Archive for May, 2015

Allow me to get on my feminist bandwagon for a minute. Over morning coffee I watched CNN’s Carol Costello interview Mindy Finn, the founder of “Empowered Women,” a right wing lobbyist group trying to co-opt the word “feminist” to include “center-right” women. She was very convincing, until she started saying that the original movement was more about reproductive rights, when today’s GOP women are all about pay equality, and of course getting elected to public office. OK. Just saying that TN women will now have to wait 48 hours before obtaining an abortion, and that’s not because their doctors thought it might be a good idea.

Eroding our rights is a time-honored tradition for the Republican party. How about all those little bills popping up in Southern states involving TRAP law? Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers was just one small slice of the GOP strategy to impose their right-wing, religious agenda on a woman’s right to choose what is best for her life. If they can make clinics close due to regulatory folderol, or increase our wait time, or include unnecessary vaginal ultrasound probes into our bodies, well all the better! Please, explain to me again Ms Finn how women need to join the Republican party. Sure, if you think an old white guy from Alabama has your best interest at heart, go right ahead.

“What do today’s female presidential candidates think about feminism?” This was Carol Costello’s question on Twitter. Really? I almost snorted up my coffee!

Then I read this: https://medium.com/human-parts/how-to-date-a-feminist-4e0fdf48d364 by a young feminist.

You date a feminist the same way you date anyone; you treat them with respect and try to impress the crap out of them. As long as you support equal rights, you got a shot…You hold the door for us and we will most certainly appreciate it. We hold the door for you and hope you’ll say thanks. It’s a door people, no big deal.

It’s a good read. And in case you thought the Republican agenda was just about closing doors on women’s reproductive rights, let’s talk immigration. Remember when President Obama announced a unilateral federal action back in November to reform immigration? We were supposed to give nearly 5 Million undocumented workers a path to citizenship in order to free them from the fear of deportation. And guess who has blocked this by imposing a hold on the executive action? Ding ding ding!

You’re right, 26 states of the mostly Southern persuasion. So this action would include women and children, because it specifically targets illegals who came here as children, and those with children born in this country, so called “anchor babies.” We can let this population grow to fight in our wars, but not make them citizens? The DOJ argues that our immigration system is broken and the federal government needs to fix it. But these Republican states beg to differ. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32893810

I wish I could step through a time travel door, and see what side of the argument history looks back on, which party wins. With Ireland passing their own marriage equality law this week, my ancestral homeland and the first democratic country to do so, I think we may have a clue. Very proud Ireland!

Dublin Doors

Dublin Doors 

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We landed in sunny Southern California during a cold snap. It’s barely 70 degrees, brrrr. There are Dr Seuss cactus flowers, tall skinny palm trees, and warnings about sharks near the shoreline. We ain’t in Kansas or Virginia anymore.

But before I get to the Getty Villa and our ride up the Pacific Coast highway to Malibu, I must tell you about my day at the Native American Heard Museum in Phoenix. 

First of all, I have always loved their culture. Naming a child after the wind before a storm; an organic respect for Mother Earth; a matriarchal society in every way. But having a docent take me through our abysmal treatment of these innocent people left me feeling bereft. 

First contact was in 1530, when the Spanish came to the New World. Indians were used as slaves, and continued in that role when the Mexican government took over their territory in 1820. There are still 19 pueblos on the New Mexican and Colorado border that have survived throughout this first genocide. 

The United States government later vanquishes Mexico and ruled our indigenous people until 1886, when Geronimo surrendered. And even while this great Apache Chief was hiding, evading capture, he stopped his tribe for four days to allow for a young girl’s coming of age ceremony. 

Then we shipped the remaining Apache warriors in cattle cars to reservations in the East. And I thought the Germans had come up with this ingenious idea for a railroad. I was wrong. 

Hopi make their dolls out of cottonwood root. 

Zuni make the most intricate, beautiful jewelry. 

Seeing the Rocker and Ms Cait brought me back to this time, to this place. To watching sea lions play, and learning what to do if confronted by a coyote – pretty much the same thing you do if you meet a bear in VA. And we strolled among the gardens, the sculpture of ancient Rome, and the empty but still hauntingly beautiful pools because of the drought   

And I wondered. If Native American and Roman culture can survive all these years, will my Bitmoji?   


