Archive for February, 2016

Last weekend, we had our good friends Al and Mary Jo aka MJ over for dinner. They are a big part of our history; we vacation with them frequently as part of the “Big Chill Thanksgiving.” Al graduated from high school with us, and he lived with Bob during part of college at Duke and med school. Our adult kids are more like cousins. When Al’s Mother Angie died over the Bride’s wedding weekend, he didn’t tell us. Great Grandma Ada and Angie were pretty close, and he didn’t want to cast a shadow over the festivities.

That’s a special kind of friend. One who figures out how to raise an unheated pool’s temperature just enough by recycling the water through black hoses in the sun. Yep, this engineer made a solar water heater for me on one trip! And MJ is a retired psych nurse, so her sense of humor is totally aligned with mine. While they were here, I gave MJ a gift of one of my eternity necklaces. IMG_3855I’ve been stringing pearls and seed beads like crazy lately. It’s a way to create and relax, to focus on one thing for awhile. Since I broke my finger, knitting has taken a back seat to stringing.

So when I saw an “MJ FEVER” license plate in a parking lot, I had to chuckle. I’d just started reading the non-fiction book, “Age of Ambition – Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the new China” by Evan Osnos. His very first sentence is about the term the Chinese use for a new fashion, a trend, and even an American police show on TV:

Whenever a new idea sweeps across China – a new fashion, a philosophy, a way of life – the Chinese describe it as a “fever.” In the first years after the country opened to the world, people contracted “Western Business Suit Fever”…and “Private Telephone Fever”…

Such an apt term. A fever is fleeting, like snap bracelets and dance aerobics. It’s like the tide, but it can also be an obsession. We here in corporate America take our fevers very seriously. For instance, the latest arbiter of color for fashion has come out with its Spring colors. And in this pusillanimous political climate it’s no wonder the fashion industry wants to inject a bit of peace and calm into fashion week!

Pantone has deemed Rose Quartz to be the color of the moment.

“Rose Quartz 13-1520 Percentage of designers who used this color: 22.55 This really is a beautiful pink that will radiate well on the skin for women as well as men,” Eiseman said. “Women can always be helped along by cosmetics, but guys have to rely on the colors they’re wearing to sometimes make them look a little healthier.”   http://wwd.com/fashion-news/designer-luxury/pantones-top-10-colors-for-spring-2016-hint-at-calm-10214532/

I wonder if the Republicans changed their tie colors to rose quartz instead of red, I wonder if they’d stop sounding like schoolyard ruffians? I don’t know about you, but I have Spring Fever. Our crocus leaves are up, no flowers yet but buds are bulging on trees. Bob has been pruning to beat the band, he has a “Pruning Fever.” My necklaces are very Downton, one might say I have an “Eternity Necklace Fever.” And they are MJ approved and getting pinker every day.   IMG_3897



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And Elvis is still in the living room! It’s hard to be a middle aged white guy running for President and remain off-script. Poor John Kasich. He was in Cville yesterday afternoon at the Miller Center, but that morning in NOVA he was just speaking his own adorable mind to a not/quite/as/large/as/Trump crowd:

“How did I get elected?” said the Republican presidential candidate at a campaign event. “I didn’t have anybody for me. We just got an army of people, and many women who left their kitchens to go out and to go door to door to put up yard signs for me.”  http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2016/02/john-kasich-women-supporters-kitchens

Of course he immediately tried to clarify that idea, as if a Disney angel had whispered in his ear, “You need to clarify that kitchen comment sir.” Kasich continued to refer to his early days running for the Ohio State Senate, the year was 1979. And it was Ohio! Back then I was setting up a house on Windsor Mountain in the Berkshires. I could barely fit in our tiny kitchen since the Bride was born that year. In fact, her crib was set up in the dining area right next to the kitchen, and across from our bedroom. We were heating with wood and I started my writing career with a story about “Guns in the Woods.”

