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Archive for September, 2018

Today is my birthday, and this particular one I find hard to believe.

It creeps up on you, it stalks you in the shadows; first you notice some wrinkles on your arms of all places, then a furrow in your brow. After West Nile, you need glasses to see. You stop dying your hair that fake red color, because who are you trying to impress? Your hip continues to ache and your knees complain. Your husband retires.

Small pieces begin to add up to a whole lotta years – 70 to be exact. But instead of feeling discouraged this morning, I’m hopeful about the future. Last night, after coming un-glued being semi-glued to the TV, Bob and I attended a small Nashville-style fundraiser at Third Man Records for the Democratic candidate for the Senate: https://www.bredesen.com/meet-phil/  It was a feminist antidote to our times.

I came of age when women died from septic, illegal abortions. The luckier ones had their fertility compromised, or they were secretly ushered off into “Unwed Mothers’ Homes” where their babies went to the highest bidder, or Catholic Charities. Everyone knew a girl in high school who disappeared. This is the kind of “Great America” we might be forced to endure again, if Brett Kavanaugh is voted on today, out of committee, and ever closer to a life-time seat on the SCOTUS.

Did you believe Dr Christine Blasey Ford?

The indelible hippocampus where memories are stored in our brains is a reservoir of trauma and pain. I remember being hit by Nellie when I called her “Mommy,” because she’d promised the Flapper that I would never call her that name.

I remember playing alone across the street in Victory Gardens, up a small hill, when a car drove very slowly by with a man exposing himself to me. I didn’t even have the words to tell Nell what happened.

Like seeing Mark Judge arranging shopping carts at the Safeway, I distinctly remember waking up and leaving that house, with a boy I didn’t know trying to undress me, and the look on my friend’s face, a boy I had gone to Catholic school with, in the living room. A look of surprise and shame followed by denial because I was furious, yelling and throwing things at him.

I didn’t report it because his buddy didn’t “rape” me and I felt guilty for being there. I don’t know where that house is, I don’t know how I got home.

Do you believe me?

We were up close and personal last night while Emmylou Harris’ haunting voice sent waves of healing grace down my spine. She sings of heartbreak and loss like no other, the years only smoothing her tone. She has her very own animal rescue farm here in Nashville. She was born one year ahead of me, her mane of silver white hair hanging over her acoustic guitar. I’d always loved her, she and Joni were our sheros. Like Anita Hill. Like Christine Blasey Ford. Like Kamala Harris.

And another reason to feel hopeful – Pennsylvania voted yesterday to deny spousal abusers the ability to buy guns! “CeaseFirePA is pleased that the PA House of Representatives today passed HB 2060 by a vote of by 131-62.  This bill takes important steps to disarm domestic abusers and make Pennsylvania families safer. CeaseFirePA has been proud to stand with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and working with constituents across the Commonwealth to pass this critical legislation.” http://www.ceasefirepa.org/updates/

Thanks to Moms Demand and all the women who will no longer stay silent, who will change our culture in this first year of the #MeToo movement. Who can use more than a smile to turn the world on? I #BelieveWomen

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I always worry a little when people describe their child as being “shy.” I’m a big believer in NOT labeling your kid, because once you tell them they are bad at math, that child will become math-challenged. Still, the nature/nurture conundrum does exist, and there’s a new mega-data study that ties up all our personality types into four simple categories! Turns out, being “reserved” is a thing.

“In a report published Monday in the journal ‘Nature Human Behavior,’ researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois identify four personality types: reserved, role models, average and self-centered.”  

https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2018/09/17/scientists-identify-four-personality-types/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f466d00f6e5f

Now I may want to ask my brother, Dr Jim, what he thinks of this, since he’s been administering the Myers-Briggs personality test for decades. But that test was developed in the 1940s using Jungian archetypes; this time a group of researchers simply plugged in an algorithm to a questionnaire for 1.5 million people in the US and Great Britain.

People who scored very high in extroversion but were below average in agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness were “self-centered.” Amaral put it in a “nontechnical way”: Some people are “jerks.” Teenage males were more likely than average to be self-centered, but this proportion decreased with age.

“These 18-year-olds are going to grow up,” Revelle said. “Except some people don’t grow up, and they become senior political statesmen.”

So a large number of narcissistic “jerks” choose a career in politics? I’m astonished!

Yesterday, to counter my increasing fury at men behaving badly, the Bride sent me a podcast. I’ve just listened to the first one, but I intend to listen to the whole series; written by an Obama speech-writer and Pod Save America contributor, Jon Favreau endeavors to explain the downfall of the Democratic Party and how we can fix it. It’s totally worth a listen: https://crooked.com/podcast-series/thewilderness/

I’ve read that activists actually confronted Sen Ted Cruz, a fine example of the self-centered type, at an Italian restaurant last night in DC, creating quite the stir chanting “We believe survivors.” He and his wife said “God bless you,” and left the restaurant after being seated but before ordering. I might have waited for them to finish the pasta course myself.

