Archive for March, 2016

Do you stop to think twice? Or do you leap into new situations, never looking back? This is characteristic of the nature/nurture phenomenon, a temperament that is born-in IMHO. You are either a risk-taker, or a risk-avoider. Look at the baby Rocker. The first time he saw the ocean, he ran right into the waves. Remember he was called “The Boy who ran before he could walk,” so he probably wasn’t even walking yet!

Not every young adult would pack up all his earthly possessions in two cars, convince his girl this is a good idea, and move across the United States to find work in the film industry. Which he did – exhibit A: The new Tarzan trailer, Music and Sound Design by my boy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91rm_G1xkU8

And then there’s the rest of us, we proceed cautiously – my psychologist brother Dr Jim was just telling me about the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM); “The transtheoretical model posits that health behavior change involves progress through six stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination.” 

My first thought was, ‘this is so meta.’ Let’s think about how we think about changing our lives. But for behavioral psychologists, TTM is helpful when someone has been stuck in a habit, let’s say smoking, for most of his/her life and cannot seem to quit. Or they quit for awhile, and then start back down the road. It’s a way to break down the process of change into manageable, small steps. http://brainblogger.com/2009/01/25/smoking-behavior-and-the-transtheoretical-model-of-the-stages-of-change/

I’ve been thinking about this since returning to the states, and the full-frontal onslaught of political campaigns. We’d been invited to a fundraiser for Secretary Hillary Clinton and unfortunately couldn’t attend, but I’ve been listening closely to her words about the Supreme Court nominee. Lately she’s been tweeting us a very valuable history lesson:

  • At our best, America has united behind the ideal that everyone deserves a fair shot. At its best, the Supreme Court has defended that ideal.
  • In 1973, #SCOTUS ruled that women have the right to make intimate health decisions for ourselves. 
  • In 1954, #SCOTUS held that separate is not equal in our schools.
  • Last June, #SCOTUS ruled that marriage equality was the law of the land.

However her critics want to talk about emails, about trustworthiness, about her abundance of caution. She corrals the press, keeping a tight leash on reporters. She doesn’t want to debate in NY, but will in PA. She just has TOO MUCH confidence! This is what Huffington Post writer, Anna Kegler, said about Hillary’s problem:

While boys are raised to exaggerate their skills, take risks, fall down and pick themselves back up, girls are taught to think things through and second-guess, avoid risk and failure, and not raise their hand unless they’re sure they have the right answer. Lastly, girls absorb from the media that their real value [lies] in their appearance, at the same time that boys absorb the message that girls are not to be trusted.

Could this be the real issue? It’s not that Hillary can’t be trusted, it’s just that she doesn’t suffer from impostor syndrome. “By exhibiting confidence and publicly extolling their own virtues, female politicians running for office break the rules of the game and subvert existing power structures. As a politician, Clinton makes repeated asks for money and votes. Implied at the end of every ask is “because I deserve it,” and often, “more than that white man I’m running against.” http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/03/28/impostor_syndrome_is_expected_of_women_but_hillary_clinton_won_t_conform.html

Hooray for all those non-compliant women out there! Great Gma Ada used to give the Bride money for a report card that had that negative “Does not raise hand before talking” box checked! Good for you, she would say, make your voice heard! We not only wanna have fun, we want to bake and eat those cookies too! And the Rocker, well he wants to jump at the same time! Which is why he can work in Hollywood and still return to Jersey for gigs with his band, The Parlor Mob. 12418059_10154401166989316_7721114401111152149_n

Here’s to all the risk-takers, boys and those girls, the ‘tomboys’ out there who want to have it all. Don’t listen to the critics, climb trees, ride your bikes faster and faster. Reach for the stars, because you too can be President one day.

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It’s Good Friday, although I always wondered what’s so “good” about being crucified. For Christians however, it’s the beginning of the holiest time, when Jesus Christ willfully died for their sins, only to be born again on Easter. Suffering and sorrow, followed by jubilation. The casket had to be closed, in order to open.

My family is currently planning a Passover celebration, hopefully in the Blue Ridge this year. If you recall, I’ve successfully passed on the making of haroses to the Bride, and since Bob has been telling and retelling the Jewish story of exile and redemption for ages, we thought it might be a good year to have the seder at our house. Cousins and friends could come from Richmond, and Southern matzoh will be enjoyed by one and all!

