Monday, October 31, 2022

Liz Cheney, Kari Lake, Arizona, and Me

Apparently, Liz Cheney is putting her money where her mouth is.  Her PAC is dumping oodles of dollars into tv and radio ads in Arizona, urging voters to avoid casting a ballot for the Republican candidate for Governor, Kari Lake.  I don't believe I have ever voted for a Democrat, but if I lived in Arizona I am certain that I would this year.  Kari Lake has thanked her for her "anti-endorsement", claiming to have raised $300,000 since the ads began.

Ms Lake is a former tv news anchor whose claim to fame seems to be that she can read from a teleprompter.  She and TFG have an unabashed love affair.  She's wildly enthusiastic about her plans - solving our water crisis by building a pipeline from the Mississippi, sending the National Guard to the border to stop the wave of immigrants who are bringing fentynal in to poison our young, and approving of the armed drop box watchers to secure the vote.

Let's see....... 

The Mississippi has gotten so low that shipwrecks are being uncovered.  According to Border Patrol statistics, ~89% of the fentynal crossing the US/Mexico border comes in via US citizens.  Young people joining the National Guard are signing up for the educational benefits and the opportunity to help Arizonans in a crisis; they are not signing up to be pseudo-Border Patrol agents.  And those MAGA clad domestic terrorists are photographing voters and recording license plates and making themselves obnoxious when Mom drops off her ballot and - heaven forfend - her husband's ballot at the same time.  

The sad part is that no one seems to care.  She is ahead in the polls.

Her opponent, the current Secretary of State, did a great job defending her office and its work in the 2022 election.  Even our Republican Governor agreed that there was no fraud, despite the fraudit paid for by the citizens of Maricopa County..... even though they didn't ask for it.  She was on all the news programs, she spoke to all the talking heads, she wrote editorials and responded to reporters' questions all through the post-election hullaballoo.  

Unfortunately, since then she has been MIA.  To call her campaign lackluster would be to give it more credit than it deserves.  She refused to debate, citing the shit show that was the Republican candidates debate.  Although the Center for Clean Elections has run these pre-election debates for decades, and had a plan to keep things orderly, none of that mattered to her.

And so, Kari Lake can call her a coward and there is really no good response.  A muted mic if the discussion veered off topic (eg denying the validity of the last election) would have been a simple solution.  It would have made for great tv.  Serious questioning by the moderators, forcing Ms Lake to defend her position that the election was stolen from, would have educated some and encouraged others. 

Instead, the polls show an ever tightening race, pulling formerly flailing Senate candidate Blake Masters along for the ride as Lake and Blake signs start to pop up around town.  Mark Finchem, who was at the Capitol riot on January 6th, is neck and neck with his opponent.  Mark Kelly's lead is down to 2 points.  I am looking ahead to living in a state with MAGA types at all the levels - Senate, Governor, Secretary of State - which must certify the next Presidential election.

All three of them have refused to say whether they will accept the 2024 results, regardless of the outcome.  This does not bode well.

I really like living in Arizona.  With this in the wind, though, Little Cuter's notion of a commune in the Italian countryside is looking ever better.  Am I too old to learn another language?

Friday, October 28, 2022


Thanks to JannyLou for noticing that there was no post today.  Yes,  dear friend,  I am healthy,  sane,  and feeling fine.... if somewhat forgetful.

As she said in her followup message,  we are having too much fun. 

We spent yesterday listening to her colleagues compliment our daughter.  She is,  as they noted,  a wonderful human being who is capable of turning chaos into a fully functioning,  well organized,  smoothly humming machine.  

It was lovely seeing that her Oh, Mom attitude regarding my messy desk,  my impossible closet,  my overreaction to a seemingly impossible situation is as effective in the workplace as it is in the family.

Without judgement,  without snark, without blame, she sees through the mess to the solution. Even better,  she is able to translate that into actions which empower and enlighten and delights those who thought there was no hope. 

Her boss said that he was thrilled to have her on their team.  

I don't think there's a better feeling in the world than knowing your kid is in the right place and is appropriately valued for her presence.  I may have forgotten to write to you last night,  but don't worry,  JannyLou, I'm just fine. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Do I ...

