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Archive for November, 2012

While our extended family ate and laughed away the time in FL, I was on a hunt for the great American, independent bookstore. Lucky for me, I found The Hidden Lantern in Rosemary Beach. http://www.thehiddenlantern.com

Isn’t it funny how once a grandchild arrives, your first thought in the morning is “I wonder what the Love Bug is doing today?” Likewise, my first thought upon entering this little gem of a bookstore/art gallery was “I wonder what books she would like to read?” So I immediately went to the children’s literature section and there I stayed among young people climbing over comfy footstools. I love a bookstore with soft, enveloping couches and stuffed chairs. Libraries never had the same appeal with their hard chairs and tables. Plus, you couldn’t talk. I think things may have changed since the days of Marion the Librarian.

I had just finished Anna Quindlen’s “Every Last One,” which in hindsight, I should have kept at home. The plot twist is rather tragic and not beach reading material. Believe me, if you have teenagers, wait a few years to read this book. So I guess I needed a break from a novel, and turned to ladybugs and lions. I was missing my old Fair Haven bookstore, where the owners knew my name and would recommend great reads every time I dropped in. And this morning, by sheer luck, I found this article on NPR – http://www.npr.org/2012/11/27/165482333/librarian-nancy-pearls-picks-for-the-omnivorous-reader

Here is a librarian willing to share her secrets for picking books, “…without concern for whether they’re fiction or nonfiction, genre or not, or aimed or classified as being for children or teens. Because I am an omnivorous reader, at first glance my choices always seem to me to be completely higgledy-piggledy, with no book bearing any similarity to any other.” You’ve gotta love this in a librarian. You know how they ask celebrities what other job they may choose if (acting/music/sports/Kardashian) didn’t work out? I would be a librarian, a school librarian! Students would actually come to me for advice, imagine that. Oh, and I’d add couches to the library.

But back to devouring books. I’m currently reading “The House of Tyneford” by Natasha Solomons. It’s bridging the gap until Downton Abbey returns in January. And one last thought. All week everyone was saying how much the Love Bug looked like her Mama, including me. Then someone mentioned how much she looked like moi, which led me to dig in the basement for my baby pictures. The Flapper is sitting on a couch, with her broken dancer’s legs straight. Notice the ubiquitous cigarette. This must have been in PA, after she was released from the hospital. I have teeth so I’m a bit older, still. What do you think?

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This was another phrase the Flapper used regularly. As a young child, I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. She was living “hand to mouth” for many years; widowed, crippled by a drunk driver, small children at home. She was radically frugal, as many Depression era people could be, mending clothes and never throwing out food, always finding creative ways to serve leftovers, if we had any. Too proud to take help from the Salvation Army, I thought she meant we take care of our own – save money for my brothers so they could go to college. If there was some left, maybe I’d be able to go, the last of 6. When you grow up poor, having new shoes on your feet and good food on the table was enough. After all, we had each other. Charity was something you tried to avoid, there was little or nothing left to give at the end of the year.

I tend to think of it differently now. Today is “Giving Tuesday” http://givingtuesday.org: “We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. This year help create #GivingTuesday™, the giving season’s opening day.”

Bob and I tend to give to those causes we are passionate about, like the Salvation Army. Not only do they have a history with my family, they seem to be the first to show up after a natural disaster. I am also deeply committed to women’s reproductive health and saving Roe vs Wade. It is not counter-intuitive to think that abortion rates would fall in this country with increased access to contraception. So Planned Parenthood is on my list: http://news.yahoo.com/us-abortions-fall-5-pct-biggest-drop-decade-171356037.html And I’m not thinking twice about it. Donating to our colleges will also be on the list.

But if we take my Mother’s advice further, charitable giving also includes delivering bags of food to the local Food Bank. Buying the clothes and toys listed on a giving tree for a disadvantaged child in our community. Volunteering at the Charlottesville Free Clinic. And when our children were young, we would help to serve Christmas dinner at a local church through our synagogue. I can’t stress how important modeling this kind of service is for your children. Time or money, if you can donate to a cause that resonates with you, all the better. Here is a quick read to help you navigate websites for different charities, It’s important to do the research.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2012/11/26/6-mistakes-to-avoid-when-giving-to-charity/

Hurricane Sandy relief efforts will be foremost in my thoughts this year. The Parlor Mob’s music was set to this surfer’s American Red Cross appeal: http://www.surfermag.com/videos/jersey-love/ “There’s nothin’ like Jersey when it’s good.” But if you really want to help our area, there is always Woody’s in Sea Bright, or what is left standing in Sea Bright. “Like” this Facebook page to see what our old neighbors need: https://www.facebook.com/SeaBrightRising?fref=ts

And as my editor reminded me, our little stocking stuffer book, “Tangerine Tango” (just click on the book in the margin) is donating its profits to fight Huntington’s Disease http://www.hdsa.org If you’re not familiar with her blog, I can highly recommend Lisa’s slice of NJ life! http://cyclingrandma.wordpress.com. Happy Giving everyone.