But first, this week, Bob and I will visit our attorney for a house closing.

Our “second” home, the little foursquare brick home in town, the one we bought as an investment property, as a hedge on our retirement plans, has been sold. We once thought the Bride and Groom might return to Cville to raise their family, and that we might sell our “country” house and move into town. It’s a wonderful, hundred year old house, with a broad front porch, and light-filled rooms with tall ceilings.

When we stopped driving eventually, our plan was to move into town, to walk to restaurants, and the theatre. We poured our hearts and souls and quite alot of equity into its renovation when we first bought it, giving its grandeur a second chance. We rented the house to mostly medical students and residents. It was like a “Grey’s Anatomy” house; one of the Bride’s roomies was actually named Meredith Gray, and more than a few weddings took place here.

It’s bittersweet to close this chapter of our lives.

But if Moses didn’t appear, if we didn’t leave Egypt, what would have happened to the Jewish people? If Jesus decided to leave Jerusalem, to not walk down the “Way of Grief,” what might Christianity look like today? There are always turning points in life, should you go or should you stay? The Clash said it perfectly!

We’ve been blessed with the best realtor, a woman who has become a friend over the years. Aly Moore I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for helping us navigate our way to this closing. I wonder what door will open to us next?    Altamont St 018FB



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This morning I climbed the stairs to my aviary to write about the mating rituals of birds and how they compare to a Chinese internet dating site, and then I heard about Brussels.

Instead of listening to conjecture and panic about terrorism, Bob and I set off to the Miller Center in Charlottesville to listen to a taping of American Forum TV, to see what an ex-diplomat and policy advisor to presidents had to bring to the table.

His name buzzed in my head. I knew this man. A long, long time ago, when I was a Rumson-Fair Haven School Board member, I was given the honor to write about him from my friend Bobbie VanAnda (Hi Bobbie!!). We were creating a “Hall of Fame,” a wall near the cafeteria which would permanently show our current students the places our alums had traveled, the numerous avenues to success they walked to get there.

I was assigned Eric S Edelman, an ex-diplomat to Finland. Here is my copy:

Thirty years after his graduation from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, Eric Edelman was sworn in at the State Department as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Finland. Amidst friends and family on July 20, 1998, Mr. Edelman said that he hoped his parents would finally be convinced he did the right thing by not going to law school. On August 27, 1998, he presented his credentials to President Martti Ahtisaari in Helsinki.  http://www.rumsonfairhaven.org/about/hall-of-fame/2001-inductees/

I vaguely remember a phone call, and some research back in the day when the internet wasn’t easily available. I loved writing biographies. Many times I would write a “split-page” bio for the newspaper; digging out the qualities and eccentricities of someone who may not have been a celebrity, but may have been infamous nonetheless.

Edelman retired from the US Foreign Service in 2009, and is currently the Hertog Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. That’s a mouthful right?

Today he really didn’t say much about terrorism. It seems he is part of a Republican group that would like to deny Donald Trump the nomination. I know this type of Republican, very Christie Todd Whitman. Someone who is thoughtful, conservative and reasonable; they are a dying breed.

Edelman spent his time, unfortunately, delivering a critique of our President, saying that Obama has an “…ideological aversion to American power.” And that in his two terms in office, Obama tended to prioritize relations with our adversaries, and not with our allies. There was a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking, even though it’s Tuesday. He is a bit hawkish, wishing we had been more aggressive in Syria from the start. Saying that our policy, or lack thereof,  has allowed “…a major region (the Mideast) to descend into disorder.”

Edelman’s interview will be on our PBS stations this weekend. http://millercenter.org/americanforum

Bob thought he drank the Kool-Aid of the GOP, I thought he was more of a Kissinger-era policy wonk. But I did connect with him afterwards, he told us he was a Democrat in the beginning. He said his parents sold their Fair Haven home in 1980, and that he’s never been back. I wonder if they moved to Florida. He said he’s not on any social media sites, which makes getting national security clearance so much easier!

I wonder if he can succeed at keeping the Donald out of the White House. These are serious times. Good Luck Mr Edelman, and Godspeed. Here is a picture of RFH High School.


