Archive for January, 2015

Long flowing hair…

“I want long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka dotted, twisted, beaded, braided
Powered, flowered and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled and spahettied”
Read more: Hair – Hair Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Here are the things my mother, the Flapper, told me about my hair:
“Get it out of your eyes.”
“Brush it every night.”
“It’s your crowning glory.”
“You have to suffer to be beautiful,” while pulling tight on my braids. A message I did not internalize.

She never told me to cover it, unless it was cold outside. I’ve been thinking about hair because of FLOTUS’ scarf-gate. Y’all knew I’d have to write about it, that place where feminism, culture and religion intersect. To simply say it’s much ado about nothing, another political prank, is the obvious reaction. After all, we see Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton sitting, heads uncovered, with the Saudi royals. Oh, and that time when FLOTUS did cover her head in Indonesia? She was inside a mosque; similar to going to the Vatican to meet the Pope with a doily on top of your head. You pay some respect right?

But even as a child in Sacred Heart Church with a beanie or a doily on my head, I thought it odd that men had to take OFF their hats for Mass! Children are really good at spotting inequality. Back when men wore hats all the time, they would customarily doff them for a woman. It was a sign of respect, a greeting, “Top of the Mornin” and all that.

So what is it about our hair ladies that’s got severely religious Muslim and Orthodox Jews wanting us to cover up whenever we venture outside? From an Hermes scarf for an Arab princess, to the burka for a Persian schoolteacher. Granted with Hasidim the women can wear elaborate wigs that probably look even better than any hair style I could create with ten children hanging on my skirts. Aha, that’s it! Think about it…

It’s really not about our hair, it’s not that we wouldn’t want them to see our beautiful, long, flowing hair. Hair down to there hair. It’s about control. And it’s not that the men in these religious communities/countries wouldn’t be able to control themselves when confronted by our hair.

It’s all about controlling our bodies. And in this country, religion and state are separate, so our government cannot tell us: not to use birth control; not to drive a car; not to leave the house without a man; not to shake hands with a man we do not know; and on and on. Although some legislators in our government would like to limit our access to reproductive health care, would like their religious views imposed on us. But we, the female people, have prevailed so far, so good.

And as for Michelle Obama? Well played First Lady, well played.

Rag Curls before SHS

Rag Curls before SHS

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Well we didn’t have a three dog night. In fact, NY and NJ are feeling somewhat slighted by the blizzard, while the Blue Ridge simply got a dusting. Ms Bean was snuggled tight in her little cave; her bed is under a credenza next to my side of the bed. Her snoring is my night music. I’m still waiting to rescue a Corgi so we can be a two dog family once again. But before I tell you about my matchmaking skills with a male Jack Russell dog named Mona, let’s go over why owning and loving a dog is good for our health.

The American Heart Association actually issued a statement saying that pet ownership, particularly dogs, is associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, and it can also increase your chance for survival after having a heart attack! http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Owning-a-Pet-May-Protect-You-from-Heart-Disease_UCM_453586_Article.jsp

…there are a variety of reasons that may be at work that influence this relationship. It may be that healthier people are more likely to be pet owners or that people with dogs tend to exercise more. Pets also play a role in providing social support to their owners, which is an important factor in helping you stick with a new habit or adopting a new healthy behavior.

I used to walk my first Corgi Tootsie Roll two miles every day, until one day we were approaching Rumson Road and she wanted to turn around. Every day she was cutting our walk in half! I told the vet she must be getting Alzheimer’s, but he said she was smart. She was getting older and I would have to accommodate. So I just walked the same mile twice; once with Toots and her son Blaze, and twice with Blaze. I called this my “meditative walk,” and it helped me think and prepare my mind for writing.

Little did I know it was also helping my heart. But who would have thought that rescuing a dog could open your heart to love? And I don’t just mean the furry kind.

While our family was vacationing in FL last week we got together with Meredith, an old Med School friend of the Bride and Groom. It just so happens she is a practicing Ob-Gyn in Tampa. The Love Bug played with her sweet son in the pool for hours, while Meredith did her best to sell the doctor couple on the pleasures of practicing medicine in the Sunshine State. And then I just had to ask, “How’s Mona?”

You see I feel personally responsible for Meredith’s marriage! One day long ago BC (before children) in med school, Meredith told me she wanted a dog. I accompanied her to the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA and we found a little male Jack Russell, who was full of energy and a kissing machine. It was love at first lick! I would grand dog sit him when she had to do an away rotation and he got on splendidly with my crew. Little did I know that within a few months Meredith met her future husband at a dog park with his Jack Russell, and the rest is herstory!