Today I just push a button for the hearth to light up, I’m still writing about guns unfortunately, and I don’t take offense when a Republican tries to tell us he had alot of women supporters back in the day. They weren’t in binders after all, he had “an army” of ’em. Maybe we didn’t dress like Beyonce’s Black Panther fly girls, maybe we wore mom jeans, but hey the guy appreciates women! Granted most of my friends in MA were Democrats, the state is a bastion of libertarian and progressive ideas.

And if I had to vote for a Republican, this Ohio statesman would be it. On the GOP debate stage, Kasich is the only adult in the room. That bears repeating – the. only. adult. His interview at the Miller Center was broadcast live on American Forum TV, http://millercenter.org/americanforum, and people were live Tweeting. Though Bob and I didn’t attend, here are some of the other highlights from his Cville debut:

“Washington is a Dinosaur.” “I am not a moderate.” “There would be no judicial abortion litmus test.” “Government is not innovative.”

And his answer to why he is not more robust on gun control, “Because it wouldn’t work.” He took the same GOP detour to mental health – standard operating procedure. That was when I lost him to the Twittersphere. Right after an Uber driver ran amok in Kalamazoo, with a house full of guns. Do we want a President who doesn’t see the excessive loss of American life due to gun violence as not even worthy of a solution? I mean, talk about a judicial litmus test!!

31 Americans die each day due to gun violence, more than 30,000 a year. http://www.bradycampaign.org/about-gun-violence

But Kasich went completely off my Democratic radar when he brought up Obamacare…again…”Appeal Obamacare. It is not controlling costs. Return Medicaid back to states.” Remember readers, “states rights” is code for business as usual with racism as its subtext. You can subdue voter registration, and close women’s health clinics if you live in the right red state. I sometimes wonder why Republicans even want to run for office when they hate the Federal government so much.

Bob and I voted early in our Primary because we will be away on Super Tuesday. VA is an open state, meaning we could choose any party to vote for in the primary. Bob was kidding me, saying he might just switch and vote Kasich on the red side because we happen to like both our Democratic contenders. Let the chips fall where they may on the Hill, or with the Bern. But thankfully he didn’t. I’ll never tell who we picked  IMG_3869

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It turns out, you can sometimes teach old dogs, and penguins, new tricks. Although I’m not sure you could teach me, or the Bride, exactly how to blink!

While I was trying to blink, my email was getting out of control; organizations seem to be sending me messages I don’t read, stores send me their latest advertising gimmicks, and I could care less. Political pleas for money are driving me crazy! Rarely will I get a message in my inbox I’d actually like to read, it’s become one big nuisance. And I’m not alone, because when I mentioned my little email problem on Facebook, many people sympathized with me and gave me some good advice. Currently I have 996 unread messages! Then one morning I heard about an App that could change my life! I know, I sound like an infomercial, but you guys….

It’s called Unroll.Me. and.it’s.free! http://www.businessinsider.com/the-companies-who-send-the-most-email-spam-2016-2

(When you) download the free app Unroll.Me. you can unsubscribe from unwanted emails, consolidate sales/newsletters/listserv emails into a convenient daily digest called the Rollup, and keep the rest in your inbox.

It took me awhile, since I’d forgotten my Google password and had to reset it, and also I think the App was clogged with new users. In this techno-wizardy time, when Apple is fighting with the Justice Department over encrypted passwords and emails, I gladly gave this App all my info just so it would help me clean house. Bob was skeptical, but eventually it started working and I’m loving it. Of course it didn’t clean up the previous emails, the 996 clogged arteries my Gmail was experiencing before I changed my password, so I still have to dust that history. But what a sense of relief!

At the same time, Bob heard about a new company, that basically acts as a health wholesaler for prescriptions. Some enterprising young entrepreneurs  started BlinkHealth.com: https://www.blinkhealth.com as a cure for high drug prices. They ignore insurance companies, let you pay online for your drugs, and pick them up at your local drug store – the savings is almost as good as taking a bus to Canada! Bob is certainly not endorsing this company, but I think he’s willing to give it a try.

