Thursday, May 19, 2022

Softball

While Giblet's T-ball For Three Year Olds is barely controlled chaos, team sports have begun in earnest for his big sister.  She's got white baseball pants and cleats with pink laces . She's got two braids, placed strategically low to accommodate her bright pink batting helmet.  She's got orange socks and a green tee shirt from their sponsor - Beef O'Brady's.  She pulled up the socks, tucked in the shirt, looked at herself in the mirror and said I'm Beautiful!.
SIR is the assistant coach, who's been called up as interim coach for every game thus far.  The ball field is his happy place, and sharing it with his little girl takes it to another level.  These are the fields he played on in his youth.  His parents and his cousins come to watch.  His wife takes pictures. He's teaching and helping and taking it seriously.  Just look at those game faces.
FlapJillly's season is starting off strong.  She is hitting well and making intelligent defensive plays. She likes all the coaches and all the teammates and apparently she doesn't mind getting very, very sweaty in muggy midwestern afternoons.  After all, there are snacks with the other Ladies of Beef O'Brady's.
It's so nice to see things returning to normal.  I love that our nightly FaceTime calls have become twice weekly because there is so much going on, Mama.  I love the happy exhaustion on their faces. FlapJilly's silent reenactment of stopping a grounder in the outfield and throwing it directly to first base for an out was the highlight of my week.

She's 7.  I'm not fantasizing about college scholarships after 3 games and 4 practices.   

Nope, I'm remembering what her parents had in mind for her when she was just a little girl, going trick or treating:

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Cleaning Lady

After Perfect Patty was deported, after Pandemica ended, The Tornadoes came into our lives.  Two women with all their equipment arrive just after 9 am.  There is no down time, except for a quick lunch standing at the kitchen island.  I've demanded that they use the table; they laugh at me and go back to their conversation.  

When the leave, we are afraid to disturb the CLEAN.  It is aggressively sparkly.  There is nary an errant long white hair to be found.  My cooktop looks like it was just delivered from the warehouse.  My main windows are washed, inside and out and my kitchen cabinet faces shimmer from their monthly wipe down.

And they are pleasantly unobtrusive, self-sufficient, feeling no need to share their personal lives with me, although they are delighted to hear me describe the new framed photographs as they are being dusted.  Everybody loves grandkids, after all.  

So today, when Gentle Ben called and asked if he was correct in remembering that I had a housekeeper who was looking for extra work.  Well, that was Perfect Patty and her help is now south of the border.  The Tornadoes have a long waiting list, but I'll ask.  And Amster is coming over with dinner tonight and she has help, too.

Gentle Ben fears an argument from his spouse, but he's tired of watching her wear herself out doing tasks that could be outsourced.  He, himself, is fully convinced that he is too old to do what he is doing around the house.  He'd rather they spend that energy on things that bring them joy.

I was reminded of my Grandmother venting in Yiddish and when I asked what was up she turned and said, with her customary scowl but her eyes dancing with love, the maid is the cheapest thing in the house.

Please, put her objectification of another human being aside.  She regarded everyone who was not immediate family as The Other; this was not a specifically directed slight. 

Focus, instead, on the layers behind it.  The maid was not an extravagance, she was as necessary as the iron and the kettle.  With two of them doing the work, everything got done and dinner was on the table and  - this is where the pedal hits the metal - there is one less thing to argue about.

If the girl (okay, that one is offensive and I knew it then and I asked how someone older than my teacher could be a girl..... and I don't remember the answer.....) was available to use the carpet sweeper after dinner, then Grandpa could wipe crumbs on the floor to his heart's delight.

There was no need for an argument.

The benefits reaped far outweighed the dollars spent.  

Plus, my grandparents helped their girls open bank accounts and establish references and find better jobs in The City when it was time for them to move on  One of my favorite memories is of Daddooo taking me to visit Althea at the Chock Full O' Nuts in Manhattan.  She knew exactly what I wanted, and served it with a flourish.  I was so impressed by her real world job, and with my father's pride in what his parents had helped come to pass.

So, I told Gentle Ben that he was helping the local economy and that perhaps his extended family could gift it to them for birthdays and anniversaries and other gift exchanging occasions.  And then I went back to admiring my startling clean home.  The ladies were here on Sunday, and I've still not done more than make oatmeal in the kitchen.  It's just too pretty.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Watching It Brew

I didn't realize it at first.  The situation was being brought front and center, decisions were made, and I was led to believe that all was well in the world.

Except the decisions weren't well thought out, and presented problems of their own.  I had a vaguely uncomfortable feeling, but felt no need to rock the boat.

Then, the person who should have been at the center of the situation reached out to me.  What should be done about this situation, into which she had had no input, whose solution she had created in a much more user friendly way, and which was going to be a nightmare to unravel.

After thanking her for her (really, much much much better) solution, I was forced to concede that I'd been swept up in the excitement, that she was absolutely right in asserting her dominion over the situation, and that, given the participants, arguing was inevitable.

Her more inclusive plan will no doubt infuriate the instigator, who will deny instigating, insist on her right to instigate, and wonder what all the fuss is about.  The facts are immaterial - this stems from a long lasting inability to separate ones own needs from those of others.  What she wants/needs/knows is right.  That's it.  

Only thing is, the other players have some agency here.  I, for one, am opting for the more pleasant end result.  I plan to promote the notion that there is no bad plan, was no evil intent, and nothing is lost by acquiescing to the person around whom the situation ultimately revolves.

As I said yesterday as we wrapped up our conversation, If you sent this to Ann Landers she'd be totally on your side.

And now, we sit and wait for the outreach and the response.  The gauntlet was thrown so subtly that I didn't notice it at first.  We are hoping for an immediate truce, although that seems unlikely.  Plan for the best (I am) and prepare for the worst (we are).

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Sharing With a Friend

We used to watch the fireworks on 4th of July and New Year's Eve with them.  Our family walked, usually in slippers, to the end of our street, high above Richardson Bay.  They drove in from Mill Valley and, every time, ended up standing next to us, oohing and aahing at the flashes of light.

We didn't plan it.  It just happened.  Then it became a tradition that carried on long after all our kids graduated from the same high school.

