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Archive for July, 2013

We’re back in the Blue Ridge, and the weather is perfect. Nights are in the 50s and it may hit 80 if we’re lucky during the day. I’ve been busy watering my withered plants and sending out a fed ex to my mid-summer dreamy birthday boy.

The Rocker is one year older and so much sweeter. photo 2He’s been working on the music score for a horror film. It’s not exactly my genre, I’m easily scared by zombies so why seek them out in the theatre? Of course, I think he will write the next big song. But did you know that “Blurred Lines” is this summer’s favorite melody…really? I must be getting older.

Robin Thicke’s risque music video was banned from YouTube because it had bare-breasted dancers prancing around him. I listened to his high falsetto voice, the semi-rap of his Euro-club sounding song, and it barely registered and certainly didn’t resonate with me. Using women as sex objects in his video, are we supposed to be surprised?

It’s a summer for Bad Political Men. Men behaving badly; it makes for humorous late-night fodder, if I could stay up that late. I just wonder why we like to malign say a mayor for groping a woman, or a would-be mayor for sexting, but we buy and celebrate Thicke’s music? “You’ve got to have it” I guess.

Enough of these political/sexual peccadilloes! I had to laugh when I found this gender bending sexy boys video, a “Blurred Lines” parody – you may have to move on to the wordpress site to watch. But fair warning, naked men ahead!

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At some point, we will all become teachers. Some of us have the gift, others will struggle. Patience is a prerequisite.

Great Grandma Ada is not afraid of technology, she embraced the iPad with her usual flair. The Rocker put a picture of the Love Bug on her home page and we downloaded the NYTimes. I taught her how to use the Notes App, and Bob explained the fine points of email. Then the Bride put her Great Grandbaby right into her hands…virtually.

Is FaceTime great or what?

While we were in NJ, teaching Ada the finer points of iPad, our little Bug was in Nashville learning how to clap her hands. Her Dad was playing his music as usual, and out of the blue her arms opened wide. She’d already started dancing, bouncing and swaying to the beat, but this was new, real clapping!

And I thought of all the possibilities all the joy all the sheer number of “things” this beautiful baby girl has ahead of her to learn. She is a perpetual student of life, much like her Great Grandmother. And experiencing this through my daughter’s eyes is magical.

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This is a morality tale. It’s about trust and medicine and more.

This morning I was trying to figure out what’s happening with Morning Joe? Mika looks mad all the time, and Joe is always elsewhere, thankfully in a split screen from time to time with his audio turned off. When I heard this health writer talk about the rule of 7. He heard a drug rep say that it usually takes 7 visits, face to face, with a doctor in his/her office, before said doctor will trust them…in other words they need to be able to talk about their kids’ soccer games so that the rep can pitch his reasons for prescribing their high priced drug over another. At least that was what I inferred from his use of the word “trust.”

This was an aside, they were talking about the low polling numbers for Obamacare at the moment, but of course Joe had to complain about doctors in general on their iPhones while dealing with patients. About not listening to their patients, about young doctors not looking them in the eyes. Fear and loathing in medicine, that’s the GOP war cry. But let’s extrapolate. If you need to see someone 7 times before they can trust you, maybe a patient also needs to see their doctor 7 times before the patient can trust the doctor?

I didn’t want to write about this, but my MIL Ada thinks I should. She is a lively, active octogenarian. She is still working as a marriage counselor, and traveling the world, but she’s been feeling tired lately, getting leg cramps, and hates to complain. Let it be said, when Ada visits us it’s a whirlwind of activity and her home is usually teeming with friends “dropping by.” So her base level for “tired” may mean she only had one big event this weekend so she decided to clean the refrigerator and invite people over for a pool party. But a recent doctor visit had her worried, her liver enzymes looked high.

So Ada gathered all her drugs in a basket, and went to her pharmacist for a look-see. It turns out, she was double-dosing on a cholesterol medicine. Her internist had taken her off the name brand Lipitor, and prescribed a generic, only Lipitor kept getting refilled right alongside the same exact drug in its generic name!

