Monday, May 2, 2016

His Good Friends

Big Cuter lived with the same three guys, in a variety of configurations, for a decade or so.  Meeting on their freshman dorm floor, they lived on and off campus and then found grown-up apartments as they began their lives.  Girlfriends have come and gone, jobs have changed, more education and military service separated them geographically, yet through it all, their bond remains strong.

Their political views range from Ted Cruz to Elizabeth Warren.  They cheer for the Wizards and Golden State, the Steelers and the 49'ers.  Fortunately, they all agree that the two wives who've joined them are excellent additions to the crew.

And TBG and I love them all.

They celebrated birthdays and Easter and graduation together.  They cosseted my boy as I lay perforated in front of the Safeway.  They are in one another's lives in a way that most of us only imagine; they truly know one another.

And today, the now pregnant bride and groom of two years ago, on their babymoon in Scottsdale, took the day to drive down to Tucson to visit us.

Big Cuter's not here.  They just wanted to visit with us.  We went to lunch and sat in the sun and we watched the Warriors and we talked.  Politics and babies and families and more politics, gun safety legislation and border fences, Big Law and paid paternity leave..... we covered it all.

There were clementines and Hershey's Kisses and lots and lots of water.  There was laughter and hilarity associated with my inability to remember our wifi password, which led to a visit to Fast Eddie next door.  They left in the late afternoon, taking the scenic route back to their hotel, leaving TBG and me waving happily from the driveway.

I am so glad we've become the kind of parents our kid's friends want to visit on their vacation.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Can Art Trump Politics?

Written on November 13, 2013, long before anyone could imagine Donald Trump being a serious candidate for anything, the title caught my eye while I was looking for this week's post from the archives.  I wish I could make some connection between Mr. Trump and art and creativity and adoration, but I can't.  

As to these Archival Editions in general, Big Cuter wondered if I was having trouble keeping up with the daily grind.  Little Cuter admitted to skipping them - "I've read them already" - except, she says, when they are about her grandfather.  "I LOVE the Daddooooo posts."  I am enjoying re-reading and editing and remembering, here with one that might satisfy my little girl.

JES commented on my encounter with Mark Helprin, my favorite living novelist, thusly:
I loved Winter's Tale, inordinately.

Some years later, though, I came across something Mark Helprin had written..... it was shockingly, hideously uncharitable -- illiberal in the worst sense. 
I was so disappointed I never read anything else he'd written.
JES and I rarely disagree.  We don't, really, on this issue, either.  Yes, my favorite living novelist does harbor opinions which make my blood boil.  I don't read those pieces, just as I know that I'll never go to hear him speak again.  He was, I'm sorry to report, almost boring.  I enjoyed the stories and asides he told, when he was conversing instead of declaiming, but his speechifying left a great deal to be desired.

I've done the same thing with his politics.  I had to.  I loved the novels too much to deprive myself of the pleasure they brought. Why should his beliefs impinge on my joy?  There's a sense of moral outrage underlying all his work; I don't have to agree with his slant on the issues to feel the pain he's sharing, no matter the genesis of his angst.

G'ma had the same issue. As always, I'm going to school on her example.  She had a thing for Errol Flynn.

Daddooooo knew that if Captain Blood rang their bell, he was to leave while G'ma got naked.  That was a hard image to swallow (apologies to her grandchildren who may now have an unfortunate image indelibly imprinted on their brains) .... or would have had it not sent us all into paroxysm of laughter every time we heard one or the other of them begin the story... letting the other finish.
These were people who lost grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles to the Nazi's. Errol Flynn's sympathies were acknowledged but pushed aside because his work was too wonderful to be ignored.  He made my parents smile.  For that, alone, I'd forgive him much more than unfortunate political leanings.

I never read Ezra Pound, because his politics made him an untenable subject for college students in the 1970's.  That's a gap in my education that will, in all likelihood, remain unfilled.  I won't tackle it on my own and, in nearly forty years of perusing adult education offerings I have never seen his name on a syllabus.