We saw them at that same high school's basketball games - both the boys and the girls made runs at the state championships - again, after the kids were gone.  I followed their daughter's music career on Facebook, another way to stay in touch.  

They split their time between Marin and Hawaii.  There is always a beautiful sunset or sunrise to be shared on social media but, beyond that, there hasn't been very much until this month when she reached out to share that he was having his hip replaced 5 days after I did mine.

Now, I am a font of advice and best practices.  

I bought Kizik easy to step into shoes and they removed one chore from TBG's list of Getting Me Ready For The Day,  They don't look like something G'ma picked out in the 1940's.  One pair are turquoise and mesh topped,


the other, white and green and look like tennis shoes,

and there were so many options that TBG went ahead and bought himself a pair once he saw how gorgeous they are and heard me kvelling about how comfortable they are.  A nice wide toe box and a comfy insole makes walking (dare I say it) a breeze.

I emailed the link for a $20 discount.  He bought two pairs, too. (It will work for you, too, if you click through.)

His leg is swollen and bending his knee hurts - a lot.  That's been my problem, too.  It feels like there isn't enough room inside my skin for the tendons to stretch themselves out.  Last night we took off the knee high compression socks and I slept without them for the first time.  I woke up and, lo and behold, I have a kneecap!  I'm wearing them during the day today with much less discomfort.  Allowing the blood to flow through my whole leg (which is now black and blue all the way down to my ankle) seems to have made a difference.  There is much less swelling and the socks are not digging a groove in my flesh.

I've been using Arnica gel to reduce the swelling and 2000mg CBD balm where the bandages aren't but the pain is.  

To say today was a good day is to understate the obvious.  I made chicken salad.  I did laundry (TBG did the bending and carrying but I did the folding and put my own clothes away.... yes, I am bragging.)  I organized my library books and collected items to be donated and tried my very best to velcro the grab stick to my walker.

It is funny to ask him to come and pick up my grabber so that I can grab things.  Well, I laugh.  He wonders why I just don't call him to do it for me in the first place.

I've shared all of this via email, first through her, and now, directly to him.  These connections forged at the turn of the century continue to warm the cockles of my heart.  I wish we were conversing about something less painful, but it feels good to be able to offer advice and kvetch with someone who's going through the same thing at the same time.

In Psych 101 we learned that misery loves miserable company.  It's a good thing to know we'll still be there for one another once we aren't miserable any more. 

Why not?  This relationship has lasted for decades without once laying eyes on the other.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Sunset

The sun sets in the backyard.  My desk overlooks the front.  The colors are more brilliant, the kitchen is back there, and I'm usually done with the deskwork by then.  We can see the softer colors reflected in the dining room mirror, but I rarely watch the fauna our front during what appears to be a most delicious time of day.

The quail are bobbing around.  I don't see any babies behind them, so maybe it's just mom and dad stocking up on groceries.  

The lizards are quieter as the shadows grow longer.  

The little birds, the ones I'm going to learn to identify with Cornell's help this summer, are balancing precariously on the 15' shoot out of the yucca near the driveway.

I'd take pictures, but balancing in the middle of my walker is not a great idea. (Can you hear Little Cuter shrieking MAMA DON'T DO THAT??  I can.)

Have a wonderful weekend, denizens.  I'm going to continue to do laps around the pool, enjoying every single pain free step.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

What I've Been Reading Lately

There was a time when I documented every book on the sidebar. If you miss that feature, perhaps this post will help.  For while I was recuperating from the surgery, I read.  I read a lot.  TV was too jarring, my silly game on my phone made me jittery, but books took me right in and kept me company.  I was feeling everything very intensely; the characters and the authors felt like they were lying beside me.  Here's just a snippet of what the library provided.

Do you get antsy when the author's politics rankle?  Can you ever be sure it's the author and not the character?  That's what I struggled with in Shadows Reel by C. J. Box.  I love his stories.  I love the animals and the scenery and each one of the finely detailed women in his life.  I never forget who's who or where they were when last I left them.  But this one, with Antifa a turning point, kept kicking me in the shins.

T. Jefferson Parker's A Thousand Steps was a blast from the past.  I could feel the sand between my toes in Laguna Beach, 1968.  There's a list of people to thank in this book, and I read each and every one of their names, wondering whose story was whose.  The mystery is, as his always are, well crafted, but it's the people and the scenes themselves that made me want to keep reading even as my eyes were closing.

I went on a James Patterson and company binge.  The Paris Detective was three novels under one cover.  The world's richest, suavest, handsomest human being only wants to be a detective.  His gradually-becoming-besotted partner more than carries her fair share, but there's nothing creepy about any of it.  I realized two chapters into the story that I'd read The Jailhouse Lawyer already; it's a tribute to his storytelling that I remember how the book ends.  Fear No Evil is also one I'd read before, but Alex Cross and John Sampson are some of my favorite literary duos so I read it again before picking up  Death of The Black Widow, which kept me in suspense the whole way through. 

A Step Too Far was much better than I'd come to expect from Lisa Gardner.  Her last few novels have left me cold but this one was delicate and intricate and posed questions I'm still pondering.  The Paris Apartment was a lot creepier than I'd hoped for and a lot more happy ending than is possible in the real world and was waaay more predictable than it ought to have been and yet I enjoyed each and every page.  Lucy Foley, a new author for me, drew vivid characters and her descriptions put me right in the center of Paris, eating (wishfully) pastries that broke gently under a silver fork.

I did some heavy lifting reading, too.  I'm saving those for another post.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Fits and Starts

Every day is a new adventure. 

Yesterday I was twitchy and achy and slow.  Today I am peaceful and achy and not quite as slow.  I took 2 steps straight forward today without thinking about the walker.  It wasn't a planned experiment, I just found myself at the island with both hands free.

I must be getting better if my subconscious let me do that.  But I'm still keeping the walker.  Two steps are, after all, just two steps.

After some confusion over the instructions, I've abandoned the fat Ace Bandage hugging my thigh.  It was uncomfortable and I am glad that it is gone.  The TED hose are still on, but I'm making them a fashion statement.  Scarlet said that yesterday's outfit could be taken out to dinner. (Of course, she then said without those socks, of course..... but I'm pretending not to hear.)

