Archive for June, 2016

Today the Bride and Groom are moving into their new home. After years of renting, they found a house to call their very own. Congratulations, it seems the American dream is alive and well in Nashville!

As for me, except for the plaster dust, I’m in heaven. The drywallers went down to the basement to join the painters, and the main construction crew was outside the laundry room repairing the stone patio. For a few minutes, I found myself alone. Since my aviary is under plastic, I decided to sit down and write in front of CNN on silent; but Elizabeth Warren was introducing Hillary Clinton and I just had to listen.

Together, they make a dream team for this old feminist. Is it too much to ask Sen Warren to join Hillary’s ticket? I would start a new hashtag #Nanasfornanas – and to top off my exceptional (but my eyes feel like sandpaper) morning, SCOTUS just overturned the harsh Texas TRAP laws in a 5 to 3 ruling! The Justices said those restrictions are an “undue burden” for women seeking an abortion. It’s a victory for women’s/human rights. In 2016 let’s all agree a woman’s right to a safe legal abortion shall not be infringed.

Hillary just called Trump, “Temperamentally unfit,” for the Office of President. She said we need to write a new chapter in the American Dream, and it can’t be Chapter 11! I admit that I gagged when I heard Trump, standing out on his Scottish gold course, rave about how the devaluation of the British pound would be good for HIS business. What an obnoxious, elitist a$$hole!

I hope that next year, Hillary and Bill will be moving back into the White House. So I thought, with moving on my mind and flying text messages from Nashville on my cell, I’d list a few tricks to a stress-free move.

  • Movers don’t move candles!? So throw them out or put them in your car.
  • Pack all your sheets and towels in a separate box, along with soap and toilet paper. Pack another box with cleaning supplies They should be last in the truck – first out – or carry them in your car.
  • Hire a babysitter if Nanas and Granddads are not around.
  • Also, and this is important, put someone in charge of the dog! I can’t tell you how many people I know who have lost their dog while moving. They are amazing escape artists.
  • Buy a pizza for the moving people for lunch – it will be unexpected and highly appreciated. Oh, and tip them well when they are done, especially if they have put bed frames and cribs back together for you.

I’m wishing my daughter’s family lots of love and happiness in their new home! I stopped helping my kids move years ago, but I’ll drive down later to help them decorate! This is the first big move for our adult children, one where they didn’t pack the UHaul themselves with their friends. Wish I could help her unpack the kitchen.

Don’t forget to throw some salt over your left shoulder for luck! I’ll see you soon with the rocking chair Great Grandpa Hudson made for the baby’s room.        IMG_4747

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It was a deep sigh that greeted me this morning post-Keurig. Bob is home and switched on CNN, the news on Brexit is stunning and all the talking heads swirled around mine before the caffeine had set in. 

But should we be surprised? Yesterday, amid plaster dust and paint decisions, SCOTUS tied on the President’s immigration scheme to let parents of children born here, stay here. Nationalism, a far right Tumpattania (thanks Michael Moore) has infected our country too. There is a move afoot to stay separate, to isolate ourselves from the world. 

Fear of immigrants translates to FEAR period. Fear of Eastern Europeans taking away jobs, fear of Mexicans and Muslims and anyone not in the same tribe. 

We heard rumblings of such far-right thought throughout our river cruise. Recent elections in Slovakia saw a millionaire political outsider win office. People in Hungary were losing out on the economic rise of the EU. 

But a very sweet Slovakian tour guide told us she would be attending law school in Edinburgh in the fall. For free! Because if you passed the test, students could travel anywhere in the EU to pursue their education. Now I wonder what will happen to her. 

Lightening took out our modem yet again so I had to stop at Starbucks today to connect with y’all. Now I can share this painting of Saint Angela Merkel we saw in a Vienna coffee shop. She is calling the Brexit vote a watershed moment. Remember the EU was formed not just for economic reasons, but to prevent bloodshed and a future world war. 

Let’s all offer up prayers to Saint Angela today. May we not find ourselves in a similar solitary state in this world. Prayers to sustain the EU and to get out our Democratic voters in November! 

