Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Squandering Talent

All those trophies the kids got because Mom and Dad paid the league's registration fees.....

All those tests re-graded because there was a game on Friday night......

All those assemblies where Feeling Good About Yourself was the theme......

All those kudos for achievement on the field without regard to behavior in the real world.....

All that emphasis on the story, not the spelling or the grammar.....

All the understanding and the individual differences and the emotional learning......

If it's not tempered by realistic expectations and consequences when the boundaries are crossed .....

You get Johnny Manziel.

Monday, November 30, 2015

It's A Quandary

If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?

That's the kind of question that gives me an instant headache, as I try to grapple with the science.  It only takes a moment for my brain to realize that the person it inhabits has failed to internalize the physics it once learned.  If it's in there, I can't find it.  

And so, I move on.  

I am bemused, realizing that your headlights are probably the least of your problems if your car suddenly began traveling at the speed of light.  Or, perhaps, it's a specially designed car, and then wouldn't the engineers and other smart people have figured out the solution, if there is, in fact, a problem?  And there I am, back at the science, again.

Big Cuter and I spent several hours driving to and from the Mesa Airport.  As always, time in the car is the most valuable. We talk.  We disagree.  We laugh.  And he teaches me things which are complex and deep and profound and presents them in such a clear and interesting fashion that it's really a shame that I can't replicate his explanations here.

Or were they explications?  We spent some time on that distinction, and I was much more comfortable with that conversation than the one surrounding it.  That was the conversation that really gives me a headache, the same headache I've had since I first thought about it, in elementary school.  

What's outside our universe?

Image result for atlas holding up the world rockefeller centerBig Cuter was very clear about the inflaton (no, it's not a misspelling, there is no "i", it's a different word, apparently) field, the fabric of something-or-other which oscillates and when it oscillates a certain way a big bang occurs.  At least, that's what I think he told me.  I could be wrong.  It doesn't really matter, because it doesn't answer the original question:

What's holding our universe up?

I asked Atlas Holding the World the same question as a teenager.  I did.  I remember standing at Rockefeller Center, wondering if people would understand if I started screaming at the sculpture.  What was he standing upon? Did anybody know?  It made my head hurt just to think about it.

It's a quandary.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Random Thoughts - The Thanksgiving Evening Edition

Having the world's best next door neighbors is something for which TBG and I are profoundly grateful. We admit our foibles, laugh at our failings, and find comfort in the knowledge that we're all falling apart at about the same rate.

Being there for one another is, of course, quite wonderful.  But it's the shared amusement that acts as the glue holding us together.
Joining them for Thanksgiving dinner, some of us reveled in the lack of acrimony, in the ease and grace with which this family flows through the world.  Where was the whining... the head shaking... the muttered imprecations and the slammed doors

Our natal families bore no resemblance to this; we agreed that this is much better.
We watched sons and grandsons discussing George R R Martin and Jessica Jones, smiling as 20's and 30's and 40's blended together, seamlessly.  The college freshman's boyfriend was a willing helper among strangers, insisting that JannyLou must have something that needed doing.  I peeled turkey necks and chopped liver for giblet gravy because it was easier for me than for her.  Everyone seemed to be responsible for the dogs.
The instructional emails in the preceding weeks were a big help. JannyLou had given each of us tasks and timelines, so bagels were procured and gluten/dairy/egg free dessert recipes were tested in a timely fashion.  Everyone was just-a-little-bit dressed up for this extended family and friends event, and everyone had some skin in the game.

There was a lot of justifiable pride floating around the kitchen.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Overheard at Thanksgiving - Redux and Revised

Big Cuter set the oven on fire last night, so it's a good thing that JannyLou is making the turkey.  I can cook on the burners tonight, and beg left overs for tomorrow's late night snacks.  Foodstuffs taken care of, I had time to re-read my Thanksgiving posts, one a year since 2009.  

This one is from 2010, before most of you knew my name.  JES and Nance and I were wondering how to increase the traffic to our baby blogs as we called them, and then, as JES so aptly pointed out, "Damn, girl, you go and get shot!"

Over the years, Nance's Mature Landscaping blog and Meg (see below) has vanished along with her Members Lounge, but JES and I continue to plug away.  Time passes and the important things stay the same - the friendships, the work, the love.

