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Mud and Ice

Woodstock

Woodstock

It’s been a strange week. It was the 45th Anniversary of Woodstock. Three days of Peace and Music and Mud. So we get to reflect, what did it really mean? Bob was home for a long weekend, and we were able to attend a party thrown by our favorite neighbor/friend/alpaca farmers, DeeDee and Bill! Bob thought about his time on a psychedelic school bus while I sipped on a Madison County wine as the sun set and we met the vintner himself; DuCard Winery has won awards for its famous Viogner and its French winemaker, Julien. When I heard that they are planning a wine and chocolate pairing on Saturday, August 23rd, I was all in…https://www.ducardvineyards.com

But the highlight of the evening was meeting my friend’s daughter Brighit, and her son Djubi. Brighit is the brilliant and beautiful Founding Director of a non-profit arts organization in Chicago, “Erasing the Distance.” http://www.erasingthedistance.org Their mission is to use “…the power of performance to disarm stigma, spark dialogue, educate, and promote healing surrounding issues of mental health.” They create plays that confront say depression, for schools, churches, organizations and the general public thereby making mental health a subject to confront with compassion and understanding; they are seeking to bring this disease out of the shadows – shining a stage light on our common humanity.

Which leads me to the next question. If you are willing to grant that each family in this country has a limited amount of money they are willing to donate to a non-profit or a charity, what’s up with the ALS foundation/ice bucket challenge campaign making 3M more than they did last year? I admit I was amused. After all, it’s almost like a-pie-in-the-face funny to watch your friends and co-workers dump ice water over their heads. And the celebrities! Lady Gaga was outrageous of course and Bill Gates was all intellectual about it. I even proudly posted a step-niece doing this on Facebook. One of Bob’s cousins is married to a man who is currently in the last stages of ALS. It’s probably one of the most feared of all diseases, including cancer, because like Ebola, there’s simply no treatment.

However, mental health diseases are the single most common problem in our country according to the CDC: “Mental illnesses account for a larger proportion of disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. In 2004, an estimated 25% of adults in the United States reported having a mental illness in the previous year. The economic cost of mental illness in the United States is substantial, approximately $300 billion in 2002. Population surveys and surveys of health-care use measure the occurrence of mental illness, associated risk behaviors (e.g., alcohol and drug abuse) and chronic conditions, and use of mental health–related care and clinical services.”

ALS, on the other hand, has been harder to quantify according to the CDC because, “Worldwide, ALS affects white males aged >60 years more often than any other group. In the United States, ALS surveillance is necessary to estimate the incidence and prevalence of ALS and collect data on risk factors. ALS is not a nationally notifiable condition in the United States (i.e., it is not a reportable condition in all jurisdictions), and individual state reporting requirements differ, with Massachusetts being the only state that mandates reporting.”

But the VA did commission a study of ALS and found roughly 3.9 cases of ALS per 100,000 people in the American general population. Which would make the occurrence of Lou Gehrig’s disease in mostly older white males less than 0.004%. A quarter of our nation’s population vs 0.004% Sooo…

I’m not saying NOT to dump a bucket of ice water on your head, and give money to ALS research. I’m just asking you not to only give your charitable donations to ALS this year. Please spread the love. Because organizations like Erasing the Distance are doing important work in their community, and I know there are others out there working to bring mental health issues to the forefront, to bring malaria nets to Africa, to fund genetic research to cure cancer and to stop the spread of polio and bring reproductive health care to women around the world. Pick your passion, and do your research.http://qz.com/249649/the-cold-hard-truth-about-the-ice-bucket-challenge/

And BTW, I went to Catholic School, in other words Woodstock wasn’t an option.

 

 

 

 

Of Poetry

I am going to sit on a rock near some water

The Ivy Farms Book Club has asked its members to bring a poem to share at the next meeting. I chose to bring a poem by Billy Collins, our ex-Poet Laureate, who will be a keynote speaker at the KilKenny Arts Festival in Ireland this year. http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/billy-collins-when-i-start-a-poem-i-assume-the-indifference-of-readers-1.1891332?page=1

“When I start a poem, I assume the indifference of readers,” he says. “That there might even be a touch of hostility. There is a line from a Patrick Kavanagh poem that really resonates. It goes: ‘Tomorrow’s Wednesday. Who cares?’ Well, the reader can’t be expected to be interested in your life, the life of a stranger. The job of the poet is to seduce the reader, to make sure they are interested, to make something happen for them that is unexpected.”