This, her trusty second opinion doctor/son Bob told her, accounts for the liver problem and her tiredness. And, Bob told her, he sees this ALL THE TIME in the ER. Elderly patients on a cornucopia of drugs complaining of symptoms that to a trained acute care specialist look like drug interactions…and so in ERs all across the country, doctors and nurses are sifting through a patient’s drug record right alongside caring for trauma and stroke and heart attack patients.

I’ve learned that doctors rarely “write” prescriptions anymore – they are emailed to a pharmacy. So where did this system fail my Mother-in-Law? Was Lipitor taken off the doctor’s list of drugs, or did the pharmacist, or pharmacy tech who read the new email Rx just add the generic without thinking? How many other patients are suffering?

Technology is supposed to add fail-safe measures to health care, but how do you build “trust” with a machine? Maybe, just maybe talking and listening to a patient is more important. Here is Great Grandmother Ada, with her “little” doctor.

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The newest Royal was born while we were shopping for an iPad for Great Grandma Ada’s almost 90th birthday. She is very tech savvy for her age, still her computer stays put upstairs and she doesn’t have one of those new fangled smart phones. Ada actually prefers talking on her phone, imagine that!

Still it was the Love Bug’s birth that got us thinking, what if Ada could Facetime with the great grandbaby with a simple tap on a screen? A screen she could hold in her hand and put in her purse? The miles would disappear and that 4th tooth would suddenly come into focus. So the hunt was on, when we heard “It’s a BOY!”

And here is my guess – I think they will name the new Prince James! Why? Simply because that was my foster father’s name, and it is the Rocker’s middle name and I happen to love it! And here is my advice for raising a boy:

  • always cover the diaper area when diapering
  • don’t be afraid to hug him in public
  • give free reign to his natural abilities
  • select a time out spot without wi-fi

We all know he’ll be raised in a different way, without the mean-spirited governess, and as normal as could possibly be… for the third in line to the Throne. Maybe he will like older women, like our little Princess Bug? And just think how much easier it would have been, if the Queen had an iPad, instead of an encrypted old fashioned phone, to receive the news of the Royal Birth.

Happy Birthday Your Royal Highness, your future is so bright you’ll have to wear shades, like the Rocker, seen here with Princess Cait.

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A quick post about a documentary “Never Stand Still” that will be on PBS next Friday the 26th at 9 on PBS.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/dancing-at-jacob’s-pillow-never-stand-still/about-the-show/1756/

When we lived in the Berkshires, summertime meant we’d drive over to Jacob’s Pillow every week for an evening of astonishingly beautiful dance.

You may remember, I used to dance. First at the Martha Graham studio, and later I minored in dance at SUNY Purchase when Bill Bales was the Dean. When the Bride was little, I would dance in the Nutcracker when she was a little reindeer.

So it’s more than thrilling to let you know that a dear friend, Nan Honsa from Rumson, Imagehas produced this dance documentary with her husband. http://mpny.tv

I hope you tune in, and imagine the wall at the back stage opening up and the wind and the sounds of birds and insects coming through with the twilight. Imagine the music as the dancers float onto the stage.

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In this heat, you’ve got to start your day pretty darn early. It takes me about an hour to water the gardens. We also have newly planted figs and an evergreen that needs daily care. If I’m not done by 9 am, the #heatwave knocks me out. Just checked my phone, yep it’s 83 and it “feels like 90” at 10 am. The windows are perpetually covered with condensation, and my glasses fog up as soon as I open the door.

But this day started at 5 am, when I woke up and finished reading my book, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. It left me thinking, instead of sleeping for another hour. She is one of my favorite writers, and this story is a not too subtle attack on climate deniers. However, it’s woven deftly into the everyday dynamics of a young farming family in TN, and the mother Dellarobia, is our protagonist. It touches on poverty, on women and independence and on class bias, all while trying to figure out why a million beautiful monarch butterflies have decided to roost on Dellarobia’s mountain.