So, this throwback to a gentler time warms the cockles of my heart.  From those cockles to yours, denizens, I send love and warmth and many many many thanks for reading.  
I am so grateful to know that you are out there.
Wednesday Evening:  "I just had to have vegetables," came from Little Cuter as she made caramelized carrots to accompany the tacos her male relatives craved.  What a healthy thing to hear.
Son to Mother and Sister who are still cooking dinner: "Dad was going to take something to the trash so I followed him because I thought he was going to sit at the table.  So I sat at the table and then he saw me sitting at the table so he joined me at the table.  We're really not rushing you girls at all."

No, you're just munching on the cheese and putting your napkins in your laps and waiting... and waiting... and of course I'm feeling rushed.  But they are smiling and laughing and most of all they are HERE so I don't mind.  I just try to will the carrots to caramelize.
Said after watching Little Cuter and me in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, while he and his father lay on the couch watching ball games:   "Do you girls mind this gender specific role division?"

I know that my personal feminist revolution has been won if my son acknowledges such inequities.  Of course, they kept watching and we kept cooking, but we were all where we wanted to be.
Thursday Afternoon: "What time are you getting your mom?"

"Oh, SHIT, I forgot about G'ma!"
As I, math challenged that I am, asked G'ma how many ounces were in a cup, TBG wondered why I needed to know.  "I don't want to measure them out, I want to know how many are in the box." Big Cuter explained: "She wants to do the math.  I know that's weird coming from my mother, but.........."

They laugh at my foibles and love me nonetheless.

And my mother, without missing a beat, knew that there were 8 ounces in a cup.  And she was surprised that I didn't remember that fact... and that she did.  I know she's in there somewhere.
I was in the kitchen, grabbing a serving spoon for the mashed potatoes when Little Cuter's voice came like music to my ears: "Mmmmmm... Mom, are you hearing the mmmmm's?"

It's nice when your kids want to be sure that you're sharing the love.
And on that note, Meg, over at The Members Lounge, asked for my brownie recipe.  In the spirit of sharing the love, here it is:
  • Melt 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate and 1/3 cup unsalted butter.
  • Beat together 2 large eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and a dash of pure almond extract.
  • Add the melted chocolate and butter.  Mix together.
  • Add 2/3 cup King Arthur Flour and 1 teaspoon each of salt and baking powder.
  • If you like, add chopped walnuts.
  • Bake in an 8x8x2 ungreased pan at 350 for approximately 20 minutes.  My crew likes them slightly undercooked (17 minutes) and gooey, but you may prefer them with a drier texture. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Over the River and Through the Woods

The Air Force Dentist and his family found themselves stranded here in the desert when the snows closed the airports back east.  She Who Turns Up Everywhere managed to fly in from San Francisco without any trouble.  JannyLou's kids can't wait to sleep in the camper they'll park in the driveway.  FlapJilly will accompany her parents to Maga and Papa's, truly over the river and through the woods to Indiana.

Everyone is traveling, except us.  We'll meander along the path between our houses, arriving at Fast Eddie and JannyLou's doorway with side dishes and desserts, expending only foot power to get there.  Somehow, that just doesn't seem right.  The holidays seem to demand transportation over distance and time.

Little Cuter wants my people around her for the holiday; she'll have to travel to accomplish that feat. Although she protests that with three jobs and a toddler her traveling should be limited to picking us up at the airport, her father and I continue to want them to come this way in the winter.  Leaving the sunshine and shorts for snow and ice doesn't make us smile, even with the prospect of their smiling faces at the bottom of the escalator at O'Hare.  I slip on the slick surfaces.  My hands ache from the cold. I miss the stars at night and the blue skies during the day.  I buy the tickets, they use them, I heat up the hot tub for small swimming experiences..... I don't know what she's complaining about.

True, traveling with a little one requires packing with care.  A 16 month old has no love for sitting still; I walked across America many times, bent over, holding her hands after I held her brother's hands, up and down the aisles of planes.  I do wish we lived closer, but this will have to do for now.