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In the old days, Bob and I would travel together to medical conferences with some frequency. I toured historic sites while he schmoozed with colleagues (or rather attended lectures). It was a welcome break from the usual; seeing SanFrancisco, or Atlanta and Baltimore instead of shoveling snow in the Berkshires. But in the past few years I’ve stayed home, and I’m not sure why. Travel trauma? Apathy? Well today we awoke to an alien landscape, Arizona!

Bob is off to learn a few new tricks in his trade of Emergency Medicine. There will be a state of the art SIM lab and more dead bodies, yay. I’ve tagged along because when he’s done, later in the week, we’ll be visiting the Rocker and Ms Cait in California. LA is a mere one hour plane hop from here, but meanwhile what to do?

There are museums, a desert botanical garden and shopping. Since when did travel mean/equate shopping malls? There are premium outlet shopping malls, big southwest fashion malls, and a historic upscale designer district. I’ve got a strange feeling that the same stores you’d find in a shopping mall in NJ will be represented here. And walking around a garden in 90 degree heat isn’t my cup of tea so that leaves the museums. 

And since I’m currently reading “Alena” by Rachel Pastan, I’ve got the nomenclature for art down pat! It’s the story of a young woman who becomes a curator at a small museum on Cape Cod. It’s a little mystery, a little romance, and a lot of contemporary art talk. I am prepared to be moved by art, to get goosebumps, to expand my understanding of the process and see what an arid, brown landscape can reveal. 

Last night I watched the Call the Midwife finale on PBS which was luckily on early since we’ve switched time zones. I can’t rave enough about this period drama and one of the most profound subplots was the one about the doctor and his wife – who used to be a nun/midwife. I don’t want to spoil this for anyone, but it did give me chills. Especially because in the Berkshires I knew a woman who was affected by this “medical miracle.”

Art in any form reminds us of our humanity. The art of medicine, of painting, music or film. Sometimes even writing can take us away from our ultra mundane 21st Century lives. Now I’m off to explore and conquer the cactus!  


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Do you ever feel out of step? I hate to admit that our 50th high school reunion will be coming right up next year, because admitting that means the end of an era. The Class of ’66 was the first to stage a protest walk-out, to almost win the Principal of the Year award at a NY radio station. And we were not the first, and probably not the last, to send our young men off to fight a war we had no business fighting.

And for most of us, our Millennial children have paved the road to our Golden Years with lessons in technology. Every time I visit the Rocker, my iPhone gets a complete overhaul. Whenever I return from Nashville, my laptop is clean and moving faster along its wifi/cloud connectivity circuit. And even though I am pretty savvy with social media, sharing my thoughts on life through blogs, Twitter and Facebook, I’ve only recently entered into the non-virtual, non-fiction sharing society.

Now I understand that for some of us this is scary. After all, we’re used to booking hotel rooms when we travel. If you stay at one Hilton in Bermuda, the Hilton in Dallas will be a similar experience. Maybe they’ll have different pictures hanging on the walls. We know what to expect, we become frequent flyers, we humans are creatures of habit. The more adventurous might try staying at a quaint Bed and Breakfast on Martha’s Vineyard. But that’s about it. Until Airbnb.https://www.airbnb.com

I’m about to stay at my second Airbnb. The first time I let my son schedule the whole thing. After all, I was delivering a cat to LA, alone, and had no idea where his neighborhood was, plus he said the hotels were exorbitant. And I was delightfully surprised. The host gave my son the key before I arrived, and there was a bottle of wine waiting for me and coffee in the fridge for the morning. It didn’t matter that the TV was internet/Netlix/Hulu only. I wasn’t there to watch TV, in fact I listened to the Serial podcast on my downtime.

Eventually I met the host and his 3 Pit Bulls! We all had great fun on the patio. I wanted to book with him again, but the time Bob and I will be in California was already booked. Sooo, I started my own Airbnb account and started looking. The Rocker told me it’s all about the reviews – read them! And soon enough, Bob too will be experiencing this sharing society of which I speak.

