Monday, June 29, 2015

#RisingForCharleston - Coming Together With Love

We stood, at the end, together.
We stood, making loving hearts with our fingers.
We stood in solidarity.

It was quite a moment.

The sanctuary was filled with like minded humans of all faiths
and ages. 

There were smiles and there were tears and there was love.
There was so much love.

We sent cards with that love, 
from our hearts to those bruised and battered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal...
known as Mother Emanuel...
and we all needed our mothers right then.

Celebrating determination and strength and reminding ourselves that we are not alone, 
singing Amazing Grace.

It was not enough.
It was everything.
It was something.
It was what we could do, then and there.

It was a sunny Saturday morning, just like the last one I shared with Christina-Taylor.
I know she would have loved to join me.

I miss her, each and every day, just as they will be missed.

Let them be remembered.
Let them be an inspiration to us all.
Let us act for change.

Let this be the last time we gather together to remember those taken - not lost, not gone, not passed - TAKEN.... MURDERED.

Let us not gloss over the horror, as hard as it is to keep it front and center.
It's a necessary step if we are to move forward, together, to make a change.

They are missed.
They are not forgotten.
They are in our hearts.
They inspire action.

Every Town for Gun Safety.

Get involved.
Do it now.
They deserve your attention.


(Thanks to Jocelyn Strauss for the photos)

Friday, June 26, 2015

#RisingForCharleston

I belong to a private internet support group.  We are all survivors of gun violence.  No one judges, because we've all been there, done that.  We know the variety of forms in which PTSD rears its ugly head.  We know feeling as if the floor has just dropped out from under you, caught unawares as you tumble down a rabbit hole.

As I've learned here in The Burrow, writing helps to calm the beast.

Sometimes, though, writing is not enough.  Sometimes I have to participate more actively. Saturday is one of those times.  #RisingForCharleston events are planned all across the country, and Tucson, of course, is hosting our very own.

Our local survivors' email chain was activated.  We were personally invited to join Everytown for Gun Safety volunteers at Congregation Chaverim ... and I began to be drawn in.

This is Gabby's congregation.  There's a comforting sense of intimacy and connection when you've shared wine-in-plastic-cups in a famous congregant's back yard with the Rabbi herself.  I have confidence in her ability to strike the right note.

Being together in a shared space is difficult for me,  and that's bringing me to remembering 9/11, and the neighborhood church on Tiburon Boulevard which welcomed us all that night.  Jews and Catholics, Methodists and Sikhs and non-believers sat side by side in the Presbyterian's sanctuary.

It was lovely, and exactly what I needed, and since I can't seem to shake the Charleston massacre from the very front of my brain I have decided that I might need it now, too.

I'm bringing paper and markers for card making; from our hearts to theirs, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church survivors and congregants will know that they are not alone.

It's important to bear witness.  It cannot be left to others.  We are all in this together, and together I will heal and send healing and be a participant.

Confirming that there will be special attention paid to our security, I began to plan my outfit.

It seemed like a logical progression of events - a service of solidarity in a synagogue should first be examined from a security perspective.... after all, it's a house of worship and I can't be sure that enough of my fellow congregants will be armed and trained and ready to defend the rest of us good guys......

What a world.  What a world.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Here's My Internet!

I tried to get through to a human.  I really did.  I dialed 1-800-COMCAST four times.

The first time, they couldn't find me then they thought I was "a valued customer."  Amazing what providing a zip code will get you.

The second time, I connected with an actual human being.  She was lovely.  She wondered if I knew where the reset button was on the black Xfinity box.  Yes, I did.  I also knew how to reset it, which I did.

Unfortunately, resetting the wifi also reset the telephone.  My helpful human was gone, along with my dial tone.

I dialed again, went through the same "who are you... enter zip code.... valued customer" routine, listened to the Muzak equivalent of falling raindrops, and was then informed by an automated voicebox that they were unable to help me at this time.  There were two suggestions, and I began screaming in the middle of the first one; I couldn't get faster service by logging onto the internet because I couldn't log onto the internet and that was why I was calling in the first place.

The second suggestion was to "call back at a later time."

I groaned.  I got a drink. I called back.  If you reread the last big paragraph you'll know what happened then.  I can't bear to retype it.

Fortunately, I had agreed "to take a short survey of no more than two minutes describing the service" I received.  When Caller ID showed COMCAST on the television screen, I literally rubbed my hands together in glee.  Answering the phone, putting the robo-voice on speaker, I gave them 1 on a scale to 5, where 1 was the equivalent of  "I hate you!" or "No, no one was that nice to me," for the first few questions.

I was given the choice of having someone return my call to discuss my responses.  I chose that option, and found myself at the receiving end of another survey from a robo-voice  I gave them 0's (on a scale which now ran up to 10 for "wonderfulness"), except where I admitted that the voice had tried to offer me another service.... they considered this a good thing.