We used to put everyone and everything in the car and drive straight through to Cleveland from Chicago.  East on I-80, singing songs and reading aloud, the miles were boring but manageable.  Nannie was always standing in the door as we pulled into the driveway; how she knew we were arriving in that era before cell phones remains a mystery to this day.

There were presents on the hearth in the dining room, perfect presents for whatever age and interests the kids had.  How she knew what to buy is in that same mystery pile; it was always just what I wanted!!!!  Their basement held all sorts of treasures, as did the attic and the crawl spaces.  Daddy's castle came out of hiding, small metal soldiers constantly appearing underfoot. The heavy metal trike went up and down the long straight driveway; somehow the snow always melted enough for the kids to be able to play.

There was something about the automotive transition that made the holiday special to me.  I left my in-box behind.  There was always someone to watch the kids, to play cards with the kids, to cook the food and shop for the food and to bring in the mail.  I had nothing to do.  I could nap in the afternoon without worries.  I could come down late for breakfast and find that my children were fed. I could read to my heart's content; there were grandparents around making sure the little ones were happy.

TBG's family didn't go in for loud arguments or snarky picking around the edges of life.  They were content to revel in the joy that was everyone all together, eating food brought in from Hough's.  I spent Thanksgivings there for almost 20 years; I've never enjoyed the holiday more.  Now, they are gone, the house is sold, the family is scattered to the corners of the country, and my little girl is making her own in-law memories.

I know just how she feels.  I loved being there.  I missed my Mommy and Daddy.  I was thankful for the love and the joy and the ease, but I wanted my people around, too.  Holidays have a way of twisting us up and turning us around, don't they? They combine the joy and the angst in a brightly wrapped package, which comes around every year, bringing the same tugs and hugs.

And this is only the beginning.  We still have Hanukkah and Christmas and New Years and TBG's birthday and the Stroll and Roll........  I'm exhausted and it's only just started.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

52 Years Ago This Week

I remember those days as one long grey fog.  I remember being aware, at the time, that I'd be remembering those moments forever.

I was walking up the stairs to 8th period math, distracted by the level of chatter in the stairwell. Something was afoot... no one was smiling... there was something about someone being shot... and it wasn't until we were seated and the bell had rung that the assistant principal's announcement came over the loud speaker above the blackboard:  Our President had been shot.

She told us to bow our heads and pray for him and our country.  I didn't know any Hebrew words to put to my thoughts, and I wasn't sure that G-d would be listening to my words if they came from my heart and not the prayer book, and then it was time to pretend to learn math.

We didn't get very far in the book that day; school was let out early.  I remember G'ma picking us up, my cousin and my neighbor and I somber but clearly delighted that school had been cancelled for the next day or two... until G'ma totally lost it and shouted at us with a new tone in her voice: "Great!  Maybe they should kill him again tomorrow!"

Grown-ups had never been that shaken before.  We shut our mouths and rode home in silence.

The next mornings were cloudy and cold and dreary.  There was nothing to watch on television except Walter Cronkite and the casket in the Rotunda of the Capitol and the lines of mourners and then the caissons and the little boy saluting and it was all so very sad and so very public and I didn't know what to make of it.

Our family wasn't big on showing emotion.  You dealt with your sorrows internally, unless you decided to lash out in anger.  Anger we understood.  Compassion was another story, entirely.  This week seemed to call for love and closeness and a drawing together, but my family wasn't big on public displays of affection, either.

Big hugs ended with a potch in tuches, a gentle smack on the rump, a reminder that getting comfortable might not be the smartest path to follow.  Or maybe it meant something else, or maybe it meant nothing at all.  I only know that relaxing into sorrow or delight was not something with which we had much practice.  And there we were, business and school closed down, our news sources filled with death and loss and Cold War worries, each of us in our own private silo, together but alone.

I don't think the sun came out until things returned to normal.  And here I am, 63 years old but still an 11 year old girl standing alone, out on the driveway, bouncing a ball and wondering how to think about a world which could make me feel so lost.

I was right.  I will be remembering those moments forever.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hamlet at The Rogue

"If I had paid off-Broadway prices in New York to see this, I would not have been disappointed."