So of course I had to do some research, and they did only just discover this roosting behavior almost forty years ago in 1975 which is pretty new in the world of scientific discovery. nat-geographic-cover-e1295402536266Roosting is a wintering over, a sort of dormant time for the butterflies when large clusters hang from trees and hibernate in plain site. Normally they will migrate and roost in the mountains of Mexico, but in this fictionalized version they’ve arrived in Appalachia like a miracle from God to the poor people living there. http://texasbutterflyranch.com/2012/07/10/founder-of-the-monarch-butterfly-roosting-sites-in-mexico-lives-a-quiet-life-in-austin-texas/

The monarch is our state insect and sometimes they will land on my shirt! Unfortunately while watering this morning I came inside with your normal everyday tick attached to my leg. I’ve learned not to panic when I see these critters sucking their way into our dogs, our children or my leg. We’ve probably dislodged hundreds over the years with our bare fingers – I find that much easier than trying to use a tweezer. But now I do keep the tick around for Bob to look at when he gets home, just in case. In order to transmit Lyme Disease, the tick must stay attached for 24 to 36 hours in order to transfer the LD spirochete, http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml so a good rule of thumb is to always do a tick check when you come inside.

Here is a picture of my butterfly tree, as seen through the sleeping porch. It is currently buzzing with honey bees!    photo

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I admit it. I love Bonnie Raitt, she of the slide guitar and flaming red hair. Last summer we saw her at the Pavillion on the Historic Downtown Mall. Her voice is just as good, if not better and her lyrics always hit the right heart string. I’ll share with you the song that’s been stuck in my head all morning.

http://www.artistdirect.com/video/bonnie-raitt-have-a-heart/46413

And the reason I’ve been humming “Have a heart please, why don’t you have a heart…” is because I caught a snippet of the interview my guy Anderson Cooper is broadcasting tonight on CNN with the first juror to talk about George Zimmerman. I’ve been telling Bob all weekend that the judge didn’t answer the jury’s question about manslaughter, that’s why they voted to acquit. Judge Debra Nelson  asked them for specific questions, but the jury never followed up on the manslaughter questions with specifics. This juror, who prefers to remain in the shadows, said that they found the evidence and the legal charges “confusing.” Now this Judge is questioning whether the charges should have been filed at all.

And we find out that the first vote in the jury room had 3 jurors in the manslaughter slot. A verdict of manslaughter, which I think was probably the right call if all the facts had been presented (like Zimmerman’s pattern of calling the police about “suspicious” looking black men more than 40 times in the past year). The murder charge was overreaching maybe, since that presumes Zimmerman intended to kill – he set off that evening with a loaded gun hunting young black men. A manslaughter conviction would have meant that he didn’t intend to kill Trayvon…this actually seems to have been the more likely scenario. I think he wanted to stop him, but I realize I don’t really know.

Let’s think about this, in Florida if someone looks “suspicious” you can hunt them down and kill them if THEY stand their ground and try to fight back! Is suspicious a gay kid, is it a Latino or a mentally disabled homeless person? What about a woman in a short skirt, hanging out on a street corner? I’ve had 2 separate instances recently when I thought someone looked “suspicious” – they were white guys in a pickup truck, both times they had parked under a tree in the shade, in the middle of the day where they could watch kids at a 1)park and 2)sports club but were looking at maps or a newspaper when they saw me approach my car. In both instances I was close enough for them to say something to me like, “Hey.” I thought about calling the police BUT they were not committing a crime. I did jot down a license plate number! Check out this video from Howard University: http://boingboing.net/2013/07/15/howard-university-students-v.html#.UeRx1MJ-hgI.facebook Do they look suspicious?

Back to The Anonymous Juror, and what got me humming. She said she didn’t think that killing was what was in Zimmerman’s heart; That his heart was “…in the right place.”

” JUROR: I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhoods, and wanting to catch these people so badly, that he went above and beyond what he really should have done. But I think his heart was in the right place. It just went terribly wrong.” http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/15/3502047_p3/zimmerman-juror-speaks-out-transcript.html#storylink=cpy

In other words, she gave this murderer a pass because she didn’t think he intended to kill Trayvon – which is like saying he’s guilty of manslaughter since he actually DID kill him! In my mind, once Zimmerman disobeyed the police and got out of his car, he set into motion the tragedy that unfolded. Is there a sliver lining? Will gun laws and stand your ground laws be reformed? After Newtown, I’m not hopeful. Let the jurors begin the talk show rounds, it will only get curiouser and curiouser. Because they presume Zimmerman has a heart, and just from watching his affect in court, and listening to his 911 call, I wonder.