Is it a loss?  It seems I'll never know. Seems that JES is hung up on  the same thing, and might just have come around to G'ma's way of thinking.  He ends his comment with this:
 I probably should just stop nurturing philosophical grudges (a practice illiberal in its own regard). 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Political Random Thoughts - The Cruz Edition

Ted Cruz stood on a basketball court and referred to the ring, not the hoop.
He's just so annoying, I enjoy sharing his errors.
I wonder if all those lovely young white girls surrounding him have given any thought to how intrusive he wants be in their reproductive care decisions?  

Hey, Ted.  If you want to pander, get your terms right.
Barbara Boxer, my former Congresswoman and Senator, has the best response to Sen. Cruz's choice of Carly Fiorina as his vice-presidential running mate.  She tweeted:
I predict that the latest @CarlyFiorina merger will be as successful as her last one.
Is she being positioned as the alter-Trump?  Is she being touted as a successful business woman?  I can hardly wait to listen to the comparisons:  four business bankruptcies vs running Hewlett-Packard into the ground after the disastrous merger with Compaq.

It boggles the mind, watching the Republican party, the party of business, represented by these people.
Wondering if any other not-going-to-win-the-delegate-battle candidate has ever chosen a Veep before?

Yes.  Ronald Reagan did, four years before winning the nomination.

It's sad, watching the Ronnie-wanna-be play catch up.
Should Trump triumph in Cleveland, but lose in November, would Ted Cruz be the presumptive leader of the party?

Where will the people I know who call themselves Republicans end up if that happens?  Voting in the Arizona Presidential Preference Election (a lovely moniker) was difficult for them; following their party over the next few years is excruciating.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Crafty I Am Not

This post was published yesterday, in error. 
If you are one of the 19 people who read it before I deleted it.... oops!

As long as it doesn't have to fit, I'm fine. Aprons, hats, mittens, blankets, as long as it's one-size-fits-all, whether on the sewing machine or with crochet hook or knitting needles, I'm a happy girl.  Like G'ma before me, I'm becoming more comfortable if the materials are not too dark, my eyes aging with the rest of me.  But I like to keep busy and the NBA playoffs are not holding my attention and I seem to have a lot of yarn just asking to be made into blankets.  

The problem with blankets is that they require many skeins of yarn.  Sometimes I make up the stripes, sometimes the yarn itself creates them, but even the bulkiest of yarns requires more than one skein for even the smallest of baby blankets*.  This means that I must join the skeins together.  

I don't have the patience to do a great job, I think.  My grandmother's and TBG's grandmother's afghans are 60 years old and have no signs that any of the sections are other than seamless.  There are no loose threads appearing out of nowhere.  There are no squares falling off the edges.  Alas, I am not certain that the same can be said for my creations, beautiful and cozy as they may be.  I have yet to master the art of weaving in the ends and I am too parsimonious to pay someone to finish my work.

It's a conundrum, obviously.
I've been pondering solutions for two or three blankets now.
I think I have a solution.

I'm going to put tags on them.
Babies love the satiny tags on the fancy toys ... often, more than they love the toys.
This blanket will look elegant from the front and have four or five luscious tags for baby's little fingers.....  at least, that's the plan.

How was I to know that my local Hancock Fabrics store was closing? The 25% off offers were delightful, but I'd have paid full price for the glue gun and the ribbon and the glue sticks.  I had a plan.
I practiced folding the ribbon while the glue heated up.  Even the low-power model, designed for delicate fabrics like my satin ribbon, takes 5 or so minutes to become goo.  I'm glad I read the directions before I began; I knew to put my glue goo covered fingers under cold water and peel gently.  They were right to admonish me to use a protective surface.
This kitchen towel, bought for The Big House in 1997, will now move to a new function as glue glop catcher.  I'm so glad that the glue is not on the countertop.

