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Archive for March, 2018

My first, and possibly last Seder was last year in VA. Yesterday the Bride threw a fabulous feast for 14, after working the night shift the night before, and I am honored to pass the torch on to her! She makes a mean matzoh ball soup, and her charoses was to die for: Chag Sameach! Next year in Nashville with Great Grandma Ada and Cousin Anita if you’re willing and able!

My contribution was a brisket, which is actually the same cut of beef as my St Patrick’s Day specialty, corned beef. I knew the Jews and Irish could align in mysterious ways! Of course, I Googled Ina Garten’s recipe and loved the idea of adding leeks. Leeks are my Celtic heritage, I must admit I put them in everything. https://barefootcontessa.com/recipes/brisket-with-onions-and-leeks

Today we met the kiddos at Cheekwood for an Easter Egg Hunt. There were food trucks, including my favorite Grilled Cheeserie, music and lots of arts and crafts. It started out cold, almost 50 degrees, but the sun was shining and the children were willing. It made me think of my friend Polli’s Easter Egg hunts in her Rumson yard. Since we didn’t go to church Easter morning (being Jewish), we helped hide all the candy. Back then, we tossed chocolate bunnies and jelly beans around like nobody’s business.

Our reward was champagne on her porch while the children searched for treats in Polli’s beautiful garden. She taught me how to arrange flowers for weddings and not to let the Rocker miss the school bus. I miss your wisdom dear friend! Today, in Nashville, the treasure was plastic eggs with plastic toys. The times they are a changin!

Back on my porch, I read my Cville friend’s food/lifestyle blog “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You” https://www.katheats.com

Being vulnerable takes courage. She is around the Bride’s age and has a son from her first marriage. She just re-married this past year and told her readers that she’d had a miscarriage last month.

Some of you may know that I had 3 misses in one year between the Bride and the Rocker. I know what it feels like to mourn the possibility of a child. To curl into yourself and reject anyone’s help. To harbor fear and anger in equal measure, and to feel like the ground you walk on has betrayed you.

You stop driving over bridges.

I’m sending Koop my heartfelt love. Her blog has grown over the years to inspire young women to not just eat real food, but to go after their authentic selves. This time of year is all about rebirth. We clean out the bread, we prepare to tell the story of Exodus, and we talk about Jesus who sacrificed his life to bring Christians everywhere the promise of salvation.

May this sacred time find you surrounded by family. Having Easter and Passover fall under the same full moon is a miracle! The Bride will be working tomorrow, maybe I should deliver a ham to the Groom?

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There are only about 1,600 black bears in the Great Smokies. They are interacting more and more with people, coming down off the mountains because their habitat is shrinking. I’ve seen a couple of bears lumbering through the forest in Central VA, but here in the Music City my only wildlife encounter has been with feral cats. I’ve heard about coyotes and possums, but they don’t scare me.

In Eagles Nest Township, MN with 4 beautiful, clean lakes, some people can lay down on the ground and allow bear cubs to crawl all over them! There’s a bear whisperer there who teaches neighbors how to feed the wild black bears peanuts from their hands! He is a biologist on a mission to let people know that bears are harmless, they are more afraid of us than we are of them!

But in the same little MN town, others are convinced of a different reality. They perceive black bears to be a threat; they look at their teeth and claws and imagine being torn to shreds. Even though they appear timid, they have tremendous strength and have killed at least 70 people since statistics were kept in the early 1900s.

I’m probably in this camp, if I were to see a bear on a trail I’d start backing up very slowly… NPR has an incredible podcast about this pair of conflicting paradigms: https://www.npr.org/2017/06/08/531904266/reality-part-one.

They are investigating why people see things differently and appropriately enough it’s called, “Reality.” After Great Grandma Ada witnessed a mama bear with two cubs playing in her swimming pool, she stopped going down to the pool alone. I’m just glad she didn’t decide to feed them peanuts from her hand, as she’s been known to encourage a stray fox or two with treats. In fact, I can’t remember a time when she didn’t have some candy in her pocket for her grandchildren.

Listening to this podcast about how we shape our own reality, and after this weekend’s #MarchforourLives I thought to myself, what’s the point of worrying about something like bears? I mean, there’s some Chinese space station that’s about to crash into earth, maybe I should be losing sleep over that?

