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Archive for June, 2017

Shaken or Stirred? Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Two cars or one?

Nelly Bly, my Foster Mother, didn’t drive. She was fifty when they “adopted” me and so my world was limited to her care on a hill in Victory Gardens, with the occasional sojourn to a swimming pond or a grocery store with Daddy Jim. And of course mass every Sunday followed by a sundae at Zanelli’s and later dinner at Dick’s Diner.

There were no after school activities for me, no Brownie troop. I know, cry me a river. But I didn’t miss what I didn’t know about because most moms didn’t drive. I was a pretty happy kid in this Leave it to Beaver black and white world. I would get on my bike and cruise the neighborhood. I learned how to stand up to bullies, how to navigate friendships, how to avoid peeping toms who would slow down in their cars, all by myself.

Still, somehow I knew Nell wasn’t happy being isolated so far from town and later I realized she actually suffered from agorophobia. Jim had never wanted her to work, and even at such a young age I understood an essential part of the 50s female experience. You did what you were told.  A paternalistic system needs to be fed, go along to get along… Today, I see how hard it is for Great Grandpa Hudson’s generation of men to stop driving. Taking the car keys away from an octogenarian+ can be an effort in futility.

FDR promised a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. One car.

And for the past month Bob and I have been living with just one car. We drove my CRV to Nashville, where Bob signed up for city bikes and used Uber if I was at the Bride’s house and he’d been waiting for a plumber at ours. No problem. We walked everywhere else, the walkability score for our area is in the 90s!

Then as soon as we got back to the Blue Ridge, his Acura with a hefty 300,000+ miles on it, had to see its trusty mechanic, again. So we’ve been a one car family in the country for the past week too, surprisingly without incident. Which is to say, we schedule my car individually when we have errands, and drive everywhere else together.

When Bob was working this didn’t always work out. I was once stranded here, on 14 acres in the forest, for over a week in a snowstorm; talk about cabin fever.

But for now, we’re actually considering having only one car. It’s better for our planet and for our budget. I’m all in, but Bob’s on the fence. Either he’s really attached to that old car of his, or he’s dreaming about a sport’s car in his future?

Last night we took my solo car for a spin to see Wonder Woman. When I heard her say the Amazons had figured out what men were useful for (procreation) I laughed and reached for Bob’s hand. We all know men are better drivers, right Danica Patrick?

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The Summer Solstice as we contemplate big changes.

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When you ask for the damage report every morning, and you find that that we are getting closer and closer to a constitutional crisis, the best thing to do is throw up your hands and jump in the hot tub. Watch the sun stream down the slate blue mountains and listen to birds instead of pundits. Or, you could head out to the big city to shake up your political lethargy.

Yesterday, my cousin Anita invited me to lunch at the museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond that is. Their dining room is elegant, and I remembered being there for a wedding years ago. Floor to ceiling windows look out over a garden with a stream running through it, sculptures dot the landscape, and all would seem right with the world. But this was just the prelude to our adventure.

We were there to see the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit, “The Perfection of Style.”

It was like a walk down memory lane. The Algerian French designer documented my generation, beginning with the late 50s black and white, ultra conservative Catherine Deneuve “Belle du Jour” frocks, and seamlessly becoming an icon of the 60s and 70s. He worked hard, ascending to head designer for Dior at the age of 21, but he played even harder…

Despite his success, Saint Laurent, whose early responsibilities denied him a real childhood, felt a need for freedom and to experience everything ‘intensely.’ Sexual escapades and artificial paradises, including the use of drugs and alcohol, were his antidote to ennui.https://vmfa.museum/exhibitions/exhibitions/yves-saint-laurent-perfection-style/

Laurent was a true original. He was the first to create a more affordable line for ready-to-wear, he took his inspiration from the street and modern art, and he always had Black models on his Paris runway. I told Anita that since he was marginalized and bullied as a teenager in school for being Gay, he was able to understand, early on, what deep wounds prejudice can inflict; YSL was a contradiction, only feeling at home in his atelier with luxurious fabric and his models surrounding him, while also traveling to Marrakech on holiday and partying at Studio 54 whenever he found himself in New York.

As we just learned from Carrie Fisher’s autopsy report, addiction is a dangerous, chronic disease. And the epic levels of Hepatitis C in my generation only prove its lasting damage.

