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Archive for September, 2017

It’s an unbelievably beautiful morning in Nashville. Crisp, Fall air has arrived along with the sunshine for my birthday. Last night we celebrated under the stars with a Nutella Napoli pizza. I was surrounded by family and everything seemed right with the world.

After all, earlier in the day Bob and I attended a River Talk at the Bridge building. It was hosted by The Cumberland River Compact; for twenty years this non-profit organization has been dedicated to the health and restoration of the river basin, “To enhance the health and enjoyment of the Cumberland River and its tributaries through education, collaboration, and action.”  https://cumberlandrivercompact.org

This particular River Talk was about their latest approach to maintaining the permeable invasive and native plants on the levee. When the Compact took over this job from the Army Corps of Engineers it was pretty wild and had been neglected. After trying a couple of conventional and expensive solutions, they’ve settled on a herd of sheep! A loyal Border Collie named Duggie, slept by his shepherd Zach as we learned all about his sustainable method of property management.

“Sheep are an especially attractive option when clearing steep, rough, swampy or otherwise difficult lots that would pose big obstacles and hazards to human crews with herbicides or motorized equipment.”  http://www.nashvillechewcrew.com

Now y’all know what an animal lover I am, so I was delighted to learn something new about the natural world and how public and private funding can work together in such a beautiful setting. Bob had already met Zach and his sheep on one of his bike rides around town, he spent almost half an hour talking with him and watching Duggie work. Later he told me that I’d love it, that “…it’s an excellent solution to the need!”

Still, when I fired up Twitter this morning after Ms Bean’s walk, I learned that the USNavy Hospital Ship Comfort is still docked in port while less than half of the people in Puerto Rico have potable water. President Clinton had to urge Mr T to deploy the ship, as if he’d forgotten how to govern while Tweeting about footballers #TakingaKnee.

Since then, the call for the Comfort has come to symbolize something larger: A call for the Pentagon to send more.

More food. More water. More generators. More aircraft.

More everything.

My heart goes out to our our friend’s son whose medical education in St Martin has been postponed, to our friends in the French West Indies, and all the people of the British and American Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. To our dear friends in Houston and Florida. This is the exact right time to talk about Climate Change! Our stewardship of the land, sea and air is responsible for such frequent Category 5 hurricanes, and our leader seems to care less about science and more about ratings.

My birthday wish this year is simple. May our grandchildren inherit a healthier planet. Here is the view from the Bridge Building.

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Yesterday I wore a political tee shirt to the gym. I rode the bike, did some free weights and band stretching, a couple of machines and topped it all off with a T’ai Chi class. I’d forget what I was wearing until someone would smile at me, say they agreed with me, or just outright ask me where I got my shirt! I have never in my life put a bumper sticker on my car, but I walked around all day with this emblazoned on my chest:

My dog is smarter than the President

And it felt great. I even tagged my friend’s store in Nashville, “Come, Sit, Stay,” on Instagram cause I like to give credit where credit is due! And to her credit, Ms Bean is adapting to her city environment. Even though she’s a senior dog, she is learning to walk on a leash, avoid aggressive, yappy dogs, and only bark at the mail carrier, Craig, who has the audacity to come up on our front porch and make a clanging noise, every single day except Sunday, right next to the door.

Yesterday I tried introducing Bean to Craig but she was having none of it. Was it his shorts? The big bag he was carrying? Or that can of pepper spray in his pocket? Her ruff was up and her growl was low.

Our President, however, has learned nothing over his 70+ years of life. He’s become a national embarrassment. Remember when I told you Mr T wanted to buy an NFL team back in the 80s? You may find this interesting: http://www.newsweek.com/trumps-nfl-fight-dates-back-failed-usfl-experiment-80s-jeff-pearlman-670843

“They (NFL team owners) just saw him as this scumbag huckster,” Pearlman told Newsweek. “He was this New York, fast-talking, kind of con-man.”

