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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

 

It’s finally happening in the previous Capital of the Confederacy, ex-Gov Bob McDonnell’s trial is underway. Lawyers are picking a “jury of their peers” and charging him with accepting bribes loans and lavish gifts from a health/supplement company CEO/supporter. It’s rumored that much of the blame on the defense side will be placed on Maureen, who needed the pretense of a certain lifestyle in order to marry off her daughter. It seems misogyny is still rearing its ugly head in Dixie, particularly among Republicans. They are also contending that the ex-first couple of VA were simply extending “common political courtesies” like hosting and arranging meetings for his supporter…while also accepting loans of $165,000.

I’ve never served on a jury, but believe me this would be ripe material for a writer. I’ve heard that many have simply sat in the public section of a courtroom just to listen, to pick up the cadence of a jury trial, to spark an idea that might lead to a plot twist. I wonder if this Richmond trial will be televised? I’ve only watched two trials on TV, OJ and Anita Hill. But this is my kind of reality TV. Gentlemen get out the clapperboard – “Roll Cameras!”

The Bride sent me a video of the Love Bug reading a book at the airport last night. I love that it’s her favorite of the moment, and it used to amuse my daughter too, “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina. She was born in Siberia, Russia and immigrated to the US in 1929. A talented artist, this book became a children’s classic instantly. Probably taken from a Yiddish tale, the peddler is trying to sell his caps, while monkeys are doing what they do best. It is a cautionary story for parents and children alike, a kind of “monkey see, monkey do” parable play.

When I would laugh out loud in the car, I’d hear the Bug laughing behind me in her car seat. When I would say, “Thank you Mama for making us pancakes this morning,” she would repeat, “Thank you Mama.” When I would point out a lizard on the deck, she would repeat, “Lizard!” We hiked to the river, we looked for deer every morning, and she would repeat whatever we said, but more importantly, she picked up our feelings, like a tiny toddler empath. It was not just baby see, baby do, but baby feel.

And so, as I was aware of the constant push and pull of parenting once again, of the need to civilize our smallest citizens, and as I was modeling “Please” and “Thank you” and “Excuse me” a gazillion times – because not getting what you want when you want it is tough for anybody, especially a toddler – I thought about our poor ex-Govenor.

In a system that has become corrupt, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between ethical and unethical behavior. If everybody is doing it, trading favors, on Wall Street or in the hallways of political power in our state capital, well then one might understand how a loan might be perceived as a common courtesy. But in a democracy, someone has to play the role of the parent, and put a stop to all that monkey business.   IMG_0927

 

 

 

Sandy Sheets

They say you can’t go home again, not once you’ve left and established a separate life, an adult life. But today I tasted a real poppyseed strudel at the City Market, the kind my Slovac foster mother Nell used to make, and it brought me right back there, to Victory Gardens.

I tried making it once. I had to buy a new peppermill to grind the teeny poppy seeds, since there was nothing else I could think of in the 70s to do the trick. My attempt failed miserably and I just assumed you’d have to go to Czechoslovakia to find a poppyseed grinder. Julia Child lived around the corner in Cambridge, MA and I almost stopped her in the street to ask her how I might duplicate this luscious European pastry, but I guess I didn’t have the nerve. If only we had Twitter!

This week has brought back many memories. The Bride was just two years old when we started bringing her out to Martha’s Vineyard. We’d pack up the car and caravan with the dogs and our BFFs Lee and Al to a little, old, grey clapboard house at the wild end of the island, Gay Head. We’d dig for clams and bake bread. We’d ride our beach bikes past the dunes and watch fishermen docking with the day’s catch. We’d shower outside after an afternoon at Menemsha Pond, and pick ticks off the dogs in the evening. In short, it was always a delightful Spring.

Being with the Love Bug now reminds me of that toddler sense of wonder, the kind I experienced on the Vineyard with her mama. She looks for our neighbors’ horses, she sings to herself in the car, she bravely goes down a water slide twice! We run in the backyard to pick blackberries. When she takes a bite of a ripe peach, I see that same joy. Like a picture I have of the bride sitting at our Gay Head table with lobster, clams and butter all over her face and hair.