Is fashion frivolous? Some may think so, but as Laurent said, Style is timeless. That was another first, connecting lifestyle to clothes! We got to see the meticulous paper dolls he dressed as a boy, but you can preview Laurent’s Runway Checklist online – each collection, the materials he used and in some cases, the client. https://vmfa.museum/runway-checklist/

Now I’m going to search for that old black leather belt that ties in a big bow, I’m sure it was inspired by YSL, it dates to his era. When did I become vintage?   IMG_0834

 

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We’re back home in the mountains, with birds singing and ethical questions abounding. Yesterday I saw Dr MacDreamy about my incessant back pain, and picked up an April 3rd copy of Time in his office titled, “Is Truth Dead?” All week I’ve been listening to pundits discuss whether Comey or Mr T were lying. Just that question… who to believe? And Bob and I listened to a podcast on the nine hour drive from Nashville on This American Life titled, “Mr Lie Detector.” https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/618/mr-lie-detector

Turns out lie detectors don’t work, so why are some companies still using them?

And to round out this theme, I was reading quite a bit of “Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It” by Michael Kaplan last week to the grandchildren. It was one of the free books that are sent via snail mail to all new parents (for the first five years) in TN from Dolly Parton’s “Imagination Library.” http://usa.imaginationlibrary.com

Well of course Betty Bunny DID do it, break a lamp that is, and her attempts at a cover-up only dig her deeper and deeper into hot water. It’s a great age-appropriate lesson in honesty. But let’s face it, who hasn’t lied about something? I was taught it’s a sin to lie, but to spare someone’s feelings it’s “a little white lie” that doesn’t count… Mixed message or what?

The Flapper lied about food all the time. Since she was a busy working Mom, and also an excellent cook, she couldn’t help but take credit for making the whole meal if we had company. When someone would ask, “Did you make this?” Her reply would always be, “Of Course!” Even if the muffins or cake came from a bakery. I distinctly remember the first time I heard this, I was dumbfounded since my foster parents and the nuns had me convinced lying was evil.

But my Mother lied with such enthusiasm we all believed her, even if we saw the package in the kitchen. Sometimes, on the weekend, she would go all out and bake a pie, but everyone knew she wouldn’t actually buy a pie.

She also lied about her age, and her hair color, but of course I thought everyone did that!

Bob and I are true believers in brutal honesty. We taught our kiddos not to lie to us, ever! We started telling them, probably around age 6 or 7, that in the future things may happen, but whatever happened if they told us the TRUTH, they would never get in trouble. Trouble with a capital T (consequences such as being unplugged or losing car privileges) happened when we found out they were using truthiness on us, deliberately obfuscating the truth, lying. And I’m pretty sure this approach paid off, though I’m also sure the statute of limitations on some teenage crimes and misdemeanors is about to run out!

Today we have an outright liar in the White House. He couches his texts in uncertainty – using modal verbs like, “may,” “might,” or “must.” He makes his followers think it’s possible that undocumented immigrants voted in the last election, even though he was proven wrong. He must believe his own lies, like any good paranoid he believed Obama was “wire tapping” Trump Tower. Having Mr Comey call out that nonsense must have stung; not bowing down in all his 6’8″ majesty of manhood to poor, pitiful Mr T, to pledge his loyalty and allegiance? No, so long Mr FBI Director. “You’re Fired!”

Mr T calls his version of the truth, “truthful hyperbole.” Kellyanne gave us a whole new lexicon with “alternative facts.” Facts are facts, like a deal is a deal is a deal! Just because Mr T believed that President Obama was born in Kenya did not make it so. And even if Mr T fires his special prosecutor Mr Mueller, the evidence, the facts about Russia will continue to come out.

Whatever your feelings are, and most of us are on a spectrum of honesty from being horribly brutal to trying to save someone’s feelings, we can all admit it’s never a good idea to lie under oath. Or for that matter, for public officials to lie to us. Lying about having sex with “that woman” is a different level, a whole different category of lies. It’s trying to save face, save a family unit, maybe even save that poor intern Monica.

But knowing that hackers interfered with our election and denying you knew anything about your chief advisors dealings with Russia, such a huuuge smart businessman like you Mr T, and we are expected to buy this? Didn’t you invite the Russians to hack Hillary’s emails in a debate? Oh Republicans, give them a good sex scandal anytime, but win an election at all costs, am I right?