When I write I rarely think about the reader, about cajoling her or him to like me or the content. I admit as a journalist I sometimes did, but today I write to make sense of things, I write to flex a muscle in my mind. I figure if the reader doesn’t like what I’m saying, he’ll stop reading! I hope this doesn’t seem cruel dear reader, but I’d rather not presume anything as I begin to write. That’s why I won’t check email or social media when I sit at my desk – later for that. I like to leave that morning space open for the muse of inspiration which will sometimes take hold of my fingers and take me in another direction.

Still I understand poetry may need a bit of a nudge. I like Mr Collins simply because he abhors obscurity or obfuscation in his verse. If he happens to be chopping parsley while listening or thinking about something else, it will find its way into his poem. And he is not writing for someone in an ivory tower, he feels the need to “seduce” us, the general public, with his words. And who doesn’t like to be seduced?

and I am going to stop talking

Last night Bob and I were laying out on the deck in total darkness, we were moon bathing. We wanted to see some shooting stars because it was time for the Perseid meteor shower. It was a perfectly clear night; we stopped talking and watched the enormity of the sky and its brilliant stars. On cue, stars began streaming from one spot in the solar system to another, in the constellation Leo, lying northeast of our ridgeline. I began to understand VanGogh. images

Then Bob said, “Do you hear that?” It was the sawing, symphonic sound of tree frogs chittering away at the edges of our star show. And the silence was broken as he told me more about his boyhood time at Four Bridges, and how much he loved that sound in the midsummer night.

I Love the sound of your voice

like a little saxophone

telling me what I could never know

unless I dug a hole all the way down

through the core of my self 

That was a verse in Collins’ poem “Orient. The other snippets are from “A Question About Birds.”                    Everyday Moments Caught in Time  

Sitting on a Bench to Watch Geese

Sitting on a Bench to Watch Geese

 

To Savor Words

There was a time in my life in NJ, when I had to renew myself. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a Mom, but ripping me out of the beautiful Berkshires, where my babies were born, left me adrift in suburbia. I didn’t fit in.

People in the North ask you, “Where did you move from?” People in the South ask you, “What church do you belong to?” Neither move had an acceptable answer, since I don’t go to church, and when I told my NJ acquaintances that we had lived in Pittsfield, MA, the resounding reaction was why the hell did I move to Central NJ?

For my husband’s job? To be closer to our family? Partially true.

Up until that point I’d been coasting along. Marry your high school sweetheart – check. Maybe not at the age of 30 after many years of Woodstock and Westchester, but hey, I was a late bloomer. I felt connected to the Berkshires, I started writing there and made friends that would last a lifetime. There was something about the New England character that spoke to me, something deep.

I kept a saying on my Jersey refrigerator, “Bloom where you’re planted,” and i tried to grow roots.

So I got a job writing at a weekly newspaper, I joined a beach club and ran for the school board. I started working on a Master’s Degree at Monmouth College (now “University”). I ran around trying to get my new suburban life started. And then one day my professor asked me to attend an educational symposium and my editor asked me to write about it too. Some dots were connecting.

That’s where I met and interviewed Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard. They were fresh off the buzz of Dead Poets Society and I wish I could link you to my article but we weren’t online in the early 90s. I do remember one thing that Hawke said to those teenagers, “Don’t wait around for your life to start, it’s happening right now.”

In light of Robin Williams’ death, I’ve been thinking about that movie. He played the English teacher we all wish we had in high school – and in fact, I did have Miss Flanagan who was phenomenal. I wish you had waited Robin, just a little, to see that your life still has so much meaning, that you brought such beauty and laughter to us all.

“Poetry beauty romance life, these are what we stay alive for…you may contribute a verse…the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse…”

“What will your verse be?”         

