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Archive for January, 2018

The other day I took my first Barre class at the local YMCA. There was no actual ballet bar in this oasis of a yoga-type studio, surrounded by intense gym dudes lifting weights to blaring music. But we did have mats and discs and tiny yoga balls, plus an amazing teacher who told us it was her 47th birthday, although I could have sworn she was 27! It was the hardest exercise class I’ve ever done, hands (and knees) down, and that’s saying alot; still, I persisted!

And today I can almost walk without pain.

What is it about approaching a big birthday number that makes us want to turn back time just a little? Before my 60th birthday I started dyeing my hair red. Thankfully, I gave up on that one. Now as the big seven OH is approaching, I thought I might address my wrinkles. I didn’t mind those pesky lines when they were only horizontal, but the vertical intersections make me look mad all the time.

No, no knife work thank you, still I’d heard about this thing called Retin A cream, the kind you need a prescription for, so in the Fall I made an appointment with a dermatologist. I needed to find a new doc anyway, after moving, to check my skin/barnacles for cancer every year and deal with the Guttate Psoriasis that appeared ten years ago. Cut to a few weeks ago. I mentioned this wonder cream to my attractive young derm doc, aren’t they all, and she said without skipping a beat –

“We don’t do fillers.”

Fillers? Do I need fillers? What are fillers? Am I too late to the self-care party? The doctor explained that she doesn’t actually do cosmetic work at this facility, but she will do restorative work. I started to feel like an old car, or maybe an antique piece of furniture; the kind you don’t want to scrape the paint off because it would effect the value on the Antiques Roadshow. Just get it professionally cleaned.

I walked out with an Rx for the miracle cream I was to put on my face at night (Tretinoin Cream 0.025%) and some kind of moisturizer for my whole body which Medicare would pay for? (Ammonium Lact 12%) to use every morning. My face started to burn, I began to look like Strawberry Shortcake who was crumbling and peeling away. Every time I saw the Bride she’d say, “Mom what’s wrong with you? Your skin is scabby.” Luckily, my smart young ER doc told me to only use it three times a week. I forgot I still have red-headed skin.

Why are we women so hard on ourselves and aging? Who the heck ages gracefully? I aspire to age like Helen Mirren, not Jane Fonda. I’d like my face to register surprise when I see something surprising. That doesn’t mean Megan Kelly can throw shade at Fonda for not wanting to discuss her facelifts. There’s something just a little bit “mean girl” about Kelly. Besides, I bet she gets Botox shots.

I read an article that says little girls become accustomed to being addressed or defined by their looks by the age of 7. It suggested we use different adjectives to describe young girls, like: “Inventive,” “Confident,” “Curious.” When I noticed the Love Bug was totally in charge on the basketball court, telling her team mates where to stand, I thought to myself she is a little BOSS, just like her Mama. Little Miss Bossy Pants. Then I thought nah, she’s a Leader!

Women are standing up, we are stepping up. And maybe some award shows aren’t keeping up, but my generation will define aging any darn way we want to. We marched to get control over our own bodies, and we don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon. https://thinkprogress.org/gop-abortion-shutdown-dfd173817d47/

We need to stop judging others who might choose a different course, we have inalienable rights to take a pill, use a cream or get an eyebrow lift. First, I would have to find my eyebrows of course.

And if I still want to pretend I’m a ballerina without a bar, so be it. I’ve been teaching the Bug to string beads, and Bob’s been teaching her how to drill holes in shells. Barre or no bar, the force is strong in us!

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I say “Nut Butter Salted Caramel Peanut Butter,” made by Nut Butter Nation in Nashville, TN. This local delicacy has become one of my favorite go-to breakfasts. I spread a dollop onto one toasted Nuti-Grain Eggo blueberry waffle, add a cup of coffee and I’m ready for my day. I might also add some nut butter to a bowl of oatmeal as my food blogger friend KERF taught me. I was never one for a plain peanut butter and jelly sandwich, even though that is a staple for Bob if he finds himself adrift for lunch.

