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Bispectacles

There is a momblogger the Bride turned me onto awhile ago. Her name is Glennon Doyle Melton and her blog is Momastery and her message is a simple one – Enough is Enough. Life is “brutiful” (brutally beautiful) and we are all in it together, a warrior tribe of women online doing the best we can with what life has dealt us.

Momastery is an open window. It’s a place to take a deep breath. It’s a place to drop out and tune in. It’s a place to stop striving, stop competing, stop suspecting, stop hiding. To hear and tell truth. Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that We Belong to Each Other.” If we find peace here- it’s because we remember.http://momastery.com

So imagine my surprise to see her being interviewed on the Today Show one morning while I was in Nashville. You may have noticed this year, if you still watch TV in the morning, that Today is trying to be less Yesterday by keeping or attracting younger viewers and being more interactive, opening up a Green Room on their set, and imploring the viewer to follow them on Twitter etc.

Now I’m officially a senior citizen, but I remember when the Rocker was in high school and I served on its board that we created a survey on technology. One of the questions we asked was where did our students get their news and they all said online and NOT on TV…that was about 15 years ago. So it’s good that Today is catching up with these Millennials.

Glennon talked about starting out with the typical mommy stuff on her blog until one day she shared a picture of her kitchen. That’s when the negativity started, she received tons of comments about her cluttered and out-of-date kitchen. Judgey, and sometimes mean, but often helpful ways to organize her simple kitchen with its picture covered refrigerator. Doesn’t everybody who ever entered anyone’s kitchen just stand and stare at the pictures hanging by magnets on refrigerators? It’s as if they can take in the soul of that house, that family, by looking at those pictures.

Well Glennon got a little pissed, although she didn’t say that. What she said was this was the exact problem with us! This striving for perfection in motherhood and it just had to stop! Look at her 1960s water faucet at her kitchen sink. Most people in the world cannot get clean, running water coming out of a faucet in their kitchen – it’s all in our own minds. Instead of thinking we have a crappy kitchen sink, we need to change our perspective and be thankful we have running water!

We have to put on new “Perspectacles.”

Anyway, did you ever feel like you were speaking a different language with another English speaker? I’m not talking dialect here, I’m talking Glennon’s Today Show piece which had been filmed earlier, so it was less of an interview and more about her philosophy. The hosts of the Today Show looked a little dumbfounded, gobsmacked in fact. There was a big pause, then they realized they were in fact live and had to say something. So Al Roker made a joke about putting on his “bispectacles” since you know he just turned 60…and then it was cut to commercial.

Glennon Doyle has written a NYT’s best selling book, “Carry On Warrior,” and she has many other social media platforms. She is starting to tour with her inspirational message, and will be in Nashville very soon.  She has done a TEDx talk

and has started a non-profit, “Monkee See – Monkee Do.” She is a phenomenal woman who speaks truth to our sometimes messy and always chaotic world.  10617054_284425955075742_12256534_a

Music City

We’ve been singing “Happy Birthday” to a certain two year old all week. She can sing right along too, and dance, like Angelina Ballerina. Great Grandma Ada and Hudson are here too, so it’s a multi-generational celebration. Everything is great except the weather, by 10 am I am melting, literally. The humidity is killer and the temps are in the 90s with non-stop sun. This landlocked state almost had me, if it weren’t for August.

I just have one warning for grandparents. The supposedly feminist, fairy tale from Disney, Frozen, is not for the toddler set. Last evening the Bride went to work, and the Groom had a work-related dinner, sooo we popped in the movie. There’s a huge snow monster, and I’m assuming the King and Queen died at sea. It’s not an obvious death, like Bambi, but still. I stopped that film pronto. And I wished I could freeze the landscape, just a little, with my hands.

What can say, Fall is my favorite season.

Still we toured the Ryman, and I talked with the young girl who was taking pictures of the stage. Of course she’s a singer/songwriter and just got back from a tour…her name is Erin McLendon http://theboot.com/erin-mclendon-fire-and-wine/ What can I say, everyone is talented in Nashville! Then we were stuck in traffic as lanes were closed while they were filming the TV show Nashville and trying to pick up the Love Bug from her preschool.

And speaking of tours, The Parlor Mob is at it again. Check out their current tour and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get tickets to The iconic Stone Pony in that other musical city, Asbury Park!http://www.parlormob.com
Rock On.