Blink Health has recently become the number 1 medical App in the country! http://finance.yahoo.com/news/blink-health-hits-number-one-184500377.html

And I couldn’t complete a story about blinking without mentioning one of my favorite blogs, “I Miss You When I Blink.” I found this wonderful woman writer when she started editing the Parnassus Bookstore blog, Musing. Her take on life is whimsical, humorous, and uplifting all at once. “Mary Laura Philpott is an author whose work is featured regularly in major media. She is also the creator and illustrator of the quirky humor book PENGUINS WITH PEOPLE PROBLEMS; the founding editor of MUSING, the online magazine produced by Parnassus Books; and the co-host of the literary interview program A WORD ON WORDS.”    http://marylauraphilpott.com/2014/01/07/humor-blog/

Now it’s supposed to be in the 60s this weekend, and Bob is currently outside pruning our trees and shrubs. Here is an example of my overgrown Viburnum from last year, one of the first trees to bloom. So I must have blinked, because Spring has arrived! We are shedding emails and branches by the dozens! Have a wonderful weekend y’all!     IMG_2527




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It’s a well known fact that we adults like to highlight the trauma we claim to remember as children. My brothers would argue over who the Flapper beat more, yes in those days getting a good beating was good for you! My foster father would tell me if he messed up in school, and the nuns beat him, he would face an even bigger beating at home. They actually seemed proud of having survived such a vicious childhood relatively intact. Of course I don’t know how much of this was true, whether a beating involved a belt or a slap on the behind. By the time I was born, beating a child had gone out of fashion.

And although raising “good” children may have changed in the 21st Century, what we remember of the recent past is always up for interpretation.

Bob and I watched the recent Republican debate, for instance, in awe of Donald Trump. There he was, in all his pomp and swagger, telling it like it was to Jeb Bush. The crowd was having none of it, they booed him mercilessly. His brother George, in fact, did NOT keep us safe “before” 9/11, and when he went into Iraq “after” on a (excuse the pun) trumped up WMD charge, he destabilized the entire region. Oh the humanity – but,but, didn’t George keep us safe? http://science.time.com/2013/11/19/remember-that-no-you-dont-study-shows-false-memories-afflict-us-all/

Maybe Trump is a Democrat! I was wondering for a second if Trump was channelling Michael Moore! We all remember what George W Bush did right after his aide whispered to him, while he was sitting in a FL elementary school classroom, that our country was under attack, right? That a second plane had hit the Twin Towers. He waited for over 5 minutes while children read a book about a goat, and then he and Air Force One took off to an Air Force base in Louisiana. And by mid-afternoon POTUS was in Nebraska…

In a book about the Secret Service, author Philip Melanson will later comment on the president’s failure to promptly return to Washington: “If the president appeared less than resolute at any point… it was the fault of agents who were overzealous in their desire to protect him, administration sources have offered.” Yet, “The Service, whose first duty that day or any other day is to protect the president, has never publicly pointed out that Bush could have overruled them at any time and ordered Air Force One to Washington, DC.”

In fact, secret service literally hauled Cheney by the arms to a bunker beneath the White House, while allowing Bush to sit in a school room trying to ponder the enormity of that morning. Michael Moore, I can’t wait to see your latest documentary, “Where to Invade Next.”

Granted my memory probably isn’t as good as it used to be. Large swaths of information have been known to fall out of my brain in order to make room for another password. But like Donald Trump, I was there on that September day, running around like a mad woman, trying to find my son, talk with my daughter who was working in a government building in DC, phoning my nephew and my sister in NYC. Waiting to hear if Bob was meeting ferries with injured people from the Wall Street dock. I went to my neighbor’s empty-casket funeral. While Bush and Karl Rove were circling the Gulf of Mexico trying to decide where to land.

As much as I hate what he stands for, Trump has the illusion of power. He IS Oz, pulling back the curtain and striking at our deepest, darkest secrets. I imagine he was hit as a child, that was his generation after all. And he’s not going to shield us from the truth. He tells it like it is – he is everyman! He’s playing “it’s us against them,” in a similar Bernie vein, only he knows that he’s not really everyman, he is the exceptional man! One of the 1%. He thrives on his money and power and polls. Trump played equally well with Democrats and Republicans, with beggars and saints.

