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Archive for September, 2012

“What man can pretend to know the riddle of a woman’s mind?” Don Quixote

The Bride and the Groom are very evidence-driven. While I was visiting for the Love Bug’s birth, a Food Truck festival just happened to coincide with her first weekend on the planet. What better way to introduce a newborn to her Nashville environs! But I was conflicted. Do you dare take a 5 day old out among thousands to a public park, in 90 degree heat? My first thought was “No.” Absolutely, positively no…and it reminded me of our first ‘almost’ outing with the baby Bride in the Berkshires.

A friend was hosting a big end of summer party that was going to have a hot air ballon tethered to the ground. Bob was very hot on going and taking our newborn up, up and away. Or somewhat away since the ballon was tied to the earth. I was hormonal and irritable. The more pilot Bob was insistent, I became more intractable. It was my first sign, married life with this man was going to be one long negotiation. But I dug in my heels, and we stayed home. There is nothing quite like parenthood to bring out the mama grizzly in a once perfectly calm, sane woman.

So I stepped back. The Groom was in my camp; thankfully his first reaction to the Food Truck idea was similar to mine. My daughter, however, desperately needed to get out of the house, and of course Grandpa Bob was all about food en plein air, with trucks! It was a stalemate. But, I was also on a many year quest to find the Grilled Cheeserie Truck! Like the famous windmill, this particular phantom truck was widely known throughout the Music City, and I had either just missed it, or passed it by unknowingly, or on one particular occasion, it just never showed. All indications were that the Grilled Cheeserie truck was going to be there. http://thegrilledcheeserietruck.com

What to do? Well, back in the day we didn’t have google with expert opinions on childrearing at our fingertips. We had grandparents, and aunts and friends we could call; I would sometimes consult Penelope Leach’s book. Instead of Apps, we had age-old parenting myths to rely on. In some ways, I think that may have been easier. But after a quick search and texting some friends with a 2 week old baby about meeting up, we hitched that Love Bug up, way up on her Daddy in a Becco baby carrier and headed out to slay the dragon of food trucks. The Grilled Cheeserie truck was there! Unfortunately, the lines were so long and the heat was so hot, we only managed a quick walking tour and went home. My quest continues. On balance, I always like to weigh the good with the bad and the grilled cheese, which I am determined to find on my next trip!

The Fall Menu

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Tomorrow night the shofar will blow in Jewish temples around the world, calling Jewish people to prayer and to end their fast. It is an ancient tradition. We have emptied our pockets of our sins, done a fair job of asking forgiveness, even asking God to forgive us of those sins we may not even know we committed. I remember thinking that was brilliant when I first started studying Judaism. You don’t have to pony up to the confessional every week and recite your sins to a shadowy priest, then kneel and say a few Hail Marys, or maybe the whole Rosary. Jews get just one chance each year to make things right. And if you forget something, it’s OK, no worries. God will forgive you anyway.

But here’s the thing. You are supposed to fast for 24 hours, from sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow night. There are of course exceptions; pregnant or nursing moms, children before Bar or Bat Mitzvah age, and ER docs. No really, in the Talmud somewhere it says if you are busy saving lives you can eat! So we feast tonight, fast (well, some of us fast), then feast again tomorrow night…followed by Sukkot. A Jewish Thanksgiving that lasts for 7 days, where you not only feast, but you do it outdoors, in a tent.

While the rest of us are planning our kid’s Halloween costumes, you may pass by a house with a makeshift tent in the backyard covered with palms and fruit, a Sukkah or “…a hut of temporary construction with a roof covering of branches.” http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/4457/jewish/How-is-Sukkot-Observed.htm It figures that food plays a staring role in Jewish holidays, but eating your food outside is really special. Sukkot preceded the farm to table movement by about 3,800 years.

Which is why, on one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, I must call to your attention our country’s little problem with the Farm Bill. You may not be aware that Congress failed to pass the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act aka the Farm Bill. Disavow yourself of the notion that this is a fight between the huge agri-business conglomerates and smaller organic farmers, or that it’s just a bid to throw more money out to the heartland only to waste resources on growing corn and soybeans that we cannot possibly consume. Only about 14% of the funds would go to farmers to subsidize their crops.