It was nearly too hot for my not-so-delicate fingertips to maneuver successfully, but this first one doesn't look all that awful to me.  It's a sad standard to uphold, but, as I warned you, Crafty I Am Not.
It may not be the most elegant of solutions, but I'm not unhappy. I remember express mailing FlapJilly a dolly and watching her caress the tag while ignoring the most interesting face and hair and clothes that Amazon had to offer.  It was irritating and fascinating in the same moment..... just as babyhood is.  And so, even though it may not make any sense to those of us who have outgrown our bottles and diapers, it made sense to my granddaughter and so by definition, it is correct.

Excuse me now while I continue to glue.  I'm on a roll.

*This excludes those designed specifically for the car seat of the freezing baby who's not allowed to wear her snowsuit while buckled up for safety; those are one ball wonders.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Governor Ice Cream vs Arizona - Part 2

The information in these two posts comes from the K-12 Pubic Education and Proposition 123, published by the League of Women Voters of Arizona on February 1, 2016; "Governor Could 'Pack' Supreme Court Under Bill," Tim Steller's  April 17th column in the Arizona Daily Star; ; and A Resolution of the Governing Board of Amphitheater Unified School District No 10 of Pima County, Arizona Opposing Legislation to Repeal Essential Desegregation Funding and accompanying fact sheet..
When they say it more clearly than I can, I've italicized my plagiarsm.

The Arizona Daily Star, my local newspaper, reluctantly suggests that voters approve Prop 123.  I understand their logic; this is the only way to put money into the schools immediately.  I disagree. There is no certainty that law suits and automatic economic triggers and the general recalcitrance of the Arizona Legislature will actually allow this to happen. And, there is more.  Oh, yes, denizens, there is always more.

The assault on public education continues with Senate Bill 1125, a measure which will phase out desegregation funding which provides more equitable services and opportunities for nearly a quarter of a million low-income and minority students in Arizona. Disguising this attack on the poorest among us, legislators claim that these funds give an unfair advantage to those districts serving the poorest students, leaving the wealthier districts to raise property taxes to gain similar services.

The financial implications of losing these dollars is clear.  99.5% of desegregation funding (goes) directly to Amphitheater District classrooms, (funding) 106 individuals from the Amphitheater District alone.  These dollars are used for English Language Learners, to monitor and audit district disciplinary actions to ensure equity for all students, for benefits to the most vulnerable among us.

The legislature could remove this inequity by allowing all districts to apply for this funding, seeking to meet unmet needs.  But that would entail giving money where it is needed, and our legislature has no interest in that, it seems.

There is also the Current Year school funding fiasco, which bases the funding on butts-in-the-seats this year.  It will vary, especially for districts like Amphi's which have a mobile population.  Districts will be unable to plan ahead, since funding will not keep up with changes in the student body.  The lost funding under this structure will largely offset any benefit at all from Prop 123.

That last sentence should grab you.  Here, take this.  No, gimme that.  As the district's fact sheet states: What the right hand of the legislature and Governor would giveth, the left hand would taketh away.....

And then, to round out the list of atrocities, the Governor wants to expand the court from five to seven justices even though no on n the court or recently retired from it is saying that's necessary.  Why?  (L)egislative leaders promise to restore previously cut funding and give judges raises if the Supreme Court will not oppose the expansion.

Yes, you are reading it correctly.  As with the schools, the legislature and the Governor are horse trading with our futures.  Want a raise, teachers?  Want a raise, judges?  Go along with me and I'll meet you at the corner of greed and plausibility. Governor Ducey can add two cronies, thus insuring that local Court rulings will be more in his favor.  Since there are potent attacks on education already in the pipeline, this seems like the actions of a man getting his ducks in a row to fight the good fight.

Ah, if only the good of the children were at issue.  If only there were people in power who were concerned about the future of the state.  If only there were .........

Monday, April 25, 2016

Those Roses

The post I had in mind for today will just have to wait.  
You have to see this.
Those four small ones will turn into a branch full like this one.
Hard to believe those yellows and reds and pinks all start out like this.
Happy Spring!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Governor Ice Cream vs Arizona - Part 1

The information in these two posts comes from the K-12 Pubic Education and Proposition 123, published by the League of Women Voters of Arizona on February 1, 2016. and "Governor Could 'Pack' Supreme Court Under Bill," Tim Steller's Sunday, April 17th column in the Arizona Daily Star.  
When they say it more clearly than I can, I've italicized my plagiarsm.