I’m slowly returning to my “average” state of affairs, feeling slightly rushed and overwhelmed by choices in the grocery store. At least the laundry is done. Just hoping our dear legislators do NOT rush this Kavanaugh nomination, and focus instead on rushing a bill to protect the Mueller investigation. Let’s keep our eyes on Russia and our feet to the fire (for my new Italian readers, it’s just an idiom).

Oh how I miss my friends and the sheep bells that would accompany this lovely breakfast table, and its wasps!

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I was watering my herb pots yesterday when I heard a distinct whirring sound, even Ms Bean was looking up. I knew the sheep were still in Tuscany, and so is Bob! Because as I write now, he is cleaning a vintage pasta machine our neighbor gave us; did you know that you cannot allow water to get into the steel gears? Google told us!

“Now I’m gonna make some spaghetti,” Bob said.

It’s difficult to write in the middle of an open concept townhouse. But back to the strange sound in the sky, I looked up to see a drone whizzing by and even though I was dressed in yoga/gym appropriate clothes, I felt distinctly vulnerable. Taking cover under the porch’s roof, I watched as the drone hovered very close to my herb garden – the parsley, pineapple sage, rosemary and thyme seemed to cower in technological despair.

I know that some realtors use drones for their sales, and even Google Earth may deploy one, or Amazon might start delivering small packages. Drones can bring death in other countries, or a new iPhone to our doorstep. In my jet-lagged state, I felt invaded. Can privacy honestly be a relic of past generations? Will that smart phone we palm become an imbedded portal to our brain, teasing us with targeted advertising all the time?

On the nine hour flight home I watched two movies and finished one book on my iPad. Maybe I was feeling twitchy because the book was Dan Brown’s latest, “Origin.” The acclaimed author of “The DaVinci Code” brings back to life the Harvard symbologist, Tom Hanks, whoops, Robert Langdon. Set in Spain, of course there’s a beautiful woman engaged to a prince but the most unlikely new hero is an AI named “Winston.”

What I find interesting in today’s context was the Loyalty (with a capital L) Winston the AI displayed to the scientist who built him – I had to ask myself, can a machine demonstrate loyalty, or can people write a code for that? The book revolves around the age-old argument of science/evolution vs religion/creationism and taught me more about Gaudi and in particular, his unfinished cathedral The Sagrada Familia, than I ever needed to know.

“Where are we from and where are we going?” is the central theme of the book, and as I watch the debate over Kavanaugh and the idiotic tour of North Carolina by Mr T asking about Lake Norman because he has a golf course there, I’m wondering the same thing. This president considers loyalty to HIM as sacrosanct, he doesn’t give a fig about where our country is headed or how our allies are increasingly isolated. And his followers seem to be OK with his contradictions, calling themselves good Christians while $260M is moved away from cancer and HIV/AIDS research to pay for the care and custody of 13,000 immigrant children – with 1,500 children HHS could still not locate!   https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/20/politics/hhs-shifting-money-cancer-aids-immigrant-children/index.html

When I asked Italians what they thought of Mr T, they said they liked him UNTIL he started separating children from their families.

Hate and Fear are powerful motivators, but I have to believe that Love is the best by far. So my New Year’s resolution is to spread some love around, like a drone flying overhead, surreptitiously. I will turn the other cheek, so to speak. We will make ravioli, and work to register voters and pray for a miracle in November.

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This morning the Bride asked me if I’d heard any news yet today, or was I still blissfully unaware of American politics? Instead of sitting under the Tuscan sun, listening to sheep bells and sipping cappuccino, I was trying to get my Keurig to work while realizing we had no milk in the refrigerator. I know, poor me.

But I had powered up the NYT website on my phone last night and knew that the highly controversial SCOTUS nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, was in trouble for sexually assaulting a 15 year old when he was 17. At first I was confused; how would they delay his hearing until Monday when his accuser would speak? Wasn’t yesterday Monday? Jet lag can be a real problem when you’re on an Air France flight just a short hop from Florence to Paris, and then on to Atlanta for nine hours.

We arrived home in Nashville around 3 am this morning, Italian time. And “Scusa” for a minute, I’ve just returned from T’ai Chi!