Thus spake Scarlet as we strolled down the alley to the free, patrolled, parking lot.  We'd spent 2 hours and 40 minutes with the dysfunctional Danish royal family, seated comfortably in the first tier, right on the edge, near the exit door. I was relaxed and comfortable right up until who-killed-which-and-why took hold of my brain.  I needed to know, I worried about consequences, I was a little teary at the end.

I've never been as entranced with the plot as I was at this performance. I saw Dame Judith Anderson act the role in 1971 at Cornell.  I've seen Mel Gibson and Laurence Olivier on film.  I've read it, at least twice, for a class.  Until this weekend, it bored me.

The Rogue Theater, this little place in this little town in Scarlet's words, brought the ambiguity and the conflict into as much clarity as the words themselves allow.  It's a complicated tale of revenge and madness and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, which we saw the week before, was of absolutely no help at all.  We laughed at Tom Stoppard's verbiage, but  I'd be hard pressed to tell you the story.

In Hamlet, though, I had no trouble at all.  Starting as it ends, with men at arms, the sentries drew me in and, before I knew it, I was going with the flow. All those phrases I knew but never could place were popping out of the actors' mouths with fluency, as if they spoke that way in the grocery store, too. I was following along, not just with the action, but with the words, themselves.

I don't think I am that much smarter now; I think The Rogue took the play to another level.

The costumes, the simple tapestry which, along with 2 thrones and Ophelia's flowers was the entire set design, the tenderness with which both the content and the performers were treated by the production, made it a magical afternoon.

No, it's not New York.  It doesn't have to be.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dilated and Numbed Pupils

The drops went in easily.

The results are long lasting.

It's been 7 hours and I still can't put in my contact lens.  Bright lights are shooting through my wide open eyeballs and searing themselves on my brain.

Typing with my eyes closed has some merit...... if I were still in 6th grade and learning the skill.

For now, though, I will beg your indulgence and take the day off.

I'll be back on Monday... with normal size pupils

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I Can't Help Myself!

I've tried, denizens.  I've really tried.  I must admit that I've failed.

I tried to make sense out of Ted Cruz's suggestion that we only allow Christian refugees across our borders.  I couldn't.

I tried to think about credit cards issued by airlines which will no longer allow everyday purchases to accrue points toward flights.  A brief foray into the mental machinations which allow me to feel justified buying not-really-necessary items by consigning the purchase to FlapJilly's Flight Fund Miles went just that far before ending with a thud.

There are rants about step-parenting and kids' basketball games which rattle around but get no traction.  There's the chip technology in everyone's credit cards when there is barely a merchant with the relevant software to use it... and I can't get worked up about it.  Not one little bit.

This is what I am thinking about:
 Running and Yelping (after finding her LOUD button) and Conquering the World.
I hope it gives you as much pleasure as it gives to me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Basketball is a much better sport than football. I am prepared to argue the point.

It is easier to understand. There are only 5 players on the court at any time, and they usually have their names on their jerseys. It's easier to follow the ball when it's not blocked from view by 2500 pounds of padded flesh. The players' faces are unobscured by face guards and helmets; their grimaces and their grins are part and parcel of my enjoyment. 

The game frowns upon undue bodily contact; players don't suffer two concussions in six weeks (cf. Anu Solomon, UofA quarterback). There is bumping and shoving and pushing, but no one is diving into your chest, driving you to the ground, preventing you from making a play. Defense is played with the feet, not the hands or the shoulders or the head. I don't have to worry about brain stem contusions while watching young men play a game.
I grew up with the Knicks, moved on to the Bulls, took second in TBG's office pool with Jim Valvano's Wolfpack and have never looked back.  The pro game is uninteresting until the playoffs, and only marginally (to me) even then.  I like talking about Steph Curry with Mr. 10, but I can't name another player on his team.  

I follow the college game more closely.  DePaul... Arizona... I've enjoyed it most when I've had a home team. There are few big stars in the college game; there are great teams and coaches and rivalries, though.  It's the team game that appeals to me, and I see more of that in the college arena.

As I type, Coach K is letting his players suffer the slings and arrows of a double digit deficit, not calling a time out, giving Kentucky all the room it needs to spread its wings and fly.  Georgetown is on in ten minutes, and Kansas/Michigan State tips off after the Blue Devils /Wildcats contest.

I love this time of year.


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