A different kind of nut butter has recently produced riots in France. A nut butter I thought was French, but is actually Italian! http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42826028

The problem with Nutella started in this country when prices began to soar, and instead of hoarding it, we may have created a surplus? Maybe that’s why grocers in France decided to drop the price of a jar of this choco-nutty deliciousness from 4.50 euro to 1.50 euro…Now I never thought of the French as particularly aggressive shoppers. In fact, I like to think of Madame strolling through her market, in kitten heels, with a quaint wicker basket picking out only the choicest of delights for her family. I thought “bloody Friday,” aka the day after Thanksgiving for consumer deals, was a typical American invention.

An all American stampede through the doors of Walmart for a coveted TV, sure. But the French, mais non! However, you don’t want to mess with their Nutella crepes!

“They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand,” one customer told French media. A member of staff at one Intermarché shop in central France told the regional newspaper Le Progrès: “We were trying to get in between the customers but they were pushing us.”

Now there is nothing wrong with Nutella mind you. This dark, creamy hazelnut spread began its life as a way to ration chocolate during the Napoleonic Wars. Then a century later, a crafty Italian baker decided it wasn’t such a bad idea; after WWII ,when chocolate was again hard to find, he swirled a little cocoa into some hazelnut cream, thereby creating Pasta Gianduja, renamed “Nutella” in 1964. The stuff dreams are made of!

So it’s an Italian invention that is produced in, wait, where is it made? It seems that like beer, some of this divine delicacy comes from the original factory in Turin, Italy – and some is made for the American market! It’s even packaged differently – “Formato Famiglia” or the imported version in a glass jar vs the Canadian-made, American version in plastic tubs. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/nutella-imported-vs-domestic-is-there-a-difference/2014/05/30/3

I remember visiting Holland and being told the Heineken made there, with Dutch water, was better than our Heineken in the states. Well, there are people here who will pay more for the original Italian Nutella in a glass jar, because they say it isn’t so sweet. And did you know that next month we will celebrate World Nutella Day? An Italian-American blogger and Nutella afficianado, decided to dedicate one day a year to her favourite spread.

On February 5th 2007 “World Nutella® Day” was launched, and this schmear has been spreading ever since. One jar of Nutella is sold almost every 3 seconds throughout the world, so you can imagine how well this little family (Ferrero) business is doing.

Despite selling out of its entire stock in 15 minutes at a grocery store near Toulouse, leaving one woman with a black eye, I doubt the rioting will spread throughout Europe or the rest of the world; more than 160 countries carry Nutella on their shelves.

For my part, I’ll stick to my fancy local peanut butter. And fun facts – did you know that peanuts are not a nut? They are actually legumes grown underground. Also American kids on average will consume more than 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before they graduate high school. But they may not eat the crusts.

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Resolved: That I will march with women and like-minded men until:

  • Women everywhere receive equal pay for equal work
  • Our reproductive rights are no longer threatened
  • Women make up 50% of the House AND the Senate
  • Women are appointed to the Supreme Court and Federal Judgeships in equal number
  • The ERA is passed; Women’s Rights are Human Rights
  • Rape, sexual harassment and physical and/or emotional abuse are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – and YES, we know the difference between a “bad date” “consent,” “enthusiastic consent” and sexual misconduct.
  • Women of every color, indigenous Native American and LGBT women are no longer marginalized
  • We stop sexualizing young girls in the entertainment industry and end sex trafficking

Yes, I’ve been at this a long time. Writing about it, donating to progressive candidates, arguing with others and begging people to go out and vote for our democracy to survive.

My Nana couldn’t vote when we women won that right because she was married to an “illegal alien” aka an Irishman fresh off the boat. I felt the sting of patriarchy as a college student, unable to purchase that new birth control pill, because I wasn’t married. I marched in 1978 for the ERA, and I marched with Planned Parenthood when the Bride was 12. I marched last year in DC and I marched this year in Nashville. And to be honest, I’m getting pretty damn tired of all this marching.