Amidst the Trump-tantrums and delegate grabbing and voter suppression, Arizona's Governor Doug Ducey, former CEO of the failed Cold Stone Creamery franchise operation, has taken bad behavior to new heights.  If, at the end, you are wondering why I still live here, know that I ask myself the same question on a fairly regular basis.  It's embarrassing.

Growing up, I believed that my education was important to everyone.  I knew no grown-ups who were against good schools.  Taxes were contested at every election, but the rhetoric was anti-tax rather than you're-using-the-money-incorrectly-and-don't-deserve-more.  Everyone understood the connection between good schools and good communities; who would want to live where the public schools were anything short of excellent?

Arizona is a different kettle of fish.  Politicians seem to be educators .. or think and act as if they are educators. For small government aficionados, they are awfully eager to insert themselves where they really don't belong.

They apparently know best how to allocate resources.  Translators are, in their view, Administrative Overhead rather than Classroom Expenses.  That's probably not obvious to the kindergarten teacher with 27 students speaking 7 different languages, including 3 dialects of Urdu..... but I don't think the realities of public education are motivating the Governor and his cronies.  In their efforts to defund public schools, they are willing to resort to all kinds of shenanigans.

Why would the governor and the legislature want to divert funds from pubic schools?  The initial backers of  Prop 123 have deep personal and financial ties to charter schools, and a crass reading of the proposition could lead one to believe that the Governor and his allies are trying to destroy public education in Arizona for their own personal gain.

Why be crass?  Why connect the fact that the Secretary of Education home schooled her children with her lack of respect for the work done in the public schools .... the public schools which are there for everyone, at every level, at any time of the year.

Proposition 123 is the Governor's attempt to calm the waters after (i)n 2013 the State Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature had violated the voter mandate by only partially funding the inflation adjustments for three years.  They ruled (the voter approved mandate) could not be undercut by legislative action.  

That's right, Governor Ice Cream.  You and your legislative buddies are not allowed to decide that you know better than the voters.  You have to pay attention to the will of the people.... and that goes for more than just the "don't raise my taxes" people.  Not raising taxes has become your mantra; I hope you can justify your promised business tax credits/exemptions which will lead to a loss of sales tax revenues.  If sales tax revenues are not greater than one percent of the previous year, the inflation factor will not apply.

The formula also caps the K-12 Funding at 49% of the general fund.  The Legislature is able to alter general fund revenues by the diversion of general fund monies through tax cuts (and) tuition tax credits.  Those tuition tax credits can be used to subsidize private schooling. See my rant on this 6 paragraphs up; I'm too agitated right now to retype it.  

The legislation uses words like "large gaps" and "economic slowdown" to authorize it to cut back on school funding.  The wording of "large gaps" and "economic slowdown" is not defined and could allow the Legislature to once again cut back on funding public education.

The Legislature has shown no interest in funding public education..... am I saying that I don't trust them?  In a word, Yes.  Yes, denizens, his offer is based in quicksand.

And then there is the State Land Trust.  Federal land was given to the state (at its founding) for the purpose of education. Prop 123 increases the distribution form the State Land Trust from 2.5 percent annually to 6.9 percent each year for 10 years through a change in the Arizona Constitution. ... with passage by Arizona's voters, it will also require federal approval to change the Enabling Act for the State Land Trust.  Changing the Constitution is something that should be debated loudly and often.  It's not something that should be buried in the body of a bill.

In addition, depending on inflation... the settlement could dip into and reduce the principal or corpus of the land trust.  Anyone who has done any thinking about retirement knows that you never, ever dip into your principal.  If you do, you do it at the end of your life, when all your rainy days are pouring down on you at once.  You don't do it when your Rainy Day Fund is approaching $1,000,000,000.