Dogs are not only good for your heart, they are great for your love life! And Mona is still alive and kicking.

the Maid of Honor, the Bride, the MOB, and Merdith

the Maid of Honor, the Bride, the MOB, and Merdith

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Something deep down in my heart that I knew to be true – even Republican women believe in a woman’s right to choose an abortion. They may not say this directly, or out loud; it’s like a Democratic Senator who may own a rifle for hunting but would never be seen holding a gun in a picture. What I didn’t count on, was the audacity of this Congress to try and slip in a bill restricting late term abortions, a procedure which constitutes 1.4% of all abortions due to education and Plan B in this country, and adding this codicil to a post 20 week abortion in the case of rape, hold on to your seats everyone:

…it’s OK ladies only IF you have reported said rape to the police!

Thank you GOP women for soundly seeing through the error of their ways. Approximately 68% of rapes are not reported to the police, and a reported 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. Why you might ask? Because women are still not actually believed, so why bother; because some think they deserved to be raped or abused since that’s all they know, and some were impaired and so find themselves guilty a priori. For a myriad of ridiculous reasons rapes go unreported. And on college campuses it is even more nauseating.

One in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college, according to studies, many of them during their first year by someone they know. The first 15 weeks of college can be the riskiest; the group Futures Without Violence just launched “The Other Freshman 15,” a letter-writing campaign aimed at getting college and university officials to address the issue.

“Given control of Congress and the chance to frame an economic agenda for the middle class, the first thing Republicans do is tie themselves in knots over . . . abortion and rape,” writes the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson. Maybe the Republican Party will implode? I almost, I said almost feel sorry for Speaker John Boehner. They are not only out of touch, they are seemingly out of their minds! But thanks to those women in red who saw through their shenanigans. http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-30943828

Let’s talk about climate change, and income inequality folks and leave a woman’s body up to her and her doctor. This debate is demeaning and insulting. What if the Democratic ticket had two women, two smart women leading the charge to the Hill? You know who I’m talking about. We would be unstoppable. It IS on us! images

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Although we may not be caught up with all the news that’s fit to print while four generations cavort in the Florida sunshine, we did manage to see the latest Downton. Some of us watched the Masterpiece special on TV, and some caught PBS online the next day. And just to be safe, Grandma Ada had her son at home in the ice and snow taping last Sunday’s program. Naturally we were all speculating on the birth control device Lady Mary sent poor Anna Bates,her Lady’s maid, out to fetch from the pharmacy. Remember we are now into the 1920s, and Flapper fashion and suffrage is de rigeur!

Still, the same week a period drama wrestles with pre-marital sex, in fact seems to condone Lady Mary’s bohemian idea that 1) women should take charge of their bodies and not leave this messy business to the man, and B) she get to know this guy Tony “in every way” before marriage without having to deal with an unwanted “epilogue,” Pope Francis chimes in with this: “Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits – but no,” he said, adding the Church promoted “responsible parenthood”. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/19/us-pope-airplane-idUSKBN0KS1WY20150119

The doctors in the room all speculated Lady Mary was using a diaphragm and whipped out their devices to google this idea! Indeed, cervical caps were used in the 20s and 30s but were very scarce in this country. And just in case you haven’t heard of our modern-day saint Margaret Sanger, she thought ; “…the best method of birth control was a doctor fitted device, either the cervical cap or a diaphragm. Sanger opened North America’s first birth control clinic in New York City in 1916. Sanger and her sister, Ethel Higgins Byrne, did the work themselves, assisted by a receptionist. Sanger claimed to have fitted 488 women with diaphragms in the 10 days before the police shut the down the clinic. Sanger claimed she could not find a doctor willing to work at the clinic.” http://www.case.edu/affil/skuyhistcontraception/online-2012/Cervical-Caps-Diaphragms.html

Enter the Dutch physician, Dr Rebecca Gomperts. She is truly an inspirational woman who travels the globe to educate, enlighten and skirt the regulations and restrictions on a woman’s right to choose her method of birth control. She started Women on Waves where she would induce medical abortions with the morning after pill, mifepristone and/or misoprostol in international waters. In countries where politics restrict access to reproductive health care she is viewed as a villain, for most women she is their savior. In 2006 she started Women on Web https://www.womenonweb.org in order to enlarge her vision and reach more poor and marginalized women.