Do I want to type about the progressive wing of the Democratic Party urging Joe Biden to negotiate with Darth Putin?  Joe Biden, who has more foreign policy experience than all the members of that coalition put together, ought to sit at the table with Vlad the Invader?  What should he say, when it's not his country that is being bombed to smithereens?  

Do I want to type about Kari Lake, our MAGA Republican candidate for governor?  She vacuumed the carpet before tfg (the former guy.... although I can come up with a lot more descriptive terms using those letters) stepped onto the stage in Arizona.  There are lots of places to take that, but do I want to go there?

Do I want to type about drivers who cannot negotiate a left turn in the rain?  In Arizona, I blame all traffic disruptions on snow birds and the elderly.  Here in Indiana, it's young women who seem to think that turning on the windshield wipers immediately puts a damper on the gas pedal.  I could move on from that to Road Toads occupying the left lane, but why?

Do I want to laugh at myself for buying two ridiculously expensive stuffies at the Build A Bear Workshop?  The saleswomen were delightful, the process was simple and fun, the bears were stuffed to each child's specific squeeze, and rubbing the (free) heart on legs (for speed) and forehead (for intelligence) and heart (for caring) put the biggest smiles on the littlest faces.  Neither grandkid needed another soft toy, nor was the clothing necessary, but FlapJilly wondered if we could possible stop in and get her one and that touched the soft spot in my heart.... as my wallet wondered why.

Do I want to bemoan the fact that it's raining so I can't take the kiddos to the big park near FlapJilly's school after I pick her up from Kids Club?  Why would I concentrate on that when Giblet and TBG and I spent a lovely morning at the zoo and the giant park across the parking lot..... along with 4 other grandmas and their little ones?

The answers are NO.... there is no reason to go to the dark side when I am surrounded by Little Cuter's family.  We made s'mores around the fire pit last night, dancing in the moonlight and roasting the sweet treats to a perfect golden brown.  I haven't had a toasted marshmallow since I lived with G'ma and Daddooooo; the first taste brought me right back to my childhood.   With thoughts like these in my head, why would I wallow in the here and now?

So, I won't.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart

We walked in through a side door and were confronted with this:
A fellow behind us heard me wonder what and why and kindly volunteered that is where they store the host.  I couldn't get close enough to show all the detail; believe me when I say that it is stunning.  The whole thing became more impressive the further in we walked.

TBG asked for a photo of the light fixtures.  His face was swathed in happy memories as he told me that  those are the same fixtures that were in Trinity Cathedral, the Episcopal place of worship in Cleveland when I met his family.  

The stained glass windows were bright and the University obviously ordered up a sunny afternoon so that we could be awed.  It worked.

The architecture was matched by the paintings.  

But it was the organ that impressed us the most.
The short program was called Thunder from the Sky.  It was an appropriate moniker.  There was an audible intake of breath with the first note.  

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Football Friday at Notre Dame

It was the last day of Fall Break for the students.  Only the band and the football team remained on campus, practicing without the distraction of others.  The results were marvelous - the team won and the band played on... and on... and on.

Football Friday included an organ concert in the Basilica (come back tomorrow for photos) and a preliminary band performance in front of the Main Building.  We were up close and personal for the whole thing.

First, there was a percussion extravaganza.

FlapJilly and I wormed our way through the crowd (I'm old and she's cute... it was a no brainer) and watched the drummers play the cymbals with their drumsticks, watched the xylophones tinkle, and clapped with great enthusiasm when they finished.

The band began to form into a line after that.  All the instrument groups were color coordinated.
The percussionists were in white, with made up names above made up numbers.  
There was turquoise
There was green. 
There was black. 
There was an assistant conductor in turquoise so those who were unable to see the main man on the steps could keep time. 
Then they began to march.
There is nothing like a brass band. 
It was a beautiful afternoon. 

Friday, October 21, 2022

A Day With FlapJilly

Hello! FlapJilly here!