I lorded it over the Bride that her old Mama had tried Airbnb before her, but now she has too, and she and the Groom have used Uber for getting around Nashville late at night. Since I’m usually not out partying anymore late at night, it may be awhile until I get to try this particular car sharing service. But it’s good to change it up every now and then; good for our brain, good for our soul. If you believe in Annie Dillard’s famous saying,“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” then let’s climb out of our automatic pilot frame of mind and take the wheel in this new society. Fifty years later, we can still learn a few new tricks.

And right on time, I read a Tweet by Peter Greenberg telling us what we “need to know” when booking through Airbnb. Maybe the travel industry is catching up with our kids after all? http://petergreenberg.com/2015/02/23/airbnb-tips-and-tricks-for-first-timers/

ps The Parlor Mob will be playing at the Skate and Surf Festival in Asbury park, NJ this Sunday – they should hit the World Stage around 2 pm!

Mother and Son

            Mother and Son

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After finishing up my Mother’s Day essay, I settled myself on a heating pad and read this: http://www.aww.com.au/latest-news/lets-talk/lesson-to-my-daughter-20482

Annabel Crabb, an Australian writer, gives her daughter the gift of an important life lesson. Now we all know, once our daughters have hit about age 16, there’s pretty much nothing we can do to influence them. OH we can try. We can bash our heads against a wall with cajoling and bribery, and occasionally they may listen. If I had a 16 year old today on social media, I’d pretty much raise my hands in surrender.

But a funny thing happens when they grow up and start a family of their own, they actually ask you for advice! It may not happen often, and sometimes it’s after all other friends and Google searches have left them needing more, let’s say, sage wisdom from the one person in their world who knew them when. And normally I’d say wait for this to happen. The one golden rule of grandparenting is never to offer advice, unless and until you are asked for it.

But there are times when your tongue just has a mind of its own, like after Happy Buddha Baby (let’s call him Happy Bud) was born. I remember leaving Nashville one time and telling my daughter that,

“…cleaning up just isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things,” on my way out the door.

Now for those of you who know the Bride, them’s fighting words. She is an organizational genius, a Type A+ personality who can make dinner, include the Love Bug in food prep, nurse the baby and do her patient notes all in the same evening.

I am the opposite. Multi-tasking was always beyond me, a dream that might happen at any second but usually, nah. The Flapper once told me that housekeeping skills usually skipped a generation, and now I believe her. But I think it’s because we grow up either in clutter chaos and can never find anything, or we grow up severely regimented under the thumb of a neat freak. And so we rebel, and become the opposite of our Mother in that regard. Once the Rocker’s friend came over to borrow a pair of his boots for Halloween in Middle School and was dumb struck when I replied i couldn’t find them. Seriously, she was one of six and her Mom knew where everything was, every single thing at every minute of the day!

And so I was prepared to like this essay from Australia about why a Mom wouldn’t change anything at all about her “untidy life.” Except for her premise – we should do less instead of “whining and moaning” because the men in our lives don’t pull their weight; “…women still do about twice as much housework as men.”

And guess what, in America we do three times as much housework as men! http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/22/women-better-at-housework-men-better-at-avoiding-it

But is doing less the answer to a happy marriage? Because if we start to do less and still expect him to do more, to pick up the slack, we might be surprised. So complain all you want ladies – and let his socks sit at the foot of the bed because they haven’t grown feet and walked themselves into the laundry basket. In fact, let that basket founder for a few days and see what happens. In other words, men cannot intuit what we want – we must tell them!

I am happy to report that the last time I walked in the door, after a 9 hour journey, the living room looked like a toddler fun house had exploded inside. I was so ecstatic!

"Cleaning up after a toddler is like trying to shovel snow in a snowstorm" Old Berkshire saying

“Cleaning up after a toddler is like trying to shovel snow in a snowstorm” Old Berkshire saying

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To the young ones in the midst of it.

Maybe you’re getting some cereal in bed this morning? Here is my advice to you: Stop trying to be perfect. Stop cleaning up your house. Stop comparing your skills to others, motherhood is not a competition. It cannot be Instagramed. Put down your devices. Stay still for just a minute and listen to your children, they will tell you what they need. Let your hair down, let the Dads cook you a meal today; go to the zoo. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

To the old ones, with or without grandchildren.