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After touching on a woman’s anger in the book “Fates and Furies,” I thought long and hard about my own PDAs (public displays of anger). Remember I went to Catholic school, where any display of emotion was well squelched out of us. The nuns wanted us to walk humbly before God, in our little plaid uniforms. Good advice, except all the boys didn’t seem to care what the nuns wanted.

In the 1970s women’s liberation caught up with me. I had found my voice, and like most newbies it needed refining. I couldn’t wait for some unsuspecting vacuum cleaner salesman to ring my door bell so I could practice saying, “NO!” After all, Meghan Trainor wasn’t even born yet; can you tell I love her new song. NO?

My name is NO my sign is NO my number is NO

When did we lose that stubborn two year old temper? This morning it seemed like fate (Ha) when my Lenny email arrived – “Women Have Anger” by Casey Wilson.

I’ve realized that anger doesn’t seem to be as palatable on a woman as it is on a man. And I’m angry about that. I’m angry at women who can’t access their anger, or who cover it by masquerading as little sweeties, or those who display it and are off-putting. Which are all versions of myself I have spent my life trying to wrangle and negotiate.

Even as I acknowledged that there’s a degree of sexism in the way the world treats an angry woman, as I got older, I started realizing my outbursts were causing real problems. For starters, I lost a lot of phones. Whenever I would feel a flash of white-hot rage overtake me, my first impulse was always the same. To throw my phone. My phone! My very lifeblood! No available slab of drywall was safe.

I never threw my phone, I was more about throwing a well-placed F bomb at someone. But speaking of drywall, I currently have between three and six guys running around my house finishing the basement and fixing drywall tears, and spackling and hammering and vacuuming. The noise is enough to make you weep. That is, when I’m not all super angry bird about the four gun violence bills that were (excuse the pun) shot down in the Senate yesterday. I am pretty hot under my collar at the moment. The good thing is we may have reached a tipping point, so strike while the iron is hot ladies. How could the Senate decide terrorists deserve to have their guns, while they don’t allow any guns or knitting needles on the floor of their esteemed body? Nope, not even if you have a concealed carry license…or an unfinished sweater sleeve.

Call. Text. Write. Walk on Washington. Do anything to get your legislators’ attention. Get angry people.This is righteous anger. Nobody needs an assault weapon to hunt, everybody wants to expand background checks so terrorists and maniacs can’t get their hands on a gun. The American people are mad as hell, and come November I would be very surprised to see those GOP members who voted against sanity yesterday return to the Hill.

This afternoon, two women Senators got together to put forward a bipartisan proposal to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists. They held a news conference and they had a tag line – “No Fly? No Buy.” Our very own VA Senator, Democrat Tim Kaine was a part of the new bill and may be considered as a running mate for Hillary. Will they be able to reach a compromise before November? Or is this system as broken as I think it is?

Remind me to tell you the story of my knitting needles in Heathrow Airpot. Maybe I should keep a pair of needles in my glove compartment, after all, we ladies don’t wear gloves anymore. It’s time for a new generation to come out and vote, to just say NO and take up the gauntlet, to repair democracy. The days are getting shorter.   IMG_4727

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Do you believe in fate? Bashert is the Yiddish word for destiny, and since I was just visiting Great Grandma Ada and Hudson, I was the happy recipient of a certain cultural recap (or comeuppance). Acceptance of our fate, our place in this world is the touchstone of religious thought and certain ideologies. Why suffer and struggle? Remember that famous theologian’s prayer; “God grant us the serenity to accept the things I cannot change….”

Well Ada is reading “Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff – her book club assigned this book to her. She must report on it at their next meeting and believe me, it’s a long and complicated piece of fiction. Full of sub-plots and interesting characters. The protagonist, Mathilde’s husband Lancelot (Lotto), grows up in Florida – a place someone on our Viking ship said is for “Golfers and Alcoholics” to retire, and he said this lovingly since he was from FL!  I read the book many months ago and suggested she watch this video – https://charlierose.com/videos/23139

The author is writing about love, friendship and marriage. Since Ada has been a marriage counselor most of her adult life, I get why the group picked her! But she hasn’t finished the book yet and I remember how it ends. The long denouement of Mathilde, her tragic backstory, her isolation and abandonment. Should I tell Ada? I kept this to myself, and just told her that Groff is a feminist. An author who is taking us deep inside a woman’s rage. An author who writes in longhand from 5 am to 3 pm every day when she picks up her children from school. What a good husband!