I have my grandparents here.  We are about to go to breakfast and have Fun!!
We'll go to the mall and get books and mostly have FUN! We are going to Notre Dame to see a parade and music before the football game tomorrow.
FlapJilly out.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Saying Goodbye To Our Tree

At first, it was just the two of us.  We worked hard on figuring out how to open the packets of paint; Miss M had more success than I did.  
We squirted two colors on the plate and swished it around with the piece of the tree she would 
When it was just the two of us, she could use as many plates as she wanted.
Once the other scholars joined us, it was every man for himself.
There were those who took a more tactile approach to the process.
There was sharing and much smiling as we used pieces of our soon to be gone tree to say goodbye.

I didn't know what these two were doing with their dotting.
Turns out, they were making leaves on the tree they drew.  That also explained why there were so many questions about what to mix to achieve the perfect brown - tree trunks.
In the end, we had three long messages of love.  The littlest painters used their whole hands to smear the paint around (and were quite upset when they realized just how dirty their palms were).
The medium size scholars figured out how to spread their fingers (and were left with the same angst).
The biggest artists used their words and their creativity to celebrate the tree and the season.
It was truly a great idea that got better the more time I spent thinking about it.  Olga's comment was spot on - it was super, super, super exciting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Taking Care

I'm sorry.  This is late.  It's also short. 

Everyone in my life is having surgery this week.  I'm in charge of Amster's knee replacement.  

We spent yesterday in the hospital,  last night in her bed,  and this morning arranging medicines and props for the 2 weeks of helpers she has lined up.  

The woman has a lot of friends.  There are people begging for a chance to get in on the recovery. 

What we didn't do was get her kids to figure out how to connect my laptop to her wifi....last night and before school this morning. 

So,  I took to my phone to scribble to you.  A lovely day in Grandma's Garden, a comparison of recovery styles,  an ode to visiting family and friends - they all await you. 

Just not today. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Searching for Answers, Part 2

Yesterday, I ranted about the PreK-12 school board election. Today I take on the community college race.


I asked the neighbor kid, a student at the community college, if he had thoughts about the candidates for the board.  Nope, he hadn't given it much thought.  We laughed when I sighed and told him that he had been my go-to person on how to vote, and that now I was bereft.  We waved goodbye as he returned to raking ground covering stones with his brother and I continued to sigh.

This race is a real problem for me.  I don't have the information I need to make an informed choice.  I was equally flummoxed about the local school district's board, since for neither race have I received one piece of mail - snail or e. 

A big sign just appeared on a frequently passed corner.  I remembered the name long enough to get home and Google him.  He seems okay.  If anyone is running against him, I really don't know.

There's internecine warfare and outrage in the Letters to the Editor but I've been unable to find any facts that aren't biased.  The teachers are squabbling with the administration, but I'm not sure that low pay is something over which anyone but those who distribute our tax dollars can address.  

If there are other issues, they are masked by the vitriol.  I truly have no idea what the concerns are.  And I've looked.  

Embarrassingly, I don't even know how many seats are open. I'll have to open my ballot and find out.

And y'know what?  I'm not in a contested district.  The map was the first place I started, but it was extraordinarily unclear on my phone and I never got around to checking it online, until just now, and it's still a mess.

I searched every combination of name, board, election, district, boundaries, map I could think of.  The closest I came was a PDF of a proposal to redraw the boundaries, with no link to whether any action was taken.  My house wouldn't be involved, and I discovered that I live in District 1, so the journey was not totally useless.  But it shouldn't take a below the fold internet search to find a random PDF in order to figure that out.

So, there's a reason I am uninformed.  I don't need to be.  

It still doesn't feel quite right.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Searching for Answers, Part 1

My ballot booklets and the media provided  enough information on the Propositions and personnel issues, so I feel confident casting those votes. The school board races are, after Secretary of State (Mark Finchem in charge of our elections?), the most consequential on the local level.  And discovering information about the candidates is disturbingly difficult.  Today, I rant about the K-12 (which now is PreK-12) decision, tomorrow, the Community College race.  It shouldn't be this hard.

There are lots of little signs with the same font and colors and layout but for two different candidates.  This leads to many interesting questions, as I wait for the lights to change.  Are they friends?  Are they colleagues?  Was it cheaper to print them that way?  Do they share the same beliefs?  