Trump thinks we can all handle the truth. He is our Putin, and we better get ready to defeat him.


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I’m a real pushover. When I was little, Daddy Jim presented me with a big heart-shaped box of chocolates, and that was that. Every year, I was his Valentine. We didn’t have candy, or ice cream in the house, I had a no-nonsense upbringing. But on rare, special occasions Nell would bake a cake. And except for Halloween, Valentine’s Day was the bomb!

Of course I tried to replicate that feeling for my young family. The hearts, the cards, the whole shebang. I even became a crafter, cutting out little Valentine cards for their schoolmates. Unfortunately, Bob thought of this date in February as a “Hallmark Holiday.” Oh he could be romantic alright, but nobody was going to tell him when, where or how he could show the world he was mine. Or I was his? Whatever. I mentioned it was his iconoclastic nature that first appealed to me right?

Not being a sexist, I proudly took on the mantle of celebrator-in-chief for Love.

Well this year he will be working on Valentine’s Day. I said it might be like that reality show, “Sex Sent Me to the ER.” Granted we don’t watch a lot of reality TV around here, not counting the Voice of course, but I did happen to see an episode or two of Er Sex. And it is pretty funny. http://www.buzzfeed.com/scottybryan/sex-sent-me-to-er-should-be-your-new-favourite-tv-guilty-ple#.kk9B79Awwa

Of all the sexcapades Bob has come across over the years, the one that sticks in my mind was the older man who was brought in by ambulance from a motel, naked and unconscious, after suffering a cardiac arrest during coitus. The older woman who came in with him was answering questions for the staff, until the actual wife waltzed in and took over. Needless to say, the emergency department in that cold Berkshire winter started heating up with gossip!

Years ago, we were in California at an EM conference when I met two of the producers of    “Untold Stories of the ER” in a hotel bar. We really hit it off. When they heard Bob was a Director, they wanted to meet him and see if he’d be interested in participating in their new reality show. Come to think of it, they must have been trolling for ER docs. When Bob and his colleagues showed up, they had some fun talking about the possibilities, after which Bob said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Here are a few things to avoid over Valentine’s weekend:

Try staying out of the ER;

Keep crafting to a minimum; and

Remember if you screw up, there’s always President’s Day!



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The feminist movement gave a distinct wink and a nod to fashion back in my day. We burned our bras and dispensed with girdles entirely. We stopped “sleeping” in hair rollers, and insisted on letting our locks flow, being au naturel. Some of us tye-dyed our clothes, some washed and bleached our jeans, unraveling the hem, before setting foot into a new pair. In that old age of feminism, when we were told we HAD to wear a skirt on the streets of Boston, and be married in order to get an Rx from a male doctor for “the Pill,” our fury knew no bounds!

We wanted to be free of the constraints our parents and society had imposed on us, and mostly we just wanted to be free, like the boys!

Which is why I cringed, but also understand Gloria Steinhem’s remarks to Bill Maher about the overwhelming percentage (86%) of young women who are supporting Bernie Sanders. Ms Steinhem is not just a feminist icon, she is that antidote to tired, anti-lesbian/feminist jargon that would insist all feminists are simply angry man-haters. Steinhem flaunts her heterosexuality like a badge of honor. And in an unguarded moment, she made an off-hand, ironic remark that everybody in the Twittersphere could use against her; “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.” 

Here is her long, Twitter explanation for being misunderstood in her rush to support Hillary at Bernie’s expense:

In a case of talk-show Interruptus, I misspoke on the Bill Maher show recently, and apologize for what’s been misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics. What I had just said on the same show was the opposite: young women are active, mad as hell about what’s happening to them, graduating in debt, but averaging a million dollars less over their lifetimes to pay it back. Whether they gravitate to Bernie or Hillary, young women are activist and feminist in greater numbers than ever before.

