Almost Wordless Wednesday

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Baby cheering for SCOTUS ruling on Affordable Care Act

It’s not a single payer health care system (yet), but the United States enters the 20th century finding some way to cover citizens with affordable health care. This formerly fat doctor says, “Yeah, baby!”

What I Love About Tucson

“Like” might be a better word to describe my view of Tucson (The Old Pueblo) because it has taken every second of our 6+ years here to appreciate this part of Southern Arizona. In keeping with my current sunny outlook (me, sunny – snort), I am focusing on the positive aspects of living in a red-neck, gun-toting more conservative state. Actually Tucson is known for being fairly progressive as befitting a university town. That is one of the positives – The U of A.

university of arizonaSome folks would tout the men’s basketball team (NCAA champs 1997). I like the women’s softball history with 8 NCAA championships and 21 appearance in the Women’s College World Series. More important than sports are the cultural events, museums, and jobs that the UA brings to the decent sized community (~1,000,000 in the county).

The environment was what brought us here from the glorious Gulf Coast of Texas (not being sarcastic). The combination of mountains and warmth and amazing biodiversity within short distances is hard to top. We live at 2700′. Behind us are the Catalina mountains at over 9,000′.

catalina mountains

Driving home

Traveling from our green Sonoran desert to the top of Mount Lemmon in 1.5 hours is equivalent to traveling to a Canadian climate zone. We do have the most southern ski area in the U.S., assuming there is snowfall. What about that heat? It is hotter than hell. Despite our average June temp of 101º, step into the shade, add some mist and breeze – ahhh. It really is not that big of deal unless one plans to do heavy outdoor activity May-September. Intense hydration and acclimation are a must. Two healthy adults died in May while hiking this year already. The trade-offs for the heat are the views; the desert critters that surround us (bobcat, coyote, quails, birds, bats, snakes! mountain lions!); amazing greenery year round; eating out doors at Thanksgiving; wearing sandals all year; moaning because 60º feels cold; running in the rain storms; watching lightning dash through the clouds. Our budget has to include bird food and extra water for the irrigation system that keeps our native trees going when nature falls behind.

Along with environmental factors I must include the low pollution (excepting dust storms) because of the emphasis on tech, tourism, and the university. There is little light pollution. The number of observatories on surrounding mountains has resulted in regulation of night lighting. I had forgotten that one could see the Milky Way! Hiking – wanna hike, just go find a canyon or mountain. Trails galore exist for all levels of hikers. Biking – Tucson is one of the top cities for bikers.

Biker riding El Tour de TucsonEl Tour de Tucson is one of the best organized perimeter races in the U.S. – just ask our tourist promoters. Come next November and ride with 9,000 others along a variety of routes. Oh my, how could I forget golfing! There are so many resorts, but the best deals are found at the public courses that are as nice as many resorts in other states.

The population is diverse though the city is very segregated. Over 35% of Tucsonans are Mexican-American, which accounts for our great food! I had to become accustomed to Sonoran style Mexican food after a life of Tex-Mex.

eating Sonoran hot dogs

My family eating Sonoran hot dogs

(We just found a wonderful place where I can eat my “primal-ish” method and top off fajita meat with an outstanding salsa bar assortment.) I thought there would be many Native Americans here – nope. Only 3% of the Tucson population is Native American. The Tohono O’odham Nation and Pascua Yaqui Tribe have the closest reservations, and they do have casinos in town.

Lots of festivals to attend from the largest Gem and Mineral show, semi-annual street fairs that close down half the city (exaggeration), Tucson Meet (Eat) Yourself, Festival of Books, Mariachi Conference – oh, go see the tourist site.

Lastly, we are close to many wonderful places, for instance, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the White Mountains, Flagstaff. And, yes, there are rivers and lakes in the desert state. Just don’t ask me to discuss regional politics.

grand cabtib

Finally, it’s a pretty quiet town. I hadn’t realized what a big city gal I was until we moved here. A few bars are hopping all night, and I’m certain life nearer the university is more active, but there are not 5,000 restaurants or grocery stores open 24 hours. For this reformed fatty, that’s a really good thing.

Memorial Day – Observe or Mourn?

Monday we observe, honor, celebrate (?), our military dead. I wrote last fall a little about my struggle with aspects of armed service given my leanings to non-violence. I am moved to tears each time I see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the somber USS Arizona where 1,102 men are entombed, and the vastness of Arlington National Cemetery. Clearly we need a strong defense. I would take up arms to protect my family and community from invasion.

So many wars and “conflicts”, however, are not about defending anything. Over 700,000 troops died during the civil war. Slavery was just one factor – economics and states’ rights (sound familiar ?) also were  important causes. WWII was seen as a “good war” because we were attacked, and the U.S. was instrumental in liberating Europe from Hitler.  Over 400,000 American troops died. Yet the number of dead soldiers does not begin to count the costs of war. Perhaps they are just they easiest to identify and quantify. This quote from former President Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Allied Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in WWII, has resonated with me for years: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Peace to those who have lost loved ones fighting in armed conflict for our government. Strength to all who struggle for peace among nations.

