The Footnote

bookSomewhere this side of a hundred years ago, I was a young college coed doing anything and everything I could to avoid taking a foreign language.  Evidently that gene, the foreign language gene, also skipped my children and grandchildren, all of whom struggled through the minimum number of required foreign language units to graduate from high school and college.

I tried to circumvent the entire issue by changing majors five or six hundred times, although eventually I succumbed to the inevitable and took the mandated two semesters of French, which was essentially the same course I had taken in high school, just at warp speed.

Parlez-vous français?  Anyone?  Anyone?

The upshot, however, was that all my maneuvering to avoid the language requirement meant that I had almost sufficient units to graduate with any combination of four majors:  English, History, Political Science, Philosophy.  While I love them all, I opted for the first two and barely graduated, given the foreign language albatross, with a double major.

I was pretty sure I’d never use philosophy for any credible activity in life, but I was very wrong.  As a young, newly married wife, my now ex, an engineer in both career and mentality, was caught in the same foreign language conundrum, except he had to take an Intro to Philosophy class. 

He came home after the first class, weighted down with volumes of Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer, FORTRAN (remember those days?) and a slim volume of Plato’s Republic.  He could handle the engineering, even the FORTRAN, but write a paper on the Introduction to the Republic? A fate worse than French, evidently.

I jumped on it. I can do this.  I love Plato.  He looked at me like he had just discovered something new and unique about his bride.  It wasn’t a good unique and, in retrospect, probably a precursor of things to come.

Long story short, I threw myself into the paper, analyzing every nuance and waxing and waning Plato.  The soon-to-be ex turned in the paper without a second look and was horrified to later learn that out of the intro class of a few hundred students, he was one of five — count ’em, five — students who were now honor students and would meet individually on a weekly basis with the professor to chat about philosophy.  He did make it through the class, and if I remember correctly, we did get an A.

But I digress.  This is really about a footnote in a college history text.  I recently recalled reading about the horrific journey of a young wife making her way with husband and young children across this nation’s lands to settle in some godforsaken place.

The author had quoted her, no doubt from some long-saved letter to relatives back home. Thank goodness for my quilting. I don’t know how I would have survived without it.

At the time, I remember thinking, good grief, that woman needs a life.

Of course, she had a life, much more challenging than ours, but I just couldn’t get my head around the comment about quilting.  In my mind’s eye, quilting was nothing more than a tedious chore.

I’m here to tell you, I was wrong on that one, too.

There’s the design part of quilting that is so creative, placing and playing with fabrics until the design comes together and dances.  It’s pure magic when that happens, regardless of the century.

And then, once you know where you’re hopefully headed, comes a quiet meditation in sewing the pieces.  The mind quiets and the process that I once thought so tedious is actually a much welcomed escape from this era’s frenetic chaos and threats, perceived or real.

Interesting, isn’t it, that the more things change, the more we stay the same?

Goodbye…Hello

IMG_0732A dear friend asked me a while back if I had started saying Goodbye.  I am at the age where goodbyes are becoming more frequent, including a Goodbye last year for this blog.

For a while, all I wanted to do was write and vent about the new Era Orange and he who must not be named. But the truth is I couldn’t live in that constant state of frustration, except of course when making the daily call or email to my neanderthal congressman who treats women like…well, just watch The Handmaid’s Tale.

The rest of the time I couldn’t put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.  It was far easier to hide behind quilting. Or bridge. Or bocci ball. Or golf…all of which means there are so many other fun things to write about.

Hello readers. 

I hope some of you will stick around and pick up the thread of this column.

I thought yesterday was going to be a major Goodbye day. My longtime companion and sidekick, BlackJack, is nineteen in cat years — that’s 90 in human years — so I have been preparing to lose him.  I know it’s coming.

In the past couple of weeks, including one week of a major heatwave, BlackJack quit eating.  And drinking.  And peeing and pooping. It was becoming all too apparent that his once muscular eighteen pound body had become shriveled and bony.  Very bony.