Well alrighty then…that should do it. Wrong. Instead Madeline Albright started talking about a “special place in hell” for all those girls not supporting Ms Clinton, and she seems to have gotten a pass. Oh come on now, shall we use shame… and eternal damnation… to nullify a young woman’s political ideology. It’s that age-old walk of shame ladies, only it’s not stodgy old, white guys calling the shots. It’s my generation, grandmothers who are using it against Bernie supporters. Well I’m afraid that all this misspeaking is about to backfire. It’s time to kick the morality police to the curb!

Because I raised two feminists who know how to see through all the BS in a campaign. Because Bernie Sanders’ feminism has been bonafide for years and years, and I quote: “When you tell a woman that she cannot control her own body, that’s extremism. Let’s say it loud and clear: women control their bodies, not the government.” His campaign website even pledges to increase funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning program if he’s elected.   http://www.bustle.com/articles/126200-6-things-every-feminist-should-know-about-bernie-sanders-campaign

Today we are free, just like the boys – free to vote for whomever and play politics with the big dogs. Our young women may have to register for the draft soon enough – http://bigstory.ap.org/a3a36a7b1fa74379910088d9220994b8 and not just because that’s where the boys are…

Which is why I ordered a pirate dress for the Love Bug. http://princess-awesome.com If you happen to be raising a young feminist, you may want to check out this children’s fashion line as an antidote to princess dresses and the Disneyfying of America.  Because this next generation of feminists will want to look good while commanding our troops! All hail the Pirate Queen Gráinne Mhaol aka Grace O’Malley!


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Let’s be perfectly clear. When you become a parent, your job description cannot be Googled. Your pediatrician doesn’t hand you a handbook. Here’s my one big piece of advice – don’t try and be your child’s “friend.” She or he will have grandparents, cousins and friends of their own some day to complain to about all the stupid rules they grew up with; no belly rings, no tattoos; no crying in public – what you didn’t have those rules?

If you’re lucky, your adult child may become a friend. Someday they will thank you for those rules! But I can tell you one thing I’m really glad we didn’t have when my kids were little – smart phones! Because teenagers have been breaking our rules since time immemorial and sneaking out of windows in the middle of the night. Only right here in Blackburg, VA, a thirteen year old girl, a vulnerable liver transplant recipient, arranged on her phone to meet with two VA Tech students outside her window in the pre-dawn light.

And after finding her body across the state line, prosecutors found out about her murderers, both student predators, David Eisenhauer, 18 and Natalie Keepers, 19, by searching their cell history:

But the prosecutor said messages on the girl’s phone led to the suspects, and accused the college freshmen of deciding together in a fast-food restaurant that Eisenhauer would cut her throat. Defense lawyers argued that Keepers’ mental health could unravel behind bars.” http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/state/both-tech-students-plotted-to-kill-girl-prosecutor-says/article_0ea7ac28-cbb3-11e5-8e92-ef91c22cfffe.html

Now this young college woman, Keepers, someone with such promise who wanted to study aerospace engineering, is asking the court to allow her to take ALL her anti-anxiety medicine in jail…so she can get a tattoo?! Of a semi-colon…maybe she’ll write the next Orange is the New Black screenplay?

I had never heard of the App Eisenhauer and his victim were using to disguise their communication, but Kik is basically a way to disguise messages and photos, so naturally teens love it, it’s virtually impossible for parents to monitor. And there’s the problem. Because if I did have a teenager now, you can bet I’d have all their passwords and be randomly monitoring them! I may masquerade as a liberal, free-thinker type, but my inward tiger mom would take over for sure. And I’m not just talking about girls, young boys can be fodder for digital predators too.

“When you give your kid a phone, ‘it’s almost like taking your front door off your house'” http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/02/04/kik-messaging-app-scrutinized-wake-va-teens-murder/79826224/

Last year it was Snapchat, and you can be sure next year there will be a new messaging App for teens, a way to evade their parents’ eyes and rules. While we were in Puerto Rico, we visited a man who was expecting his young grandchildren to arrive soon from Maryland. I looked at his tropical oasis with a beautiful, completely open, unfenced pool. Wasn’t this a hazard? He said of course they kept eagle eyes on the children, but he only had three rules for them:

  1. Be a good listener
  2. Be careful
  3. Make good decisions

My brother Michael had a saying for his kids, “Always do the right and proper thing.” In this day and age, when young women may now have to register for the draft along with young men, http://bigstory.ap.org/a3a36a7b1fa74379910088d9220994b8 I would only add one more rule about smart phones.

