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Archive for January, 2016

This is my first trip to Puerto Rico. I listen to the surf pounding the shore as we fall asleep. The dogs will bark us awake in the morning as motorcycles zip through the neighborhood. For some reason, I can’t stop singing that song from West Side Story. 

“Let it sink back in the ocean…”

The island is not what I expected. There are Wendy’s and Burger Kings everywhere. We lose WiFi every afternoon and sometimes the power goes with it. We drive by clean laundry on fence posts, and I can’t understand why every other block needs a Walgreens. 

Is this the United States or what? It’s a self-governing commonwealth also known as a territory. I feel like I’m in a developing country with benefits; only I’m not quite sure what they are. We visited a beach where the lighthouse was closed and sitting next to it was an abandoned nuclear facility. 

Today I saw three wild dogs kill a huge lizard. It was horrifying. 

The problem for its citizens – and believe me the people of Puerto Rico are warm and welcoming – is a government with 70 Billion dollars of debt. The Wall Street Journal just reported a plan to restructure the debt, making the plan public and swapping securities for bonds. Look for the the official announcement on Monday. 

That’s all well and good. Hopefully their economy will turn around soon. This island is a strategic base for our armed forces. At times I felt like we landed in the middle of a spy novel!

 Meanwhile we’ll be dropping Great Grandma Ada and Hudson off at the airport tomorrow. They missed the big blizzard preferring to watch pelicans dive for their dinner. I hope the snow melts before they touch down!   

 

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Our snowfall wasn’t quite as bad as the weathermen predicted. About 20 inches give or take a bar-b-que grill. We never lost power, so laundry was done and vegetable soup was simmering on the stove. 

It was fun for awhile. We played Scrabble. We started organizing “The Book” since my writing is sprinkled among Zip drives, Word and plain old fashioned papers. We also bought a wireless speaker (Sonos) and Bob spent hours making playlists, or trying to recreate albums digitally. The 21st Century is still calling my name. 

Schools continue to be closed and yesterday we dropped by a dentist to check Bob’s tooth. After getting an Rx for an antibiotic we walked outside to see a magnificent red tailed hawk sitting on my car’s windshield wipers. He was looking inside, maybe wondering if that baby seat was edible? It must have been a warm spot to check for vermin but he flew off before either of us could grab our cell phones.  

But today we are duty bound to pick up some other snow birds in Puerto Rico. Ada and Hudson liked Florida so much last winter, they decided to spend January in the Carribean sun. Unfortunately our planes’s captain called out sick – so delays ensue and plans get changed. We can’t quite blame the weather, but still I long for those days when airlines went out of their way to make things up for you. Today, we will most likely get a voucher for a hotel room and maybe a hot meal!??

Hope all your travel plans go smoothly! Fly friendly y’all.  

 

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All you Northerners, feeling all self-rightious about a little Nor’easter, listen up. The South is used to a “dusting” every winter that usually melts by the next day. A few feet of snow is enough to freeze time, close schools and have everybody switch into total hibernation mode. In fact, a cheer went up on the Lawn when UVA cancelled today’s classes a few minutes ago!

Milk has been flying off store shelves, and bread will disappear altogether. For some odd reason, wine and beer are always available in grocery stores and gas stations! Seems we have our priorities straight down here.

As a former Yankee, I feel it’s my duty to list the things I love about snow…

  1.  Hey, it’s pure. So pure you can collect a little in a cup and pour some maple syrup over it to make a New Englandy snow cone!
  2.  It’s an instant slide. Even if you don’t have a sled, you can clean off a trash can lid and have instant fun. No makeshift lid, use a cardboard box. Find a hill.
  3.  Snow is an instant anger management tool, have a snowball fight and nobody gets hurt! Warning, if ice is present avoid this activity.
  4. Thanks to the movie Frozen, everybody can practice their inner Dr Frankenstein skills. Build a snowman, give him a carrot nose. I used to build snow women too!
  5. Now make that snowman a margarita, since we all know Olaf really loves the beach.
  6.  It muffles sound. Think about that, it’s like you’re in a padded room so that animal and bird sounds are amplified. It’s much easier to stay present in the snow.
  7.  People are just plain nicer. It’s like we’re all getting ready for this impending disaster (snow) so we may as well talk to perfect strangers. It’s that post 9/11 syndrome – but it’s pre #Snowmageddon2016
  8. Snow will kill all those nasty bugs: ticks, and fleas with West Nile and such. And believe me, we have BIG bugs in the South.
  9.  Speaking of fleas, if you have a furry friend, you will have endless giggles throwing a ball into the snow and watching them try to find it! This will not work with Corgis, it could injure them.
  10.  Snow is beautiful. In a Nordic, wintry, wonderful way that people who live in the Caribbean can only dream about. You can ski and snowboard! It makes us strong and sturdy; it makes us long for Spring. Having only one season would seem like a one dimensional life.