My head feels clearer every day,  which is the best part of all.  Not being able to keep two thoughts in m head simultaneously was emotionally draining, and resulted in my discovery this morning that my old habit of leaving piles everywhere is not quite as buried as I'd hoped.  It's not easy for me to move things around, but TBG takes direction very well and this house now looks a lot more presentable .  Thinking is good.

I'm stiff and I'm working on it because rehab sometimes hurts but that hurt is stretching what needs to be stretched, is avoiding lazy old habits which will inhibit my ability to resume much of my pre-perforated life, making me whole again.

Thank you, Science.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A Tasty Morsel

My body takes its own sweet time shedding anesthesia.  I live a different life while it's in me, the most noticeable thing being the world's most vivid dreams.

Like last night.

We watched half of No Man of Her Own, wherein pregnant Barbara Stanwyck takes the full load when she's tossed over by her boyfriend.  The original version was I Married a Dead Man, which gives you some sense of how she found a chance at a new life, until the old boyfriend and his new squeeze show up to ruin it all.

We got bored halfway through and went to sleep.

And then I was dreaming, and the blonde bimbo was out to get me and I was in the car and she was trying to drag me out of it and it was all in Technicolor and going very fast and I knew that I had to get her to let go so I bit her hand.

Only......

Sweetie.... babe.... please don't bite me.

Yes.  I had grabbed his hand and chomped down.  This was not a nibble he said through his laughter, holding his hand and examining the damage.  

I didn't break the skin, but it was close. We turned on the lights and held one another and laughed and cried and laughed some more.

Ah, I am so lucky to have him nearby when I need him.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Post Op

Every single thing about the experience was exemplary.

You know that I am a harsh critic of just about every thing, so that must be surprising for you to read.  But it's true.  Others may have had negative experiences there, but I have nothing but praise for the folks I met at Banner last week.

It went seamlessly (what I remember and what I've been told).  I never felt insecure or ignored.  The treatment team listened to me.  They spoke intelligibly, and didn't mind my (many) questions.  

And then I woke up and, just as the surgeon and his team promised in his office, the pain in my hip was gone.

The pain in my hip is gone.

As I wince from the surgical process itself (itching and swelling and pain at the incision and having to sleep on my back and being nauseated by the pain meds and and and AND as G'ma used to say who wants to be around a crabby old lady so I'll stop kvetching) I have to keep reminding myself that the pain in my hip is gone.

The pain in my hip is gone.  

I'm uncomfortable enough that it's hard to focus on what feels good, but the tears in the eyes of Little Cuter and TBG when I first stood up to grab the walker tells the story.  They were shocked.  Gobsmacked.  Overwhelmed.

No groaning.  No lurching. No leaning. OMG look at you!

The pain in my hip is gone.

Once I figure out the best way to keep the pain manageable (do I have stories to tell) and am able to hold more than half a thought in my head, I'll be more readable, I promise.  But, for today, I'm focusing on just one thing:

    The pain in my hip is gone.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Change is Gonna Come

Little Cuter is arriving today.

Tomorrow I'm having my hip replaced.

For eleven and a half years I've been exercising, concentrating, reconnecting nerves, losing numbness, reclaiming my glutes, and limping all the while.  As long as the pain moved around, I knew that I was targeting weakness.  That was a good thing.  

But for the past six months or so, the pain has been static - my entire hip joint hurts all the time.  My quads and my hamstrings are doing their best, but, as my x-ray showed us last month, arthritis has invaded my acetablulum and my femoral head.  It looked like snow in December - all white and crusty and definitely not as sharp and pristine as my youthful left hip.

The answer was obvious - it was time for it to come out.

I'm going to the same doctor who did the repair back in 2011, when the damage was new and I was younger.  I don't remember much from that hospitalization, but I do remember telling the surgeon that I wanted to keep my own stuff.  So, he put me back together with screws and plates and spit and baling wire, all twisted together in an intricate web that has held me (basically) upright for more than a decade.  

It's done all that it can do.  It's time to replace it with artificial body parts.

That's a creepy thing to contemplate.  I didn't like having an IUD, not for the cramping but because it was a foreign body inside my human self.  I'm not thrilled with fillings in my teeth.  

Going under anesthesia isn't my favorite way to spend a morning, although they'll be using a lighter method that will have me awake as soon as the mask is removed.  Last time they went into me, they used a tube down my throat that irritated my uvula to the point of being unable to swallow.  I won't have that issue this time, but being unaware of what's going on around me is not my favorite place to be.

But, I can't get up without groaning.  I have moved from limping to gimping to waddling to swaying.  Since I've made the decision, my gait has gotten worse; there's no use in trying to work through the discomfort when the discomfort will soon be gone.

That's right. Gone.  

What sold me on doing the procedure was the nurse telling me that when you wake up that pain you feel in your hip will be gone.  There will be surgical pain, but the hip pain will be gone.

Gone.

My constant companion since CTG died, the aches that pull me back to gunshots in front of the grocery store will be no more.  Several years ago, Brother looked at me with compassion.  You don't ever get a break, do you?  It's a constant reminder, isn't it.

I don't know what I'll do without that reminder.  It's been lurking in my brain for a long, long time.  There will be a void.  I don't know what will fill it.  I hope that gliding smoothly across the floor will put joy where there was angst.  I hope that bending without being reminded that my body doesn't like doing that any more will make me smile.  Yoga and Pilates and lifting weights, tumbling and rumbling with my grandkids,  hiking and squatting and just moving without pain --- all this is in my future.

I don't need aches to remind me of my little friend.  I don't need to suffer in order to honor her memory.  I do need to reclaim those parts of my life that the shooter took from me.  Surgery is the next step on that journey.

I'm taking Thursday and Friday off from blogging.  I'll be back on Monday morning with an update.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Reading Too Much?

I have 11 books home from the library.  

I went twice in 3 days, both times to pick up a hold that came in.  Both times, there were authors I love (Lisa Gardner, Michael Connelly, David Guterson) on the Your Lucky Day shelf (isn't that a great sign?).  


Both times there were titles that smiled at me, like Hell of a Book, which turned out to be a hell of a book.

As always, there were cover blurbs that inspired me to take a peek inside, like Reese's Book Club and Read with Jenna.