Aside from the significant legal challenges suggested by the WP Carey School of Business in 2015, there's the notion of robbing the future to meet the present annoyances.  None of the legislators will be around when the children of the class of 2026 are wondering where their desks and books have gone.  But someone should be looking out for them.

Only once, when I was growing up, did my District lose an election.  They resubmitted the budget two months later and it passed overwhelmingly.  My parents and I rang doorbells and posted signs and harangued shop clerks and neighbors and this time, nobody stayed home.  It's imperative that Arizona's voters take their cue from my childhood neighbors.

There are educators on the side of the Proposition. They worry that there will be no other options available to them.  They worry that any other solution will be worse.  They report that the Governor said that this is his best offer.

Since when do educators give in to bullies?  Is this the lesson those Teachers of the Year who are advocating this measure gave in their classrooms?  I certainly hope not.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

His First Soccer Game - Archive Edition

This was first posted on April 2, 2012.
He's almost 11 now, and understands defense and protecting the ball and teamwork.
He's just as lovable now as he was then.

It was  beautiful and sunny in The Old Pueblo on Saturday.
Mr. 6 was playing in his first soccer game and I was there to cheer.... and to reflect... and to remember.
I've watched a lot of soccer in March.
This is the first time I wished I'd had an umbrella.
Even at 11am, the smart parents took refuge under shade.
In Chicago, in March, we were wrapped in parkas, scarves and sweaters.
We washed mud out of uniforms and wondered if, perhaps, the chess club might be an alternative.
That was not the case last weekend.
It was the first game of the season, the first game of their lives for most of the players, so the coaches were actively involved.
Mr. 6 and his teammate were ushered to their defensive positions and told to stay there and guard them.
And that's what they did. No matter if the ball came their way or not, they stood still and protected their area of the turf.
Clearly, help was called for.
"Follow me," the coach instructed.
That part was easy.
"And now what do I do?" wondered Mr. 6. 
He was in the right place, but what, exactly, was defense anyway?
By the second quarter, he'd learned to watch the ball, but those feet were still planted firmly on the ground.
Defense.... marking up... staying with your man....he seemed to have that covered, too.
Unfortunately, both players were on the same team.
At least they were paying attention.

As time went on, they began to get into a rhythm, and Mr. 6 began to move his feet.

Half time included instruction...
and hydration
 and snacks.
The second half was filled with more enthusiasm...
and more skills... though the coach-cum-mom was still there, making sure .
There was the occasional fast break.
But mostly it was still "herd ball"... everyone converging on the poor soccer ball.... with nobody noticing that it's behind #9's shoes.
It was unseemly to laugh.... but we did nonetheless.

And then it was over... with an "all in handshake" and a sense of belonging to something larger than oneself.
 It may not have looked much like soccer, but there are other lessons to be learned.

For me, it was a rocket back in time to Pumpkin Tigers and Silver Bullets and Daring Devils... little ones and big ones but always mine.

I'm sure that Mr. 6 and his teammates have no idea how much joy they brought to my heart.
But watching parents doing just what I did 20 years ago, with the same smiles and tissues and hugs and ice packs, with the cameras and the siblings to be amused and the relatives to entertained, wondering why in the world we were standing on the sidelines watching little kids run around.....
 and then realizing that we didn't want to be anyplace else in the world.

Thanks for including me, Mr. 6.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I'm Her Person

She's got almost 20 years on me, and her joints are just as old.  I've been watching her locomote with pain since we met.  After today, a lot of that should change.

She's been through physical therapy and massage therapy and cortisone shots.  She bought a zero gravity recliner in which she found relief, sometimes.  Sleeping through the night was not an option; the pain woke her, reminded her that she was here, left her suffering.

It was time for surgery.

She's had more serious procedures in the past.  She's traveled to the best doctor for this, that, and the other thing.  But this knee replacement is happening across town, at the brand new Tucson Orthopedic Institute at Tucson Medical Center, with a doctor she's known for decades.  She loves him.  He explains everything clearly.  He is optimistic.  He is realistic.  He's hers and she's confident and so, when I arrived just before they wheeled her into the surgical suite, she was smiling.