At the end, there was only "Goodbye."  No one said that I should expect a return call.  No one asked for or verified my phone number.  No one transferred me to "to the next available operator."  Nope. Nothing..... for five minutes.

That was when Jen appeared on the other end of the line.  She acknowledged that I was obviously having issues, she thanked me for picking up the phone politely, she told me that were our positions reversed she would have had a hard time being as nice as I was being to her.

Quoting Little Cuter, I told her that I was often reminded that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar, and, for some reason, I was in a pretty good mood.

She was amazed.  She seems to hate technological problems as much as I do.  However, she assured me, she not only could fix my computer hook up, she was authorized to have access to whatever she needed in order to accomplish that feat.

I was stunned.  A real person with real skills and real power was talking to me.  My problem would be resolved.... and it was, with little effort and much laughter and a clear explanation of the issue and the solution.  She disconnected an old network, I reset the Apple router which is sending the signal to the Cuters' side of the house, and all was well.

She didn't have an email for me to send a personal recommendation, but Jen transferred me to Josh, her supervisor, who is, I hope, reading this commendation on Thursday morning.

Jen's great.  She deserves a raise.  I'm not angry with COMCAST any more, and it's all because of her.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where's My Internet?

That's the question I've been trying ask for the last thirty minutes.... now seventy minutes... and there's a great post coming out of this but I cannot type it on my phone, the only device in the house with internet access.

Come back tomorrow to read the sad tale; technical difficulties preclude further communications at this time.

A Snippet - Commiserating With a Friend

Poor choices have been made and tears have been shed but life goes on.

I was in the second round of consoling friends, the result of not checking my phone all day.  With a friend, at Pilates, playing Scrabble, I was busy having my life while my friend's was being disrupted.
She came over in the morning and chatted, listening to TBG pronounce the same sage words of advice she'd heard the day before from her girlfriends.

We went to breakfast, and hashed and rehashed the situation. Over omelettes and muffins, we came to some conclusions.

It's a dream come true for her in many ways.  It's also very sad. There is only so much she can do... and she's done more.  Her job is to acknowledge the good that was done, to accept the decisions, and to stand firm with the consequences.  She's done.

We drowned her remaining sorrows in a predictable and delightful high school chick flick, sharing the adjustable Sleep Number bed with Luke and Bo, her Staffordshire Terriers.

Life is good.

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Brother's BIrthday

Pause a moment and wish my younger brother a Happy Birthday, would you?  Aim your thoughts towards Maryland, at the Metro's last stop, and lift a glass in his honor.

A nice beer or a cheap beer, whiskey or a glass of NYC water; he's easy to please.

You might mention the full facial hair experience he's been sporting for the past year or so.  We saw it first when he drove all the way to Illinois to welcome FlapJilly into the family; he drove me to the airport as he left the young family for SIR's Scout's Seats at the White Sox game.

SIR drove home in the middle of the morning to drop off the tickets.
This part of Little Cuter's family is well worth the effort.

Did you notice that he drove half way across the country, rather than hopping on a plane?  He has notions about the ability of metallic objects to remain in the air while he is encased within.  He has other notions, too.

Balance is the key, he told me.
Family, Work, School, God, Sex - each has a place and a piece.

He has consciously, thoughtfully, often (I imagine) painfully, reinvented himself.  He's created an extraordinary human being - funny, smart, purposeful, talented, giving, loving.

... a person whose footwear is never anything but sneakers.

He is himself.  He's wonderful.  He's mine.

Happy Happy Birthday, Brother!


Friday, June 19, 2015

I Erased The Message

I purchased new cordless phones for our land line today. Pause for applause from The Cuters.  I plan to resell or donate the old set, so I went through the directory and the call log and the message center, deleting all the inputs.

I thought about the messages, focused on the kids' voices I'd saved at triumphant moments, and realized that I'd be able to record new ones quite easily.  I pushed Delete All.

I didn't think about the message Nurse Nancy left on the morning of January 8, 2011, telling TBG that there had been an accident and asking him to meet us at UMC's Emergency Room.

I had a moment of unease, knowing that it is now lost forever, and then I came to a realization. I can leave it behind.  It's okay.  No one will judge, and if they do, I don't care.

I don't need to have it on the machine; I have it in my head and my heart and I can pull it up whenever and wherever I want it.

But I don't need to dwell on it, I don't need to wallow - although there were times, early on, when that was all that I could do.  But that was then and this is now and I'm not there any more.

The memories don't spring up unbidden... at least not as often as they did before.  I conjure up the deep emotions, but on my own terms, not theirs... at least most of the time.

Graceful David, back at our Pilates studio after an absence of too many months, could tease me today about moving my legs into 90/90.  

"Look at her, doing it all ... without complaining ... using her abs and not her hip flexors."

And he's right to mention it.  I've made lots of progress since he's been gone, and, while hearing it gives me the impetus I need to carry on, that's not why he's saying it.

He's really noticing a change, and I don't think it's only in the physical arena. I'm lighter in my being as well as on my feet.