Using Mifepristone and Misoprostol is no more complicated than using other medications. You will get clear instructions about how to use the drugs, what to expect, and when to go to a doctor. If you have questions about any step of the process, you can contact a helpline. A medical abortion does not need to take place in a hospital or first aid clinic.


Of course today, in this country, we can purchase Plan B over the counter. Whether we call it responsible or planned parenthood, it’s good to know the Pope gets it, even if he has to backtrack to keep the Cardinals happy. And as for Lady Mary, she is more a vixen than a rabbit, don’t you agree?

Rebecca Gomperts, one foxy lady

Rebecca Gomperts, one foxy lady

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The Great Grandparents are snug in the Florida Keys, entertaining their friends and exploring new territory. The rest is us, otoh, are either getting or recovering from some illness.

Luckily, the Love Bug and her baby brother were vaccinated for measles. It seems that this rotten disease is making a comeback primarily because of parents who believe vaccines are a bad thing. Science trumps rumor and speculation every time. It’s one thing to think your child should not be vaccinated, but quite another to put the rest of the population at risk.

Adults who were born in the 70s and 80s may not have had a measles booster, sooo beware of kids with red morbilliform rashes (the Bride taught me that word). Ms Bug has some patches of red from the sun, and unfortunately a fever with a barking, seal-like cough.

She must have inherited Bob’s lovely lungs! Yes, the Bride had croup as a baby; now she’s sitting in the shower at night with her baby girl.

Who rallied today to see Hugh and Buffett, the brothers manatee! Our first overcast day, so we all landed at the Aquarium! My fav was a calico crab and the Bug loved watching a dolphin named Moonshine. It was a perfect morning.

And about the mumps – well that has to do with medical school and the Groom. And that’s a whole other story I’ll save for later. For now we’ll head over to the ice cream store for a snack.

Florida is starting to grow on me!


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I’m in transit again. And I spent one hour on a plane sitting next to a woman with Alzheimer’s recently. How did I know?

She kept repeating over and over again to anyone listening “This is the first time I’ve flown alone.” She’d been a widow for “…seven or eight years.” At first I thought she was a nervous flyer.

She was fooling around with the seat belt, trying to connect the wrong parts. So I fastened it for her. Then I thought oh, she must have cataracts. This is how it starts I guess, we make excuses for our loved ones as they age, we make accommodations.

Then she told me her children worry about her. What else is new? I know that day is coming, when the tables will turn and the Bride and the Rocker will wonder if I’m OK, did I lose my car again in a parking lot? Am I trying to dial the microwave like it’s a phone?

But then she wanted to know if I was going to Atlanta too. That whole plane was going to Atlanta, so the light bulb went off in my head. Aha, so this is what it’s like.

A friend of mine in MA tried to explain it to me when her mother developed Alzheimer’s. She forgot how to get into her bed. That night I made a mental note, this is how you do it, and I willed my mind to remember. Because it was part of my muscle memory, my head just didn’t compute those movements.

My seat mate on Delta told me her son had arranged to have someone meet her at the gate in Atlanta so she could make her connection to visit her daughter in Jackson, MS. As she was talking, her hands were trying to catch the dust bunnies in the air.

And she’s been losing weight, the doctors did all the tests and they couldn’t figure it out. I thought to myself, I know why. She forgets to eat!

It occurred to me then, Ada would never forget to eat. We sometimes can’t find our keys, and maybe my reading glasses might end up in the kitchen. But I’m making a pact with Ada, we’ll remind each other to eat.

I didn’t read “Still Alice.” But I’d like to see the movie. Julianne Moore inhabits this dreadful disease, this incremental loss of ourselves. I know the Flapper didn’t develop dementia, and it’s not in my family.

Still, how does one know when it’s no longer you?


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Did you happen to catch the Golden Globes? I watched it in a book-ended fashion; the beginning and the end were great, but OMGawd, they actually got a wireless (radio) on Downton Abbey! Probably just a passing fancy right?The goings on about Highclere Castle was the meaty second act to my night of Hollywood pomp, and I’m ashamed to say when I switched back to the Globes I didn’t even recognize Lady’s Maid Anna Bates! Joanne Froggatt (a Dickensian name no?) won the award for Best Supporting Actress in a TV miniseries, primarily for her performance in a storyline where she is raped and brutally attacked by a valet in transit. The scene happens downstairs during a concert in a Godfather-like, back and forth juxtaposition.

