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Archive for March, 2014

Since it’s a well known fact that humor helps one heal, I’ve been actively seeking the punch lines in my not-so-funny mountainside life. Even if it makes Bob cough up a lung, I’m sure it will be that pesky right-lower-lobe one. So follow along online http://www.funnyordie.com

We watched the latest Hangover movie and agreed with the President on the web series “Between Two Ferns,” some movies are better left standing and not reincarnated with sequels. As much as President Obama was making his pitch for millennials to sign up for Affordable Health Care, I was happy to see that much of what went on with Zach Galifianakis was really good improv – “If I ran a third time, it’d be sort of like doing a third Hangover movie. Didn’t really work out very well, did it?” http://www.vulture.com/2014/03/president-obama-between-two-ferns-making-of.html

But does humor and/or laughter really boost our immunity and help us fight off germs? If we’re talking evidence-based science here, the doctor is out! According to an article in Psychology Today, “Can Humor and Laughter Boost Your Health?” we haven’t thoroughly studied the effects of humor on the body, the research just isn’t there. In fact, humor writers and comedians seem to die younger than other career choices; still pretty anecdotal when we think about all those late nights and before/banning/cigarettes/from smoky bars.

The challenge is to conduct well designed studies which take into account possible confounding variables. One of the main things that needs to be accounted for is the separation of humor and laughter. If humor does have some analgesic effect, the question is, is it due to the cognitive enjoyment of the joke or is it because we laugh? Laughter releases endorphins in our brain and could hold the key for any health benefits. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/humor-sapiens/201202/can-humor-and-laughter-boost-your-health

This morning on CBS Sunday Morning I saw a Harvard scientist light up the brains of people watching Seinfeld in an MRI machine. Now first of all, I wouldn’t call Jerry laugh out loud funny, but maybe that was his point. Like the New Yorker cartoon you don’t get and then, wham! You get it. His finding was that it’s not just the funny part of the brain (in the amygdala) that is stimulated, it’s that pre-frontal cortex where all our critical thinking takes place. So a joke not only has to be wacky, but wise to a certain degree. To hit that sweet spot between silly and serious.

In a world where mud can start sliding in Washington, and the earth can start shaking in Southern California, and when Vladimir Putin just walks into a country because he can, not to mention a post-flu pneumonia that nearly lands your hubby in the hospital, our species needs a little light entertainment. There has to be a Yiddish saying about this. You know, “Man plans, God laughs.” So thanks for that picture on Vogue Kimye, cause the satirical reiterations are hysterical. We’re a ride or die family over here, just sayin.

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Functioning mostly this week as a caretaker/nurse has a few disadvantages. For one, we’re missing out on a TEDx day in Richmond today, sorry Anita. For another, I’m eating more ice cream because doesn’t that soothe a sore throat? I’m making more soup which maybe makes up for all the ice cream. And instead of pulling out the yarn to work on one of my favorite knitting projects, I’ve been watching mindless TV with my sick couch mate; old shows like Castle and Bones. And in between all the coughing and detective drama, I caught sight of the latest Supreme Court case.

First of all, I’m troubled that the Supremes even took up the Hobby Lobby case. But OK, let’s not argue over spilled milk. Are they trying to steer our country back to the 1950s, when women knew their place? And that place was barefoot and pregnant! Let’s look at the big picture, which is what anyone who’s ever dealt with policy-making decisions before would naturally do – it’s like chess. What could be the permutations and consequences of saying that any employer, not just a Christian employer, could discriminate in its contract with employees.

So the owners of an Advance Auto Parts store will supply health benefits thru the Affordable Care Act because they have to, but they are practicing Christian Scientists so they won’t pay for immunizations. After all, they believe that prayer can heal anything.

The owners of a Michael’s are devout orthodox Jews, so they won’t pay for certain organ transplants coming from cadavers. They will only pay for a living transplant, like a kidney.