Calling this a “witch hunt” really? Witches were innocent women, and you sir, are no innocent man. You are saying and doing things that would make you the opposite of innocent! When our reluctant Chief Executive/Golfer reads the National Enquirer and Breitbart News and watches Fox TV all the damn time – and believes it all?!

Mr T can’t negotiate his way out of this fast moving train of facts. Like Nixon, he can fire his staff willy nilly, but the truth will come out. His lack of credibility has diminished our leadership in the world. Right now, I’m wondering what he traded North Korea for to get our UVA student, Otto Warmbier, back.

It’s been hazy, hot and humid this week and Bob likes it chilly in the house. He asked me this morning if I turned the AC up last night? Who, freezing cold moi?

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The Love Bug’s little brother does everything she does. He’s a copycat.

“What’s a copycat Nana?”

“A copycat isn’t really a cat,” I told the rising Kindergartener, “it’s someone who likes to do whatever you do; when you try new foods, he tries new food. When you build a fort, he wants to help. When you put on your shoes, he puts on his shoes, even if they go on the wrong feet! That’s OK, cause he did it himself.”

It was time to put on our shoes and get into the car. Even though summer has arrived with its hot, sticky days and fireworks filled nights, there is no time to dawdle. The Love Bug shrugged her shoulders and pulled her shoes slowly out of the bin while watching her brother do the same. As they sat together on the floor, and I wondered if we are raising a generation who will never learn how to tie their shoelaces (thanks velcro), I heard her say to him,

“I hope they don’t have cupcakes.”

And maybe it’s all the children’s books I’m reading lately, but I thought to myself, “What a great title for a book!” This has been an exceptionally busy weekend, capping off an incredibly busy week. What with basketball practice, and basketball games, and pre-school camp with her brother, we are a family on the move. Not a lot of time to swing on the porch or play in the pirate sandbox.

And now it was Sunday, the Bride was heading off to work, and we were going to yet another birthday party! Bob and I didn’t go to the party on Saturday, but we were looking forward to seeing the family of this particular three year old. They are our grandchildren’s Godparents. And I knew they had created a childhood paradise under the shade of an ancient tree in their urban backyard, complete with chickens, a water slide and a huge screened-in porch off the kitchen.

We had one of those back yards in the Berkshires. Bob built a zip line through the trees on the edge of a bird sanctuary where guinea hens would come and peck under our feeder. And though I wasn’t known for my cupcakes, I would bake the occasional carrot cake with toasted coconut cream cheese frosting. The Bride loved helping in the kitchen, especially cleaning out the frosting bowl with her fingers.

I’m happy to see this love of pastry making continue since the Bride will often whip up a batch of cookies on the spur of the moment with lots of help from her children.

I looked down at my Granddaughter and smiled. I asked her if they had cupcakes yesterday. She told me the whole birthday story, which led to an astonishing snippet of insight into an almost five year old mind. I loved listening to her take on the summer social season. Every now and then her brother would interrupt with an anecdote of his own.

I realized suddenly that these children were growing up in a city, with all that entails. Trips to science museums and art galleries and libraries where a Nashville Ballet dancer performs along with a reading of Ferdinand the Bull.

The Story of Ferdinand is an example of a young protagonist who grows up very comfortable in his own skin and with his own decisions, but is soon confronted with difficult situations that challenge his peaceful way of life. Young children can use Ferdinand’s story to confront their own questions about ethical dilemmas. Each question set deals with the larger issue of how we make choices in our interactions with others…                          https://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/BookModule/TheStoryOfFerdinand

When her Mommy got home from work, the Bug dragged her into their backyard where the Groom had installed a basketball hoop! She made eight baskets! Her Dad is an excellent coach. We’ve been doing a lot of counting lately, every day it’s a different color car after they strap themselves into their seat belts. Only black was too hard, because there are so many black cars you could hardly catch your breath.

Turns out the birthday party had a soaker hose strung between trees. And they didn’t have cupcakes, they had cookies!  IMG_0789

 

 

 

 

 

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Ibsen’s dollhouse it’s not.

But like Nora, I’ve left my serene mountain retreat behind for a week of city life. And since this city is the cathedral for American music, we seem to have picked a particularly jam-packed weekend to be here.

Bonnaroo is happening outside of town https://www.bonnaroo.com/lineup/ Our Jersey Shore girl Nicole Atkins is playing this year.

In town we have the CMA Fest http://www.cmaworld.com/cma-music-festival/ with tons of free music everywhere.