The novel tells the story of Lotto and Mathilde Satterwhite. He is the darling of a prosperous Florida family – “Lotto was special. Golden”. She, an apparent “ice princess”, is the survivor of a past about which her husband has only the fuzziest idea beyond it being “sad and dark”, and above all “blank behind her”. The first half of the book offers Lotto’s view of their life together as he rises from charming but failed actor to celebrated playwright, thanks in no small part to Mathilde’s editorial finesse. The second half reveals that Mathilde has, through implacable willpower, transcended circumstances that read like a hotchpotch of Greek tragedy, fable and detective novel. Much of what Lotto takes for granted in his good fortune, it turns out, is due to Mathilde’s ruthless machination, right down to their marriage itself. She genuinely loves him, but she initially set out to win him for mercenary reasons.  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/24/why-the-fates-and-furies-this-years-most-talked-about-novel

Groff tells us that any good marriage must retain an air of mystery. I love that idea, but I could see that Ada wasn’t quite buying it. After all, therapy is about laying your heart out on the rug and trampling all over it, right?

Spending a few days back in NJ, to attend cousin Harriet’s funeral and the shiva calls that are part of this world, I learned more about her life. Harriet, like Mathilde, was slightly mysterious. She once sang on the radio, and she went para-sailing with a grandson at the age of 80! I loved learning new things about her; she and Perry once owned a condo in Boca. Who knew?

But navigating the maddening crowds at Shop Rite and Bob’s family has taught me one thing. You really can’t go home again. My old Queen Anne house on Orchard Street is now a duplex, and the Jewish Center across the street is a Baptist Church. Was it really fate that led Bob to meet me there, in front of my old house, one summer day in 1962?

I’m not a great believer in destiny.

We make our own luck, and if we don’t like where we are, we have the freedom in this country to change it. There is a semi-opaque membrane between our young selves and our future. Some people get stuck along the way. They define themselves as a certain type of person, and they settle into that role. I would not want to look back on my life, and wonder how I got there. IMG_4698


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Her jello mold, filled with every color of the rainbow

Her smile, only half-given like Mona Lisa, appreciated all the more

Her friendship, loyal and nourishing for body and soul

Her bridge club, a weekly religious convocation

Her impeccable style and capacity for optimism

Her children, my friends

Her grands and great grands, are her loving legacy

Her patience and kindness, gifts to us all in a storm

Another loss for Great Grandma Ada. Harriet was our cousin who married Perry and constructed a bridge to this extended family’s heart. And she worked tirelessly to maintain our family’s health and happiness!

She was my dear cousin, always there, always gracious and giving. Ada’s friend who was like a sister. She lived for 92 years and died peacefully in her sleep. The Angels are trumpeting her passing today as we say goodbye and inscribe her name on the walls of our hearts. 

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It’s ironic isn’t it, that my last post was titled “No News?” When we came through customs at Kennedy Airport, we re-emerged in our country, so happy to be home. To sleep in our own bed, to talk with the kids, to pet the pup! Our mountains compare well with the foothills of the Alps after all. Now don’t get me wrong, we thoroughly enjoyed the Viking cruise from Budapest to Passau on the Danube. And surprisingly, my country/farm/boy, who usually hates big cities, loved Prague.

But I couldn’t believe my eyes after we found the departure gate to Dulles. Our journey home started at 3am Czech time. Viking had to reroute us through Amsterdam instead of Paris because of the Air France strike. We flew KLM from Prague to Amsterdam to NYC finally…only a three hour stopover until our connection to DC. Then a two hour drive to central VA. So I thought it was jet lag when I looked up at a TV monitor in Kennedy, the CNN screen had pictures of a Voice contestant that I loved, Christina Grimme, a hometown girl from Southern Jersey. And the scroll said she’d been murdered in Orlando.