We have to decide as citizens of this fair country if every religious belief that resides within our borders gets to trump our first attempt at universal health insurance reform.  So now the insurance company we choose cannot deny life-saving treatment for our child who had been previously diagnosed with cancer, but wait. Our boss can? Because that’s the very definition of a slippery slope. And it started when the Supremes thought Citizens United was a good thing. And according to this article in Salon, it really is a religious right-wing conspiracy! http://www.salon.com/2014/03/27/hobby_lobbys_secret_agenda_how_its_secretly_funding_a_vast_right_wing_movement/

The owners of Hobby Lobby are one of the biggest contributors to the National Christian Charitable foundation which is funding challenges in Arizona against marriage equality among other things: “…its legislative agenda ranges from requiring intrusive ultrasounds for women seeking abortions to HB 2281, a bill that, if passed by the Arizona Senate, would exempt religious institutions from paying property taxes on leased or rented property.)…The document shows that Hobby Lobby‑related contributions were the single largest source of tax-deductible donations to National Christian Charitable’s approximately $383.785 million in 2009 grant revenue.”

Outside of the Supreme Court case, little has been reported about Hobby Lobby’s political ties. The company is owned privately by the Green family and generates more than $3 billion per year in revenue from its 602 stores. The family proudly promotes its philanthropy to churches, ministries and Christian community centers, dedicating half of the company’s pretax earnings to Christian ministries. In 2007, Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO, billionaire David Green, pledged $70 million to Oral Roberts University, bailing out the debt-ridden evangelical university. In 2012, Forbes reported, “Hobby Lobby’s cash spigot currently makes [Green] the largest individual donor to evangelical causes in America.”

Last year they didn’t carry any Hanukka decorations because hey, it’s a Christian store. It’s OK with me since moving to the South I’ve made my peace with the elusive box of matzah, and Hanukka gelt sold at Easter. But fundamental to our very democracy is not favoring one religion over another, remember King George and all those Puritans who wanted to escape the Anglican Church. Remember good ole Tom Jefferson who built his library in the middle of our university, and specifically NOT a chapel.

Contrary to Hobby Lobby’s argument, it’s not all about Plan B and who gets to decide when life starts, and feminism either. Well maybe it’s a little bit of women’s rights since they are targeting women of a certain reproductive age…I just hope the justices take the long view. Religious freedom is a misnomer, we need to be free of religious policy makers.

When I went to Walgreens to pick up a nebulizer for my sick honey, I saw this display front and center at the pharmacy. And I remembered when I was in college and felt so cheated when I learned you had to be married to even request an Rx from a doctor for the pill. And I remembered friends flying to Puerto Rico for abortions. We’ve come a long way baby, Plan B is OTC, but the fight wages on. Maybe I should pick up my knitting needles again.

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I’ve been thinking about immunity lately. Why is it that some of us never seem to “catch” a cold? While the rest of us succumb to the slightest bug going around. Why did I develop an anti-immune disease (Guttate Psoriasis) at 60 that normally shows up at 30? Maybe it’s just that since we returned from Mexico, illness has descended on my house like a plague. Today, Bob was diagnosed with pneumonia, about a week after I started feeling “normal” again. Ah, the wonders of antibiotics.

It’s well known in my family that the Flapper gave Bob the original hospital bill of my birth when we married. She stayed in the hospital for 11 days in 1948; remember I was baby number six, and the only one born in a hospital, so the doctor thought she needed a rest. My parents were charged a dollar a day for the nursery, $11 for my care and feeding. And at the bottom of the hospital bill was a section for penicillin charges. Antibiotics were so new, they had an important, separate spot on the bill!

WWII brought us not only the bomb, but the quick development of antibiotics. Eisenhower wanted enough penicillin to treat his soldiers after the Normandy invasion and so the original strain, discovered in England in 1929, had to be made and marketed on a mass scale in the United States after we entered the war.