All this nonsense about disrespecting the flag. Since when are “we the people” not allowed to protest peacefully? I went to a few NFL games back in the 80s, and no players were standing at attention during the anthem. Well, I take that back. My brother Mike would point out to me that the Vikings always stood at attention, while the other teams sat, or talked or stretched.

You don’t take on football in this country, even if you are the President, a guy who holds a grudge. You don’t call anyone’s mom the word for a female dog.

You don’t address the United Nations like a 12 year old school boy, calling countries “losers” and Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man!” Kim Jong-un called his speech a  “dog’s bark.”

You don’t threaten Iran and North Korea via Twitter like some ancient neo-con.

Lately I’ve been wondering if we should still be searching for a beach house, or building a bunker.

And I wonder how Buddha would have dealt with our mail carrier Craig. No, I know what he would have done. He would bark a couple of times, and eventually figure out he wasn’t a threat to his territory. Buddha would get himself up, walk over to the door, and watch the whole transaction very carefully.

But dogs are smart like that. They know when to bark and who to bite.

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When I was young, and didn’t want to eat something the Flapper served at the dinner table, she would happily chirp, “Good! All the more for us!” She was all about the Freudian theory of opposites, and she thought if she just played up how great a new dish was, my defense would fold and I’d give in to her exceptional strategy. Sometimes it worked!

Which is why I was intrigued with an essay written by Andrew Wilkinson on his tactic of reversing his To-Do-List at work; he applied the theory of opposites by turning his goals upside down and became immeasurably happier. “He wanted to figure out how to improve his day and make it more enjoyable. So, he followed the lead of Charlie Munger, right-hand man of famed investor Warren Buffet, and a proponent of ‘inversion’ – a strategy that looks at problems in reverse, focusing on minimising the negatives instead of maximising the positives.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170919-the-power-of-a-not-to-do-list

Last night, as I was explaining simply what the Jewish New Year meant to me while the 5 and “almost” 3 year old partially listened, it dawned on me that I wanted to start off the year 5778 with a new angle. I promised myself I’d try and look for the silver lining when things go south, I’d apply my Pippy Longstocking pigtails to every new challenge. I’d learn something new.

Just imagine making your New Year resolutions, only this time God has his Book open and he’s writing down everything you’re putting on your To-Do-List, making Rosh Hashana a kind of spiritual reckoning that ends at Yom Kippur and you better have confessed all your sins by that time.

“What’s a sin?” the Love Bug asked. I mumbled something about not listening…

So I thought about changing my resolutions, my intention to “do Better” infers that I haven’t been doing enough, right? What if I chose to make this the year I employ some “Anti-Goals?” Like Wilkinson, who stopped meeting with people he didn’t like, stopped holding morning meetings altogether, and never scheduled more than 2 hours of his workday, I might just say “No” now and then. I wonder how he dealt with his emails?

Let’s all try and reverse our thinking for a day, a week or maybe even a year. Let’s just put the wrong shoe on the right foot for once and walk around like a toddler not caring one iota! What will bring you more joy in the New Year? Let’s all make our very own “Not-To-Do-List!”

Happy Birthday to the World and I promise never to stop fighting for climate science education, because otherwise our great-grandchildren will have to populate another planet and start over. And I’m not so sure God would start out with “Let there be Light” again, since we didn’t listen the first time.

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Let me feel your psyche talk. Reading a recap of the news this morning made me want to break into song, sorry Olivia Newton John. It seems that Mr T is on a Twitter tear, which obviously means he’s not happy, and he’s setting the stage for his United Nation’s address today. What he will say to the General Assembly is anybody’s guess, but one look at his Tweets tells us he’s getting aggressive with the “Rocket Man.” And Nikki Haley’s response?

“He gets emotional.”

Awww. Imagine what would have happened if Hillary Clinton set policy via Tweets creating one scandal after another, and then her Ambassador said she was just being emotional? Imagine President Obama saying just about anything Mr T has said?!! Imagine any US President mock/striking a woman with a GIF of his golf swing! This is our new normal, we have somehow normalized the behavior of a 12 year old boy.