Mona has some larger signs that put parents first, kids second, and teachers third.  That set off all kinds of alarms for me, which her website confirmed.  So much of what a school board does cannot be transparent.  Union contracts make personnel matters the property of the employee, thus restricting what the Board can reveal.  Parents do not have access to the same information, nor should they.  This is why we elect officials who trust the process.

Remember, this is the state where legislators think it's a good idea to police classroom libraries, to put cameras in the classrooms, to require the submission of lesson plans to God-alone-knows-who.  My answer is simple:  if you want to know what's going on, volunteer in the classroom.  If you have time to organize against the books, you have time to engage in a conversation with the librarian.  

I won't be voting for Mona, nor for her sign-mate, whose website was a clone, with the same dog-whistles and misguided criticisms.  I'm unaware of elementary educators indoctrinating or grooming or teaching the ins and outs of procreation in the kindergarten classroom - and I've been in and out of all kinds of classrooms for the last 11 years.  Allowing such people to inform what and how our children learn is ill-advised, at best.

Yes, reading and math scores have declined due to the Pandemic.  That's not enough reason to dismiss the work that the current Board members have done, as those pesky little signs do.  With uncertain funding and legislative disdain, our public schools are making Americans, one little human at a time.  We deserve to have thoughtful oversight of the decisions that go into making that true.

It took a little bit of digging, but I managed to collect enough information to feel okay with my vote.  I wish they had written opinion pieces or made themselves available to the local paper's Zoom candidate forum, but, as I've learned and have sung to many young people over the years (okay, Cuters, cover your ears) you can't always get what you want.  

Friday, October 14, 2022

Happy Birthday, Daddooooo

A somewhat altered version of a previous post or two.

It was always very confusing - was his birthday the 12th or the 14th of October?  One of them was Columbus Day and the other was Herb's Day and to this moment I'm still not sure, especially since the bureaucrats moved Chris's Day to the generic second Monday.

He was a confusing person, so this is not surprising.  I never knew if I wanted to hug him or throttle him.

Deaf-as-a-door-nail, hearing aid batteries constantly squealing or dying or resting comfortably in the breast pocket of his plaid wash-and-wear shirt, he monopolized conversations so that he would know what was going on. That works well until your audience hits second grade or so; after that, it becomes a full fledged "Herb Attack."

I know this because I have been guilty of them, myself.

His tales were fascinating.  If the facts weren't really facts, well, they should have been.  He went to City College with Richard Feynman.  He lived down the block from Jonas Salk. He knew every cobblestone, every cornerstone, every brick and street sign in Manhattan.  Serving as tour guide in The Big Apple made him about as happy as anything else I can imagine... and I've been sitting here thinking about it for a while.

Surrounded by his grandchildren-of-a-certain-age, those who were sentient but not yet sarcastic, he could sit for hours, regaling them with stories about the chickens they raised in the backyard on Hessler Avenue; about the boat he and his brothers built one summer... the boat that almost floated; about the time it rained frogs; and about all the times he got into trouble at school, because he just wouldn't stay still.

He probably deserved a diagnosis or medication; born in 1916, he was "just being Herbert." He continued being just himself, sui generis as I called him in the obituary I wrote for the New York Times, until the very end.

He died at home, between the first and second commercial of the 10 o'clock episode of Law and Order on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving.  There's some confusion about the date, since the hospice nurse didn't get there to sign the death certificate until early Sunday morning.  Like his birthday, I need cues to keep the date straight.  Like most things Daddooooo related, this is not now nor has it ever been easy.

The funeral home attendants gave G'ma a moment in the hallway before they wheeled him out the front door.  She leaned over, kissed him, and then admonished him, one last time: "Behave yourself, Herbert!  Don't give them any trouble."  The paramedics were bemused.  My mother looked right back at them.  "If you'd known him, you'd understand."

Happy Birthday, Herb, you strange and singular father of mine.  Happy Birthday to YOU!

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Double Vaxxed

It's been six months since my last poke in the arm; the CDC and my doctor told me to go do it again.  So, I did.  I went online yesterday and found a dose available today; quite a change from February, 2021, when chasing a vaccine meant hunkering down over the keyboard, frantically typing the same data over and over, hoping to win the available vaccine lottery.