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It’s the morning after. Some of you may have participated in this strange, compulsive shopping tradition we call “Black Friday.” The stampedes started early this year, on Thanksgiving night for some. I’m one who never really got into the spirit by pushing and shoving my way around Walmart in the wee hours for a “deal.” http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/23/pf/black-friday-2012/ Plus, some workers are striking, and if I learned one thing from my PA coal miner family, you never, ever cross a picket line. Maybe that’s old fashioned, but I’m not a scab! And, sleep is a wonderful thing, better than a sale any day.

The Love Bug loves the beach, and she’s sleeping like a baby here. Ever since we arrived, for 10 straight glorious hours, she has been sleeping through the night. For the rest of us, it’s touch and go. The tennis team from UNC thought right next door would be a good place to party; and their shenanigans lasted until dawn. Bob and the Bride had a serious talk with the British team captain, and that seemed to do the trick. Not sure if they used the Blue Devil approach, but whatever was said worked.

The Rocker and Ms Cait are already heading home, after trying out a driving range and some go-carts. Last night we stayed in to watch a movie, “Moonrise Kingdom,” which was perfect. Today we met a friend of the Bride’s at Rosemary Beach and I discovered the most wonderful combo bookshop/art gallery. It’s the off-season now in FL, they are even expecting a frost tomorrow night. The turkey has been carved, we gave thanks for all our blessings. We’ve had fun, sightseeing and beach walking, roaming around, getting the lay of the land. So long sand and sun, the mountains are calling us home.

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It’s morning by the beach and we’re all up. Scratch that. The Love Bug is taking her morning nap. She was a trooper on the plane. Wide eyed and taking it all in until it was dinner time, then she slept until wheels down. Today she gets to see her Rocker Uncle and Ms Cait again, and meet her extended Big Chill family. Do you know about the Big Chill?

“I’ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day.” We all met in high school, a nerd squad with Broadway ambitions. People laugh, because most only know that the boys went to Woodstock together (remember I went to Catholic school). But we were all in the Drama Club in the late 60s and could run through Guys and Dolls with little provocation. Only one couple has divorced, leaving our old friend an expatriate in Viet Nam. Another couple is absent, closing on a new house in VA, so we’ll be closer in the near future. But this trip is historic in a way, the 3rd generation of Chillers has met – 18 month old Carter from Atlanta and the Love Bug, aka “Bout du Chou” have finally been introduced. We also have two grandbaby girls in upstate NY waiting in the wings. And we have another Big Chill wedding planned for next year, the daughter of our soon-to-be VA neighbors. It seems lately we see each other more than once a year!

There should be a name for that type of friend. One you may see only once in awhile, but just as soon as you do, it’s old home week. It’s like they know your innards, you can almost never surprise them – well, except when I learned that Bernie was an ace accordion player. And laughing is inevitable, jokes are known almost before they fall from your mouth, almost as soon as you make eye contact. They are the opposite of “fair weather” friends. Because you know they would be there, in a heartbeat, in a crisis. “Foul weather” friends? That doesn’t do it justice!

I have decided to take a sabbatical from the news this week. If somebody wants to start a war, so be it. What if they made a war, and nobody came? One person can make a difference, and I’m starting right here, right now. Tell me 3 things you are grateful for this Thanksgiving. I am grateful for old friends…for sunny, happy days, and for my family.

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This morning Ms Bean started barking again. I looked out for deer, but looked up to find another hot air balloon coasting down the ridgeline. Good girl! Her ruff was up, and she pranced around the deck protecting us from that big monstrosity. I wonder what she’s thinking. We’ve had a number of them now, it’s not like she hasn’t seen one before in her almost 3 years on this planet mountain. They are all brightly colored, and they all make a strange noise when the flame appears in the sky.