Sensing the end was near, and not wanting him to suffer, I made The Appointment with his vet and spent the day crying and petting and cuddling the cat who wanted nothing more than to peacefully sleep.

It was a long, tearful day of Goodbye.

I decided that his Last Ride would not be in the dreaded cat carrier, so I scooped up his frail body and put him on a towel next to me in the front seat of the car.

We were barely out of the driveway before the cat was sitting up, looking out the window and then looking back at me with a grin as if to say, Pretty darn cool. And why haven’t we gone on rides before?

By the time we reached the country hi-way to the vet, BlackJack was sitting up straight, looking up and over the dashboard, meowing loudly at passing motor cycles, and scolding me for taking curves a bit too sharply. He was now not only riding Shotgun, but had become a very vocal Backseat Driver.

I grew pretty confident this was not going to be The Day. 

When we arrived at the vet’s, I put him in the carrier and was immediately escorted into the exam room, where the scheduled “consultation” was to take place.  Everyone in the room was appropriately solemn as they greeted us.

Well, everyone but BlackJack. I opened the carrier door and he bounded out, meowing I’m here, where’s the party?

The vet laughed.  Before leaving, the cat did get an eighth of an appetite stimulant pill and a B-12/steroid shot in the hopes of kick-starting his appetite and getting his systems functioning again.

The pill and shot evidently worked. By the time we got home, BlackJack bolted out of the car, into the house and his food dish.  He inhaled every bit of available food, belched and meowed for more.

Today, as I write, all of his systems are functioning and a plumped up Blackjack is out back, lounging in his favorite chair while watching and kibitzing with the golfers passing by.

I know full well this isn’t the end of his life journey, or mine, or any of ours for that matter, but at this moment in time, given all that is happening here and not happening in Congress, all is right in the world.

Hello.

 

 

 

 

 

Beginner Bridge

trumpsIt all started a few years ago, when a good friend took me by the hand and said, You’re retired. Time to learn Bridge.  And golf.

Good grief.  I had avoided both my entire life, and here I was, face to face with a petite blonde retiree, another teacher, with an iron will.

I sighed and asked, can we start with Bridge?  It was winter, raining cats and dogs at the time, and probably 40 degrees below zero, which was admittedly a bit unusual for California Bay Area weather.

So we started with Bridge.  She had done her prep work and was prepared with all kinds of handouts and notes for me.  She didn’t realize I was functioning at the lowest possible remedial level, with no math skills whatsoever, but she had all kinds of expectations for what I could eventually do.

Eventually being the critical word.

I struggled to hold the definition of a “Trick” while “Trump” was mystifying long before politics ever entered the picture.

But, she was incredibly patient and would repeat explanations without flinching. Nothing much helped.

Then I moved.  I wouldn’t exactly call it payback, but before the movers showed up, I nominated my friend for a county board position and now she’s an officer, which probably cuts into her Bridge and golf time.  I do feel marginally guilty about that, even though she’s doing an exceptional job.

It wasn’t long after the move, that another dear woman and new friend — actually, another petite blonde woman with a similar iron will — said she was teaching a beginner Bridge group and needed a fourth.  Thursdays, 12:3o. 

She was also well prepared with notes, a book, and cards that were pre-set so the three of us would get a lot of practice on the lesson of the day.  The other two women have also been incredibly patient, being more experience beginners than I.

That was almost eight months ago, before a more or less permanent sub was needed for yet another beginner Bridge group.  Tuesdays, 1:00.

Bridge has also become almost fun, albeit challenging, though not as enjoyable as the talking and laughter shared afterwards in the Sports Lounge.

I think I’m beginning to figure out the game.  Kind of.  The bidding process remains a constant challenge and scoring is still a mystery. 

But, now, I can confidently share that I actually understand the definition of a “Trick.”  I even get “Trump” but only as it applies to card games.

It’s probably the only thing about the Trump that I understand.

AWOL

It’s been more than a few months since I last visited my blog. Somewhere between looking for a new home, cringing at a presidential nominee whose emotional and intellectual capabilities seem to hover at the lowest bar we’ve ever witnessed (quick, where’s my all’s-right-with-the-world quilt so I can hide beneath it?) and packing, things had to get prioritized.