We drove 90 minutes to get my first two shots.  Today, my appointment was 8 minutes from home.  Of course, I had to wait for 20 minutes while the clinician caught up with the scheduled appointments.  I made good use of the wait time by questioning the pharmacy tech every 5 minutes or so.  Her answer was always accompanied by a smile:  Soon, dear.  Soon.

My lunch plans with Taos Bubbe were for 12:30.  I hate being late.  I began texting her at 12:15, alerting her to the delay.  The shots - extra strength flu and Moderna bi-valent booster - went into my arm at 12:25.  The restaurant was across the (very busy) street.  I arrived at the table at 12:31.

Why did that make me so anxious?  My friend didn't mind waiting.  The restaurant was not crowded.  I knew that the shots would happen eventually, even if eventually was longer than I wanted to wait. I found myself tapping my foot, checking the time, texting updates, and feeling generally miserable. 

And I was doing it all to myself.  

Thankfully, the pharmacist called me before I had to tell myself to get a grip.  He was a lovely man about my age, who placed one tab of each band aid on my arm before he administered the vaccines.  It didn't hurt.  His hands patted the second band aid tabs with care.  He laughed behind his mask as he asked me to stick around for 10 minutes, because they say I have to tell you that.  

Having survived enough COVID vaccines to require a second card to record them all, I knew that I would be fine.  I walked out of the Safeway trying to leave my anxiety behind.  It was a struggle.  I kept going back to being locked in, to worrying about dying from the disease, to fearing for my grandkids, to all the awful thoughts and places my brain would go during Pandemica.

Joe Biden may think that the pandemic is over, but pieces of it are still very much alive, right here in my own mind.  The effects of long COVID are being reported out in the medical journals; the news is not good.  But there is medication that seems to mitigate some of the risks, even if it also includes a rebound effect (eg The Bidens).

I've done and am doing all that I can, and so are all my family members.  I'm just tired of it all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022


MOM! Check the calendar before you go!

Of course, Little Cuter was right.  The proof was presenting itself to me in real life.... for the second time in two days.  Her amusement at my expense was well deserved.

Yesterday, I gathered the makings for a fun project in Grandma's Garden.  I stopped at Michael's for supplies and drove across town to Prince Elementary School.... which was closed for the holiday.  This was obvious  - there were no cars in the lot.  

I laughed at myself and took advantage of the fact that I was passing the mall on my way home.  I walked its length and breadth for exercise and, when the stores opened, bought some grandkid clothes.  I took myself out to lunch and went home smiling.

This morning, I added a few items to my treasure trove and headed down to school again.  The project I had in mind grew more wonderful with every passing hour.  After a day of it percolating in my brain, I was filled with confidence and delight..... until I pulled up to the garden gate and saw, once again, no cars in the parking lot.

Little Cuter and I were on the phone as I drove up and expressed my surprise with a naughty word.  Her response (see the opening line of this post) was part giggles and part eye roll. 

I came home and looked at the calendar and discovered that they are on Fall Break.  I will not be driving down there again until Monday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

My Son, The Podcaster

If you know what Warhammer 40K is, you might want to head over to Best in Tabletop and check out all the wonderfulness surrounding this multi-player fantasy game.  It has tiny painted-at-home warriors of various descriptions, wielding weapons with fantastical powers, traversing terrain as they roll dice and conquer their opponents.  

The games take hours to play.  My kid has been playing it since he was eleven years old.  He's a lot older than that now.  He has a wide circle of devoted players all across the country, most of whom would call themselves nerds.... except for Henry Cavill, of Superman movie fame,
who is definitely not a nerd.

His weekly podcast reviews what went on last week in the world of 40K.  I did not know that there was very much going on in that world, or, honestly, that that world existed at all, if I ever gave it any thought at all.  Apparently, tournaments and new releases and interesting strategies lead to teasers like this one:

Colin and Billy discuss pre-emptive-ish Votann nerfs, London GT results, Chicago Open look ahead, and probably a Dataslate next week!

If that exclamation point is to be believed, this is fabulous news.  To me, it reads as gibberish.