But the pendulum will swing back, way back. Because we women are a great force, we are life-giving and life-affirming. And we cannot be stopped. Notice our little basketball player in pearls.

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This morning the sun is out and the temperature should be going above freezing. Underneath our coating of snow, crocus are beginning to awaken and cardinals are singing. For the first time, in a long year, I’m feeling hopeful.

Last night Bob and I attended the first in a series of USN Evening Classes. All the proceeds from ticket sales help to sponsor their need-based scholarships. First night always features a celebrity lecture, and this year did not disappoint with a third grader’s dad on the ticket. I’ve heard Jon Meacham speak before at Monticello, so I was looking forward to his insight on the state of this so-called presidency.

“We’re still here!” Meacham exclaimed, to the room of muffled laughs.

This Pulitzer Prize winner and presidential biographer went on, without notes mind you,  to remind us of his love for Andrew Jackson, “I like genocidal maniacs with a heart of gold.” More tentative laughter… Meacham dismisses Mr T’s comparison to Jackson, a fabrication of Bannon’s doing, telling us he is a simple “real estate impresario.” However, we must not dismiss his followers.

In May of 2016 he interviewed candidate Trump in his tower. Meacham arrived early and was standing alone in the huge gilded lobby on Fifth Avenue, when a family of four came through the door. They were tourists, all-middle-American folks. The young boy looked up at his dad and said, “Do you think he comes through this same door?” That beatific look of wonder, as if they were visiting a holy place, was the reason he was elected.

Mr T, like a carnival barker, managed to sell his “MAGA” movement to the forgotten middle class of the rust belt. For a family of four to live a normal middle class life in our country, they must earn at least $130,000 a year. Meacham told us that would allow them the minimum benefits of owning a home and a car and taking one vacation a year. However, the median middle class income for that same family today is around $55,000 – and the reason Mr T won lies in the difference.

Trump offered his followers the American Dream, the “Right to Rise,” as Lincoln said. Only his nationalism is a leftover from our post-WWII prosperity, with women in the kitchen and people of color knowing their “place,” and his tactics are closing our country’s borders figuratively and literally. That last part is my opinion, and part of the reason I’m marching with women on Saturday. Again.

The rest of Meacham’s speech was filled with enlightening, little-known anecdotes to illustrate his Four Characteristics of a Successful President:

  1. Curiosity – Jefferson’s insatiable intelligence
  2. Humility – JFK reaching out to Eisenhower during the Cuban missile crisis
  3. Candor – Churchill reported all the facts, he was a straight shooter
  4. Empathy – Poppy Bush, Gorbachev and the Berlin Wall

Meacham ended by reading a poignant letter that George HW Bush had sent to his mother about the loss of his three year old daughter, Robin, to leukemia. “If you want to know someone’s heart, you have to break it.”

I walked away last night wanting to read “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.”  My step, on the icy parking lot last night, wasn’t hesitant; it was as light as a feather, and my heart was full. The voter registration forms I left in our local coffee shop are almost gone.

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I was just reading “Bono: The Rolling Stone Interview,” about the U2 front man’s latest brush with death. It seems he is reluctant to tell us the details, only that it was a physical “extinction event” – meaning that we may also suffer a mental crisis or two in our lives. We may get stuck in the pain and anguish of losing a loved one, for example, and never recover. We could find ourselves on the endangered species list one day, and extinct the next, like a Dodo bird. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/bono-u2-state-of-the-world-what-he-learned-from-almost-dying-w514442

I mean really, a bird that couldn’t fly?

Let’s say you let a divorce define you, or an illness, or maybe a car accident your family had in 1949. You nearly died. You might have died, were it not for the loving arms of your Nana. Who will build up their resilient muscles to grow and recover, and who will crawl into their childhood room and wither?