But from what I’ve read about this predicament so far, the Republicans are in trouble. Do you remember the woman, Liz Seccuro, who received an apology letter from her rapist 20 years after the fact? It was 2006 and he was a new AA member and was making his amends to people, except this woman had him arrested, and they went to trial in Charlottesville. It was very big UVA news – the rapist went to jail. Fraternity hi-jinks, boys being boys? The victim later told a Cville reporter about that night when she was just 17 in 1984:

“This is what it feels like to die. I’m going to die here, and no one’s going to find me.”

Twenty-one years later, Seccuro tearfully says she knows the truth: “Part of you does die.”

http://www.readthehook.com/98246/cover-i-harmed-you-21-years-12-steps-later-rape-apology-backfires

I remember distinctly the first time I heard that phrase about boys. Some bully had pushed me off my bike In Victory Gardens, I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I broke my leg and spent the summer in a cast. It was the only time Nelly called another mom on the phone and told her “what for,” explaining what had happened.

“Boys will be boys,” the bully’s mother said, and the instant flash of anger I felt, at that moment, is still fresh. My budding realization that life wouldn’t always be fair for girls. The total ignorance, the indecency and hypocrisy of the GOP is mind-numbing today. #MeToo has seen more women than ever running for Congress, and if only Kavanugh withdraws, which I believe he will do before Monday, November is coming…we do NOT need another Anita Hill excoriation next week, nor will we stand for one.

Here is Saint Barbara standing on some guy’s head flanked by John the Baptist and some other dude! On a kinder and gentler note, do we purchase a Keurig or a Nespresso? Ciao!

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There is beauty around every corner.

Waking to the sound of sheep bells is dreamy.

I love unpasteurized pecorino cheese wrapped in walnut leaves.

Italian men can get very excited over a Caesarean mushroom.

Red Nobile wine does NOT give me a headache.

Making pasta is a real possibility in the future.

History here is a whole different ball game.

The sunlight is a golden Siena color.

Sometimes I miss Catholicism.

Italian people are beautiful, generous, kind, and sound angry when they talk… only it’s just talking.

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This year brought so many changes. Our big move to Nashville, followed by Great Grandma Ada and Hudson’s move, not to mention my two broken ribs. Please, let’s not mention that! Because today was a beautiful day with friends in Siena, Italy.

Bob and I are celebrating our 70th birthdays by touring Tuscany in style. We’ve met up with three couples we’ve known since high school for the vacation of a lifetime.

In fact Bob first met Paul when he was the Love Bug’s age – in First Grade!

Some days we learn to cook in the regional style. Ravioli with spinach and ricotta is now our metier.

Some days we tour a winery in Montepulciano and learn the proper way to hold a wine glass. Also the Nobile red wine of Villa Sant’Anna is divine.

Some day soon we will have a pecorino cheese tasting in Pirenza followed by a garden tour.

And on another day Claudio and Marco, our fabulous chefs, will take us on a walking tour of another medieval city. The light here is spectacular and the hills are dotted with pointy cypress trees. We’ve been traveling back in time to Medici rulers and Roman ruins.

But best of all is spending real time laughing and talking with Paul and Dianne, Edie and Steve, and Bess and John. We are all retired and determined to enjoy this life and travel the world while we still can!

So pop some Proseco and Happy New Year from Tuscany! Ciao.

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Lucky us. Bob has turned 70 and I’m about to do the same.  Not one to celebrate post-50 birthdays, we thought after our high school reunion, a party was in order. Remember our trip to Provence last year? Well tomorrow we’ll be meeting a few friends in Florence! Two chefs, Tuscany and our villa await. Let the wild rumpus begin!

But first, we will always have Paris. Three days ago, we landed at Charles deGaulle airport for our mini-stay on a houseboat on the Seine in the Bois de Boulogne. This was my idea, and don’t ask me how I thought of it cause I can’t remember. However, I now believe we could easily ditch the whole beach house idea and live on a houseboat, ie paniche, in the South of France.

You are rocked to sleep. Your scenery is constantly changing from big barges to water-skiers to paddle boarders. But best of all, your Nashville neighbors come to visit with a brut of pink champagne and enough food for a small French Foreign Legion. Plus, they bring Tatiana, a Russian reality TV star.

No kidding. And, she is an etiquette teacher, so Bob was pre-warned not to put his elbows on the table.

We talked about travel and love and life. She told us about Putin, who btw has just started his very own reality show since his popularity numbers have plummeted – he made the mistake of raising the age of receiving a pension. Now you can watch Vlad strolling through Siberia pointing out the wildlife. It’s like Mr T in reverse.

But no, no talk of American politics in France. What will be, will be.

And I feel revived, reinvigorated by walking around Paris. Like the sculpture of Cupid’s kiss of Psyche by Antonio Canova, it seems that 70 is the new 50! Ciao bambinos.

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