She was so young and talented, signing autographs. My heart broke for her family and friends. And then the next day, we awoke to another horrific attack in Orlando, a mass murder at a gay nightclub, Pulse. After ten days in Europe, our return seemed surreal. Was this a trick? The wonderful, magical world of Disney that I knew and loved as a child, with Tinkerbell sprinkling magic dust on our black and white TV screens, must have been a century ago.

I’m so sick of the media deluge, asking victims how they feel, asking Hillary to say “Islamic Terrorism.” When will our country wake up?

Not after a madman shoots up a college or an elementary school, certainly not. Does it really matter if it’s a white, neo-Nazi in Charleston targeting a Black church, or an Arab  Muslim born and bred here targeting a gay nightclub in FL? Terror is terror. Our legislators hands are dripping with the blood of 33,000 gun violence victims every year. Most of them, 64% are suicides; people who may have been saved if a gun wasn’t within reach at a certain point in time.

On an average day, 91 Americans are killed with guns. And our murder rate is more than 25 times the average of other developed countries. https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/

Twenty-five times. Because in Eastern Europe, where terror reigned supreme during the first half of the last century, it’s not so easy to buy a gun. First of all, there are no hand guns or assault weapons for private citizens, none. Why do we need these? That officer was a “good guy with a gun” inside Pulse, but he couldn’t stop that bad guy with an AR-15 and a pistol.

In Europe, if you want to hunt you must apply for a license to own a hunting rifle, twice! Two separate applications and then have a note from your physician, and THEN actually meet with a psychiatrist! 

Please don’t tell me it’s our mental health system, because I agree it needs some work. And please don’t tell me that if everybody had a gun we’d all be safer because that’s ridiculous nonsense. I won’t bother to read Trump’s narcissistic inane Tweets either, this is not a partisan fight. And my interpretation of the 2nd amendment is the National Guard, not the NRA. If a guy who had a record of abusing his ex-wife, and was interrogated by the FBI TWICE, could legally purchase an assault rifle and a handgun on the same day, any sane person should be asking themselves why?

Bob Iger, Disney CEO released a statement on the shooting: “We are all heartbroken by the tragic and horrific events in Orlando, and offer our thoughts, prayers and support to everyone in our community affected by this senseless act.” http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/disney-seaworld-respond-orlando-shooting-901897

Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Voting for Hillary might just help, and calling your legislators, to let them know the tide is turning. Let’s start with banning assault weapons, again, and how about a background check, and go from there; it’s time for our legislators to wash their hands or vote them out of office. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/ban-ar-15-civilian-ownership

And let’s all go to Disney World! Can you see the skeleton nodding his head in agreement on Prague’s astronomical clock?IMG_4639


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No news is good news. And we’ve pretty much remained news-free on this trip. I watched one movie on the ship; it was a period piece about Jung and Freud in Vienna so it counted as research. CNN was verboten! But every now and then WiFi clicks in and my Facebook newsfeed explodes. 

It seems that Hillary has secured the nomination, and terrorists have bombed TelAviv. I saw that four people were killed on my way out of breakfast in the hotel lobby. CNN is inescapable on land. And if it’s Thursday, we’re in Prague or (Praha) in the Czech Republic. 

Those of you following my Instagram account know what we’ve been up to. Yesterday we set off for one of this beautiful city’s 200 museums to see their Mucha exhibit of the Slav Epic. In the 1920s he painted 19 canvases depicting the history of the people – serfs, saints, and sinners. Each painting measured about 20 ft square. 

Like this city, it’s nearly impossible to convey Mucha’s art in a mere iPhone photo. 

Today we toured the Old Town where a once vibrant Jewish community lived. We walked around the cemetery that was higher than two stories because 12 levels of graves were buried there. 

We read the names on the walls of the Pinkus Synagogue of the 80,000 Czech Jews who were killed. We saw the bronze plaques on the street with the names of a Jewish family that once lived there. 

We crossed the Charles Bridge filled with religious statues and the crucifixion of Christ on the cross surrounded by Hebrew letters. This was done to humiliate the Jewish population. 