Bob told me he’s had several physical extinction events, (and he was only semi-joking) the last one being two years ago on an operating table. You can imagine the rest; as a curious kid, he once set off an explosive that ripped the eyebrows off a playmate. Of course I can’t remember my Year of Living Dangerously, I was just a baby. I do remember at sixteen being side-swiped by a taxi in NYC, the skyscrapers swinging strangely around our car. My step-father, Judge B was driving and I was in the back seat, covered in broken, pebbled glass.

The doctor said his old Caddy saved my life, since it had a steel bar between the front and back seats.

I also hit a deer at full speed head-on one night in my first car, a VW bug. Not sure why the animal didn’t come through my windshield, but I must have been going so fast the deer was thrown away from the car. I remember being afraid to drive at night for a year after that.

And I have a vivid memory of stopping at a red light after playing tennis. I was in my thirties, the kiddos were little. Dopamine must have been flowing full blast since when the light turned green I hesitated for a moment. Just then a car sped by right in front of me, blasting through a red light. I realized that if I had not waited half a minute, I would have been broad-sided. It gave me pause…

Then I read this morning that today is the 20th anniversary of Monica Lewinsky’s little kerfluffle with President Bill Clinton. Monica really turned her life around; she was a young intern who made a few mistakes in judgement, notably talking with the wrong woman about her Oval Office encounters, consensual mind you, and was humiliated, in public. I would call this a mental extinction event that she managed to overcome. She Tweeted this:

“for 20 years, i’ve marked 16 jan as the day i survived another year from 1998. on this 20th (!!!) anniversary, thinkin’ maybe we could try a survivor’s chain. whaddya think? (too corny?) RETWEET if you survived the unimaginable in your life”

And today Scope will publish a well known report about Mr T’s encounters with a porn star just one year after marrying Melania. Granted, he wasn’t a president yet. Still, I wonder how the Religious Right feel about Hillary’s emails now? We have a Groper-in Chief who is ostensibly a racist and probably demented, since I don’t believe he drinks or does drugs of any kind which would explain his behavior.

Is our democracy heading toward the cliff of extinction? IF Bill Clinton or Barack Obama said or did any of the things Mr T has been guilty of doing lately, you betcha the government would come to a standstill. It’s too late for Mr T to learn how to fly, how to lead, how to govern. But we, the people, must #persist and #resist.

And a very big shout out to all those families in Nashville who are experiencing the FIFTH day of a combo snow/MLK holiday weekend at home with the kids! It will stop snowing, eventually!

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The South doesn’t do snow.

Bob and I were supposed to be Grandparenting this morning, but the temperature plummeted and ice is supposed to turn into snow, so the Grands are home from school with the Groom. He is a great Dad and told us he can work from home; also pancakes are his specialty!

And in light of the racist slurs that came from Mr T yesterday, I made Bob sit down on the couch this morning and put Netflix on his iPad. I heard that President Obama was going to be David Letterman’s first guest on his new gig, “My Next Guest” https://www.netflix.com/title/80209096

Cue the bluebirds. We laughed, we even teared up a little, as we listened to Obama talk about bringing his oldest to college. They were having fun with each other and when Letterman told him he really respected Obama – as a man – and embraced him, I felt so much longing for those days. For a President that could make me dream again.

So it was a bittersweet interview, because I miss that man, and nobody mentioned Mr T at ALL. Which was refreshing, but in his absence, in his void, lies uncertainty. Like children of alcoholic parents, we the American people never know what to expect from his mouth or his Twitter fingers. We were getting so close to a deal on DACA yesterday, that I have to think Mr T’s racist remarks were calculated for his base. Just another bright shiny object to deflect the press. We already knew he was a bigoted nationalist, now I wonder if this president is either terribly sinister, stupid, or suffering from Alzheimer’s. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/12/trump-denies-he-called-countries-s–holes-rejects-senators-daca-deal.html

I did not, will not and could not watch Mr T sign a proclamation for Martin Luther King Day earlier. Instead, to commemorate Dr King’s life, I hauled myself out to the outskirts of  Davidson County and registered myself to vote in TN. And I have an idea about what to do on Monday. I will print off voter registration forms and leave them at our local coffee shop.