Psychologists tell us that depression and anxiety are endemic in our modern world, and that in order to worry less we should make a list of the 10 things that worry us. Writing them down demystifies our dread and helps us decipher when we’re just worrying for the sake of worry – you know that dream where you have to take a test and realize you never went to class? Sometimes we imagine things are way worse than they actually are, or we may need medication to keep the demons at bay.

My mentor, the humor writer Erma Bombeck called that toxic, useless type “rocking chair worry:” “It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.”

And the funny thing is, the more you write these 10 things down, make a Top Ten List every 6 months, you realize over time which worries are utterly useless because they resolved themselves, or the outcome was better than the problem, and you can get a handle on those things you may actually want to DO something about. You may even start to worry less.

Why do some people see the list of countries that are expelling Russian “diplomats” and feel fine, while I see the long list of countries who have signed the Paris Climate Agreement – that does NOT include the USA – and feel dread? We are the ONLY country is the whole world who doesn’t believe in climate science! Syria and Nicaragua were the last 2 countries to pledge their allegiance; here is what Stephen Hawking had to say about Mr T’s mean and inept decision:

“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible,” he told the BBC. “Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid.” He added that Trump’s decision would cause “avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children”.

So maybe I should be worrying about the bears, and gorillas, and the newly endangered, my favorite of all wild things the graceful giraffe: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/giraffes-silently-slip-endangered-species-list-180961372/  I had NO idea the giraffe’s tail is used as a status symbol in parts of Africa. It’s time to schedule a safari so I can see my long, tall blondes in the wild, not just at a zoo.

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Reddit bans guns sales. YouTube kicks gun fanatics off its site. Florida legislators have raised the age to 21 for buying your first gun, and on and on. Why is this different in our country’s national debate over common sense gun reform? It’s the messengers.

Teenagers have reframed the question; it’s not some esoteric debate about Second Amendment rights, they are simply asking not to be shot in their 5th period Chem class. And if you remember what it felt like to be 16, they actually think they can change the world!

I was 15 when JFK was shot. I was playing field hockey on a grassy high school lot when the milk man stopped to tell our gym teacher what happened; it’s forever embedded in my memory, even though there’s a Walgreens on that site today. We were all in shock, our parents and teachers were grieving. We didn’t see his brother Bobby and MLK’s assassinations in our future.

We didn’t know our generation was about to change the entire American culture with the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation Movements. We didn’t even know about Vietnam, yet.

We walked out of high school over a dress code.

Today teens are digital natives. And Parkland students are leading the charge on Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram to point out hypocrisy in all its many nuanced layers. The latest Associated Press poll tells us 7 out of 10 Americans want stricter gun controls. And look what happened just a few days ago, right after the Bride and her colleagues wrote a certain letter to the editor! http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/379563-republicans-agree-to-clarify-that-cdc-can-research-gun-violence

Republicans agree to clarify that CDC can research gun violence

And so it begins, your grand daddy’s rifle is NOT the same as an AR-15. #ENOUGH is enough and after tomorrow’s March For Our Lives in DC, I believe the momentum will continue. Country music fans and elementary students didn’t stand a chance. But high school students around the country are weaponizing social media, for the good of us all. If Facebook fueled the Arab Spring, imagine what this will do.

Maybe we should put these kids in charge of the Russian hacking problem? I have no doubt they would tell Putin a thing or two!   image

 

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It’s been a very busy first day of Spring. I took my first Nashville Yoga class after breakfast, and joined a T’ai Chi bunch before lunch! I learned quite a bit, about tuning into my body and tuning out the noise of the city. And this city can be pretty noisy; Great Grandma Ada told me even the NYTimes was writing about the Demolition Blues here in the Music City. Right down the block we’ve had intermittent blasting through limestone that shakes the house, makes me jump, and has Ms Bean running around in terror.

It’s like a war zone, I feel a bad case of PTSD coming on. Between Mr T’s morning rambling via Twitter, and the Federal Trade Commission investigating Facebook (ps here’s how to clean up your account https://www.slashgear.com/facebook-personal-audit-privacy-app-sharing-19523634/) – the random, bomb-like explosions have thrown me over the edge. The whole existential crisis of a possible nuclear showdown pales before the everyday reality of our current climate.

Hence my plan for Zen Tuesdays.

Now for the other six days of the week… While I was saying “Namaste” today, we learned of another school shooting today, this time in Maryland. The 17 year old gunboy is dead, and the girl he targeted is in critical condition. There’s another teen boy who was targeted. Enough is enough. It certainly feels like we’ve reached a tipping point towards gun reform, although I’ve felt that way in the past too. But somehow, this time feels different.