Sandy sheets and ballon animals from the City Market dance on my laundry line of time.

The Bride waiting for the ferry

The Bride waiting for the ferry

And sometimes I feel like I have gone home again.

The Bug with a blackberry stained mouth

The Bug with a blackberry stained mouth

 

I remember when we moved back to NJ. The kids were little when we attended a new parents night. The elementary school principal spoke about all the wonderful things her school had to offer; while we parents were encouraged to think about outcomes. What did we hope their school would help instill in its students? She made a list on a blackboard; it was a long list. Parents were calling out things to put on the list – creativity, cooperation, academic achievement. This was a school, mind you, where awards for Being Quiet were displayed proudly on one wall. I called out, “What about compassion?”

Silence.

The Love Bug and the Bride are visiting us this week, and I just happened to read an article about teaching kindness.

It’s amazing the subjects that deserve research, how does one raise a successful child? How to raise a happy child! Finally it’s occurred to someone that children need to be taught NOT to always think of themselves first. I’ve noticed with the Bug, who will turn 2 next month, that altruism is there just waiting to be nourished. She noticed my wrapped hand and kissed it immediately. She shares her food willingly. She pets Ms Bean gently.

But I always thought you teach kindness by modeling it yourself. It’s not something you need a worksheet for, it doesn’t need to be drilled into your child. Today I offered the Bride a small gift of time to work out at our sports club. I played with the Bug, while Mama and baby-to-be raised their heart rates a bit. Since it was raining when we arrived, we didn’t swim, but we joined in with a group of children who were at day care and tennis camp. Suddenly a toddler ran into a wall, cutting his eyebrow.

The Bride arrived just in the nick of time, she got to work examining the boy, cleaning his superficial laceration and reassuring his mama that it didn’t need sutures. The Bug saw some of this medical operation, and I’m sure she registered this in her brain. We are the kind of people who help people.

Random acts of kindness might sound good in a curriculum, but I think it’s something we learn before Kindergarten, at our parents knees. Maybe if more of us practiced this concept, we’d be less inclined to wage war, or shoot down planes for instance. Maybe it’s as simple as that?

Bug rock climber

Bug rock climber

They came from near and far. My brother from St. Louis, friends and family from New York and Connecticut, the Big Chill entourage, octogenarian snow birds and a surrogate daughter from Florida.

It was the last of many luncheons this year. Everyone wanted to fete my MIL Ada for turning 90, and they wanted to tell her exactly how she had influenced their own lives.
She was a safe haven in the 60s for “hippies” running from their conservative families or the law, or both.
She was a mentor for emancipated women of the Northeast, from Valley of the Dolls to a Fear of Flying and Our Bodies Ourselves.
She was a matchmaker in the pure Yiddish tradition.
She is an artist and loyal friend. A master of reinvention.
She is a wife and mother, a grandmother and now a great grandmother.
She attracts people and fish! And who knew she couldn’t dance?

Because I always thought she could do anything. That anything is possible. Because that’s what she gave to me’, infinite possibilities. Thank you Ada Flora, for being beautiful you – strong and soft at the same time. Brilliant and funny, and always willing to listen. Thanks for letting me hitch a ride on your star.

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Yesterday was Bastille Day, so happy holiday to our French friends belatedly. I love following the Instagram pictures of the French student we hosted one summer, who is now a lawyer and mother of two young boys in Paris. Her shots are miniature art works: a still life of different flowers in bud vases; a building in the south with violet shutters; the backs of her boys in shorts entering a garden with dappled light; or the colorful play of fresh vegetables on her kitchen table “Retour de marche.”

Whenever I see Stephanie’s children, I think of Madeline.

