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Archive for February, 2018

Last night I attended a course on “Writing and Publishing for Children and Teens.” It was jam-packed with good advice and important resources, but the most interesting thing to me was the “other” facilitator – an illustrator. Her name is Mary Reaves Uhles and I happened to pick up one of her picture books while waiting for class to begin – I absolutely loved it! Lots of shenanigans and different skin colors at a Grandmother’s holiday celebration:

“The Little Kids’ Table” by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle and Mary Reaves Uhles http://sleepingbearpress.com/shop/show/11704

At first I wondered if I should have been named Mary with multiple surnames, like all the nuns who taught me how to perfectly diagram a sentence, and probably set the stage for my love of reading and writing. Before popping into my class, I delivered two children’s books in Spanish to the Grands; one on Frida Kahlo and the other on Julio Cortázar! After all, they will be learning Spanish in school and why shouldn’t they think of art as a career choice? The Bride smiled at my obvious motive while she cooked up some delicious beans and rice.

One of the most important things I learned from Uhles is that when a manuscript is accepted by a publishing house, the writer has basically zero influence on the illustrator. For some reason I’d thought I would have to provide the artist along with my book, that writer and illustrator came as a duo, a married couple ’till death intervened. I might be able to suggest someone for the job, but nope, the editor gets to pick the person she/he likes. Uhles mentioned a friend who wrote a book about a family, only to find out it was finally published as a PIG family, which was not her intention, but hey…

I also learned I don’t have to rhyme, although I love reading aloud in rhyme to children. It’s like a melody that’s enhanced by harmony. But Dr Seuss seems to have cornered the market on couplets, still I’ll leave a bit of my idea for a another book on Buddha Bear. Y’all know Buddha was our wonderful part-Samoyed rescue who looked like a polar bear. One hundred pounds of pure love. https://mountainmornings.net/2011/11/03/to-a-good-dog/

Buddha Skates Across the Pond

Snowflakes settled on his nose

As Buddha stepped outside to find

A fox left tracks in the tall sea grass

And chocolate milk was on his mind

The school was closed, so back inside

He jumped to pull a crazy quilt

From Lena’s bed, “Up, up, up, sleepyhead!”

He begged with paws of icy silt

I envision a series, Buddha in the Morning, Buddha at the Beach, Buddha Gives Chase, Buddha on a Plane, etc. Which reminds me, when we arrived in Mexico, a police officer was strolling through the airport with a proud German Shepherd dog. who started sniffing all around my bag. Oh Oh, was I carrying some contraband into the country? We always thought Buddha was a drop-out from a K-9 program. It turned out this drug-sniffing dog had smelled my half of a ham sandwich from Starbucks. Needless to say, it was confiscated.

Our current combined pups:  Guinness, Ms Bean and Maple the newest IMG_2040

 

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No more Margaritas for, oops *with* lunch. No more hiking to the beach, our first excursion was a success! At first, all we could do was compare Mexico with our other Caribbean piece of paradise, but that’s just being sophomoric. And as we settled into the week, island fever took hold of my psyche. The sand there is the softest, finest pale beige, almost powdery. The people are the kindest, most helpful, hard-working. We loved being able to walk to two restaurants, and a small store.

And just in case we forgot bread, El Panaderia would ring his bicycle bell around twilight, offering freshly baked goodies! I felt like a child again, anticipating the ice cream truck in Victory Gardens.

And then I’d feel guilty, because there are parents in Parkland, Florida who will never see their children graduate. They won’t walk them down an aisle or touch their hair again. They will never be grandparents. But on the plane yesterday, coming back to real life, I started to hope again. After Mr T’s election, and the do-nothing Congress after Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas, I caught a glimpse of a student-led revolution in this country.

Fueled by Snapchat and Twitter. Facebook is so yesterday to these kids.

I wondered about all the gun-loving Americans who hate undocumented workers from Mexico, when they really don’t know anyone from Mexico. They worry about crime in Mexico, when they should really worry about their neighbor’s kid who may just go out and buy an AR-15 as easy as he might buy a candy bar. Parkland’s shooter bought 10 guns, legally; according to CNN:

A law enforcement source briefed on the investigation told CNN that Cruz had obtained at least 10 firearms, all of them rifles. Investigators are trying to track the purchases, which Cruz appears to have made in the past year or so, the source said.
Cruz bought two weapons from Gun World of South Florida in Deerfield Beach, said Kim Waltuch, the store’s CEO. She would not provide details on the types of guns he purchased or on the time frame, but said the sales followed normal protocol for Florida firearms purchases.
What if administrators and teachers and board members also walked out of their schools? What if education came to a halt in this country because enough people want their children to have the right NOT to live in fear of going to school, to learn. We could all just walk around Betsy deVos. The answer isn’t better active shooter drills or locks or no bump stocks or help for the mentally ill or whatever else the NRA would have us believe.
The answer, or at least imho the first step, is to reinstate the 1994 assault weapon ban that happened after Reagan was nearly killed (remember the Brady Bill?). Bill Clinton signed the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, and George Bush allowed it to expire in 2004. I’m sure if you asked both Bush presidents today, father and son, if they would like to resurrect this ban without a goddamn time limit attached, they’d probably say “YES.” https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/when-bill-clinton-passed-gun-reform/488045/
Or maybe a child’s life is not quite as important as one presidential life?
So my piece of wisdom on this rainy, cold Nashville Wednesday is a bit of old fashioned Biblical verse: “From the lips of babes and infants you have established strength, Because of your adversaries, that you might silence the enemy and the avenger.”
And I’ll drink to that.
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Good Morning from Mexico, where the sun is shining and the construction noise can be deafening. Bob and I are on stage one of the never-ending search for a beach house. Our grandchild magnet doesn’t have to actually be ON a beach, just close enough to count.