And so, here I am, with more stories than I can keep straight.  I tried to take a nap this afternoon, but I couldn't remember which kid in which story was riding his bike when the awful thing happened.... and I couldn't keep track of which awful thing I was half-remembering.

Does this happen to you?  Do you stand in front of the library shelves wondering if you've read this title before?  Do you get books home only to find, on page 3 or 4, that you know exactly why this character will be killing that character over which bit of evidence that will damn them both forever?  

I do.

Now I am looking at titles that no longer appeal to me and wondering why I bothered tp check them out.  I have a Jack Reacher novel, Better Off Dead, written in a 4 book deal by the original author - Lee Child - and his younger brother, Andrew.  Lee knows he's aging and that his readers are hungry so he's passing the series off to a younger but just as energetic and enthusiastic writer, whose shown his chops at mysteries while writing as Andrew Grant.  That shows a great kindness to those of us who think Jack Reacher (who looks NOTHING like Tom Cruise) is the ultimate hero.  It also put another book in my book bag.

They range from fluff to magical realism.  They touch on race and class and honor.  Thus far, there are no boring stories, or predictable plot lines.  And none of it cost me one red cent.

Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Carnegie had the right idea - libraries enrich us.  I'm so lucky to have mine right around the corner.  Please excuse me now; Jack Reacher is calling. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Rest In Peace

When the first Play Group Dad died, it was an anomaly.  We were young, raising our growing families, but he'd always been a bit distant, close to reclusive, which, we found out after his passing was due to a long standing illness he chose to keep private.

We mourned.  We supported.  We wept.  People our age weren't supposed to be die.  We were stunned, with no real framework in which to set the circumstances.  Holding it as a one-off, we moved on.

But now Carey is dead.  

Carey, with whom we'd vacationed.  Carey, whose son played on most of Big Cuter's teams when they were young.  Carey, whose daughter and ours were the young hangers-on to Play Group.  Carey, whose kids went to school with ours, went to the Menomonee Club after school for sports and crafts and companionship together.  He could be counted on for carpooling in a pinch, for sharing a freezing sideline at a flag football game, for showing up.

The same could not be said for all the dads, whose presence was often greeted with a Look who's here!  Carey was there.  He was in our lives.  Now he is not. I'm having a hard time getting my head around his absence.  

He'd been ill earlier in life, while the kids were young but not babies.  He survived the treatment, wore hats and sunscreen everywhere, and carried on with the business of medicine and parenting and marriage and managing the household.   

Then, he got sick again....much sicker....with much less hope than before.  I sent letters as he battled, but I'd sent letters before that.  My words of solace and encouragement didn't have much impact on the outcome.  He was brave and fought valiantly but to no avail.  He's been gone since February.  I got the letter from his wife today.

She and I power walked the Chicago Lakefront for years - she taking off fast, me taking some time to warm up but then matching her stride for stride.  Long walks and long talks with a smart and loyal friend do a lot to shore up the down sides of life.  I know she was that for me.  I hope I was able to return the favor.  

And now, there is more consoling and mourning and sorrow..... so much sorrow.  

Because it's not an anomaly any more.  This is what the future will hold.  We knew that.  We just didn't know that.  

There's a hole in the world where Carey used to stand, short and snarky and helpful, smiling and enjoying the chaos surrounding him, getting knocked down and climbing right back up, maybe not asking for help as much as he could have but knowing that those around him admired and respected his work ethic, his love of family, his devotion to his friends. 

Olav HaShalom.  May peace be upon him.  His time of suffering on this earth has ended, and for that, we are grateful.

But he's not here any more, and that sucks.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Seed Bombs

Take a little bit of clay.  Shape a tiny bowl that fits inside your palm. 

  

Put a little bit of soil into the bowl and then add some wildflower seeds. 

 Close it all up into a ball.  Roll the ball in the soil to coat it all over.  

Put it in the plastic bag until you get home.

If you need help, just ask.

Do not throw the seed balls at other humans.  Throw them onto the ground in a place where you think wildflowers ought to grow.  

Maybe they will.  Maybe they won't.  But we certainly had fun creating them.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Boys And Their Sports

Sister was obsessed with the Knicks of the late '60's and early '70's, but she was the only girl I knew who really followed a sports team. The boys, however, were fanatics.

My Firefighter Cousin lived and died with the Yankees and the Rangers.  As the decades passed, his ardor cooled, but he still knows the stats and the players.  Zaydeh stopped watching baseball when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn, but my memories of watching black and white games with him are as vivid as any childhood images I can conjure.  

Daddooooo didn't play team sports, and since it wasn't all about him he never got caught up in the drama of televised games.  But he'd watch anything, as long as he could kibbitz.

SIR is just back from Talladega.  NASCAR doesn't attract his wife nor the rest of her side of the family, but he and his parents bond over loud cars making left turns for hours (Little Cuter's description of the one race she attended).  

SIR is a multi-sport enthusiast.  His loyalties are fierce, and his devotion is strong.  Sit with him during a tight game and you'll be reminded to keep standing, right there if that was where you were when an important play turned his way.  He's gotten us through the Cubs' World Series rain delay and TBG's Cleveland Cavaliers' championship run.  We couldn't have done it without his confidence and his instructions and his fervent belief that things would go his way.

The sports gods must love him.  I know that we do.

But this post was inspired by the feisty exchanges between my son and my husband as the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns begin their runs to the NBA Finals.  A slam dunk?  The phone rings.  A bad call?  The phone rings.  An amazing steal and an unexpected basket?  He dials.  

I'm just calling to give Dad grief my son told me when I picked up the receiver.  

I'm calling him to proclaim my superiority my husband declared as he dialed.

Their voices are raised.  Their blood is boiling.  Each is certain of the righteousness of their position - versus the refs or the fans or the coaches or the players themselves.  

Their smiles light up the room.  This is boy bonding at its height.... at least in my family.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Social Security

I turned 70 in February.  It's taking me a while to get used to that.  I'm still not there.  I don't feel very old, but it seems that every year from now on is a life well lived.  I got my second chance on January 8, 2011, so complaining is churlish.  I'm not angry at the passage of time.  I'm annoyed at how heavy the number 70 feels.

But TBG asked me something yesterday that made 70 feel pretty wonderful all of a sudden.  Have you applied for your Social Security?  You're 70 now......