The Tennessean published an opinion piece on Sunday that was co-authored by the Bride and her friend, another Emergency Physician. They are calling on state legislators to repeal the Dickey Amendment which curtails research and funding of gun violence. Oh yes, NRA, we’re coming for you!

It is time to treat gun violence like the public health emergency that it is, and to let the scientific community conduct the necessary work to find solutions.

Unbiased medical research has led to the eradication of smallpox, the dramatic reduction of injuries and death due to motor vehicle collisions, and lifesaving advances in the care of those injured in combat.  

 We can – and should – add the prevention of unnecessary gun-related deaths to this list.     

   

It was signed by 128 TN physicians!! Mostly ER docs who see the results of unfettered access to guns. https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2018/03/15/opinion-gun-violence-national-public-health-emergency/426997002/

Let’s face it y’all, grandpa’s rifle is NOT the same as an AR-15, and even here in the South minds are being changed. The massacre in Las Vegas shook the music industry to its core, and now teenagers are planning a March on Washington to bring their message home. Our children deserve to feel safe in school, freedom from fear is our God-given, Rockwellian right in this country. The police don’t want these guns on the street, and we the people don’t want them either. It’s about time our legislators listened…

I think the explosions have stopped. Our neighborhood has been strangely quiet for a few days now. We managed to plant our lilacs yesterday, and now they are predicting snow. Happy first day of Spring to everyone from our little Irish Star Wars colleen!

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Living in a townhouse, it’s been strangely comforting to know that Bob’s back, knees and elbows will be spared this Spring from the Big Clean-Up. No more hauling wheelbarrows filled with mulch. chainsawing stray limbs, or pruning branches on ladders. Our new chapter is getting better all the time! A landscaping crew arrived last week and plowed through all the heavy-lifting in two days, however the few feet in front of our front porch remains bare. What to do?

Why not spruce up our front yard?

The Bride had us over the other day to discuss her landscaping plans. Last year, when they moved into their first house, they tackled the back yard and installed a raised bed for veggies and a compost bin. Now she and the Groom are ready to beautify their run-of-the-mill foundation plants and install a fence. We gave her our opinions (isn’t it great when your adult children ask for your opinions?) but first we had lunch at Thistle Farms.

Thistle Farms is an amazing Nashville non-profit. It’s right in the Bride’s neighborhood and is so much more than a gift shop, cafe and tea house. I’ve been wearing their “Love Heals” cap for years and adore their hand soap and moisturizing lotions. Needless to say, the food is organic and heavenly! https://thistlefarms.org/

Thistle Farms’ mission is to HEAL, EMPOWER, AND EMPLOY women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. We do this by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners.  We believe that in the end, love is the most powerful force for change in the world. 

“There but for fortune,” is the Joan Baez song that runs through my brain whenever I step through the door of Thistle Farms. Everyone has a story, and we all have scars – the difference is these women are actively working to change their lives. When the Bride walked in and I embraced her, I saw the cashier smiling at us, and I saw the longing in her eyes. Had she lost her mother? Did she have to give away her daughter in a court battle?

Like the Flapper had to give me away to her friend for safe-keeping after the car accident.

“Bloom where you’re planted” has always been my motto since marrying my gypsy ER doc. Would I love to still be living at the edge of a bird sanctuary behind a white picket fence in the Berkshires almost 40 years later? Sure, but that just wasn’t in the cards for us. What makes a house a home for me is difficult to pin down, my family and a dog of course. And to some extent, a few flowers.

This morning I ordered two dwarf lilacs to plant next to my front steps, to honor my foster mother Nelly Bly.

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Who gets to define you? My first step into studying Buddhism asked this very question in a different way – how would you describe yourself? Easier maybe than a definition. I’m a nana and mother, a writer, a wife, stringer etc…easy. These are the simple ways, stating what you DO in the world rather than who you are!

An old friend from high school was visiting this weekend, and though our hair has turned a pale blondish white, we stood out in high school because we were both redheads. Being a “Redhead” has a certain cache. But when I was little I hated my hair, I wanted to be like everyone else, I wanted to fit in and belong. I wanted black hair like Snow White!

Edie and I were also both raised as the one and “Only” child in our families. Does that define us?

I woke up this morning to National Geographic’s special edition on Race through an Instagram video. They contend that science defines us by our DNA, but the environment, our culture defines us by the color of our skin. Their mission is to make us re-examine that paradigm; their example was a pair of fraternal twin girls, about ten years old.