The last time we were in Mexico was for Great Grandma Ada’s 90th birthday bash. We traveled as a large family group and stayed at a luxury resort in Cabo San Lucas. There was whale watching and celebrating galore but it seemed like we were inside a cocoon made for Americans.

This time we rented a car in Cancun and drove 75 miles to Tulum. I found a beautiful new penthouse condo on AirBnB, and we don’t need a gym. Our stair master is the 3 flights of stairs we climb multiple times a day. We’ve been living la vida local.

When a streetlight turns red, a man steps into the square and serenades us with a trumpet!

We can ride our bikes to the Caribbean Sea through trails on the edge of a rain forest. The people here are genuine and kind. I’m surprised that most don’t speak English, but that is my bias showing. Mea Culpa. I love the greenery and the wildlife, agouti and pelicans and more. But most of all I loved visiting the Mayan ruins yesterday.

This archaeological site sits on the edge of a windswept cliff. It was first inhabited around 1500 years ago and was abandoned after the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Once a walled city that was used for religious and economic purposes – the “common people” lived outside the walls – it is now a tourist Mecca. Like Stonehenge, its design helped the people keep track of the sun and the stars.

We were early and surrounded by a few tour groups of different languages. Still, there were moments when I felt I was  walking on sacred ground; you could touch the ancient stone, you could smell the sea. Iguanas poked their ancient heads out of the their temple nests.

We returned to our rooftop deck, to the WiFi of horrific news from the states. I am afraid we have become habituated to school shootings, to allowing our children to be sacrificed to the god of money and power for the NRA. If so, like the Mayan culture, America is on a path to extinction.

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Mindfulness. I’ve been reading alot about this lately, and the Bride asked if I’d like to attend a Mindful Parenting and Grandparenting course with her, “Sure,” I said, who wouldn’t?

Of course my yogi daughter practices some of these techniques, like meditation, to deal with the stress of her job. You never know what’s coming through the door in an ER, and like the life of a pilot – who is on remote control until he has to land a plane in the Hudson River – she sews up a lot of cuts until someone tries to overdose (or, insert any catastrophic event).

Saying you want to “Be Here Now!” doesn’t do it for me. I need practical tips and strategies to stay in the moment and quiet my monkey brain. This morning someone wanted to follow my Instagram, and instead of immediately deleting her, I scooted over to her page @mindfuleatsnutrition. She is a “Dietician helping people make peace with food.” Some algorithm somewhere must have sensed I was at war with vegetables, since I’m always looking up new and ingenious ways to prepare okra.

She is part of the “No More Dieting” movement. Throw away your scales ladies, listen to your inner voice and practice “mindful eating.” Don’t buy pre-packaged Nutri-System meals that taste like mush, don’t join Weight Watchers and tie yourself to counting points, or whatever it is they are counting these days. Full disclosure, I did join WW before turning 60 since I was inching towards plus sizes. But by 65 I’d gained that weight back, as dieting almost always does.

Oprah, do you really think teenage girls should start attending WW with their moms?

Great Grandma Ada kept marveling at how much weight I’d lost last week. It’s true, I’d lost some weight this year because I’m not eating cookies or ice cream at night and I’m walking around this city with Ms Bean. I tend to lose weight when I’m stressed; like in my substitute teaching days when I went on my own fractional diet, eating only half of whatever was on my plate. Moving can be a wee bit stressful. There are no good and bad foods as I’ve said before, and our weight is only half of the problem.

Physical hygiene is half of self-love; caring for ourselves enough to visit a dentist regularly, to keep moving, to eat healthy by choosing more vegetables and less protein. To adore avocados!

Emotional hygiene means caring enough about ourselves to avoid negativity. To seek out a therapist if nothing else helps. To rid ourselves of the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” complex and stop judging others. It’s been shown that people who hang around with depressed people start to feel depressed themselves, just like that study that said if your friends are always choosing fried foods, so will you. It may be time to start practicing mindfulness and you don’t have to be hippy-dippy to do it. I never went to Woodstock! I’ll be reporting back from our course in March.

You’ve got to put that plane’s oxygen mask on yourself first, if you want to get your babies out alive. It’s like the Dalai Lama said this morning:

Compassion suits our physical condition, whereas anger, fear and distrust are harmful to our well-being. Therefore, just as we learn the importance of physical hygiene to physical health, to ensure healthy minds, we need to learn some kind of emotional hygiene.