I've been receiving spouse benefits (finally getting paid for being mom and a homemaker - someday I'll tell you about our friend who told his wife that he'd calculated how much she was worth to him .... they divorced not long after).  But now, entering this new decade, I can get back what I put in.

And, if I live long enough, I'll get back more than that.  I stopped working for pay a long time ago, and I didn't make that much even then.  Still, the estimator on the website showed that benefits are mine to be had, and so I began the process of acquiring them.

Signing in was the hardest part.  

Once I got the log in procedure verified and double verified and then, just for the hell of it verified a third and final time, I opened the application.  The questions were not confusing, except for one and my incorrect response generated an explanation and a recommendation - both in simple, clear language.

It took about 5 minutes.  I printed out my confirmation page and filed it in My Social Security file.  I also shredded the information I'd been sent over the last few years.  No need to hold on to those papers; they are replicated on line and I know where to find them.  Until I get my first check deposited in my account, though, I'm hanging onto this paper receipt.

I remember being told, as a young social worker in a dangerous part of town, that the only time the bad guys got up before noon was on the 3rd of the month.  That was when the Social Security checks landed in the old people's mailboxes, providing a grand swath of elderly potential victims.  My take away was not the ruthlessness of the evildoers, but the image of grandparents with bodies bent over canes and walkers, looking fearfully around for threats.  That, not FDR or LBJ, was my mental picture of social security.

But I'm banishing that to the trash bin.  I'm replacing it with the smile on my face when I realized that, for the first time since 1983, I was contributing financially to the success of my family.  

Suddenly, being old doesn't seem so bad.

Monday, April 25, 2022

A Full Heart

I brought Caps for Sale to Grandma's Garden this morning, just as kindergarten was finishing their recess.  She of the Many Names brought her class to the gate, where I welcomed new friends, explained the rules (no talking when I'm talking; no walking on the beds; be nice), and invited them in to the most special place at Prince Elementary School.  

They sat quietly and listened to the story, until it was time to imitate the monkeys' actions and noises.  They were very good at that.  We looked up into the sweet acacia tree and imagined all those monkeys and all those caps and then it was time to collect their stickers and get back to the indoor business of kindergarten.

All the while, outside the pony wall separating the garden from the playground, a row of bigger kids stood quietly, smiling, nodding, shaking their pretend-monkey fists right along with the little ones..  Just as they did when I read the story to them when they were in kindergarten, they laughed out loud, they named the colors of the caps, and they tsk tsk tsk'ed along with those monkeys up in the tree.  

It was 20 minutes of pure joy.  

Friday, April 22, 2022

Earth Day

(This is the 8th post I ever wrote, back in 2009.  I like it just as much today as I did then.  That must be true, since I have now posted it 13 times.)

I like Earth Day. I was there at the start, after all.

Created in large part by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, in the world of 1970 it was a touchy-feely alternative to the harsher realities of the anti-Vietnam War protests. War was such an uncomfortable subject and arguing against it made your parents wonder why they were spending tuition dollars while you were telling the lawfully elected President of the United States of America that you knew more than he did. With your picture in the crowd on the front page of the NY Times. At 18 years of age, no less. 

But planting trees? Recycling newspaper? Not littering? And all this in service to Mother Earth. Who could be aggravated about supporting Mother Earth?

Earth Day had teach-in's. They were more fun than sit-in's, which invariably involved police and disciplinary action. They were less fun than be-in's, which owed more to Timothy Leary and The Grateful Dead than to anything political or practical. Teach-in's were earnest and had hand-outs and statistics and pictures of desolate landscapes ravaged by the cruelty of man. There was science and legislation and outrage and lots of tree give-aways.

Earth Day had no mandatory family gatherings. It required no gift giving, no card sending. You went outside and did something - cleaned a playground, weeded a median strip, planted one of those free trees. You felt good because you were doing good.

Now there is Earth Week and "We're greener than you are" tv networks. Were this still 1970, there would be protests about the idea being "co-opted by 'the man'". Instead, Sheryl Crow is designing re-useable grocery bags for Whole Foods and Wal-Mart is selling others next to the discounted paper towels.

And Mother Earth is grateful.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

He Was A Good Man

Our friend died last month.  His sister-in-law told me how sick he was, and then he was gone.  I brought brownies to his widow (of 66 years) and their children in her new apartment, a move she had planned to make with her husband. 

Planning ahead is always a good thing.  As JannyLou said, better 5 years too early than 5 minutes too late.

Today, TBG and I joined a couple of hundred others in celebrating his life.  Most of us were masked.  Most of us were old.  The life we were celebrating would not have wanted this to be a morose occasion, and it certainly was not.

There were aviator stories (he flew for 3 branches of the armed services, retiring as a Major General in the Air National Guard).  There were business stories (he was a mentor and a friend and developed relationships that lasted a lifetime).  There were family stories (independence and opportunities without judgment).  

Everyone touched on his kindness, on his inability to be angry, on his smile and his welcoming approach to life.  He loved life - his own and those of the people around him.  

When you spoke, he really listened.  You could tell that he was as interested in the story as in the storyteller.  He made you feel good about yourself.

We came into his orbit late in his life.  We had fewer stories to share.  But every mention of his smile and joie de vivre  hit home for us; we always commented on how much and how hard we had laughed, and were still laughing, whenever we left them.  

As I listened to the hymns the family chose, I could picture the young, newly-married, Cornell ROTC graduate going off to be a combat pilot in 1956.  He had a quiet confidence, a self-assuredness that never came close to being cocky or arrogant, a dignity leavened with hilarity.  He was gracious and generous and involved in making this broken world a better place.

He was a mensch.

May his memory be a blessing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Allergies, Old Friends, and Waiting - Random Thoughts

Playing in the garden is fun.  Reaping the rewards is reinforcing.  Losing the ability to breathe and to wear contact lenses falls in neither of those categories.

My head weighs 100 pounds.  My eyeballs are swollen and the contacts rub uncomfortably.  I take them out and my left eyeball is displeased.  I'm typing with my glasses on, hoping that I recover sufficiently to be able to replace it before I go out to dinner with the girls.