On March 14,1942, the first patient was successfully treated for strephtococcal septicemia with U.S.-made penicillin. Half of the total supply produced at the time was used on that one patient. By June 1942 there was just enough available to treat ten patients.

Just 10 patients in 1942! According to legend history a good strain was found on a moldy cantaloupe in Illinois and our Army doctors (along with Merck) managed to synthesize 300 billion units by D-Day 1944. Pretty amazing in just two years. Which is why our parents were so hypochondriacal. The Greatest Generation grew up without antibiotics, afraid of every cold and scratch their children suffered because in an instant, the grim reaper might appear at anyone’s door. My foster father Jim often talked about his sister who died when her older brothers were swinging her, holding her arms and legs, upstairs in the attic. Just fooling around, having fun. A splinter in her back became infected and that was that.

Which leads me to another kind of immunity, something called “psychological immunity.” In this Atlantic article http://m.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/how-to-land-your-kid-in-therapy/308555/ the author tries to explain why our 20-30 year old adult children are so unhappy, even though their parents did everything they could for them…and there’s the answer. We parents are doing too much, and not allowing our children to learn some pretty simple lessons – like picking yourself up, brushing yourself off and deciding that that wasn’t so bad and I can take care of myself alright. “Well intentioned parents have been metabolizing their child’s anxiety” for so long that once they are unleashed on the world, they don’t know how to handle its ups and downs.

It’s like the way our body’s immune system develops,” he explained. “You have to be exposed to pathogens, or your body won’t know how to respond to an attack. Kids also need exposure to discomfort, failure, and struggle. I know parents who call up the school to complain if their kid doesn’t get to be in the school play or make the cut for the baseball team. I know of one kid who said that he didn’t like another kid in the carpool, so instead of having their child learn to tolerate the other kid, they offered to drive him to school themselves. By the time they’re teenagers, they have no experience with hardship. Civilization is about adapting to less-than-perfect situations, yet parents often have this instantaneous reaction to unpleasantness, which is ‘I can fix this.’

It’s hard not to try and fix everything. It looks like it will take more than chicken soup this time to get Bob back on his feet. Thank you General Eisenhower! And thanks to the universe for our last, hopefully, snowstorm.

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Imagine yourself fresh out of high school. Someone tells you that you can make 79 cents an hour, but he can’t tell you where, or what exactly you’ll be doing. It’s the middle of WWII, and your family had just survived the Great Depression; 79 cents an hour is really good money. Would you say goodbye to your family and friends, pack a suitcase and get on a train the next day?

Well, it’s the middle of the great Virginia Book Festival http://www.vabook.org/index.html/ and this glorious, spring-like afternoon I found myself at the New Dominion Bookstore on the historic Downtown Mall listening to Denise Kiernan talk about her book The Girls of Atomic City. I learned something new today. The race to build an atomic bomb wasn’t just happening in New Mexico. Over 80,000 people were assembled in Oak Ridge, TN – a town that was built for the sole purpose of enriching uranium. Only no girl knew exactly what they were doing there. All of their jobs were so well compartmentalized; plus they had been advised not to talk or write home about their work, or they would be fired. http://www.girlsofatomiccity.com/the_book.html

I wanted to ask her, after she explained how she had interviewed some of the surviving women now living in an assisted living community at Oak Ridge, if they felt any remorse when they found out what they had been working on, in their later years. But I didn’t because the bookstore was packed and I was squeezed under the stairs on a stool. I’m just going to have to read this book myself, and draw my own conclusions. Or maybe I’ll email the author and ask her!

I love the Book Festival, it’s quintessential Charlottesvillian. There was a beautiful carousel that was whirring in the middle of it all, and gown and town were mixing it up with alacrity. I bought the Love Bug a few books naturally, and visited with Anita and Skip who come over every year from Richmond. I told them how we had just seen the movie Monuments Men. I learned a few things during that movie as well. And who doesn’t love George Clooney? Plus his dad does a cameo at the end.