I recently left a book there with a post-it that said, “Free book from your local Book Fairy.” In Ireland they have a Book Fairy group that does this all the time, and you’re supposed to try and do it without being caught. Yesterday I noticed someone had left another free book in their window. It felt so good to know a mitzvah was being paid forward.

It should not be so hard to vote in this democracy. That bears repeating, “IT SHOULD NOT BE SO HARD TO VOTE IN THE USA!!” President Obama talked about strengthening the habits of the heart; the more we help others, extend our hands and really connect with others, the more we advance our democracy and our own humanity.

My Nana had a saying, “When you throw your toast out on the water, it comes back with jelly on it.”

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#OPRAH2020

I grew up on Phil Donohue, watching my foster mom, Nell, hang on every word that came out of his mouth. She was a first generation American, who never learned how to drive and didn’t work outside the home because her husband asked her not to, politely. I would come home from school, tear off my Catholic school uniform and put on “play clothes” to join her on the couch, before tearing off into the neighborhood on my bike.

Yes, I was a tomboy, and proud of it!

We had a linoleum kitchen floor in our four room (not bedroom mind you), four room house in Victory Gardens. There’s a black and white picture of toddler me in a droopy diaper hiding in a space between the stove and the refrigerator, presumably during hide ‘n seek. We came from humble roots, coal mining families on Daddy Jim’s side and Slovakian dissidents from Nell’s; I knew they passed money to the mailman to fund the IRA.

My kids grew up on Oprah! So when I listened to her speech at the Golden Globes the other night, I knew something was afoot. She started off with a memory – sitting on her linoleum floor… “In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee, watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.”

This is known as the Hook, the catch phrase memory of “humble roots” for every stump speech of every candidate running for any political office in our great land. See, I’m just like you, even though they’ve amassed tons of wealth, they started out with nothing, less than nothing…

I was recently talking with my sister Kay and our brother Dr Jim on a conference call, and listened as Jim recounted how he would go out with our late brother Mike on Christmas Eve to pick the prettiest Christmas tree. Because they were almost giving them away for a nickle. Because the Flapper was so poor.

“Did you also have to dumpster dive for food?” I asked him.

They laughed and said no, we hadn’t been that poor. The Flapper made it through the Great Depression and taught us never to leave a light on in a room. And after four years in the darkness (if he lasts that long), with this semi-literate, entitled, bone-headed purported billionaire in the People’s House, I’m willing to bet the pendulum just might swing back – way back toward the sunshine. With enough luck and organizing, we “might could” nominate a black woman, one who shines from within, for the White House! Yes Oprah, preach Oprah PREACH!!

And in the midst of a sea of black designer gowns that nobody wanted to talk about, she said this:

“Recy Taylor died 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. And for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.”

Oprah brought this sad, compelling story about a gang rape of an innocent black woman in the Jim Crow South of 1944 to light. I felt my eyes filling with tears even as I registered that this sounds like a woman ready to run for office. She brought us the personal story, the anecdote about injustice, that made me remember why I was a Democrat in the first place. All the while we know that Oprah had been raped as a child, we know her story, and we know all those #MeToo stories that have been circulating about the abuse of power by powerful men.

And all I can think is that their Time is UP! They are fired! We have our very own reality TV star in the wings and she is fired up and ready to go. It’s as if a storm has swept through our country and we can now smell the beginning of new air. It’s the sun after a hurricane. We must fight against voter suppression, we must fight for basic human rights and one-payer healthcare. This is the time to take our country back! Please Oprah, I hope you will run. There’s “A new day on the horizon.”

Here is Bob with Berdelle, our 91 year old neighbor, at the TN State House today because you’re never too old to be a revolutionary!

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