*****

I spent the morning with Taos Bubbe, hanging out in her new-to-them-but-definitely-lived-in-before house.  The neighborhood is beautiful, her view of the mountains is unobstructed, and the pool repair is covered by their homeowner's insurance.  The worker bees are energetic and trustworthy and only speak Spanish, which places the responsibility for monitoring the situation squarely in her bi-lingual husband's lap.  

We were roommates in the sorority during our sophomore year in college.  We know the same people from that era.  She's still in touch with them.  I like hearing about them, but I don't miss them at all.  They weren't very nice to me  then (why I stuck around is another issue, entirely) and I see no reason to chance it now.  

But it's nice to have shorthand about things and people in the past, and Taos Bubbe and I have that in spades.  We grew up within 10 miles of each other, so there's that short-Jewish-girl-from-New-York thing going on as well.  We are never at a loss for words or stories or advice.  

It's a reconnection which makes us both very happy.

*****

I'm waiting for the banker to call me back about redeeming my IRA.  She mentioned that she was having serious family issues, so I am theoretically not angry.  But I don't like waiting.

Late on Friday afternoon, I called the nurse who had promised that she would always call me right back.  It's Tuesday and the office has closed and I still haven't heard from her.  The information I need has a while before it becomes time sensitive, but she promised and I don't like waiting.

I shouldn't let these things irritate me (although I do want the money and the answers will allow me to check off a few more boxes on my To Do List) .  In the overall scheme of things, with Ukraine and gas prices and far-right rhetoric, these are not big deals.  

But, I don't like waiting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The New York Times Subscription Scam

I checked my Mastercard bill this afternoon.  There were two charges of $18.04 attributed to the New York Times.  Once was for April's subscription and one was for May.   That's $216 a year.  I've been wondering why I subscribe at all; this financial realization prompted me to cancel the subxcription entirely.

It's not that I have a problem with supporting journalism.  I have the local paper delivered to my driveway (for an exorbitant amount of money every month) because without local journalism how would I know that our county executive was double dipping his paycheck before his retirement.  Local journalism brings me the high school sports news, the skinny on the UofA basketball teams, and reminders to subscribe to the paper's Send A Kid To Camp Fund.  My friends write letters to the editor, and so do TBG and I.  I have no problem paying for the privilege of being clued in to what's going on in my town.

But I'm not reading the NYTimes so much any more, except for Modern Love.  During Pandemica, I read the  Times and the Washington Post every day.  Now, I have better things to do with my time.  I made a mental list of what I would miss by cancelling the subscription, and it was a short list, indeed. So, off to the website I went.

And that's where the scam came in.  Apparently, you can subscribe to the NYTimes for $1 a week for an entire year.  All I had to do was cancel my old subscription and that offer appeared on the very next screen.  Had I not looked, I would never have known.

I knew that tactic worked for the cable companies - threaten to go get a DISH and all of a sudden your rates start to tumble.  But the newspaper running a scam like this?  I'm appalled.  I'm disgusted.  And I'm out several hundred dollars.

Still, for $52 a year, I'll still have Jennifer Rubin and Alexandra Petri in my phone when I need to add some snark to my day.  So, I opted in to the Special Offer, and made a notation in my calendar for 51 weeks from now - Check out NYT subscription scams.

I'm off to call the cable company.

Monday, April 18, 2022

How Did We Get So Lucky?

Did you have a lovely Easter Sunday?  Did you have more than one egg hunt, like FlapJilly and Giblet did?   Did you have a delicious dinner, like we did?  Were you surrounded by people who made you smile?

When JannyLou and Fast Eddie moved away, we were bereft..... but not for long.  We have long talks on the phone and on-line and she's come to visit overnight.  And they sold their house to another wonderful couple, retirees who, like us, traveled around the country for two years until they found the house they wanted.

How lucky that it was right next door to us.

They are learning about pack rats and the perils of desert gardening and the mysteries of a new-to-them domicile.  We've shared our pool guy and our pack rat guy and I have to remember to give her the contact information for our handyman.  And this afternoon we went over for Easter Sunday dinner.  

TBG looked for the recycling in their kitchen and I found myself saying second cabinet on the left ... and laughing with my new neighbor at my familiarity with her house.  

It's different and the same - smart, warm, welcoming humans who really know how to cook, and who live right next door.... which is exactly the right distance to travel for good company.

How did we get so lucky?

Friday, April 15, 2022

What's The DIfference?

An Indicator Light was illuminated on The UV's dashboard.  The manual referenced the key, but I had changed the battery at Christmas-time and that seemed to be the only thing the manual thought might be a problem.

I stopped by the dealership and was told to make an appointment since the something-or-other-with-the-something-else needed to be replaced.  I nodded along and made the appointment as soon as I got home and on the computer.  

Why he didn't offer to make the appointment while I was there was and remains a mystery.... but not the only mystery.

I dropped it off and picked it up and there was no charge.  The fix was covered by the warranty extension and Honda is picking up the tab.  I asked the Service Guy to repeat himself, and he did, and I signed the paper and left.

I wasn't going to offer to pay for something that the manufacturer was willing to comp me, but I was confused.  I don't have an extended warranty on The UV, but that seems to be different than the warranty extension, which seems to be more like a recall without an announcement.

I suppose I could have asked.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Gardening With The Fifth Grade

We were holding life in our hands.  
The scholars knew about the placenta and the umbilical cord and and how each one of their classmates, no matter how big or tall, started out as teeny tiny sperm and egg.  They just didn't relate it to the Shoestring Acacia (Acacia stenophylla) seed pods, 
opened and slimy or dried and fascinating
in their hands.  

They were surprised by my explanation.  Once they realized that I was serious, they held the seed pods a bit more reverentially.  The protective outer coating, hard to crush and hard to pry open, but full of wonders once you got inside, was like growing a human in a womb. 
That's a root and  the white seed and the xylem and phloem and all the material and  energy needed to grow a 30' tree - packed into the juicy green pod siting in your palm.  

It's such a tiny little space, and you were once in a similar tiny little space and yes, you are holding life in your hand.  We were having a moment, thinking about our place in time and the inter-connectedness of living things and that we were holding life in our hands.

We separated and named the parts, 
and some of the scholars, after promising to water as needed, planted theirs in pots or in the hanging baskets.  Before they left, the remnants were displayed on the edge of the raised bed,.
It was a lovely morning.  It felt normal.  