“More than two-thirds of the Farm Bill has nothing to do with farms. It funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—formerly known as food stamps. Spending-phobic Republicans see that as fat to be cut, and the House Agriculture Committee proposed drastic reductions in food assistance for the 2012 legislation. Both sides dug in their heels on the issue this year, and we’re looking at no Farm Bill at all until the next session.” http://www.c-ville.com/on-the-fate-of-the-farm-bill/#.UF3GLEL3CfQ

So dear God, while some of our cities are now allowing food stamps to be used at Farmer’s Markets during this recession, I’m asking you to forgive our legislators on Capital Hill. They are more concerned about saving money and an out-of-date tax code for the wealthiest among us, than they are about feeding the poor.

Leaving the City Market

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My glamorous older sister, Kay, would always call our Mother, the Flapper, on Sunday mornings. It was pre-arranged. Right after CBS Sunday Morning was finished, during the wildlife roll call, my sophisticated New York City sib would dial up the Doyenne of Lake Minnetonka and they would discuss life in general, along with a few topics from the TV show. When the Flapper died, Kay started calling our brother Dr Jim, who lives right by that same MN lake. Or maybe he called her? I was too much of a news junkie, so I’d tune into the political talking heads on Sunday morning, if I wasn’t out at a farmer’s market or walking a dog or two. Now I sometimes join their Sunday morning calls by miraculously “merging” our numbers via iPhone.

And speaking of my “old” iPhone, I am a very spoiled and lucky new grandmother. Because due to the wonders of technology, and maybe karma, almost every morning I receive a text picture or video of the Love Bug. And I cannot wait to hear that cell phone beep! Happy 1 month birthday beautiful baby girl!

I guess for this mama and daughter, it all started when the Bride went off to college. I’d email her a “morning message” every single day. Email was pretty new in ’97, and my short sentences were meant to inspire and inform, I hoped the way a teacher might have something written on the blackboard as students walked into her classroom. I’d write things like, “I know you can ace that exam,” or “How can I make another article about the Garden Tour seem interesting?” I asked her if it was too intrusive and to my relief she said no, she loved getting them; I just may not get a reply every time, because you know she’s busy being a Duke college student and all. I understood, because it wasn’t really about politeness or manners with us. It was about the connection. The connection I lost in our family’s Year of Living Dangerously.

Perhaps it’s because I am fed up with political diatribes, or maybe because Bob is saving lives this morning, I found myself entranced with CBS Sunday Morning http://www.cbsnews.com/sunday-morning/ and I was touched by the story titled “The Healing Arts.” It’s about all the contemporary art lining the halls of Cedars Sinai Medical Center in LA. Who knew? But communing with art can lower your blood pressure and give a patient battling a crippling disease a different perspective – if just for the few minutes stroll down a hallway. Hospital as Art Museum – I like it! And it made me think of the art lessons Kay gave the very young Bride in her NYC apartment, and how much our young doctor loves to paint. She finished this painting in college, where she spent a semester in Paris, drawing and studying art. Cue the nature noise!

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My Mother, the Flapper was also known as Grandma Gi. In order to provide for her family, she worked as a bookkeeper for many years. Widowed three times, she adored President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In fact, his picture hung in our kitchen, right next to the Crucifix. When she traveled to the Berkshires to help me with the newborn Bride, she was a retired 70 year old. Because Gi was a radically committed, life-long smoker, and Dr Bob knew about the hazards of second-hand smoke before the Surgeon General, she was banished to the porch for her bi-hourly habit. Now Septembers can get mighty cold in MA. This is why you see her holding my baby, over 30 years ago, wearing a face mask. Gi, aka the Flapper, had contracted pneumonia and had to return to her Condo on the Lake.