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I’m sorry to say, that while perusing Twitter I lacked the energy and inclination to watch SyFy’s new show Sharknado. It was all over my Twitter feed, but instead I linked to @KosherSoul’s Washington Post article in the first person singular. The man’s name is Michael Twitty, and I somehow found him when he wrote an article about Paula Deen. He is a Southern culinary historian and food blogger http://afroculinaria.com with a remarkably astute point of view!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/first-person-michael-w-twitty-36-culinary-historian-and-food-blogger-from-rockville/2013/07/10/a9ac8d08-d91f-11e2-9df4-895344c13c30_story.html

“No one had to tell me about “organic” or “sustainable,” because that was the tradition that was passed down to me. My authenticity is not based on food trends; my authenticity is based on what August Wilson once called the self-sustaining ground of the slave quarter.”

His intention is to bring an awareness to our white Euro-centric society of our gastronomic roots in Africa. Most food cooked on plantations in the Antebellum South was not done by French chefs – even though Mr Jefferson did have a French chef give his slave/cook Edith Fossett  instructions: “1862 He (Jefferson) had a French cook in Washington named Julien, and he took Eda and Fanny there to learn French cookery. He always preferred French cookery. Eda and Fanny were afterwards his cooks at Monticello.” So you can see how French cooking did influence Virginia and Louisiana chefs in the future.

But mostly today’s Southern cuisine is the result of black enslaved women, who created wholesome, real food;  locally grown and harvested. They raised the cows, chickens and pigs that were slaughtered without drugs. They grew the vegetables and fruit without pesticides.

So I began to think of my own culinary history, born in PA coal country and nurtured in rural NJ. How is it that I managed to raise 2 children who became healthy, real food-types despite my own upbringing? My foster mother Nell cooked by can, usually Campbells. She was of that new-fangled, post-war generation that was sold a bill of goods. Look, we created a frozen TV dinner for you to just “heat and serve” to your family! Marketing was focused on making the happy 50s housewife’s life simple and easy. Where do you think that canned green bean special swimming in soup came from on Thanksgiving?

But Nell was first generation Yugoslavian, and she talked about her father keeping barrels of sauerkraut in their basement. Sometimes she would fry pork chops, but for special occasions, she would make “halupkes.” These are the most delicious little pillows of ground pork and rice, rolled in a cabbage leaf and simmered in sauerkraut. I adored this Slavic stuffed cabbage, with a passion. Even today, comfort food usually involves pork. But lucky for me, the Flapper loved to cook.

The Flapper was married first to an Italian man, then widowed and married to my Father, an Irishman. She married my step-father, who was Jewish, after I moved back into her house. Consequently, she was a proper global chef de cuisine. My pre-teen and teen years were filled with lovely aromas and real food. She baked banana cream pies, deviled eggs and put together a proper meatball and tomato sauce. She could roast, fry and broil just about anything using her Fanny Farmer cookbook. In fact, I think she only opened a can to get at some stewed tomatoes for her famous Depression-era mac and cheese, with bacon!

Nell taught me to cook with love on special occasions, and my MIL Ada taught me how to make a proper seder dinner. But the Flapper taught me to cook with alacrity, with whatever is in season, using the freshest possible ingredients. And this led to the Bride winning her Kindergarten Mother’s Day essay by “writing” about my mac and cheese and how I cook “from scratch,” even when I make PB & J sandwiches! Here are my herb planters on the deck.

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The best thing I learned from the Flapper was always adding some TLC to any dish. What is your culinary history?

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Summer festivals are in full swing, so let me “walk the Blue Ridge” and tell you about a roots music festival starting tomorrow in Natural Chimneys Park right here in the Shenandoah Valley.