Just me, coloring outside the lines lost out.

However, now that I have moved in to the new casa, unpacked and hung the paintings, I am home once again. Even BlackJack, the cat, is happy.  And you know what they say, a happy cat is a happy home.  Or something like that.

I have to say, this was a bit of a traumatic move for the cat.  He loved our former home.  As the mountain of packed boxes grew taller, BlackJack grew increasingly morose.  It was not like him.  I realized just how upset he was when,  just prior to The Move, I had returned from carting some boxes to the new house and turned down our very steep Driveway from Hell (think the first twisting drop of your favorite roller coaster and that approximates the driveway).

BlackJack never ventured up the drive; it was simply too steep and there was so much to see on the other side of the house. But there he was, trudging up the driveway, head hung low.  I stopped the car at the bottom of the hill and called out to him.

He paused, mid-step, thought for a moment before responding and then slowly looked back over his shoulder, dramatically milking the moment for all he could and shooting me a look of pure disgust as if to say,  You go. Do what you want.  I’m staying here.  

At that moment I realized BlackJack may well be more thoughtful than the current GOP presidential candidate.  I also realized that immediate action was needed, or the cat was indeed staying put.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I turned the car around, drove back up the Driveway from Hell, stopped, got out and called for the cat. Fortunately, he’s been more or less trained as a dog so he begrudgingly came when I called for him. I picked him up and plopped him in the front seat of the car.

This was a new experience for BlackJack, being in a car and not in the despised cat carrier.  At first, he just looked at me like I had forgotten something, but then he realized there was a whole new world just beyond the window.  He sat up straight, looked out the side window, then the front window, turned and grinned at me.  He was quickly buying into our new adventure.

img_0852-1Two miles beyond the soon-to-be-old home and Driveway from Hell, was our soon-to-be-new home with a straight, flat driveway on the opposite side of the lake.  We turned into the drive and drove right into the garage, where I scooped up BlackJack and carried him into our new home.

He scampered from room to room, checking out the new digs, before finding a box in front of the large living room window and an expansive view of the lake. He jumped up and stood, transfixed at the view.  I forgot that the cat had never before seen a lake.  I wondered if he knew about the plethora of fish that were just waiting to be caught.

Three days later, The Move was completed and BlackJack is one happy cat.  He immediately became best friends with two neighborhood cats, and together, they seem to have formed a Cat Pack, racing among the deer, geese and wild turkeys along the fringes of the golf course in the back, visiting each other’s homes or lounging on the front deck and gazing at the lake shimmering across the street.

Happy cat, happy home.

Caution: Hard Right Ahead

IMG_0366Back when I was teaching, when we actually had to write on chalk boards, I’d patiently wait for the kids to offer their predictable September insight.

Ms. H,  do you know you never write in a straight line?

I’d stand back, survey my scribbling that always ended taking a hard left, heading upwards.

Yep, you’re right.  It means I have a positive attitude.

Of course they believed me as they believed most of the non-English nonsense I shared with them.  Teenagers can be a very gullible group.

I remember one very hot summer during one very tedious summer school session, when the air conditioning failed and we were collectively dying.  I gave up the ghost of the lesson and showed the kids how to hold energy in one hand, then move it from one hand to another.

It was an act of desperation.  There were only ten minutes left in a four hour class with thirty teens repeating an English class they didn’t like in the first place.  The kids immediately focused on holding energy and forgot all about the oppressive heat.  One young man was still struggling when the class ended, but burst into my room the following September.

Ms. H, Ms. H, look!!!  I can do it!! I can move energy!!  I am now a man!!!

I’m at a loss to know what moving energy has to do with be a man as opposed to being The Man, but back to writing in a straight line.  I failed at it.  Even on paper, my writing still takes a hard left upwards. 

I also have a rough time walking in a straight line, but have never really focused on whether I am veering right or left.  Most of the time I am just trying to stay out of harm’s way.

