monday, July 19, 2021

Gunshots

Getting shot outside a grocery store was unusual.  We weren't prepared for the bullets; we were waiting to shake the hand of our Congresswoman.  

I imagine the people who brought their children to the Washington Nationals' game last night would also say that bullets and the stadium were an unusual combination.  Once again, a special treat for special kids turned into a nightmare.

In Tucson, bullets flew for no reason and left an EMT in critical condition and the neighborhood in tumult.

Was it the heat?  Was it a personal vendetta?  Was it random chaos?  Does it matter?

It seems to me that one ought to be able to enjoy the world without considering whether bullets will fly.

It seems to me that children should be able to cheer their team on to victory without having to dive into the dugout to escape mayhem.

The toll this takes on grownups is something I can talk about with conviction.  A balloon popped as we were leaving Party City on Saturday morning.  I was staring at the sidewalk when the noise stopped me in my tracks.  I shook.  I took deep breaths to calm my heart.  Little Cuter hugged me as my hands quivered. I spent the drive home trying not to break down - the combination of the sound, the view, and FlapJilly's proximity to what sounded like another gunshot had pushed me over the edge.

Well behaved humans should have the right to go to a game without fear of gun violence intruding, despite the 2nd Amendment's proponents who think that their right to bear arms trumps my right to the pursuit of happiness.  

I wish there were legislators who understood that as well as those of us who've been there/done that.  Until that happens, we're all doomed to be ever vigilant.

It shouldn't be that way.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

She's Leaving Town

Many different religious groups visited me after I was shot.  Only the Jews came with food - a Shabbat dinner worthy of King Solomon.  The conversation was lively and felt comfortable; though none of us had met before, the cultural connection was strong enough that it didn't matter that we were strangers.  

Among the visitors was a writer with a purple streak in her hair.  Her charge was to write about the short Jewish girl from New York who'd been perforated while participating in American Democracy.  What happened was a friendship.

Her car was covered with stickers supporting choice and voting and equal rights and all the other things that Jewish liberals believe are good.  Those decorations kept her from replacing it long after its expiration date - they were hard to part with.  

We'd have breakfast or brunch all around town, chatting up a storm about our children and their children and her writing and my blogging and politics and growing older.  It was the growing older part that interested us the most.  So much was happening, so much was changing, and we still had the energy and the passion to try to influence the future..... but we weren't getting any younger.

Life was going on far from us - where the next generation was raising their progeny.  It was so very very hard for us to be so very very far from them.  

And then a bcc'd email told me the news - she's leaving Tucson for Minneapolis.

Tucson has beautiful weather and many human connections but it's missing the one thing that is most important - her grandkids.  They and their parents live in the frozen north.  Pandemica proved something to her - that is too far from Arizona.

Her granddaughter's name is a combination of her grandmothers' monikers.  Her grandson is growing so quickly she just can't keep up from a distance.   The parents like her and she likes them.  Though she visits frequently, there's nothing like being right there, all the time, sharing the child care responsibilities and the fun.

Spending time in Maine this summer, surrounded by family who joined her for a summertime idyll, solidified her decision.  Saying goodbye was hard.  She decided that she wasn't doing that any more.

And so she's leaving, on Tuesday, for a one bedroom apartment close to the kiddos, far from the friends and adventures she's had here in the desert.  She'll be in a place with theatre and music and family.  She'll dance and write and hug.  I'll miss her smiling face, her sunny attitude, her determination to right the wrongs of the world.  We'll still email.  We won't be having breakfast.

I understand all her reasons.  That doesn't mean I won't miss her.  A lot.

Happy trails, my friend.  Send postcards.  Come to visit anytime; there are always clean sheets on the guest bed.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Aging Out of Parenthood

There are reasons women don't give birth in their 60's.

Giblet took us to the fire station and pulled the string for the siren, honked the horn, turned on the lights, and got a sticker and a trading card for his troubles.

He took us to the park and went on the swings - super high and super fast, in his estimation.  The big slide was too scary (thank you, god of grandmas) but the little slide and the bouncing horse were almost as much fun as the bouncing fire engine..... even if the wheel in the park was very small, not like the wheel on the real fire engine which was super big.

He ate lunch and took me through his pre-nap routine, and fell fast asleep.

So did Grampa and Gramma.

It was five hours of nonstop chatter and entertainment and motion.  Five hours of managing the rapidly shifting emotions of a three year old.  Five hours of love and hugs and tantrums and running and Look At Me!

There's a reason young women are fertile.  If raising young ones were left to old ones, there would be a lot of kids raising themselves as their caretakers struggled to keep up.

We two, at least, are totally out of shape for the project.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Little Hugs

They were waiting for us at the airport.  TBG was walking faster than I - he got the first hugs.

They were jumping up and down as he walked through the security gate.  They raced down the corridor screaming Grampa! Grampa! Grampa!  I stopped walking and watched.  He knelt down and they were in his arms and he was in theirs and Little Cuter and I were teary as we watched.

I got in on the fun, too, creaky and achy but with a heart full of love.

I squeezed myself into the space between the two car seats and hugged arms and legs.  

We got home and hugged on the couch.

They had dinner at the table, and I held onto whatever body part was available.

After baths we hugged on the floor while we told jokes

 We woke up smiling, racing upstairs to start hugging again. 


Travelling Again

We always go to Indiana for the kids' birthdays in July.  Last year we couldn't go because of The Yukky-ness, as FlapJilly was calling the virus back then.  She was just 5 years old, coming off a shortened kindergarten year, staring at a summer without camp or friends or leaving the house.  SIR and Little Cuter made a backyard extravaganza for her and her little brother, Gramma and Grampa joined in via the interwebs, and she was delighted. But....... 

Next year you'll come for sure, right?

We couldn't wait until July.  As soon as everyone who could be vaccinated was vaccinated and the school year had ended, we flew to hug them in May.  

And now, a month later, we're going back.

Weren't you just there? queried our son.

Again! You lucky girl! said the Pilates Diva when I cancelled this week's session.

It happened so fast.... I didn't get the sheets back on the bed yet was Little Cuter's lament.

Yes, it's soon.  A year ago, this was impossible.  I'm never passing up another opportunity again.

 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Asterisk

Yesterday's post had an asterisk.  If you searched for it and came up empty, I'm sorry.  This is what I meant to add, with a little more verbiage than originally planned.

*****

College Bowl was one of my favorite shows growing up.  Three teams from three different colleges answered questions posed by a moderator.  There was a high school version, too; our school was a contestant one year.  

I don't remember the questions falling to one side or the other of Too Hard/Too Easy.  I certainly don't remember them being this easy:

Arrange these men in the order in which they served:


 


The 20 somethings were flummoxed.  I laughed.  Those were very familiar faces. When I asked him, he admitted to taking a moment to get Ike and Harry in the right order, but he agreed that this was not a difficult question for a college student to answer.  

I pondered what they're not teaching you in school these days for a while, and then I wondered if I could answer the question were it posed to me in the same historical context within which the current contestants were operating.

I went back 50 years from my birth, because that's how far back those pictures are for today's college kids.  Take a look below and see if you can do any better.