I came early so that I could retrieve her iPod Shuffle.  She uploaded four meditation tapes, she wanted to listen to the one which would prepare her for anesthesia, the nurses hooked her up, and I had nothing to do but rub her hand and instruct the nurse that she was now part of the loving eyes on my friend 24/7 contingent. 

The nurse accepted the responsibility with grace.  My friend smiled and took another deep breath behind the oxygen mask.  I retreated to the lovely waiting area.  It's a series of alcoves, some with televisions, some with padded chairs, some with tables and comfy desk chairs.  I found the coolest spot, away from the windows, and settled in.

When G'ma was alive, I kept a purse loaded for unexpected trips to the hospital.  Last night, I tried to recall its contents.  Tissues, pen, book, crocheting, laptop and mouse, phone, chargers for everything, water bottle, hearing aid batteries, hand lotion, wallet..... I brought everything except a pad on which to write notes.
Luckily, the volunteer at the reception desk handed me a slip of paper with my friend's patient number written at the top; it had enough room at the bottom for the notes I took when the doctor came out for the update.

I retreated to my table and comfy chair and sent an email to her children.  Their mom was fine, in the recovery room, doctor happy, I'll keep them posted

And now I wait.  No visitors in the Recovery Room, so I have time to write to you.  She'll be moved to a lovely private room later in the afternoon, and I'll sit there with her for the rest of the day. Loving eyes on her, 24/7, is the prescription, just as it was when I was the patient.  Another friend, an African refugee she's befriended, will spend the night on a cot in her room, there just in case she is needed.

Though I've been told today is the extent of my duties, I can't imagine that I'll be able to stay away as long as she's here.  An advocate is always appropriate, and, as her person, that's my job.

It's nice to know that she trusts me.  It's nice to be able to reassure her far-flung family.  It's nice to be her person.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Butt Dialing, and Loving It

She sent me a text, apologizing for missing my call.  She'd get back to me as soon as she unloaded the groceries.  I was reading a book, drinking ice tea, enjoying the fresh air.  I was available whenever she was.

Had I called her?  I didn't remember.  It didn't matter.  By the time she was settled down for a long chat I had dozens of questions at the ready.

We've been in each other's lives since I was 19 and she just a bit older.  TBG's the youngest of his first cousins; most of them had children when I met them. Her kids were around whenever we were in Cleveland, and they had very cool outdoor toys.  My city-bred kids were enthralled with the trikes and the scooters and the cars of all varieties of locomotion, and TBG and I enjoyed the grown-ups every bit as much.

But, as with so much of life, I keep up with her through the postings of her children on Facebook.  Holidays and the occasional She's the person who needs this card or gift aside, that's been about it for far too many years.

We remedied the situation that afternoon.

Compliments to the grandchildren were, of course, the starting point.  Her eldest's eldest is showing herself to be a person of great character and depth; the rest are still just adorable little ones with personality galore.  Nature or nurture, The Eldest's Eldest has a younger sister who is as funny as her father was when he was her age.  I'd never seen a 2 year old tell a joke before I met him; her grandmother was eager to regale me with recent stories reminiscent of those we'd seen decades ago.

How did I get to be old enough to be having the grandma talk?  On the phone that afternoon we were 20 somethings, moving them out of their Indiana apartment, marveling at how her husband had tied back the doors and provided padding materials, listening to him and TBG share tales of woe from their days as professional movers.  I'm certain that our husbands could pick up those stories right where we left off; it was that kind of friendship.

We had subscriptions to the Chicago Symphony with them... for one season.  Friday night was probably not the wisest choice; by intermission the snores were as loud as the music.  We vacationed with them, a house on the beach with vodka on ice at sunset by the ocean and poker with the kids til all hours of the night.

And there were so many grandkids and so many stories and then there were her daughters-in-law, women of substance who bring her joy, and her sons and her daughter and then TBG was in the doorway telling me that FlapJilly wanted to Skype.

We hung up, promising to do this again real soon, and praising serendipity and my butt for reconnecting us.


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