Archive for December, 2014

Yesterday was my day to drive home, just in time to kick off 2015 with Bob and a few friends. And what did I return to last night after two weeks away? Just a totally revamped linen closet; it seems he has expanded his organizational skills beyond the pantry. I better not stay away any longer.

On my last day in Nashville, the weather continued its the cold and rainy trend. But inside, we were warm and cozy living La Vie Jolie. We’d been invited to brunch by a friend of the Brides, another physician, who is a French Canadian, who married a Floridian… Yes, after so many days with a toddler you begin to sound like Dr Seuss himself.

So we were two Grandmeres, two Mamans, and two toddlers, and of course one two month old baby boy. Mimi made crepes. I watched with enthusiasm and saw that it’s all in the wrist. There were fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries along with Nutella and whipped cream. They were delicious, n’est ce pas!

Crepes are soul food for the Bride, like the quesadilla is for the Love Bug! But the creme de la creme of this delightful morning was the unexpected topping. We drizzled maple syrup over our crepes; because they are Canadian, and the Bride was born in the Berkshires (pretty close to Vermont), and because we love maple syrup, and maple cream and maple sugar candies and anything mapley really. Bien sur!

That afternoon, our little household napped, et bien, le petit prince fell asleep on my shoulder. Make no mistake about it, though you may not want a toddler to take a car nap, since everyone knows these are not as good as a big/girl/bed nap, a two month old can nap anywhere, at anytime! While they were dreaming, I was watching a mischievous girl change slippers in an old man’s apartment and a gnome travel around the world.

Can you guess the French movie? A neighbor, who paints like Renoir, saves the day.

Aujourd’hui Bob has installed Rosetta Stone on his new computer, which took some work. I can hear him speaking French into his headset. I think the world must be telling me something. May this New Year bring you all great health and happiness. Au revoir mes bebes! I will see you again soon!

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I’m still in Nashville, in a sort of toddler-enforced news blackout. But I did catch something about the NYPD turning their backs on Mayor DeBlasio at one of the slain officer’s funeral yesterday. And that just got to me. Granted I don’t know what the Mayor said to deserve the back-turning, the lack of respect. Still, this has now gone too far imho. And when I read Chris Rock’s reply on Twitter, I understood why.

“Maybe the NYPD can use their newfound love of back-turning the next time they see a dark skinned man walking the street doing nothing wrong.”

Now you know he will be getting flak for saying this, his publicist will be doing cartwheels trying to fix it, and he’ll most likely lose some revenue by boycotting white people…but, he’s so dead on. Because maybe our kids can walk around with a BB gun in suburbia and not worry about being shot. Because our kids might get picked up for walking around at night, with a Snickers bar, but they will be delivered to our homes with a wink and a nod from local cops who know us.

We are at a turning point here, and it doesn’t have to do with #BlackLivesMatter or #BlueLivesMatter. How about #ALL LIVES MATTER? Black, brown, white, grey, blue, chartreuse….ochre even? In no other country are so many people killed in such great numbers by their own police force! And in this secular humanist’s opinion, it’s all the GUNS in our society that is the major contributing factor.

No police officer – black, white or brown – will ever be the same after shooting a youngster he thought was threatening, but was found to be unarmed. He or she will carry that fatal mistake on their soul forever.

When it’s extremely hard to acquire guns, and the police force doesn’t carry guns, guess what? Murdering our children in the street will come to an abrupt end. Beginning to de-militarize our police is a good start, and declawing the NRA – getting their blood money out of the hands of our elected officials has got to be next.

If I knew how to do that I’d win the Nobel Peace Prize. But continuing to turn our backs on mayors, on our children, on jury duty, on voting; and not voting out the NRA sympathizers is using twisted logic. The Bride interned for the Children’s Defense Fund in DC one year. They are instrumental in promoting #Childrens Lives Matter. http://www.childrensdefense.org

We turn our backs on a toddler’s temper tantrum. Not on this type of apartheid in our midst. smallboat

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Are you boxing up the decorations or do you leave them up until Valentine’s Day? Heading out to return a gift? I always thought a gift tells us more about the giver than the receiver.

For instance. I sent my big sister a movie, Love Actually. It’s my favorite Christmas movie. It’s about loss, betrayal, unrequited love and finding love when you least expect it. The famous ensemble cast floats along on the most incredible music. I watch it every year.

If you, like my sister, have never seen Love Actually, this English take on Father Nick is worth a look. And staying on the British side, why not listen to Her Majesty the Queen’s Christmas Message!

It’s about peace and reconciliation. About reaching out to one another, across distances and cultural divides. It will only be on YouTube for a few weeks. And notice how the Queen is wearing a lavender dress. Just like this little ballerina.