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Last night, as part of the VA Festival of the Book, Bob and I attended a program at the Paramount Theatre; a gorgeous art-deco building that once had African Americans sitting in the balcony, a la To Kill a Mockingbird. We were there to hear Bryan Stevenson speak about his book, Just Mercy, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/books/review/just-mercy-by-bryan-stevenson.html?_r=0 …and about the injustice of the criminal justice system in our country.

Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law, lives modestly, and runs the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama. He has been called America’s Nelson Mandela, and last night I was a witness in a very spiritual way to his testimony.

The statistics tell only a fraction of the story, but they are a good place to start. In 1970 America imprisoned 300,000 of its citizens. Now it imprisons 2.3 million people. A quarter of a million children have been sent to adult American jails in that time, including 3,000 sentenced to life without parole. One in every three black male babies born today can expect to be incarcerated (for the white population it is one in 15). In some states, including Alabama, a criminal record means disenfranchisement for life. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/01/bryan-stevenson-americas-mandela

He said some pretty provocative things. For instance, he told us that today Germany is placing memorial stones at the places where Jews once lived; Stevenson would like to see us place stones under the trees where Blacks were lynched. The problem is that we have erased, or denied so much of our Jim Crow history, we just don’t even know where all these killings happened.

Did you know that in Alabama MLK day is officially recognized – probably because it is now a national holiday, mandated by law – and called  “Martin Luther King/Robert E Lee Day?” What if Germany decided to have a holiday and call it “Dietrich Bonhoeffer/Joseph Goebbels Day?” Think about that – a dissenting theologian and a Nazi general.

I have likened our privatized prison system to apartheid before, but Stevenson thinks we can actually change things. By changing our war on drug policy to a public health model, by not privatizing our prisons, by ending capital punishment and appointing, not electing judges…and more. I wasn’t taking notes like a good journalist, because I was actually listening to every word.

As a country, he said, we haven’t gone through a Civil Rights era “truth and reconciliation” period, like Rwanda and South Africa, as evidenced by the fight over the Confederate flag. Many Southern White people see that flag as a symbol of their heritage. All Black and Brown people see it as sign of bigotry and hate. We need to confront the awful truth of enslavement and institutionalized segregation and racism in order to heal as a country.

Listen carefully next week while the Charlottesville City Council fights to remove the statue of Robert E Lee in one of our most beautiful parks, Lee Park. “Robert E Lee never came to Charlottesville and was never part of our local history. This statue was erected for the sole purpose of celebrating the Confederacy and establishing the supremacy of its cause. It has no place in our community.”

Stevenson has gone into the belly of the beast in Alabama, and he is still fighting for social justice. How can we treat children as adults in our courts? He has to be “brave, brave, brave,” as King’s widow once told him.

“We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won’t be judged by our design, we won’t be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated.”   Photo: Caleb Chancey-Tireless-advocate--Bryan-010


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Very soon we’ll be heading home. No more rooster wake-up call, no more chocolate croissants to start the day. The Love Bug and I will be wishing on the same stars in different American cities.  

But this morning I’d rather make a gratitude list:

I’m thankful we’ve had no news from the states. 

We turned on International CNN once, and at first I was relieved not to hear a certain GOP name. Then it appeared North and South Korea were planning a nuclear holocaust so we switched it off and never did that again. 

I’m thankful to have had this time with my adult children and their loved ones. To slow down, to speak French, to jump in the waves. 

I’m thankful Bob can still drive the roller coaster roads on this island. 

As Easter and Passover loom into sight, I’m happy to believe in rebirth in the figurative sense. Vacations have a way of giving us another perspective on our lives. 

But just in case rebirth is less metaphorical, I’d like to return to this world as a pelican.  


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When it rains, children love to jump in puddles, our babies are no exception. They are cold rainwater seeking missiles. The only difference here is that the best puddles happen on the path to the best baby beach!

Past one of the most beautiful above ground cemeteries I’ve ever seen. 

Life can be like this sometimes. Pure joy on the edge of eternity. 


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We have coasted into island time. Our vacation is halfway over, or halfway under. And yesterday was a good day. 

We spent the morning at the beach with the little ones; and the afternoon in the pool with the big ones. And for dinner, the Rocker and Ms Cait prepared an exceptional meal. Shrimp with soup, salad and champagne! I should rename my son the Chef.

In the evening, the big ones went to the French movie on a tennis court. So we looked at the stars and counted our blessings, while the little ones dreamed under our handmade dream catcher. 