 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

New York, New York - Thoughts on Guns

People were riding the subway to work, to school, to visit family, doing the ordinary things one does on a random Tuesday morning at 8:30.  Then there was smoke.  Then there were gunshots.

Witnesses describe a short, round man wearing a hoodie, but no one seems to have video of him.  The security cameras in that station were not functional. Ten hours later, he's still on the loose.  

After I got done shaking off the initial shock - a normal, sunny day turns into a nightmare - I wondered how many of those people would get back on the subway to go home.

*****

Joe Biden used an Executive Order to ban the sale of unlicensed ghost gun kits, because sensible legislation on this issue is impossible on the Federal level.  

All the while, Giffords.org is having great success at the local and state level, and can take a lot of credit for the President's action this week.  

*****

Last week,  TBG and I had pancakes at a hole in the wall diner we hadn't visited since Pandemica.  We were almost finished when the burly guy with the NRA t-shirt stomped through to a table in the rear, his hand gun in a holster on his waist.

I will never understand the need to have a weapon at breakfast.  I just refuse to be that terrified of the world around me.

*****

That hole in the wall diner is in a strip mall that's anchored by a furniture store and an alternative high school.  There's a prepared meals shop and a nail salon and, much to my nephew's amazement when we took him there many years ago, a gun shop.

He made his mother take his picture with the storefront and its sign (GUNS  AMMO  OPEN) behind him.  

You don't see this in New Jersey, y'know!

*****

Perdita, niece extraordinary, lives in Brooklyn.  I texted to be sure that she wasn't on the subway this morning.  

Being the thoughtful and considerate and loving human that she is, she replied immediately.  She was in the park with her dog.


I'll leave you with that.  It's much more pleasant than guns.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

A Delightful Surprise

Not-Kathy recommended an irrigation specialist.  Not-Kathy is the handiest handyperson I've ever known; she made a bathroom, and a greenhouse, and did tiling and painting and woodworking and installed a solar heating system for the pool (which never really worked because it came from China and all the specs were Chinese-style, not American compatible).  

She's tough on vendors.  She knows what goes into every project, and if she has to hire an outsider to help her she's certain that they do the  job well, don't cut corners, and don't charge more than their time and labor demands.

Did I mention that Not-Kathy is also the most frugal person I've ever known?  What she can do with abused furniture is on beautiful display in their home.  

So, when she told me that she had found the perfect person for her own home, I immediately asked for the contact information and booked an appointment with J for this morning.  

J arrived right on time, getting right to the project, examining as she was explaining, pulling weeds as she wandered the property and putting them in her pockets  I'm a little OCD on the subject of these suckers was her response when I told her that the yard guys are coming tomorrow and they'll take care of them all at once.

She found leaks and animal destroyed connectors and where all the water in Zones 1 and 3 come out.  Zone 2 is a mystery to us both.  We heard the valve click on, but saw no water anywhere.  Not to worry, J's on the case.

She made a list of what parts needed replacing and what needed to be purchased, and was delighted to see my roll of tubing so we don't have to buy any of that.  Instead of a contractor racking up items to purchase and profit from,  J was looking to save me money at every turn.  My control box is a nice little item, simple to use, once we establish what's what.  No major structural changes are required.  Everything on the shopping list is plastic and small and inexpensive.

Her solution was elegant and frugal and environmentally sound. I don't have to rip up and discard anything that exists, the solution previous estimates were predicated upon.  I have to replace worn out emitters, create a berm to hold water around the lemon tree, plug leaks - all normal garden maintenance tasks.  J is doing all the thinking.  I can do as much of the work as I want to do; she'll charge a reasonable rate to do it herself.  

I was so happy after her visit.  

Monday, April 11, 2022

An Apology

(After an hour of frustration with Comcast, I'm finally able to post this.)

Last week I posted about the lackluster performance of my roses. I feel that I must apologize to them.

They are showing up everywhere.  They are outside our bedroom window.
They are in the front courtyard
and in the backyard

And it's not only the roses that are strutting their stuff. The lemon tree is flowering 
which is a hopeful sign that there will be Meyer lemons aplenty this summer,  and the yucca I rescued from the middle school's discard like many years ago is, for the first time, blooming. 
The soap tree blooms are now sad and dessicated, though.

I ought to remember : You can't fool with Mother Nature. She operates on her own timetable. 

Internet Issues

I have problems with the internet putting the pictures in this picture post.  
It will appear once I'm done wading through tech hell.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Suddenly, It's Summertime

Last week the nighttime temperatures were low enough to warrant a sweatshirt for cocktails on the patio.  There was hail. 

Today, we swam.

The plants need me to up their watering schedule.  They are showing their displeasure by drooping, sadly,  their lack of perkiness silently remonstrating with me.   

I need to up my own watering schedule as well. An Arizona mantra is drink before you get thirsty.  It's taking twice as many trips to the tap to fill my water bottles to keep up with that.  

Other people's roses are in full bloom.  Mine are just starting to peek out.  It's peak planting time, as the ground is warm but not hot, perfect for nurturing tender new root shoots.  I'm going to consult with an Irrigation Specialist Not-Kathy found.... because it's summer and irrigation is what you think about in summer.

I'm wondering where my sandals are, and looking askance at the sweaters that are crowding the most convenient cubbies in my closet.  My dark t-shirts don't beckon the way they did just a very short time ago; pale green and bright yellow make me smile.

I bought three types of sunscreen and sprayed myself diligently before venturing outside this morning.  With more of my skin exposed, there's more to spray.  Determining the right combination - before swim, for the face, driving in the car, not wanting to feel sticky - will take some time, but since it's really only just become springtime, there are still a lot of choices on the shelves.

I love feeling this way in April.


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Feeling Punk

I was fine yesterday, except when I tried to raise my arm.  But sleep was elusive last night, and that is unusual for me.  Once my head hits the pillow, I rarely stir (beyond a bathroom visit).  Last night, though, I saw every hour as the digital clock marked the passage of time during which I was not asleep.  

I kept falling back asleep, and waking up again.  I debated getting up and reading a boring book (Brother gifted me Nikolai Gogol short stories that are just deadly),  but moving seemed like more than I could handle.  I gave up in the 6's, and stumbled out to join TBG on the couch.