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Muscle memory is something dancers take for granted. We hear a certain music, and somehow our limbs begin to move to a primal beat, its choreography imprinted through hours and hours of practice. Lengthen that arm, stretch that foot just beyond its limits. The difference between a technically perfect performance, and a truly inspiring, transformative performance is nuanced and certainly cannot be explained with words.

One takes skill, while the other takes art. It will move the the audience. There will be tears. If you have never cried while watching the ballet, you may not understand.

One ballerina in the Nutcracker hesitated. She didn’t leap into her partner’s arms. I turned to the Bride and we both looked bereft. Sorry for her, and feeling so sorry for him. I could see it on his face, I could feel it in my heart.

It’s got something to do with trust, but not just in your partner. In order to let go, and truly fling yourself into the air, you must trust in yourself and then let go. And trust in God. Because we all fall at times, and it’s how we get up and do it again that matters.

A friend asked if I had any pictures from thirty years ago. Here I am looking over my shoulder before going out on stage. Bob caught me in the wings, in the dark with gingerbread soldiers and reindeer.

I want him to know I’m glad I took that leap into his arms.

Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn’t show your spirit quite as true

Jackson Browne – Fountain Of Sorrow Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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It’s the night before the last night of Chanukah. Then it’s a smooth slide into Christmas Eve. The Love Bug is tucked into her big girl bed, dreaming of the Mouse King. She’s over her flu-like illness. Five days of a fever will take it out of you, especially when you’re two!

Today we went to the TN PAC to see the Nashville Ballet’s Nutcracker. We had great seats and her eyes never left the stage. It had a Southern spin, some soldiers almost looked like Rebels. And there was a big dancing bear. Otherwise Clara was transported to a land of Sugar Plum Fairies and Russian dancing dolls.

As we walked up the aisle, the Bug said “Mama can we see the ballerinas tomorrow?” Melted this old song and dance girl’s heart.

Over thirty years ago I danced in the ballroom scene while the Bride was a little reindeer for the Berkshire Ballet’s Nutcracker. Sometimes time stands still.


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Last night I happened to watch a snippet from the movie Notting Hill. Hugh Grant’s character is courting Julia Roberts, a Hollywood movie star. The scene is a dinner party at his sister’s house. A clueless British stockbroker friend has just asked Roberts what she does for a living…then he continues to deplore the paltry pay his buddies on the stage are making. Oh and by the way, he asks her outright what she makes. Now in no universe could I imagine this question in some party dialogue in a London second. Still, his face is priceless when the ravishing Roberts responds, “15 Million a movie.”

It’s one of those moments when we Americans get to feel superior. And boy do we need to feel superior; our kids are testing below other developed nations, with China leading the pack for instance. And let’s not get started on early education, or supporting working women with affordable child care and sane family leave policies. We wonder why we’re not keeping up, while our legislators quibble and quake to get out of town for the holiday season. We should be so happy they passed a spending bill.

Sorry about the rant, but I’m not plugged into the news here in Nashville.

And at first I thought this must be a mistake. I’d heard about the Sony email hacking incident, and felt vaguely sorry for the female exec who wrote that another movie star, Angelina Jolie, was “…seriously out of her mind.” Honestly, wouldn’t you be out of your mind and body probably if you had that many kids? But calling her a “spoiled brat,” now that’s just mean. And then another Sony exec reports that no, “We have not caved, we have not backed down,” as he tries to explain why they are NOT releasing a new comedy, The Interview, on Christmas Day. http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-30528772

But they are caving into terrorism. North Korea is right to be worried about this little comedy, because art shines its light on everything, including the ridiculous regime of its Supreme Leader. And today, even if the studio doesn’t release the movie, we all know that hackers will release it online, for free, and eventually folks, even the people of North Korea may just be able to see Seth Rogan making fun of their government. Hey, Seth, how about writing a screenplay about our government? You know, how money runs everything, and our low voter turnout, and Detroit, and #BlackLivesMatter, and oh wait. I agree, it’s hard to make fun of the truth. Just try to consider turning that Rolling Stone UVA rape article into a satire for film – see. Better to keep making rom/coms and action movies.

And thank God for Disney. Cause I’ve been getting up close and personal with Frozen this week. And I am really, really enamored of Olaf. IMG_1902

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The other day I was being escorted to my car with a cart filled with bags of groceries, when the well meaning young man asked me if I had anything fun planned for the evening. Take note Northeners – here in the South, grocery clerks don’t even ask if you might need help out to your car. They just commandeer it.

Instead of fluffing him off, I said, “Yes, it’s the first night of Chanukka, do you even know what that is?” He smiled and said that he did, something about oil, right?

Leave it to my brother Eric to send me the real origin story of of this minor level Jewish Holiday that has scant hope of ever living up to Christmas.