 

I’ve said it myself, “I’d just like a reboot please.” Who doesn’t want a “do over” every now and again? I was signing up online for a restorative yoga class, when my computer asked me to “sign in” and pick a password. Then it had the gall, when I hesitated, to suggest I may want Safari to assign a password for me!

First of all, NO, thank you computer, but nobody else gets to pick a password for me. I already have too many passwords: one for Google, another for Facebook; one for Twitter and one for Tumblr’ then there’s Etsy, Amazon and Zillow, to name a few. And now I need a new password to check out A Place to Breathe Yoga Studio?

I admit it, my brain on passwords is not pretty. Once you hit a certain age, your memory center starts to fill up and things like birthday dates and wedding anniversaries may just slide right on down your brain stem and end up in the proverbial trash heap of spam messages.

Yesterday I had an appointment with my smart, talented hair stylist Christopher Hays. I received the reminder email the day before, but a few days before that, I had received another email – a group list serve – from Christopher. The first message was about a conflict and it suggested I make another appointment online . HA. Well I have never signed into their scheduling service online simply because I don’t want another password! I always schedule the next appointment when I’m actually there, face to face, shears to hair.

Luckily he knew that about me, so he just scheduled yesterday’s cut on his own! And since I always usually do what my computer says, I showed up!

I got up early and went to the Cville City Market for some fresh okra and heirloom tomatoes. I schmoozed with some vendors, and met a great baked plantain gal. Then I went to confession – isn’t your hairdresser your confessor? – and started to plan my Indian fresh market dinner. Because Bob and I happened to see Helen Mirren’s new movie,  A Hundred Foot Journey, about dueling French and Indian restaurants, and love and renewal. We sat among the grey-haired legions at bargain matinees everywhere.

And we didn’t get our tickets on Fandango, although the line was long and filled with seniors on walkers. We strolled into the lobby and bought our tix at the kiosk – no human interaction necessary! And I wonder…

Will we be the last generation to know how to interact without an interface? To know how to write a letter? To know how to leave a phone message?

Thankfully, I wrote down my yoga password. I’m starting my yoga journey slowly, with the best of intentions, to restore my memory.

My Reflection pre-Market

My Reflection pre-Market

Another First

We start school very early in the South. My daughter tells me that her neighborhood elementary school started today, so the Love Bug is waving “Good Morning” to her favorite school crossing guard and watching the big yellow buses roll by her front porch. And this week, the Bug had her first day at preschool!

The Bride packed her a lunch, strapped on her butterfly backpack, and brought her to school with the Groom for moral support. They had done their research; some schools tried to tell them what not to wear, some schools seemed more like daycare, but this school was just right.

Of course we had to reassure our daughter that the Bug was going to looove preschool. After all, it’s only two days a week, but still she worried. After all, except for her Nanny and her Grandparents, the Bug had never been left with anyone else. But much to everyone’s delight, she sat right down at the table with a few other children and joined right in.

When it was time for the parents to leave, she said, “Bye bye Mommy!”

They called me afterwards from the car and I heard all about it. School is such FUN! She loves her teacher Ms Kiki, she napped for two hours, and only asked where her Mama was once or twice. Ms Kiki told her that Mama and Dada go to work. The lesson that parents sometimes leave, and then they come back, has been successfully instilled in the Bug’s two year old brain. Yay!

In England it’s National Play Day today. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/11012833/Play-integral-to-childhood-development.html

During the early years, as children’s brains grow dramatically and they move rapidly from one developmental stage to the next, play remains central to their growth and development and is the primary means by which they build cognitive skills and begin to make sense of the world.

As an old nursery school Head Start teacher I agree. Play is fundamental to learning. And the Bug loves to play, and recount the highlights of her day to anyone who will listen. Like the time Ms Bean caught a bird in her mouth and Nana said, “Bad Bean!” She is no longer talking in sentences, we’re getting paragraphs!

So Happy First Day of Preschool my little Bug, and may your second day be just as much fun as the first, or maybe more. I am waiting for the call from your Mama. The one about Ms Kiki asking her to talk with you about not helping so many of the children with their art projects. Because I had to explain to your Mama when she was little that it’s OK to draw outside the lines, but it’s not OK to draw on your friend’s paper even when you are just trying to help!