Monday is not meant to be about barbeque, shopping, or outdoor fun. Take a little time to observe Memorial day in your own manner.

child at grave marker

Arlington National Cemetery

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

Afghani war widow

Afghani war widow

war orphans from sierra leone

Sierra Leone war orphans

Peaceful Hopes For Veterans Day

Veterans Day has always provoked internal conflict for me. As an avowed peacenik who believes all war is immoral, today I honor the storied history of my family in arms.  My father and father-in-law served in World War II. My dad-in-law miraculously survived the largest sea battle in the Pacific. My uncle fought as a Marine in Korea and returned to his family a hardened man. My life-partner was in the first group of women officers (non-WAC) to be commissioned in the regular army. She left service at the rank of major to pursue her dream of becoming a physician. My cousin was yanked from his post riding and caring for ceremonial Army horses to invade Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. They all gained and gave aspects of themselves for their country. I am proud of their service, especially on this day.

America’s rush to solve conflict with weapons, the monies we spend on “defense”, the toll that war takes on the bodies and minds of soldiers and civilians, all trouble my soul. I have resolved my November 11th cognitive dissonance that occurs from pride in family and those who serve with my commitment to peace in this way: I emphasize the roots of the American holiday – world peace.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, hostilities of World War I ceased. In November of 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the date as Armistice Day:

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

Even a Congressional resolultion in 1926, which stopped short of making November 11 a national holiday, included this wording:

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations;

By 1938, November 11 became a legal holiday to commemorate those who fought in World War I and a day dedicated to world peace. In 1954, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day to honor all those who served or serve in the armed forces.

Our commitment to world peace as a country is not a priority. That does not mean I cannot devote time today to remember my commitment to peace while I thank my family members for their service.

11/11/1918 Philadelphia

My Dad, circa 1944

Lucky Me

My last self-indulgent act before breast reconstruction in September was to take one of my notoriously long baths, knowing that soaking would be a no-no for 4-6 weeks after surgery. (My plastic surgeon claims heating up one’s core temperature delays healing.) Our bathroom was “reconstructed” about 2 years ago giving me a large therapeutic tub with air jets that allow all sorts of bubbly delights and salts to be added without messing up the system. With the light dimmed and candles blazing, I luxuriated and read my iPad. Carefully placing my beloved tablet behind the basket of tub goodies, I proceeded to lather when suddenly the physics of potential energy manifested, and the iPad plopped into the tub!

Like my Uncle John noodling for catfish, I swept both arms under the pile of bubbles. Quick as I was, no matter that the sucker was in a cover, it was doomed. When was the last time I backed up? Should I turn it on? Why didn’t I get insurance? Screw me.

To shorten the story… I put it in crystal kitty litter for a week, lacking any better desiccant. Everything came back but the 3G. Glumly I presented myself and my favorite gadget to the Apple Genius Bar and admitted it had taken some “water exposure.” John, the Genius, verified that the damage was irreparable. “Would you accept a one-time exchange for an identical, new model. Free?” Well, yes. Yes, John, I would. What was the catch? Turns out there was no catch, except that mine was an original iPad, and Apple can’t give those suckers away – except to dummies who read with them in the tub and have the guts to admit the “water exposure.”

So today I sit outside a cafe eating lunch in 82 degree weather (brrr) posting from my 64GB, 3G iPad version 1.0 and grateful for the iPad2. Think I should take the plunge for an iPhone?

What is your favorite piece of technology?
What has been the luckiest thing to happen to you recently (or anything you want to share)?

Twenty Years

How thoughtless of me not to write anything (other than “tits”) about our 20th anniversary. Blame it on my post-operative state, although I managed to get a post out that day. Say I am just respecting the privacy of my oh-so-private partner, but we certainly do not hide our relationship any more. Blame society for not allowing us to be legally married in our country – 6 states do not count, sorry – and prevent us from fully celebrating our commitment and the joining of our families. (We have a mixed marriage – she is a Yankee; I am a Texan.) Blame me for not being as bold, as brave as I think that I am for not blogging about our 20-years of marriage-like relationship. For not writing about the weekend hike we took in 1991 in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, staying at Greenleaf hut, and early the next morning walking to an overlook called “Eagle’s Nest”. Fog snaked below us across the craggy ridgeline. The glorious quilt of fall colors in Franconia Notch that we had hiked through the day before was barely visible below. The sky was light blue, totally clear. We stood just at tree line where only stunted, deformed vegetation, called Krummholz, grows to the height of the snow pack. In a circle of candles and rocks, we shared our vows then each spoke a personal commitment of love. I cried. Sue laughed. We are still laughing and crying.

Sue & Mattie 2005

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17 (What can I say, I grew up the daughter of a minister, and Ruth’s words to Naomi always haunted me. Yes, I used this in my part of our ceremony.)

Reflection

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Not one to be a sentimentalist (despite the above photo), today I am reflecting on the great trauma that 9/11 has caused on our individual and national psyche, the deaths and injuries of those in the towers and the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, the ongoing health effects in the responders, the impact on all of those family members, and the great wound upon the world – the estimated number of Iraqis dead ranges from 110,000 to over 1 million; an estimated 30,000 civilian Afghans are dead; 34,000 American and coalition troops have been seriously injured; over 5,000 US and allied troops have died. For every dead and injured, a family suffers. No picture can show that horror. Now a schism between great religions has been artificially created by one event and reinforced by politics and so-called believers.

All wars are immoral.