Watching Frozen

Watching Frozen

I’m back on the road again. My pilgrimage past Davy Crockett’s birthplace and Dollywood has me listening to another podcast of This American Life, and this time the theme is “Mean Friends.” You’ve got to love being able to laugh out loud while driving through pop-up thunderstorms and trucks-in-left-lanes on windy mountain roads. The girl’s name was “Cohen” and she fluffed off a would-be suitor in middle school by letting him think they could be “Hi, Bye” friends. In other words, she’d acknowledge him in the hallways but that’s all…and he was ecstatic!

Are girls better at being mean? Is this our first feeble attempt at self-protection? I remember in high school a boy from a private school asked me to go to his prom. I accepted, but only if he promised to drop me off at my future-husband-then-almost-boyfriend’s house afterwards. And he did! I didn’t think I was being mean at the time, I actually thought I was being kind?!

I remember so clearly chasing the Bride around a preschool birthday party, telling her it’s not OK to tease and chase another little girl. I could see it already, my tyrant in blonde curls was the queen bee of her little posse, she was the mighty, mini trendsetter. Probably our move back to NJ when she was in 2nd Grade nipped that in the bud. It’s so easy to go all Lord of the Flies when your family stays in one insular community, “,,,after all we aren’t savages really…”

I asked my little Mussolini how she would feel if her feet were in that girl’s shoes. Yes, at times like this I would go all biblical, and believe me parents, you will too. I recently read a letter on Momastery titled “Brave is a Decision” this is excellent reading before the little ones head off to school. If you’d like to instill a little compassion and not so much as a mean bone in your child’s body, this one’s for you.

We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.
We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.
Kind people are brave people. Because brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.

- See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/08/21/the-one-letter-to-read/#sthash.0aYv3r2N.dpuf

I’m meeting my “bad” in a good way MIL, the queen bee of her generation who broke a few hearts along the way, to pay homage to the next generation of “it” girls, our Love Bug is turning the BIG TWO. She has just started school and I’m hoping she’ll sit next to the kid without a lunch and offer to share her bento box. But she’ll also need to channel some mean into her young life, so she stands up for herself, so she can fight back when needed.

You can’t take Jersey out of the girl.

Carousel of Time

Carousel of Time

I’ve resisted writing about Ferguson. Mostly because 12 days later we still don’t have all the facts about the shooting death of Michael Brown. Was he gunned down with his hands raised in surrender, or had he fought over the officer’s gun and charged him in the street? I heard an NPR reporter ask an ex-police detective what exactly are police taught about pulling their guns; when is it OK to shoot a suspect? He dodged a little, then he said if he/she feels there is the threat of imminent harm to them or the public.

According to a Jewish African American food writer and historian, Michael Twitty, yesterday was “…the 395th year after “twenty and of odd Negroes” were brought from Angola by way of multiple stops to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Bought to raise tobacco, they were the genesis community of Black life…and slavery…in mainland British North America. Many were Christian–before they left Angola– some became freedmen with servants and land, but within a generation all rights gained were permanently lost.” 10580102_719753931430543_3376970479745154356_n

So that’s where it started, slavery right here in VA in 1619. I had no idea. But where will it end? When will black boys not be followed in stores, when will they stop hearing car locks as soon as they cross a street?

Because I am white, I cannot speak with authority on black life here and now, but I did work in the black projects on Fremont Street in Jersey City when I was younger. I was a Head Start teacher and I knew that the moms I spoke with wanted only the best education for their children. And that they didn’t trust the police. If the cops were ever called, they would not even show up, or if they did it would be hours later. Which made me think of that boy’s body lying in the street for hours under a sheet with its river of blood.

I do however believe in the power of non-violence to create social change, in Gandhi and Dr King. And I believe in the power of words, and the the way an education, one that can lead to meaningful work, can transform a life.

We are at a tipping point. Do we whites just sit back and watch the dismal graduation rates of our “urban” high schools? Do we complain about the militarization of our police forces and cross the street when we see a bunch of black boys approaching us in black hoodies? I wish we had seen St Louis white people marching or better yet sitting in for social justice. It would be so easy today, a Tweet from the right celebrity, or maybe the right white church or synagogue could organize a group.

We don’t really know yet what happened when that police officer approached Michael Brown who was blocking traffic, holding some cigars in his hand. What we do know is this secondary reconstruction isn’t working in Ferguson, or in most of our cities. 395 years and a black President later, and we’re still uncomfortable talking about race.

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 Brighid, and her son Djouby. Brighid 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.

Brighid and Djouby

Brighid and Djouby

 

 

 

 

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?”         

 

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