Maybe you’re alone today, or maybe you are going out to brunch? If you’re alone, as Cher said, “Get Over It!!” Your job is done so my advice is to relax: Start planting a garden. Plan a vacation or a river cruise, yes go visit that Downton castle or your family homestead in Ireland. Take up a new hobby to keep your brain cells firing – the cello? Finish the book! Whatever you do, don’t go to Costco and pick up a huge box of Gatorade.

To all the ones who are gone.

Thank you for your wisdom. Thank you for teaching us that it’s not always about us. Thanks for doing the hard stuff, for “cooking from scratch” and loving us at our most unlovable. Thanks for never giving up on us. For knowing when to step in and when to let the reaction to our action be a lesson. Thanks for being a model of strength, and a tower of tenderness. Thank you for showing us the way. And even if sometimes our predecessors failed, we learned what not to do from their pain. Thank you for teaching us forgiveness.

Happy Mother’s Day to the amazing Ada, to my sister Kay who is visiting her Great Grandkids, to my Sisters-in-Law Marnie and Becky, to all my friends, cousins and nieces who are in the thick of it, one is even expecting twins! I’m staying with Facebook for the baby pictures alone. But especially to the Bride.

She was saving lives last night and is probably sleeping about now. Here’s to you darling girl. You are juggling quite a bit, your circadian rhythm, a toddler and a happy Buddha baby. I heard the Groom was making pancakes! Thank God for the men in our lives.DSC_0327

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Two of my favorite things collided at the Jefferson Library, literature and politics. Andrew Burstein introduced his book, “Democracy’s Muse,” to his audience and its most interesting paradox; how can the Right and the Left lay claim to our city’s most cherished President? The answer is, it’s complicated.                                    http://www.monticello.org/site/visit/events/book-talk-democracys-muse-andrew-burstein

But it all started out with a feeling, a “breathless feeling,” after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt read a book by Claude Bowers. The now famous book, published in 1925 and titled “Jefferson and Hamilton, the Struggle for Democracy,” clarified for FDR his vision, his strategy for fighting the Great Depression. He began to quote TJ, and our early fight to become not just a republic separate from the British, but a Democratic Republic. Partisan politics began with our first breath, and the primal question of the role of government took center stage when the Democrats first lost the South in a “privilege or pillage” speech that asked, “Who spoke for the people and who spoke for the rich?” Sound familiar?

That Keynote Speaker at the 1928 Democratic Convention was not a politician. Claude Bower, author, newspaper editorial writer, historian delivered these words:

 You cannot believe with Lincoln that the principles of Jefferson are “the definitions and the axioms of a free society,” and with Hamilton that they are the definitions of anarchy.

You cannot believe with Lincoln in a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” and with Hamilton in a government of the wealthy, by the influential and for the powerful.

After all, the Republicans had Lincoln, and so the Democrats anointed Jefferson. FDR’s Chief of Staff, Edwin Watson, in fact lived at Kenwood, next door to Monticello. The very building we were standing in yesterday, was where FDR waited to hear about the invasion of Normandy. Yes, I get goosebumps just thinking about that.

But eventually Ronald Reagan coopted Jefferson as the GOP’s own, claiming TJ was a champion for small government. And of course if you say it enough, half the country will believe it. And before you know it, Newt Gingrich was quoting the Charlottesville bard to illustrate his own “Contract With America.”

Returning home last night, Bob reminded me to check out the Google doodle. It was about another influential writer and newspaper reporter. I always called my foster mother, Nell Mahon “Nellie Bly,” it was her nickname and yesterday I found out who the original Nellie really was – a pioneering investigative reporter! At the ripe old age of 20, Nellie actually got herself admitted into a notorious insane asylum for 10 days in order to expose the inhumane treatment of patients. And to cap that off, she reported on her journey around the world in 72 days! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/05/nellie-bly-google-doodle_n_7210966.html

I was totally exhausted after one day tracing Nellie’s journey and the ideas that shaped our country, and our political partisanship. Today I think I’ll return to gardening, something TJ would certainly approve.

The Jefferson Library

The Jefferson Library

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