We won’t talk about my driving; my daughter is already terrified that her kids may one day find themselves in a car with me behind the wheel.

So it wasn’t a complete surprise that my sewing — I know, I know, those of you who knew me in my past lives might be very shocked to find that I am now a struggling novice quilter — also takes a turn towards the end of a seam.  The surprise is that it takes a hard right.

I’ve never taken a hard right in much of anything.

I figured that out over the past couple of rainy days, standing at the windows, watching yet another downpour and musing over the quilt squares that needed to be ripped out.  Again.

It began last week when I thought I was putting the quilting away until next fall, but first there was a trip to drop off my stack of quilts to the monthly Project Linus meeting (for those of you new-to-this-blog quilters or knitters who have no one remaining to give your projects to, check out the projectlinus.org website)

Kathy, our fearless local leader, invited me back into the Stash Storeroom.  Oh jeez. It looked just like our old department offices, loaded with stashes and stashes of lesson plans and handouts, only this was all fabric. 

I left with with a very large bin filled with what one might generously call strips of fabric and another armload of charm packs of thousands of five inch fabric squares.  The internet, thank the goddesses, is generous with patterns for novice quilters who only sew in more or less straight lines and don’t do corners or reverse.

I thought I was in relatively safe territory.  Sort of middle of the road, staying on the straight and narrow stitching course and coming up with a few acceptable quilts for our next get-together.

It was going fairly well, with both quilts for a teenage girl and boy progressing nicely. Then I opened a charm package of plaids and stripes squares and began making a Disappearing Nine Patch pattern for a baby quilt. Nine lousy squares.  Should have been Easy Peasy.

It all looked marginally fine until I started stitching the squares together. That’s when things got very ugly, very quickly, and I discovered my hard right sewing tendency creates havoc with plaids and stripes. 

So I’ve been back to the sewing table, so to speak, ripping out seams and now determined to sew in a straight line forevermore. 

I suspect it’s going take some mighty strong will-power to see this through to the end.

 

 

 

God’s Country

I am an occasional IMG_0362political junkie and I live in God’s country, which is another way of saying I live in a simply beautiful area that is populated by, well, a fair number of 1960 hippie throwbacks meet ex-suburban rednecks.

Somehow their political views mesh, in sort of a generic keep-the-government-outta-my-face-unless-I need-help mosaic.  Most are very nice people except when they’re angry.  I’m not sure why they’re angry — it’s something about the people having spoken.

On the other hand, I am tad upset, too. Beyond the system being rigged and out of control, there’s an enormous ethical issue that has been casting a wide dark shadow. 

I have a dear friend, a conservative, whose email has been overwhelmed the past eight years with forwarded emails, usually about the President or his wife.  My friend asked me to check out some of the claims, as he doesn’t navigate the internet, and let him know what I found.

It was appalling. One blatant lie after another, one accusation after another, one photo-shopped picture after another, usually in the context of making the First Lady look like a street-walker or linking Obama to a Kenyan birthplace or Islam or terrorists.

My friend deletes the emails now, but it’s no wonder the majority of Republicans doubted the president’s birthplace and still doubt his religion and loyalty, not that religion should matter under the Constitution (Article Six, Section Three).

Apparently, any God and religion are just fine, as long as He’s a WASP. Not quite what the founding fathers had it mind.

It’s a bit sad in how quickly people forget their roots and history.  I recall a thousand years ago when I was teaching in a very white, affluent high school. I had one black student.  We had just begun celebrating MLK Day when another student, a bit of a loudmouth and bully, started mouthing off about the day. 

The goddesses must have been listening, because there was an immediate inspiration for a new lesson.

Everyone stand. We all stood. We’re going to go see which of our families have endured prejudice. 

Anyone who’s African American, sit.  My one student sat. He was very, very alone.

Latino, Hispanic, sit.  I sat.  Now there were two.

Asian, sit.  Another joined us.

Native American. Sit.

Eastern European. Russian. Sit.  

Latin Countries (Italy, Portugal, Spain). 

Middle East.