In light of UVA today, at the start of the Winter Term, reinstating its banned fraternity after that scathing Rolling Stone article about a brutal but hard to prove gang rape, I think Froggatt’s words are telling:

“I received a small number of letters from survivors of rape,” Froggatt said in her acceptance speech. “One woman summed up the thoughts of many by saying she wasn’t sure why she’d written but she just felt in some way she wanted to be heard. I’d like to say, I heard you and I hope saying this so publicly in some way means you feel the world hears you.”

Cheers to Amy Poehler and Tina Fey! For their fairy tale feminist twist on Bill Cosby and Sleeping Beauty; and for introducing George Clooney by leading with all of his new wife’s stellar achievements as a human rights’ lawyer. Now we girls know what it takes to land an American Prince. So ladies, just to amp up your feminist hackles, I found this reading list on Tumblr. Some of these authors you’ve heard of before, and some may be new. But believe you me, you’ll thank me in 2016! It starts out with Poehler’s new book, “Yes, Please.”


Can’t wait to read Rebecca Solnit’s “Men Explain Things to Me.” Like…“You know those subtly sexist moments that either caused your head to explode or suddenly go numb? Solnit has had those too, and she offers insight on how to handle these situations in her collection of essays.” Like the guy who asks the woman on maternity leave after having twins with a toddler at home what she’s doing with all her free time! Crazy funny right?

Oh and the news out of China. They too love their period dramas on the Tellie, but their turn at a Chinese Downton has failed miserably and made their censors apoplectic. They’ve had to shorten the close-ups of the women because they were showing too much cleavage! Ah, the power of the decolletage!

A Kayan woman in Burma, photo courtesy of Jack Winberg

A Kayan woman in Burma, photo courtesy of Jack Winberg

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Did you know that there’s actually a certain number of days after a tragic event when it becomes socially acceptable to make a joke about it? I know, I didn’t either, but statisticians study these things, what else have they got to do? It seems that Lincoln actually joked about the Civil War while it was still going on, which if you ask me is gauche. We’ve all heard of gallows humor, but that takes it to a new level. The number is 19; 19 days after the event. We all wondered how Jay Leno and Dave Letterman would be able to do their stand-up routine after 9/11. Good comedians find a way.

One of my favorite authors, a gal I sat across from at some country club luncheon soon after moving to VA while she was touring her book around, has started interviewing writers. Kelly Corrigan has begun a new series for Medium called “Foreword” with a guy who is also a stand-up comedian and wrote for the Office, the irrepressible BJ Novak! In fact, that’s how I found out about the discreet number of days it takes for us to laugh, and begin healing just when we thought the laughter died.

It’s not as if the interview doesn’t broach serious questions. Among them: How can an artist be funny about painful subjects? The mood, however, is refreshingly light and lively, and the drinking and profanity help keep it from getting too stuffy. Novak also shows his exquisite comic timing throughout. (He is, after all, a stand-up comedian who was a member of the Harvard Lampoon.) Rather than toss Novak a series of boilerplate questions, Corrigan asks, for instance, “If your mother wrote a book about you, what would it be called?” Novak’s reply: “His Ambition Makes Me Anxious, But I’m So Proud.”

Novak talks about the “…shock of recognition and catharsis” when he tries to explain why the dark side of humor can be so funny. We think of Seinfeld and Louis CK telling it like it is, saying the things we are all thinking but too afraid to say out loud. I can’t wait for Kelly’s next interview with two other exceptional writers – NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof and California author Anne Lamott.

Meanwhile today a cow charged my car on my way to Starbucks. It didn’t seem funny at the time, in fact I was on the phone with a 911 operator for 10 minutes because it was altogether likely somebody would plow into the cow; so I turned around and led the cow up our twisty-turny mountain road. “What does it look like?” “Brown with a white face.” “Does it have a tag in its ear?” “Ummmm, no?” The funny thing is, this is the second time I’ve found a lone cow on the loose!
Switching from comedy to music, just in case you missed the Rocker’s turn on The Late Show with David Letterman, here it is! He hung out with Jeff Goldblum in the green room, and Letterman said “That was fantastic!” Nicole Atkins “War Torn” was anthemic; she did an outstanding job singing her heart out and the drummer, Chris, later thanked me for letting them practice in my garage all those years ago during high school. You’re welcome boys!! My epitaph will read, “Here lies a woman who let a metal band practice in her garage.”