And tonight we will head out for a typical Slavic dinner. And I will not be afraid, because the cafe in Israel is open today, despite the horror of yesterday. And just a reminder…

The news from Europe in the 20s and 30s was screened and buried inside the American press. FDR took too long to enter the war and stop Hitler. Read and watch the news about our election with a critical eye, ask yourself who owns what paper or media outlet. What is their agenda? 

Our humanity rests on our vigilance.   

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We are almost done on the Danube. Next stop is Prague. We will need to take a bus from the river in Passau, Germany to the city. And I just found out there were two groups of travelers; the Regulars and the Leisurely List. 

There are 174 “dear guests” on this Viking ship. We have all signed up for different excursions in the countries we visit; each port of call has something to offer. A fairy tale village, a concert in a palace, a cathedral or a beer garden. 

For example, today we spent the entire day with an amazing guide named Johann and four other Americans from Minnesota! We drove out to the Austrian countryside to see an Abbey where cheese is still made and high schoolers parade through halls filled with Baroque gold and priceless paintings. 

Next we visited an organic dairy farm. The 82 year old grandmother was bent over weeding the circular driveway the entire time, and she was thin and happy! The cows let me pet them and I thought I should be a vegetarian. When we sat down to lunch, I fed the farm’s dog, Silva, meat under the table. She was a cross of Rottweiler with white German Shepherd and I was instantly in love. 

Then we drove through a mountain to Steyr. You want to sing all the songs in the Sound of Music. The city homes are magical and date from the 1600s. Two rivers converge on their way to the Danube. Finally Johann tells us how he became a tour guide. 

He created a website for tourism and found that Holocaust survivors from the US were looking for their lost towns and homes. They wanted to bring their children back here. He pointed to a spot where Hitler spoke to 40,000 cheering people in Linz and said that Austria was NOT victimized. There were two concentration camps nearby. From such beauty we were swept into the hell of this country’s history. 

From Wiener schnitzel to the Mauthausen Camp. We cannot escape our destiny. Soon enough we will be counted with the Leisurely List – those elderly who cannot walk quite as well as the other group of guests. But for now, we forge ahead. 

We walk to the Farmers Market with the Slovakian Chef, and we climb the steps to the Monastery in Melk. We put one foot in front of the other. And try not to eat all the poppy seed strudel!  

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Tomorrow is our anniversary. It’s been a long, sometimes smooth sometimes rocky road. Most of you know the story – high school sweethearts break up in college and find each other again thirteen years later. What if Grandma Ada didn’t see me in the hospital, and pull me into Bob’s room? 

We wouldn’t be floating down the Danube, that’s what! It’s a first for us. Never did any ocean or river cruising before, in fact our usual thing would be a fancy night out, in a fabulous place. But tonight we’ll be meeting Jayne and Donnie for dinner on the boat and I couldn’t be happier. 

The Chef, as it turns out, is Slovakian. He has a huge herb garden on the top sun deck, right next to the miniature golf and the shuffleboard! Before we disembark for Prague at the end of our Viking Tour, my plan is to corner this guy and get as many recipes as I can. Remember my foster mother Nell was Czechoslovakian and I would like to recreate her holoopkis!

Today we toured the second largest synagogue in the world. Did you know Temple Emmanuel in NYC is the first? The Dohany Street Synagogue was built in 1859 and was the home to around 200,000 Jews in Budapest – 23% of the city’s population. That was before WWII and the Holocaust. Anti-Semitic laws were being passed in Hungary as early as 1920, limiting the number of Jews being allowed to matriculate in the university. 

Today we saw the garden in the center of the synagogue, where corpses were found after the liberation. Over 2,000 victims now have their names on the sacred mounds of earth in this “garden.” It is almost impossible to comprehend the madness, until you walk along the Danube and come across the sixty rusty, steel shoes. 

Here, before the ornate Parliament building, is a memorial to the 20,000 Humgarian Jews who were shot at the bank of this beautiful river, and dumped in the Danube. And when I saw the child’s shoe, finally, that is when I cried. 

There are only sixty shoes there, but I could feel the hopelessness of  that time as we walked in the rain. Today, Hungarians fear Muslims streaming into their country from Syria. God help us, may we learn from Europe’s history.  

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