Irish. 

Women.

Now, for families or you — parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles

Catholic.

Jewish.

Muslim, Buddhist.

Gay, Lesbian.

Disabled.

By the end, we had our one WASPy male kid, the classroom bully, still standing while the rest of us were sitting, united in our minority status.

It’s kind of like that, America.  Most of us have been or still are “those people.”

That one bully rather reminds me of The Donald, who also speaks at a 4th grade level (Boston Globe and the Flesch-Kincaid readability test) and evidently struggles at math as well. I’m no math wizard, but even I understand that the Republican Convention hosts some 2,274 delegates, and it takes just a majority (1,237) to become a marginally weak candidate. The D has 673, a little over half way to getting the nomination, and he’s throwing a temper tantrum over not having been crowned as of yet?

Of course, he has a model in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who announces that the people need to speak before we can proceed with approving a Supreme Court Judge. 

ah, the people already spoke.  Sixty six million of them. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the majority party from blocking most appointees, effectively denying the legitimacy of an elected president and undermining the work of the government.  Unethical in addition to setting a very dangerous precedent.

That said, the Republicans deserve The Donald.  It’ll be interesting, if a tad painful, to see which group of Republicans can out-con and out-bully the other as their convention grows closer.

Needless to say, I am trying to focus on quilting and walking, at least through November.

Although walking may have to be tempered if we’re to believe Trump’s veiled threat of rioting if he’s not selected, not that he’s encouraging rioting, you understand, just sayin’ it’ll happen.

 

Dark Clouds Gathering

dark cloudsIt is dark, stormy and I am trying very hard to escape the gathering dark clouds of both the weather and the national politics.  Both are difficult to ignore.

I cannot fathom the current national debate nor the ignorance that abounds. All common sense, to say nothing of functioning brain cells, seems to have gone missing. The candidates?  Am I listening to a policy debate, a Kardasian script or a reboot of Hitler?

The people are angry. The people have spoken.  Well, yes, we are all angry regardless of our political views. The system is failing and the middle class, to say nothing of the social safety net, is fast disappearing. And, yes, it’s relatively easy to follow the thread and see where both sides of the aisle failed the country and her people.

And yes, people are speaking, although, as noted above, I’m not sure with how many functioning brain cells. The nomination process is only one third of the way complete and no one, in either party, has secured sufficient delegate votes. Didn’t anyone in required government classes learn anything?

I sure as hell hope, however, that delegate votes are not being secured on the basis of the best endowed male, although, by the looks of things, it’s getting close to that.

Come to think of it, isn’t that how the Kardashians, with their well endowed asses, gathered such an enormous following?

I got a call over the weekend from a “national polling” group; in a round-about way, they wanted to know if I’d vote for Sanders. Not sure. They read a paragraph from his well-known policy statement on what needs to be done.  I responded with yes, I agree.  And Congress has the authority and power to tax.  He’s been there for twenty-some years.  What has he done to mitigate the situation?

I do remember my government lessons.

I listen to the two front runners on the Republican side, and am very frightened of their rhetoric. Cruz conveniently forgets that there is separation of Church and State and wants to re-cement the Constitution in religion.  His religion; screw everyone else and their beliefs regardless that pesky First Amendment protecting freedom of religion.

Trump?  For the first time in many years, I agree with Governor Romney. Trump is a con artist. He is also an adult caricature of students that repeatedly fail — strong-armed bullies, terrified that others will learn of their shortcomings so they play on fears, certain that if they out-yell and out-intimidate, they’ll show everyone they’re great successes.  It seems to be working, God help us.

That leaves Clinton.  Of all the candidates, she certainly has both the credentials and experience. That said, she is also the most mis-understood candidate in history, the most maligned, or, as David Alexrod noted, there’s a problem.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit a quote by Abraham Lincoln from his Lyceum Address:

If it (danger) ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher.

On that note, I’m going to go back into hiding. Project Linus put out a call for infant quilts and even I can make one of those in a few hours, although, at this point in time, I’m not terribly optimistic about the future these young ones will have.