I made had oatmeal and made phone calls and ran an errand or two and thought everything was just fine until it wasn't.   I barely made it home.

I've spent the afternoon lying on the bed, reading Brian Broome's heartrending memoir of growing up black and gay.  I had planned to swim in the pool for the first time this season, but, again, moving seemed like more than I could handle.... not to mention my inability to lift my left arm above my shoulder without crying out in surprise.... not pain.... an unpleasant sensation.... but not really conducive to doing the crawl.

My tummy is talking to me.  I'm shivering and then I'm not.  TBG got his booster this morning and feels weird all over.  He's not moving much, either.  

All this so that I don't get sick.  I wish I felt better.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Getting Boosted

When I arrived at the empty Wallgreens, my mask was dangling from my wrist.  I made my way to the pharmacy in the far corner and put it right over my nose and mouth - there were masked people sitting in the chairs, waiting their turn while being socially distant.  

There was no line at the window.  My paperwork (completed at home) was accepted without a problem.  I had to wait 15 minutes past my appointed time for the booster to end up in my arm, but everyone was pleasant and the chairs were comfortable.

Everyone there was of a certain age.  We were filling up our vaccination cards like debutantes at a ball.  Personally, I would rather dance with a dashing young beau than be jabbed in the upper arm by a 50-something year old pharmacy tech.

I wonder if there will be new cards when the next dose comes out.  

As I waited the requested 15 minutes, others in our age cohort came over.  Everyone was masked.  Everyone stood a respectful distance from everyone else.  

If only the woman sitting in the chair at the end of the next aisle weren't coughing..... well, at least she was masked.

We drove up to the Gila Reservation to get my first dose, a dose that took hours of angst and planning to achieve.  This took 5 minutes on the computer yesterday and 45 minutes in the drugstore one block from home.  I suppose this is progress.

If only people had done what they were asked to do when this all started..... well, a girl can dream, can't she?

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

It's Just Going To Be This Way

That's what my doctor told me today, when I asked about getting the COVID booster.  She agreed that I was correct to be concerned, but she reminded me that most people aren't concerned, that we wouldn't be in this situation if people had vaccinated and masked way back then when being concerned might have made a difference, and that dynamic shows no signs of changing.

So, since It's just going to be this way, and we want people to get out and live, you should protect yourself as best you can.  What she said made sense.  I changed my mind.  I decided to get the booster.

The doctor's frustration that there is so much information floating around it's enough to confuse anyone and it's hard to know what to trust made me feel better about my uncertainty.  Do I trust Eric Topol, a high school friend of Brother who's now a scientific brain trust and frequently re-Tweeted expert, who has come around to accepting the 2nd booster?  Do I worry about the Israeli study that shows a 3 week effectiveness window which would argue for waiting until a family wedding in July?  Do I really want to give up a day to side effects when my physician assures me that, even if I were to be infected, the disease would most likely manifest itself as a runny nose, itchy eyes, a cough, and a sore throat?  

It's that most likely that tipped the scales.  I'm scheduled for tomorrow morning at 10:45 at the Walgreens down the block.  

Better safe than sorry, right?

Monday, April 4, 2022

Mother Nature' s Amazing

It began this way. 
It grew through this
and this
to this
It startled us this morning; it was just so big.  How big?
That big. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Everyone Is Sniffling

The downside of the beauty of The Yellow Season is the pollen.  I wanted to write about it, but I discovered that I'd done so already.... and that this post from March 2020 is much better than the one I was planning to write.  So, repeated from the beginning of Pandemica, here it is.

Allergies

We all know them - the people who don't have seasonal allergies, the people who smile smugly at those of us whose bodies are rejecting that which we are inhaling, wondering what all the fuss is about.

TBG was one of them.  Food sensitivities are his specialty, and he has his favorites.  Little Cuter poisoned him with milk seasoned with Omega-3's, brain food for her lactating self but a gut churning disaster for her father's allergy to iodine.  We figured it out, but only after we'd checked into a hotel to spare her newborn from what we thought was a stomach bug.

But breathing the air?  It never bothered him.  I'd be a sneezy and teary and scratchy throated mess while he handed me tissues and sympathized.  It went on like this in Ithaca, and Washington, D.C, and Chicago, and San Francisco and Marin.

Then, we moved to Tucson.

Our first spring did nothing to me.  The dust blown summer and my contacts had had an interesting introduction, but the different plants didn't seem to bother me as they began to blossom.  For TBG, though, it was another story.

"I can't shake this cold," became his mantra.

"You have allergies," I chanted in return.

"I DON'T have allergies," came his response.

Over and over and over again.  He was functional, but his head felt awful.  (Yup, allergies) He wanted to scratch the skin off his face.  (Yup, allergies)  He wasn't sick-sick, but...... (Yup, allergies)  We were caught in an ever repeating cycle until the Arizona Daily Star came to my rescue.

One morning, in a bold font that covered the entire paper above the fold, was one word: POLLEN.  Below that, in a font only marginally smaller, was a box containing a list of symptoms which fully, completely, totally, without exception, explained my husband's dilemma.

Now, if you ask him, he'll say I never had allergies 'til I moved to the place that used to be the place you moved to avoid allergies.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Yellow Season

It happens every year.  The acacias start it off as the yucca begin to sprout.  I was worried about my newly planted tree trying to draw water up from the parched soil and finding nothing of value. Would it bloom in its first season?  I'd been following instructions and gradually reducing the frequency of watering.  

But I was worried.  It hasn't rained in a while.  I really didn't want it to fail. I wanted it to enjoy a yellow season of its own.  So,  I set the nozzle to flat spray and filled the low-tech slow irrigation system - two 10 gallon planters with small holes in the bottom.
And it worked. These little buds appeared on tiny branchlettes (is that a word?).
There are leaves on some of them and buds on others.  This feels unusual, but I'm not looking this gift horse in the mouth.

His big brother in the back yard looks like this.
I'm going to keep watering the little one and encourage more buds to appear.  It takes a while for those buckets to fill.  My phone plays the Grateful Dead and I extol his beauty.  

I believe that makes a difference.  Who's to say that it doesn't?