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I remember what our cousin Jamie said to me a few days after 9/11. Her husband worked on Wall Street and she lived just a few blocks away from us on the Jersey Shore. “This is how the Israelis live every day.” It made me stop and think. To live in fear of the next suicide bomber on a bus, of a woman totally covered with hijab or a burka, or a terrorist, dressed as a policeman, with a bomb-exploding vest strapped to his chest. You learn not to trust anyone unless you know them, you build a safe room in your house, and then you go about your life.

I had to tell myself that the 9/11 terrorists shaved their beards and tried to look “normal” when they boarded our planes if I found myself profiling people in airline terminals. I remembered the Irish girl who’s Arab boyfriend packed a bomb in her suitcase the day before we landed in Heathrow. She was flying ElAl, so of course even in the 80s they found the bomb and arrested them. When the Bride lived in Paris her Junior year at Duke, she was profiled while trying to attend high holy day services at a synagogue. Could she recite the Hebrew prayers? After all, she didn’t “look” Jewish. Terrorists don’t all look like ninjas.

One news affiliate reported that one of the French suspects wanted to kill Jews, but his handler told him it was better to avenge their prophet by killing cartoonists. In a way this was a mistake. Because explaining the massacre of Jewish people, even today, fits into a tidy European notion of the Mid-East Conflict playing out in their neighborhood. It’s like saying black-on-black or gang-on-gang gun violence in the US doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t affect US. Mais non, let them kill each other is what conservative talk radio will say. Arab vs Jew? It’s a biblical dilemma right?

The Islamist terror campaign in Europe has focused on Jews and cartoonists, but it will not end with Jews and cartoonists. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/01/europe-is-under-siege/384305/

But flying planes into the Twin Towers, and now this massacre at a satirical French weekly, Charlie Hebdo, this brings the utter monstrosity of these Islamist zealots to light. It’s not just that they hate Jews, which they do, but they hate all of us…Westerners who speak freely and allow our art to be exhibited and our women to walk without covering our hair in the street.

Yes we allow photographs of a crucifix dipped into the artist’s urine to be displayed, and a painting of the Madonna in elephant dung to be in a museum. I am rather peeved that only the Huffington Post had the balls to publish the offending prophet cartoons. I guess the NYT doesn’t want to employ armed guards for its editors? Maybe every publication in the free world should pick a day to publish the offending cartoons? We should be like the Danes in WWII.

What this Paris attack has shown us, is that we are all living like Israelis now, whether we admit it or not.

If you want an in-depth look into how disaffected, home-grown terrorists are recruited from Europe and the US and taught to hate and kill in Yemen and Syria and Iraq, I’ve found this Foreign Policy website to be most instructive: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/09/live-coverage-multiple-hostage-standoffs-in-charlie-hebdo-hunt/

The terrorists in Paris want to die as martyrs, I say let them, and change the word to criminals.

By Ruben L Oppenheimer

By Ruben L Oppenheimer

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My first day in FL the fire alarms started screeching. This was a test, only a test; still it was tortuous. Why? Because it lasted for an hour and a half and you never knew when the red lights would start flashing and that sound, that high-pitched-fox-dying noise that would wake the hard-of-hearing elderly population in FL would start. Every three minutes or every two, sometimes five minutes.

And so we escaped our cute condo on the beach to drive inland in search of the VA. Not Virginia, the Veteran’s Hospital. Grandpa Hudson had some major feedback happening in his hearing aids, the problem was of course that he couldn’t hear it. But when Grandma Ada said she didn’t hear anything, I was ferklempt.

Could the terrible fire alarms have left a ringing in MY ears. Was I going messhuga?

Luckily the lower pitched noise I was hearing stopped after Hudson’s appointment at the audiology clinic!

This chilly 65 degree morning, Ada and I were talking over coffee on the terrace. We talked about Hasidim since I’m reading the book “The Marrying of Chani Kaufman” by Eve Harris. We talked about her social calendar, which was booking up rapidly. And we talked about life in general, what makes us get up in the morning.

Then the leaf blowers started up, the garbage truck arrived, and some guy with a generator was gearing up to power wash the windows. We packed it in, we couldn’t think, let alone talk with all the noise.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the weather down here, also I’m feeling young among all the snow birds. But the noise and the cleanliness could kill you. ps. It’s supposed to get down into the 30s tonight, just so ya know.


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