Lucky for me, I never smoked and my only banishment, while visiting the new Love Bug, was to my beautifully appointed, upstairs suite for sleep. I’m recounting those first few days in Nashville, because yesterday I had lunch with friends and happily offered up the replay. How I looked into my Grand Daughter’s eyes and saw the Bride. Like a beautiful work of art, after decades of overpaint, varnish, dirt and maybe even cigarette smoke is removed by a master restorer, I could glimpse the brush strokes of the original artist. Dark, and soulful, inquisitive and beckoning, her eyes spoke to me. And looking back through the lens of time, I could feel the steely determination of my Mother, to walk again when she was told she would be in a wheelchair for life. The utter devotion of my Nana, who held me tight, saving my life when a drunk driver rammed into our car in 1949. The unequivocal righteousness of my Great Grandmother, who sheltered coal miners and marched for their rights, even though she herself could not yet vote. Little Love Bug, I am happy to report that our President is soaring ahead in the polls on the women’s vote in this battleground state.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/decision2012/to-claim-virginia-obamas-hopes-rest-on-women/2012/09/19/8413388a-026a-11e2-9b24-ff730c7f6312_story.html?hpid=z1

And it’s not just because the President knows our Constitution backwards and forwards, and wants to keep government and religion separate, thereby protecting our reproductive rights. “Women registered voters trust Obama more than they do Romney to handle the economy, 52 to 39 percent.” FDR came from a wealthy family, yet he understood that government needs to care for 100% of its citizens and he almost singlehandedly pulled our country out of the Great Depression. I’m thinking I may have to frame a picture of Obama for our kitchen. L’Shana Tovah to our Jewish friends and family too.

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Breaking news; “Board of Health Rejects Grandfather Amendment in Vote to Apply Proposed Regulations to Existing Women’s Health Clinics.” Wait you never heard of it? http://www.naralva.org/media/press/20120914.shtml

TRAP is a new word or acronym for me. I’ve only recently fully understood what it means. To be trapped, one thinks of being caged, like a wild animal. And in fact, that is exactly what many of these TRAP laws are trying to do – keep women in their place, barefoot and pregnant, and out of abortion clinics. TRAP stands for “targeted regulation of abortion providers.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/14/virginia-abortion-clinic-regulations_n_1884897.html

Last week with very little fanfare, in my fair state of VA, the state for lovers, our Republican Ultrasound Gov McDonnell and Republican AG Cuccinelli shoved their TRAP regulations down the throats of our Board of Health. After voting to declaw the regulations by allowing existing clinics to be exempt, or grandfathered in, and only adopting the TRAP laws for NEW building, the BOH did an about face on Friday. It makes me wonder what type of leverage the 2 most powerful men in the state used on the Board so that they would change their decision? Oh wait, you can find anything on the internets:

“Funny thing is that the board made this decision after board members received a letter from the attorney general informing them that the state wouldn’t represent them if they were sued in response to the decision: Board member James Edmondson Jr. said that they were ‘warned’ that they could be left to defend themselves on the decision, and may have to cover their own legal fees.”

Now VA may have to close most Planned Parenthood clinics rather than totally retro-fit every facility in order to meet building codes previously only used for hospitals….
“The board’s 13-to-2 flip-flop provoked an outraged chorus of “shame, shame,” from abortion rights advocates gathered in the meeting room. Security swiftly ushered protesters out of the room, as one woman yelled, “‘You don’t give a shit about women living in Virginia!‘” http://feministing.com/2012/09/17/friday-vote-on-new-trap-law-may-decimate-abortion-access-in-virginia/

T – Target
R – Republicans
A – About
P – Patriarchy

I like that better. Stand up to these bullies. Private, out-patient surgical buildings owned by doctors or hospital groups that provide mammograms, colonoscopies, dental surgery, and even plastic surgery are not required to submit to TRAP laws, which should tell any discerning person something. The Director of VA’s NARAL, Tarina Keene said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that this is an attack on Roe, you can ban abortion by making it inaccessible.” If you want to take action, start here: http://www.naralva.org

If you believe that our legislators have the right to tell our doctors and nurses and the women of this country how, when and where they may access health care, well then I hope you are reading this. Maybe, since all of this targeting seems patently illegal, in the future the urologist who is about to perform a procedure on you in her office will have to switch you over to a hospital’s OR…and maybe make you wait awhile to contemplate your vasectomy?