But earlier this year, the aforementioned Colin interviewed my son, Billy, about his life and loves.  There were familiar family stories, which made me smile.  And there was some really good advice.  I, of course, found the entire interview absolutely riveting.  For the rest of you, I've excerpted two segments if you want to see what my grown up son thinks about his younger self.

Letting Your Freak Flag Fly

And then they got into mental health and dating and finding love in your middle thirties.  For anyone who's young and thinks love will never be in their future, this might give them hope.

The best part for me, though, was his description of me:  If there was a job that needed to be done in the community, my mom made sure that it got done.

My work here is done.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Columbus Day

 Updated from 2009  My paragraphs were longer, then.

Today, October 10, is Columbus Day. Not Amerigo Vespucci Day. Not Leif Ericson Day. Columbus Day. It was certainly not Indigenous People's Day... unless you want to celebrate the beginning of the end.

But, I digress.  Today is Columbus Day, although Chris and his fleet landed at a place he named San Salvador on October 12, 1492. Of course, that was according to the Julian Calendar. In 1582, a papal bull (and what an image that conjures in the brain) restructured the concept of the leap year and named the new calendar after the Pope himself. Suddenly, La Nina and La Pinta and La Santa Maria had landed 9 days later, on October 21st, Gregorian time. Adding 3 days every 4 centuries doesn't seem like a big difference, but try telling that to Columbus. Someone must have agreed with me on this, since we celebrate his arrival on the Julian date. I love it when things that shouldn't change don't change.

And that's why I'm smiling about today being Columbus Day. Because, in actuality, Columbus Day is now celebrated today, the 2nd Monday of October, regardless of the date. That's just wrong. Totally and completely unacceptable. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th, George Washington was born on February 22nd. Neither of them was born on the 3rd Monday in February... or at least not every year on the 3rd Monday in February. Holiday-declarers need to get with the program. Certain things should not be messed with.

I've always like Columbus Day, because it's not a birthday party. It's the celebration of an event. Being born isn't anything to congratulate the infant about. If we had pictures of Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Washington there would be reason to say "Nicely Done, Ma'am". The babies really didn't do much at all. Columbus, on the other hand, sailed across the flat world (although I've recently learned that the whole flat earth thing is an 18th century allusion taken much too seriously by American text book writers) to find a faster route to India's spices. Though his math was a little shaky, and he really wasn't in India at all, he found the Bahamas (which had been doing very nicely without him except for just a little bit of internecine warfare) and laid the groundwork for the casinos at Atlantis.

You can avoid the political controversy over the whole celebration because, really, if you stop to think about it, there was no way that all of Europe was going to stay on their side of the pond forever.  Globalization was bound to happen.  Would the indigenous peoples have been better off remaining un-found?  It's a moot point. The world is and was and always will be a series of inter-dependent spheres. It's only the access points which change. 

Today, I avoid the political and enjoy the celebration.

No one expects you to be at her house for dinner on Columbus Day. You don't have to eat special foods or dress in any particular color. You might not have to work (it's a Federal Holiday) and there's probably a raft of politicians marching down the main street of the nearest major metropolis.

Columbus Day is a holiday without structure, without musts, shoulds or oughts. It is a break from school when you can go apple picking or clothes shopping or jump in the leaves. You can hike or take the kids to a museum or just clean your closets, all while enjoying an official holiday.

Thanks, Chris.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Cleaning Up the Garden

What are we doing today?  
Weeding.  Everything outside the raised beds must be pulled and put on the pile in the corner.  

Only little kids jump at the chance to pull weeds. 

They were very proud of their work.

Everyone wanted to show me what was gathered.

Pods with seeds were a rarity.  This was a treasure.  
But the real treasure was Guy, our groundskeeper.  
We talked through the fence about clearing the pile of detritus that was developing in the corner. Fifteen minutes later, he'd cleared space in the dumpsters and showed up in the garden with a roll of giant garbage bags, a plastic garbage can, and a pitchfork.

The little boys were beside themselves.  He had a fan club before the first load was carted away.  

There are so many special moments in Grandma's Garden.  The unexpected ones are my favorite.