This was a week to go back in time, to the 1940s. Of all the programs so far this weekend, I can honestly say Ms Kiernan was the best. But I doubt I’ll be attending any other festival events because poor Bob has finally come down with that flu-like illness I mentioned earlier. Not to worry. I just made him some delicious Jewish chicken soup, he should be feeling better in no time.

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I’m not talking about college hoops. Although I must say I felt rather conflicted when VA beat Duke for the ACC title 72 – 63 on Sunday. And it was the first time since 1976 that UVA brought that trophy home. When your husband and daughter went to Duke undergrad, and you find yourself living in Charlottesville because that’s where she went to medical school, along with the Groom who is a “lifer” (both VA undergrad and med), you can understand why my alliances were in conflict.

The madness I’m referring to is the third death that’s been reported of a critically injured person from the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX. When we heard that two people died on the scene, my ears tingled. Remember the Rocker is there playing in Nicole Atkins’ band. I didn’t panic, I didn’t call him immediately. In fact, my first reaction was rage. How could the police have chased this drunk driver right into a crowded street, right into a line of people waiting to get into a club? Yes, the drunken/killer made the decision to drink and get into a car, he was responsible for dozens of injured people and now three deaths.

But that cop who was in pursuit presumably wasn’t impaired.He must have had some training about how to apprehend a guy fleeing a sobriety checkpoint that wouldn’t involve chasing his car into a crowd and killing innocent people.  http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-17/news/chi-sxsw-austin-car-hits-crowd-20140317_1_southern-mississippi-sxsw-austin

So I casually texted the Rocker, “How’s SXSW going?” This wasn’t his first time at the Austin festival. The Parlor Mob blew through town a few times in the past…”It’s fun for us!” You can see they were head bangin, long hair, hard rock playing back then!

Here’s a clip from a month ago with Nicole. That’s the Rocker over there on the left. His hair is considerably shorter…My son texted back, “Just played the last show, we leave for Dallas tomorrow morning.”

Being on tour, on the road day and night isn’t easy. Don’t cry me a river, but I’m serious. They drive all day, do a sound check, maybe get something to eat and by now the bar food isn’t bad, then they play till the wee hours, get some sleep and get up early to hit the road again. I know he’ll be staying with his sister in Nashville this weekend. At least they didn’t get this last snowstorm. I just hope he has a little time to play with our Love Bug. She’s just starting to sing, and her dance moves are adorable! http://mercylounge.com/calendar/venue/highwatt/2014/03/22/nicole-atkins/

So stay warm and safe out there on the road son. Tell me if you met Lena Dunham, or you listened to Edward Snowden’s Skype chat. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/03/10/288601356/live-edward-snowden-speaks-to-sxsw And GO DUKE!

The morning aviary view

The morning aviary view

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It’s enough already! Every day I wake up and wonder if they found that missing Malaysian plane. How can a triple 7 just disappear in this day and age? We have satellites circling the globe, Google maps looking into our windows, radar and cell phones and the latest idea is that this was a “deliberate” act; or maybe it’s somewhere in the Indian Ocean?

So I’m redirecting my thoughts this morning. No CNN, no more Meet the Press. My brain needs a rest from speculation and erudition. I tuned in to CBS Sunday Morning like the Flapper always did, for a taste of feel good news. Happy Iranian hikers are reunited with their families! And then, there was Catherine Deneuve.

Deneuve always reminded me of my sister, Kay. A beautiful woman who was in some ways, burdened by her beauty. The interviewer asked her what it is about French women? She said you mean how they can do or eat anything they want? And he said no, it was more about the flirtatiousness, which was not necessarily the right word IMHO. She smiled coyly and said “No, I hadn’t thought of that.”