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Last night I finished a fun and compelling book, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple. Happened to pick it up in my favorite old-timey Nashville bookstore, Parnassus. http://www.parnassusbooks.net

It’s about a runaway mom, Bernadette; and her pre-teen daughter, Bee who is trying to find her. But really it’s about so much more. You will laugh at the description of Seattle, the mud slide and the penguins. Oh, it’s about Antarctica too.

And if you’re lucky, you will see a little bit of yourself in the heroine.

And here’s a little Sunday morning pick-me-up I’d like to dedicate to the new dad, the Groom and to the new uncle, the Rocker too. Because they like this kind of guitar pickin…

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A funny thing happens when you leave your husband and your life behind and move in with your daughter and her new family for 3 weeks. It’s like I stepped into a time warp. Instead of CNN with my morning coffee, I played with the Love Bug during her “Happy Awake” time…then we’d have her “Musical Giraffe Interlude” followed by her nap and maybe I’d throw in some laundry. After the next nursing cycle, weather permitting, we might go out for a brisk dog walk in her Bob (that’s a stroller). And on and on my days would follow the sweet rhythm of life at home with a newborn. Imagine my surprise when I turned on CNN yesterday morning to pack for my return trip home, and found out the world may actually be coming to an end.

As you know, NPR is hard to find in the long state of TN but I did listen to a few programs about the new season on TV (boring) and a Black comedian on FX.http://www.npr.org/2012/09/13/161073894/totally-biased-comic-on-race-politics-and-audience – Nobody deserves to be shot, thank you W. Kamau Bell!

Nobody deserves to be shot. I hope you listened to Bell’s Dr Seuss-like rant about the difference between a sheik and a sikh. It is genius and I am now committed to watching his show “Totally Biased.” When he does his stand-up act, you can get a 2 for 1 ticket if you bring someone of another race with you. If only those 9 Arab countries that have decided to try and storm our embassies and burn our flag over a film…an internet film I still know nothing about and actually refuse to search for…if only they could defy their censors and watch a little bit of Bell comedy. Maybe the new generation might decide that killing for the sake of religion is absurd? And that nobody deserves to be shot, or stoned, or have any other biblical punishment rain down on them…because it’s 2012 people.

“A lot of times people think comedy is making fun of things, and I feel like, no, it can also just be making fun out of things,” Bell says. “That, to me, is the kind of comedy I always like to do, where you can make jokes about the thing without making fun of the thing.” Like when Ellen said at the Oscars after 9/11 that what would piss off Al Quaeda more than a gay woman in a suit entertaining a room full of Jews? Or maybe my Jewish folktale on 9/11? Almost everyone knows what it’s like to bring home a new baby. Humor hits our humanity’s funny bone.

It is a subtle difference, but a very important one! Goodbye for now little Love Bug. Nana will be back soon and we’ll discuss comedy.

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There’s a very old Yiddish tale about a poor family who lived in a very small house. The couple had their 6th baby and the stress and the noise was bothering the husband. He couldn’t study the Torah let alone hear himself think. Finally his wife told him to go see the Rabbi, he’d know what to do.

The Rabbi said, “Do you own a cow?” the man said he did, and the Rabbi told him to bring the cow into the kitchen. Grumbling all the way home, the man did as he was told and led the cow into the kitchen. The next day he went back to the Rabbi and said it was only worse with his cow in the kitchen.

The Rabbi said, “Do you own some goats?” So the Rabbi told the man to bring the goats into the kitchen. This would help the cow to feel at home. The man did as he was told and the next day he went back to the Rabbi complaining that things were getting even worse. What should he do?

The Rabbi said, “Do you own any chickens?” The Rabbi promised the man that things would get better if he brought the chickens into the kitchen. What could the poor man do, he went and followed the Rabbi’s advice. Now he had his whole barnyard of animals in his kitchen and he thought to himself life couldn’t get any worse. So the next day he went back to the Rabbi.

“What have you done to me, Rabbi?” he cried. “It’s awful. I did what you told me and the animals are all over the house! Rabbi, help me!” So one by one the Rabbi told him to take the animals out of the house. First the cow, then the goats and finally the chickens…the chickens were out of the kitchen.