Is mindfulness your super power?

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Lucky me. Bob and I are flying today and even though we traveled to DC to obtain a Global Entry pass, and we are TSA pre-checked, I was randomly selected for “additional screening.” Which means Bob sailed through the metal detector while I told the nice TSA guy I won’t be scanned in their machine and had to wait for the female pat-down agent.

Life is funny that way.

I was talking with Great Grandma Ada about the crossroads we take in our lives. She had the chance when she was newly married to Bob’s father, to move to a lake community in NJ and join a country club. Her friends were building something new because in those days almost all clubs were “restricted.” That meant no Jews allowed.

Because her father owned a small bungalow colony with a big Victorian house for her sisters and their families, she opted out of the lake house. And looking back, which we tend to do as we age, she wishes her sons had learned to sail on the lake.

Instead they made different memories – skating on the frozen pond with their grandfather and tending to a bountiful vegetable garden.

There were a number of crossroads in my life. The most important may have been when I decided to stay in NJ and work as a semi-social worker. I’d been dating a guy who was a friend of my brother, and he was heading to California for a doctoral program. I was living near that lake at the time, and he asked me to go with him.

My foster father Daddy Jim was dying and I said “No.” That’s when Ada saw me at the hospital, visiting my Dad every night. Driving back to the lake from Jersey City. And the rest is history.

If I were religious, I’d say nothing is random. If I were scientific, I’d say chaos is inevitable. I’m more of an agnostic, and I try to learn from the universe.

Here is a son teaching his 93 year old mother a few tricks on her iPad!  C35B0D13-F3DF-43D9-B59A-309A1AC9B1CF

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Yesterday was a good day, despite plunging temperatures. Bob and I packed up a bag-lunch and attended a lecture at the Bridge Building about mysterious ruins and tunnels in Nashville. The Cumberland River Compact sponsored the talk by Tony Gonzalez, a journalist who is now working on a podcast called “Curious Nashville” for our local NPR station. Listeners are asked to submit their questions to the podcast team about the city, and then vote on the most interesting idea.  http://nashvillepublicradio.org/programs/curious-nashville-podcast#stream/0

Some people wanted to know what happens if you put the wrong materials in the recycling bin. Other questions concerned “water-witching” and just what Jimi Hendrix was doing during his year of living on Jefferson Street – in our neighborhood! Gonzalez told us that when he teaches a journalism class, he always tells his students to, “…look to a river for story inspiration.” Rivers rarely disappoint. So he jumped at the chance to investigate this question from a record producer:

I’ve heard rumors of a mysterious tunnel system winding beneath downtown Nashville. Is this true?   

There were lots of rumors and theories of course: perhaps the Underground Railway utilized these tunnels; maybe bootleggers came up river to store their wares under Printer’s Alley during Prohibition? With a little urban spelunking mixed with some good, old-fashioned research on http://www.newspapers.com for original documents, Gonzalez led his audience through a twisted tale of 19th and 20th Century  development that saw creeks repurposed as sewage and water-run-off drain pipes.

Sometimes truth is just not as much fun as fiction. I loved living on the Shrewsbury River. Watching the Great Blue Heron fly over our garage for his morning meal. Reading in my car while waiting for a draw bridge to open and close. Hearing the skeet shooters across the tributary at the Rumson Country Club on Sundays. Cleaning Corgi paws of marshy black silt when the tide came in.

And we knew that bootleggers came ashore to deliver their goods to Murphy’s Tavern.

Of course, my question today is why Nashville hasn’t developed its riverfront? Think about New York’s “South Street Seaport,” where Fulton St meets the East River. Then there’s Baltimore, and Boston. By contrast, we have an abandoned slaughterhouse and empty warehouses littering the beautiful Cumberland River. If I had a few million to invest, you bet I’d start buying some of that land. They say a hundred people a day move to Nashville…

I know because every day I hear 2 or 3 explosions that rock the house and send Ms Bean scampering for cover. Right down the block they are building the new TN State Museum and the TN State Library and Archive, demolition has been going on for the past month. Because this part of town sits on a bed of limestone, the blasting reverberates for miles. It’s not unlike the earthquake I felt in VA! In fact, sometimes it feels like we’re living in a war zone.

Yesterday was a “very bad day” for our Mayor Megan Barry. A real-life Scandal has come to life since it was reported she’s been having an affair with her top security guard. In the midst of trying to get a multi-billion dollar mass transport deal through, she will now be investigated by her state prosecutor, who’s name is, I kid you not, District Attorney Glenn Funk! Let’s just hope the Mayor didn’t write off some extra-marital work trips or empty any mini-bars.

I’m not so curious about our Mayor’s love life. And I didn’t watch the SOTU address. Nor do I wish to masticate over what may or may not be in some random “memo” that “might” be released today. There’s flu running rampant in the Bride’s house so we’re keeping our distance because a trip to Great Grandma Ada is up next. I’ll be sure to download Curious Nashville for the plane.

This is a picture of the Lick Creek Tunnel becoming the Lick Branch Sewer in 1895.

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