French women embody style and mystery. I remember being told when I was younger that even the shop girls will save their money to buy one beautiful thing every year. Something classic, that transcends time and trends. Think of Audrey Hepburn when she returns from Paris in the 1954 movie, Sabrina – not ready to live above the garage anymore with her chauffeur father.

But this week Deneuve, at the ripe old age of 70, is debuting a new movie, “On My Way.” It’s about a woman of a certain age who disappears. Yes, she dumps her family and its restaurant woes after her lover dumps her, and she goes on a road trip. Her character takes up with a younger man; it would seem I like the idea of a woman disappearing! I love her answer to the question of how she ages so gracefully:

You have to try not to fight so hard against time, you know. It’s not that I enjoy it. It is just not that much of a problem. Maybe because I have children and grandchildren, it’s a different rhythm. It’s a different way of looking at things other than yourself. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/12/us-catherinedeneuve-idUSBREA2B0RU20140312

So here’s to that joie de vie, that je n’est sais quoi! To French women everywhere, we salute you. We American Boomers have decided not to age so gracefully. In fact, we like to be disgraceful as much as possible so as not to be invisible. We’d rather not disappear after all. And if you haven’t peeked at Ari Seth Cohen’s blog about NYC women in their 60s, 70s and 80s, here’s your chance. To The Barricades Ladies!

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this is what 65 looks like - sans makeup!

this is what 65 looks like – sans makeup!

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As some of you may know, I signed up to follow the Parnassus Bookstore blog, Musing, almost as soon as it launched. I follow its editor, Mary Laura Philpott, on Twitter too. It’s a fun way to keep up with literary happenings in my daughter’s adopted city, Nashville. And a recent post on Musing made me wonder if I had ever been afraid to read something, anything. I won’t go to horror movies, but that’s different. I’m aware that I’ll read crime and mystery novels only on vacation – like the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series – but me, afraid to read something? Never!

In “Reading (and Writing) Through Fear” Philpott reviewed a book that she admits she normally wouldn’t read. The Bear, by Claire Cameron, is written from the point-of-view of a five year old; a terrified child who has just witnessed a bear kill her parents. Certainly horrific territory, and granted it is maybe a book I would pick up in a bookstore, read the jacket, and put down. Not necessarily because I’d be frightened by the content, but when you have lost a family as a child, as I did in my first year of life, it’s not something I would want to read about. In the same way that Bob doesn’t like to see war pictures, since his work is sometimes like a war zone. He gets enough adrenalin in the ER.

But then, Philpott interviewed the author. Cameron said that before she had children she wasn’t afraid of anything, but then…

…my sons were born. The first time a babysitter came over to look after my six-month old, I stood outside the front door and could barely make myself walk away. It was, I realized, a new kind of fear. It’s one that comes alongside loving someone else completely, be it a child, partner, lover or friend. The world is big. It can be scary. And I couldn’t protect the people I love at every given moment.

While I was working on the first draft of The Bear, I thought I was writing about that — the fear of not being able to protect my children from everything. After I finished, I talked to a friend about the story. Knowing me well, she said that I was actually writing about my fear of not being a parent. What if something happened to me and I wasn’t there for them? The minute she said it, I knew she was right.http://parnassusmusing.net/2014/03/06/reading-what-you-fear/#more-660

So I bought the book. Because it’s always interesting to see how an author finds the authentic magical thinking voice of a child. And because I knew I was deep-down afraid to read it. And the only way to keep growing, is to challenge that fear.

And today I’m going to read The New Yorker article, “The Reckoning” by Andrew Solomon, about his interview with the father of Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook killer. This really scares me, but I hope that some insight for some struggling parent out there will come through his words. When I heard Solomon say on a news show that Adam’s mother Nancy was more interested in Adam having a “good day” instead of a “good life” it sealed the deal. Sometimes a parent can live in so much denial, they begin to believe in the insular, sclerotic world their child has created. A world in which the bear is the child himself.  Unknown-1

 

 

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