The next day the man came running back to the Rabbi again. “O Rabbi,” he said with a big smile on his face, “we have such a good life now. The animals are all out of the house. The house is so quiet and we’ve got room to spare! What a joy!”

This is what it’s like when you start a new family. Relatives come from near and far, friends bring frozen enchilada casseroles and cake. And then, after awhile, the chickens are out of the kitchen. The little family can breathe a big sigh of relief and get back to finding the joy in simple things…like naps, and dog walks, and bubble baths. And kissing baby toes, and eyes and ears, and…wait a minute. Is that a giraffe in my crib?

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Normally, you would find some smart-alec retort here about politics. Normally, I would try and weave some family story into my opinion, hopefully with a dash of humor or at least a dollop of wit. And don’t get me wrong, I watched a few snippets of both conventions. I loved the nun and the ex-President, and even Mrs Mitt wasn’t too saccharine sweet. But life stopped being normal on August 25th, when I found myself transformed from the Mother-of-the-Bride to the Grandmother.

Nothing really prepares you for this stage in life. Gone are the black shoes and stockings of my Nana from Scranton, PA. I’m not pickling things and storing cans on the shelves leading down to the basement. I still have the sacred memory of Nana taking me to my very first movie – Picnic, starring William Holden and Kim Novak. In 1955 I was 7 years old when this classic was released and Nana told me only big girls are allowed in a movie theatre and that I couldn’t leave my seat and run up and down the aisles. Of course I can’t remember the plot, but something “big” was happening in the grass and I was praised for staying put.

Can you remember your first anything? The first time you rode a real bike, the first kiss? Mine happened on the Kindergarten school bus. A boy named Lloyd, who’s mom was what we called then a “war bride” from London, cornered me and kissed me. i remember feeling somewhat terrified and proud all at the same time. Growing up can be challenging. The simple courage to try something new has prompted Jamie Lee Curtis to write her latest children’s book, “My Brave Year of Firsts.” Curtis said, “I started thinking about how often we ask children to try things, and it brought up to me the bravery of being a kid; for a child, jumping a rope, riding a horse, tying shoes, going to school — all are new activities. But adults don’t naturally choose to do something brave. We’re afraid we’re going to look foolish.”

It’s true. We ask our young children constantly to just try some new food, while we are content to eat the same old thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But last night I tried something new, and it was delicious! The Rocker rolled into the Music City with Aunt Cait and made us dinner. We feasted on yummy quinoa cakes with a cranberry curry and yogurt remoulade, all made from scratch! The kale salad on the side was the best I’ve ever tasted. Later we watched the documentary “Babies” and that was illuminating and fun!

The Bride gave her brother his first lesson in diapering. As I watched, I felt true bliss. My baby boy had cooked for his sister and his new niece. Better it couldn’t be.

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…was yesterday.” My psychologist brother, Dr Jim, told me that this is a Navy SEAL saying, which explains the title of that book in the news, “No Easy Day.” You may or may not agree with the Pentagon about possibly seeking criminal charges against its author, but spokesman George Little said “Sensitive and classified information is contained in the book.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/04/no-easy-day-pentagon_n_1855783.html

Yesterday we received very sensitive information about breastfeeding. My daughter and I talk about how taboo the subject still is, how strange it is that women show much less skin nursing under a well-placed receiving blanket or one of those fancy “hooter hiders” than they do at the beach. Baby Boomers have been making menopause proper dinner table conversation, maybe these Millennials will de-mystify breastfeeding and make public displays of nursing mamas acceptable. We decided that the Lactation Consultant specialist at their hospital is a veritable saint; and that the Love Bug is an epicurean delight.

Today is the Bride and Groom’s Wedding Anniversary, and tonight I have the honor of babysitting for the first time. They will walk to their favorite neighborhood restaurant for a romantic dinner. Bob has told them to make a date every week if possible, to get out and talk about life and all things not-so-baby-related. We did try and do that once the Bride was about 6 months old, though at the moment leaving her for more than 2 hours seems unimaginable.

Yesterday love was such an easy game,

Today it’s time to celebrate,

Tomorrow the Rocker arrives with Ms C to meet the baby. Hello bliss

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