So I hope this helps you feel a little better about our upcoming storm. Back in the Berkshire Mountains, this was No. Big. Deal…we had a woodstove for cooking and warmth, the kids had thermals and snowsuits and mittens and hats and boots and built forts in the driveway while waiting for the school bus. Life goes on, only just a little slower in the South. Here is the Bride on her cross-country skis at about the Bug’s age in our old backyard, where two to three feet of snow was always eagerly anticipated. May everyone stay safe and may the power stay on, amen.  Snow Bunny 20160122

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Yes, I’m a child of the 60s. That was my coming of age decade. But instead of going to Woodstock and taking the fast lane, I was living the life of a newlywed in Cambridge. MA. Shopping for groceries in the same corner store with Julia Child, walking the cobblestone streets and learning to love New England.

Up until that point I had seen only one band live and in concert. The Byrds, an LA wannabe Beatles-type folk outfit, played at an MIT mixer in 1967; this Freshman at Emerson College was invited by an engineering student. And that was it. No love-ins, no more rock concerts. You might say that I missed out on most of the rock music revolution of my generation.

“Bob went to Woodstock and I went to Westchester.”

But after my divorce and marrying Bob, moving back to NJ in 1985, I had a second chance at the fast lane with NY just a short train ride away and the Garden State Arts Center in our own backyard. My cousin Jamie took me to see the Stones for my 50th birthday. The Boss was a ubiquitous presence in town. And in the 90s, my friend Betsy, who is married to a musician/promoter turned agent, danced in the aisles with me at my first Eagles concert.

In the wake of the Eagles’ guitarist and cofounder Glenn Frey’s death yesterday, I’ve been reliving my life in lyrics. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/glenn-frey-eagles-guitarist-dead-at-67-20160118

Most people don’t know that the Eagles became a band as a direct result of touring with Linda Ronstadt. She was one of my favorites. In fact, Bob and I would sometimes entertain friends at parties singing “Prisoner in Disguise” together, with Bob on guitar and harmony.

You think the love you never had might save you
But true love takes a little time
You can touch it with your fingers
And try to believe your eyes
Is it love or a lie?

Read more: Linda Ronstadt – Prisoner In Disguise Lyrics | MetroLyrics

And the Big Chill would never cease to sing “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” every Thanksgiving – to our kids’ utter disdain – a song made famous by a guy the Eagles threw out of their band!

Recently we cleared out our music system, giving away 30 years worth of speakers and amps. The only thing Bob wanted to keep was the turntable. When I asked my hair stylist what he would buy now for a sound system, he said, “Are you analog or digital?”

Well I’m not sure. I suspect I’m a little of both. We are not “gamers,” and we don’t need a wall of sound set up around the TV. I remember when the Rocker started playing with the Parlor Mob. He had all sorts of pedals to recreate the kind of distortion our early bands had on their albums. After fronting with his first heavy metal band in our garage during high school, I found this new band’s sound somehow achingly familiar. My friend DeeDee even downloaded some of PM’s greatest hits!

I spent the weekend in Nashville, it was a quick grandbaby visit. A chance to catch up on butterfly kisses and teach the Love Bug how to rock the Twist. Yep, I had Chubby Checker on YouTube, and clapped while the Groom played guitar, Buddha Baby pounded a keyboard, and my Bug was on the harmonica.

When you marry an Emergency Physician, you marry a nomad. Bob always thrived on risk and adventure, he loved breezing into a new town and fixing a hospital ED. I was always the opposite, hating to rip out my roots, starting over with “no place to arrive.”  Trying to bloom again every single time

I guess I’m still in the slow lane. RIP Mr Frey.      IMG_3743

 

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I’ve never heard of a book getting so much pre-publication press. The Bride sent us the NYTimes Book Review and pre-ordered it from her fabulous Nashville bookstore. Bob pre-ordered it on his Kindle. Then right after Parnassus uploaded Ann Patchett’s new year book recommendations on their blog, Musing, she sent out another special edition to sing the praises of a previously unknown author http://parnassusmusing.net

“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi – Ann said

I’m making it my personal mission to urge everyone to buy it and read it, in part because the author isn’t around to do his own promotion, and in part because he’s left behind a wife and a young child who should get the royalties. I want everyone to read this book because it’s a brilliant piece of writing and a singular and profound piece of thinking, but it’s also more than that: When Breath Becomes Air makes us stop and think about how gorgeous life is, how heart-wrenching and brief and amazing. Paul Kalanithi’s life was short but utterly essential, as our lives are, in very different ways, short and essential.