And of course since last night was a full moon, we all had to go to the Full Moon Pickin Party for the Friends of Warner Park. We arrived early with the Bride and Groom to meet friends and neighbors for a tailgate cocktail/supper soiree. There were food trucks galore inside the gates and so many musicians I lost count.

As we spread out our blanket and set up the Pack n Play last night for an adorable 7 month old baby boy, I was reminded of going to Tanglewood with our babies in Lenox, MA. I would make some newfangled cold strawberry soup, my friend Lee would bring the main course and another friend might bring dessert. We had elaborate wicker picnic baskets, real plates and sometimes brought candles. Listening to the Boston Symphony Orchestra each summer conducted by Seiji Ozawa under the stars was a high point of our life in the Berkshires.

Last night we had a total of nine kids running through fields, catching fireflies, petting multiple dogs, and climbing sand hills. We even got to see Jupiter through a telescope with her moons. Bluegrass and country music filled the air but it was really the fellowship of fun-loving, happy people that filled my heart.

Nashville is a particularly friendly city; you can start talking with a complete stranger at a sidewalk cafe and feel like you’ve known each other for years after paying your bill. Yes, that happened. He talked about calling the wrong “Holly” on his cellphone, which led to catching up and an invite to see U2 at Bonnaroo. We talked about serendipity, and how we must sometimes just jump into that stream and go with the flow as trite as it may sound.

Jumping may be out of the question now, but we are walking everywhere! And a beach house is still in the works once we’ve settled into city life. I wish we had a “summer home,” a family place for generations at a lake or a beach that our grandparents may have built. My family’s summer home on Lake Wallenpaupack in PA has been long gone since my Father’s death, though I do have a memory of roaming the gardens in my First Holy Communion dress and veil. Bob’s grandparents, Russian immigrants, created a bungalow colony on some land in NJ. It was called “Four Bridges” and sheltered Great Grandma Ada and her sisters’ families for many summers. Unfortunately, that parcel of land just sold last month!

Feeling wistful about a summer home after reading “Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan. It’s  about an Irish Catholic family’s summer cottage and the secrets of its matriarch who is masterfully drawn. It touches on three generations of women, and the expectations society and religion placed on them. One character, in fact, is obsessed with building dollhouses! Like Ibsen, the juggling act we women must do to navigate a marriage and children hasn’t changed all that much. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/books/review/book-review-maine-by-j-courtney-sullivan.html

Today, with professional women the journey can be more complicated than ever – because we still do the “mental” work of a household. The scheduling of doctor appointments, the camp and school related activities, the meals, the grocery list….even the best dads seem to need direction when it comes to domestic chores (sorry Bob). Still, our stellar Groom is right in the thick of it, on daddy duty all weekend while the Bride sees the results of all the music-alcohol-related-accidents…

Speaking of which, I’m very careful walking down the stairs of this townhouse.

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Basketball for a four year old? Well, the Love Bug is almost five and will be starting Kindergarten soon, and she definitely is tall for her age. A mom in her preschool class recruited her for the summer league. Still, it was hilarious watching her team play back to back games last night. Some girls keep their arms up and run, some actually grab the ball and dribble, and some have learned to shoot!

Followed by another Predators win. Pittsburgh 1, Nashville 4 SCORE

Yes, I’m in Nashville. And who knew TN had an NHL team, right? https://www.nhl.com/predators Everywhere we went people were wearing their logo – that’s a saber-toothed tiger I think?

With two major sports teams in town, and lots of gorgeous parks, three YMCAs and a Greenway and city bikes, I was surprised the Music City came up only 42 on the American Fitness Index (AFI) list of healthiest cities this year, http://www.americanfitnessindex.org. It is based somewhat on per person spending on parks and obesity-related diseases. Number 1 this year is Minneapolis, so here’s a big shout out to my brother Dr Jim! And congrats to our friend Steffanie, an elected Commissioner at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board!

On the nine hour drive to TN Bob and I listened to a This American Life podcast titled “Tell Me I’m Fat.” https://m.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/589/tell-me-im-fat

It was about fat shaming and women telling their stories of acceptance and/or denial. One categorized the condition, saying some just have to lose 20 lbs, some are Lane Bryant fat, then there are the morbidly obese. She called herself “super morbidly obese.”