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market 1955

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market 1955

She is turning 75 this year and is currently on exhibit at The New York Historical Society. “The Art of Ludwig Bemelman” will be shown until November 19 and then travel to Amherst, MA. “Bemelmans’ grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, has continued his grandfather’s work with three more books of Madeline’s adventures. He says that Madeline is not French, but a real New Yorker.” http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28233820

Ludwig Bemelman immigrated to the USA in 1914 from Austria-Hungary. Because his mother was German, he was not allowed to go overseas in WWI, though he did serve in the Army. He was assigned to a mental hospital in upstate NY where he nearly suffered a mental breakdown.

He saved himself by creating what he called “islands of security”: “I have started to think in pictures and make myself several scenes to which I can escape instantly when the danger appears,” he wrote in a memoir, “instant happy pictures that are completely mine, familiar, warm, and protective.”

Like Bemelman, I will often see my prose in pictures first. He considered himself more of an artist and less of a writer, and like many artists he had to support himself over the years by working in the real world, and in his case it was the hotel industry. His first Madeline book was published at the cusp of WWII.

I find it fascinating that his red headed girl in the yellow hat was always the one in 13 girls who did not fit into her convent school life – she had a personality and some spunk. It’s as if he took a New York schoolgirl and dropped her into Paris to deal with an ancient regime, because God knows nobody likes what happened to France during the war. Whenever Madeline left her house covered in vines, in two straight lines of girls, we always knew she was in for an adventure. And we always knew she would step out of line. I must remember to get the first book for my Love Bug to read!

Here is a self portrait of my beautiful sister Kay, a gorgeous artist who also worked in the health industry, and sent her daughter to the Convent of the Sacred Heart on East 91st Street and Fifth Avenue. The school was founded by French speaking nuns in 1881. Thank you Kay for putting me up, and putting up with me, during Sue’s shiva. Your apartment was my island of security in NYC.

My Sister Kay

My Sister Kay

I believe we red headed girls think alike.

 

Musical Karma

What goes around…

Underneath my 1966 high school yearbook picture is the caption, “Dover today, Broadway tomorrow.” It was good to have a friend on the yearbook staff, thank you Bess, but in my defense I did try out for every single play in high school. From Freshman year when I was a CanCan girl dancer in Oklahoma, to Senior year playing Adelaide to Bob’s Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, (Achoo) you just can’t make this stuff up. And whatever part of the right side of our brain that’s responsible for creativity, well that part was squared when the Rocker was born.

He would practice the violin while our Corgi howled right next to him. He spent hours filming stop-action cartoons in our garage. Later on, in middle school in the mid 90s, he would design websites for his friends. He started his first band with his buddy Alex around the same time. I was deep into filming dance aerobics workouts for our local cable channel, while Bob played old 60s music extremely loud in the background of the Rocker’s early life. In fact, Bob said the only way he could calm him down as an infant was to blast Led Zeppelin in the car.

So I am happy to announce that the Rocker is going back out on tour this week. He’ll be playing guitar with Nicole Atkin’s band http://nicoleatkins.com/home/ and his old friend Christopher will be on drums. They will share the stage with the Avett Brothers again, and open for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. My son will visit his sister in Nashville on the 16th when they play TN Music City Roots – they will also be filming for PBS to benefit the Nature Conservancy. http://musiccityroots.com/events/

He’ll be onstage for his birthday this summer, so chances are he’ll have a big crowd singing “Happy Birthday.” All the while working on The Parlor Mob’s reunion shows this Fall and scoring music for film on the road. http://www.davidjamesrosen.com Unfortunately, he’s going to miss his Grandma Ada’s second 90th birthday bash in NJ (the first was in Mexico), and I can’t tell you how many people want to sing and dance at her party!

Which makes me think about the Flapper, sneaking out of her bedroom window in Scranton, PA to dance all night to the Tommy Dorsey band. Later in the 20s, Tommy joined his brother Jimmy in a band they called the Scranton Sirens. Later still, as a dowager on Lake Minnetonka, my brother Mike had Cab Calloway play piano for our Mother. The rest of that jazz is history

…it comes around.

The Rocker was named after Sue’s father, and got off a plane from Mexico with Ms Cait to attend her funeral. I like to think he was her favorite cousin.    photo

 

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