From what I hear, every store in the country has sold out of this book!

Dr Kalanithi was a neurosurgical resident at Yale when he began to feel the symptoms of his disease. Metastatic cancer had flooded his body, his lungs were peppered with tumors. Time stood still. Should he and his wife have a baby? Would he ever be able to practice in a field he’d spent nearly half of his life studying and preparing for; could he learn how to die in such a short time. He had been a student for so long, obtaining two BAs and an MA in Literature at Stanford. Then still searching, he received another MA in Philosophy at Cambridge. Finally medical school, with a residency in Neurological Surgery, followed by a post-doc Fellowship in Neuroscience.

We know what this life is like, the Groom is in his last year of a Fellowship in Pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine. They have been waiting to buy a house, waiting for that academic posting, waiting.

Dr Kalanithi was almost finished with his training, when he would have to reverse course, and become the patient. But from everything I’ve read, his writing is sublime. He takes us on the adventure of his life, from being home-schooled in Arizona, to his first introduction to a cadaver in medical school. Witnessing both birth, and death in the same day. Not every doctor can craft a perfect expository essay, but it seems his steep background in literature uniquely prepared him to write his own biography. He started typing during chemo.

Knowing how this will end, normally I’d pass on this book. I’d say no to the pain of reading what happens around us every day. Aunt Sue died of lung cancer last year, Bob became a patient last Fall suffering complications from spine surgery. The Groom’s mentor at Vanderbilt succumbed to pancreatic cancer right before Christmas – a physician who was so loved at Vandy, his nurses stayed at his bedside round the clock for weeks before he died. My brother Mike and Brian. And then there is my own Father, dying at 47 from brain cancer, when I was seven months old.

But I’ll be next to pick up Bob’s Kindle. Maybe I’ll learn how to live each day as if it is my last. I’ve always wondered what that phrase would mean to me. Would I start trying to squeeze 20 or 30 more years into the time I had left, check off my bucket list, or would I relax and simply enjoy each moment? Accepting the fact that we will all die, and choosing to live life with grace in spite of that, is our highest calling.

I only have a picture of my Father on my desk, Dr Kalanithi’s daughter will have so much more.

IMG_3738

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Good morning Mountaineers! HA, so funny that I actually thought of a name for y’all. But hey, we are all on a journey, with hills and valleys. And even though everybody is trying to figure out what POTUS will be saying tonight in his shortest (and last 😦 State of the Union ever, I wanted to talk about those 2016 goals we’ve all made over a week ago. You remember, that dubious resolution to “get Healthy” by any means necessary.

The way I see it, we have three options if we ever want our arms to look like FLOTUS:

1 – DIY, get one of those FitBit bracelets, track everything you do, every step and heartbeat, every morsel of food you put in your mouth, and hope for the best. Run or walk every day, maybe do a fitness tape in your living room? This step requires a bit of an OCD attitude and it’s not for me. But if it works for you, yay!!;

2 – Join a Community, sign up for a gym membership, adhere to Dr Atkins, join Weight Watchers or order your food via Jenny Craig. This would seem to me the easy way out, you limit your choices to a certain prescribed set of rules. Don’t eat after 8pm; Don’t eat carbs; don’t, don’t don’t; don’t do this or that. This may work, but often it’s time limited, ie people give up easily.

3 – Eclectic or CustomCare – in other words, pick what works for you from the combined knowledge of our foremothers – one from column A and two from column B. Now this would be the obvious choice, and I was thinking about it while listening to NPR about the rise of “Boutique Fitness.” Cross-Fit, Pilates and Yoga, Soul Cycle, you know the drill. https://onpoint.wbur.org/2016/01/07/soul-cycle-crossfit-boutique-fitness

Has exercise become the new religion or the latest drug of addiction? There’s no denying people can be pretty crazy about their party of choice. But that’s nothing new. When I was younger, it was all about Dance Aerobics. And it wasn’t Disco either ladies, or Jazzercise. It was the early 80s HipHop, when white suburban housewives had no idea what it was and they had certainly never heard of Qtip and 2Pac. We would push our leg warmers down around our ankles, secure a spot on the NY Sports and Racquet gym floor, and feel like fly girls. Literally, I felt like I could fly sometimes!