Do something, anything people. Put them down at dinner? Leave them charging in the living room and not next to their bed? Delay giving your child a phone for as long as humanly possible? If we parents and grandparents can’t model sane, non-addictive cell phone usage, why should we expect the same from them?

The snow is almost gone, the mountains are back into focus. I am heartsick for those parents. I’d like to not write about anymore missing girls, or some stranger luring them out of their house through an open window.  IMG_3804


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After the Great Grandparents suffered through a six hour delay at an airport in Puerto Rico, we all arrived safely sleep-deprived in our respective beds. And now that I can think semi-clearly again, I’m aghast at all the Iowa caucus news. Would it be correct to say, “Who Cares?” IF it snows, IF young people show up, IF If if only it would stop! The last time an Iowa winner of either party actually won the nomination was when?

Yet Iowa’s tremendous influence has little to do with the delegates the state will eventually send to the parties’ nominating conventions. Instead, the caucuses are important because of how they can change the political world’s perceptions of who can win.                                                                             http://www.vox.com/2016/2/1/10880714/iowa-caucus-2016-time-schedule-poll

OK so it’s all about “the political world’s perception.” Not about facts or statistics, or anything semi-logical. Not about We. The. People. – Good. To. Know. I’ll tell you what’s on my mind, that damnable little mosquito that’s carrying around the Zica virus all ready to start a world-wide pandemic!

An emergency meeting of the World Health Organization is being held to discuss the “explosive” spread of the Zika virus. The meeting in Geneva will decide whether to declare a global emergency. WHO officials have described Zika as moving “…from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.”Most cases will have no symptoms but the virus has been linked to brain abnormalities in thousands of babies in Brazil.

And yes it’s in Puerto Rico so you can be darn sure we sprayed our room and ourselves daily. Even though my childbearing years are long over, who knows what else this pesky virus can transmit. Don’t forget I lost a part of my vision to West Nile while living in the swanky swamps of Rumson, NJ. Now the leaders in world health are convening to answer some questions about this bug; but I asked my own personal doctor, the Groom who is an Internist!

He told me Zika is similar to Dengue and Chickunguyna http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/

But what we don’t know is whether it carries one or two serotypes... or four! What is a serotype you might ask? Just like all humans are a little different, all viruses are slightly different too, but they are differentiated by a small strain of a microorganism. You’ve heard how the first bite with Dengue is pretty uneventful and it’s the second bite that really gets you sick. That’s because the serotype – which is like a strand of DNA – is different from one virus to another. So we know Dengue has four different serotypes: “Researchers also observed that during a second infection with dengue, the cytotoxic T cells produced by the immune system provide only partial immunity against the new dengue serotype. The cytotoxic T cells do not effectively clear the virus from the body, and they release excess quantities of molecules called cytokines. In normal quantities, cytokines help the immune response; however, in high quantities, cytokines can produce serious inflammation and tissue damage such as leakage from the capillaries…” http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/host-response-to-the-dengue-virus-22402106

And who wants leaky capillaries? Or micro-encephalic babies? When will the first Zica infected person come to North America and become the host to another mosquito who will then pass on its serotype to someone else? What’s the best way to keep from becoming a Zica host? DEET http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/01/30/464740275/whats-the-best-way-to-keep-mosquitoes-from-biting

So while Iowans debate Capitalism vs Social Democracies, I would advise anyone even thinking of getting pregnant to delay their travel to the following countries http://www.bbc.com/news/health-35441675

Because this mosquito is a real mensch. The Love Bug told us a mensch is “Someone who is shareful!” And sharing serotypes can be tricky.  _87917914_zika_virus_map_624.jpg




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