I was surprised to find that the Facebook site I mentioned in the last post turned political rather quickly. The woman who wants to be able to drive legally in Saudi Arabia sent her sympathies to the Muslim women and children in Gaza. I almost chimed in, but restraint and common sense took hold and I held my fingers in check. There is no use arguing with people who think they know God’s will. I’ve begun the hard work of deleting “friends” from Facebook; I have no use for their racist and Nazi/quoting/end/of/the/world pronouncements about our election. As flawed as our democracy is, it’s all we’ve got.

We’re packing for our Big Chill Thanksgiving, in FL this year. These are our true friends, people we’ve known since we were teens. Smart people. There are 2 new grandbabies to introduce to the group, and another engagement to celebrate. I’m going to ask them to sign up for “Global Zero.” http://www.globalzero.org And you may want to check it out too…it’s a movement that asks the world to rethink our nuclear strategy, to “help seize a historic chance to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.” Call me crazy, but sometimes I think we might all want to choose peace.

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I’ve had enough of the General failures – old men and their sexual peccadillos. Hamas and Gaza are in the news this morning. Could the fragile MidEast peace crumble; what would it look like, to have Israel and Palestine peacefully co-exist? I’m becoming more and more of a pacifist, deploring war of any kind and for any reason. I’ve followed the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt via Facebook. But yesterday comments turned ugly, anti-semitic diatribes quoting wikipedia articles about which tribe actually owns their sacred land. Luckily, this morning by way of an Atlantic article, I found a different Facebook page, “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself.”
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teach-me-how-to-drive-so-I-can-protect-myself/132205866854879?ref=ts&fref=ts

A 32 year old IT consultant, Manal al-Sharif, started this page after deciding she should be able to drive a car around her home country of Saudi Arabia. She posted a video of herself ranting away while driving about the utter ridiculousness of this ban on women drivers. She was arrested, then released. Her Facebook page had 12,000 fans, and now it has 8,019 – hmmm, I wonder who’s been censoring her readership? Although well educated women in Saudi Arabia are not finding any jobs, simply because of their gender, female lawyers have recently been allowed to practice in the kingdom. Change is coming, just not fast enough for some.
http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/20/saudi-princess-opens-up-about-womens-right-in-saudi-arabia/

Here is a video about the freedom project in the Arab world. It is poignant, it is timely and it asks us to think about what choices we might have if we were born in Japan, or Mexico. The arbitrary nature of life on earth; we sometimes forget how our opinions have been formed over years of culture and family like a smooth stone. When old men send the young to war, over boundaries, over religion, over oil, what if we were all to stand strong and say, “No.” This is the existential crisis of our time. We women need to drive that conversation.

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What are the qualities of leadership? Are true leaders born, or are they made? I was listening intently to Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham at Monticello this past weekend. He was launching his latest 500 page book, “Thomas Jefferson the Art of Power.” The third President, I learned, was a master at seduction. He had dinner parties at his home here in Charlottesville, and at the nation’s new White House; however he would invite only members of the same party. He didn’t like argument in his private life, but in this way he made friends of his political enemies – maybe the first colonial frenemies? Jefferson was the master of mutual concessions; he managed to win over Federalists by the pure force of his personality. He knew how to build compromise and encourage coalitions. In fact, Meacham likened him to Bill Clinton. One of very few presidents who could not only maneuver politically, but could govern while also thinking philosophically.

“…but every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principles. We are all Republicans. We are all Federalists.”

Who does that remind you of? We are not blue states and red states? Always paranoid about the British returning, which of course they did, Jefferson practiced the politics of optimism. And optimism, I believe, is something you are born with. He knew that politics is inherently contentious, yet he dared to depart from the dogma of his party. Is there one Republican member of the house today who might dare vote to increase taxes?

The Greek tragedy of General David Petraeus’ resignation was unfolding while we listened to Meacham, and to his credit, he never mentioned it. But I couldn’t help think of the juxtaposition; how Jefferson’s legacy has been tainted by his relationship with the enslaved Sally Hemings. Petraeus’ reputation, some might say, was a great veil that the Pentagon wanted to protect because we Americans like to think he helped to “win” the war in Iraq. However, after reading this Atlantic article, titled “General Failure” by Thomas E Hicks,
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/11/general-failure/309148/ …we learn how widespread the failure in our military leadership truly is, and why those two wars (one that was sold to us by lying about nuclear weapons) were doomed from the start. Hicks barely mentions Petraeus, only to say he came in near the end and helped to arm the Iraqi army, thereby inciting more civil war. The General who threw it all away over a woman 20 years his junior, it turns out, was flawed like the rest of us.

Meacham said of Jefferson, “If flawed people can do the good work he did, then maybe we can too.”

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