One woman lost weight fast with a little help from phentermine, and she’s still taking it only now she copped to having to buy it in Mexico or online…

I looked at Bob, and he said she may actually be damaging her heart. That same woman longed for her former fat self, the happier, less worried and uptight model of her thinner self. She felt less authentic, like an imposter in a thin-suit. She worried her husband never would have dated her former self…

Wanting to stay strong, ease my back pain and lose that final 10 pounds…I found myself on the stationary bike at the Y yesterday, and I started talking with the woman next to me. We talked about travel and our kids, she’s about to be a grandmother and just had knee replacement surgery. We had such a good time talking and biking and our workouts flew by so fast we agreed to meet for coffee! We had an instant connection, both of us had married our first loves, only her hubby is an NFL coach!

For years I’ve been going to a gym in VA and never met anyone. Maybe it’s because I don’t play tennis, or maybe it’s because I just didn’t try. I’ve got a new attitude, thank you very much Patti LaBelle and Nashville.  You’re just a small town, with mighty miniature basketball stars wrapped up in a big shiny predator bow.

Here is the little hoopster helping her baby brother start preschool! IMG_0744

 

 

 

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Do you remember your 8th Graders trip to the Nation’s Capital? We lived just three miles away from the ocean, our kids went to Rumson’s middle school where they pretty much lived in shorts and surf tee shorts. But we parents were advised to send our young teens to DC with shirts and ties for the boys, dresses for the girls, because as Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man (or woman).” The Principal told us that over the years she had found that when students dressed well, their behavior improved…and an overnight trip like this could get a little dicey with all those hormones charging around.

This morning I was reading a list of “Ten Books to read for June” from the BBC website http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170602-ten-books-to-read-in-june – not that I will be able to read ten books in one month, but I found this title fascinating, “Strange Contagion,” by Lee Daniel Kravitz. “Kravetz gathers research on social contagions – the ways in which others influence our lives by catchable thoughts, emotions and behaviours.” 

Kravitz looked into the Palo Alto suicide clusters of teens throwing themselves onto train tracks in 2009 and again in 2014. I wrote about this and the term “affluenza” in a study published in the Atlantic here: https://mountainmornings.net/2016/01/03/a-study-in-money/

And I’ve had occasion to think about it recently. Not suicide, but social stress, the whole keeping up with somebody syndrome. One friend hires a company to update her closet, and before you know it the whole subdivision is installing custom closets. Men were comparing notes on woodstoves in the Berkshires, in the Blue Ridge they talk about tractors. You’ve heard of the study about how hanging with overweight friends will make you fat, right?

“…the study’s conclusion that if you have heavier friends, family members, and colleagues, it is more likely that you will be heavier, too. The stronger the relationship between the two people, the stronger the link between their weights. But only one of the pathways—number three—explained why people of the same size clustered together. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-your-friends-make-you-fat—the-social-network-of-weight-201105242666

The three pathways the Harvard study referenced were: 1) Collaboration; 2) Peer Pressure; and 3) Monkey See Monkey Do! So that curious little monkey is responsible for our widening waistlines? How many of us have gone out to dinner with friends and heard, “Well if you’re ordering an appetizer…” or, on the other hand, maybe everyone says “No thanks” to the dessert menu and you refuse it too, even though you’ve been dying for a piece of their famous apple pie!

The need to belong, to fit into a certain cultural place is universal. Whenever we would show family and neighbors the mechanical room in our basement’s “Not so Big” house and its tankless water heater, they would marvel. To think you never run out of hot water, and you save money by not heating up gallons of water that just sits there waiting for you to get into the shower.

I’m hoping beyond hope that social contagion will keep our country on the road to fewer carbon emissions and a sustainable future despite Mr T’s backtracking on the Paris Agreement. I’ve already heard that California and New York are committed to moving forward with green energy, oh and Pittsburgh didn’t like being lumped into Mr T’s speech yesterday either. The NYTimes reports a coalition is forming to proceed anyway, defying Mr T!

The unnamed group — which, so far, includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses — is negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside contributions to the Paris climate deal by other nations. “We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed,” Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is coordinating the effort, said in an interview.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/american-cities-climate-standards.html?_r=0

So catch this thought Mr T, we Americans can dilute your damaging policy and defend Mother Earth. We will not all follow you off that negative/denial cliff, some of us would like to protect our world for future generations. It’s the least and the most we can do. Now if I could just get Bob to buy a Tesla!      IMG_0538

 

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