The Red Wing Roots Music Festival decided to call this more of an Americana music event, and make its premiere debut family friendly to boot. Music styles encompass Blues, Cajun, Old Time, Bluegrass, Early Country, Gypsy Jazz and all variations on a theme. Unfortunately, the Rocker will be busy hosting his sister this weekend for a friend’s Bridesmaids Party Spectacular Jersey Shore Style. I’m figuring he would have been here in a heartbeat otherwise! http://www.redwingroots.com

And speaking of Melissa McCarthy, who seems to be everywhere at the moment, there is one movie I highly recommend this summer amidst blockbuster action thrillers. Go and see The Heat! It’s a really funny, good old fashioned buddy/cop movie except both cops just happen to be women. I always loved Sandy Bullock, but now I’m head over heels gaga over McCarthy:images

“…it also doesn’t deny McCarthy the delightful contrast between her dimples and her dirty mouth, because her combination of sweetie-pie and vulgarian has always been a major element in her comedic style (which wasn’t entirely obvious before Saturday Night Liveand Bridesmaids). It’s a movie that respects her, but doesn’t patronize or try to protect her from the acting-a-fool elements of making broad comedy in order to be adequately feminist about her body.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/06/28/196571148/the-heat-is-absolutely-revolutionary-for-being-mostly-ordinary?sc=tw&cc=share

And finally, if the real heat and humidity lately has got you down, and left you gasping for air inside your nicely air conditioned home, tune into PBS and prepare to be amazed by the latest Ken Burns feature “Lewis & Clark; the Journey of the Corps of Discovery.” If only history had been taught like this when I was a wee one. Did you know that Sacagawea (yes, that is the correct spelling) was only sixteen years old when she tagged along with these men? Did you know that she carried her newborn baby on her back, and that her knowledge and language skills were essential to their success? When you think about it, she had been enslaved and sold by her Native People, then “entered” into a plural marriage with a French fur trader who was conscripted for this expedition into the unknown – there are so many human rights violations here, they are too numerous to count.

Meriwether Lewis was born on a farm right around the corner, in Albemarle County, VA. Monuments in his honor speckle the landscape. He and Mr Jefferson were good friends, and Burns’ narrative kept me glued to the first part of this PBS documentary long past my bedtime.  http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/

It was a staggering feat to walk, ride and keelboat their way through the northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean; a herculean task in 1804 to set off from St Louis’  “…Camp Dubois “under a jentle brease, Clark writes.” And only the small Native American bride has seen the mountains to the west of the Mississippi.

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I have a theory. There are two kinds of people in a marriage – the collector (or clutterer, depending on your inclination) and the minimalist (the one who throws everything away). Go ahead, look around, admit it. Somebody has to be in charge of the memories, and somebody always has to clean them up. It’s inevitable, and after knowing me for just 300+ posts I’m pretty sure you know which side I’m on.

Here is the tiny tidbit of news that sparked my theory. There is a very historic Apple I computer that’s going up for sale at an auction shortly….it was bought for $600+ and it’s estimated it will sell for at least a quarter of a million! I’d say that’s a pretty good return for your money.

“An early Apple computer dating from 1976 has been put up for auction by a retired school psychologist in America. Ted Perry had kept the Apple 1 in his attic in a cardboard box, in his home outside Sacramento, California.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23047462

Our dirty little family secret is that Bob would always take the opportunity to clear out our family room whenever I’d take the kids to NJ for a visit with Grandma Ada. His theory was that they had too many toys and we wouldn’t miss them. Except when I did. The Bride’s Aunt Becky had bequeathed to her a beautiful Barbie doll in her original pink carrying case with lots of clothes and shoes. Now Becky is in her early 50’s, so I’m assuming this was a pretty early Barbie. I’m also hoping Becky doesn’t read my blog.

My feminist side didn’t particularly like the doll; remember this was the early 80s so Barbie wasn’t retro, or vintage yet. But since we had just found out that the baby Bride was allergic to mites, which meant no stuffed dolls or animals, I embraced as best I could the pointy, plastic Barbie.

Then one day she was gone! Disappeared into thin air, and I started to think we had been robbed. That’s when Bob confessed rather than listen to my conspiracy theories for years. And now, when we watch Antiques Road Show, especially when they do the reruns and compare the valuation of a piece from maybe a decade ago, I look over at Bob. And it’s one of those moments where words are never needed, because he knows what I’m thinking without saying a word… B A R B I E

Here are the kiddos in my mid 80s barn wood-sided family room, on the edge of a bird sanctuary in the Berkshire Mountains. The TV is right next to the woodstove. Notice their playthings – my old sandal, a pair of Wayfarer sunglasses, and some rawhide dog bones. Poor babies.

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