A camel walks into a bar. I know, y’all thought it has something to do with a grand fight, the Maccabee brothers take on the holy Roman Empire. But according to this, the first time Chanukka is ever mentioned is in a Jewish law text, tort law no less. Back then, the rabbis were the chief judges and executioners of the land. And they made a distinction about fire damage claims in this Mishna:

If a camel knocks over a lamp, causing a fire, the rabbis say the camel driver is responsible if the lamp is indoors; but if the lamp is outside a shop, the shopkeeper is liable. Rabbi Jehudah provides an exception to this rule: The shopkeeper isn’t liable if the lamp is a “Hanukkah lamp.”

Some 250 years after the Maccabean Revolt, the rabbis explain why the menorah is lit, and it has more to do with a rededication of the Second Temple. Josephus first called the festival “Lights.” But in fact, like all traditions, it most likely originated with a newly monotheistic people trying to accommodate pagan rituals; “The more likely explanation is that Jewish households adopted the practice from pagan ritual, following which the authorities gave the practice a “Jewish explanation” after the fact. The Zoroastrians of Persia for instance marked the Winter Solstice with a festival of fire, called Chaharshanbe Suri, which predated Hanukkah and fell at about the same time of year.”

So thank you Iran! And that explains why we have so many damn lights all over everything at Christmas! And thank you Rabbis, for wanting to emphasize a victory for our people, when so many times we suffered defeats like Masada.

The Groom said last night, “I Like Chanukka!” After all, you get to eat anything fried in oil right! And the Bride said guess what, “We’ve got six more nights to go!” But of course I had to remind that grocery clerk of the Adam Sandler movie, and the eight “crazy” nights, when he thought it lasted “…like a month or something.”

Still, I wonder why some people spell it with a “C” and some with an “H?” What do you want for Chanukka? IMG_1880

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We all have a comfort level, a sweet spot between chaos and control where we find we can do our best work. My desk and my kitchen, my workspaces, may not look organized, but somehow I know where everything is, that is unless someone else was helping me with the dishes.

You probably know that the Bride is pretty well organized. As a teen she had all her college applications figured out and filed before I even got a chance to talk with her about the process. The Rocker takes after me, with a little Type A from his Dad just to sweeten the mix. As a teen he could leave a glass of milk next to his bed until it became a culture medium for the latest bacteria, but his desk was always spotless.

And I just assumed that opposites attract; that marriage was a Darwinian reality show. Most of the couples we know would attest to that narrative, she or he is the messy/creative one while the other is the opposite. But in the Bride’s case, she married someone even more organized than she is; and I realized this when I watched the Groom organize their front hall closet.

Coats and hats and scarves went flying into three piles. Those to keep, give away, or store someplace else – like a snowsuit that might be used should they end up skiing again in the South…or maybe they’d take a ski vacation out West? I was impressed, I was wishing he’d come to my house. But alas, his paternity leave came to an end, so he returned to the complicated diagnostic world of internal medicine.

I remember the first time I couldn’t find a toy when my kiddos were little. After some hemming and hawing, Bob finally admitted that when I took the children on a trip to visit Grandma Ada, he would “clean up.” Which meant he’d enter the family room and throw toys away! Imagine. He actually jettisoned a vintage Barbie doll with clothes in a its original case from Aunt Becky! http://www.vintagebarbies.net/vintagebarbievalues.htm I was incensed, I was mortified.

Today, he tackles the pantry on my trips to Nashville, with my full approval. It’s fine since stink bugs tend to love open boxes of pasta.

Still, the last time I left my Nashville family of four I gave them a piece of my mind/advice…and believe me, I don’t like to give advice unless I’m directly asked for it. “You have TWO children now,” I said, “keeping the house organized need not be a priority!” They smiled, I think they listened. Then I told them what Grandma Ada told me a long time ago,

“Cleaning up with a toddler in the house is like shoveling snow during a snowstorm.”

January’s Real Simple magazine has a good story on this very dilemma; “Dear Real Simple I’m a Control Freak Please Help!” by Virginia Sole-Smith. It’s not online yet but here is the writer’s website http://virginiasolesmith.com/portfolio/ – it’s a great take on how to live with your opposite type, not for the Bride and Groom I’m afraid – perfectionist meet the opposite of an organizational addict.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll peruse Pinterest and gaze longingly at their organizational sites. Now why didn’t I think of this? Hang your shelves upside down! enhanced-buzz-2561-1380825861-20

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Did you ever see the 1998 movie “Sliding Doors” with Gweneth Paltrow? If not, it might be a good one to watch over the holidays with your family. It’s about the choices we make in life, and the outcomes. Gweneth lives parallel lives that change according to one small decision she makes; will she catch that train?