The April edition of the magazine, The Race Issue, features a pair of black and white fraternal twin sisters from the United Kingdom, Marcia and Millie Biggs, on the cover (more here). The Biggs twins on the cover are a catalyst for readers to rethink what they know about race. The full issue is available now at natgeo.com/TheRaceIssue.

Now you know, and I know my DNA because I spit in a tube and sent my sample to Ancestry. Although I really didn’t need to know I was almost 100% Irish, because the priest at Sacred Heart School always told me I had the map of Ireland on my face! And I was mortified whenever he picked me out in class, although I’m sure it was meant as a compliment.

When our L’il Pumpkin was born with my exact shade of flaming strawberry blonde hair I was determined to help him feel proud about his carrot top. Well either that or ignore it altogether. But how will his ghostly white skin affect his journey through life? Will his schoolmates tease him when he’s putting on sunscreen before playing baseball? Will he yearn to have brown skin like some of his friends?

I remember when we visited Duke on the Bride’s college tour, and the Rocker, only 13 at the time, watched a group of African students walk by in colorful traditional dress. He thought it was so cool. Isn’t this what we want for our children, to enlarge their cultural influences, to expand their minds beyond a neighborhood of white privilege.

With our nation so divided – by political party, by religion, by geography – I wonder if we can turn inward to see what in fact we all share. Has Mr T unleashed this underbelly of white-neo-nazi terror in order to make us choose sides? Can we reject that? I choose to embrace our common sense of decency and civility, our humanity. We ALL want better schools for our children, schools without guns and active shooter drills. We ALL deserve comprehensive healthcare.

America, in our many shades of white/beige/brown/black, is at a tipping point. On the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s murder, I remember marching in the streets of Boston with my black armband. I was a college student then, and I would have defined myself as a “Dancer!”

Here is our superhero Spiderman. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to see Black Panther.

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There, I said it. The first step is acceptance. I’ve tried every type of mind numbing hobby over the years; quilting and sewing when the kids were little, knitting later on and working in a friend’s shop named “Tanglewool.” Of course writing, cooking and gardening were always there, forming a tapestry of my days, until Great Grandma Ada turned me on to Beads. When I was packing up my aviary last summer, I knew I had to have my beads with me, no matter what!

I’ve already started stringing some green landscape jasper and white jade this morning. Last night I wore a coral and turquoise number to the Love Bug’s school, she was wearing an elephant necklace we’d made together. It was an International Night filled with foods from every corner of the globe, Bollywood dancers and Spanish songs. But I zeroed in on the Mission Table to Uganda – they were selling beautifully intricate paper beads. I realized I was powerless and had to have them.

Before our move to Nashville I’d been venturing outside my comfort zone, knotting pearls and working with tiny seed beads. The results were spectacular but the work was tedious and long. Yesterday I’d stop and look at my design on the dining table, adding something here, subtracting another bead there. This morning after coffee and the daily “damage report” from Bob, I picked out my wire and started stringing.

It’s like a meditation, almost like moving rosary beads in my hands when I was little. Your mind is focused on one thing, all the rest fades into the background noise on the street. And the finished product is uniquely mine, a small piece of art. Out of the chaos of my dining room dresser filled with beads I’ve created something new. Most of the necklaces and bracelets I’ve made I give away as gifts, but sometimes a piece will win me over and it gets to stay.

Some people have said I could sell my creations, who knows? Maybe some day when I get into my Pod and find all those eternity necklaces I made with freshwater and coin pearls. An eternity necklace has no clasp, no hardware or “findings” as we say in the Biz. I wonder what people would pay for them? There is some research yet to be done, and there are plenty of cute boutiques in the area, surely one of them might give it a try? But who knows, what if they don’t sell? Wait, there’s always Etsy!

My sister Kay made beautiful needlepoint pillows, I treasure the one on our bed in the likeness of our Corgi, Tootsie Roll. I have the white cotton coverlet my Nana crocheted over a hundred years ago, and I sent the lilac Easter sweater the Flapper knit to our cousins in California. What treasures will our children and grandchildren decide to keep, and what will go to Goodwill? Everybody is wired differently, and stringing melts away the small, still, everyday stress of life, like reading a good book.

Robins are dancing outside on the grass, and a squirrel keeps promenading up and down the sidewalk. I’m thinking of Spring colors, the yellow burst of buds, the soft green of moss. It’s time for some spring cleaning, but not before I finish this necklace.

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