IMG_0962

 

 

This will be a short post. Here is today’s news in guns: Today the man who took a bullet for Ronald Reagan died. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/us/politics/james-s-brady-symbol-of-fight-for-gun-control-dies-at-73.html?_r=0  I’m glad Bob didn’t work last night. This is what happened in his hospital’s community http://www.nbc29.com/story/26189153/5-dead-after-murder-suicide-in-culpeper

Every comment about this in the paper and on Facebook is all about praying for the family; but believe me, I don’t think praying at this point will do much good. It might help you to pray. But the grandmother who found her daughter and her grand daughters lying in pools of their own blood, blood that her son-in-law shed because he decided to pick up a gun, will never be the same again. The coward even shot himself, so this grandmother is deprived of a trial, of swift judgement, or even forgiveness if she were so inclined. I just don’t get it.

If you haven’t joined Everytown for Gun Safety yet, please think about it. I know there are more of us out there, more moms and grandmothers who know it’s about the guns. This happened in Maine a week ago http://www.pressherald.com/2014/07/28/deaths-of-5-in-saco-could-rank-among-maines-deadliest-crimes/ Another family of 5 dead.

We need to keep guns out of the hands of abusers, stalkers and the mentally ill…it’s as simple as that. It’s about the guns.

 

The Joints

After our sudden trip North to Sue’s funeral, followed by our planned trip North for Ada’s birthday party, followed by a week of the Bride and Bug visiting, Bob and I were supposed to have a few days mid-summer to ourselves. He might get to mow the lawn, I might actually get to finish doing laundry. Maybe we’d go out to dinner? But no, the Joints have arrived!

The Joint Commission http://www.jointcommission.org/accreditation/hospitals.aspx is the national agency that wanders into your hospital without warning for a few days of fun and relaxing oversight. I remember when I was teaching and was told the Principal would have to evaluate my performance, but I’d get a few days notice and would I mind sending him my plans for the week? Brand new to the profession, I thought well that’s kinda like cheating. If someone really wants to evaluate you, why not just walk in one day? Well, the teacher’s union would have none of that.

And a few years ago, the Joints felt the same way – unannounced visits are now de rigeur.

You never know when they might arrive to evaluate your system. If standards are not met, a hospital might lose its accreditation, ie funding, ie money. A residency may have to shut down, which happened recently at Berkshire Medical Center, where I delivered my children. Surgical residents in the Berkshires are now scrambling for another hospital to accept them. So as you can see, it’s a very BIG deal when they show up, and poor Bob is one of three hospital board members not on vacation.

People have always assumed that because we have so many doctors in our family, that I would know about such things. In fact, I don’t. I cannot tell if a baby is dehydrated, or if a cut needs sutures.  I can’t tell heartburn from a heart attack. And I certainly can’t distinguish between a bug bite and shingles…or psoriasis. I knew very little about the Joints until Bob told me about them this week.

But if you live in VA and want to know what it feels like to go to medical school, you can sign up for UVA’s Mini-Med School in the Fall! http://www.medicine.virginia.edu/community-service/more/minimed/about-mini-med.html

During the 7 week program enthusiastic UVa faculty members, with assistance from current medical students, will lead the group in exploration of a wide range of topics in medical education. Participants will experience such integral parts of medical school as match day, research labs, patient interviews, and more. Mini-Med will provide a behind the scenes look at the training of those we entrust with our health, a greater sense of health literacy, and forge new connections between the health system and our community. Mini-Med will also feature entertainment provided by our talented medical students. There is no cost to participate and while participants will not leave Mini-Med School with a medical degree they will leave with knowledge, resources, and a certificate of attendance.”

For me, well I think I’ll pass. Unless they have a really good jazz singer this year. I’m happy giving kisses to the Love Bug when she gets an “ouchy,” and for now, that and some well placed Disney band-aids always do the trick!

PopBob entertaining the troops in Dover

PopBob entertaining the troops in Dover

 

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