Can you tell I was once a camp counselor? 

This was a tiny break in the action, the Chef came to sit for a minute. I thought, once upon a time they were little ones on this island. Catching lizards and feeding turtles. And now, look. 


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imageOver the years we’ve had many animals visit us in our semi-open villa. We feed turtles bananas, we listen to goats and roosters, and we watch lizards laze around in the sun. The other day we passed a bevy of French girls trying to decide how to help an iguana cross the road in St Jean.

This time we have a yellow bird building her nest inside the villa, in a small silk gardenia tree! She must have gotten confused. But still, there is absolutely no crime on the island and so hurricane shutters remain open for her foray to and fro.

The Love Bug is going to enjoy seeing those eggs appear in the house!

We taught our children to enjoy nature. To catch fireflies and play with worms. They had zip lines in the backyard and Corgis to chase. I remember gently picking up Daddy Long Leg spiders and showing them how to place them back on a leaf. Letting ladybugs climb all over our arms and crayfish nibble on our toes.

But one thing I refuse to accept in my otherwise Zen animal frame of mind is mosquitos. They carry Dengue. They carry Zica. And I know the bats like to eat mosquitos but I don’t care. I’m on the defense and my family’s health is depending on me. Luckily we are on the windward side and so far, so good.

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One thing we can always be sure of is change. Nothing remains static; our weather is changing, our relationships change, even our cells are changing. Some of us age with grace as arthritis slips into our joints. Some of us fight a losing battle, changing hair color and going under the knife. 

But one thing we never want to change is our adaptability, our resilience. Sure, a horse may throw you into a ditch or a surgeon may screw up, but how do we recover? Throwing in a towel, giving up on life isn’t the way I was raised. The Flapper said she would dance on her surgeons graves – and she pretty much did. 

Bob’s dream during his recovery last Fall was to return to this island. To taste the French food, to drive its perilous hills, to relax into its velvety beach. And for the most part it hasn’t changed at all. 

Sure the small Mini Mokes, the original smart cars, are gone. Cocut the parrot met his death on one of the big SUV replacement’s windshield. The super Marche U – a giant grocery compared to its original Match – is open now midday, very few stores close for lunch and a siesta. And technology is too much with us. There is French TV and WiFi. 

We knew something was wrong when Nikki Beach opened. Maybe now this little piece of paradise has jumped the shark? 

Because now you must pay for public parking. Because the second “big” grocery store has closed and is becoming a “technology” store. Because Ellen and the Kardashians have discovered it? 

But the landscape cannot change, its beauty is eternal like the ocean. I asked Bob if it might sink back into the sea eventually like Miami. He said no, the elevation here is good. 

So we read with abandon. We ignore the TV, rarely check emails. We imagine we are still young, the way we were when we first washed up on these shores. Marriage always has an ebb tide and flow. And soon our children and their children will join us. And we will forgive all the change and delight in their laughter. Because this is what happiness looks like.  


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I’ve been known to write in a grocery store while simultaneously pushing a cart. There are times when I’ll grab the iPad and write in the car while Bob’s driving. But one of my favorite places to write while in transit is in an airline terminal. On my phone, with my thumbs, surrounded by pissed-off harried and hurry-up passengers. 

This morning it’s another mechanical delay. The plane’s battery is leaking and the mechanics must still be sleeping, like I wish I was. So for the sixth time in our last eight flights we will miss our connection in Charlotte NC. I’m surprisingly chill about this, after all it falls into that serenity prayer category – something about the  wisdom to accept the things I cannot change. To know the difference. 

It’s been a whirlwind run up to this trip. There was a floor that needed to be replaced due to freezing temperatures and a furnace condensation pipe leak. Yes deux-ex machina things happen all the time. 

And we needed to seriously prune our front and side yard shrubs and trees. When you live in the forest it’s a constant battle not to be consumed by the forest. But to celebrate Spring, Bob got a chance to test drive a Tesla this weekend. Can I say the smile stayed on his face for a full day and a half!

It’s the closest thing to a self-driving car; it parallel parks itself and slows down when the car in front slows down, hands free! It goes from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds in Ludicrous mode, which is insane! I wonder if it could write my blog at the same time?

Bob has over 300,000 miles on his Acura so he can dream can’t he? Hope y’all get out to the polls today. Don’t let a leaky anything stop you!      


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