Last night Bob and I drove out to a lake house for dinner with some new friends. We have the shared experience of our daughter’s residency at Vanderbilt. Their doctor-bride-to-be will be married in January, and she is a Pediatric Orthopedist. We met Susan and Tom by chance at the eclipse, and liked them before we found out our girls actually knew each other. We had a lovely time and returned home in time to watch the premiere of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s epic documentary “The Vietnam War.”

I got pretty emotional, because my brothers served in that war.

I had no idea that the eventual leader of the Viet Cong, Ho Chi Minh, had first written to FDR after WWII for help with establishing independence from the French for his country. That letter was never delivered. After the Chinese Revolution, Russia was only too happy to help this nationalist leader fight for a united Vietnam.

I didn’t know a young congressman named John Kennedy saw the futility of this proxy war for the French. And that in 1959, the first two American soldiers were killed as they watched a movie. The incremental lead up to war was chilling, and resonates today with our troubles in North and South Korea. And so much is about the context of our time, and how that shapes our point of view.

In the 1960s, we thought we were fighting for freedom, because we were afraid of Communism. Fear pushed four presidents of both parties to intercede in a bloody civil war for French Indochina – we didn’t see the obvious end of colonialism. Hindsight may hopefully teach us something this time around.

If we can manage to not let our emotions take over; if our President can control his temperamental Twitter tirades; if we don’t turn our backs on history.

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Our new townhouse gets a tiny sliver of light each morning, and the sun streams in again in the late afternoon. Against all odds, I’ve decided to plant a few dish gardens because “Bloom Where You’re Planted” is my mantra. And even though my green thumb has been noticeably absent when it comes to house plants – with the exception of orchids –  I’m determined to turn my horticultural track record around and plant cacti!

After all, who could kill a cactus plant?

They grow in the desert, so water isn’t a problem. I’m really good at forgetting to water things, houseplants are low on my list of priorities falling right after dusting. Gardens, in my opinion, belong outside. But cacti, in or out, do need a fair amount of sun. Therefore I will inch my cactus gardens into that small square foot of sometimes semi/saturated/sun space and hope for the best.

We all adapt to our environment. I’ve gone from living on the edge of a bird sanctuary in Massachusetts, to the Jersey suburbs, to the mountains of Virginia. And now I’m sitting here, in the alcove of our “open plan” Living/Dining/Kitchen room in the middle of a big city. Ms Bean has adapted to a collar and leash; and Bob has changed in his own way, he’s enamored of Uber, forsaking driving, and has just walked in from his daily bike ride!

City life is looking better and better. I’m about to meet the Bride for another look at the fashions of Downton Abbey before the Cheekwood exhibit closes.

I learned a few things from my last visit to “Dressing Downton; Changing Fashion for Changing Times.” For instance, skirts began to shorten during WWI, as nurses on the front lines shortened their hemlines to avoid mud and blood. Hence the Flappers of the early 1920s. Fashion was adapting to the pragmatic needs of working women. Corsets became unnecessary, along with bustles. Eventually, women started riding horses astride in pants, they gave up the ritualized riding costume to ride like a man!

I recently found out a food blogger I follow from Charlottesville, Kathy Younger of KERF, made up with a particularly nasty troll of hers who had created a synchronous, satiric website for two and a half years. One of the many cruel and snarky comments on this other site had said that I looked like a man in my Downton Abbey-type hat. Those of you who know me know I wouldn’t really care, but what was interesting was that this troll took the commenter to task, telling them my website MountainMornings.net was actually well written and interesting!

The funniest thing is I thought the troll was a man. Why? I’m not exactly sure, the writing was sharp and witty, but Tina Fey is sharp and witty. Maybe I just couldn’t imagine a woman cutting down another woman like that. It turns out her troll was a 20 something young woman from LA, one with her own issues, and she wanted to make amends. https://www.katheats.com/i-befriended-my-troll#Z2pOl6ZWizcpyJbw.01

What I wanted to know was who was paying for this troll to write her miserable copy almost every single day? I haven’t quite adapted to the business side of the internet yet, but Kath said there “…are huge networks like Google Ads and they run all over the internet, so you can’t really pinpoint single businesses. They run on so many sites that they probably don’t even know they’re on a troll site.”