Because music does that to you right? Well, music and a bunch of endorphins pounding through your brain.

What I’m thinking is it’s about time I got my groove back. I’m not into biking in a gym to a computer and a preacher-like leader, sorry Polli. I’d surely break a bone trying out Cross Fit. But my soul is soothed when I’m dancing, so maybe it’s time to try that Barre class at a little place in Ivy?

Also I bumped into a Nashville dietician, McKel, Hill, who has branded herself the Country Queen of Wellness (or maybe I call her that?). I found an article about her while waiting in my retina doctor’s office. Yes, aging not only gives you crow’s feet, which I don’t mind, but it can wrinkle your retina too! McKel started a blog, “Nutrition Stripped” http://nutritionstripped.com/blog/ – but she may have started a movement. In the heart of Southern Fried Anything, she asks us to eat real, wholesome food, and not only makes it look easy, she makes it beautiful.

I signed up for her Instagram account so I can be inspired by her recipes. I’m sure if I lived in Nashville, and won the Lottery, I could hire her to be my Wellness Coach. This would be the extreme #3 – get yourself a private chef, and a trainer! Which is why I’m wondering why Oprah bought into WW?

McKel asked her followers recently what wellness trends we’d like to say goodbye to from 2015. I’d say so long to chia seeds! What about you. If you won the Lottery of Wellness, what would you do? That’s me in the 1980s of NJ, second from left. Nuff said.76076_1476536429644_4871505_n

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Last night I ventured out into the rolling hills of Albemarle County to attend a cocktail/get-together/girl-fest at an old friend’s farm. It was billed as a “Squeeze,” to reference a term associated with Dolley Madison.

With an astute sense of purpose and considerable charm, Dolley Madison navigated the waters of Washington society in an unprecedented way. She brought together disparate groups of politicians, diplomats, and local residents in a social setting. Weekly parties, called “Wednesday drawing rooms,” or “Mrs. Madison’s crush or squeeze,” provided a relaxed atmosphere for politicking and mingling. With no invitation required, these parties sometimes attracted four hundred guests. Some individuals who rarely associated with one another found themselves together at the White House. Even a boycott by President Madison’s opposition party, the Federalists, fizzled when members realized there was no political advantage to staying away.  http://www.whitehousehistory.org/teacher-resources/saving-history-dolley-madison-the-white-house-and-the-war-of-1812

I met a past Mayor of Charlottesville, an art and fashion historian, and the woman who ran the county’s social service network for thirty years. I talked with a lovely young woman who coordinates Planned Parenthood’s educational initiatives. It was an incredible evening jam-packed with energy, enthusiasm and best of all, fun.

Since I knew I was among “my People,” I asked almost everyone one important question – Hillary or Bernie? And I must say that Bernie was winning in my anecdotal poll. His approach to politics hasn’t changed; he’s deliberate and determined, much more progressive than Hillary. And they all liked his wife, who kind of reminds me of Dolley.

So while Planned Parenthood put their considerable support behind Hillary, and the President was in NOVA schooling the nation about guns at a Town Hall meeting, Trump was vowing to get rid of gun-free school zones. I was dumbstruck!

At least this will be an election year where the stakes are very clear. Would you like the NRA to continue influencing public policy? How about writing bills according to one’s religion? Or would you rather elect someone with integrity, someone who won’t mock disabled people. Someone who actually believes in science?

I’ve been thinking about Dolley this morning. She was thrown out of her Quaker religion for marrying outside her faith and never looked back. She and President Madison retired right up the road apace at Montpelier. Her reputation was secured in 1812, when was brave enough to stay at the White House while the British advanced, saving many of the nation’s art treasures, including that famous portrait of Washington. But it was that indescribable something that set her apart, her “joie de vivre.”  Her …”social skills, charm and personal popularity to win over her husband’s political opponents and help advance his career.”

Dr Jim always says it’s personality that can cog up the works in any business. But it’s also personality that can help a system as big as the federal government run smoothly. Above all else, we need another Dolley (or the male equivalent) to get our legislators talking and in the same room, if not on the same page. A civil discourse, is it too much to expect?     IMG_3722

 

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