The Flapper met my Father while waiting for a tram in Scranton, PA. She was at that train stop every morning outside his drugstore and he would watch her from the big store window while waiting on customers. Whatever made him chase after that tram one day, and introduce himself, we’ll never know. Was it the way she smoked a cigarette? The way she brushed her platinum hair out of her eyes? It was 1933, and she was quite a dame.

After our Father died in our Year of Living Dangerously, around 1955, the Flapper was able to walk again and she wanted to pick up and move to Rockaway, NJ so she could be close to me. We’d live near each other, and I’d get to know my brothers and sister. And my real, biological Mother. But she needed a job.

She met Eugene Ginsburg who owned Rockaway Sales through an ad in the newspaper. He had started this prequel to a Big Box Store long before anybody had ever heard of a Best Buy. He was selling mostly hunting and fishing, camping and outdoor gear. This part of Morris County was still considered rural. And he needed a book keeper. My Mother needed a job and so she told him she knew how to keep accounts, which she didn’t. But he gave her the job and his lovely wife, Hope, taught her how to do it.

Eventually she told Mr Ginsberg that he should start selling toys! Because at Christmas people would want to buy toys for their children – and so the store morphed into a mix of Gander meets Toys R Us. Then the Flapper caught the eye of the store’s attorney, and they married and I moved into their house in Dover, NJ; gaining a step brother and sister to boot! I convinced the Flapper that I just had to go to public school, so long Sacred Heart.

Hello Dover Senior High School. If the Flapper didn’t meet the attorney, my stepfather, I would have probably been raised in Rockaway, the next town over and never met my husband Bob. Or what if she didn’t move to NJ, if she insisted I move back to PA? There were so many crossroads in my early life.

And meeting Eugene Ginsberg that day, having the chutzpah to tell him she could do something when she knew nothing about book keeping, well that was another train steering our lives in a certain direction. Gene became a life-long friend of our combined families, and my heart goes out to his family today.

He lived a courageous and exemplary life. One in which he helped so many people without public acclaim. He was humble and truly the kindest, sweetest 93 year old in the whole world. He had a twinkle in his eye at Ada’s birthday party, but I will always remember the dashing young, business man who traveled the world and gave my Mother a chance to build a life with me. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dailyrecord/obituary.aspx?n=eugene-ginsberg&pid=173441912& IMG_0963

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The conference call converged via my iPhone this weekend. Three siblings in three different states all talking at once or in turn, about their lives, their loves, and even their memories. Because I happened to grow up an “only child,” I treasure these calls.

Dr Jim, my psychologist brother, told me to look up a fellow Minnesotan on a TED talk, and so I did. Kay had been reading a book about dying and the health industry’s push to prolong life even when tethered to tubes and machines. And Bob had been reading, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, about crematoriums. Jim thought we needed some positive messages about aging.

Enter Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones. Here is a guy from MN who decided to study the pockets around the world where people just happen to live to a vital old age of 100+. He calls this topography, which happens to be almost exclusively on mountainsides (remember this when he talks about not exercising), Blue Zones.

Sardinia, Italy, that has 20 times as many 100-year-olds as the U.S. does, proportionally. In Okinawa, Japan, we found people with the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. In the Blue Zones (Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, Calif.; and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica), people live 10 years longer, experience a sixth the rate of cardiovascular disease and a fifth the rate of major cancers.

So not only are people living longer, they are living to a healthier old age. And what do they have in common? Well you’ll have to view his TED talk http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_buettner_how_to_live_to_be_100?language=en
or read this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-buettner/how-to-live-to-100—nine_b_94972.html but here is my take away.

We have become less connected to family and friends than any other generation. We may think we stay plugged in only because of texts, email, social media and blog posts. But that’s not the same as actually being connected. The communities Buettner studied are semi-isolated, the centenarians have friends they have kept since they were toddlers. They belong to the same tribe. And they all have a reason to get up in the morning.

I could relate to a Great Great Great Grandmother, who said her reason is holding her latest Great Great Great Grand Daughter, that it’s like “Leaping into Heaven!” Now this is my kind of old age, staying vital and leading a meaningful life. Not being medicated into oblivion in an old folk’s home.

It will be interesting to see if our generation takes a different tack as we age. Will we age in the same way our parents did before us, become snow birds? Will we line up to enter the latest continuing care community? Or will we drink red wine and walk everywhere while still fishing for our family?

A friend of mine is taking a giant leap and moving across country to San Diego so she can walk one block to the ocean and sail a boat. She’s living each day as if it were her last. We helped kickstart a cultural revolution when we were young, maybe it’s time we started another.

Great Gma Ada and the Love Bug

Great Gma Ada and the Love Bug

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