Well shame on these advertisers! And just in case you think the White Supremacists marching in Cville shouting “Jews will not replace us” – which no Jew I know would want to do in the first place – was a fluke, Facebook has just announced it will trim its targeting system for advertisers. Yep, it will no longer search for people to target in ads who are self-proclaimed “Jew haters!” I kid you not… They said they are “…building “guardrails” into its processes to stop offensive self-reported profile traits being used as ad categories.” http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-41278800

Did you know that a Jew born in Israel is called a “Sabra?” The name came from a kind of succulent that grows wild and free on the coastal areas, like a prickly pear. I’ve become rather proud of my bleeding post-potting fingers.

I hope that more platforms like Facebook and Google adapt to the troll and racist/anti-Semitic sites that pop up in the wild west of wifi, because free speech is becoming a synonym for spew all the hate you can, and we better learn how to handle this new territory.

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Weekends blur into weekdays after retirement. Routines become malleable after moving from the country to the city. Today we might go out for lunch, or we might not. September is always a busy time of year, but with impromptu wine and cheese parties popping up, where we meet our new neighbors – “Oh, you moved from Chicago two weeks ago?” – and try to remember their names and their dogs’ names, I forgot what day it is, until I remembered.

The phone call from Great Grandma Ada, telling me to turn on the TV

The shock of standing alone in Rumson, across the shipping lanes from Wall Street

Calling the Bride in a government building in DC, then she suddenly hangs up

Listening to her voice hours later, after she walked back to Adams Morgan

Calling my sister Kay and my nephew Robert, who live in Manhattan

Waiting to hear from Bob, who was waiting for casualties at a dock

Waiting for the Rocker to return from high school, not knowing where he was

Driving on empty streets to the Red Cross to donate blood

Talking to a neighbor, who was walking her baby frantically up and down, up and down the street and rambling about knitting booties for rescue dogs

This morning the Bride told me she was having a hard time waking up. It could be because she worked yesterday and then afterwards threw a party at her house. It could be because it’s an overcast, cold day in Nashville. Or it could be because waking up to this day every year brings our fragility into sharp focus. Because sixteen years ago we woke up to a nightmare followed by funerals with empty coffins.

We remember our neighbor on Buena Vista Avenue who perished in a Tower. We remember our friend’s mentor who was a judge on one of the planes. This morning we vow to #NeverForget all those innocent people who lost their lives going to work, the rescue personnel who perished and became sick from digging in the Pit of millions of tons of steel and the ash of human remains. And their families. We will always remember.

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Picture from National Geographic archives – 6 months after 9/11 while the Pit still burns

 

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So much is happening, locally and globally. But this morning I’m heading out to Tot Shabbat at the Temple. We will sing, and light candles and try to forget about natural disasters and the personal/political ramifications of rescinding DACA for an hour or two..

Yesterday was the closing on our mountain house. We didn’t have to be there, we signed everything electronically. The people who bought it flew in from FL, they were escaping Hurricane Irma and bought our house as a second home. The closing was supposed to be today, the storm changed that equation.

It was bittersweet for me as this was the first, and most likely the last, home we built together.

Yesterday was also the end of Four Bridges, Bob’s family summer home. The last hold-out in signing off on the property finally relented. Checks will be cut for all the descendants of Etti and Sam, immigrants from Russia. They came here with nothing, and left quite a legacy.

One Hurricane story concerns our friend’s son, Jon. He had just started medical school on St Martin and luckily his apartment was not right on the sea. He took shelter with his friends and they are all fine but the island is uninhabitable. The school’s back-up plan was to send students to Miami.

That’s the last place they can go for their first year of study. I wonder if someone at Vandy or UVA will accept these medical students, like they did after Katrina?

And one last thing if you are in the path of this hurricane. Close all your windows and inside doors too, this will help save your roof! http://disastersafety.org/Hurricane/

May God watch over us all. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

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