I'm no longer surprised that I pass, unnoticed, through the Tucson airport.  I no longer start every third paragraph with "Before I got shot..." or "Since I was shot...."   I'm reminded of January 8, 2011, I'm not constantly tripping over it.

It's no longer the defining event of my life, though my limp reminds me of its centrality to my existence with every lurching step.  It's become burdensome to carry the weight of the tragedy in the front of my brain, and I've been able to push it back where, I think, it belongs: brought out when needed but otherwise locked up tight.

Of course, when there is this in my life
it's fairly easy to do.

That day will always be with me, just not front and center.
I'm okay with that.
*****
I wrote this post with the Charleston church massacre in mind.

No one should have to think these thoughts.
No one should have those messages left on their answering machines.
No one should bleed in a church or an elementary school or in front of a Safeway on a sunny, Saturday morning.

As Sarah Garrecht Gassen wrote two years ago,
giving in on the fight for increased public safety means giving up on every person who has been stolen from us with a gun. .......We can’t give up. The price is too dear.

Change must come at the legislative level, because, as Amster reminds me, You can't fix crazy

It doesn't have to haunt you night and day in order to be relevant.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two Kids in Double Digits

Amster has two sons, one 10 and one 12 by the end of this month.

Two kids in double digits.  The little one, little no longer.... at least in his own eyes.  It's filled with rapture (Finally, I'm in 5th grade and The Oldest in School) and a vague sense of unease.

No one says it better than Billy Collins, so I'm not even going to try.


On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Planning a Trip

I'm going on my own, which removes much of the stress.  I love my husband dearly, but travel is not his forte.  On trips like these, I'm better off alone.

It takes a whole day to get from Tucson to New York City.  When we decided to move here, it was possible to fly on Jet Blue direct from Tucson International Airport to JFK.  That lasted for a few months; the flights were cancelled as soon as we unpacked the last bag.  American ignores us, too; forcing me to change planes in Dallas or Chicago.  I pick the trips with the best connections, and travel early enough in the day to change my plans if I'm delayed.

These are the things which put TBG over the edge.  Alone, I can manage my anxiety without having to consider another person.  For me, that makes all the difference.

I'm traveling between Long Island and Manhattan and I'm trying to avoid renting a car. I have people who will willingly drive me between destinations, but I have to be within a reasonable distance.

I have people with whom I can stay, saving hotel fees and maximizing my pleasure.  If only it were possible to get between Kings Point, Bethpage, and Long Beach via public transportation.  Somehow, the layers of railroad tracks were not considering my current needs.

Then, there's the issue of fitting it all in.  I want to go to the theater.  I want to go to MOMA.  I want to feel the sand between my toes.  I want to see my nieces.  I want pizza and Chinese food and pastrami on rye.  I have time to do all these things, as long as I don't mind ignoring other things.  I have friends and relatives ... and I have people I would just as soon avoid.

Since those to be avoided are known to those I wish to see, I am in a bit of a pickle.

At this point, I have purchased my conference ticket and the accompanying hotel room, I have an appointment on Tuesday and a place to sleep that night and the next.  The air travel is on hold until 11 o'clock tonight, as I ponder the unanchored bookends of my trip.

Will I sleep at the Marriott near LaGuardia so I don't have to wake up at 4am to make my flight home?  Will I go out to Long Island when I arrive, forgoing the pleasures of the big city to make the next day an easier excursion?  Will my friends be in town... and can I hide from those I don't want to see?

Sometimes, in the planning, it almost seems easier to just stay at home.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Visit From Daddooooo

I'm reading the Bible as literature this month.  My father, Daddooooo, read the Bible as Scripture and as literature and as history throughout his life.  Today, though he's been dead for more than a decade, he was by my side.

My professor mentioned Gilgamesh and I reread the note I found when I opened this Bible.
First, one must decipher his handwriting, of which this is a rather elegant example

MEMO from HERBERT  (10/20/94)
AKA Dad & Daddooooooooooooooooooooooooo
Memory & opportunity 
arrived together.
SO - Here they are!!
Plus "Gilgamesh," yours 
to keep.
          Love
                       Dad.

Yes, there is a period after Dad. 

I never called him Dad - either Herb or Daddy - so I suppose Dad is how he thought of himself.
I'm having these thoughts more often, as I realize that I am now as old as my parents were when I began paying attention to them as people as well as parents.

But that's the easy part to figure out.  
The coincidental arrival of memory and opportunity must mean that he remembered to return my Bible while he was looking at it and had time to take it to the post office.  
I'm not sure that kind of memory lapse resonated with me in quite the same way in 1994 as it does today.  It's the flip side of Why am I standing here? and that didn't happen to me in 1994.

I don't know what happened to the "Gilgamesh."
I do know that I smiled a lot all day thinking about it, though.

He was often a difficult man when he was in the world, 
but there were times when he was just sublime. 

This afternoon was one of those times.

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